Yes it was only Brighton (a side sat in the depths of the Championship with changes to their first eleven), yes we also made (ten) changes and only scored after Erik Lamela was brought on. Yes there was still a distinctive lack of gulf of class where we should have slapped them down far earlier in the game and put it all to bed with a happily ever after delivery. However we did win and we scored a couple of decent goals and for the most part played with a far more accomplished tempo and endeavour than the Newcastle loss.
Sometimes it's okay to simply accept the circumstance, ignore the theoretical and be content with the win and passage through to the quarter-finals. The circumstance in this case is that we are still attempting to shake some coherent life into our football, something that remains tricky with the rotation from cup to league.
Brighton hardly threatened, we did. Well, we did without finding that polished deceive final ball. Still, we pushed forward with intent. Lennon was wonderfully positive in the early stages (the less said about his volleyed pass to the corner the better). Townsend also lively. There was football being played with little to no restrictions by way of the size of the White Hart Lane turf. It fizzled out in terms of excitement towards the end of the second half with no telling game changing moment to break the deadlock and turned into a routine of getting forward with the odd shot or effort then repeating.
Enter Erik Lamela (replacing the injured Lennon) having had plenty of time to visit the toilet before running onto the pitch and behold the first genuine refined moment that give us the 1-0. Some lovely inter-changing between the Argentine and Roberto Soldado. The Spaniard threading the ball into the path of Lamela who preferred a more traditional finish this time round. They both made it look easy. Something we don't often do.
Soldado had his own opportunity, lashing the ball onto the cross-bar. Shame it failed to find the net as that looked the perfect way to score and allow for a cleansing (of sorts) to celebrate with a proper fist-pumping. There's a debate that rumbles on from week to week where he's heavily criticised for being a failure as a goal-scorer. It's warranted because he's not scoring goals. The saving grace is that he has intelligence and composure with more than decent awareness of players running into space and finding them. So what do we do with him?
Play him as a number ten. Or rather a false nine for you tactical enthusiasts.
Crazy talk? If we prioritise the team above the individuals and admit we are struggling for fluidity, then we should be starting players that fit together. Soldado alongside Lamela and the likes of Eriksen and Harry Kane is a no-brainer. All eyes on Pochettino then. If Adebayor walks back into the team hold off from criticising the players failing to find form. Coach knows best but we need a massive dollop of sugary creamy football in the league as opposed to the over-cooked pie that tastes of burning.
I referenced Paul Stewart during the game, remembering how he dropped deep into midfield and re-invented himself. I'm under no illusion that if Soldado doesn't find his goal-scoring boots soon then his future at Spurs won't be fruitful just sour. However with the team in mind, why not sit him behind Kane and allow him to flourish there - or at the very least prove he can be industrious in the far tougher league games where occasional he cameos that solid touch and go philosophy.
Still, Pochettino is the one that makes the final decision and he might look towards Villa (who have been dreadful recently) and prefer to counter them with the usual single forward up top. Obviously, my suggestion for Soldado will impact where Eriksen starts and how we might shape up with him in the team in (league) home games with maybe two upfront. Christian can perhaps player deeper, although not quite sure how that will pan out but worth a gamble if he is given protection by the player beside him. I'm getting desperate here.
One thing that will need to be fixed above all of this remains the whole inverted wingers debacle where the real issue of 'space' resides. Poch talking about the pitch was obviously taken completely out of context as he wasn't referring to the size but rather the manner in which we find and create the space. If you're not going to use width and cut in then you're going to find yourself in constant congestion. Poch's comments will only become relevant if he fails to adapt. Pretty certain AVB proved that the inverted system doesn't work thanks to the fact our players are not suitable for it.
Would a bigger pitch help us? Of course. This all goes back to the fact that wingers are now wide midfielders and possession is revered above marauding flank play. If the opposing side sits deep it causes a problem but that doesn't mean there's no solution to it. Just that this solution remains two seasons in the making. The key is not the inverted wide midfield players but the full-backs that are meant to attack the space ahead of them. Width that is not forthcoming currently because the quality isn't there. At its best this will give us the ability to stretch the game and pull defenders wide meaning those wide midfielders inverting will find bigger gaps to capitalise from when seeking to attack centrally. The inverted thing might just work if the full-backs begin to do their own marauding.
Kane scored his eight in eleven with another decent move that saw him start it out on the flank then transport himself in a blink of an eye to the six yard box to finish it off. That's the type of determination that can't be ignored and should be applauded. Again, opposition doesn't matter. If you're in goal-scoring form you should be rewarded. I recently admitted this logic might not be the same our coach holds as he prefers to start players with proven Premier quality. However with Ade firing blanks, how can we possibly know if Kane can step up a level if he's not given the chance?
Other minor highlights include Fazio needing more time to find better form. The rotating defence still such an issue when wishing for consistency.
Stambouli as robust as he always appears to be when selected. He's had solid measures of contained aggression and understanding of when to hold back and defend, covering for his team-mates. Capoue should not be dropped for him but at some point we'll need to rotate to keep players fresh - especially towards the Christmas period.
It's the other central midfield place that will continue to attract more attention with Ryan Mason arguably doing enough to warrant his first team league game selections. He still needs to be able to impact games in the final third. That (much like most of our on-going narratives) will happen if he continues to start games.
Onwards then. To Villa but also to Newcastle in the quarter-finals who conquered Manchester City at Eastlands. It's been written. Redemption rather than revenge as it wasn't Newcastle who defeated us in the league the other weekend, it was self-inflicted. We are two games away from a cup final. Some of that please Tottenham.