Opinion: Absorb, contain, deflect and then attack

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Graham Souness doesn’t care for it. Gary Neville can barely stomach it. Stewart Robson doesn’t give us a chance at the title. I’m sure Keano and Carragher will chime in at some point as well about how Jose will ultimately be all wrong for this team. Sod all of them. Top of the league for what will be three weeks now, and whatever LASK was able to do, we haven’t conceded once to City, Chelsea or THEM, all in the past three weeks. That brutal fixture list is being ticked off with positive results, one by one.

I’ve got to start with the one of three Spurs players who are currently in the Top Five for the entire league in the whoscored.com player ratings, though his are for just half the games. Serge Aurier. His defending has been impeccable. The way that he, Sissoko and even Bergwijn are able to cover space on the right is almost seamless. He has yet to make one of those silly fouls or missteps that have so characterised his previous three years at Tottenham. And he regained possession and began both of the counterattacks that produced our two goals yesterday.

As for the other two in that top five, what more needs to be said? Kane found Son from his classic new drop back position and the Korean did the rest with a beautiful shot to the far corner that Leno had no chance to stop. Then after Gio placed a perfect ball to Sonny on the 4 v 2 break before halftime, he and Kane knew that an overlap run by the latter would send Mr. Lethal in close to Leno where, tight angle or not, he was sure to score. Game over. It isn’t the Gegenpress of Klopp and those three forwards (plus Jota) producing so many chances. Nor the way that Werner, Ziyech, Pulisic and Co. should be able to work around Giroud, knowing that the central ball is always an option. But in its own way, our two man strike force, aided by the runs of Bergwijn and the service from Ndombele and Lo Celso—not to mention Reguilon who was quiet but will have his moments, is as dangerous as either of them. And right now we have the tighter defence than any of them, and should barring injury for the remainder of the season.

Dier made a couple of cringe-worthy passes. It comes with the territory. But he played well and his pairing with Alderweireld might just be the best centre half duo we’ve seen in the last decade, because Super Jan was always a bit more challenged by attackers. Sissoko and Hojbjerg are playing a perfect role—there may still come a time when the Tanguy-Gio match which fizzled in Austria will be called for. But for now the ability to shift so easily into a Back Six and stop the channels up the middle is a huge strength. And thank goodness the Lloris health scare was (dare I say gamesmanship from Jose) only a scare.

This is a legitimate four team title fight. Man United and Leicester—even perhaps Villa or Wolves—may hang around the edges and even pip a Top Four spot if one of this quartet stumbles or has some serious injury issues. (Well, Liverpool already has but they are still the defending champions and I don’t think we can start to imagine a world where they fall out of the race. Not yet, anyway) Each have distinct strengths and weaknesses. We look a lot like Leicester 2015-16 with Kane and Son playing the Vardy and Mahrez parts. Chelsea seem like an early 2010s City team—throwing various forwards at you, each with real scoring ability, and Kante and Thiago Silva trying to play the Ferandinho-Kompany role in the middle. City aren’t really what they once were—and have slipped in the back– but De Bruyne, Mahrez and Foden certainly will give them a chance to win most games. Liverpool—the battered Liverpool—may be the team least like the title winners they became over the past three seasons, but only due to attrition.

The talent is still everywhere on the pitch. Anyone who thinks they know how this will all turn out is lying. But it may be the most exciting single season of Spurs football in a half-century—the naysayers be damned. Yesterday, a veritable handful of our supporters got to cheer, chant and sing. They’re Ones of Our Own, along with all the others who, COVID willing, will be able to occupy those seats in the future months ahead. 

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