Opinion: Bielsa provides the tonic

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Jose Mourinho
Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

This game seemed fated to go like it did. Leeds would be ambitious, Spurs would be ruthless. Bielsa’s style played into our hands as well as any team this season. It wasn’t actually a classic Jose counterattack tactic that won this game, but rather some fairly effective if somewhat weaker than total GegenPressing that caused the visitors to continually cough up the ball in the first half. Sooner or later they would pay a price and when Bergwijn was felled in the box and then the keeper wasted a clearance, Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son were not going to let them off. Boom and Boom. 

The Toby header was the cherry on top, and despite Matt Doherty’s best attempts to give Leeds a shout, the clean sheet was a deserved result of a genuinely solid bit of defending. So we lost the chance to rub closer to Liverpool and, now, Manchester United at the top because of the Fulham postponement, but after a difficult stretch third place is fine and Brentford now presents the biggest opportunity of what we all wish to be a trophy season. We can only hope that the COVID foolishness of our two Argentine’s (and Reguilon) won’t weaken the squad too much—one positive development from the Fulham miss is that both Kane and Son should be able to play Tuesday given that Marine is next over the weekend and they will surely be rested then.

As for the specifics yesterday, Hugo never had to sweat all that much, as the two or three good opportunities Leeds created were never accompanied by a dangerous finish. Both of the central defenders had a solid game, with Dier missing by that silly millimetre of notching his first goal of the season since he nudged the ball in a second later. Davies was superb, I thought, both in tracking back, general positioning and clearances, and the occasional burst to cut off a Leeds attack or move down the flank.

Doherty, aside from the foolishness of that late second yellow, was our weakest player all day. A couple of lazy passes that could have resulted in a goal and the continued failure to produce much moving down the right flank. Winks was pretty anonymous since we elected to play long balls toward Son or Bergwijn but he made one very nice tackle and then long attempt in the second half. Hojbjerg and Ndombele did what we all know they are going to do pretty much every time now—their presence guarantees that the opposition is not going to boss the midfield for long—Leeds had some moments on top in the first half but I never thought they were shredding our midfield as they have done to a bunch of other teams this season.

Upfront, I thought Kane struggled a fair amount—some giveaways and a couple of errant shots in good position—but 16 in a row from the spot and the one beautiful ball to Son more than makes up for any raggedness. Son was dangerous throughout and ruthless on the volley for the goal—I still think he dilly-dallies with the ball close to goal too much for my liking—we could easily have scored one or two more if he had been more direct. As for Bergwijn, the goals are simply not gonna come, are they? His turnaround miss was appalling in front of goal (though a Davies handball might have rendered it moot) and then he got a great chance later in the second half and was denied by another hand save. But his effort is supreme—and I thought it helped lead to so many Leeds miscues in their own end. That engine is why Jose plays him ahead of Lucas or Dele—if the finishes ever get clinical we will have quite a valuable player on our hands.

As for Brentford, depending on COVID, Jose has an interesting selection question or two. Presumably, the central defence stays the same but Aurier and Reguilon will play the flanks. Either Winks or Ndombele will sit in favour of Sissoko or possibly Lo Celso, and I would think one of today’s front line will be held back on the bench with Lucas perhaps being given a chance. Dele’s next game must wait until Marine, I’m afraid.  But it’s a very big game, particularly since the final is more than three months away and the prospect of a trophy will be present no matter what happens in the other three competitions.

 

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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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