Chronic lack of silverware stemming from 18 years of addiction to Tottenham Hotspur.
Yes, I'm serious...
I suppose the idea of Spurs acting as an irritating roadblock to the colossal footballing machines of Manchester City and Liverpool (undoubtedly two of the finest teams to ever grace football, almost robotic in their consistent excellence) might at first invoke uproarious laughter amongst readers. It's Spurs, after all. Third-place losers of a two-horse race for the title in 2016. Seemingly averse to silverware. Nearly-men. Believe me - as a long-suffering Tottenham fan, who was but a five-year-old when Jonathan Woodgate brought the League Cup to White Hart Lane in 2008, I've heard it all.
However, there is evidence not only to suggest its possibility, but that it has already begun. Last season, Conte's (and, much to my horror, Nuno Espirito Santo's) Spurs went unbeaten against this Big Two, not to mention doing the double against eventual champions City. On all four showdowns, the squad (notably below Antonio Conte's standards) performed admirably. Who, after all, can forget Harry Kane's last-gasp header past Ederson to cap off what has been called one of the greatest individual performances in Premier League history (and who am I to disagree?) and bring the three points back to North London?
Just don't lose to the manager in a prison cell!
For Spurs, the problem does not necessarily lie in those who are deemed superior football teams. The problem is, for example, a 12:30pm kick-off at home to an already-relegated outfit who haven't left their own half in two weeks and whose xG is borderline negative. Or a mid-week fixture in Europe against a Croatian team whose manager has literally been imprisoned. A sorry state of affairs on the whole.
For this reason, nothing should strike fear into the heart of a Tottenham fan quite like an opening-day fixture against Southampton, whose admirably loyal captain James Ward-Prowse has so repeatedly tormented the club that, out of desperation, I implore Daniel Levy to buy him if only to make it impossible for him to score against us.
We actually won?!
Yet on Saturday, Tottenham fans were gifted first-hand to an exhibition in how far Conte has brought this group of players. After perhaps inevitably going behind in just the 12th minute to a volley from (that man again) Ward-Prowse, no heads were lost. No (vital) mistakes were made. Ryan Sessegnon was not Ryan Sessegnon, but Roberto Carlos. Emerson Royal was not Emerson Royal, but Cafu. And what of Dejan Kulusevski? By far his finest performance at Spurs, during which he displayed a football IQ far beyond his 22 years, propelled Conte's men to a statement 4-1 victory. Goals came from Kulusevski, Sessegnon, the relentlessly consistent Eric Dier, and an unfortunately assured finish from Saints centre-back Mohammed Salisu.
......Kane and Son?
All this occurred without the usually outstanding performances of both Harry Kane and his partner in crime, Heung-Min Son. Will this worry Conte? Not in the slightest. The method to the Italian's madness is more in a squad-wide mentality shift, which has been desperately required at Spurs for arguably the best part of a decade or five. Kane and Son will once again prove themselves as two of the finest players in world football during the course of the year, but alongside the blossoming of talents such as Kulusevski, Cristian Romero (already one of the best centre-backs in the world) and Yves Bissouma, with the assured performances of new arrival Ivan Perisic and veterans Eric Dier, Ben Davies and Hugo Lloris contributing to a momentous push for silverware, the likes of which is unprecedented certainly at the fresh-faced Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. As they sit atop the league table for the time being, the focus should now be on attempting to close the gap to the two behemoths, starting with an infamously difficult trip to Stamford Bridge next Sunday. If they continue in the same vein, though, the squad should have little to fear in the weeks ahead.
© 2022 Cameron Street