Another Thursday night that could have been so much better than it was but in the end was decent enough thanks to Mousa Dembele's late belter of a goal. Like hanging around a nightclub dance floor before the lights come on and pulling a sort right at the death.
Before the game I had my mind on Sunday's North London derby. Pretty certain so did our players. One less day to rest but no travel outside of N17. A strong line-up with only the three changes from the Aston Villa win, a statement of professionalism surely, to win the game with comfort and retain momentum. Alas no. Not quite.
Even if statistically we hardly ever lose at the Lane (in Europe) we started slow then gradually switched on and scored through the rejuvenated goal-getter Harry Kane. A sweet effort, Ryan Mason with space afforded to him thanks to Stefano Okaka side-lining himself due to a 'knock', picking out Christian Eriksen. A flick pass later and Kane has smacked the ball into the bottom corner from just outside the box. A proper licking. You know Harry is back to full confidence when no second touch is required. Five in three games now.
The second half was again a struggle. There's always this overbearing lack of intensity in European games. Whether it's because of the style of football and tempo played by the opposing sides or that psychologically containment our footballers lock themselves into, preferring the bread and butter of the league as the priority, we allowed Anderlecht back into the game. Ezekiel poking the ball past Hugo Lloris for the 1-1.
There's no relentless pressing from us. Almost like we're constantly seeking to retain our energy reserves (even though a few of our players looked knackered at the end). I guess there's always a balance with player and team application and the pace of how we go about our business. If you're going to beat a side like Anderlecht that will pose a tricky threat you can't mix and match. The spine of the side has to be strong. So when you've just played a game and you've got another massive one coming, you can't really do much other than rest one or two players. Not forgetting the power of momentum and consistency (you don't want to break it up by making sweeping changes).
Thankfully, after another slow start we started playing with improved purpose as the game worked towards the latter stages. Son Heung Min came on for Eriksen which is fantastic news with the games we have ahead of us. Dembele replaced Mason. Son gives us an extra dimension, a more direct potency when pushing into the final third. He was involved in the build up to the winner. Not just another potential goal-scorer, he's someone that can connect the dots with a sharpened pencil meaning there's less of the blunt attempts.
We left it late to win the game and ease qualification concerns after a swift move and a fiery long ranger that curled beautifully into the inside right of the goal. That's three in three for the more progressive and focused Dembele. Like a Randy Orton RKO, he's come 'out of nowhere' to claim a place in the team. This rebirth can't be ignored.
From a management and selection perspective and considering any given player's competitiveness, it seems Mauricio Pochettino and his team have a tight group of players that get their head down and take their chance when given it. Perhaps Andros Townsend's recent petulance (without really knowing the details) the only bugbear in this brave new world. Dembele has always been an enigma so hopefully he's found his place in the team and can continue to channel his ability in a positive manner. Mousa is currently personifying Tottenham's guile. We always find a way through, except we no longer have to rely on the single outlet. Team > individual.
Special mention also to the defence. Sure, we conceded the single goal thanks to some shabby movement at the back, but overall - there's very few complaints. Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen have owned at the back. It was the first area that found completion in the summer and it's paid off wonderfully well across the 16 games played so far this season. It eases the pressure on the team when Lloris doesn't have to constantly sweep up and there's genuine shape with the back four. Stealthy solidity allowing us the foundation to build upon it in midfield (which is an area that still requires work but is hardly deficient).
Not much more to say. Federico Fazio on the bench was scary. Kevin Wimmer seems destined for now to be a spectator (although I expect us to make more changes for the away trip to Qarabağ FK so you never know).
All eyes on Sunday now.
They have injury headaches and ignoring their European battering, they seem to have nailed their Premier League swagger. For us, we've got ourselves a massive test. Arsenal will have plenty of the ball. We'll have to press hard and make the most of it when we have possession. It's nigh impossible to ever predict this game. I mean, fine, you'd predict a 5-2 to them lot probably for the betting bantz, but in terms of contending - we've got a chance to go toe to toe for sure. Spurs have a plan from one game to the next, we adapt and move on. The players know their role and responsibilities. It's just a case of surviving the stress test. Both sides have been known to choke.
The likes of Eric Dier and Dele Alli are set for a baptism. Ignore the (sadly) irrelevant Capital Cup disaster - our players (and theirs) and our coaches won't be sacrificing anything on the day. Dembele, Eriksen and Kane vital. Son could provide us with that something extra special and Ryan Mason continues his return to full fitness. Back four and keeper will have to be on point so it comes back to the middle where the game will be won. Not all players citied will start so onus on Poch for the right balance for this particular war. All eyes on Kane and his first spearhead deep in occupied territory.
Onwards to the swamp.