Morning. Afternoon. Evening. I’m time zone friendly.
How you feeling?
Sensational right? Aren’t we all.
This is where we belong, not because of entitlement but because we bloody well deserve every bit of this majesty bestowed on us by our top tier, high level performing boys from the Lane. We’re as a good as we believe ourselves to be and, breaking news…we’re good. Really good. Even with the blips and disappointments and lost opportunities and mistakes. We. Are. Good. Even without the certified ribbons of success. We. Are. Good.
This isn’t based on the single result, the excellent 1-0 first leg victory over Manchester City, the favourites for everything. This is based on all the self imposed constraints we have placed ourselves under whilst undertaking the sometimes emotionally unsettling transition from a club that wants to be the best to one that could and might one day attain that status - even if only for a season or two. That would be enough. But it’s hardly a discomfort chasing it.
We are good. Even after our worst run of form for seven years. Even with the tentative look over our shoulders as the chase for Top Four applies unnecessary and avoidable pressure on a return to this elite competition that fuels the want to keep on improving.
I honestly can’t put it into words.
I’m in full romanticised ‘I heart Tottenham’ mode and still don’t think I can do justice to how I’m feeling right now. I said it after the Crystal Palace win that returning home is monumental to our self-being and that I couldn’t really care less about anything else. But I do and it’s because of how Spurs have this persistent knack of pulling you back in just when you thought you were out. The aftermath journalistic reviews (some of them) would have you think that City were unlucky, that they weren’t in anyway nullified by our tactics. By Pochettino’s tactics. Okay hun.
Sure, they were ultra-passive with selection and output. A bit too cautious. Too narrow at times, players occupying the same space and intent. There was no trademark swarming and pressing. In pockets, they looked dangerous on the break with ball at feet, running towards our pen area. But it was in no way sustained pressure, the type that has seen us buckle and collapse from in the past. It was Spurs doing the pushing, the pressing and the leading from the front.
Sometimes football doesn't require analytical logic to make sense. We scored during City’s best and only decent patch of possession in the game, countering them with a super charged Son providing free will over the expected determinism predicted pre-match. Overall, it’s undeniable that Pochettino owned the strategic setup from kick off. Spurs were in sync - not just in terms of collective discipline but also with their application and desire. The Kane injury rocked us but the players went on to rock the entire stadium.
The performance was great. Truly a night to forever remember. Yes, we could get spanked in the second leg. Yes, Kane’s injury is massively depressing. Yes, it looked ominous with Dele shaking his head holding his wrist as he was subbed off. I’m going to drum the same beat and make the same noise I always do; This is what football is all about. That feeling, these moments, the noise, the electricity, the hype and the reality - not tomorrow or yesterday but today, here and now. Tap your veins and inject it straight in.
Honestly, the noise and the atmosphere, it’s continuous non-stop sensory overload, from the first minute until the last. The acoustics. The visuals. That’s Tottenham that is. That’s us. For all the cynical below the belt misgivings and complaints and finality and recreational hate that a small minority of supporters languish in, how the hell can you not be proud of everything this club has achieved in its transformation on the pitch and off it? Daniel Levy, the gaffer, the players…and us with our continued patience and support. We’ve got what we deserve and what we got is astonishing and tremendous.
This might be a single game against one of the best sides in Europe but then if that’s all it was, it was Spurs winning and doing so with unnerving professionalism with a hint of that old Glory Glory trait that is part of our heritage. Not too shabby a result from a manager and team that are apparently on the brink of falling apart.
This was one of the great nights. Better than spanking Real Madrid. Better because this was back at the Lane and we wasted no time sticking up the ‘Home sweet Home’ sign. Do not underestimate the power and impact a new stadium can have when the fanbase take to it instantly. The very personification of the 12th man. Kevin’s team-mates found out first hand. We’ve been away for two years. What did Kev expect? Turns out a stadium can be special after-all. Everyone has one, but everyone else doesn’t have the one we have. Mainly because everyone else isn’t Tottenham.
My feet are still firmly on the ground (honestly, they are). Absolute literal scenes when I have to write a teary ‘City beat us 4-0 in the second leg’ review. But until then, we’re 90 minutes or so from the semi-final and we’re currently ahead. Excuse me whilst I continue to drink alcoholic beverages and sing songs.
Some of the talking points worth citing as I continue to nurse the hangover…
Firstly, the over zealous stewards getting physical with supporters for standing. Spurs need to sort this out. I appreciate the club have had to employ more match day staff and they are no doubt following orders but can we have a little bit of sensibility with how it’s policed? There was no issues (that I’ve seen reported) with standing for the full ninety in the south stand (at least parts of it) but I’ve seen the videos of fans being manhandled behind the goal and it’s not a pleasant sight. Three fans ejected from the family stand for standing when everyone else was standing too.
I remember similar scenes in the old Park Lane but there was an understanding back then. You sat when told to sit, everyone stood when there was a swift counter attack on the pitch. I don’t think aggression should play a part in any of it - be it from any given supporter that persistently stands up (which will always be an issue if everyone behind him is sat) or the stewards getting all dystopain with their punishment.
Harry Kane, clashing with Fernandinho and then Delph. Not sure how the officials seemed comfortably numb with their decision making. I guess gravity forced Fernandinho to come down on Harry with the same ilk of ground-and-pound you expect to see from Khabib Nurmagomedov. It was blatant, especially the follow up elbow to the back of Harry’s head. But alas, no yellow. Delph’s follow through will deny Kane a fitting end game to his season, with our talisman disappearing like an Avenger that Thanos has vanquished from the universe.
It’s gutting, especially when you do take a second (only a second) to step back and evaluate our chances to survive the second leg and make it to the semi-final. Compare the subs bench of Spurs to the one that City have and you’ll be lying to yourself if you think Spurs are not punching well above their weight. Yet we keep knocking ‘em out like Peter North on a pineapple diet.
As for the debate about Kane not going in for 50/50 midfield enforcement challenges to avoid this ilk of injury…come on now. He’s competitive. He’s a team player. Maybe to properly avoid injury going forward, Kane should just retire. Or amputate his feet. Then his ligaments would never snap.
His passing is at times on par with Hoddle. The manner in which he leads by example is unquestionably captain material. He’s the most complete forward in Europe. The fact is, Delph stamped rather than it being Kane rolling himself into a position of hurt. What’s this now? The third or fourth time it’s happened? It probably means he’ll need an extra season to go past Jimmy Greaves record. Hopefully Harry will be back in time for a cameo and goal at the Wanda Metropolitano on the 1st July.
When Kane went off, we lost our shape and tempo. The period of adjustment is what led to City taking a grip on proceedings (be it momentarily). The other debate about Spurs playing better without Kane in the side is a myth. We’re a better team with him in it. Obviously. It’s insane that I have to even state that. What we do as a team when he’s not playing is pull together to find a way to amplify the strengths of other key players. It takes three or four of Harry’s team mates to collectively band together to make us forget he isn’t playing.
When you look back at some of the fouls committed on Kane (and the elbow to his head), you’ve got to ask if City’s dirty tactics approach is one of pure arrogance. Did they target our best players? Take the 0-0 or even the 1-0 defeat, injure them and then go full pelt ballistic at Eastlands? I doubt any manager would purposely seek to hold back, especially when City have never beaten an English side in Europe. So perhaps the dirty tactics element is the only bit that might ring true. Job done at least on that front for the Citizens.
Let’s talk about VAR baby, let’s talk about tech and seethe, let’s talk about all the bad things and the bad things that will be, let’s talk about VAR.
If VAR reviewed VAR it would disallow itself. Shambles. Not just in how it fashions that pause in celebratory outpouring but equally so with infinite confusion over how the rules of the game are mostly lost in translation. It’s all a bit Bill Murray walking around Tokyo aimlessly. Was it a handball from Danny Rose? Ball to hand? Hand to ball? I mean honestly, is there even a difference these-days? If UEFA slow down the footage of the incident any further you’ll also see a bullet hit Kennedy and then Connally.
Was it deliberate? No. But then the ambiguity stipulates that if the ball hits the hand regardless then it’s stopping its trajectory towards goal. As pointed out by pundits, then surely all players need to do is aim for the arms and hands of any defenders in the box and wallop, it’s a certified pen. It’s a mess. Look at the pen again and note how the only thing Sterling and co ask for is a corner and they don’t even ask that hard because it’s what they expect.
Again, the way the game stops and starts does nothing positive for the experience. Sure, had it been reversed I guess we’d be calling for a Spurs pen and we’d be happy for the wait. But I’m thinking more about the other VAR incident and how we had to wait a little to hear the confirmation of Son’s goal standing. It’s not organic. It’s something we’ll have to digest going forward and hope it settles in a more refined place in the coming seasons.
If you want to put it all into context, go watch the Salah studs up incident in the Liverpool v Porto game and let me know why VAR (the people managing the slow-mos and talking to the officials) didn’t dish out a red card. No intent though from Salah apparently, so guessing Danny Rose (in a flash of a second) had all the intent to make himself bigger to stop the ball. ‘K THEN. Until the basics of interpretation are worked out by the officials managing the technology, we’re going to continue to scratch our heads and tut disapprovingly.
As a side note, there’s no retrospective punishment for Fernandinho as the ref didn’t think it warranted a look-in at the time. Because the ref ‘saw it’, UEFA can’t press charges. Humans. They’re the problem, it’s not the tech.
As for the penalty, our other captain marvel (deal with it haters) once more finding redemption with his third successive pen save. Aguero hardly struck it with purpose but I couldn’t care less. It was a great moment, the type of moment you need in a new gaff to get the blood pumping. Not that we needed much help in settling back into the new surroundings. It was one of very few opportunities City had in the game. Spurs on the other hand had far more promise in and around the pen box. Especially that move where Dele was fouled but the advantage was played and Kane twisted and shot.
Son scoring, again, was a moment to saviour. As noted, it came during a period where City started to impose a little bit of that recognisable authority. It was very Spursy for them to then go and concede. Christian making me believe in God with a sublime pass to set Son on his way. Then just when you thought the chance had gone, just when you thought the ball had gone out of play, the Korean comes back into a position of strength to shoot low and under the keeper for the 1-0. It was brilliant. The sheer energy and belief to not give it up sent me to dizzying levels of air punching and manly screaming.
The VAR pause meant we got an encore and as much as I could dwell on this, I’ll leave it (more RAH than VAR) until something happens against us that is unjust.
I won’t go player to player in terms of ratings because everyone deserves their plaudits. I will give some shout outs to the maligned Trippier, containing Sterling into quiet submission like a no-deal Brexit.
Harry Winks was irresistible, his movement and touch and work rate. Oozing so much class and none of it cosmetic. Check his game stats out if you think he’s just a pretty face. He defends by attacking space ahead of him. Forward thinking, pushing the ball towards the final third and taking on players. Does the ugly stuff as well as the simple things. That’s making the difficult seem simple when you consider some of the midfield giants he has had to combat. He ain’t scared. He wants the ball all of the time. Big game player innit.
Danny Rose nutmegging Kyle Walker. Fin.
Danny Rose, pushing Fernandinho to the ground, hand in his face. Fin.
Pep citing ‘long ball Tottenham’ in the post-game pressers. Fin.
Sissoko was once again magnificent in midfield. A linchpin. A player that carries no ego, does the graft and doesn’t moan about it. Defends by occupying space that is left open. Bites at ankles. Surges forward with the ball and cleans up after it. You’d think this is all basic stuff but his work ethic aligns with the teams discipline. A far cry from the confused soul, the player with a £30M price tag and no defining identity. Now he’s like peak Dembele, marshalling the area between defence and midfield.
Okay, I’m going well overboard here but then again, am I? I’ll continue to breathe in the fumes from last night, thank you very much. His self-awareness (commenting on his lack of technicality) is refreshing. Holtby, Freund, O’Hara..we’ve had players that have not been that great but had big hearts. Sissoko isn’t a player that should be chucked in amongst those names. He has heart for sure but his effort and application is effective and influential. He’s not a world beater but he’s doing a job for us right now and that’s all that matters.
Big Vic also looked decent when he came on and makes me wish he can reclaim that almost forgotten omnipotent presence in his best season (2016/17) for us a few years back.
Llorente’s cameo was nice. In these types of games, he has something to offer. Experience.
Dele. Oh Dele. What a player. All gone a little quiet over there. You know. The stuff about him being petulant. A wannabe gangster. A stat-padding fraud. Doesn’t do much does he? Other than make us tick. Again to compare us to the likes of City, they have five or six players (on the field and on the bench) that give them extra dimensions. For Spurs, we rely heavily on less options. A consequence of our current financial stature (which will change in the coming years). Of course, this has allowed us to retain consistency and momentum when being told countless times that ‘this is the season we get left behind’. Tottenham are finely tuned, tight and compact. We keep on coming. Dele keeps on maturing.
His space invading, his link-up play, his inventiveness and eye for goal. He has a bit of everything. Perhaps we still have to define his best role (just off Kane will do) and help him avoid being just outside the boundaries of influence, too deep or too far up top. He remains imperative. Much like Kane. Or an on-form Eriksen. Or Jan and Toby at the back. Talking of which, the defensive set-up is looking a lot better in the past two games. Stability required and attained. At the heart of it all, two players that we have to hold onto, surely we do. Toby’s experience and commanding and calming influence was, well, pretty much priceless. He’ll probably be gone come the summer and it’s gutting.
As for Son. Once more he shines on a glorious night in Tottenham, the home of North London. He is up there as one of our best players. Another lad that was often targeted for ‘not being a proper striker’ or blowing hot and cold and yet every-time we need him to step up, he does. He’s infectious. I love him. I have no problem sharing that with you. I love him.
The Dare is to do South stand tifo made from held up plastic bags was a thing of beauty. Yes, that sentence just happened. That tier, for all the focus on ticket pricing and the 1882 exclusive club and the rest of the modern football shakes of head…that tier was fire. The numbers all go up to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Being back home after practically two seasons away and playing this well was the perfect house warming gift. The togetherness was tantric, a cauldron of kinetic momentum was generated, not because of the football on the pitch but because everything around it makes the football happen on the pitch.
We weren’t favourites to get through before Tuesday. We’re still not the favourites to get through. I’m perfectly content with this. Having said that, I’ll be devastated if we get beat. Remember when it looked mightily improbable that we’d make it out of the group stages? From that to the sheer magnitude and occasion of this quarter final. Football mate, never doubt it, never question it. Just enjoy it.