From the ridiculous to the sublime
I didn’t blog after the Colchester game. Not on here. I found the result to be surreal. Do you remember back in the day, games like Port Vale away in the FA Cup. The humiliation. Yet looking back now, why was it so shameful? I mean, at the time, Spurs were a pretty woeful team post the disbandment of the 1987 side. There was a patch (several seasons) where we hardly ever won away from the Lane. In fact doing so felt like a cup win, it was so pathetic. Of course, back then, all top tier clubs (even us) played full strength teams. There was no rotation. There was no Champions League until 1992. There was prestige and honour and a cup upset, a giant killing, meant something to the lowly sides that rubbed their hands with glee when drawn at home to the mighty Spurs.
Today, it means less. It’s nothing more than banter fodder for social media accounts that rely on likes and retweets. We played a massively rotated side in the game, players on the fringe. Others returning slowly from injury. It was still full of enough quality to win us the game with some degree of comfort. But then if there’s a foreboding cloud above the club, then morale (the lack of) will be punishing and not in our favour. 0-0 was followed by pens followed by a quick and sharp exit from the League Cup.
Usually, you’d shrug and say we lost on purpose or at the very least didn’t prioritise the match at all because the league games and CL campaign is more important. This time round, it’s because Poch has lost the dressing room or the dressing room has lost Poch or the dressing room is divided because of libellous rumours. Or because Poch is orchestrating a Machiavellian plot to get the sack. Just make up a narrative that suits your own agenda.
Pressure on again, right? For sure. There was no excuse for it. Not on paper. Not when you think there’s self-pride at stake. And God forbid a half decent attempt to get to another final. The disinterest and gloomy faces and the lack of anything clinical was paramount. As for the pen shoot-out, dear or dear.
Then came enlightenment. Pochettino in a presser, completely transparent. No riddles, no ambiguity. No grumpy, snappy responses or cryptic clues about his future. Frank and honest answers to the questions posed. PR exercise you say? Of course (some of you) would think this. Here’s the thing. Whilst we have the contradictions in the media about Poch being fed up or he’s hit the wall and needs a new challenge or that Spurs need a new architect to continue building…regardless, of all the theories, we wanted a sign. A sign that suggested which one was edging towards the truth. He gave us one.
Poch told the journos he was the man to lead Spurs forward. He took responsibility for the lack of aggression in our in-game application. He didn’t dance around any of the questions. He committed himself and even accepted the harshness of the criticism aimed towards him and the players. This felt like a moment of complete self-awareness of the situation we find ourselves in. It felt like the therapeutic release we needed from the gaffer to gently galvanise our spirits.
Of course these were words. Actions were required. On the pitch. Southampton the visitors, with a decent away record. It wasn’t going to be easy simply because Spurs are not finding their rhythm easily. It was tense. Our players were tense. The opening exchanges were nervous, clumsy in possession and wasteful with their passing. But we settled down in time. Then came the red card, a totally unnecessary incident involved Serge Aurier. What is with right backs and that liability label that so often gets tagged on their back? The first yellow was deserved, the second yellow was only given because of the first (and thus cheap) and that was followed by a red.
Things went from bad to worse when Hugo Lloris gifted Soton with a comical error, dancing with the ball at his feet in-front of his goal, getting mugged for the 1-1. In this moment, even with the shaking of the head and bemusement, it set up the foundation for Tottenham to prove to themselves there was still a team somewhere in there. That digging deep to survive the next 60 minutes and hold onto the point would possibly define our character and set us up for future games. It wasn’t ideal, shooting ourselves in the foot, but we had to be reactionary.
We responded. We went 2-1 up with a breathtakingly satisfying counter attack with Son instigating the move and twice being involved, Eriksen pushing the ball into the path of Harry Kane who smacked it into the ground and into the corner. A pivotal moment. From the ridiculous to the sublime. The second half wasn’t enjoyable mostly because of heart in mouth symptoms. Lloris found redemption with two magnificent saves proving that he retains world class reflexes and a healthy relationship between brain and hands. He obviously doesn’t have a foot fetish. He can’t stand looking at them and neither can we. Interestingly, if you’re a stat nerd and love the olde ‘expected goals on target’ data you’ll be keen to know Hugo is topping the table with 14 critical saves this season.
Soton persisted but Spurs held on strong. Tanguy Ndombele who finished wonderfully well for his goal for the 1-0 is beginning to bed into his role in centre midfield. He’s finding that Lyon form slowly but surely. His athleticism, control and subtle simple creativity is going to anchor him to the team for a long time to come, much like the influence of Mousa Dembele but with an abundance of decisive forward momentum.
Then we have new contract winner Moussa Sissoko, grafting with selfless sacrifice. A Poch possibility for the right-back position, which is pretty maddening. We had Tripps who could cross but had no positional sense. Serge that can defend but can’t cross and loves to be tagged with the liability label. Kyle Walker-Peters, for sure deserves more than he’s getting. After-all, the likes of Danny Rose on the other side struggled before elevating his status.
As for Harry Winks, what a brilliant little player he is. What a joy to watch. He’s mature, intelligent and always composed whilst full of energy and purpose and urgency. The embodiment of a Spurs fan playing for Spurs with the abilities to back it up (obviously, imagine you or me playing, we’d be dead in minutes, lungs exploding). We might be struggling with the synergy of the team as a whole but at least certain parts are functioning and holding us together.
Claiming all three points and not losing a lead is the action required to back up the words spoken in the build up to the game and more importantly to strengthening the morale of both the players and the fans. Not losing the lead is also worthy of light plaudits. Grab your calculator and work out where we would be points tally wise if we had not dropped them from a winning position this season. I’ll wait.
It’s a step, not a big one, but it’s in the right direction. We all needed that. If you actually look at what we’re up against, the concern remains in-house. The reason we’re struggling is obvious. We’ve got a team that has core players with questionable ethics. It’s no wonder we are not firing on all cylinders with brash and aggressive swagger.
The Eriksen conundrum persists. He actually covered a serious amount of ground in the game, so his effort can not be criticised. His influence however was not so evident. He’s stuck with us, we’re stuck with him. His head perhaps not completely stuck onto his neck. But his manager trusts him and is working to get him back to rediscovering his mojo. Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Danny Rose are all subject to potential shifts away from Tottenham. Serge and Victor Wanyama (be it he remains a fringe player for now) are both being touted for sale.
At least the players are starting to match Poch and his renewed positivity. Jan talking about possible contract talks (okay, so he might have been evasive with that), also sharing pictures of him and Eriksen ‘together’ in training. A slight dig at the poisonous nonsense being shared by other idiotic Spurs fans. We need the upbeat vibe. It’s what you want the players to be saying. Because you have to retain a sense of faith.
That’s a pretty hefty chunk of the first team squad. Add to it, Dele Alli and Eric Dier pushing to get more involved. Dele especially hasn’t reignited yet but there’s reasons for this. Injury aside, if the team isn’t together on the pitch and if Poch can’t quite decide on formation and selection - then it doesn’t breed momentum. But then, if there’s issues it doesn’t make it easy attempting to manage fragile and perhaps damaged egos. They have to find a middle ground and with Brighton (away) in the league and Bayern on Tuesday in the CL - this is a crucial time for us and one we can’t afford to ignore in terms of owning the moment. Confidence. It needs to awaken. Sometimes a single game does enough to boost morale to super high levels.
We have to settle down in all aspects of perpetration and match-day attitude. Selection wise, we still have Ryan Sessegnon and Gio Le Celso to return. Lamela, Lucas and Son along with Dele still means we have tremendous options in the final third - if we can work out when to play offensive and when to start three holding midfielders. That type of stuff.
We go again, thick and fast. There’s no margin for more errors, not in the position we’re in. Because we want to remain competitive and because it’s bloody fun and heart thumping when pushing for something that ought to be beyond us, but it never is because we’re always pushing. Last seasons league campaign was flat. This season hasn’t quite started yet, not for us. There’s a few dark horses in with a shout for top four. The Prem is revitalised in many ways even if City and Liverpool remain in their own little world at the top. There’s a long way to go. This week and the month ahead now feel like a starting block and we can’t afford another false start.