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Spurs 3-1 Villa: Six Tottenham Talking Points

1. Old Habits

As the minutes worryingly ticked by yesterday, the phrase that sprung to mind was the old French gag, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, which as I understand essentially translates as “It may be a new season, new stadium and we even have new signings dash it, but this nonsense on the pitch is the same as before, what?”

For this was a script that had been rolled out seven or eight times last season, no doubt about it. Oodles of possession, lack of final-third spark, a well-drilled defensive unit from the opposition and concession of a goal faintly ridiculous in its simplicity – all returned like old friends, picking up where they’d left off.

Mercifully, another trait that can be added to the list is the fact that our heroes have developed quite the knack for turning around a deficit pretty late in the day. Whereas once to be trailing as the clock ticked to 80 or so meant a pretty prolonged agony followed by a grumpy mooch home, now players and fans alike exchange knowing nods as if to say “This is comeback territory.”

So not quite the serene start one might have envisaged, but glass-half-full sorts might point out that we’ll be all the better for having navigated the odd bump in the road, and the important thing was probably not to have fallen 3 points behind the usual suspects before the first weekend of the season is out.

2. My Best Mate Jan

Starting at the start, I don’t mind admitting there was a pretty dubious eyebrow raised when Our Glorious Leader’s latest crazy notion was revealed to be the omission from the squad altogether of AANP’s best mate, Jan Vertonghen.

The official party line, that it’s impossible to pick everyone at once, might, I suppose, have an inkling of truth to it – but the whole turn of events leaves one with a rather hollow feeling in the stomach. Given the way of things in recent years, the mind inevitably wanders back to those fallings-out of senior players with Poch, the likes of Toby and Danny Rose, who having had the temerity to blab disapprovingly of life at the Lane were shoved off to the naughty step for the best part of six months and left to think about what they’d done.

With the European transfer window still alive and kicking, and only one year left on Vertonghen’s contract, I don’t mind admitting that I fear the worst.

It’s all quite the surprise, mind. The chap’s own interviews had generally suggested he was as happy as a pig in its own muck, and the rumours emanating from the camp had indicated that he and Kane, along with Lloris, were members of a well-trusted core of senior bods. Who knows where this is going?

3. First Half Struggles – Winks, Lamela etc

As for the game itself, I was actually pretty pleased with the initial joustings. Lucas Moura set a good tone straight from kick-off by dispossessing some poor sap and blasting one goalwards, albeit immediately afterwards undoing the good work by missing a pretty straightforward header, but in general the early omens were promising enough. Passes were fairly slick and there was a good energy amongst the players.

Alas it quickly went squiffy. Traffic through the centre became pretty congested.
While Winks was neat and energetic and efficient, his passing tends to keep possession rather than rip the spine out of the opposition à la Modric or an on-song Eriksen. Winks scavenged, and darted, and did nothing wrong, but ultimately tended to feed the man six yards away, or at best feed the full-backs out wide.

Lamela did what Lamela does, and dwelt on the ball far too long before releasing it, generally giving the air of a man making a bit of a mess of a his big opportunity (albeit he redeemed himself at the death by winning back possession for our crucial second).

Danny Rose had a fair amount of joy on the left, causing some gratifying moments of alarm in the Villa box every time he curled in a cross, and although his attacking play was as effective as his defending was careless, he looked arguably our most threatening option. Not that there was much competition on that front.

4. Kyle Walker-Peter’s: Not One of Nature’s Crossers

Given the threat posed by Rose’s crossing from the left, I found quickly found myself yearning for a Trippier, or Aurier on the right, which I suppose is an indication of just how frustrating things were becoming.

For young Kyle Walker-Peters had plenty of possession out on the right in the first half, and did nothing particularly wrong – but given the number of times he received the thing, I could not help lamenting that it would not have killed the chap to swing in a cross or two.

Instead he dithered, and fretted, and scurried, and generally ended up trying to take on his man –to his credit, usually winning a corner – or laid the ball back to a handily-placed chum. Nothing wrong with that, as it retained possession, but countless opportunities were missed to swing in an early cross and let bedlam ensue. You can lay a sizeable wager on any of Walker, Trippier or Aurier having tried as much.

Various Spurs-supporting chums opined at half-time that KWP was arguably the pick of our mob; I firmly marked him down in the Debit rather than Credit column. Considering how much of our play went through him in the first 45, and the threat posed by Rose’s crossing on the other flank, I thought he was repeatedly missing a fairly obvious trick. In fact, by half-time I was dishing a strong selection of curses in his direction.

Whether by accident or design, the plug was pulled on KWP as an attacking force (I use the term loosely) in the second half. He sat deeper and focused on mopping up defensively – a job he did quite adequately, to his credit – and more senior sorts like Lucas and Sissoko took on the mantle of patrolling the right flank. I suppose this is what life after Trippier wil look like, so we had all better get used to it, but it seems a limitation to KWP’s game.

5. Early Ndombele Observations

An odd sort of start from our much-heralded newbie. In the first half one rather felt for the young bean, for there was a general frustration amongst those around him, as well as a solid couple of blocks of Villa players in front of him, and I got the impression that he was wondering if this were really such a smart career move.

He certainly tried his heart out – perhaps a little too hard at times – and at other times appeared a little off-pace and puffed of cheek. The second coming of Dembele he did not appear to be, for there were few signs of him picking up the ball and breezing past opponents.

Mercifully, his goal provided a pretty handy adrenaline shot. (Am I right in thinking that Dembele also scored on his home debut?) A well-taken strike it was too, for I can speak with some authority when I suggest that it is pretty easy when lining up those shots, with the ball rolling back towards you, to lean back and bloot them into orbit.

Thereafter, confidence coursed through his veins like nobody’s business, and a whole tranche of pretty unnecessary tricks and flicks were unleashed. The chap started to do his best Moussa Sissoko impression, surging forward with the ball, and the wonderful prospect of an unstoppable Ndombele-Sissoko double-act hove briefly into view.

6. Eriksen On Song

The Great Eriksen Debate has proved pretty divisive stuff, and there was no letting up yesterday.

No real doubt about it, the chap’s introduction made a difference yesterday. Where previously there had been a heck of a lot of scratching of heads and shrugging of shoulders and passing of buck, once Eriksen had toddled on everyone basically just gave him the ball and left him to it.

And his outputs were pretty impressive. He picked a handful of clever passes, cunningly threading them in between defenders and into space for chums to run onto, rather than simply to feet, which had proved largely beyond his teammates for the preceding hour.

It was in general a pretty good advert for the young fish’s wares, and goodness knows his agent must have rubbed his hands in glee.

As one of those who has often chided the man, I’m happy to hold up my hands and applaud him for his efforts yesterday. And if he shows that same eagerness to demand the ball and look to create opportunities on a weekly basis I’ll probably plant myself far more firmly in the Pro Eriksen camp.

However, if you pardon my tuppence worth, I remain a tad wary, as I feel like I have seen plenty of games like yesterday’s in which we have needed inspiration but Eriksen has sat back and let proceedings pass him by. Yesterday, for the 15 or minutes in which he played, everything went through him, and this should be the case more regularly, rather than having 89 quiet minutes and one moment of magic. I would prefer we keep him than sell him, but would like to see yesterday’s performance become his norm. Admittedly I would also like us to win the league and revert back to blue socks, but such things occasionally need to be said.

AANP’s book Spurs’ Cult Heroes is available on Amazon. There’s a follow-up in the offing too, as it happens.

9 Responses

  1. AANP Says:

    And as observations 7 and 8 I should also tip the cap to Kane’s finishing, which rather goes to show that given an actual summer holiday the chap looks absolutely razor sharp; and give a generous hand to Sissoko for the midfield burst that set up our third (while glossing over his rabbit-in-headlights finishing earlier).

  2. Rosa Seats Says:

    I like your style, pretty much the same tongue-in-cheek (covering the truth with thin coating of saliva!) that I employ. Entertaining observations of the game without straying abstractly from the point of the whole thing for the sake of comedic kudos. And, no annoying cookie strips to bar your path! Wish you did more on this site. I haven’t noticed too many articles anyway. Keep up the excellent work. COYS!

  3. Jan Kare Stedje Says:

    Thank You! Spot on…

  4. Anirvan Says:

    At the risk of contradicting the high authority of AANP, allow me to call out 2 humble points in defence of Sen on your grounds – to the effect of shouting “Keep Sen, and rise Spurs. Let him leave, and its potential paradise lost”.
    1. That last year Eriksen worked like a dog and played more hours than almost any of the other leading stars, though not always fully fit himself, including his DESK compatriots last year, who all took injury time out. A certain deadening of the creative spark is inevitable, under those circumstances.
    2. Sen has now as many assists for us as Beckham had for United, while he is almost up to half a century of goals. In the company of other fit and fresh talents (perhaps a reinvigorated Alli or a new gun like Lo Celso) and with a Dembele like Ndombele to power from behind, his effectiveness will become better than ever before – specially if motivation is bitingly seasoned with the tang of not getting the Madrid dreams to his expectation. To draw a cricketing analogy, its far more difficult for Brian Lara to play a winning hand than it was for Viv Richards in the company of other greats.

  5. HD Says:

    Completely agree with Walker-Peters, lacked any sort of attacking threat whenever he went forward. At no point did I ever believe that he was going to cause any danger or threaten to make something happen, which let’s face it, is what the modern-day full back is supposed to do, even more so playing with a midfield diamond. Speaking of which…

    … need to ditch it ASAP. I said it last season as well, but it just doesn’t suit us at all and I’ve got no idea where the idea came from. This isn’t the halcyon days of Walker and Rose tormenting opponents between 2015-17 with their constant bursts down the flanks whilst being defensively solid, we don’t have the players capable of doing that, so asking them to provide ALL our width is ludicrous. Besides, it’s not even as if we have an exceptional midfield diamond such as Milan circa 2003-2007 where they had the perfect blend of what a midfield should have (Pirlo’s passing range, Gattuso’s bite and tenacity, Seedorf had a bit of everything a CM needs while Kaka could wreack havoc either with his passing and shooting, or his dribbling). I think our fans go overboard with anyone that comes out of our academy, very quick to build them up to be something they’re not; but Winks isn’t the second coming of Iniesta. He’s decent, but he doesn’t have the passing or the vision to dictate the game, while Sissoko is all perspiration but lacks inspiration. Everything I’ve read and seen of Ndombele suggests he’s more a technically-upgraded version of Sissoko as opposed to playmaker extraordinaire.

    Get back to the tried-and-trusted 4231 which served us well over the years, it’s not broken so I don’t know why Poch is trying to fix it.

  6. AANP Says:

    Anirvan: Firstly, excellent name.
    Secondly, heavens above feel free to contradict me to your heart’s content! Your points on Eriksen seem eminently reasonable, no grumbles there, and it makes me wonder whether he might this season have an added spring in his step, a la Kane, on the back of a decent summer break.
    I suppose my grumble remains that he’ll produce a goal/assist that makes MOTD, but too often be peripheral for the other 89 mins, which admittedly is fine for a forward, but less so for a midfield playmaker. Either way, “Spurs disagreeing fans on the interweb” is pretty much the way of things these days.
    And thirdly, excellent Windies analogy.

    HD: I fear you might be right on the diamond point, sir, although I’m inclined to give the personnel time. Against defensive set-ups I understand the logic of trying a diamond rather than two holding players in a 4231, but agree the personnel aren’t quite Milan of yesteryear…

  7. john maxwell Says:

    shearer comments were right to the point — our three front men were all in the same small space and thus made it so much easier for the defenders — we saw so many similar types of games in the back-end of last season and the lack of width is halting creativity — ericksen did make a difference and maybe in time sess and celso can add more of the same and in addition we have our reliables son and deli ali and mauritio will find a way to blend them into a lethal attacking force

  8. c b waters Says:

    Do you realise they’ve also banned pipe smoking in the dressing rooms at white Hart Lane? What on Earth is going on with these namby pamby bureaucratic rotters?! If a player can’t relax by puffing on his pipe after a hard fought game, then it’s a sad state of affairs indeed. I expect next that the gentlemen’s football bar will close before midnight. And while we’re talking about football, Spurs should resort to their old 2-3-5 formation when they won the old ‘double’. Wingers are what we need, not these new fangled full backs that seem to think they can perform both defensive and attacking duties. If Mr Pochettino persists with this ruby or diamond, or whatever stone it is, then he’s a cad, stinker and boundah of the first order.

  9. AANP Says:

    John, also agree with Shearer’s point, but it was so glaring I wondered if the front 3 were instructed to play narrowly, maybe to encourage dinky little interplay, while width was left to the full-backs? (In which case, again, KWP did not seem the right man for the job.) Intrigued to see what Le Celso offers…

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