The boy who would be king
Palace 1 Spurs 3
Only in football can a grown man get excited by a teenage boy and not only is everyone okay with it, they all end up touching each other in an orgy of celebration. Dele Alli scored a goal that pretty much defines moments in football where you completely lose your sh*t because it's just so bloody wondrous.
It was an audacious bit of instinctive skill made even better thanks to its timing. Spurs reminding us that we can score something out of nothing. Although it's unfair to suggest this wasn't anything but a moment of genius from a kid that simply doesn't care that he's come from League One straight into the top flight.
The first touch, the turn, the volley. Glorious. This from a nineteen year old that had an untidy game yet produced the perfect match-winner with the same type of casualness you'd display whilst jogging in the park on a crisp Sunday morning.
You'd be forgiven for almost forgetting our equaliser, a floated cross from game-changing sub Nacer Chadli to Harry Kane who planted a dictionary header with ease into the net. The third was a majestic effort. Chadli the creator and scorer, cutting in from wide to the centre, breezing past Palace shirts to then bury the ball beautifully into the corner.
All this after a first half where we dominated possession only to go a goal down. The same old story where we fail to consolidate our pressure. The home side hardly troubled us up until the own goal from Jan Vertonghen. The only wobbles came the way of Hugo Lloris and his clumsy footwork and pressure inducing rolls of the ball when sometimes a kick was the better option.
The OG, although hard to blame Jan for planting it into his own net from a Wilfried Zaha cross, was all birthed because the Belgian attempted to pass the ball out with Christian Eriksen not quite getting to it. Messy.
Now if I was an utter misery that only focused on games like a teacher correcting typos on an essay I'd probably list the errors and mark it down rather than enjoy the story. A story with a slow start that contains exceptional twists and turns before a satisfying finale. Just because we lost the first half doesn't mean the second half is some how devalued due to the diligence required to turn it around. Lucky for you I ain't no misery.
We're playing decent sides that are well drilled and have produced good performances against teams we consider our peers. We're a team that's learning and developing and we have to dig deep because unlike others that are expected to finish above us, we don't have depth of experience.
Note how we don't panic. Note how inspiring our work ethic is. Re-watch the game (with the advantage of not being emotionally invested because you know the result) and you'll see so many stand-outs with regards to tireless running and pressing. Note how the players believe if they keep on going they'll create an opening.
At 1-0 Rose could have scored, but hit his effort straight at the keeper. At 1-1 Eriksen struck a wonderful shot that dipped towards goal. Kane with an easily saved header. Then Zaha's shot was slapped into the ground by Lloris. This was all followed by one of those moments that sees your heart momentarily sit in your mouth. One moment...I meant four.
Pape Souare shot saved, follow up from Damien Delaney blocked by Toby Alderweireld. Jason Puncheon free kick, Scott Dann header off the bar, Mile Jedinak with the follow up off the bar again. Spurs bodies all over the place, almost controlling the physics of the universe to will the ball away from crossing the goal-line.
Then came the Alli goal followed by the deep into injury time third from the Dolphin (not forgetting another wonderful piece of skill from Dele, which saw him strike the underside for what might have been his brace). The reason Spurs can do this is because we've got the players and the resolve to improve our tempo if it's lacked zest earlier in the game. We've got the fitness and the discipline to apply the fixes. There will come a stage when we're pulling off second half dramatics in the first half. Be patient. If there's one tagline this season has produced, it's that.
Which brings me to Mauricio Pochettino and the Chadli substitution. He made the change early, removing Eric Dier and what an impact this had (considering how often he gets criticised for not making changes, it's worth basking in this one). Alli dropped back to stand alongside Mousa Dembele with Nacer slotting in on the left (Son Heung-min on the right and Eriksen central). The shape retained its flow with refined potency.
Again, supreme testament to our training preparation and conditioning. How many times are we going to shout 'straight outta nowhere' when players you almost kinda place to the back of your mind suddenly stick themselves at the forefront of it. Add to it the fact that we're so adaptable, it's a far less hostile place to be these-days whether you start a game or come off the bench. Everyone has purpose and they all appear to fit in when called upon.
Dembele covered ground like something out of Metal Gear Solid, imposing and relentless. Like a machine, taking no prisoners, that won't stop until its mission is completed. Eriksen just makes us tick, keeping the ball rolling in that understated way Luka Modric (from a far deeper position) did. Son (as expected) provided direct buzzy urgency.
Jan limped off (knee) having also survived an elbow in the face. Kieran Trippier performed well, he's beginning to settle into the side now and provides us with some decent deliveries from wide. I'm a little confused at Kyle Walker's absence. If he's injured, fair enough, but I've not heard that he is. Perhaps he's been dropped? It all goes back to training and preparation. You only have to look at the composure of Kevin Wimmer to know there's an expectancy at Spurs for every player to compete with their counterpart and if you deserve a chance or deputise and improve the team - you get to retain your place.
This was an excellent result that showcased pockets of our progression this season. Loved the goals, loved the tactical switch-up with Poch making a decision to influence the games momentum with plenty of time left. I loved the sound coming from the away end. Loved Alan Pardew's smug face being destroyed. Loved that Alli could have so easily been subbed but produced match-winning glory instead. It was entertaining if perhaps not always controlled and concise. Who cares, right? Good sides find a way to ride their luck and take the points by allowing their quality to shred through the oppositions hopes. In the end, Spurs stepped it up.
Tottenham Hotspur v2.0 is no longer in Beta. This is easily the most exciting squad we've had for decades. We've had some superb teams, truly entertaining ones, but perhaps nothing with a clear ethos like this one. A genuine one rather than some of the illusions we've accepted as reality. This isn't even over-exuberant exaggeration. We've got a long way to go but in terms of what we can achieve if we all stick it out together, the heavens will surely call out. We just need to answer.
You have to be blind to believe we haven't improved in the past year. The consistency being produced is ridiculous. You'd have to be a fairly hateful person to criticise the quirks in our game when the standard we're playing at is far superior to anything we've had for a long time.
So don't be scared, join the orgy.