First off, an enormous bow of appreciation to David Wagner and a side that had no business doing what they did the past four days. Go thirty miles west to the champions—one of the best Premier League sides ever—on the day they would celebrate their title—and hold them scoreless. Then go south to West London, with Chelsea on the prowl for a late Top Four challenge, and hold them to a 1-1 draw. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, and we are happy to be surfing in Huddersfield’s wake.
As for our affair, it was proof of several things at once. First, that this team has been basically running on fumes ever since the Juventus defeat. It was barely recognizable compared to the team that began to run rampant at Wembley in the fall, defeating the likes of Real Madrid, Dortmund, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester United. Second, that opposing managers have figured out how to defence a side lacking pace and often the ability to beat you wide, and Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino have not yet developed a Plan B. Third, and most crucially, there is a grit on this team—particularly in but not limited to its spine—that saw them through and make them deserved qualifiers for the Champions League again next year. But fourth, surely there will be changes afoot in the summer—we hope mainly the club’s choice, but I suspect we are going to see some fairly significant changes both on the back line and throughout the midfield.
In the first half, the Magpies had the better chances and Hugo Lloris for the second home game running kept us afloat with a couple of good saves. The post bailed us out on JonJo Shelvey’s free kick. We were sluggish and lacked imagination. Several Spurs—Son coming to mind most vividly—were bullied off the ball by Newcastle players. I grew tired of seeing a white shirt on the Wembley pitch and the ball possessed by one in light blue and forcing the action.
In the second half—or at least up until Kane’s goal and then for a while after, Spurs finally began to dictate the action. The goal was a nice bit of football between Dele, Kane, over to Son, and then back to Kane for a quick one touch shot—the likes of which I’m not sure we’ve seen since his return from the ankle injury. Each team would have one gilded chance remaining, a Geordie shot (by Murphy) was sent over the bar and Danny Rose on his weaker foot was unable to get an easy chance by the keeper. But mainly the guts of this team today—Vertonghen, Sanchez and Wanyama—made sure that the Toon would not have another chance and, but for one bit of madness from Kane with a silly crossfield pass at the end, the game would have ended with Spurs in total command. But the final free kick from Shelvey went nowhere and third place and a spot in the Champions League was ours.
Third place would be nice, but given World Cup considerations and Trippier’s injury, expect a much different side to face Leicester on Sunday with any outcome possible. We’ll have ample time to size up the entire season and not much time to prepare for various arrivals and departures—we finished about where we should have—consolidating the improvements over the last two years but still leaving the trophy cabinet empty and the full promise of the Poch project unfulfilled. But the desire was there tonight even if the quality wasn’t. Players like Dele, Sissoko, Lamela and Rose—sometimes targets of fan ire or media suspicion—all played hard to the end to secure the three points. Now they can consider Russia—and beyond—and hopefully Levy and Poch can figure out a way to make next year’s version even better for the new stadium.
Most of the experts had us slated for fourth- or worse- this season. Most had us failing to advance out of our group stage. Most thought the Wembley hoodoo was real and would limit our ambitions. Spurs did better than that. Not everything we want. But better. And now there’s a very real chance to make year even better still.
Have something to tell us about this article?