Dele not even suited up. Bale never a hint of entering the game. Two of the players we could have expected back in September to play major creative roles on this team are on the outskirts of the squad—both clearly suffering in the manager’s estimation from lack of effort. We have no idea to know if this an overly harsh view or not—but it is a pretty obvious reality with little chance of changing. Only a fixture pileup once the Europa League ties begin again will see either or both playing significant time—assuming Dele isn’t in Paris well before then, which seems more likely with every day.
So in that context the way our clinching goal was scored is the biggest story of this game. A moment of brilliance when the rest of the attack was fairly woeful, the two other goals notwithstanding, and where we seemed to be settling into that awful habit of losing ambition and just trying to see the game out. Thankfully the set-piece mess came with Spurs two goals ahead, not one. But Tanguy is a special player—in the way that none of our other attackers are—not even Kane and Son—in that he can perform tricks on the pitch.
They usually result in a pass to a teammate but whatever his intent it resulted in a brilliant goal. So many other chances were wasted—with just about everyone participating in the mess—Son and Kane losing possession or ideas at critical points, Hojbjerg looking hopeless with the ball in the opposition third, Bergwijn supplying energy and effort but his one good chance was saved—basically a more clinical team, which we are not, could easily scored five or six. It is a bit ironic because Ndombele played deeper and I thought was under instructions not to try the 1 v 3 or 1 v 4 runs we have seen on other games. So all he did was score perhaps the most exquisite goal of our season.
Defensively I was generally happy but for the set piece, and to be fair it was a perfect glancing header by McGoldrick. But the back three was generally well-organised and blocked several possible Blades shots. I think Jose’s anger when Dier went down late in the game screaming at the referee for a foul was probably directed more at his player than Andre Mariner—it was a soft action. Reguilon was our best player in the first half—so if the three in back allows him the chance to venture forward like that, perhaps we haven’t seen the last of this formation. Aurier deserves credit for the opening goal and put in his usual fine effort. Son continued a two game unlucky trend of hitting the post, but I also thought his line-up play was lacking—perhaps it is simply the pacy Son that we have to hope for.
So which is the more vital of the next two fixtures? Wycombe next Monday to keep us alive in all three cup competitions knowing that a harder test comes next, probably at Goodison Park?
If we were truly in a title fight the answer would be obvious. But I’m not sure we are, so the answer is more muddy. Top four is still a huge and difficult quest, however—Leicester and Everton are providing huge competition as well as the three clubs everyone assumes will be there. This was an acceptable result and generally Spurs played well. But it took a moment of creative brilliance to see it out—and for that we ought to thank That GUY…
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