Remember earlier in the season when Christian Eriksen was maligned and the height of idiocy questioned Mauricio Pochettino and his managerial astuteness? Sure, we're still not perfect, but then nothing truly is. All we need to do (generalising here) is start solidly. Hit the ground running. No slow brooding point dropping learning curves. Just straight in ruthlessness. It cost us last time out (where there was no expectancy and we had yet to become what we are presently). It's cost us this season too where all emphasis was to avoid a repetition of our end of campaign slump rather than perk up at the start.
Much like nobody expected Leicester City to steam ahead of everyone, Chelsea did something similar too. Then again, that's mostly because they decided to turn up to the party this time and not only when facing us. The power of player power. During the same period, we stumbled and once more it's the Achilles heel of a magnificent specimen; Hotspur of Tottenham.
Still, Eriksen is killing it and Poch continues to get the very best out of the players he has (well, almost all of them) whilst contending with injuries to key components. Whether we win well or win ugly it's still COYS, right? We made hard work of it but the 2-1 win over Southampton was our tenth successive home victory in the league (thirteen if you include the cup games). We can grind 'em out these-days, no sweat. Unless you're sat in the stands.
Stat time. At the Lane:
15 played, 13 wins, 2 draws, 0 losses. 35:8 for a +27 goal difference. 41 points. 1st place in form table.
Away from home?
13 played, 4 wins, 6 draws, 3 losses. 20:13 for a + 18 goal difference. 18 points. 6th place in form table.
It's the required difference maker. Not losing to Liverpool at Anfield would be a good start. Turning some of those draws to wins would have has level pegging with Chelsea. So close, yet so far. All this and still nowhere near the wage capacity of the Stamford Bridge club or a Man City. Nowhere near their depth of squad either. Think on. Chairman included.
As for the game itself?
We swamped them for most of it, allowed them back in during a low key second half which was more about graft than finesse. The visitors looked off the pace during the opening forty-five but full of beans after the break. Some of our football was sloppy and I'm certain the final ten minutes of nerves were mostly thanks to recalling our history of capitulations in prior seasons. For the most part, they didn't really trouble us. We troubled ourselves by gifting them hope. Spurs, a little too super efficient.
Eriksen scored a beauty, placing the ball with just about enough power for the 1-0 before we won a penalty which Dele Alli earned and scored. The lad is a phenom. The midfielder with a strikers instinct. Praise the £5M he cost and pray we don't cash him in for £60M in two seasons time. Absolutely love Dele, rough diamond qualities and all. Ooh did he look for the penalty? Did he do a sportsmanship? Oh the shame. He hardly committed Luis Suarez levels of hate. Soft decision? They could have had one themselves. Them the breaks.
Remember the years (decades) of Spurs having a powder-puff backbone, easy to bully and beat. No true self-confidence and dare I say a sprinkle of arrogance? Remember those days? Of course you do. Most of us can't let go and foam out of the mouth 'same old Tottenham' once in a blue moon when we happen to lose a game. Such is the deep psychology scar inflicted. I'm glad Dele won't apologise for his competitive edge. A winners mentality right there. Makes me detach from the years of discomfort without a seconds thought. We all have to think like that (the players the ones that have the responsibility to inspire us). Otherwise the very same players will ply their trade elsewhere. Such is the brutality of loyalty in the modern age. Such is the necessity for us to win something to bind all of this mystical shit together.
As for Christian, he's so sublime when he's got the freedom to express. He played some outrageously delicious passes and was again the main hub of creativity. The great Dane is the player that everyone loves to point at when out of form but ignore his immense stats and on pitch masterclass when firing on all cylinders. I've never claimed to understand the fragmentation from the media/pundits and supporters when it comes to how they decide to rate a player. I use my eyes and how many beats my heart skips when I'm watching my team.
Is he inconsistent? Or does he try to influence no matter his form and the form of the team, leaving him isolated for criticism if the performance is low key? Is the standard he sets sometimes so subtle with ingenuity that it gets overlooked and under-rated regardless? A player that is instrumental will always appear out of tune if he fails to craft openings and make the side tick. Don't dismiss the responsibility he undertakes. Very few players are able to produce it every single week (those that do end up being plucked by Real Madrid).
Dele epitomises the change and the benchmark. Most, if not all of our players do. Danny Rose being the peak of poster-boys for this Pochettino revolution. Sorry, I can't deal with Spurs fans that refuse to bond with our current crop of Lilywhites. If there was ever a time to fuse identity with the fanbase and the players on the pitch, it's now. What? Too happy-clappy for you? Take a look at them lot down the road and the state of their effort and attitude on and off the pitch. Enjoy the moments, don't hold back waiting for a conclusion that might not happen before you decide to be content about it. It's football, not a dissertation you're meant to study through all serious and straight-laced. Treat yourself, don't be fearful of emotion.
Having said all that, them lot down the road could lose all their remaining games and we'll probably still finish below them.
Back to the game...
A rare moment, a Toby Alderweireld error. Amazingly the first time in his Premier League career where a mistake on his part has directly led to an opposition goal (according to the oracles of Twitter statistics). His football as compact and tidy as his hair. On this occasion his dizzy spell gave Soton some belief but thanks to Shane Long's inability to stay onside, it was never enough for them to steal in for a shared point.
Harry Winks brought composure and Vincent Janssen ('The Black Hole. Sucks time and space into his abyss. Great cameo from the space anomaly'- via @BardiTFC) was again terrific with consuming minutes in the final third, winning free kicks and delaying any possibility of late game opposition momentum. Poch has suggested we'll see more of him in the weeks ahead and you'll find few that will argue against a potential start. He had one effort (might have been better off passing to Dele) but I can't fault him for his hunger. He just needs to take a bite more often which means the onus is on our manager to make certain he gets a dinner invite.
Son's movement is also sometimes under appreciated. If he was blessed with a little more composure, he'd score far more consistently. It's obvious logic but Son shines bright and is often eclipsed by other stars in our system. He was unlucky not to notch from a brilliant Eriksen ball early on. Ben Davies was industrious and one or two others quietly productive and at times average depending on how analytical you wish to be. We did more than enough to win but not enough to win convincingly. Oh yeah and Winks is gonna be a special player. If you haven't worked it out yet.
Victor Wanyama (the best defensive midfielder in the country, deal with it) was < insert a paragraph of superlatives here >. Mousa Dembele again provided some post-match reflection that sees Spurs fan conflicted with their praise. Mousa is tremendous with the ball at his feet. It's nigh impossible to get it off him. He glides majestically pass players and his possession coming out of midfield into offensive areas creates space ahead of him. He attracts attention meaning there's room for his teammates to attack new opportunities to receive the ball. He marauders and assists (like the one for Eriksen) but if box office end product is what you focus on you might find yourself critical of his style.
The Belgium gentle giant provides impact when doing all of the above and let's others take the limelight. Where some supporters feel frustrated is when he doesn't release the ball and pushes further forward towards the box and unavoidable congestion. Now most would expect him to perhaps drop his shoulders and align himself for a crack at goal. Or play a dink of a diagonal ball through. Except he doesn't. He dithers, takes three too many touches and doesn't put his laces through the ball. So cue the backlash. It's unwarranted though. He's just not wired with inventiveness in the final third. Instinctive quick touches is what Eriksen does. Power shots and placements is what Harry Kane does. Of course, both of them specialise with this particular end product. Mousa specialises in giving them the freedom to do just that. Just by being himself, powerful and all conquering, you shall not pass but imma gonna pass you. It's like Gandalf mated with a Balrog.
This is not to say Mousa lacks intelligence or grace, far from it. He's just not tricky enough when he has to engage vision when running into a defensive line. His strengths remain with holding and running and then spraying it wide or narrow, onto a runner or into the feet of someone who will then play that killer pass or score. If it wasn't for him (not inclusive of course), we'd lack that sharp ability to reshape on the counter. Of course, that doesn't mean we can't be sad that he's indecisive when presented with a chance to glorify himself with. Mousa is the players player. Selfless. The one the opposing team hate facing and the one that is imperative to his teammates that find the room to marauder themselves thanks to his own.
Thanks for your time.
Two away games up next. Both look very tricky on paper. Both so important for our momentum and to increase pressure on those behind us. Kane might be back a lot sooner than expected. Still no Danny Rose and the rumours relating to Erik Lamela persist. We've hardly been at full strength all season yet we've still managed to find those leadership qualities we appeared to lack early on. Keep on going Tottenham. My only wish is to avoid last day dramatics and have whatever it is we deserve wrapped up long before the finale.
Spurs still under the radar. Sshh.
Enjoy the Zzzzzz international break.