Tottenham 1 Swansea 0
Only two games, still too early for me to over analyse and compare to last season and measure improvements or even attempt to gauge formation/tactics. These early games, for most teams, are about finding your feet. What can lead to trouble occasionally is if you do come unstuck and confidence is hit and a couple of defeats lead to a slump that carries on longer than it should. Fact is, nobody takes pre-season form into a new season, so for us to begin the campaign looking fairly decent without being explosive is a good sign.
Three games. Three wins. Seven goals. Three clean sheets.
It is too early to read too much or expect too much. But there are some clear indications of what we can look forward to and also one or two reminders on what needs to get fixed (player wise) before the window shuts and what we need to work on as part of our transition.
By transition, I'm referring to the new first teamers getting to know each other and the rest of the squad and everyone settling into a groove. We all know how this works. We've been here dozens and dozens of times. The reason it's a little different this time is because we continue to retain ambition and want to build towards something more than just making up the numbers in 'the race for 4th spot'. We've truly strengthened in key positions. We're going to have to power up some more.
I thought we looked comfortable against Swansea. Bit of rust with some of the passing early on, but as the minutes ticked away, the more confident I was that we'd win the game. Although we did make hard work of it for the breakthrough. This is still unlike some recent home games (of last season) where the longer the game went on the more likely it would elevate to new levels of frustration, awaiting a moment of miracle magic from you know who to break the deadlock.
There's a methodical approach to boss the game without any obvious glamour in our play, but this is a good thing. The spine of the team has to be robust and ready to graft. With Etienne Capoue in the side, I have no concerns. Capoue is looking stunningly good - the real test will come with the stronger opposing sides. But there's no denying he's an absolute machine in the middle.
Hard as rock and yet possesses a certain assuring elegance (be it a brutal kind). Breaks up play, is useful with the ball and has a touch of vision to go with the muscle.
He looks perpetually unfazed by his surroundings. With Sandro working his way towards full fitness, I need to slap myself around the face several times to believe we now have two physically intimating players - both of which can sit in-front of the defence and own the space around them. Although not quite sure both could stand along side each other in the same side.
Paulinho was all action, even though at the moment there's a sense that he isn't playing at full pelt. The ground covered, his intent to get into forward positions, all very promising. Again, there's an element of adapting to the pace and movement of his team mates and the Prem, but you can see how his box to box running will prove pivotal in retaining presence through the middle. Important - at the moment - as there is no stand-out creative link up man to provide that much maligned missing outlet.
The concern with Dembele is that there has to be a clear role for him in that midfield trio and he has to have complete comfort with it. Having deputised for the missing Sandro last season, he spent his time in deep positions, doing the dirty work, pressing to his hearts content. He might not have stood out against Swansea but when he was subbed it was obvious that his departure allowed for more time and space for the visitors - although tired legs with other players in our side also accounted for the loss of possession late on in the game. Dembele was efficient with ball at feet, distributing well, perhaps not enough of his passes were forward ones.
Sorry. Am I over-analysing? I've started so I'll finish.
I guess I'm rationalising for my own comfort (even though it is only two league games).
Chadli is definitely a player that will need to take time to adapt and work towards an effective rhythm. Competent, looks good on the ball. Has to do more to stand out and impact the match.
Townsend needs no time. His fearless enthusiasm will need to be controlled and developed (running off the ball, defensive duties etc) but when running into forward positions, he's looking like a prospect. Takes the man on, looks to beat the man - every single time. When Aaron Lennon returns we have a competitive right-wing. Exactly what we need there (never discount Lennon, he might not have that burst of exhilarating pace he once delivered every game but his work ethic and experience can not be discounted). The winner will be the one with the more effective end product.
Townsend winning the penalty? Going down a little too easy. Rather Balesque, no? Except with one major difference. He's not Bale, so obviously the ref awarded the penalty (having not given a far more certifiable pen in the first half, awarding a free kick outside of the box instead).
Soldado stepped up, coolly finished. That's four goals in three games. Two pens in the league. What I adore about Roberto is, well, he's a proper footballer. Supremely confident in his abilities, a team player, intelligent with play (his tussle with Williams - an excellent example of how to hold the ball up when being hassled by a player) and just believes in himself. Okay, so, I can't actually remember him having a shot or being that involved. Plenty of discussion about him being isolated up front.
There was a lack of service for sure. Soldado isn't someone that will come deep (judging on performances so far). He's not meant to. He's in the box ready to pounce. But he doesn't stop working or moving. Just very little opportunity to get onto the end of anything today. Aside from the penalty. Which was perfect.
What we lacked in some ways was...drum roll...that missing link up play to bridge midfield with attack. The most obvious player is currently in Spain walking around in short shorts. No hold up, he's back in the UK now. Need to wait for breaking news when it's confirmed he's gone to bed.
We await to see what new arrivals will bring in the way of resolution. However, the likes of Sigurdsson and Holtby will want to prove their worth in that 'number 10' role. Perhaps Erik Lamela will drift into central positions from wide. Theoretically. Everyone is saying it's done. It's not done until the official website says so. I'm not getting burnt again on incoming transfer news.
I think the positive here is, we're attacking in numbers. We're creating chances. We could have scored from open play today. A fair few times. Finishing wasn't quite perfect. So yeah, this is a positive. The basics are set, that added gloss is still to come.
A mention to Hugo Lloris who pulled off some fine saves. Vorm in the opposite goal also very active. Rose was questionable at times in defence. Vlad Chiriches (unless someone steals him) is a centre-back that can play left-back. Not sure that's the answer to aiding the left-back position, but again, we'll have to wait and see what we do in the next week.
In conclusion - Spurs look the part in so many ways. There was solid movement and passing. Confident in possession. Plenty of offensive effort, but need to work in bringing in Soldado more. If he's going to play up front and be pushed up as the spearhead, then we need to seek to find him more often. No obvious playmaker, but once such a player is added (I hope) we'll have enough variation to unlock opposing defences.
Set-pieces need working on (some our corners we're awful).
Not enough intricate movement in and around the box - most efforts long range (hence that relentless call for a play-maker and that reminder that we have a natural born goal scorer up top).
Defence worked hard. Midfield protected the defence. Hardly surprising when you take a gander at the midfield.
Looked like 433 on paper, wasn't 433 in terms of on pitch movement.
Tactically, this isn't Spurs in full flow. We've not really been treated to that yet. But tactically, we've still been spot on so far. The first real test will come next weekend as we dirty ourselves up for a visit to the swamp.
I still can't believe we've had two penalties already this season. That's two years quota of pens used up in two games.