Only Spurs could find a way to finish third behind Arsenal in a two-horse race that did not involve Arsenal. They went winless in their last four matches of the season, starting with a 1–1 draw against West Brom, then squandering a two-goal lead to Chelsea for a 3–3 draw that sealed the title for Leicester, then they lost 2–1 to Southampton, but they saved their most incredible embarrassment for last.
On the final day of the season, Spurs faced Newcastle — a club that had already been relegated and had nothing left to play for except pride, which owner Mike Ashley exterminated from the club many years ago. All Spurs needed was a draw to finish second and above Arsenal for the first time in 21 years on goal difference. This should have been easy. But for Tottenham it was not.
In the 19th minute, Georginio Wijnaldum gave Newcastle a 1–0 lead, which can happen. Still plenty of time for Spurs to come back and decimate their inferior opponents. Then Aleksandar Mitrovic made it 2–0 in the 39th minute. This was not good for Spurs, but, hey, 2–0 is the most dangerous lead in football, right? It certainly seemed so when Erik Lamela got one back in the 60th minute. Then Mitrovic was sent off in the 67th minute, reducing Newcastle to 10 men. The comeback was on. Second place was as good as theirs and the spell Arsenal held over their north London rivals would finally be broken. Or not.
Spurs conceded a penalty, which Wijnaldum converted in the 73rd minute to make it 3–1. Then 20-year-old Rolando Aarons scored his first goal of the season and just his third in a Newcastle shirt to make it 4–1 in the 85th minute. And, finally, Daryl Janmaat scored to make it 5–1 in the 86th minute. Newcastle beat Spurs 5–1, scoring the last three of their goals with 10 men.
Since Arsenal beat last-place Aston Villa 4–0 in their final match of the season, they hopped over Spurs to finish second and continue their streak of keeping their neighbors behind them.
After the match, Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino felt compelled to apology to everyone he has ever met. From Sky Sports:
“I’m very disappointed; it was my worse game as a manager. We spoke weeks before about never giving up, we need to learn and improve our mentality.
“Firstly I want to apologise to our fans, our supporters, it was a shame what happened on the pitch.
“I apologise to our families, the families who have suffered behind us, it is difficult now to arrive home and explain what has happened here.
“When you watch the game it wasn’t a tactical problem, a skill or technical problem, it was a mental problem. When you go on the pitch you need to give 100 per cent. We need to show more character.”
Adding insult to scientifically improbable embarrassment, several of Spurs old enemies felt compelled to chime in with comments.
First, John Terry, who was probably unaware of what Spurs had just done at the time, opened an emotional speech about his club’s far worse season following Chelsea’s 1–1 draw with Leicester by congratulating the visiting side on winning the title and keeping it out of Tottenham’s hands.
"Happy St. Totteringham’s Day, I'm having Lasagne for dinner" 💪🏻 pic.twitter.com/Z0WoophB1L
— Lukas-Podolski.com (@Podolski10) May 15, 2016
And on Instagram, Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, who spent this season on loan with Roma, posted a series of videos that demonstrate just how bored a rich young man can be on a Sunday afternoon in one of Europe’s greatest cities.
This is how qualifying for the Champions League with the Premier League’s top scorer and the PFA Young Player of the Year ends with misery.