Onward Christian Soldiers

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

I won’t bury the lede. I could give two hoots what the PFA think, or the writers, or FIFA, or Alan Shearer or Paul Merson—the best player on our team this season? Numero Vente Tres— and yes, that was Michael Jordan’s number, and the Great Dane showed he has more than a little of that type of ice water in his veins today with the goal of the season. Kane fought two or three defenders all night; Dele was imprecise and nervous throughout; Son gave the ball away more than he advanced it in his second half appearance; Walker fired the ball wide or well over the goal; Palace bunched the middle and pressed as good as we do.

And one man kept at it. Kept looking for the openings, kept finding his mates on the wing; kept doing all the things he has done every damn week since an indifferent opening month, and when it was most needed, there was the thirty yard strike of brilliance and we are on to the North London Derby still title contenders, now winners of eight straight in the league, breathing down Chelsea’s necks as they must journey to a raucous Goodison Park. Eriksen has been the glue that binds this team together—tonight Wanyama and Dembele’s holding and possession skills weren’t good enough; Davies was held back and then retreated to a normal defensive position when Poch switched to four in back; the other forwards were frustrated and frustrating… We simply need a play of brilliance, and Eriksen was the one to deliver it.

Credit to Poch for the halftime switch—while Son was maddeningly profligate with the ball he instantly opened up the Palace defense and helped create chances for Kane and Dele even if he himself botched a bunch of them. Sissoko was impressive—using both his size and pace to keep the pressure on Palace and help ensure that Zaha would not be marauding down his flank. And the defence was solid, particularly in the first half when Townsend and Co. created as many decent chances as Spurs did at the other end. His halftime talk must have been heard—in the second half Spurs dominated for a good 25 minutes before the goal—I texted a friend, finally, “I can feel it coming” and within a few more minutes there it came.

And so despite the Wembley disappointment this is simply not your former Spurs—not even last year’s version. We might just win all the rest, and if we do, Chelsea’s margin of error, particularly if they drop points to Everton, starts to get razor thin. At various points tonight I yelled at my screen “take Walker and Dele, City”, such was my frustration with various disjointed plays and shots. But no one is taking Christian Eriksen away from us. No one. Not in this lifetime.

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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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