Of course with all those chances we should have won it. But after Robertson’s goal did we really think we could get a draw? And after Alisson’s madness and the VAR review that produced a red on Robertson (and we avoided in the first half with Kane) weren’t you as worried that somehow they would nick it as that we would cash the winner? So, fair result. Rather than unpack all the ups and downs (the four huge misses, the various complaints to the referee) I prefer to talk about our players.
First and foremost while we were in counterattack mode, we did so brilliantly, but for the finishing. This was the liveliest I’ve seen Kane and Son together since Mourinho days. They each scored one, they each could/should easily have had at least another. And neither Lucas nor Reguilon were present, meaning that this attack came with the likes of Sessegnon, Dele and Ndombele playing crucial roles. Sessegnon continues to impress—he had a few superb runs, was active throughout and aggressively winning the ball, and even though most of our attack went down the right wing with Emerson, when he did get the ball there was always the prospect of something coming from it. Dele had his best game of the season—not a high bar, of course—but he was playing hard on both sides of the pitch, made a couple of nice combination plays involving the two forwards, and only the brilliance of Alisson kept him off the scoreline. Tanguy created the first goal with a brilliant weighted pass to Kane and was generally smart about his passing as we turned the pitch. But it was only 60 minutes still, and he seems slow on defence and there was no interaction between him and the manager when Skipp came on to replace him. I don’t know if he will be here in a month, or even should—but his presence was duly noted yesterday.
Harry Winks gave it a full 90 minutes, and was generally doing the central midfield thing well—smart passing, nice defending—my only complaint is a common one (and also applies to Son)—he gets bullied off the ball too easily, and in a way that rarely applies to either Skipp or Hojbjerg. But we survived his missteps. Emerson had a few shaky moments (and could easily have been judged to commit a penalty), but played the final hour on a yellow and the worry I had about him and Sanchez v Mane turned out to be largely misplaced—but still both were caught out of position on Jota’s goal. Dier and Sanchez were solid—Davies less involved but showed the strength going forward toward the end (though he sure looked offside on that one chance he got)—I have to unpack all the elements of the Robertson goal to decide who was most to blame. Or maybe it was a terrific team finally producing a solid effort—the handball rule has changed and thus Salah probably didn’t get away with it on the buildup—tip your cap to them. And Lloris made a couple of very nice saves in the first half.
As for the various adventures of Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son, where do I begin? Overall it was a huge plus—the fact, even with Van Dijk, Thiago and Henderson missing, that they produced between them about a half-dozen terrific chances is a positive. The fact that on only one did they convert—and then were gifted the second by the keeper going walkabout—is not a positive. Kane’s missed header in the second half was probably the most egregious—but his earlier miss on the ball from Dele is the type of goal we used to chalk up without even questioning. The pass was a little slow, but he should have done better. Son was offside on his last chance, but on the first tap-in from Kane he was at least a yard onside and he flummoxed a couple of other good runs. I will wonder about xG in this game—would be surprised if we were under 3 goals. Kane of course was quite lucky not to have been sent off for his challenge on Robertson—studs a few inches higher and he would have been. And the Emerson shove on Jota in the box could easily have gone the other way.
But the biggest truth is that we just played one of the two dominant teams in this league (sorry, Chelsea—you are a cut below) to a standstill—in a thrilling affair that we easily could have won. All of a sudden, the top four doesn’t seem a pipedream.
Have something to tell us about this article?