The fatigue was obvious in the second half. As was the undeniable fact that this team defends so much better with Alderweireld than without. We could—make that should—have scored in the first half through either Janssen or Lamela—but Chicarito and Co. could easily have had two or three in the second. All we can hope for is that the flurry of fixtures doesn’t bite us in multiple places as we wait for the return of our best scorer and best defender. Bournemouth and Liverpool away, followed by Leicester, Leverkusen and the Gooners at home—all in the next three weeks. We’ll know a lot about this campaign’s direction when the next international break comes round.
As for today, Lloris was a clear MOTM who saved out proverbial bacon by inches and was superb throughout an increasingly stressful second half. None of the back four played badly—it’s just that Eric Dier is a good center back and the man he was replacing is a brilliant one. Rose in particular advanced the ball and created problems for Leverkusen’s defence—Tripper did not but that’s the trade off to keep Walker fresh for two critical away games in England.
The midfield was competent—Wanyama did what Wanyama does, Dembele added a little less flair than one could have hoped in the final 25 minutes—maybe we chalk it up to the lingering injury. Lamela continues to confound—as one wag at the pub where I watched today put it “when he’s good, he’s very good, and when he’s not…..” It’s been the latter far too often lately. Eriksen was also typically proficient except when the going got tough or the final decisive ball was necessary. And then it all turns to crap with him way too much. Janssen didn’t hold up defenders all that well today, to be honest—his one great chance was simply a few inches high. And Son and Alli simply work best with Janssen off the pitch—how Poch chooses to combine them all once Kane returns might just tell the tale of this season. The magic formula has yet to be found.
And in the second half all those international games on top of the trip to the Hawthorns clearly showed—Leverkusen had spark from the outset and pretty much dominated proceedings. We did well—thanks to our keeper—to prevent a goal as our efforts in their half grew feebler and feebler.
So pick your poison—if you accept the fact that of the next five games on the schedule, there will be at least one loss and one draw, what say you? Liverpool would seem to be the sacrificial lamb in this equation—play Vorm, Carter-Vickers, Wimmer, Njoudou, Winks and Onomah and see what happens. We must win on the coast and against a Leicester side clearly punting away the League in favor of some extended European glory. The return fixture vs the Aspirin Boys at Wembley is hardly a guaranteed result, nor is the NLD to follow. A draw or worse in the former will probably mean a 2017 return to the Europa league. A win in the latter keeps us on pace for a title, or a top three finish.
We still seem a brick or two short of the proper load—but points still come. It’s all a learning experience—this won’t be the last CL year nor the peak of Spurs’ powers. Tonight was tough but about what we are. Still striving, still learning, still competing. Not quite good enough—yet—to climb the next rung of the ladder.
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