Young Sessegnon probably deserves the first column inch or two. Indeed, the casual observer, drinking in only the lurid headlines, might infer from the chronology of events that Sessegnon was the sole architect of this latest calamity. One would, of course, understand the sentiment, as early red cards rarely chivvy matters along in positive and serene fashion; but those of us who watched the piece unfold in real-time would be well aware that the truth is entirely more disturbing, involving as it did ineptitude and complacency from all bedecked in
lilywhite faded blackcurrant and lime.
Back to Sessegnon. The football gods showed the full range of their cruel sense of humour by shoving him and his return to the fold front and centre of the pre-match hype. And I dn’t mind admitting that AANP fully subscribed to this narrative. When we signed him a couple of years back he was the bright young thing of English football, arguably further in his development than Bellingham, Saka et al.
And frankly, he might – and hopefully will – still be a roaring success. One red card, after all, doth not a failure make.
But by golly, it was one heck of a red card.
I note that some of lilywhite persuasion are trying to argue that his misdeeds were not worth two yellow cards. This, for avoidance of doubt, is utter rot. The first caution was idiotic to an immeasurable degree – making no attempt to play the ball, and aiming a kick at an opponent on the gallop. Nor was it one of those that could be filed under the heading ‘Tactical Foul’. Not that I’m a particular fan of such things, but sometimes these cynical numbers are desperately needed to prevent a highly dangerous counter-attack – this was not of the ilk.
And having already been booked, to leap into another flying challenge – again, hardly in a goal-saving context – defied belief. To those arguing that contact was minimal, I curtly reply that the young fool should not give the referee the option to make such a decision.
It has become something of a habit on these pages to witter on about how staggeringly block-headed footballers are as a collective, but these two bookings seemed to plumb new depths of stupidity.
On the bright side, young Master S. has now set his bar so low that whatever he does in his forthcoming engagements will represent vast improvement. Maybe he’s not so thick after all.
To say that Dele looked a shadow of his former self would be a bit stiff on shadows.
The all-singing, all-dancing buccaneer of a few years back, with velvety touch and a knack for timing a late burst into the area, is such a distant memory that I now wonder if he ever existed at all. If the current incumbent of his shirt gives a dam about his football, he disguises the fact in pretty convincing fashion.
Each time Dele received the ball yesterday he generally took six touches, lost possession and then promptly lost interest in the game altogether, preferring to wander off to a quiet spot of land, alone with his thoughts. And it was this latter part that represented a new low, this business of registering zero emotion once he had lost the ball. For a few years now, his output when in possession has been dreadful; but to see him shrug his shoulders and slow down to a walk once dispossessed really made one grind the teeth and hiss a bit.
If he really is trying to play himself back into favour, by golly he is going about it in a most peculiar fashion.
As for that rotter Harry Kane, I must confess his performance had me scratching at the old bean. Neither one thing nor another – or, to be more accurate, both one thing and another, if you follow my drift.
Sorry if that’s a bit cryptic. What I mean is that he managed to incorporate a pretty wide range of features within his night’s work.
For almost all of the first half he was as dreadful as anyone else. On that I think we can all agree. He lumbered about the place like a man donning his boots for the first time in a few years, failed to hold up the ball, failed to find teammates with intended passes and generally looked like a man who, on encountering the Slovenian mid-tablers, was a long way out of his depth.
The one moment in the first half that offered a glimpse of a record goalscorer was when he was stationed within the penalty area, and on receiving the ball conjured a shot from nowhere. He missed, narrowly, but the incident was still in pretty startling contrast to all that had gone before. The lesson, I recall murmuring at the time, seemed to be that dash everything else, Kane should just stick to the penalty area and get his shots off. No shame in that.
Then in the second half, when he spotted his friends arriving – in the form of Sonny and Lucas – Kane suddenly perked up, much like a small child who – well, who has spotted his friends arriving. The link-up play improved, he seemed more of a threat in possession and, to his credit, took his goal with a hefty dollop of aplomb.
And yet despite all this, the feeling still persisted that, unbeknownst to him, some rascal in the changing room had filled at least one of his boots with cement. He seemed to be having a devil of a time controlling his feet, and in the end appeared to give up on them and let them do as they pleased.
All things considered, it was a rather peculiar performance. The only certainty was that this was not a chap for whom anyone will ever pay £150m in a hurry.
I don’t suppose there are many tomes out there that have recorded that when Davinson Sanchez bounded onto the pitch in the latter stages of the win vs Leeds on Sunday, he actually managed to put not one foot wrong during the entirety of his cameo. It may only have been fifteen minutes or so, but it was a faultless fifteen minutes or so.
Football, however, being a pretty fickle mistress, I suspect that while Sunday’s input went under the radar, you won’t be able to throw a stone in the northern hemisphere without hitting someone ready to yowl about Sanchez’s ghastly contributions to yesterday’s disaster.
I have heard it said – by my Spurs-supporting chum Dave, no less – that Sanchez deserves some sympathy for being played out of position, on the left of a back three. This, as you might well imagine, received pretty short shrift at AANP Towers. If he were a right-handed darts player being asked to play on the left of a back-three, I might tilt my head, and utter an understanding word or two. But a right-footed, international centre-back being asked to play on the left of a back three – against Slovenian mid-tablers, dash it – ought to swan around the pitch producing the performance of his life.
Instead, not once but twice for heaven’s sake, Sanchez delivered a mistake so basic that all in attendance could anticipate it perfectly, well before it had happened. Even as he gathered pace, it seemed pretty clear that he was going to overshoot, be forced to cut back inside and end up off-balance and in coordinates entirely inappropriate for the job at hand. And so it transpired. Twice.
5. Same Players, Terrible Performances
I thought that the one soul to emerge with a modicum of credit was young Skipp, who at least seemed to pick up on the urgency of the occasion (although even he let himself down somewhat in the second half, misplacing and miscontrolling more and more as the game progressed).
This, however, is largely irrelevant. By the AANP reckoning – which admittedly is far from infallible – four of the worst Spurs performances of my lifetime have now occurred within the last 12 months (Zagreb away, Villa at home, Arsenal away, Mura away). I suspect there are a few more, given the number of games under Jose in which we scored early and then tried to defend the penalty area for 85 minutes.
One may quibble over the contents and ordering of that list, but what’s notable is that in this period we have had 4 different managers – which suggests that the common denominator here is the players.
It’s pretty meaningless gubbins for them to emerge after the game and talk about how such things are ‘Not good enough’ and ‘Unacceptable’, (although I have found that sinking a splash of bourbon each time I hear one of these phrases is a pretty handy way to numb the pain) when a month later it will simply happen again. There is no accountability at all, no repercussions. More or less the same mob simply reappear the following week. They can’t be placed on disciplinary or performance management courses – or simply sacked – as would happen if most of us under-performed in the day job.
Now it’s hardly a practical solution to suggest they be replaced en masse by various youth players who do not share their complacency and sense of entitlement, but as neither fining nor physically thrashing them for poor performances are allowed, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to punish them for peddling such rubbish, and have no idea how one might buck them up and improve their attitudes. Over to you, Conte.