I suppose the aftermath of this disaster will be what really matters. For the manager, the players, even the fans. For twenty minutes, we looked the best team in the league. On one betting site, our title-winning odds dropped from 14 to 1 to 5 to 1 in the time you could take to say “Harry Kane is the best player in the league”.
As with Newcastle, we easily could have added one or two although to be fair, the Hammers got in the game a lot sooner than the Magpies ever did. Kane was imperious, Son ever-threatening, the central midfield tight and active, and while there was some sloppiness in the back, none of it forecast the events of the final fifteen. My only critique was I thought Bergwijn was a bit loose and a bit out of sorts compared to his two compatriots in the front. By the end I wished he was still out there.
They were much stronger and active in the second half, and until Bale came on, I thought our only purpose was survival—there was no spark left in our legs but the defending was by and large still fairly stiff. Until it wasn’t. I thought up front the game became either get Harry the hat trick or feed the novelty which was our returning hero. Bale looked rusty and a bit slow but what did we expect? He lost possession once but nothing came of it, until his fateful miss that should—if the Premier League scriptwriters didn’t want to torture us forever—have ended matters once and for all. Kane hit the post (I was thinking Ajax and Ziyech at this point—what goes around comes around) and we were unwilling or incapable of seeing the game out.
Still despite the Balbuena header—Sanchez got outfoxed but it happens—I was reasonably secure. Until Lucas and Winks came on to the pitch and Serge Aurier decided to become Serge Aurier again, and it all went bonkers. Some combination of Reguilon and Lucas fell asleep on the second goal, and Sanchez made a crazy stupid error. Then Aurier has the ball at his feet—he merely has to possess, shake away from the West Ham player, move upfield and the game is probably done. But no Aurier goes full Aurier and there’s the free kick that can haunt us. Even then the ball is headed out and Harry Winks can either possess and control and the game is over, or kick it forward 30 yards, and the game is over—but he does neither and Lanzini hits a one in a million shot—and we are all shell-shocked. No second place. No dreams of a title. No grand Bale return- in fact just the opposite, we surrender a three goal lead with HIM on the pitch, and after he fails to put the game away with a chance that he rarely misses. I assume. I didn’t watch him play much for the Galacticos, I must confess.
So on a day when Jordan Pickford’s recklessness may have eliminated one team from title contention—or at least wounded their chances greatly—when so many of our rivals appear unable to defend properly—when we were poised to make a statement about this club’s talent, depth and intent….. well we got Spursy because that’s who we are. This one will be tough to recover from. But we have a Europa League game Thursday. Turf Moor on the weekend. The carousel keeps turning. We/they have to forget about it. If only we could. If only we had the grit and the bite to never let this happen. I’ll end it saying this. I don’t think Ndombele or Lo Celso would have let it happen. They are the steel going forward. I hope Jose recognises it. I never want to see the end of a game as this one became without either of those two on the pitch.
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