Opinion: Play the man, Jose

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

The outcome was never in doubt. Joe Hart left Marine’s first chance only to see it hit the bar, but soon thereafter class told as Carlos Vinicius scored the first of his one-foot tap-ins and we were off to the races. After the Goal Rush, manager Neil Young looked to James Joyce, whose response was “Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.” And prepared substitute David Lynch to try to combat the Twin Peaks of Vinicius and the Spurs engine, Dele Alli.

Enough with the humour. It was a fun night. We took it seriously, as is the manager’s desire, and we’re very much alive in four trophy competitions as mid-January approaches. Whether or not we play Wednesday at Villa Park. But the story of this game must be our wayward midfielder and whether and for whom he will be playing in a few weeks. Vinicius got the goals, and the third was a peach of a chip into the far corner; Lucas got another on a pretty free kick; and then 16-year-old Alfie Devine got the thrill of his young life with a perfectly placed blast low into the near corner. We must talk about Dele—the MOTM in my mind and for much of the first half the only real way that this makeshift side was ever going to generate an attack.

The counter-argument to everything I am about to say is simple—and I can hear Jose saying it. “Because of what Dele did against Marine, you want me to play him v Man City? Really?” And there is merit to that view. What has our former wunderkind done—in training or in games—to have earned the trust of his accomplished manager trying to move Spurs forward in each of these fights for a cup?

And here is my counter. We cannot play the pure counterattacking burst forward by Kane and Son against all of our upcoming opponents. Not because of fixture congestion. Not because defences have gotten wise to the tactic and are increasingly flooding the middle of the pitch to stifle the break before it gains momentum. Bergwijn runs hard but has shown no ability to finish. Lucas supplies pace and energy but often to no result, as his size and lack of strength make his value limited against various opponents. Bale is still searching for his position—it was nice to see him back on the pitch but he can’t play more than one game a week. Lamela seems to have put himself on thin ice with his off-pitch behaviour. Lo Celso will be grounded by the hamstring injury for, it appears, at least another two to three weeks. Tanguy can be the guy once a week or for 60 minutes, but the fixture list will limit his ability to contribute as well.

And what Dele CAN do was on clear to see last night. The give-and-go; the pass into tight quarters; the through ball; the nutmeg to open up the attack. Maybe he wants out. Maybe Poch will make an offer that Levy cannot refuse. Maybe that was the only real outcome of this fine performance. But that seems too pat; and an unnecessary premature departure with so much to play for over the next five months.

Assuming the Villa game stays on, and that Spurs win the fourth round FA Cup fixture, we will play 12 games in the next 48 days— 13 if we reach the quarterfinals of the Cup. And with a Fulham game still to be replayed, and, we assume, at least one more home-and-home leg in the Europa League, we could easily play another dozen in March and the first half of April. He has value. He can create. If the attitude is right, he will trackback as well as any of our other attackers. And what’s the worst case, other than he plays poorly? That his transfer value for the summer increases, and with Lloris very likely headed back to his native country, we then have more money with which to find a young goalkeeper and boost our attacking force.

It was great to see Harvey White and Jack Clarke and Alfie Devine last night. There were at least a few times in that second half when I wasn’t quite sure which one of them had the ball. Perhaps one or two have a real future with the club. Vinicius did all that he could to ensure that in those games when Kane can not start, he will be a trusted alternative. Joe Rodon showed the quality we all believe he has and solidified his status as third-choice centre back behind our two starters. But the real story was that Dele’s brother was nowhere in sight. Play the man, Jose.

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