When a meaningless game has meaning
A rare excursion into the heartland of north London and the world famous home of the Spurs, sat in the very last row in the 1882 allocated block 35, without my glasses but no bother, the spectacle on display was enough to warm my bones with the noise emanating from the Park Lane equally committed.
I didn't know the line-up until I was stood outside the Bell and Hare pub munching down on chips and onions. Ecstatic to hear Danny Rose and Christian Eriksen were available again. Two key areas (lack of balance on left, lack of invention in the hole) that have constantly repeated microscopic analysis post-any given game. Rose starting at left-back with Naughton on the right and Capoue and Fryers central. The rest of the team (and bench) also looked decent, with Liverpool in mind for the weekend.
Midfield and attack consisted of Dembélé, Holtby, Lamela, Sigurdsson, Townsend and Soldado with youngsters Coulthirst, Fredricks, Dombaxe and Archer on the bench.
Pre-match expectations? Honestly? I was there for the songs but considering we've qualified already and that the Europa League has generally been a bit of a breeze, I was hopeful this game would be expressive and expansive. No shackles, no overly deliberate methodical possession play. Attack (as we've done recently) and do so with more freedom than we might allow for against top tier opposition.
Attack is what we got.
Okay, so excuse my lack of depthy critiquing on account of it not being necessary and also (thanks to no hipster eye-ware) all I could make out was ten fuzzy white footballers running around. I could see the football clearly, but occasionally couldn't always make out who was who. That and the fact I was immersed in the looping of 'ohh when the Spurs'. Allow a grown man to get giddy. I'm usually following the game on TV + Twitter. This authentic real life experience can sweep you away.
Was well chuffed with the start. Sig with the free kick (given just outside the box, Townsend looking for a penalty) Soldado with the deft touch of his head for a seventh minute 1-0 lead. Didn't take too long for a second, Soldado again, assisted by a super ball from Lamela. 2-0.
3-0 came in the second half, Townsend this time chipping the ball (see, he can pass and not always seek to shoot) to Holtby who took his goal brilliantly - touch, flicked, finished. Klinsmann dive in celebration didn't quite work but that's okay when followed up with a post-match Instagramed photo of him topless alongside Eriksen.
Fredricks (replacing Rose) was a revelation (as much as you can against an Anzhi side that didn't offer much) pelting down the flank and whipping in crosses.
Eriksen, sporting hobo chic beard, played the last 25 minutes. Feels good to have him back and it's now a case of allowing him to settle into the side by starting him and retaining his services (no more tinkering for a role that is pivotal to giving us a link from midfield to attack).
Soldado scored a third from the spot before being replaced by Coulhirst. The Spaniard (again, ignoring the quality of the opposing side) was fired up for this and took his chances with confidence. A hatrrick is still a hattrick no matter the opposition and especially when you've been 'dropped' and had pointed fingers of disgruntlement waved at you.
Other things I noticed (aided by tv coverage):
Expressive? Expansive? Yes and yes. Again, when Townsend played left and Lamela played right - it worked. Not sure why AVB is persisting with the swap but I guess he wants to retain some ilk of option (even though the swap isn't productive in comparison to the more width based selection).
Lamela's assist was lovely. That's his third. Didn't really take the game by the scruff of the neck but that's probably going to happen sooner rather than later. He's settling in, slowly on and off the pitch. Needs to be more arrogant and ballsy. At the moment it's all a little too soft and delicate.
Holtby (again) so much better coming from deep positions but perhaps not as influential as say someone like Luka Modric who would sit in the middle and dictate. But then, slightly unfair to compare the two of them. Holtby (best we remember this about many of our players) is still relatively a kid but this being the Premier League and Champions League the obvious target for all involved, he (along with the rest) have to step up. He can only step up with guidance and development from the coaching team so best we settle with a position and let him blossom there.
Townsend was fiery, giving it a right go and involved in most things during the first half be it with the same self imposed restrictions concerning decision making. Could have scored. For sure he has to be the left sided option for us (with Lennon or Lamela on the opposite wing).
Capoue made centrebacking look easy, suddenly we have cover again what with Vertonghen out and Kaboul in and out. I guess (much like Holtby) the squad dynamic is that we have players that can shift about in different positions. That's a good thing as long as when everyone is fit, the position they're meant to be playing in is the one they excel at.
Another win, five games unbeaten since the 6-0. Once again, can I refer you to the fact that AVB (under Spurs) are resolute and always get up off canvas and dance their way back in with a flurry of punches.
Kudos to the ten Anzhi fans and the woman in the fur. Funniest moment is when they scored their consolation goal. I was watching them before it went in and just after they scored there was almost (what seemed to be) a five second delay before they reacted to the fact their players were congratulating themselves.
Elsewhere, would like to know why some supporters were kicked out and if it was related to Yid chanting. Seems like fans are being made examples, possibly to appease the decision makers that arrests are being made to bump up the stats for political reasons. Policing lower down the stand looked active and I know one or two were cautioned and removed. One supporter apparently walked out of the game and the ground because of what was happening around him.
Seems the club is caught in the middle here. We've got the local council banging on about persistent standing and then the ambigiouty of what the police are working towards in relation to picking and choosing (and possibly inciting reaction) from supporters over that word we're allowed/not allowed to use (depending if you're alone or singing it with a thousand other supporters).
Credit to Tottenham who via their Twitter account tweeted this:
Tottenham Hotspur @SpursOfficial
#THFC_LIVE | Some great noise coming from the South Stand tonight! @LoveTheShirt
A nice touch and illustrating their support for 1882 and more importantly support for lively infectious atmosphere. Even with the contradictory enforcement of whatever it was supporters were being penalised for. Nice to also see some flags being waved. The Spurs youth movement? Say what you want about the younger supporters, their enthusiasm is imperative if the next generation wants to reignite what we all once took for granted.
All in all, decent night even if the game was a touch meaningless, in terms of confidence and momentum I was happy to see a more relaxed approach and a continuation of some pretty decent looking football.