QPR roadblock may steer Tottenham towards a familiar downhill route

A creeping sense of déjà vu spooks Tottenham Hotspur after this match and it has little to do with Harry Redknapp.

The sight of their former manager in the opposing dugout surely triggered memories good and bad but what really chills Spurs is the knowledge that this limp performance at a critical juncture of the season was similar to the ones that heralded collapses in each of the past two campaigns. André Villas-Boas's task now is to do what Redknapp was unable to do and prevent a slip-up turning into a prolonged slide.

A 1-1 draw with Wolverhampton Wanderers at a similar stage last season was the start of a sustained dip that saw Spurs win only six of their last 18 matches and allowed Arsenal to come from 10 points behind to leapfrog them into third place. That ultimately cost Spurs a spot in this season's Champions League. The previous campaign unravelled in similar fashion, as Spurs fell out of the top four after winning only one of 10 matches between March and early May.

Those collapses have left scars. "It is in everyone's minds because it has happened before," said Tottenham's midfielder Scott Parker, who hopes those disappointments will drive the squad on to avoid a relapse. "As a team and as a squad we need to maintain our performances. Maybe what happened in the past will stand us in good stead. I just think we can learn from two years ago and last year and stay strong."

It may or may not help that Tottenham's next match is against Manchester United. The prospect of beating the league leaders for the second time this season could inspire Villas-Boas's team and, although their defence will surely be stretched, Tottenham's attacking players will relish the space that may be given to them by adventurous opponents.

It could be a pleasant change from facing Queens Park Rangers, who frustrated Tottenham with zealous ultra-defending. Other than in the fifth minute, when Jermain Defoe orchestrated a flowing move that led to Júlio César making two wonderful saves – first from Defoe and then from Emmanuel Adebayor on the rebound – Tottenham toiled without ingenuity.

Villas-Boas looked on the bright side afterwards, claiming an away point was satisfactory, but he had declared beforehand that nothing less than victory would suffice on a weekend when the meeting of Manchester City and Arsenal promised Tottenham an opportunity to gain ground on two of their chief rivals for a top-four finish.

With Chelsea, Everton and possibly others also in contention, this season's scramble for Europe is of unprecedented intensity. This is no time to wilt.

After a match when they looked short of attacking ideas, it is scarcely a positive thing that Tottenham must also now make do without one of their main strikers. Adebayor has left for the Africa Cup of Nations and will miss between two and five matches, depending on Togo's progress in the tournament.

However, Villas-Boas says Tottenham can cope without Adebayor for a few weeks, hoping Clint Dempsey will replace him as effectively as he did when Adebayor was suspended following his red card against Arsenal in November.

The manager says it is "very unlikely" that Tottenham will enter the January transfer market to bolster their attack. However Spurs are known to be looking at other strikers so it would be no surprise if Adebayor, who has seldom sparkled this season, returns from South Africa to discover he has a new competitor for his place.

"It's not impossible," says Villas-Boas. "We still have time if we want to move in the market, although I think it's very unlikely we'll do anything. But if nothing serious happens in terms of injuries or suspension, we are, I think, in a good situation. We will keep analysing it."

Redknapp, meanwhile, makes no bones about it: he needs several new players. That, too, feels familiar.

Man of the match Stéphane Mbia (QPR)

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Paul Doyle at Loftus Road, for The Guardian on Sunday 13th January 2013 23.00 Europe/London

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image: © wonker

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