Spursing in the Rain

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

What did we learn? That we have more quality than Brighton? Yes. That free kicks can sometimes work out well for us, and not just them? Yes. That there still is an issue with second half play this year and letting a home side bully us? You betcha. That Harry Kane hasn’t forgotten how to shoot? Yes. That we will never win clean—how many other sides would, leading 2-0 and with their striker bearing down on goal with under 2 minutes to play, still have to sweat a shot at the death that would have surrendered the three points? And did we learn that Danny Rose is clearly now the preferred option again at left back? Also a yes.

What to make of the rest in that persistent downpour? The first half possession was typically too restrained, but as the Trippier free kick did yield the penalty for Murray’s handball, we can’t be too harsh. The play in the first half hour of the second half was the worry. Brighton simply outhustled Spurs up and down the pitch. Knockaert should have scored the equalizer but, to be fair, Gazzaniga was in a good position. They continued the obvious pattern which our opponents have discovered of aggressively pressing us, forcing a long ball which lately has generally meant a loss of possession. I thought Eric Dier was particularly substandard in this stretch, losing the ball or making a poor decision on several occasions. Kieran Trippier simply gets overrun on the right flank—the stats folks have uncovered this weakness and Premier League teams are probably ahead of the curve and determining that is where we are most vulnerable.

But they didn’t score, and Dier made an excellent throughball from deep in his zone to release the break that culminated with an exquisite cross by Rose to Erik Lamela for the winner. And then Kane for the first time in months started to impose himself on the game, with three shots of rising danger fired in on Matty Ryan, the final of course creating the conditions for the break with Rose—still my MOTM—culpable for allowing Knockaert free in the box for their goal. On a different night Kane scores and it ends 3-0—but on a different night Knockaert levels and who knows how it would have finished?

The central midfield was a bit better tonight—Dembele improved–the attack force not so much until the insertion of Lamela and Dele, but of course by then Brighton was desperately chasing the game.  Lucas just didn’t quite click, and Son was poor, undoubtedly still feeling the effects of the Asian Games glorious result. Rose challenged well, attacked at times, and was often the one who, after a Spurs miscue, would win the ball back and avoid a more dangerous situation. And to me Gazzaniga should now become our Number Two—I like his spunk– the one time all those big Brighton lunks tried to push him around on a corner he fired back as any true Argie would.

Baby steps after a nearly good but deflating night in Italy. Poch’s pattern is to slump in the fall, but then by October or November at the latest to turn the squad around. I just hope there is still a path to the knockout stage by the time he achieves that—the Barcelona game looms as a major test where even one point will be difficult to win. But for now this will suffice.

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