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 By Ben Pearce

Spurs' move to Wembley has made them stronger for FA Cup and beyond

There has been understandable mirth among Tottenham fans at the idea that the club now has an unfair advantage in the FA Cup, with the semifinal and final being played at the stadium they have called home this season.

Few rivals were complaining about Spurs' spell in Brent at the start of the campaign. Indeed, the north Londoners spent the early weeks attempting to exorcise a "Wembley curse".

Losing against Chelsea under the arch and then labouring to draws against Burnley and Swansea, Mauricio Pochettino's side collected just two points from a possible nine in their first three home matches.

Had they been playing at White Hart Lane, their points haul would surely have been higher and Tottenham may have found themselves better placed in the table right now. It is easy for their rivals to forget that at this stage.

Chelsea benefited in particular as they were the first visitors to Wembley this season. Catching Spurs at an especially vulnerable time, they triumphed 2-1 in an important duel that still has ramifications now, with the pair lying fourth and fifth in the table.

As a result, the Blues could have fewer complaints than anyone if they had to take on the same club in the same arena in the FA Cup. But Spurs' semifinal opponents will instead be Manchester United, who have a little more justification for any grumbles.

Wembley had become something of a fortress by the time they visited Tottenham in late January and lost 2-0. Jose Mourinho and his players could reasonably feel aggrieved at the prospect of a rematch in a tie that is supposed to be played at a neutral venue.

Everyone associated with Spurs will probably continue to be amused by this subject, crying "First it was a disadvantage, now it's an advantage? Which is it?"

The answer is: both. Having initially faced adversity, Tottenham have got used to their surroundings and then excelled in them. They will indeed have an edge now they have reached the last four of the FA Cup. That seems obvious.

Wembley ahead of the North London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal.
Tottenham's temporary home of Wembley could prove to be an advantage in the FA Cup semifinals and final.

Yet it would be churlish to ignore the challenges the club have overcome to gain that genuine home advantage at Wembley and, whatever the noises are from outside, Tottenham can proudly reflect that the issue is a reflection of their success.

The discussion has only arisen because Spurs have become so formidable at Wembley. No one would be questioning the fairness of the situation if they were still struggling there.

Some Tottenham supporters feared this season would be badly undermined by the Wembley factor, but the north Londoners are only four points worse off now than they were at the same stage last term, after 30 matches, which is impressive.

Another top-four finish, a domestic trophy and progress to the Champions League knockout stages after last year's group-stage exit would surely represent a successful season at White Hart Lane. So, given it has been played at an alien stadium, Pochettino and his players are on course for a fine campaign, indeed.

It all bodes well as Tottenham prepare for another move and another settling-in period in their permanent home. It only took Spurs a few months to find their feet at Wembley and turn the national arena into a place to be feared, so why can they not do the same with their new ground? Why should that process take any longer?

It could indeed be even quicker. Tottenham began their tenure at Wembley with a series of bad memories and a poor record at the arena -- August's draw with Burnley left the club with just one win from 11 attempts under the arch.

There will be none of those negative connotations when they arrive back in N17. At the very worst, they will start neutrally, building an emotional connection with their surroundings from scratch. And, ideally, the history associated with the site and environs will immediately breed a sense of familiarity.

The players have already got used to the larger pitch, having made the adjustment from White Hart Lane's 100-by-67-metre surface to Wembley's 105-by-68 field -- the same dimensions as next season's pitch.

At the start of this season there was a theory that the extra space was causing problems, helping opponents to escape Spurs' pressing game and play through them. But those fears have proved ill-founded. Tottenham have beaten Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal at Wembley, and the aggregate score across their past 13 home matches is 37-7.

The club may be facing another relocation, another seismic change, but there will be some elements of continuity, and the speed with which they have found comfort at Wembley should foster hope that this transitional period can still be combined with success and silverware -- both in the coming weeks and next term.

Ben is ESPN FC's Tottenham blogger. Follow on Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.


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