Anyone fancy a Danish?
Here we go again. Another season. It’s almost like the summer break didn’t happen. Not that we’ve been devoid of sport during the last couple of months. At least we can be content with Harry Kane finally earning a rest after an eternity of busy off-season activities. He’s refreshed, rejuvenated and ready to go. Much like I am. You lot too. So let’s ease into it nice and gently…
Don’t fret, I won’t be sharing a 10,000 word deconstruction of our 3-1 victory over newly promoted Aston Villa at The Lane. I’ll hold back from the over-indulgence in over-analysis until we hit the 10th league fixture. That’s usually when you can make a calculated guess on how the next ten will play out.
So 2019/20 blessed us with a home match to start our campaign. We’re back home proper. Live on TV (as per usual) and one of those quintessential games of two halves that we’ve often entertained (suffered) ourselves with, be it Wembley or the Old Lane. That cock(erel) tease where we flash our meaty presence, but it’s too limp to penetrate in the box. Then we’re shocked by the reach around as we’re caught out by a swift and direct counter attack. Villa giving us the finger. Yet, watching the game, I knew it was only foreplay and the real action was on its way soon. “We’re gonna win 3-1”, I remarked to friends.
Why so confident?
Tempo. Effort. It was all Spurs from the get-go.
There was nothing wrong with our application. The problem was in precision and ideas that stretched beyond the single one. We lacked width and movement and that little bit of inventiveness. Our gaffer took responsibility at half time. Spurs were more of a rugged chunk of coal than a sparkling diamond. Spurs arguably more suited for the non-full back relying 4-2-3-1, considering the attacking flankers we possess in our squad. I’m sure we’ll settle for something that takes full advantage of the talent but equally so, it’s nice to have an alternative (be it one that needs work).
The second half saw the required readjustments with one particular injection of measured quality crowning himself ‘the game changer’. Off to Madrid? More like off the bench? AMIRITE?
I’m here all day.
Enter one Christian Eriksen and his visionary super eyes. He’s always been understated. ‘Doesn’t do enough’ say some. ‘Only does it when it doesn’t matter’ say others - whatever that’s meant to mean. He’s like Superman without the cape or costume. Clarke Kent if Kent did all the saving and heroic stuff but nobody could see it because he masked himself in the shadows and let others steal the limelight. But those with eager eyes for the bigger picture will always notice.
I’ve copy and pasted these stats shared by the Sky(net) Corporation that ought to terminate the doubters.
Since his debut:
Created chances - 550
Assisted - 50 goals
Direct free-kicks scored - 7
Goals outside box - 22
Set play assists - 23
But hE cANT bEaT ThE fIrST mAN !!111
Since his debut he’s ranked 1st in every one of the above categories. Undeniable.
From seven shots at goal in the first half to twenty odd in the second. I said I wouldn’t over think things and I don’t plan too but we need a playmaker to make us tick. Add to that the pace of Son and the space invading of Dele. On Saturday, Eriksen was enough for us to unstick ourselves from the Vila backline and start playing with more impactful energy.
The Dane beats the first man with a corner (it happened, you happy now?) and when the ball returned to him he pinged it back in brilliantly for a Sanchez effort to be point blank saved. When the ball found itself at the tricky feet of Moura, he set up Ndombele for a lovely curling shot tucked into the corner for the equaliser.
Then August Kane stuck us two-one up with support from Erik Lamela mugging Jack Grealish off the ball. His shot hit two defenders and Harry did what he does better than anyone. 86th minute. Late Show Spurs delivering another heartbreaking letter, man. Dear Aston, I’m sorry it had to end this way…bada dish.
Then it was three. Kane again. This time Sissoko the provider, rampaging forward to then play the simplest of balls to his feet. Harry making it look easy with the pass into the net. Stadium erupts. Spurs finally matching their early tempo alongside quality to showcase the difference between a Champions League finalist and a newly promoted team. To be fair, John McGinn took his goal well and Villa were fairly neat and tidy when they had the ball but, well, you need more in the Premier League. A bit of spite, a bit of mettle, a bit of the clinical when the chances come. One thing they didn’t get close to controlling was the possession.
Spurs doing a Spurs and making us sweat. I’ve missed this so much.
Jan Vertonghen not in the match day squad? Attempting to read body language and between the lines, I guess I’d go with Jan not taking it well that he wasn’t in the starting eleven and was then relegated to the stands for protesting. It’s a long season ahead. Sanchez is our future. He needs game time and we need to rotate. Storm in a tea cup.
Penalty shout dismissed? The ball cleanly struck the arm. The arm was in an unnatural position (lol). Maybe I’m misunderstanding the new rules or perhaps because we don’t play in red, the officials declined to reward us.
And what of the Eriksen conundrum?
With Lo Celso to come, I’m not concerned about that missing creative outlet in the opening half - even if it stood as testament to life without Christian E. Neither am I stressing about width. The formation will have to bed in pretty quickly if we stand any (outside) chance of competing against City and Liverpool. That particular challenge might still be a step too far but then there’s no way of knowing whether either side can replicate the same incredible form of last season. All we can do is settle and then sizzle. Son, Dele and then Sess…we’re a side that has options but only if the core supports the expression and expansiveness on offer.
Poch has to decide what works best centrally. With Harry Winks we have an excellent disciple of the philosophy our gaffer preaches. Disciplined and determined with a touch of class. Doesn’t assist, doesn’t score - slate the scapegoaters. Neither did Carrick or Modric. Not often enough. Football isn’t all about the fireworks. You don’t get an explosive and rich colourful display without the fuse being lit first.
Ndombele will give us that more productive surge from midfield (think Sissoko but without the nose bleed in the final third) and he’s already impressed. Perhaps not the greatest debut (finding his feet with the speed of our game) but the manner in which he didn’t over celebrate and his post-match comments made me smile with pride. We do love mature level-headed and focused midfielder(s) at Spurs.
The big question is what happens if / when Eriksen leaves this summer.
Or possibly next summer on a free.
Would our chairman be accepting of losing him for nothing next year? Do we even have a choice? The fact that no contract has been signed suggests he wants to go without the obstacle of signing a short term one to protect the clubs interest (in profit). He’s been outstanding for us. You can drown in the ‘doesn’t turn up for big games’ agenda if you select the big games that aid your disdain for him. But revisionist history is the meta game at Spurs. When you don’t have other rival fans to argue with, then argue with your own by focusing solely on the negatives and pretending the positives don’t exist.
Eriksen makes us tick. We miss him when he’s not there. I’m greedy and I want him to stay so we have two playmakers - both differing in styles - to select depending on fixture congestion and the big games. Losing him this summer will hurt us. But I’m certain we’ll adapt as we always do. Keeping him means the Dane will have to showcase why a top continental team should invest in him. I guess personally, the player must be frustrated that his move hasn’t happened with certified certainty.
As for a possible replacement next summer, we can cross that bridge when we come to it (and hopefully not attempt to swim in the murky waters below). What we need to remember is that no matter how ambitious we remain, there are players beyond our reach (at the moment). Eriksen is as good as it get for a club that can’t quite yet challenge for a title (in terms of leading the table and protecting said lead). He stands alongside Carrick and Modric for sure. Possibly, even above them. The argument to be had about his consistency and influence is a tricky one to have because the likes of Christian, Michael and Luka are not truly comparable. They all offer something different.
There’s probably more I can talk about. Danny Rose mixing the good and the bad. I still love him. Sissoko Sissoking (he was vastly improved in the second half). But, you know, I promised no 10,000 word blog so I’ll let you all discuss the details below.