The Facere Awakens
After all the depressive post-European defeats (all four of them), the low key vocals of the supporters within White Hart Lane and the fragmented, disjointed ethic of the team everyone finally reclaimed some self-pride, coming back to beat Everton 2-1.
From the players on the pitch to the supporters in the stands, this was a collective effort. A unit that worked for each other and the team - on and off the pitch. This was exactly what we've been waiting for. Let's hope that Mauricio Pochettino has finally found the right selection for his first team, capable of carrying out his instructions and pushing us closer to resembling a proper team rather than this caricature we've had to endure.
There were so many positives from this game. I'm thinking that if we're going to treat a loss like it's end of days then it's only right we embrace a solid home win like a paragon of beauty, deserving of undying attention.
How wonderfully apt that after so many games where we've lacked the basic fundamentals, their re-introductions serves as a remainder what we can do when we work with some zest and discipline. Now imagine another level consisting of more pronounced creativity (that we are expectant of at Spurs) and we might start to march forwards.
Pre-match I kept thinking Everton look more settled (eight games unbeaten). They know their best starting eleven whilst we struggle from week to week chopping and changing. Even though before the game both sides had equal points on the table. With rumours of internal clashes of ego and Pochettino frustrated with some of the players failing to apply themselves, we might have witnessed the first stage in our progression to correct the ills of recent seasons. Our first eleven need to be consistently playing, nurturing understanding of each other and the coaches strategy. We're obviously going to need more than the one game.
I'm not over dramatising this. This was our best performance (not hard to suggest so) and the first time we can say with belief that Spurs awakened from their slumber and pulled it together in all areas of the pitch.
Kevin Mirallas scored a brilliant goal after Roberto Soldado failed to get enough of himself in the way to clear it but it only took six minutes to find the equaliser. Harry Kane surging forward, Soldado making amends for his earlier weakness with a standard run forcing a defender to follow and allowing Kane to fire a shot. Tim Howard got his hands on it, but only to see it fall into the path of Christian Eriksen who cleverly guided the ball past the last ditch attempts to stop it. Nothing lucky about this. It was class, a touch of Jedi, leaving Everton thinking 'this is not the clearance we're looking for' as the ball evaded all and found its way to nestle in the net.
Poch teams have struggled to come back from being a goal down in the past but Spurs are now fashioning spirit by persisting with their efforts. No calamitous surrendering here. It was all aided with the academy combo of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in the middle, protecting the back four that included Ben Davies again and Vlad Chiriches as emergency right-back with Federico Fazio partnering Jan Vertonghen. Aaron Lennon and Eriksen supported Kane who dropped deep and Soldado waiting patiently up top.
There was shape and strength with responsibilities. Yet it wasn't just about one of those basics of football (understanding your role) but the unity in how the team moved and pressed when chasing the ball and the tempo when in possession. No slow sideways passing from Spurs. We left lukewarm Everton alone to display a lack of spark. They seemed to waste most of their time on the ball by not acting quick enough to poke at our back-line. Intent and intensity was Tottenham, simmering nicely just below boiling point.
I'll tell you what I liked.
I like maverick Vlad with the neat skillz then the maddening defending (including the tackle that led to the free-kick that lead to the goal). Less of the latter, but I do like how he's found himself back into the starting line-up again. Possibly a touch of sheer desperation from Poch (Walker's return is imminent, Dier struggling) but still, entertaining be it heart-in-mouth. Dier replaced Vlad (injury) so Kyle's return will break the cycle.
Vertonghen is also making a mockery of his benching but we don't know why his journey has stagnated this season, all I care is that he's finally sailed into the starting eleven. We need someone with his qualities so that he can anchor the rest during stormy periods.
I liked how focused Harry Kane was. Always looking for an opportunity, chasing players down. Getting hold of the ball and pushing forward, even if his shots lacked power a couple of times, his involvement was instrumental with both our goals. Hunger. You want to eat, you go hunting. You don't wait for someone else to deliver it for you. Although Soldado has been waiting for a take-away since March. Glad to see he finally decided to go out and pick it up instead.
Our second goal came about because Everton dithered, Kane wanted the ball and stole it (from Gareth Barry) with a tackle and Lennon broke with pace. Soldado eager, got himself into the perfect position to receive and for the first time we got a glimpse of the actual player - the real player. Confident, assured with his decision, he took the ball and buried it right through Howard (the keeper going the opposite way of where the ball was being placed). Perfect.
It's so important he keeps playing and that he scores within the next couple of games and builds on this. You can see what it meant and the reactions of his team-mates solidifies the togetherness you want from the players. Earlier in the game he read a defensive header back to the keeper before it even connected but didn't quite nick it in time. His willingness is undeniable. He's got to believe now. Massive shout out to the home faithful also for singing his name and for the standing ovation. Now that is what I'm talking about - Spurs determined on the field and Spurs fans supporting off it (1-0 down, we sang, 2-1 up, we sang). Great timing with the goal also, at the death of the first half.
I also enjoyed Davies fighting for the ball, seeing supporters stand and applaud his tenacity. Again, this is the type of stuff that fuels passion. It gets a reaction because we love to see players fighting for the shirt and that gives us reason to sing for it.
Our work ethic across the pitch was spot on. One feeds into the other, there's no need to claim one of them is required as a starting point. They both get birthed simultaneously if you feel that connectivity with the football and the ones kicking it in Lilywhite.
Loved Pochettino displaying his bedroom emotions on the touchline.
Loved the noise from the home support.
Another early goal conceded. Although it served its purpose (forcing the comeback).
Okay, so we at times lost our tempo in the second half. Everton had plenty of the ball and we started to get untidy with yellow cards and clumsy tackles in and around our penalty box. We gave away far too many free-kicks. But we dug deep and for all the % of the game Everton had, they did very little with it. Hugo Lloris called into action one nervous moment when Seamus Coleman looked to take a corker of a pass from Ross Barkley. Lloris decisively quick to intervene.
Lamela has to cool it. Far too much naivety and over exuberance, especially with the untidy tackles.
The Fazio handball? Yes the ball clearly connected with his arm and possibly stopped the header from hitting its target, but it wasn't a penalty. It was accidental. He was hardly going to jettison his arm as he jumped up for the challenge. It simply wasn't on purpose which is probably the reason Kane didn't win one down the other end when thanks to a lucky bounce of the ball he almost got away but ended up tangled and floored in the box. Michael Oliver not having his head twisted on either decision.
Back to the positives.
Kane loves a cross. We need to attack the pen area more often to do them some justice. His non-stop determination is also the type of leadership by example that forces others around him to play to the same tempo.
Eriksen defensively sound, covered so much of the pitch (although not as much as Kane).
Some really decent passing movement, keeping that ball in a positive spin.
Pressing. Actually purposeful pressing that worked.
Mason and Bentaleb challenging the other central midfielders watching on from the bench with a mighty showing of how to pass, press and move.
The second goal, when Kane won the ball and played it to Lennon - all those white shirts racing forward - was tremendous to see. Imagine being starved of these elements that seeing your side want the ball, claim it and score off the back of it seems like the greatest thing you've ever seen. Let's all hope this ilk of conviction becomes a normality for us.
That last one is key. If...*if* this is the team that Poch settles with then players that came in to replace or rotate now have to match the energy and guile of those that have set the standard. Again, you might be reading this and thinking 'steady on mate' but the fact is - Spurs are capable of delivering the football the coach is asking from them. We've seen the evidence. We can play with tempo and we can press and we can pressure. We now have to settle back to see if this singularity can be turned into a consistency.
Stamford Bridge away is hardly the best place to visit next, but at least our mental mindset can be tested. Pochettino has been astute in the past with setting us up for a tricky away date so his selection might change simply because of the formidable test we face. That isn't an excuse to be accepting of less application than we got treated to against Everton.
For now, bask in the reality that White Hart Lane isn't a broken battlefield, leaderless and without hope. We won a competitive, challenging game and did so with some style and grit.
Well done Tottenham. Well done the players, the coach. Well done the supporters.