Happy Monday to one and all. I'm freaky dancing like Bez after Sunday's entertainment. It's good to bounceback with a win after the bitterly disappointing exit from the Champions League. Ominous though, that start against Bournemouth. Spurs players all at sea. No real anchor in the opening minutes as the home side took to the game with rampant enthusiasm whilst our players struggled to retain the ball. Like pirates raiding an unsuspecting East India Company ship.
We survived the woodwork and then found ourselves 1-0 down (whilst being told we've failed to come back to win a game this season in the league when in said position). Our players, at this point, with as much grace as someone walking the plank.
Add to it the woe of losing Harry Kane to what is hopefully just a precautionary substitution (it's that ankle again) and you'd have thought this was going to be another one of these torrid European hangovers. Alas no.
Poch made the switch bringing on Erik Lamela, dropped Christian Eriksen into a deeper role and Tottenham proceeded to march through the game with an air of confident movement and clinical finishing. One man team, hey?
Our reaction to that poor start and then losing our talisman was top drawer. We woke up gradually owning possession on the ball and matched the tempo of the hosts off it. Collectively, we started to dictate and those opening minutes were to be confined to history as an anomaly. A little blip.
Poor Eddie Howe again, slapped down by our professionalism and quality. I have no counter analogy for the pirate one. I would have gone with the obvious 'Spurs like vikings pillaging their way through the heart of Bournemouth's defence' but it was so easy on the eye, it would be unjust to compare our football to the chaotic carnage of a Nordic invasion.
Dele Alli, the opposing fans favourite pantomime villain, silenced their noise with a superbly anticipated finish after a swift attack. No panic here, just measured physics to bury the excellent delivery from Serge Aurier. He flew into the path of the ball with calculated intent. Surprised he wasn't booked for diving in the penalty area. We've never lost when he's scored. A far more upbeat omen than the one we suffered when going behind.
The second half was a rout.
Son didn't connect too cleanly for his first goal (Dele, that kid that does nothing, picking him out for the assist) but the ball bouncing into the turf was enough for it to glide over the keeper and into the net. I love it when we buzz around the penalty area like this. We have so many options, so many differing qualities, you wonder just how much more we have to give by inter-changing the variables. Let's not forget we also have Lucas.
There's a sentiment being shared today (thanks to @BardiTFC for the obvious but much needed to be discuss insight) that Spurs do better with tricky, clever ball playing players than say more traditional out and out 'replacements' or alternatives for Kane. I agree with this sentiment but it's no secret that Kane isn't replaceable. I'll quickly deviate to explain:
Kane isn't traditional for a start. He's a complete forward and you'll struggle to find many that are built as good as him and even less that are fuelled by his desire to keep improving. He has everything you want in that he can score, assist, drop deep, graft...the list goes on. So when you sign another 'striker', you're going to instantly weaken our spearhead if your wish is to emulate the same end product as supplied by Kane. The main issue is that you can't buy a top TOP level striker and expect him to sit it out on the bench until Harry is injured or rested. So what you end up with is a striker of lesser quality and ability. Unless you get lucky and land another academy surprise or a hungry apprentice from elsewhere. Llorente is a backup and someone that offers a very specific type of option but arguably doesn't fit into the ethos of the side. For players like Llorente, you have to change your style of play to accommodate him.
However, having players like Dele/Son/Lamela/Lucas playing ahead of Eriksen means when you've lost Hercules you have the Hydra of Lerna at the ready to compensate with equal measures of near mythical fear. Kane might as well still be on the pitch. In this legend, Hercules doesn't kill the Hydra. They're mates. They play Uno together and snapchat banter. Just deal with this analogy otherwise I'll recycle the Viking one.
Back to the game and yes, I know it was only Bournemouth but the fallacy we are the Harry Kane team needs to be shut down. We've had previews of us coping well without Kane before and Spurs will need to truly consolidate this state to protect our progression...
The third was the killer moment, the three points in the bag. Son stood in front of a dead ball making sure their free-kick would be played short and Lewis Cook skipped himself straight into Eriksen. The Dane stole the ball and released Son instantly. Quite obviously no offside (in a game where there was a couple of notable decisions) as he raced from inside our one half into theirs and rounded the keeper to coolly finish. Loved how Sonny signalled to Lamela as if he was going to lay the ball off. Spurs properly placing Howe's plucky team back in their box.
The fourth was simplicity. Moussa Sissoko fighting off gravity and his personal conundrum to work out which foot to use and then sliding the ball out wide to Trippier who crossed it in deep towards the goal. The keeper ballsed it all up with his attempt to push it away and Serge took the opportunity to head it across the goal and in. Special mention to Sissoko playing a lovely ball earlier in the game to Son (for what might have been his hattrick) that was pure visionary gold. More of that please.
Other mentions. When is Toby back? We've been inviting teams by virtue of our sometimes sloppy shape at the back and inability to clear the ball. Microscopic complaints here, but Sanchez (as an example) struggled at times. Again, I don't want to linger too long on this. It's so easy to just point to individuals and then lose yourself in rationalising why he did this and that at any given moment. Sometimes, you have an off day or your personal level drops enough for it to be noticeable compared to prior form. He's been great for us Sanchez, raw but still highly dependable. He's going to be massive for Spurs in the years ahead.
What's far more important than over-analysing is how we managed our recovery and reacted to Kane's absence. Early doors and retention wasn't great in centre midfield (Alli and Dembele). But then push forward in time, as we got hold of the midfield and the opposition struggled to cope with our front three. We got tested, our resolve and mindset post-Juventus. Did we past the test? With flying colours. Not everything can go to plan otherwise we'd just win every single game we play.
I'm reminded by a quote on mixed martial arts by Joe Rogan.
"It's high level problem solving with dire psychical consequences"
Perhaps there isn't the same level of finality in football as there is in MMA and of course our sport is a team effort and not one versus one. Or is it? The more unified and in-sync a team is then there's an argument to be had about embodying a singularity of movement, transitional from one phase to the next. So many times in the past we've relied on a gifted individual to produce a moment of magic, to inspire an escape. For a long time now under Pochettino we rely on the synergy of the side. Spurs are eleven men but one entity. The very best sides in England and Europe have to all - as individuals - attain the same level together. Perhaps there is room for sacrifice (one or two players might perform below the required standard). In this case, you can get away with it against the likes of Bournemouth (no disrespect) but perhaps not against a team that also seeks that high octane singularity.
Our synergy was flat then it was peak. No so much high level problem solving but more to do with riding the waves of momentum until the tide is high and the opposition is left to drown. You can have the best intentions, a plan in mind but so much of what plays out is reactionary and everybody has to be part of it for it to work. Patience and intelligence.
Moving back onto topic...
Lamela, often criticised for his lack of end product provided that often easily maligned quality of pressure and pressing and more importantly, urgency. With Eriksen conducting from a deeper role, he was free to look up and pick out any of the fast moving forwards that had no specific positional role that could be pinned down. We got to see very neat and tidy examples of ye olde space invading Tottenham.
Serge looked strong defending, his deliveries were not as consistent as Trips but he assisted and scored and I was ecstatic for him (especially after another foul throw). He's still erratic and if you compare him to say Jan there's a gulf in composure but then he's a fullback / wingback. The nature of their role is to be part good part maverick. Danny Rose is still looking for a return to his very best. It's been a difficult season for him, off and on the pitch but his attitude looks to be totally aligned to the rest of the squad.
Dele persists with his growth. As expertly put by my old mucker @tehtrunk:
"Feel like in previous seasons, Alli has been the guy that would be fairly non-existent in games but pop up with a spectacular moment. This year there have been less spectacular moments, but what we have now is a quietly influential player who is improving his all round game"
An echo of what I keep repeating on here, week in and week out.
Of course, the star of the show (if you wish to focus on goals, energy, smiles) was Son leading the front line as we jumped into 3rd spot, five points clear of Chelsea (up next in the league) and thirteen ahead of them lot down the road. Our Korean wonderboy is in infectious form. Hopefully Harry will be back in time for Stamford Bridge in what is going to be a pivotal encounter for CL spots. I guess Conte's men will try their very best to beat us and play out of their skins. I expect nothing less.
Onto Swansea now, in the cup for Tottingham, and hopefully copious amounts of rum. Yarrr!