We were nowhere as bad as the commentary led by the ridiculous Gary Neville claimed in the first half. Possession and passes slightly favoured us; shots were 5-0 Spurs. The goal was gifted, but Vinicius pressed the keeper into a mistake and then he, Lucas and Kane did what good forwards do in exploiting it. And of course the penalty was our version of Lacazette’s good fortune a week ago—absolutely a penalty even if the ball was already gone from Kane. In the opening of the second half, we played our worst stretch but didn’t concede—with Sanchez, Rodon and particularly Tanganga making exquisite defensive plays to prevent Villa from cashing in. Then things stabilized and after the penalty, we had our most comfortable period of the entire game, and but for Stephen Bergwijn’s curious inability to ever produce anything from his considerable effort and pace, it could have been three.
But the significance of this game was of course who the manager selected and who he didn’t. Erik Lamela was suspended, while Toby Alderweireld and Serge Aurier were ill. Sergio Reguilon went out mid-second half with a foot injury—we can only hope it is not too serious and that he will return v Newcastle in two weeks, though Ben Davies had a good stint at the end.
But I believe those three-plus Son when he returns are and should be the only options (plus the rest of yesterday’s starting XI) Mourinho will consider for starting positions in the remaining 9 games plus the Cup Final. No more Eric Dier. No more Harry Winks. Gareth Bale to come off the bench if and when needed. And, sadly but fairly, no more Dele Alli. All three of those English veterans who have disappointed both recently and for some time are done with this club. I don’t think, except as a token substitution in a meaningless late game situation, they will ever feature again in a Spurs shirt, nor should they. Good riddance. Their captain without naming names exposed them with his lament after the Zagreb game. Matt Doherty and Serge Aurier? Move over for the kid. Japhet Tanganga showed some skill going forward, he covered well in general, and his block saved us from the one clearest chance for Villa to score —a play I just don’t think our other two right backs are going to make. Vinicius and Kane with Lucas behind them was a decent mix—why not try it again against Newcastle if Son can only play limited minutes if at all? Lucas was a clear cut MOTM, for all his smug detractors among our fan base, he does things Dele hasn’t done for years—provide energy, effort, and the ball going forward.
So the Hammers blew a lead to THEM, Villa and Everton really aren’t that good—so any chance of the top Four comes down to Leicester or Chelsea fading. Which doesn’t seem all that likely at the moment. And even then we have to outperform Liverpool as well. So I stand by my assertion that Champions League football next year is a bridge too far. And that because of that we may lose both our manager and our biggest star. But that’s a problem for another day. For now, I just want to see a competent and energetic squad for ten more games.
Give City a run for their considerable money—maybe we’ll catch them on an off night. Fight for Top Four until it is out of reach, but in doing so establish some fundamentals among the players who want to be here. I enjoyed most of this game. We weren’t great—but nor were we bad. And we tried. And we protected the goal. That’s not too much to ask for two more months, whatever lies in store when it’s all done.
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