We didn't choke on the olive
West Ham United 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3
What's that tag-line about bad news being the only good news worth
reporting? It wasn't too long ago that Tottenham Hotspur we're accused
of a variety of dysfunctions. A lack of concentration and heart late
on in games that subjected us to many lost points. The much maligned
personality clashes that painted a dark image that Andre Villas-Boas was fast losing the
dressing room, unable to motivate.
Yet all I see is a team
with spirit and desire. That backbone and spine that has often in the past been a mythical commodity is now an expectancy. Especially late on in games
where points are now being continually won. As for the coach, I think it's
safe to say that Gareth Bale running towards him after scoring the
glorious winning goal late on against West Ham United was to soles share in
the hedonistic heights lifting us up to 3rd place. As far as I could
tell, Bale didn't slip Andre a transfer request during the emotional
screaming and hugging.
This is a new and
improved Spurs side. There are still some suggesting it's all a little
too cautious at times. Less cavalier an therefore lacking that trademark
flourish that Spurs bestow on their fans (regardless of whether we're
any good or not). But this side is good. Very good. And yet nowhere near
the finished article. I guess I'm far more constrained with
expectations. Under Harry Redknapp, we did play with that flourish and
swagger. Easily the most attractive football in the league. Then
everyone worked it out and sat back and parked the bus. There wasn't a
plan b. Perhaps there still isn't one now but what we do possess is the
unquestionable willingness to improve that time brings with each passing game.
That's not to say I wouldn't prefer us winning games far more comfortably but that is altogether a separate issue that needs fixing (mostly to do with that tired old saga involving us and any given striker out there waiting to be signed).
we too reliant on the one man? Hardly. Let's dance this dance again. If you have a brilliant player, a
player that can be both the focal point in the side's offensive
approach work and can also single-handedly win games then surely if he
isn't consistently performing at a top drawer standard, then we're not
managing him right? His job is to win games single-handedly. But then he's not actually doing that when you start to consider the likes of Dawson and Lloris and a fair few other Tottenham players that stick in a shift that allows Bale's goals to mean something more than just a hearty consolation.
All those games where
he roamed into the middle of the park and people complained he was being
wasted there and we needed him stuck out left...that was evolution.
This, what we have now, is progression. He's coming of age, still
fledgling, yet utterly monstrous in pace, power and strength. Credit to
the last and the current coach and also to Bale who continues to believe
he can be one of the world's best.
Credit also to the unsung amongst us that allow for all the expressive football making it more potent and poignant.
The 3-2 win at Upton Park was a proper ding-dong derby. Untidy at times but equally wondrous with plenty of pockets of dramatic twists and turns.
The first Bale goal, lethal, as he poked the ball ahead of him three times to then turn and drill it perfectly past Jääskeläinen. Then Scott Parker gave away a gift wrapped penalty. He's still off the pace, back from an injury and missing that more nurtured control. Hard to say if he's going to rediscover the discipline he had before his injury. I've seen two people now cite crop-circles when referencing Parker's on field movement. Harsh, but arguably his performances are alien compared to those of last season. Again, much of that has to do with the pre-injury intensity he possessed and his partnership with little Luka Modric
Carroll (Andy) made it 1-1 from the spot. I did laugh out loud at his goal celebration. Another player desperately trying to endear himself to...himself. And the home faithful. Or maybe he was simply thankful for us falling victim (for the second time) for one of his rare goals.
Then come that brilliant second forty-five.
Sigurdsson on for Holtby and not long after with a peach of a curling
shot that struck the post (with the luckless Adebayor failing to
follow-up). Joe Cole made it 2-1 to the Hammers with a great piece of
skill accompanied by Vertonghen's offside step-up failure. Obviously not as cold as that time where he almost took his shirt off when scoring his first goal back at Upton park, then deciding against it with fear of frostbite. Worth it this time though, what with it being Tottenham. Bless him. It's not quite a cup final Joe, bit over the top if you ask me. Also, wasn't quite the last minute of the match either where such extreme emotional releases are better spent.
another couple of headed efforts. Jääskeläinen having a blinder (a prerequisite for any opposing goal-keeper when facing Spurs). But let's not forget Lloris down the other end. A far quieter variant of a
world class footballer. The epitome of the highest levels of concentration and focus. As seen when Hugo flew off his goal line to stop Taylor
from advancing towards goal. It's just as important as the ball flying in at the other end.
was messy. Not quite Lionel this time from Bale, although the delivery
into the box was good. The resulting confusion with the ball bouncing
and deflecting had me studying the replay like I was watching the
Zapruder film. No magic bullet here, but Sigurdsson the lone gunman to
poke it over the line for 2-2.
Carroll (Tom) had earlier replaced Dembele and Livermore late on replaced Parker. In between Lennon had an effort saved with Adebayor once more failing to capitalise (here's to the hope he does when it matters most on Sunday).
As the 89th minute was birthed and the ominous sighs we're ready to be exhaled Bale defined in a passage of play what Tottenham have to do if they want Champions League beyond all certainty. If we want to further instil a winning, dogged mentality and allow the momentum to continue to push us forwards.
It's a cliché and it's
one that transcends tactics and statistics. It's the same feeling I had when we first qualified for the CL when the fixture list before us taunted and teased and looked nigh impossible to conquer.
That passage of play was Tottenham Hotspur believing. Gareth (again), believing.
burst from midfield into attack, then fouled and charged into the
ground. A quick look around, gets up the moment he knows he can take the
pass knowing the precious space around him is enough to allow his peg
to strike the ball goal-bound. Didn't even need the space he had. Just
the odd inch or two, such is the phenomenon of the power, pace and
precision of any given shot that rockets from his foot. Jääskeläinen beaten before the ball was even
struck. He was beaten the split-second Bale decided he was having the
shot whilst laying on the ground kissing turf.
You know what
was so beautiful about it all? Not just that it came so late and
cruelly denied the home side a point. Not even the fact it took us third and
kept a buffer between us and the old enemy. It was the slight
dip in the noise level, in anticipation and expectancy of what was about
to happen. Bale with ball at feet, booing can be heard. Perhaps a
mixture of boos and 'shoooot'. Then when the ball is mid-flight and
dipping, momentarily there is no noise, just gasping. Then eruption in one of the stands only. You could gauge the
differing ends of the emotional spectrum in what was only a second of
football. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and I get plenty of kicks out of watching and re-watching a goal like that and seeing the reaction of the away support go absolutely mental.
AVB's emotion and Bale's run
towards him an equally wonderful moment of supreme team spirit. We
haven't lost since Everton away. Back in the days when we conceded late
on. We've won a record-equalling eight games away from home. Bale is on 15 Prem goals for the season. We might still not be as pretty as we can be. But the resolve and the determination is paramount at this key stage in the season.
This is the very grasp of momentum.
That was the starter. We didn't choke on the olive. Now for the main course and Arsenal at the Lane. Can we feast and not be left feeling sick and bloated? Connoisseurs will suggest rare but I'm hoping for well done.
And the Spurs go marching on...and on...and on...