Tottenham need to find a way past their Wembley woes in the FA Cup

Tottenham need to find a way past their Wembley woes in the FA Cup

If there was ever a team who would want FA Cup semi-finals to be moved away from Wembley, it’s Tottenham.

This weekend, Spurs take on Chelsea for a place in the May showpiece but fans of the north London club go into the tie with understandable trepidation.

Sure, they are in the middle of the hottest of hot streaks, they have already beaten the Blues this season and, somehow, they’ve cut their great rivals’ lead at the top of the Premier League from 13 points to four in the space of a month, but a trip to the famous arch is Tottenham kryptonite.

Mauricio Pochettino’s side, for whatever reason, forget their lines at the national stadium. Almost every time.

In fact, the meek form at Wembley stretches back to well before Pochettino arrived at White Hart Lane. And it is presents a worrying trend for supporters making the short journey to the HQ this weekend.

Since the redevelopment of the fantastic arena, Spurs have won just twice in nine appearances.

With the demolition of the Twin Towers, it seems, the club’s strength on the biggest stage collapsed too.

Of their past seven opponents there, only CSKA Moscow were beaten.

Chelsea have been their conquerors twice – in the FA Cup semi-final of 2012 and the League Cup final of 2015.

They’ve lost to Monaco, Portsmouth and Bayer Leverkusen. Heck, they could only manage a draw with Gent.

Although the Premier League is now nowhere near a foregone conclusion, the FA Cup remains Pochettino’s best chance of silverware this season. It would mark his Tottenham’s coming of age.

And to stay on track, he will need to find a solution to the Wembley conundrum.

Could it be to do with the size of the national stadium’s playing area? After all, it is as big as anything else Spurs will find on the domestic front, whereas their White Hart Lane home is the second smallest in the division.

The rapid transition that so defines Tottenham – the slick passing move from Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen through Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli and onto Harry Kane, or the blistering speed at which Danny Rose and Kyle Walker move from full back to winger – is nullified by the vast expanses in front of them.

Spurs have to slow down at Wembley, play keep-ball, possession-based football that relies more on patience and persistence than speed and precision.

Chelsea do that well now and they did it well before the arrival of Antonio Conte.

Their own recent record at Wembley speaks to that.

Since the re-opening of the venue, the Blues have been 14 times. They’ve won on nine occasions.

It is almost as though they feel they belong at Wembley.

For Spurs, even though they spent a Champions League campaign and one, ill-fated Europa League evening playing tenants at the world-renowned ground, it was never home.

It was alien, uncomfortable, uncharacteristic of themselves. Quiet, even.

That has to change this weekend, else Chelsea will have Wembley’s last laugh once more.

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