We led, we let up, we fell behind, we scored late to advance. A typical Spurs evening—why should we expect anything less frustratingly wonderful? I would almost hate to see us score early vs. Chelsea in the final—except it beats the alternative.
I prefer to concentrate on a particular fivesome who may very well be the core of our future—assuming Messrs Levy, Lewis or whomever else gains the controls allows them to be. Only three played at Brammal Lane, the other two were south, one beyond the Equator in action tonight and the other resting after a glorious finish which sealed his nation’s advancement to greater glory.
Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane, Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and DeAndre Yedlin are, along with still developing players such as the two Eric(k)s and Ben Davies, the foundation for a renewed Spurs side. The likes of Lennon, Dembele, Adebayor, Kaboul and Friedel will all soon depart. Paulinho, Capoue and Chiriches have been lost since they arrived. Walker, Rose, Townsend and Vertonghen all offer some quality but one wonders if their ceilings are requisite to match our ambition; Fazio, Stambouli and even Nacer Chadli are solid contributors but don’t seem capable of stretching this side. I fear we won’t have Lloris to praise much beyond this season.
What we saw in Yorkshire tonight was an exquisite footballer offering two moments of brilliance and beginning to shine nearly as brightly as our former talisman Number 11. Only a handful of footballers in England—maybe the world—could have placed a free kick as precisely as Eriksen’s first half strike. More, but not much more, would have the composure to calmly slide the equalizer and Wembley clincher into the right corner at the death. Scoring all these late and critical goals is not some random event of chance—it is a skill and a character strength that differentiates him not only from the other six who arrived a year ago summer but the run of the mill stars in world football. The Dane is Great and getting Greater and don’t let the cynics bother you with their demand for him to run off to a bigger stage—this one’s staying close to home for some time to come.
And what of our academy troika? Kane could easily have scored a brace, or better, last night—he continues to find the right position with the ball to test the opposition keeper—and he has already demonstrate the knack for finding the net—it is the scorer’s specialty and while he is not Suarez or Costa, he is plenty good in the Number 9 place. It was his perfectly calibrated through-ball that sent Eriksen forward for the equalizer.
I cannot be as sanguine about Mason’s finishing ability but his spirt and energy are immeasurable. He tilts the field in a manner that should allow our scorers to continually find chances. With time the defensive breakdowns will be fewer and far between—unlike Paulinho, Ryan makes things happen. And meanwhile in Morocco it was our Nabil Bentaleb who coolly placed the clinching goal low right corner from just outside the box and sent Algeria on to the AFCON quarterfinals. Of course we selfishly would have preferred Senegal to have won and sent our midfielder rushing back to London, but as with the World Cup, this international experience can only hasten the realization of the quality Tim Sherwood first spotted. Possessing two young and dynamic holding midfielders is nothing to scoff at.
And finally there was a DeAndre Yedlin sighting—7000 miles south in Rancagua, Chile. There was much good and much bad mixed into Yedlin’s play tonight. On one hand, playing right wing in a 3-5-2 Klinsmann formation in the first half, DeAndre make an exquisite pass to Mix Diskerud who then advanced it to Jozy Altidore for a… wait for it Mackems—goal!!! And his speed on the offence was in constant display. On the other hand, he bore at least some responsibility for both of the Chileans first two goals—slow to close on a wing who made a precise cross for the first, and beaten badly on a run from that same winger—Mark Gonzalez—for the second goal. Yedlin frankly looked back as if it was someone else’s job to cover—a gaze we have seen far too often from some of his new teammates at WHL. On the final goal Yedlin was one of many defenders caught in no man’s land—hard to say it was his specific job to stop the attacking forward. I don’t think Poch will risk him yet in a Premiership test or even in Europe—perhaps a FA cup fixture might have been the chance to break him in, but that’s all academic. He might be sent out on loan before the window closes. My guess is Vlad Chiriches will offer the back-up for Kyle Walker for the time being—but the promise of Yedlin is enormous. He will make plays in the opposition third that only Pablo Zabaleta and a few others in the Premiership are currently able to perform—and which Danny Rose and Walker—despite their speed—simply cannot consistently produce.
These five all have something special. It is up to themselves, and Pochettino, to make it stick for the club now—but thank the Gods we have such talent in the process of blooming.
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