Seems quite appropriate that the first time I get to use those words – “Put to the Sword” – it is to describe our victory over a team that actually calls itself the Villains. Only on this occasion they proved to be anything but villainous – as they hardly caused us any difficulty. They tested Friedal just twice and he was equal to both attempts while we almost got caught with our pants down (or was that the other way around) as Vertonghen´s slip and grab embarrassed their substitute – sorry but his name eludes me.
Watching on TV none of us in the bar had even noticed the episode until it was shown as a replay so this might explain why the officials didn´t either. If they had, it would surely have been a penalty, and almost certainly a card for Big Jan – colour uncertain. So we did get off the hook on that occasion.
That we were already one nil up and went on to score three more goals, wasting a number of good opportunities along the way, provided an example of what our “fringe players” can achieve. We made eight changes from the team that started on Sunday yet were still able to field nine full internationals whilst the other two are both England Under 21s. All three substitutes were also full internationals and yet we were able to rest/rotate the main starters for next Saturday.
Special mention has to go to Chiriches who had a confident debut, even if it wasn´t calm or quiet. What I liked was that he didn´t just try to blend in, from the off he was waving his arms as if directing traffic, shouting at his own players, telling them where they should be defensively. This is something that comes from being a leader, something expected from someone who is used to being captain – the captain of Romania for example. Even when moved to right back he still had that composed air about him – he will be an excellent signing.
Lamela made numerous runs and contributions during a busy first half but seemed to disappear into obscurity in the second. Was this a lack of fitness, or was he simply being marked out of the game – I could not tell from what I saw. Kane and Fryers put in fine shifts to protect other frontline players and the experience will have been good for them both.
With Holtby, Paulinho and Sandro you know what you are going to get – 90 minutes of running and full hearted commitment. That Sandro was fouled more times in the first 30 minutes than he normally gets in an entire season seemed to shown that AVillain had a plan to stop him from being effective – it didn´t work. Freed from his defensive duties a little, Paulinho was able to drift forward more and be destructive in a different way – creating rather than stopping the opposition and it paid off with yet another well taken goal. Holtby, however, as well as being the be all and be anywhere player we know he is, was also the midfield instigator of every forward move. On the ball or off it, his creativity shone through and his three assists made him MOTM for me.
Finally to JD. Another two goals in another 90 minute performance – he could/should have had another hat-trick. Maybe that is what he has to do to convince AVB that he is worth a spot in the Premier team.
And so to the weekend and the most testing match of the season so far. Yes we have played Le Arse but they cannot be compared to Chelski – a team with almost as much flare and strength in depth as we have. It is not going to be easy but we have the team capable of winning but exactly who will be in that team is still something of a mystery. Or is it?
It is pretty certain that seven players will start and will form the core of the team from front to back – namely Soldado, Eriksen, Paulinho, Dembele, Vertonghen, Dawson and Lloris. There is a case for either Kaboul or Chiriches to play instead of Dawson and I still feel that Sandro should play in place of Dembele as this frees his Brazilian counterpart to get forward more, but I doubt if either of these changes will be made just yet.
So, with the core settled, who plays down the flanks. Provided Walker has not suffered any reaction to the knock he took in the first half, he will play and on the left it is between Naughton and Rose – who will play if fit. Up front the options are even more striking as on the right it is a simple case (as if anything like this is simple) of Lamela or Townsend while on the left it is now Siggy, Holtby or the returning Chadli. This is where Managers make their money – on making decisions such as this.
Do we go for the jugular knowing they have defensive weaknesses of their own, a lack of cohesion not seen in recent seasons, or do we sit back and let them come at us intent on breaking on the counter? Whilst the latter was entirely plausible last year with Bale and Lennon in full flow, this time around it is a completely different. The dynamics of our team – and their´s for that matter – have changed dramatically.
Whereas Mata would tear us to pieces, he is no longer even part of the starting line up. Their defenders (who were never the quickest on the block) are now a year older and a yard slower – both in pace and in reaction time. They lack a goal scoring threat, even though Torres is showing some form it is unlikely he will start. They will play a similar 184.108.40.206 to us but the midfield minefield will be won by our aggressive pressing regime starting from the front and working backwards. We will dominate possession, starve them of the ball and use it to every possible effect.
I cannot see them posing enough of a goal threat even with their multi-million pound investment as they have not spent wisely. On the other hand we have – and are continuing to do so. Our incoming players are all young and exciting, full of youthful exuberance and a desire not seen at the Lane for many years.
The mighty Spurs will prevail – albeit by a slim margin. But not that slim. I go for a two-nil home victory.
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