Everton 0 Tottenham 3
Apparently we’ve only been successful once at Goodison Park in the past nine or ten games and yet they hardly ever beat us. That's thanks to the encounters back in N17. Up in Merseyside, it's usually a physical fast paced draw. Edge of seats, could win or could lose type of 90 minutes. In terms of needing a win (a defeat and a draw is considered a modern day crisis), I’d rather us play away than have to endure the Wembley experience. All this talk of a psychology curse is more of an issue with us - the fans - than it is the players and yet it feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy where we allow it all to fester deep. Therefore influencing the vibe in the stadium and the players.
It’s got me contemplating about a scenario that plays no part in our own universe. In this other parallel existence we are still playing at White Hart Lane. The Fortress. Imagine, still being dominant there and only having to brush up on our away form to get the momentum going towards a more convincing title charge (one where we get to sample top spot and protect it).
Winning more games away and collecting those precious points would have been the difference last campaign. This season hasn't got going yet for anyone to know how many clubs will be challenging but that doesn't mean it's okay to sacrifice points in the name of adjustment. We have no idea how high the bar will be set this term. It's dependent on what others around us do with their own form and consistency. We can't take the risk of stumbling around trying to find our feet. Something that is currently the crux of our concerns at Wembley.
Too many draws last time out. Not enough big wins at big clubs on our travels. It's a double-header. Improve away from our rented accommodation and then do the same thing when having to play out of it. We can do it though, right? We have depth now. We have competition for places. Alongside our new blood we have the old to still welcome back; Danny Rose, Victor Wanyama and Erik Lamela.
With Serge Aurier and Davidson Sanchez (the latter started against Everton and played like he's been with us for an age), Poch has solid options. He has a set of players that are multi-skilled, that can play in more than one position if required and thus allow our gaffer to tailor his side based on the opposition. Synergy is re-surging. Rejoice.
The game against the Toffeemen started off a little cautiously, from my viewing perspective. It didn't take long to remember this is Tottenham Hotspur. Not the one I remember from yesteryear but the new breed. Patient. Much like the Burnley game, we gradually stifled Everton and broke them with comparative ease (unlike the Burnley game). Credit for their miserable commitment but still, you have to be professional and on point to see the job through and Spurs displayed the ruthlessness required.
Harry Kane scored a lucky one for his 100th goal. A cross turned shot turned lob. When we turn on the urgency and boss possession, it's always grand to see us produce a goal from it regardless of the angle. This lacked massively from the Burnley game so perhaps we got it out of our system when we went 2-0 up. Dele Alli, sharp and intelligent with his movement to take advantage and delivering a ball that resulted in more poor defending and Christian Eriksen slotting home. We made it 3-0 early in the second half, thus killing the game off before Everton could perhaps attempt to find a way back. Spurs in complete control.
Kane with his 101st. A stupendous goal-scoring record, with a lovely little deft finish. The August curse is basically akin to a Venus Fly Trap. You think it's safe because nothing happens and then snap, you're dead. That's right, you're all dead, Kane is coming for that Golden Boot.
Ben Davies was in swashbuckling form, Sanchez in the centre of defence alongside Toby and Jan, Spurs oozing class. Davies has really found his mojo down the flank. Productive with assists and creating chances. Rose will have to Google search DoS Attack to work out why he has to fight Davies to get back into the side.
Yes, I know that you know that Everton were beyond poor. They lacked any organisation and we're slow to shift into space to follow the ball or the man. They made it easy for us. Ronald Koeman called them weak and he was right. They'll improve for sure. It perfectly illustrated what we've lived through; money spent on several players doesn't necessarily translate to instant success. Familiarity is the weapon of choice. Tottenham like a swarm of bees, buzzing and stinging.
We should have scored about eight goals. Even Moussa Sissoko looked capable starting for the first time in midfield and not out wide. He had purpose. He got into decent positions. He's still not possessing that silky first touch and some of his decision making was poor. He missed a sitter which was a shame because confidence wise he can do with a goal. Yet there was a glimpse, a cameo of sorts that he could still provide us with something. Mousa Dembele (post international) can't play two games in a week so having him as an option is something I welcome.
Dembele not starting meant that we also got treated to the proper Eric Dier. He's an absolute beast of a grafter, doing all the work centrally others would shy away from (because they need to be working further up the field). He just gets it done, no fireworks (unless he's seeking to crunch Chelsea ankles). In the next 2-5 games Poch will have to focus on the best combinations with selection. Sure, Mousa is a different type of player. A fluid, gliding ball carrier that holds possession and allows movement of key players. Dier is more of your traditional DM. Yet together they haven't looked great as a partnership. Eric has appeared lost in prior appearances. It would be grand if he continued to turn it on giving us a hungry and determined Wanyama looking on from the sidelines eager to get back and involved again. Having the three to rotate gives me confidence as long all three are making a statement of intent.
Dele was subdued but still effective, still making the types of runs that get ignored in post-match reactions. He did appear to spend a lot of time in deeper positions, coming back into midfield to collect the ball or play off a team-mate. He created the opportunity for the all important second goal. He should have had one himself when it was easier to connect with it rather than attempt the spectacular. Remember his age, his unexpected ascendancy and the learning curve that he's still riding. He'll be gutted to miss out on the CL games thanks to his petulance. Hopefully this will inspire him to reclaim more tenacious form in the league.
Eriksen was simply unplayable. He'll punish you most days but if you're going to give him the key to the ground then don't look too disheartened when he cuts and slices you open. He has been spellbinding this season, irresistibly effective. Confidence, belief and talent. It's easy when you have all the traits necessary. He's not been shackled by the weight of expectancy for a long long time. It's almost criminal the way he retains this under the radar ability that ought to see us fending off bids from every high profile club out there. He's our Modric for the present day. Makes it all tick.
I’ve started to think about Wednesday and Dortmund and the Champions League. We are still waiting for that moment it all goes click at the national stadium. Where the football generates the atmosphere and lets the visiting team and supporters know this isn't a jolly day out to enjoy. We have to win and do so with style and then the season takes off. The Germans are followed by struggling Swansea. It's still early doors and yet there's no ignoring the reality that we have to deal with. We can't drop points when the expectancy is to claim them all. Such is life at the top, such is life wanting to retain our lofty position.
I'm nervous about how much these games will impact the ones that follow. Considering how limp our CL misadventure was last time out, it's imperative we get off to a flyer this time and then really get this Wembley hoodoo done and dusted with another win on Saturday.
COYS and all that.