Buffering into the group stages
No TV coverage meant I spent an hour and a half watching the only working internet stream as Spurs came back from a goal down to beat AEL Limassol 2-1 in Cyprus. There's not much to say because it would be stretching it a little to write up a tactical breakdown of the game based on sketchy visuals and constant buffering.
So here's some generalisations and musings based on what I could just about work out:
Paulinho and Vertonghen were at fault for the opening goal. A classic case of winning the ball back only to then give it away thanks to clumsy and lethargic focus. Captain for the night, Hugo Lloris unable to stop the shot.
Not much happened before that or after. Soldado had earlier missed a sitter (although again, it was one of those 'he wasn't ready for it' moments but the type we've often over analysed to see if the miss is forgiveable).
Possession was dominated by ourselves but there was a distinct lack of creativity. No Christian Eriksen means there's always going to be pedestrian movement and invention. If your centre is soft then you're unlikely to have much success. Limassol countered as they sucked us in and broke free. We had no zest in the final third. It all illustrates a couple of things. Our first team will differ vastly in application compared to a fully fit first eleven because players instrumental for intelligent play are missing. This means the football is not going to match the style played in the league (long term).
Of course, this is only our second game and I did promise myself not to delve too deep in searching for resolutions to problems that might well not exist in 5-10 games time.
The midfield by the way was Bentaleb - Paulinho - Holtby and Townsend. That's just three 'central' players and a winger starting together rather than it being a functioning quartet.
Harry Kane the only bright spark of the first half. Nabil the single disciplined midfielder out of the aforementioned not so fab four. Once again, trying not to read too much into it (although at the time it was mighty frustrating). Limassol with a clear game plan but not of the quality to truly damage. Something that only became apparent with hindsight as you tend to spend the game fearing the worst.
Second half changed with the introduction of Erik Lamela. It took seven or so minutes for him to assist twice. Once for Soldado who sweetly volleyed in for the equaliser and then for Kane who finished with precision and power. Plenty of 'yeah but he has to do this in the league for it to count' remarks aimed at the Argentine. How about he just does it and let's look towards him building some consistency and confidence rather than belittle the opposing side and devalue his input in the process. Some of our fanbase have such a fatalistic perspective that the worst is feared from the off and the player in question is given no benefit of the doubt because that appears to to add credence to being a weak supporter. See, it damages ones ego if you dare show compassion and faith. Guilty until proven innocent. This is all aimed at social media.
Pre-season opposition and Limassol might be easy pickings but after a season lost last year, this type of game is nothing but a positive for Erik. Also reminds us that if you play footballers with footballers, they can bring the best out of each other. Again - in time - this will bed in with others in the squad but its obvious to see that Lamela and Soldado are tuned into each other, instinctively. Add Eriksen into the mix and we'll see far better inter-changing and movement. It will breed belief and give us better cohesive play.
Dembèlè also a positive substitution so kudos to Pochettino for once more changing it, although in some ways upgrading the quality of the players was enough to elevate the performance enough to get ahead of the Cypriots. Plenty of below par ratings to be shared amongst the rest. It's tricky to gauge if this is motivational or simply the consequence of the fine tuning and impact management of rotation that will take time to find a comfortable level.
Good to see that Spurs still retain a sense of spirit and fitness levels looked decent enough. Should all be far better in the return leg, especially if we build some momentum with a home win against QPR on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Vlad Chiriches was practically sold (according to news outlets in Italy) to Roma with Federico Fazio lined-up as a replacement. Rationalising the transfer played out as the backdrop to the dodgy internet stream of the game as some suggested Vlad simply hasn't settled in England whilst others directed the blame at his agent that has always looked to use Spurs as a stepping stone.
I like Vlad. Classy on the ball, another footballer. Hardly the perfect season for anyone to settle in at Spurs so was looking ahead to seeing him do so this year. Still, if there is profit to be made and for whatever reason the player wants to move on, you have to except it - especially as we appear to be developing a special relationship with Roma currently. Then, wallop, his agent comes out and states "Tottenham aren't allowing him to go".
So is the agent (and player) engineering a move or is Levy holding out for more money? Doubtful it's the latter so near the end of the transfer window. We can't be playing games now. Hold up, what am I talking about? Of course this is the time to play games.
The Mateo Musacchio deal (no doubt Pochettino's main target) looks dead and as for Fazio, it might be nothing more than media maths, connecting dots that don't exist. Or he might be coming regardless of any potentially departing players (Vlad).
Onwards we go, uncertainty the only certainty.
Shout out to little Tommy Carroll who has joined Swansea on loan. Got to hope he starts for them in the not so distant future. Needs Prem experience to prove he can play at the top level and Swansea are a good fit for a player that likes to pass the ball with a hint of vision. The concern is that the club don't consider him good enough to compete with the players at Spurs, and at the age of 22 I still keep thinking he's a lot younger because he's not made the jump from youth player to first team with any great conviction.