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Inter 2-1 Spurs: Five Tottenham Observations

1. Absolute Gut-Wrenching Frustration, Dash It

Back in the mid-90s, if you had suggested that there is no shame in losing away to Inter, I’d have yelled “Gollazo”, thrust my false ID in your general direction and agreed vigorously. However, things – as sometimes happens – have changed. Inter’s stripey ensemble might retain a certain appeal, but their 2018 on-pitch vintage is pretty crushingly average.

Accordingly, most of the trouble we faced was overwhelmingly of our own doing – and more grumbles on that particular topic below – while our hosts did little more than huff, puff and complain about this and that.
In fact, by around the 70-minute mark Inter had fairly unashamedly thrown in the towel, and simply mooched around the place, killing time until the post-match snifters at the nearest Milanese watering-hole. Our heroes were required to do little more than light cigars and apologetically keep possession as the game and all around it drifted towards a happy conclusion.

In a group like this, three points away from home would have swung the odds pretty handily in our favour. Even one point would have been accepted, albeit sniffily in the cirucmstances. But to have the larder so completely raided, barely ten minutes after having been in complete control, was about as rotten a conclusion as one can imagine.

2. The Morbidly Fascinating Tactic of Repeatedly Trying to Pass Out From The Back

Mind you, it was a good 30 or 40 minutes before one cottoned on to the fact that Inter were not quite the prowling behemoth of yore. In the opening thrusts, we seemed to have our work cut out to keep them at bay, and it is no exaggeration to say that one pursed the lips with concern.

On closer inspection however, it became pretty evident that the nub of all these problems were our own dashed heroes – and in particular the ludicrous tactic of repeatedly trying to pass the ball out from the area at goal kicks.

To say that the plan had a mild flaw or two in its mechanics is to make a pretty fruity bid for Understatement of the Year. Time and again the ball was passed to one or other of the centre-backs, who promptly staggered around it like men who had been drinking in the city centre since mid-morning.

On the rare occasions that they managed to dispense with the thing, it only bobbed around ten yards further up the field, where either Davies or Aurier were on hand to pass it straight to an opponent or trip over themselves while the ball gently rolled out of play. Precious little assistance came from midfield either, where every lilywhite in sight was determined to add their own glaring miscontrol or errant pass to the collection, and the whole thing made football look like the most complex operation imaginable.

It was mind-boggling to behold. Our heroes peddled a solid demonstration of the definition of madness, wondering why a different outcome was not materialising, and seemingly oblivious to the presence of alternatives – the concept of simply blasting the ball into the half being pretty firmly off the agenda. I’m not sure we managed serene progress to the halfway line from a single one of around a dozen first half attempts to pass our way out from the back.

These persistent, determined attempts to stuff the same square pegs into round holes, and the consequent bother they caused us in conceding possession on the edge of our own area, rather distracted from the fact that going forward our front four or so were quietly burrowing their way into the Inter ranks.

Nothing too blistering, heaven forbid, but the little dink from Eriksen to Kane; the occasional over-elaboration from Lamela; the odd dribble from Dembele over halfway – one started to get the impression that Inter were actually there for the taking, if we just applied ourselves. And cleared the lines from goal-kicks, of course.

3. Moura The Impact Sub

Lucas Moura seems not to have received the club-wide memo that all in lilywhite must trudge about the premises looking like they have been flogged half to death all summer. Sprightly whenever he has started a game so far this season, he hit upon the terrific idea of displaying precisely the same degree of spright when introduced as a substitute, and it produced exceptional results.

Credit to the manager were due – and he has a sizeable portion of blame heading his way soon enough – it was a decision that could not have been better timed if he had been rehearsing it for weeks. We led by a goal, Inter were beginning to over-commit and their general energy levels were sapping away like nobody’s business.

Enter Moura, and every Inter defender in sight began queuing up to have the dickens twisted out of them. The only shame was that it did not bring about the second goal that it merited.

4. Aurier Turns In A Half-Decent Display

Frequent visitors to this parish – and indeed, any man, woman or child alive, who has ever cast the merest glance in our direction over the past season – will be well aware that Serge Aurier is a man of questionable defensive prowess.

“Liability” has generally been the mot juste, as the blighter has conceded penalties, earned red cards, sliced clearances and misplaced passes in a pretty determined attempt to establish himself as a dashed nuisance, and raise the blood pressure of approximately half the population of North London.

He started proceedings in typical fashion yesterday – albeit in common with most of his defensive chums. A miscontrol to concede a throw, a wayward header to concede a corner – so far, so Aurier.

Come the second half however, the chap got his act together like a man possessed. Filling in behind the centre-backs like a seasoned sweeper, he cleared up the occasional mess at the back, whilst also channelling his inner Kyle Walker by bombing up the back as if wing-backing were his specialist subject.

All in vain ultimately, and a genuine shame that he was the AWOL marker for the winning goal, but having taken every opportunity to hammer the chap over the past year, it is only fair to applaud him when he remembers his p’s and q’s, so to speak.

5. Poch Decisions

If one were to spot a gentleman going about his business with an umbrella tucked underneath his arm, and then cast a glance skywards and spot cloud formations of the murky variety – well, while one would hardly burst into spontaneous applause, one would nevertheless understand the chap’s rationale, and accept that decision as acceptable enough.

Thus did the replacement of Lamela with Winks strike me. I don’t mind admitting that I eyed the progress of Messrs Son, Eriksen and Lamela with an enthusiastic eye every time they broke over halfway to sniff out glory, and when Lamela was hooked a gentle sadness struck me. Not one of those deep, sighing sadnesses; more of a mildly disappointed shrug. Nevertheless, like the gentleman preparing for rain, one followed the thought process – we led away from home, and Winks, on paper at least, was the sort of egg who could offer a little more protection as the clock ticked down.

However, one can only judge these things in hindsight, and on results. We did lose a sliver of that attacking thrust of the previous twenty minutes, and – while neither goal had much to do with young Winks – we did concede twice. As if Our Glorious Leader did not have enough on his plate, he now has AANP raising a disapproving eyebrow at his mid-game switches.

To say nothing of his pre-game choices. The omissions of both Toby and Trippier rank amongst the most deeply suspicious of our time. Rather like one of those young brides one reads about who convinces her new octogenarian spouse to alter his will and leave her the whole dashed inheritance mere days before his death, this was a fishy move. And once again, hindsight and the result ultimately points to Poch making the wrong calls. Heaven help him if he engages in a game of Scissors-Paper-Stone, for every choice he makes this week, while honest and well-intentioned, ultimately brings about a soggy ending.

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Huddersfield 0-4 Spurs: Five Lilywhite Observations

1. Kane

Crumbs. Every man and his dog is chipping in with his tuppence worth on the blighter at the moment, and by and large here at AANP Towers we tend to scoot past his heroics and instead commit pen to parchment on the rights and wrongs of our midfield cogs.

But it is becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss his ware-peddling as simply business as usual. The chap is scoring just about every type of goal conceivable at present, from every angle and distance conceivable. Unnervingly, his second yesterday had a hint of the Gareth Bales about it. And he does it all while still somehow conveying the impression that he is not one of life’s natural footballers, if you get my drift. Fingers crossed the young bean never grows old. Or gets injured.

2. Winks

Moussa Sissoko presumably has his fans – primarily within the Sissoko household one would imagine – but I’m sure mine was not the only heart that skipped a joyous beat when I saw Harry Winks’ name on the teamsheet. Lots of good, honest man-love is directed towards that young egg, and while it was hardly the most taxing afternoon of his life, it was nevertheless good to see him look the part throughout.

To the credit of the entire troupe, the absence of Dembele has not been felt too keenly in recent weeks, but although just about irreplaceable, the nearest thing to him seems to be young Winks. Admittedly they are very much man and boy when it comes to comparing physiques, but the general mentality of both on receipt of the ball seems to be to make a forward beeline, as long as physics allows.

Which may sound far from rocket science, but compared to, for example, the dire first half against Swansea, when the default of just about every man in lilywhite was a swift pirouette and backward pass, and The Winks Approach – borrowing laudably from The Dembele Playbook – provides numerous steps in the right direction. Literally, as well as metaphorically, which always reinforces the thing, what?

3. Alli

Not for the first time this season, it was a decidedly rummy offering from the lad. I’m all for the chap assuming the form of a fiend in loosely human shape when it comes to scything his way through an opposing defence like a knife through butter, but so far this season he has mooched around like an indignant schoolboy.

There was one flash of brilliance, which culminated in him hitting the post. And one might point to his assists last week, and infer that his creative juices floweth perfectly well, but dash it, the chap is off colour if ever I saw the thing.

Frankly one of his assists last week was woeful – leathering the ball into the air and forcing a diving header from Kane, when a simple rolled pass would have done the necessaries – and yesterday brought no improvement. The chap just seemed to have a chip on his shoulder, was unable to influence the game in the manner of, say Eriksen or the wing-backs, and not for the first time plumbed a depth with a quite unnecessary dive. Not at our club, thanks very much.

4. Eriksen and the Ardiles-Era Goal

It does not seem so long ago that I sighed like a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, and fretted over how Eriksen, for a man of his talent, ought really to be bossing games.

By golly, not any more. The chap absolutely runs the show these days, week after week. His first touch invariably takes his marker out of the game, he has the vision to spot a pass from a different postcode – not to mention the ability to deliver it – and on top of it, the chap simply never stops tearing up and down the turf.
Mildly ironic then, that what might have been The Best Goal Since Football Was Created, was demoted to the status of simply A Quite Marvellous Goal because Eriksen of all people did not quite deliver his line to perfection. The Davies goal was simply a thing of beauty. One-touch build-up so dizzying that I managed to keel over while sitting down watching, and finished with a generous dollop of élan by Davies, it truly felt like the appointment of Ossie Ardiles back in the mid-90s had finally borne fruit.

5. Sissoko and the Worst Goal Ever

From sublime to ridiculous. Having gone three up without exerting themselves terrifically, our heroes did the understandable, and hit the Snooze button in the second half. Rather a shame, I thought, because Huddersfield, while game for a fight, were marvellously naïve about things, racing up the pitch to salvage pride while leaving one of the planet’s hottest strikers to amuse himself as he pleased. As such, there were plenty more goals for the taking in the second 45.

Ultimately then, it fell to Sissoko. If the chap were to pour himself a glass of water I fancy he would make it look complicated, so when the moment came to tap in from a couple of yards, naturally he dragged unnecessary limbs, opposing defenders, stumbles, deflections and just about every other utterly needless element into proceedings.

I’m growing rather fond of the blighter, mind. Lots of effort in there, and one of these days the planets will align and he will turn in the best performance ever. But just as, against Dortmund a few weeks ago, Son scored the most Son-esque goal imaginable, yesterday Sissoko produced undoubtedly the most Sissoko-esque goal in history.

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