This was a poor game in which Spurs looked disjointed but nevertheless won. They are without game changers (Eriksen) and match winners (Ali) and so they laboured in a largely fruitless manner.
Context is all, they say. Against Barcelona, Spurs were at best resilient even, at times in the second half, spirited. From the sublime to the desperately limited (Cardiff don’t look Premiership quality) and, quite frankly, Spurs should have done much, much more.
In a poor first half, they started brightly enough and Eric Dier found himself presented with a goal. They then retreated into the worst of their negative characters. A lack of confidence descends. Little triangles of players prod the ball about between themselves; there’s no movement and no ambition. The fluency of Spurs at their best seems a distant memory.
This is the manager’s task and responsibility and, granted, they came out with purpose in the second half. The fact that it was ‘better’ only made the repeated collapsing moves all the more frustrating.
Individual players showed signs of improvement; collectively, they stuttered; together, they collected three points.
Lloris – 5
I know it’s temporary and a series of games will bring about a return to normal service but right now his judgement has gone. He started to come for a ball that was clearly his, had a Barcelona flashback and almost invited disaster by retreating. Each time he had a decision to make you sensed the cogs whirring and what had been natural become filled with effort. Nevertheless, a clean sheet under his belt will have done him good.
Sanchez – 5
The kind of game Sanchez needs, too. He was faced with little opposition but still managed to operate at the pace which invites pressure.
Alderweireld – 6
Looked the senior figure, more dynamic and decisive.
Trippier – 6
We seemed to struggle to make headway down his flank (and not only because Sissoko was there). He made some decisive tackles and looked to cross intelligently when he could.
Rose – 7
I really hope he’s not injured again. He looked strong and aggressive on his flank, intercepting in defence and driving at the Cardiff defence. Spurs really need wingback outlets to release the ‘keep ball’ constipation that can otherwise occur.
Dier – 6
He provides as much of a threat at set pieces as anyone with his head. Today, he found himself with an open goal and the ball at his feet – a goal in a glorious eighth minute when it felt a deluge might fall on Cardiff alone, rather than the just the rest of us in the stands. When he tackles, moves the ball on swiftly and has progressive midfield partners, I can live with him in there.
Winks – 7
I have been calling on him to take responsibility for making the game. Well, he picked up from the end of the Barça game and he truly is a work in progress. He was the player who changed through the gears, who pushed Cardiff back by running at them and who was as bright as anyone who has played in midfield this season.
Sissoko – 3
There’s something likeable about him. He throws himself into games, makes runs and sometimes drives through midfield. But, he is destined to be a clown-like misfit and will never be anything other than ridiculous. That song about the thigh bone’s connected to the knee bone doesn’t quite apply to him in the conventional sense – his limbs conspire against him and passes reach the opponents and shots reach for the sky. It’s a shame.
Lucas – 6
When you look round the side wondering where lies the X factor, he is probably it currently. Unfortunately, today his most spectacular dribble was on the edge of our box rather than theirs and it was a frustrating afternoon for the Brazilian.
Son – 6
Son was taken off again, some recognition that he is ‘coming back’ and some that he’s not quite sharp enough. He flickered into life early on when he was a genuine threat on the left. One of those players making progress.
Kane – 6
Likewise, Harry Kane. He probably had as little impact in this game as any but he seems to be moving better. The problem still seems to be where he’s playing. It’s different to last year when he was the central attacker prompted by either Eriksen or Ali. Now, he marauds deep looking for the ball and occupies the box intermittently and with little confidence he’ll receive the ball. Like others, signs of progress within himself; the questions are to do with systems and are to be addressed to Pochettino.
Davies came on for the injured Rose, Wanyama for the uninjured Sissoko. Lamela was a welcome introduction though to little effect on this occasion.
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