On this side of the pond, we have a catch-all expression for a case where one’s ambition exceeds capability, or grasp: you’ve outkicked your coverage. It’s an American expression akin to outrunning one’s supply lines—a punt kicked so far that it often allows a long return because the receiver of the ball is able to build up momentum without any hindrance from would-be tacklers. It can apply to romance, physical appearance, professional status and yes, a certain football side from London N17.
For the simple fact is that Spurs appear headed for their third season in recent memory—more than all other clubs in the Premiership combined—where they might exceed 65 points with but a meager goal difference. A contender for Top Four status in the table print only—the eye test makes it painfully clear most weeks—and particularly these last two—that we are simply not up to snuff of the likes of Arsenal, Man United or Liverpool. And our comparison with Southampton—perhaps our clearest peer– is bizarre on several levels—Pochettino, Schneiderlin, Bale, etc…—not least is that they have become masters of the tight-fisted defensive path to Europe whilst we are quite the opposite. Seventeen different Premiership games have featured Spurs scoring at least two goals—and 12 for our opponents. The comparative numbers on the south Coast are 10 and 4.
I suspect the manager understands all this better than the rest of us. He must mouth the words “Champions League” and “Top Four” because that’s what the narrative demands—meanwhile he has settled on a side with no remaining midweek distractions which he knows is incomplete, in effect a two month long audition for certain players. So what can we fairly conclude?
Lloris is not quite world class- if by that term one means at a level of Neuer, Courtois or even DeGea. He has wobbled a bit in recent weeks—Fellaini’s opener at Old Trafford was not primarily his fault—but it was the type of strike that could have been stopped. If the knee wound is a bit more than a scrape, Vorm will have a chance to show us what life without Hugo might be like, though I suspect the truth about the Frenchman’s future lies somewhere between a guaranteed move to Paris or Barcelona and five firm years in North London. The rest of the defense is close to shambles—haven’t 45 goals conceded in all manner convinced us of that? Dier is learning; Vertonghen still maddeningly inconsistent; Fazio and Chiriches poor investments; Kaboul on the brink of departure; Yedlin a season away (we can hope); Davies still a bit wooden; only Danny Rose has truly begun to blossom. As for the right back, the last two weeks have been horrific. United had a plan to abuse Walker and it worked beyond even their wildest dreams. Nigel Pearson may be a lot of things, but stupid isn’t one of them—and his charges knew what was good enough for Van Gaal, Fellaini, Rooney and Young was good enough for them too. I honestly don’t know if this is simply a bump in the road—a walkabout, if you will—or whether Kyle can never be truly dependable. I suspect Poch is wondering the same thing, if he hasn’t come to the latter conclusion already, that is.
In the midfield all those folks who thought the Bentaleb-Mason pairing was sufficient for the long haul need only have witnessed the bullying at Old Trafford to see the fly in that ointment. Teams that can challenge for the top simply do not concede a goal and a half per game and allow that type of physical beating. The entire side was AWOL last weekend, but nowhere was it as painfully apparent as in the defensive midfield slots. The question is which of the two is fighting for his future more—Mason or Bentaleb. As for the rest, curious isn’t it that Chadli and Townsend are being featured ahead of Lamela. Either Poch knows his compatriot will never justify the transfer fee, or he wants to make a judgment about the other two knowing Lamela will remain. Since I don’t believe the manager believes we are in a true fight for Top Four status—and since Townsend was yanked off the field so quickly last Sunday, I tend to think, as with Mason and Bentaleb, these two wingers are auditioning for only one part and that Lamela is still very much in the future mix.
Eriksen is quality, and Kane is arguably having a bigger impact on this team than Bale did just two years ago. I bristled when the first snarky “future Real Madrid striker” comments surfaced a couple of months ago—now I take it all much more seriously. The truth is that Footballer of the Year is probably a three person race, and Diego Costa is almost certainly in third position behind his Belgian teammate and One of Our Own. This is storybook stuff—who cares if the Dubious Goal committee wipes yesterday’s second off the boards—Harry has a bunch more coming. And he might even—in a XI with the likes of Rooney, Sturridge and Sterling—bring England closer to glory on the continent next summer than anyone could have imagined. Let’s build a quality team around him so that he stays one of our own, shall we? That in truth is what the next two months are about—and nothing else.
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