Another game at the Lane, another win, another three points. Excusing the first thirty minutes, I wouldn't blame any Spurs fan for thinking it all felt a little ominous. Watford expressed themselves with tinges of danger when breaking with tidy fashion into our final third. The game was too open and our fluidity not quite prime time. Hello darkness my old friend started to whistle in the lower depths of my brain as I contemplated whether this would be 'one of those days'. You know, the type of days we've not experienced for a prolonged period of time. The type of days we hardly ever experience (when we do, they prefer to showcase during European competition).
Vincent Janssen had two opportunities. Three in fact. The first was saved after some decent movement. The second came to him at pace and in the seconds he had to react he overreacted. He attempted to control the ball with his thigh. It's an awkward one that can happen to any striker but it hurts more when it happens to someone that is desperate to score from open play. The third was more of a half chance and he wasn't close enough to lunge towards the teasing cross.
Then it happened. No, Vinny didn't score. Sadly. What did happen was one moment of game changing quality, an absolute peach of a curling effort from outside the box from Dele Alli. It was beautifully executed. Abdoulaye Doncoure wrestling Mousa Dembele to the ground but the ball still finding its way to Dele whilst the referee played advantage. A one-two with Son Heung-min and then space, wooooosh, top corner. Poch, having berated the earlier decision not to punish Doncoure (and have us rewarded a free-kick) was then quick to offer an apology to the fourth official. Class on and off the pitch.
Dele (if you listen to those that have met or worked with him) for a twenty year old (edit: 21 now), is as level-headed as you can get. Feet on the ground, when not levitating in celebration. Rawness and temper tantrums aside, he's got the exact mentality that has lacked in so many of our past acquisitions. His goal scoring and assisting stats are obscene. Is it because the ability was always there or has it been escalated thanks to the coaching available at Hotspur Way? There's no argument, either way...nobody expected this ascendancy.
With that goal, the switch was flicked and Watford's resolve was about to be disintegrated with the hot lava Mauricio Pochettino's volcano erupted.
Eric Dier scored an intelligent smack of a shot, powering into the turf before it lost itself in the net. Although his best moment was pulling back Alli from a potential incident and not letting go of his shirt as he persistently dragged him away from a heated exchange. It was so casually endearing. Friend protecting his friend. I do love a bromance.
Son Heung-min added a third with fiery long ranger and in the second half, a fourth followed from the feet of the smiling Korean. This time slotting home first time from another lovely delivery from Kieran Trippier. Another indeed, as the game was littered with exquisite passing from the feet of the ultimate right-back cameo man. With just three league starts all season, Trip retains the ability to be as sharp as anyone else on the pitch when it comes to producing golden opportunities. He created five chances, his contribution pivotal to our success in-front of goal.
Dynamically, he's perfect for the squad, deputising when Kyle Walker isn't playing. One of the constant discussions amongst fans is to analyse depth and debate how we should improve in positions across the team and bench. Having say two Walkers isn't going to happen. You're not going to keep them (both players of top calibre) happy. But how long can you keep someone like Trip content if he's always looking on from the bench? One for the manager to contemplate. What is important in the present is that everyone seems fine with the philosophy; Team is us.
Walker is the better defender of course. Trip the better crosser. You can't argue with his ratio based on limited appearances. I'm actually in a relatively comfortable mental state when it comes to Poch and the team. I don't envisage a break up. I don't see us selling anyone. Not yet and not unless those within are confident it won't harm momentum and more importantly, it will improve our form (by purchasing or developing a better option). Players like Ben Davies and Trip might well want a move away at some point for the benefit of their own career in terms of minutes. We'll talk more if it happens.
Elsewhere in the game, we got treated to other pulsating moments of fun. Christian Eriksen with a clever counter and pass into midfield space and the locomotive path of Jan Vertonghen. Desperate to score, he got caught up in the moment. Son had one effort wide (too wide of the keeper and thus the wrong side of the post) and another effort tasted the bar from (yes) a Trip pass. Victor Wanyama was a late change (was meant to be on the bench) but his withdrawal is nothing to be concerned about. I don't mind him having a rest considering the monumental shift he's given us this season.
We got treated to the return of Harry Kane, in itself a miraculous sight if you dare to recall the despondency when he first limped off against Millwall. He could have scored with the last kick of the game, a thunderous free-kick that also took a bite out of the woodwork. Having him back with the Chelsea semi-final and the NLD in mind is definitely something that has perked me up. Not that I need that much of a perk these-days, supporting this grand olde team.
Remember back in the day when we we're blessed with just the single flair player we could lust after and idolise? We'd put all our hopes on the shoulders of an individual and hope he can carry us along with his teammates. Now we have an orgy of 'em. Every area of the team, every position, there's a fans favourite staring back at ya. Sure, you can drain the passion out of it all and worry about the worst case scenarios and how this team has yet to win silverware. But surely, in your heart, that can't take anything away from the affinity you feel for this group. Bit too happy-clappy for you? Don't blame me, blame the source material. Best goal difference in the league (inc the ones below the Prem).
Poch offering a hug to Son as he was substituted was a picture. Much like the standard post-game dugout congratulations he offers to every single Spurs player leaving the pitch. He once more cited 'a winning mentality' in the press conference. It's being built. So that would mean it's not complete. Which either has us at a disadvantage or an advantage, depending if you're an optimist or pessimist. Our home form has given us the springboard to retain the tag of contenders. 'Four wins' is the difference between the team in 2nd spot and 1st. It's hardly an impossible target. It's hardly an impossible dream. Not this season, I'm talking in terms of progress from the last into this one and then into the next. Contenders for sure. Not so much pretenders anymore.
Don't listen to me, listen to the guvnor:
"We are talking about building that winning mentality. That is a good opportunity to be aware that in the future to win trophies it is all about to keep going, to push, to believe."
"The message for us is to keep pushing and win games, that is our job. Then what happens with Chelsea is their problem. We will see. If they fail, our job is done because we are there. But it is still up to them to win the Premier League."
"Football is going in a different direction than it was 10 or 15 years ago. It is a collective matter, more than before. There are 24 players that can affect that mentality at the club."
"First of all, with the chairman and all the staff - I think it is important to build that winning mentality and believe. I think that is a thing that we are working on from day one, and maybe we are seeing the time and work start to reward us."
"I think it is not done. We have a lot of work to do. It is not easy but were excited about the future of this club."
My God man. Never leave. I know you will someday but just don't, not for a while yet. Not until history is kind enough to give me the chance of a moment in the future when I can tell my grand-kids about Poch and his fighting cockerels and that time we won the <TBC>.
His mantra, his ethic, that over-used word we've been listening to since the very beginnings of his tenure...philosophy...it's tangible. It's a reality we exist in. Sure, rival fans will poke fun with textbook emotional naivety claiming 'what you won then? nuffin mate'. They will, with straight-laced lunacy - question 'why you celebrate so much at coming back to beat Swansea? lol. It meant nothing'. It's not our problem. Their insecurities never are, even though a fair few of them require a constant acknowledgement from us to help define their hatred. No matter what, we stand here all proud because if you're Tottenham you can't help but lose yourself in all of it.
We've wanted a team that's more than an (mis)advenutre. We've wanted a team that isn't just a scientific theory, glowing in Powerpoint but ultimately hollow in real-time action. We've wanted the very best of our traditions with backbone and relentless spirit. One that also reflects the very best attributes of the fanbase, binding us altogether. You want to be able to look at your football club and see your own reflection. You need to be able to recognise your team and instinctively know they represent every fibre in your body. Identity of this ilk is for many a holy grail. We've got our hands on it. One hand. The other is reaching.
Basically, short version, we're f**king mint, mate.
Honestly, we could implode* again and I'd still feel the same way.
*please don't f**king implode, ffs Spurs, do not implode
We remain one of the best sides in the land. Still fledgling but up against a ticking clock that has no conscious for romanticised notions of longevity. Marching on as best we can, knowing full well that we are up against the might and lure of the money teams at home and abroad. Growing, maturing, learning. Fearless in motion. An almost complete reinvention of a football club that has suffered from fragility but has now found strength. From within. We always had it, we just had no idea or direction before. It took a single appointment to change it all.
We've got everything now. Well almost everything. We need something to stick some ribbons on. But that single appointment, that one man...of all the pieces, he remains the most vital. What he's building has to be completed, consolidated so that it retains itself as the benchmark, the standard for the future beyond this side. What is paramount is unlike certain other clubs that become a Dorian Gray reflection of the manager and ultimately suffer a disconnectivity with the fanbase thanks to a blank canvas approach, Poch is painting a masterpiece and not a narcissistic self-portrait.
Mauricio mate, think it's time someone gave you a hug.