André Villas-Boas invoked it again following this deserved defeat by Wigan. "Sometimes we're just not clear in our decision-making, it can happen because of anxiety," he said. "We try to do everything right and we end up doing everything wrong."
Only goal difference is keeping Tottenham out of the top four but the fear in much of their play suggests they feel they should be lower. Keep playing like this and they soon will be.
Wigan could have scored three goals in the first half, as the front trio of Shaun Maloney, Franco Di Santo and the outstanding Arouna Koné cut through the home defence with the slickness and boldness that Tottenham lacked. Ben Watson eventually fired them into the lead in the 56th minute and after that the visitors continued to look the more likely scorers, as Tottenham mustered only a few long shots and failed to find any cutting edge or fluency.
"You find yourself on the back foot and this raises the anxiety because you ask yourself: 'why don't you do things properly?'" said Villas-Boas. Good question: why don't Spurs do things properly?
Roberto Martínez rightly explained that Wigan's formation and diligence denied space to Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon and was perhaps too diplomatic to add that when Tottenham's wingers are subdued, the rest of the team poses little threat.
With Tom Huddlestone working his way back from a long injury lay-off and Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson struggling to justify their purchases, the absence of the injured Mousa Dembélé and the sold Luka Modric and Rafael van der Vaart leaves a gaping creativity void in central midfield. Spurs' win at Old Trafford looks like a blip; their only other victories have come against the league's bottom four and that may be a truer reflection of their present ability.
On the other hand, many at White Hart Lane clearly believes that Villas-Boas should be getting more out of the resources at his disposal, notably by deviating from his preferred 4-4-1-1 to deploy two strikers.
Boos resounded around the ground when the manager replaced Jermain Defoe with Emmanuel Adebayor straight after Wigan went in front. "We have been successful in the past with one striker off the other," said Villas-Boas. "It's not impossible that we will play with two strikers as we have done in the past. At the moment, it's a system we haven't started with."
That has meant that Adebayor has not started a game this season, a fact that, in view of the poor form of Sigurdsson and Dempsey, has angered Tottenham supporters. Word is Adebayor is angry too, although Villas-Boas rubbished those rumours and quipped that he could show the medical reports to anyone who doubts the club's claim that injury and illness are the main reason that the Togolese has yet to start a match this season.
"From the 10 that we've played, I think he's been out for eight of them," said Villas-Boas. "We're quite happy with his attitude, no doubts whatsoever. We have him fit now and hopefully ready for the next upcoming games. We know his ability."
The next two league games are away to Manchester City and Arsenal. "We will definitely be better in those games because we have an ability to recognise our mistakes and do things better than against Wigan," insisted Villas-Boas.
Wigan, meanwhile, provide a prime example of a team that has learned from past mistakes. Their impressive displays this season make itare making it look unlikely that they will have to stage another late escape from relegation. "It is very dangerous to do what we normally do, you don't want to do that," said Martínez, who attributes this year's positive start to a change of mindset.
"That's been the real focus this season, to achieve that winning mentality. [In the past it has seemed] we're quite happy to go through the motions, see when February comes, see where we are in the table, and then try to get that mentality. To be able to come here not needing the three points but wanting the three points, that's the biggest difference that I have seen in our group."
Man of the match Arouna Koné (Wigan)
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © Vladimir Maiorov