Friedel tells Tottenham Hotspur to keep going
If worry is setting in at Tottenham Hotspur, Brad Friedel will not admit it. Spurs are slipping from what was once a title challenge into another tense battle to qualify for the Champions League.
At one moment less than a month ago, Spurs had a 2-0 lead at the Emirates, and were set to go 13 points ahead of Arsenal. Tottenham still do not seem to have recovered from what happened next; they lost 5-2, and took just one point from their next three League games.
Suddenly Arsenal are north London's leading side again, one point ahead of Tottenham. Chelsea, where Spurs play tomorrow lunchtime, are reviving under Roberto Di Matteo. Momentum has deserted Tottenham at precisely the point where they need it most.
Friedel, though, said that the picture was rather better than it looked. "It's definitely not doom and gloom.
"It's definitely not a pressure situation where lads are losing confidence and things like that. I've seen that many times and that's not what's happening right now."
The recent bad results, Friedel said, owed more to poor fortune than poor performance. After being ransacked by Arsenal, Spurs lost two similar matches. First they were taught a lesson in ruthlessness by Manchester United, losing 3-1 at White Hart Lane despite having most of the ball. Six days later, they laid siege at Everton, but were repelled and came away with a 1-0 defeat. Precisely the same thing nearly happened on Wednesday night at home against Stoke. Only Rafael van der Vaart's stoppage-time header rescued a point, after another evening where once again the conversion of territory into goals proved infuriatingly difficult for Spurs.
But for the goalkeeper, the performances are not the problem. "If you look at the last four results we've only had really one of those that wasn't a Tottenham performance and that was Arsenal away," Friedel insisted. Man United here I thought football-wise, we've seen the videos and we played really well.
"First half at Everton, I don't believe we were terrible, second half we were really strong again. Even [against Stoke], I don't know what the possession was, I thought we were well on top and their goalkeeper made a couple of good saves. And Stoke, when they get all their players behind the ball, are a difficult team to break down."
Some might accuse Spurs of struggling under the pressures of a three-way race for third place. Not Friedel, though, who was confident that the players just need to relax in order to bring back their impressive early- season form.
"Actually, I don't think it's about holding your nerve," Friedel said. "It's about going out and enjoying yourself and expressing yourself, because those are the types of players we have.
"We'll continue, by and large, to do what we've been doing all season long and again these last few games. Sometimes you can play very poorly and win a game and no one says anything. Those things can happen in football and we've been playing, by and large, good football without getting results."
And, for all the attention on tomorrow lunchtime's game, the events surrounding Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane last Saturday show that some things matters more. "That's not pressure," Friedel said of the race to qualify for the Champions League. "Football's not pressure. It might be for some but football's not pressure. Football's fun, it's a game. We want to go out and we want to win. But I think we all saw last week what pressure was."
Third place: The race
Next six games:
Tomorrow Aston Villa (h), 31 Mar QPR (a), 8 Apr Man City (h), 11 Apr Wolves (a), 16 Apr Wigan (h), 21 Apr Chelsea (h).
Tomorrow Chelsea (a), 1 Apr Swansea (h), 7 Apr Sun'land (a), 9 Apr Norwich (h), 21 Apr QPR (a), 29 Apr Blackburn (h).
Tomorrow Spurs (h); 31 Mar A Villa (a); 7 Apr Wigan (h); 9 Apr Fulham (a); 21 Apr Arsenal (a); 29 Apr QPR(h).