After so much bad news, swirling rumours, stadium delays, and general ennui concerning our lovely but haunted football club, tonight served as a thunderclap that might just have shaken our squad and this year back into the good space we have occupied for so much of the Pochettino era. The game was one thing—hardly a perfect performance and there were times when I feared the hulk of a Hammer Xi was simply going to bully us off the pitch, but damned if it weren’t our lads that made all the plays that matters—and the draw was just as tasty. Why not the Gooners in their Unai Emery-lathered state of euphoria? Why not the Emirates when Wembley has become so insipid and uninspiring? Why not show Poch and the players just what a trophy might mean if a victory over our biggest rivals then propels us back to Wembley, only this time on the wings of three straight London derby wins—in three different weird venues? Why the “F” not?
As for the game, I felt exhausted at about 60 minutes—mindful of how we had squandered that exact same lead against the Irons a year ago last week at Wembley—all in about a nanosecond if I can remember properly since I was there that night. “But then it was Vorm”, I reminded myself, and even after their header goal I felt as if perhaps the worst of the storm had passed, and then Llorente found the back of the net so simply from a corner and that was that. Gazzaniga is the real thing—the clearances need some work (but is Hugo so dependable there anyway?) but the reaction and the pressure-packed saves are always on display. Sanchez and Foyth grew into the game, and even though the latter—and he wasn’t alone—was bullied off the ball a few times by the likes of Obiang or Antonio, he also made some saving challenges and looked like he belonged. Sanchez was a rock and got better and better as the game went on, as did Wanyama just ahead of him.
The two flanks were more iffy—Aurier has a penchant for the ill-timed giveaway and was not comfortable trying to square the ball in with his left foot, but he was physical when we needed it most. Walker-Peters seemed a bit overmatched, to be honest and also lost out in physical confrontations.
As did Harry Winks, yet he is becoming a real force in the middle with several dynamic runs that are eventually going to start producing goals. Eriksen was a bit hit and miss, as still can be expected given the layoff but he was always threatening to spring someone for a good chance. The three up front were, in a word, terrific—the Hammer giveaway found Llorente or a perfect through ball to Dele who then found Son for a great goal. Dele made a wonderful pass to Son for the second, and our Spaniard was there for the clincher. Even Georges-Kevin Nkoudou had a couple of near-miss moments and isn’t it nice to have a smile on one’s face when Sissoko is introduced late in a game, knowing he is now more likely to have a positive than negative impact? Son’s two finishes were nice to see—and may signify the end of his extended international hangover, not surprising given his extended responsibilities for his national side.
My MOTM probably goes to Dele, but if you said Son, Llorente or even Gazzaniga, I wouldn’t argue. This—next to the United game—was the most fun evening of the year. Truth is, there are three trophies left for this team to compete for. They aren’t the only two that Poch says matter—but I suspect he’s going to revise his thinking a bit and whether it is this cup, the FA Cup, or even the Europa League, this Spurs side is going balls-out for one of them. And Arsenal are next. COYS!
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