Implications of a Fortunate Win

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Ok—sometimes victory gets snatched from defeat, rather than the reverse. The energy was there in the final 25 minutes even if the quality wasn’t—but goals are goals and wins are wins… But what now, going forward, in terms of the strikers, the formations, the back four?

I wrote last week that “the villains will score” (they did), Pochettino was likely to play two strikers up front (he did), and that Kane did not yet deserve to be played alone up front instead of Adebayor or Soldado (he didn’t and he wasn’t). The 4-4-2 produced plenty of chances in the first half, but whatever the formation Spurs can rarely finish—Adbeayor could not beat Guzan straight on, Kaboul couldn’t get a putaway past the Villa keeper; Soldado had a few chances to make something special happen; Eriksen couldn’t quite get his shot off, etc, etc…  Spurs Football! In the first half of the second, frankly we began to disappear—only the intensity created mainly by Kane managed to produce the one way back for us—Benteke going off and probably unfairly receiving red for a shove of Mason’s face, not yellow. (But credit Mason and earlier Lamela for provocation—deliberate or not, they got the necessary result)

And then yet another medicore chip from Naughton produces a corner which Lamela takes the old-fashioned way—high and directly in front of goal (not sure just what Eriksen was doing earlier)—and Chadli finally deposits the ball where someone should. The man advantage didn’t allow for great chances, but Townsend was free to meander on the right, Soldado and Kane both flitting in the middle with Lamela behind and Chadli over on the left—and that, my friends, is actually an attack force. So it was a deflection that gained us the win combined with Prince Harry’s obstinance in taking the kick to begin with—too bad, Villains– that’s football.

But now what? I still maintain Kane is most effective paired with another striker—I think Soldado might be the best match, and apparently Poch agrees since Ade got the hook when Harry came on… But we still have midweek games to play—Thursday’s may be the most critical yet in terms of advancing out of Europa Group—and Kane did play fewer minutes today than the other two… It may well be, though, that a decision has just been made—Adebayor for Cup games and Europa in a more typical 4-2-3-1 with the likes of Townsend and Lamela or Chadli (or even Lennon) behind or on the wing; then a 4-4-2 with Kane and Soldado up front for the Prem.

But if there are two strikers, then there can only be 4 midfielders— and I find it intriguing that Christian Eriksen was pulled so quickly today in favor of Lamela. The Dane is simply having problems releasing the ball from his foot—he has never been a speedster but this side needs him to be opportunistic in or near the box and score. It may be that Chadli will be paired with one or the other (Eriksen/Lamela), and not both, with Townsend playing with the other in the Cup/Europa games at least through the holiday season when the games will pile up. Mason was at time dynamic, only suffering the usual Spurs fate of failing to finish. Capoue seemed invisible until he started fouling people.

As for the back four, Kyle Naughton makes few mistakes but simply lacks the verve and pace to make something happen on the right wing—but he is an improvement from Eric Dier just as Kyle Walker and DeAndre Yedlin will be improvements from him. Danny Rose was fine today. The middle is a mystery—Vertonghen and Kaboul were both culpable on the goal and had hell to pay with Benteke all game long. Fazio may be lurking for one or the other.

It wasn’t the beginning of the end of our poor form… Perhaps it was the end of the beginning of Pochettino’s reign… Or maybe just a tease that will come crashing down with the force of a Ryan Shawcross elbow next Sunday?

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

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