Spurs 3 Villa 1
Happy days even if the game was hardly an exciting spectacle in terms of attractive, pulsating football. It was never going to play out that way, what with Aston Villa struggling and hardly likely to be foolish enough to attack us. Even so, we didn't even have to try that hard to go 1-0 up.
The game got ridiculously comfortable for us after taking an early lead with Mousa Dembele transporting himself momentarily to the Hackney Marshes to walk his way into the box and nutmeg the keeper just like a Sunday morning stroll. It was untidy at times, with Villa sitting deep and suffocating space for any truly intricate passages of play to breathe, but there was never any headache inducing moments. That's not until we fell asleep and then fell out of bed.
Before the final ten minutes or so, we contained the visitors and looked to wrap things up with Dele Alli scoring our second goal just before half-time. Arguably you could say (without hindsight) this was the killer goal. But football is brilliant in the way it can take a seemingly impenetrable 2-0 and turn it into a 2-1 and suddenly make you consider the possibility of 1 point when you we're practically spooning the three.
The injection of energy from the subs bench had them having a right go, hitting the post and forcing us into errors before deflecting a life-line past Hugo Lloris. Sometimes we don't seem to have that studs on ball mentality to take it by the scruff. If no killer third, then boss possession by pushing further up and giving them more to do. Sitting back and taking jabs will always lead to a plucky southpaw.
The problem with these types of games is the lack of intensity meaning that you can suddenly find yourself lacklustre when moments earlier it was acceptable and more than enough. Villa's determination was a shock to the system. Thankfully, it was enough to wake us up.
Still, no real complaints from me. It was worth experiencing those nervous moments just for that last swift move forward from defence to attack, finishing with Harry Kane's wonderful placement. Obviously, we could do with less of those nervous moments. Whether it's further refinement in the middle or more dominant leadership, there's still a missing element to our developing identity - but we know this. To be fair, it's always been a trait (in terms of not possessing that bullish demeanour to bottle the game and 'end it' 10/20 minutes before the 90th minute.
The kids are excellent but they need more support - from the experienced players in the squad and from the January transfer window. Still, Eric Dier continues to play the part so perhaps we have to accept the learning curve. If we want these kids to push on, they need to play. It's contradictory, I know. In an ideal world we'd have balance.
We didn't need to be at our best. Which bodes well if we find that extra level in the next two games, a likely possibility as one is a cup clash and the other is a one-off dressed up as a war masquerading as a league encounter. They should both be far more open (than closed affairs, unless the coaches fear the loss as much as the supporters do) which is better for us but still athreat as it invites a fair few tests for our defence and applies pressure in the middle. The NLD should be the very definition of intensity (unlike the disappointing Capital Cup match). Should.
Erik Lamela grafting hard. It's not what we expected from him when we spent £30m but at least he's doing everything he wasn't in the first two seasons. He's physically combative. He's always looking for the ball and making sure it's moving. Yes, he still occasionally has lapses of composure and over exuberance but there's little to dislike. If he loses the ball, he chases it down. You can't fault his endeavour. He's always involved. Yet another assist for the stat merchants.
Alli's finish. Cool, calm and collected all in the space of a second. He's still raw but there are little pockets of pomp that give you confidence he'll be a complete midfielder - defends, hassles, creates and scores. Considering his age and the fact he has growth ahead of him, both in bulk and tactically astuteness, it would be nice for him and the team to have another more experienced addition in the centre. It's still a long season ahead and at times we lack that refinement to calm things down to a steady and controllable pace.
At times, I was frustrated with Christian Eriksen. I was nitpicking. I know our pass completion was around the 85% mark but one or two balls kept going astray. I guess it's magnified when there's very little going on (no stress as a spectator, not until the final 15). This being Eriksen, when he does see that opening, his vision is rewarded. It happened twice in build up play, setting us on our way, with simple yet measured assists for the assists.
I know what you're thinking; is that really a thing? Praising a player that simply gets involved as one of the contributors to an attacking move? Sometimes, the ball that creates the moment is the one that provides the player with the opportunity to assist the goal-scorer. It's a thing. Deal with it. Dier, Toby Alderwireld and Kyle Walker also performed well but you might have not noticed. Strength in subtly.
That bit of skill from Danny Rose. The feigned movement, drop of shoulders, let the ball do the work before dancing away.
Actually killing the game off. Sure, we could have done with that third earlier but it was important to regain possession and slow down Villa's late momentum. We did just that. We worked it forward a couple of times and deep into injury finally dished out some concluding punishment. Think at 2-1 the onus was on Villa's comeback and it would have taken the shine off the result. 3-1, Kane smiling, it's all about us again.
Talking of which...
Kane has been playing well all season and not scoring. This time he didn't get too many opportunities, either by service or from his own creativity, so to take the pass from Lamela and finish it with splendour was lovely.
Fifth spot. Ten games unbeaten.