We Did Better than Napoleon

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

At the 65 minute mark this piece was titled “Champions League Box to Box; Europa Final Third”—with the subtitle “Why Can’t Christian Eriksen Make Anything Happen Anymore?” But Son shone again, the defending was fierce and the three points were a deserved result. With Monaco’s late equalizer Spurs find themselves one more road win away (Only 3 losses in last 30 Spurs road fixtures. Mull over that one for a few seconds. Extraordinary) at Leverkusen from opening up a clear and fairly simple path out of Group Stage.

The positives are fairly abundant. Alli and Son were insistent throughout—one of them should have scored the winner, and both of them could easily have made it a second. I still don’t know what happened with Son in alone a few minutes after his first—whether he botched a sitter or tried to reward Alli and the latter wasn’t ready, but on a more clinical side (which Spurs may yet become) it would have been an automatic killer. The defence was stout throughout—there was one too many easy chances for CSKA at the top of the box, but one never felt the type of lapses that cost us vs Monaco were in the cards tonight. Davies in particular shone in the back four—fat chance Roman that you will pry him loose this season. And the real bulwark—and my MOTM—was Victor Wanyama. What a combination of force, pace and awareness he is—Erik Dier may become simply a cup participant after this game such was the Kenyan’s contribution.

In the CSKA third, let me first credit the hosts for tough and organized defending for most of the game. They have scouted us as other teams have and know that the likes of Eriksen and Son can be bullied off the ball, particularly the former. Janssen couldn’t hold off two defenders at once as he did at the Riverside Saturday, and for most of the game it was one frustrating blocked shot after missed pass after failed link-up after another. But Erik Lamela has a knack and we’ve all learned that Son Heung-Min knows how to finish. One thru ball and one unobstructed hard shot and the vodka and caviar will taste very good on the westward flight home.

As for Eriksen, your guess is as good as mine. His play in the middle of the field is still quality and at times sublime. But within 25 yards of the target, it all changes. He constantly loses the ball in traffic or to a push or shove. He blasts balls ten yards over the net that in previous years hit net, woodwork or a keeper’s fingers. His attempts to feed a teammate seem always a bit late, or a bit short. Let’s hope it’s simply a slump for we can’t play Alli, Lamela and Son in every game. But the way this is going, Onomah, N’koudou or Winks are going to get more chances to shine.

Two more wins and a draw pretty much clinch our spot in the knockout round. (Do the math. The maximum points all four teams can score collectively is now 34. Two teams with ten points each means for a third to beat them, someone has to wind up with three or less. Nobody seems that weak in this bunch, though CSKA—the team from Pot One—is probably the only potential candidate) Three wins of the four remaining definitely will. It may come down to Wembley—and whether we can make it our home. I suspect the worst of this round—those two Monaco first-half goals—has already happened. Back to the Lane and no Kevin Debruyne. Let’s be honest—his absence will be felt more than Harry’s. I expect Rose and Dembele back from injury, and Walker too, of course. Goals do make a difference.

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