Got away with it
Hola readers and welcome to the Democratic Republic of Tottenham blogging. It's three point Monday. Smile.
I've scribbled some notes down on the 1-0 win over Sunderland and will share here. Excuse the article and its free-styled, casual structure. Time is my enemy and I've not had enough of it to craft something with flair. So digest some of the insights and commentary I've quickly chucked in here for your post-match mind-tinkering.
31 shots. 74% possession. It's hard to label this game as a murder because of the lowly 1-0 score. It was, however, 96 minutes of waterboarding for the hapless Sunderland team, tormented but not killed off. There was only two anomalies in the game. One where Defoe forced Lloris into a shot block with his legs and the other a mistake by Dier that was saved with Walker clearing the ball off the line when Pienaar really should have scored. The visitors only displayed forward ambitions late in the game (with their subs, Watmore the most impressive) but a great escape was not forthcoming.
A comprehensive win, if not a comprehensive tally of home goals.
It's great that we're not all completely content with the performance. We expect more because we know we can produce better. Maybe it was a grind (because of the missed opportunities) but it could have and should have been a lot worse for the Mackems.
"We got away with it" has to be the most ludicrous statement about Spurs I've heard post-game. Sunderland are the ones that got away with it. They survived being buried alive with a respectful one nil defeat. The danger that we'd concede only existed because we've yet to turn on the killer fluidity. The team produced aggression and a solid work ethic but in terms of clinical finishing, we need to perhaps be more precise and concise in and around the box. A little bit of quality rather than waiting for clumsy marking to pave the way.
During the game I felt that creatively there wasn't anything astute starting from the middle. The further up the pitch the more congested it felt. It was only late on when the game opened up, that we started to play the ball through on the break. The fact is, regardless of no ruthless in-game streak, Spurs were dominant and 31 shots is probably evidence enough that we didn't lack the chances (regardless any interpretation of what constitutes 'creativity'). You can't ask for more. Other than goals.
7 attempts, 5 chances, 15 crosses and 13 dribbles.
A brilliant display of pace, graft, energy and direct intent - constantly jabbing into the belly of David Moyes tormented team. Cutting in or going wide, he did it all. Son was magnificent, pressing and creating with controlled urgency, making amends for his sluggish Wembley appearance. This is the player we signed, the one that performed so well in his early games pre-injury. If he persists with this form then Tottenham's squad depth strengthens further giving us viable options to mix it up from Europe to League and back to Europe again.
Not sure what to make of the perhaps exaggerated claims that Son wanted out during the summer. Frustration perhaps? Struggling to settle? The fact is, we need players wanting to play for Spurs and just as importantly, being able to bring something that works to the teams dynamic. This version of Son is peak. Players are fragile and even though Poch is criticised for being too hard-line, I'd rather this than belly-button fluff soft.
Form and Fitness
We are slow starters and it's likely to be because of how we train and build up fitness and then momentum, producing more assured and intense pressing over X amount of games. This year we have an adjustment to make with Wembley which arguably could be responsible for the late game cramp that Dier and Dembele suffered. Pitch dimensions forcing us to re-think.
The Wembley 'stretch' and adjusting our swarming play (which we've not seen too much of this season, too early for it) means we have to reserve and control energy levels the deeper into the season and the fitter we get. Hence the jog before the run in what will be another marathon.
Pochettino has been fairly transparent with it all citing the likely reason behind our sometimes blunt (not sharp) football being ye olde powder-puff pre-season and the EUROS. We're still five points better off at this stage than the last. However, we're a fitter team now compared to back then. So perhaps some early form sharpness (the lack of it) shouldn't be MIA.
Pre-season never helps and the EUROS means players are still attempting to catch up with the pace. Even so, I still don't see it as problematic. It's a long campaign and regardless of other teams appearing to be playing at their maximum level (so say the soothsayers), the fact we're not and we're 3rd is a positive.
Spurs haven't hit any sort of stride that you'd happily compare to our best. We've only conceded two goals and let's face it, we've created more than enough chances in our games to score a lot more than we have. I'd be more concerned if we weren't creating at all and leaking goals.
Plan A and B, creativity and main man Mousa
Without Eriksen and Lamela in the starting line-up there is no stealthy unlocking of closed doors, no crafty creativeness. Both players are capable of seeing yards of play that haven't happened yet. Intellectual time travellers manipulating the space ahead of them and sometimes influencing the future by changing the path of the present. Without them our approach work has to be far more dynamic in terms of physicality. We take a more obvious route but thanks to the players we have, that doesn't necessarily mean it isn't a viable alternative.
In fact, it gives us two defined templates, both of which require refinement.
Last season, at our best, we were a fantastic pressing team with the ability to destroy sides with quick powerful slaps on the counter. We're still in the midst of working out the best 11 and the alternative line-up. It's a necessary transition, unavoidable, and one we need to complete to evolve further. A case of having a Plan A, B and even C.
One thing is beyond doubt. Mousa brings us the stability within any given structure we decide to hold. The ones ahead of him need to regain and retain that sense of fluid composed football to lighten the load the midfield take on in support.
As stated, the congested field, when we had possession, meant that Sunderland's deep defensive stance left us with little room for that subtle clever pass. Effort and application the dominant force on the day. Eriksen and Lamela deliver an in-game cataclysm so when you add Kane and Alli into the mix, buzzing around the final third - the quick thinking passing movement can produce high-octane football that oozes class. But Spurs are now multi-layered. Wanyama and Sissoko providing brute power with Son and his direct poking. Sometimes you need ninjas to assassinate, sometimes you need tanks to lay waste.
Those two defined templates. Getting the balance right is going to be imperative. It's not an easy task because for the first time Pochettino has the ability to swap and change players and not lose quality in depth. But he might find the style of football (in the final third) isn't the same when compared. Something I've seen repeated several times that's hard to dispute is that our best eleven is the best eleven from last season and it's still our best selection for this season. You might then question our transfer market decision making but it's easy to say all of this now without waiting to see how the next 20 games pan out.
I'm going to repeat myself here.
The fact is, our best eleven includes Mousa, Eriksen, Lamela, Alli and Kane all in the team and all on point. Dembele bosses and drives forward, Eriksen creates space and seeks out movement. Lamela provides that quick push of the ball and disguised pass and Alli is constantly playful and attack minded whilst supporting Kane who is beastly in doing anything (deep, channels, leading the line). When it works it's majestic. Chuck in Dier and it's all pretty much sublime.
But it also has to work when we rest players or nurse injuries. When we rotate. Because we have to rotate and Poch has to wrap his head around this eventuality. The balance has to retain a sense of momentum and perhaps the quality of the opposition will play a major part in how Poch redesigns his team to be resilient and robust no matter the competition.
Kane is injured. Twisted ankle. Could be ligaments. Could be eight weeks. Could be six months. At the time of writing he's being assessed.
He chased down, worked hard and forced the plucky and agile Pickford into a couple of point blank body saves. He's not the all conquering destroyer of last season. He isn't shattered either, in terms of fitness. But he's possibly mentally fatigued. I guess now Poch has no choice, forced to make a change, but when you consider Kane's record - if you want him to score and rediscover form you have to play him. So I see the logic in his persistent selection but perhaps our manager could have considered rotation earlier, what with the eager to impress Janssen waiting for his opportunity.
Steve Archibald also nailed it: "Spurs need to prioritise the striker a lot more, Harry gets goals but he needs to be verbally stronger with midfield and demand more service".
Interestingly, Kane has scored 25 goals in 29 games with Dembele in the team (and 1 goal in 10 without). I copied and pasted that from Twitter so hopefully it's not a fabrication. Says a lot about the necessary structure we need to play our best football. Shame about the injury. We'll have to adapt. We've had similar injuries in the past that appeared catastrophic at the time (Bale, Modric etc).
As for Janssen and that chance he had, he could have played in Lamela or obviously kept his shot down but bloody hell, if you're criticising him when he's hardly started then you need your brain lobotomised, if they can find it (ooh, dissing the readers, but I only jest). Composure will come with the comfort of first team starts.
I enjoyed Sissoko's role. Direct and at times silky with the ball at feet (although can be equally untidy). That multi-layered trait in the team for all to see. Wanyama a rock centrally but perhaps illustrated how we can't give him responsibility to start attacking transitions. It's not what he does, it's not his expertise.
Walker was immense again. He's been relentless. More beating the man ahead of him and pace whipped crosses would be perfect because he can be so much more dangerous if he gets behind rather than cut back and in.
Lloris had nothing to do except sometimes be wasteful with distribution. In a game with little to complain about, I guess this just about warrants a moan.
Alli with too many attempts at thrills and not enough kills. He can do with a refresh. I'm not saying bench him although there's no harm in it. He needs more disciplined instructions. He's young and expectations can influence a person in his position negatively. Some tend to forget this and berate his performances when we should be avoiding heavy criticising and simply look towards the more experienced coaching staff to protect him more.
Lamela was more than decent when he came on but still gave reason why he can frustrate. The weight of the ball and his passing was sometimes under-cooked. He needs to be more of an elegant b*stard. If he had the work ethic of Son (which he does when pressing and chasing but not as contained as the Korean when going forward) then he could really take the game by the scruff. Maybe it's an unfair comparison, what with Son being far more direct. Still, Lamela showing off with a delicious close controlled dribble into the box (we need the end product) and came close a couple of times including a finger-tip save (that wasn't given as a corner). He gave us some of that clever forward thinking and motion that we previously lacked in the game Of course, the game was not congested when Erik came on which meant picking out a pass was suitably easier than say in the first half where we had to bulldoze forward.
No Eriksen and as noted a few times, when he doesn't play we really do notice how much we miss him. We need him back but on song. Of course, we still need to win games without him (and Mousa) consistently too.
Supporters (the minority, right?) complaining like it's end of days
Come on lads. I can't write a satirical article every single week, there's so much p*ss taking I can do before it gets old. Break the mould and find some chill. To see our win described as 'deceitful' or to read the manic ramblings of supporters on Twitter, questioning Pochettino because players the clubs have sold (the ones supporters didn't care much for) are scoring goals elsewhere is lunacy. It's bitching for the sake of it and taking it all out of context, as if we suddenly have no quality left in the squad.
I don't know if it's some form of projecting faux depression or attention seeking or even trolling or actual depression. The people/supporters in question; if you all always see the worst in things I'm beginning to believe it has nothing to do with football and everything to do with your own insecurities and self loathing traits that mean you detest others for being the complete opposite to you. It's electronic self-harm. Being critical and honest is one thing, being constantly disparaging just because is a sickness.
It's not a question about having blind faith in Poch. How can you refer to having faith in him as being blind when I (we all) have last season to look back on? The fact he's revolutionised the first team in how we train, prepare and commit as a team and the 'philosophy' - is this not enough? For the first time it hasn't been about soundbites, it's been about the evidence and we have plenty of it. If last season was a fluke of circumstance and this season the might of Man City will blow everyone away, if you believe it, then why even bother worrying about it? If you're comfortable with this truth then just sit back and marvel at the best team we've had since the early 1980s (if perhaps not as entertaining as the one we had under Redknapp). Spurs have backbone, something we've not had for generations and more than what some of our fanbase will ever have.
Interestingly, I remember one individual being as keen on AVB as I was. That truly was the definition of blind faith. Guilty as charged. I wanted to believe in what Villas-Boas aspired towards, the very same ethic Poch has instilled at the club with success. But I guess that other individual supported Andre only because most wanted him gone very early in his tenure. Going against the grain for no other reason than ego and to incite the majority seems to be the main building block of social media angst. The curse of the tremendous frauds plaguing our bandwidth.
Today (the day after the game), I've seen some absolute dogsh*t on Twitter questioning Pochettino on selection choices as if they know any better and as if Poch has been criminal with his treatment of players. You know, the players sitting next to him in those pictures, smiling whilst signing long terms contracts. Come on people, we all think we know it all but we're hardly comparable to the manager of THFC and what he sees at Hotspur Way. What is his crime against Tottenham? Playing Jan at left-back?
Jokers everywhere and nobody is laughing.
Talking of Contracts
Another new one announced. Dele Alli. I can see more coming in the next week or. I think it's obvious now Spurs have grabbed our key players on longer contracts and are just holding back from letting us know, preferring the long tease. Honestly, isn't this what we want? Our best players confirming their immediate loyalty to play for the shirt and the manager?
I don't fear Tottenham having a bad season. I fear Manchester United having a bad season and...well...take a guess what happens next.
I think that just about covers it :)
Feel free to disagree and argue/discuss amongst yourselves. Also, re: the comments. Don't make it personal. The attacks on each other is just boring and as much as I hate censorship, I'll have to delete posts. Fight it out but keep it Tottenham.