Watford 1 Spurs 2
Football is at times a ridiculous spectacle made up of randomness in a way which dispels any comparisons to the rest of the universe which is meant to be astutely designed, constrained by predetermined fate. Destiny isn't under your control there. On the field of play during the course of 90 minutes it's birthed by sheer chance and luck. How else can you explain the dizziness of those final few minutes of our away day steal of all three points?
One moment, practically all of the ball - spare a few millimetres - has crossed the line before Hugo Lloris has redirected it back out. Machine says no. Next moment, Lloris gives the ball away but so do Watford and we counter with great touch and fluidity, crossing into Son (he's offside). The ball is punched out by Heurelho Gomes who doesn't pick himself up in time to reposition and Son Heung-min gets a second attempt. Both crosses in from the impressive Kieran Trippier. The second one flicked delicately and nutmegged into the goal. Cue utter pandemonium. This is football at its purest. The universe doesn't have a clue.
Do I care about what played out before the craziness kicked in? I could but I don't. We've now won three on the bounce and we might not have had the most tidy and compact of performances but we scrapped with decency against a Watford side that display little fear for their opponents. A tough side who for the most part didn't have much of the possession and hardly had any shots on target (aside from the one they scored and the non-goal incident). The last 10/15 minutes were fairly messy for us but there you go. We don't have to be at our best to win and considering the congestion of fixtures this time of year we've done superbly well to push ourselves into (a momentary) third place.
Tottenham Hotspur, the Kings of Consistency. Eight defeats in the Premier League in the year 2015. I don't love stats but ones like this are undeniable. We head towards 2016 with the best defensive record and best goal difference. It's like sliding into parallel dimension and finding the law of physics reversed. It makes no sense but it fits perfectly in with its surroundings, so you just accept it as normality.
Back to the game...
A sweetly taken opening goal from in-form Erik Lamela. Dele Alli nicking the ball and the Argentine running centrally towards goal with Kane to his side as an option and decoy. The beauty here was in the disguise. Lamela going full Jedi mind trick shaping for the left only to slot it away to the right, passing the ball through the legs of the defender. This is a confident player believing in his abilities. Finally influential and possessing end product. Expression is vital for a player that possesses the skills, so it's easy on the eye that Lamela is becoming more than just the poster boy for the Poch press and hassle.
Their equaliser was hard to swallow. We had three at the back with Erik Dier accompanying Jan and Toby and the only clear cut opportunity Watford had to poke the ball away came thanks to some soft defending. Odion Ighalo (to his credit) powered his way through when Dier failed to connect and clear. I got over the error fairly quickly and was more irritated by Ighalo and his fronting during his celebrations. It's cool that Watford players and their fans have a siege mentality type of thing going on but it grates. It's like they've been aggrieved and seek justice. By the time he got to the dugout and almost ate a water bottle I found myself shouting at him to 'calm down mate'. Ighalo and his elbows on Carroll another example of taking it one step beyond. Madness.
The game was frantic at times, passing wasn't always neat. We continue to struggle with crosses but as citied already we weren't too shabby with Trippier getting forward and delivering one or two of his own. He needed this performance for his own confidence and also to retain a true sense of competition for the right-back position. Danny Rose was back and a touch rusty. Tom Carroll looked to spray the ball about like an under-developed cloned Luka Modric that's been let out of the experimental laboratory too early. Yet there's something endearing about how Pochettino can select a player seemingly out of nowhere and fit him into the starting line-up and have him fulfil his role to an acceptable standard. We've had to dabble with some rotation recently and it's worked out fine.
It proves adaptability and nods towards the quality of the training and match preparation that we're not privy to. Players trust the coach and system, the coach trusts the players and their discipline to play out their instructions. We changed our line-up to suit the game and it worked, eventually, arguably. The conditioning of the players is further evidence that the culture at Spurs is being redefined. Egos stripped, responsibilities shared. Remember the constant talk about lack of identity and leadership? Look at us now. It's there in abundance, if still occasionally unbalanced as we continue to work and improve. They believe, we believe. I'm a sucker for all this emotive stuff. It's the Poch factor and its understated no hyperbole beauty - (read this when you get a further 20 minutes spare: http://twentyminutereads.com/2015/12/27/the-sheriff/).
Dier will probably go back into a holding position for the next game and we'll have to consider how to shape up with Mousa Dembele's likely exclusion due to injury. I no longer concern myself with minor conundrums like this. Although I'd sleep better if I knew for sure we'll bolster the squad further in the next month.
The red card was helpful. Nathan Ake appeared shocked to be sent off. He didn't mean it but then how do you define a clumsy tackle to one that arrives with malicious intent? It's usually obvious but in this instance it was a stupid studs up tackle that might have cracked Lamela's knee on another day. It's hard enough to break down a side defending deep with ten men (ignoring the keeper) and it's no different to facing up to nine. Watford did what they had to do and still gave it a go, late on.
The non-goal was lucky. No technology would have seen that play out as a goal. A game of inches, a game of millimetres. To sweep away to the other end seconds later and watch Son flick the ball through the legs of Gomes was epic. Cue those scenes and football at its very purist; Spurs winning at the death and everyone associated to the club losing their sh*t in the process. All the other mentioned details pale into insignificance, eclipsed by those manic celebrations - fans and players together. Spurs went supernova.
The true key moment of the game that had me punching the air with redemption in mind was Dier's match saving challenge to deny a Watford goal and cancel out his earlier error. I called us the Kings of Consistency. I'd say in terms of how we approach games and the manner in which we fashion out results and perform - Spurs seem to finally have a mental fortitude that's made of metal rather than crisps. Three on the bounce since that Newcastle loss. I'll say it again - I wanted to see a reaction and we've smashed it.
Feet still grounded. If you want to get all serious you can state we got away with it but then big teams that get to go places always find a way to stay on track.
Onwards we march.