It may have been Spurs worst performance of the new season, but it gained the best result. An uncertain selection awaits Mauricio Pochettino with a quartet of games at White Hart Lane that might define three different competitions. When will Eriksen, Dembele, N’Jie, Bentaleb and, now sadly, Mason be fit to play? The squad has been streamlined—much in the mode of Chelsea 2014-15 as I have discussed earlier—but the price one pays is a lack of depth that injuries can expose. And unfortunately it appears to have hit us just as the fixture list doubled.
The game itself wasn’t much of a mystery. We defended well, with a couple of exceptions. Alderweireld appears to have contracted the Lilywhite Defender Disease—ill-timed penalties and curious lapses allowing the opposition forward clear access to the goal. Luckily Defoe mishit what should have been the opener and might just have become the winner. And Lamela, per usual, balanced his exceptional through ball for the Mason goal with a weak attempt to deny Younis Kaboul, of all people, the edge just two minutes later and was only saved by woodwork again, denying Rodwell the equalizer.
But Dier continues to shine even if his presence limits our options going forward—and neither Walker nor Davies nor, for that matter a more energized Jan Vertonghen, made any blatant slips. There could be many more clean sheets this year.
The problems obviously lie in the other half and to be fair to the manager and his charges we are fielding nothing remotely close to the side that ultimately will determine just how successful this season will become. Dele Alli works hard but the polish and interplay with his teammates was lacking. Andros Townsend came on and does what Andros Townsend does—a lot of sound and fury emanating from the right wing signifying close to nothing. Chadli was, despite his control and imagination, typically wasteful with the finish.
The obvious bright spots were Lamela for the one correct ball that produced the thing that appeared to be absent all game and Mason, who shone throughout and we can only hope hasn’t been rewarded for his efforts with a prolonged injury spell. Son’s inconsistency can be explained by his newcomer status— we can’t expect incisive play and combinations with his teammates this quickly. He seemed neither fish nor fowl for much of the game, unsure whether to be selfish or not with his touch, passing up a couple of obvious chances for a shot then taking them when a pass would have done better. It was just a debut—we must believe he has been properly rated and the impact will come.
I’ve saved the most vexing for last. Kane looked very comfortable and easily produced two goals in an England shirt the past week. He appears anything but in our colours, whether purple or white. Too often the ball is bouncing the wrong way, the chance is missed, the defence anticipates his next move. How much of this is overwork as opposed to normal opposition adjustment or perhaps Kane trying too hard is difficult to say. But he looks nothing like he did in almost every game until April last year. Without dwelling any more on the Berahino saga one has to wonder whether or how either N’Jie or Son will be incorporated into this strike force (if one can even call it that) That is Poch’s challenge, and all I can say is that he had better figure something out in the next three weeks.
Can the Lane, the place of great thrills (Chelsea, Arsenal) last year but continued puzzlements (Hammers two years ago, Stoke, Palace, Newcastle) the past few years, become a bit of a fortress in these four games? Surely we will beat Qarabag but the injuries are cause for concern. The games vs. Palace, Arsenal and City—three of the current top four—could go any which way. Three wins from four would be nice, so long as the one defeat doesn’t come in the Cup fixture. Today was a start, but the path ahead is quite long.
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