1. Kane’s Deep Role
No doubt plenty of column inches across the land are being served up regarding H. Kane Esq. today. There’s the happy matter of his two goals, which I think we’d all pretty comfortably watch on loop until the end of days; and his ankle, which is a decidedly less sunny topic; but the issue nibbling at me like the dickens is this nonsense of him dropping deep and spending the entire binge pottering around in midfield like nobody’s business.
Now the complaint I am about to file is hardly unprecedented, so if it’s original content you’re after I’m afraid you’re bang out of luck.
The thrust of it is that Kane is a goalscorer of the highest calibre, and as such really ought to spend as much of his time as possible situated in the opposition penalty area.
One understands that every now and then there comes a tide in the affairs of man which pretty much forces him to nip out and tie up a few loose ends. And if circumstances thus drag Kane towards halfway for a moment or two, then I think we’d all be pretty content to wave him through, just as long as he’s back up in or around the penalty area in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. That, after all, is where the magic happens.
Instead, as often as not, he’s mooching around in midfield for the majority of the blasted match, as if won over by that peculiarity of the judicial system that allows a squatter to become the legal owner of a property they’ve occupied without anyone else’s permission, simply by virtue of having been there for a given period.
At first it was a rather impressive party-trick, swanning back to halfway and pinging forty-yarders into the path of Son to score, and we were happy enough to indulge him for five minutes each week if it kept him happy.
But a five-minute treat is one thing; setting up permanent residence is a completely different kettle of fish. Even if he wants to dabble in those arts once every ten minutes, then we would probably find it the lesser of two evils, as he is at times very effective in the role, make no mistake – but yesterday he spent all but the entire game there. Why the hell he is doing it so incessantly is anyone’s guess. It’s not as if there’s more glory to be had back there.
It seems particularly pertinent to point this out on a day on which he was given but two sniffs of opportunities in the area, both of which were fleeting in nature and yet both of which were despatched with absolutely ruthless efficiency, before anyone else in the vicinity had even started to calculate what circus-like sequence of events had transpired amongst the Everton defenders to bring us to that point.
With the Everton mob crashing into each other and ball pinballing around, one would have adopted a spirit of understanding if Kane had himself dallied somewhat, to find his bearings and gather his thoughts, before casting an eye over his options and weighing up the behaviour most appropriate to the situation.
Not Harry Kane. Not a bit of it. While we mere mortals were still formulating the phrase, “What ho, it looks like something might be on here”, Kane had already swivelled and lashed, and was deep into his kiss-ring-and-fist-pump routine.
(It ought also to be noted that the first goal additionally involved him plucking the ball out of the sky at a moment’s notice in order to facilitate the swivel-and-lash, but such is the man’s ability in front of goal that he made this not inconsiderable task appear as straightforward as shelling peas.)
Now I wasn’t kidding about watching those goals on loop ad infinitum, and I’d be similarly happy to write about them until well into the night too, but the moral of the story must not be overlooked, which is that the man should stick to the final third, dash it. We have amongst our number the most talented goalscorer of his generation; let’s maximise that talent by ensuring that he spends as much time as possible in the position that best facilitates him scoring goals. Which sure as heck isn’t going to be a patch of grass on the left-hand touchline about fifty yards out.
2. Errant Passing
Kane’s goals were fabulous, and would be the highlight of many a middling football match, but amidst the usual dross on show yesterday they shone particularly brightly.
It’s dashed hard to know what to make of things under Jose at the best of times, but yesterday matters were complicated no end by the fact that half of those given the honour of representing our glorious establishment marked the occasion by kicking the ball to whomever the hell they pleased as long as it wasn’t a teammate.
This approach complicated matters. I read somewhere that Ndombele gave away possession on fourteen occasions, and while I could not comment on the precise statistical veracity of this claim, it did sound about right, I must admit. He was pretty dreadful, and he was not the only one.
Now this is not to besmirch his character. One reads about the hand that giveth and in the same breath taketh away, and so it is with observations of Ndombele’s recent performances, for against Man Utd last week I read a similarly unverified line suggesting that he alone did not give away possession once in the entire first half.
Yesterday, however, was one of those days in which none of our lot seemed to attach too much importance to the business of retaining possession. The scrappy opening exchanges in which the ball failed to attach to anyone stretched out into the entire game.
Aurier, Hojbjerg, Reguilon and Sissoko were all as guilty as Ndombele of bunting the ball any which way, and nor is that a conclusive list.
3. The Spurs Way
As if to hammer home that here stood a team pretty devoid of direction, we then pulled off our usual feat of letting a lead slip, and thereafter going through the motions until we fell behind, at which point we promptly bucked right up and started to play with thrust and enterprise. Or, as one might label it, “The Usual”.
Now in general I’m not a fan of that blister Carragher on commentary, but like a broken clock he does stumble upon a truth every now and then, and so it was that I found myself in complete agreement with him at one point yesterday. Which sat pretty uncomfortably with me, I don’t mind telling you.
He expressed the opinion that the current lilywhite vintage perform entirely in reaction to the scoreline at any given point. And by Jove, he was right. Should we find ourselves leading, we sit back and defend; should we find ourselves trailing, we lock and load, and make a damn good fist of things in search of an equaliser; and I suppose if scores our level we simply go through the motions, rather waiting for something to happen or the match to end. Waiting for the other lot to die of boredom, as one of our greatest would have put it.
Thus spake that Carragher creature, and, with a heavy heart, I found myself agreeing. This lot have no particular identity. They just check the scoreline and behave accordingly.
I suppose in the interests of fairness one ought to acknowledge that this week we did not throw away the lead in the usual, spirit-sapping fashion; but the general point remains nonetheless. The series of ghastly individual performances and countless misplaced passes hardly helped things; but as ever it was the mentality of the players, at various different points, that really grated.
4. The Penalty
I mentioned the penalty, so now is as ripe a time as any to elaborate.
The forensics team seemed to conclude that there was some contact, and you can press your ear to the keyhole of AANP Towers but you won’t hear much complaint about the decision here. If it were a foul, then the decision was correct; if umpteen replays suggested that it weren’t a foul then it was hardly a clear and obvious error; so few grumbles from this quarter.
Rather, and not for the first time, I take issue with that one amongst our number who gave the referee a decision to make in the first place, this week Reguilon. He seemed briefly to reject the laws of physics, and convince himself that rather than taking the circuitous approach around James, either via the eastward route or the westward, it would be feasible to gain possession by motoring straight through the back of him.
This judgement having taken hold, young Senor Reguilon seemed pretty committed to it until the very last moment, when a lone voice of reason seemed to make itself heard amongst the chorus presumably urging him to plough straight on, and at that point Reguilon made a rather belated attempt to slam on the brakes.
This evasive action was undertaken too late, however. The whole interaction proved irresistible, and to the surprise of precisely no-one the judgement was made. Contact or not, Reguilon paid the price for the pretty daft decision to steam towards James from behind, rather than go around him.
It was pretty frustrating stuff, because while one would ideally prefer not to concede, if one has to (and let’s face it, with present-day Spurs it does seem part of the deal each week) one would prefer that the opposition earn it.
5. Ndomble in the Number 10 Role
I alluded above to the pretty careless streak to Ndombele’s performance, and I think there is more to be said on this.
These days I doubt Jose has much plan of how to achieve whatever it is he wants to achieve, instead simply trying something new each week. Yesterday it was a back-three, wing-backs and Ndombele in the number 10 role, supporting Sonny and Kane, wherever the hell he had wandered off to.
Now this struck me as a rum move. For a start, poor Lucas would have had the right to mutter a choice Portuguese oath or two. In recent weeks, while the form of the collective might have fallen off a cliff, Lucas has conducted himself pretty creditably, finally seeming to find a home within the starting eleven, as a Number 10 with licence to dribble.
Those who like their stats will point to a couple of goals and assists, but more pertinently the evidence of the eyes has suggested that his mazy dribbles from deep, work-rate when out of possession and positions adopted to support attacks have made him a useful egg to have around.
I was therefore rather taken aback to see him demoted for this one.
And more to the point, I was all the more taken aback to see Ndombele replace him in that spot. Being pretty quick with these things, I conducted a brief spot of mental research – a vox pops of myself, if you will – and found that on balance, I’d have Ndombele as sixth in line to the throne of Number 10.
Ahead of him are Kane (admittedly this is a bit of a rogue entry, as I may have mentioned that I’d prefer Kane up the top of the tree); Dele; Lo Celso; Lucas, on current form at least, and possibly even Lamela, who having spent this season worming his way into my affections is likely to stay there at least until the evenings draw in again.
All of which made the choice of Ndombele a slightly iffy one, and nor was it one that the man himself did a great job of vindicating. It seemed particularly appropriate, and rather to sum up the current state of things at N17, that on being hooked from proceedings, Ndombele took it upon himself to mooch off to the changing rooms on his own.