And now we know. It’s not the manager—either of them. It is the players, pure and simple. In the first half they weren’t good enough—in the second, they were. Winks came in for Dier—surely a change nearly all Spurs supporters wanted. Presumably Ndombele was being rested for the Norwich fixture in two days. Sessegnon on the left wing for the suspended Son. Lamela on the bench and Eriksen still in purgatory. And what happens? A first half where somehow Brighton seemed threatening every time the ball swung into our half because Aaron Mooy is a true playmaker, whereas the reverse was one false start after another. I
lost count at how many times Dele collected the ball with space on the left wing and nowt happened. Or how often Lucas was hemmed in, made a poor pass or was pushed off the ball. Winks did send one glorious ball over the top and of course VAR found Kane inches offside. Our attack consisted of Alderweireld or Vertonghen or occasionally Winks lifting a long ball over the Brighton defence in the hope it would find someone at the other end. The goal was from a free kick unfairly given but poorly defended.
And in the second half we saw quality at last. Kane with a good chance from Lucas and then the rebound was picture-perfect. The linkups and chances were finally coming and once Lo Celso and Eriksen came on, there were finally midfield players who could create something.
The goal was the product of three sublime balls—Eriksen’s chip over the defence to Aurier, who slotted back perfectly for Dele, who looped a perfect ball where Matty Ryan had no chance to stop it. And then there were two superb chances to kill the game on the counter, Kane finding Dele for a ball just tipped over by Ryan, and then Eriksen from Sissoko saw a probable goal prevented by a sliding Alzate. But it was three points—without Son—at a time when they are particularly precious. Norwich should be as equally knackered on Saturday as we will be—if Kane sits, so might Pukki. From a depth standpoint, even without Son surely we will be superior. I would expect Eriksen and Lo Celso to start, along with Lamela and Ndombele unless there is an injury we haven’t heard about.
This is the type of game you pay Mourinho all that coin for. Something had to be done in the second half—whether it was a dressing room talk, a change of tactics, some smart substitutions (Lo Celso for Sessegnon came early, when the game had been levelled) or simply better desire from the squad, it worked. We know from October that a game against the Seagulls can’t be assumed to be a victory—these days perhaps no fixture can.
Under Jose we have defeated all the teams we should, and lost to all the teams at or above our level. I’m not sure what will come in January—a back-up striker to Kane might be most necessary given that a true difference-maker in the midfield will almost certainly not be available until the summer. Victories in the next three games—at the Canaries, home to the Saints, and then the first Cup game at Boro—would seem to be a minimum requirement in the rest of the festive period. Work in progress? Yes. And the progress is, understandably, pretty glacial. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
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