By Chris Harris
"It's not the despair... I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." John Cleese's outburst in '80s movie 'Clockwise' probably resonates with plenty of Tottenham fans after an astonishing month at White Hart Lane.
A raft of summer signings prompted many punters to back Spurs for a top-four finish, quite possibly at the expense of their north London rivals Arsenal. But poor results on the pitch, not to mention the Martin Jol saga off it, have all but extinguished that pre-season optimism.
Having said that, Tottenham's travails will be temporarily forgotten if they can get one over their old rivals on Saturday. Arsène Wenger's unbeaten run against Spurs stretches to 18 games and a little under eight years. Tottenham even squandered a two-goal lead in last season's Carling Cup Semi-Final, a sure sign that they get twitchy when a long-awaited victory over Arsenal is within reach.
We spoke to James Callow of the Tottenham Journal ahead of Saturday's derby. Read on to find out why Jol has the backing of the fans, why Gareth Bale and Younes Kaboul have impressed him, why Spurs can still finish in the top five and why nerves play their part when Arsenal are in town.
THE STORY SO FAR
"Well, it has been a bit of a shambles hasn't it? There are mixed messages coming out of the club from behind the scenes which the manager has admitted is undermining his attempts to make the team successful. On the pitch there are injury problems and the manager has made a couple of mistakes which have been mercilessly punished. They have played well at times, they have also played poorly against weaker opposition. But as ever there is a nervousness in a team which is not getting results. All it seems to take is one promising attack from a lesser team and Spurs look very vulnerable. They don't seem to be able to close out games at the moment."
MAN OF THE MOMENT
"Martin Jol definitely has the fans' backing. I think most fans would admit that he has made mistakes but the choice between keeping Jol and losing him and starting again is an easy one. Getting rid of Jol would be seen as real folly. He has given them two consecutive fifth-placed finishes and, yes, people said that Spurs could get in the Champions League but it should be remembered as 'could' rather than 'would' because there are still four good teams and none of them have lost ground. The expectations have to be slightly reassessed and Spurs should be able to contest fourth place but it's not their right to just turn up and get it."
"Bale and Kaboul have impressed me most. Kaboul has only played two games but he scored in one and looked brilliant in the other. He's a really powerful, quick defender who has given license to go forward and attack perhaps in a similar way to Tony Adams later on in his career."
CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM
"The squad is stronger than ever. They still have the same good players from last year like Berbatov, Dawson, Chimbonda. Spurs finished fifth last year largely without Ledley King and that could be the case this year. If he does come back and is still the same player, Spurs will have an excellent defence with Younes Kaboul, who has looked the part since he came in. They've still got what they had last year, they would hope for more involvement from King and they have added the likes of Kaboul, Darren Bent and Gareth Bale. They now have a composed left-footer in the side and he gives them the balance they lacked last year. I don't think too much pressure should be placed on Bale but he's a valuable option to the side."
"There is pressure on Spurs on Saturday but Jol will do his best to convince his players that there is pressure on Arsenal. I think Arsenal will be satisfied with a draw away from home but the expectations with Spurs will be to get a draw at least. I think Jol will try and be positive but it's hard to say when he's only got one training session with the players after the international break. King is definitely out and the midweek internationals will also have a say in who's fit and who isn't. Tainio hasn't been mentioned recently so I don't think he'll play but Lennon, Dawson and Bent are all available. Dawson has had a reserve game so he should definitely play instead of Rocha. The others are subject to match fitness."
IMPRESSIONS OF ARSENAL
"The only way Spurs can get over the anxiety they have when they play Arsenal is by actually beating them. They need to get a lead and hold onto it. When they have done that once in one game it will get easier for them. Don't forget they have the weight of disappointment going back nine years and although the players have not necessarily been there that long they will know that Spurs have struggled against Arsenal. They are sometimes guilty of sitting back when they have taken the lead but it's a combination of factors, not just a tactical decision. It's a sign of a deeper-seated insecurity from what has gone before. I think the Spurs crowd try to remain supportive but they get nervous and I think that spreads to the players. Then the players dive to head away balls which they can probably take more time over. That's why it gets so fraught."