Opinion: Saved by the VAR

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Harry Kane
Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Well, what better way to usher in the New Year than to dive into the rabbit hole known as VAR and wonder just what these idiots are thinking? Truth is, we played well enough to win, but not well enough to dominate, and…, to be pretty honest, not well enough period. We’ve now been a man up for practically a full game in the last two weeks and have nary a goal to show for it. But we could/should have had two, but for that dastardly influence known as the referee—and his Stockley Park henchmen. And yet can anyone say we were deserving of three points today, as knackered and out of sorts as we looked from the first whistle?

Let’s get the two decisions out of the way first. This league told us during the summer that the offside rule would be tweaked to allow the very type of one inch this way or that—particularly when it was a different body part than the leg or foot and did not affect the play in any possible fashion. In other words, they told us the Kane goal would and should be counted. And clearly, when the on-field referee and linesman makes that decision, they would never overturn it for circumstances such as this. And yet they did. The only conceivable rationale I can come up with is a classic makeup call (the kind USA officials are notorious for) because of all the stick they got after not sending Kane off against Liverpool. If it had been any other Spurs player I bet they never disallow the goal. As for the second, I simply do not comprehend this rule. By no conceivable standard did Doherty foul Forster—they both leapt for the ball, Doherty in better position—Forster did not control the ball before there was contact but was in fact in the process of spilling it and then made a mess of things and it somehow snuck over the line. Saints screwed it up—goal should stand. I will be looking for the same situation applied to Lloris later this season, but probably in vain.

And of course, for all their rough and ready play in that first hour—when we were frankly uninspired and uninvolved—the goal itself was a brilliant but unlikely strike—even from someone as talented with their foot as Ward-Prowse. Shades of Lanzini to get a draw last season at the death—and substitute Dele for Winks as the perpetrator for Spurs. Our goal was a nice ball completing a nice run—with the added benefit (we thought, incorrectly) of seeing Salisu sent off. But then the remaining hour was one frustration piled on top of the next, with the only saving grace being that Dier’s crazy giveaway near the death did not have the same result as the mistake that gifted Mura a victory in Conte’s only defeat. In terms of individuals, Son had a couple of monents, but seemed knackered and bereft of ideas most of the time he had possession in and around their box. Kane wasn’t much better and Dele added very little on the right-wing, but then again neither did Lucas as his substitute. The Winks-Hojbjerg pairing was predictably ineffectual—Winks did make two superb passes but also had a strange walkabout that on a different day results in an opposition goal—PEH made one nice chipped pass to a probably offside Kane. But other than that, they simply cannot break a parked bus defence like the one we faced for about an hour. 

The subs were Doherty for a subpar Reguilon who was on a yellow—Sessegnon still unavailable due to injury, Lucas for Dele trying for a jumpstart, and the Bryan Gil, who became our most lively player at the end, for Emerson, with Conte choosing for he and Doherty both to play as inverted wings. Obviously, Tanguy Ndombele’s name nor number was ever seen on the pitch in a game that cried out for someone will ball skills to break the compact Saint defence down. One has to wonder if our record signing has merely weeks left in a Tottenham shirt, not months and certainly not years. The back three were alright, save for Dier’s poor business near the finish, but at the end all three would handle the ball a lot and none of them had much of a notion of how to thread a pass through to one of our attackers.

So the frustration is probably more with the result than the effort—games like this are going to happen, and despite periods of fairly blah play, Spurs did do enough to win it, but for the refereeing wild card. Beat Watford next week and then face our two London rivals four times in two and a half weeks and we shall know a lot more about this team then.

Not great yesterday—could/should have been better, but also could have been worse.

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