Yes, the game is about glory and so it is Wednesday night that will stay with us supporters. But, in truth, this was the better performance from Spurs even though they lost (again).
In a tense, ultimately bruising, encounter, in heat, that was a tribute to both sets of players, Spurs held their own and, with the exception of one early aberration, held a rampant, determined City relatively comfortably at bay.
In times when things are running like clockwork, you don’t get to marvel at interesting team selections – the team picks itself. But amidst injury and fixture congestion, some surprises do occur, like today picking, arguably, six central defenders. The penalty for this, ironically, was the sudden acreage of space afforded City for the goal as a centre partnership struggled to adjust to different roles and responsibilities.
I liked the midfield in these circumstances. Given his limited mobility, Dier is better as the single defensive mid than as part of a pair. Eriksen and Dele offers the possibility of playing out.
You won’t find two nicer players than our attacking pair and not many who are quicker – a perfect platform for counter-attacking football.
So, no glory today, not even any points but an excellent performance against a super side. We stand every chance of winning the remaining games and keeping our place in the top four.
Gazzaniga – 6
Strangely, given their dominance, he had much less to do than the City keeper. He did keep the ball out with his feet on one crucial occasion. There were periods in the first half when he became uncertain and jittery but it was a good run out for our reserve keeper.
Alderweireld – 6
Uncharacteristically, went to sleep for the goal – an occasion of remarkable irregularity – but he seemed uncertain of his relationship to those around him. After four minutes, settled into his usual routines.
Sanchez – 7
Sanchez made a number of robust and critical challenges and looked both strong and intelligent in his positioning. He also lost Agüero in the run up to the goal but he has good pace and mobility when playing outside in a three.
Vertonghen – 7
Got in a bit of a barney with Sterling but that was just evidence of how hard the whole team ‘fought’. Gave Davies the support he needed and proved the master of the occasion once again.
Foyth – 7
Some might have picked the more mobile, natural full back in Walker-Peters to combat Sterling but Foyth did well, especially showing him outside and whipping the ball away as he came back onto his right foot. Of course, he looked comfortable on the ball and produced one good cross. He played well but will never be a regular right back.
Davies – 7
Davies’s strength is defending over attacking and boy! did he need those qualities today against an exceptional performance from Bernardo Silva. He gets credit for sticking to the task and not allowing Silva to take the game away from Spurs.
Dier – 6
It was quite a baptism of a return. He battled hard to protect the back three from runners and one-two’s from the centre and in truth little came this way as most of the threat remained on the flanks.
Eriksen – 8
Some sublime passes today, creating openings which on another day could have resulted in three points. He also runs. When Sissoko became undroppable, the other player who always played was Eriksen. He might look like a refugee from the table tennis squad – amazing how athleticism comes in so many shapes – but he must cover more ground than anyone. The flat out runs he makes chasing breakaways into the opposition box at the end of a game, when others are looking to do anything but, are remarkable. Extraordinary fitness.
Dele – 7
Go on, I like it when a spot of arrogance comes back into his game, albeit around his own box at times! It looked like the beginnings of a return to his old self, working hard in midfield and then bursting into the space in the opposition box, nutmegs and ambitious passes. He isn’t in the team to be ordinary. As resources become in short supply, we could do with some of the brilliance we have yet to see since his return.
Lucas – 7
Of course, his running provided a constant threat but he has a spring too that enables him to gather high balls (when we are managing without a target man). Add to that the ruthless shooting we saw against Huddersfield and … what a talent! We need to see that coming to fruition in these last games.
Son – 8
Always so quick with the ball at his feet, he seems to be gaining in physical strength, holding defenders off, muscling some space. He got on the end of a number of chances which on another day he might have buried. He kept the City crowd on edge until the end.
Wanyama put in some hard work. As the game got feistier, he vied with Rose for the role of enforcer. Llorente was a nice option to have to bring on.
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