The cat in the Matrix
Sometimes a game of football can be enjoyed without the weight of extensive over-analysing. There doesn't always have to be a thirst for intrigue and comparison, connecting dots from the last game, prodding the system and asking whether the players are bedding in. No desperation for surprise twists in a players journey to prominence. Sometimes a game of football is just good old fashion end to end lung-bursts with smart finishes and sublime saves. Filler, but the good kind of filler. Easy on the eye, no stress. Sunday afternoon entertainment with cheerful songs of praise.
The only desire in the pre-match state is to not capitulate in such a manner that it becomes a stark contrast to the prior game (in this case a majestic 4-1 win over Manchester City, ignoring the Europa). Away to Swansea, you expected Spurs to have a spring in their step. Thankfully they did.
We could have won it. Should have.
Swansea might argue the same. We played some decent football but not always tight with discipline in defence and sometimes too eager and not composed enough in attack. It made for an open game. The long standing 'lack of' cutting edge remains a touch blunt where it matters most meaning that if you wish to flirt with positivity, when we do rediscover our penalty box mojo, we'll be punishing sides with a flurry of match winning punches. Quietly, I'm festering a little despondency on the want for more refined striking options that could have eased the pressure on one particular player. Son missing also meant we lost an alternate outlet for goal grabbing headlines.
Much like we needed those opening five games or so to find a rhythm, we'll need another five or ten to work out how productive we can be when at peak best and how problematic our low level performances might impact confidence.
The only stand outs (no need for extensive over-analysing, I've not forgotten) concerned Christian Eriksen's return to form with two excellently taken free-kicks and plenty of influence with ball at feet. Looked likely to score every time he was presented with an opportunity. Fine margins, game of inches...if he was deadly from open space as he can be from a deadball...yadda yadda three points. Best set piece taker in the league? Pochettino might have trouble saying it but I don't.
Harry Kane had a forgettable day that saw him slice a corner into his own net as he attempted to clear it with as much belief as Roberto Soldado in front of goal. At least Kane found the net.
Contrary to popular belief, this wasn't the first ever own goal scored by a forward. With an international break upon us I hope the club and the player fashion an excuse and he stays away to nurse a phantom injury and get some much needed rest and self-assessment. We all knew about the fear for second season syndrome. This game of ours can produce prolonged runs that allow players to destroy. Sometimes by design, usually by fate. These can be followed by patches that be equally destructive, for the soul of the very same player. Happens at all clubs with all manners of strikers (young and experienced). Kane is struggling but that doesn't mean he'll continue to do so. He's been over-thinking in front of goal. Become far too self-aware of a trait that is fundamentally the equivalent of magic for strikers; their instinct.
This predicament is detrimental to his state of mind because his job is to score goals. So even though his attitude is one of strength and to retain focus, there's little to protect him from frustration. The fact he scored 31 last season showcases his potential but also sets expectations wildly high, especially as there was no expectations this time last season before Kane fired his way to stardom. Up until last weekend most of last seasons top dogs had been firing blanks. Some still are, others have found their groove. He's been playing well (ignoring the Swansea game) so keep the faith. He can't contemplate losing it.
Erik Dier picking up another yellow and a suspension gave us a picture of personal torment as he raged with himself (will miss the Liverpool game) for the booking. Enjoy seeing players give a ****. Love the attitude and togetherness of this fledgling team. I've often bemoaned the lack of (experienced) leadership but can see the very qualities we need in some of the young players that have had to take on the responsibility themselves. No one, for now, appears to be scared of hard graft.
Kyle Walker struggled to contain Jefferson Montero early on (including the lead up to Swansea's opening goal) but he picked up the pace and controlled his flank, strong in the tackle and there to constantly clean up. Ben Davies another player much maligned and at one point almost forgotten about. Testament again to the work done pre-season and in the summer on the defence. Heart-warming consistency at the back.
Hugo Lloris and those majestic hands once more getting enough on the ball to deflect away. Federico Fernandez's header a glorious moment for us. A standard save for him. Talking of which, we gave Łukasz Fabiański a fair amount to do.
Erik Lamela disappeared into the ether but that's okay. He's already proved he can find his way back. Dele Alli still has energy akin to Superman flying into the Sun and charging up with its power. Gonna throw it out there but this kid is a future '20 goals from midfield' type of player. Floats like a butterfly. The sting will come. I'm not even scared of jinxing it. Andros Townsend injected more pace into the game when he came on and was unlucky to see one shot just about cleared away from the keeper.
This team will continue to improve. We're on a solid run of results (in the league). Seven games unbeaten. The closer we get to 2016 attentions will turn again to bolstering where we didn't in the summer.
Our shape is still very much evident even if there remains a lack of seasoned professionalism in bullying the game's tempo to favour us implicitly and thus taking contained control over any given team.
Take comfort that we are not playing anywhere near full capacity (do we truly know what that is?) whereas others (Palace, Leicester, West Ham) probably are. The likes of Chelsea and Liverpool stutter and stagnate whilst Utd and Arsenal retain an essence of bipolar. We are only eight games into the season and when it looked unlikely we'd compete at the start of it, with each passing game you scratch your head and realise this state of flux is ever present. Once more the Premier League is glitching like the cat in the Matrix.
I've probably understated this performance. It can be used as a gauge. There are dots that beg to be connected. We looked good again. We've been crawling back some of that missing style, one game at a time. The players are imposing more expression and importantly effective when doing so. Our transitional play is far more fluid than the rigid, pedestrian movement of the early weeks. This score draw might have had some imperfections but it was another step forward rather than one step back. Spurs continue to pull back some of ye olde swagger.
Next game? Liverpool. Pretty certain that Spurs hold the record for facing a club (that's just sacked/lost their manager) in their next game. It's like they know. Get rid of the coach in time for Tottenham. If Liverpool hold on for a bit they can probably appoint Mourinho. Shame really. I felt (along with most of you) that we owed Brendan Rodgers for the 0-5.
Onwards we crow.