Spurs lose 3-1
If I could sum the 3-1 win over Nottingham Forest in the Capital Cup in five stages ('How to wake up from deep slumber by Tottenham Hotspur') it would play out as follows:
1) Dominate possession without doing anything with it and then concede a goal, thus tricking the opposition into false sense of security
2) Make substitutions to inject some energy and urgency into proceedings
3) Score a breakthrough equaliser to rejuvenate confidence
4) Start to press the visitors as they tire out
5) Score a couple more goals to make the scoreline look respectable when the performance wasn't
Pre-game I was hoping for a strong side, the strongest we could field. A deluded hope that doing so would nurture momentum and confidence as the one constant we lack this season is the consistency of selection. The rotation punctures the inter-team relationships, meaning we don't really have a cohesive, fluid side because we chop and change so much. However, what do I know, right? We won and Mauricio Pochettino got it right.
So we know that it is brain numbingly annoying and frustrating watching Spurs currently. This was a Forest side that made eight changes to our eleven (is anyone taking this competition seriously?) yet they scored first and deservedly so as we failed to ignite until late on. Pochettino rested players and also gave starts to Jan Vertonghen, Federico Fazio and Benjamin Stambouli. Another make-shift second eleven with the same deficiency as the first team - no real creative force to align our attacks.
The whole inverted wingers debacle seems to have anchored itself into the club and it just doesn't fit regardless of any given incarnation. Nabil Bentaleb had a poor game (it happens, he's a kid). Roberto Soldado was for the most part static, waiting for every ball to find its way to his feet, without the hardship of running to it.
Forest scoring against the run of play was the best thing that could have happened. On came Ryan Mason and Harry Kane. Stambouli perhaps rested for a certain half five Saturday kick-off whilst Kane replaced the hapless Paulinho who gave us one moment of quality with a little flick. He almost fooled me into thinking he was Brazilian with that touch.
Mason equalised with a belter from range and then Forest run of steam whilst Spurs finally found that second gear and pushed and pressed with intent rather than with untidy, limp possession. An off target shot from Andros Townsend (unlucky with an earlier free-kick hitting the bar) was the perfect ball to Soldado who instinctively guided it in for 2-1. Then late on, Erik Lamela (replacing the Spaniard) played a lovely reverse 'look mum, I ain't looking!' through-ball for Kane to make it 3-1.
Kyle Naughton impressed. Townsend stuck in a shift. Stambouli with more mobile and focused aggression.
Perspective? We made hard work of it, as per usual. Nice to avoid extra time. Brighton in the next round, at home. A good nights work but a flattering finale to what was a painfully low key build up to that awakening.