I knew there would be a game like this today—there nearly always is on the closing Sunday as oodles of golf—for at least the non-World Cup players—looms. Remember Fergie’s final fixture vs the Baggies? 5-5? After Kane’s equalizer that was what I jokingly assumed this one would be, and then spent the next hour and a half laughing over the fact that it looked every bit like it would happen.
Let’s get the big stuff out of the way. Third place. (No—we didn’t avoid a qualification home-and-home in the Champions League. Today’s match commentators didn’t realize UEFA got rid of that in a never-ceasing attempt to reward the big Four leagues) Kane gets 40 goals for the season; 30 in the league. Lamela—just as a mate and I were scoffing over Paul Merson’s claim that Riyad Mahrez couldn’t make Spurs squad, holding out Lamela as the clear example of someone eminently replaceable—added two and almost a third. And now over the past three seasons, Spurs have finished ahead of both Manchester sides twice, both London sides twice, and Liverpool all 3 years. Or in other words, we are the only Big Six side to best all of its five opponents more than they’ve bested us the past three years. The total points earned in those three seasons are: Manchester City 244; Spurs 233, Man Utd 216, Chelsea 213, Liverpool 211 and Arsenal 209. And yet we are told our squad is the one that must find a new level. To become what? Barcelona?
As for the game this is what happens when the midfielders don’t want to get back and the back four is an entirely new unit whose members have barely played there, and never together. Kyle Walker-Peters (seems like an eternity since his fine opening performance in August) foolishly fouled, giving Mahrez a free kick and then compounded his error by failing to mark Jamie Vardy. Toby and others were slipshod on the second goal, eventually slotted by Mahrez. Various midfielders (Wanyama in particular) could not clear before Iheanacho unleashed a screamer past Lloris. The keeper and Eric Dier each bore responsibility for Vardy’s second, yet the true culprit was Kane at the other end, choosing to selfishly try for a second goal when he could have laid the ball off for an easy conversion just seconds before Leicester’s counter.
And yet we scored five. And it could have been seven or eight but for some loose finishing by the likes of Lamela, Sissoko and Lucas in the first half. One can’t judge our offense properly in a game when Leicester had as little interest in defending as we did, but clearly Rose and Walker-Peters on the flanks plus Lucas in the middle added pace that has not been seen in months, leading to numerous chances. Kane made up for his selfish turn with a beautiful shoulder dummy and curl for the winner. Kudos to Lamela for being in the right place at the right time three times.
Whither Toby and Danny? Obviously at least one of them won’t be back. Whether it is simply the injury, or a lack of interest, anyone could have recognized today, if not earlier, that Alderweireld 2018 is a far cry from the player we’ve seen the previous two and a half seasons. He will only stay a final year if Spurs commit to a three in back formation—and even then it may not make economic sense if he will fetch 30 or 40 million—if not the 50+ we might have thought before the injury—this summer. And Rose may have shown enough today to convince Gareth Southgate to take him to Russia, and perhaps start ahead of Bertrand or Gomez or even Delph at left back. Of the two, he’s the one I’d like to see stick around for another year, despite everything. Today showed the quality he has that neither Ben Davies or just about anyone else in the Premier League can match.
As for the rest, Lucas showed his strengths today—with some beautiful possession and pace—and his weaknesses, which mostly concern finishing. Sissoko was as Sissoko is—works hard, gets one good chance, and nothing comes of it. Happy for Lamela to close out the season with some glory.
It was a bit of everything this season—highs, lows, excitement, frustration. And now we go to another new ground. But this time for good. Can we possibly close the gap with City? Maybe not. But I wouldn’t rule it out entirely either. We might, should Liverpool win the final or Benfica scrape into 2nd in the Portugese league, remain in Pot 3 and thus risk a similar Group Stage draw as last year. So what? Battle tough, they are. Trophies await.
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