OK, this makes up for the Eric Dier and Andy Carroll handball. Whether we’ll have a Manuel Lanzini redemptive moment remains to be seen. No one can say we deserved those three points, but they show up in the table and if we can beat Palace Sunday in the second of the three consecutive Premier League London derbies—a weaker side these days than Fulham, then top four may not be such a mirage.
But was that a top four side we all witnessed yesterday? Of course not. The goal was a nice byproduct of a decent cross by Son (one of the only good things he did in 90 minutes) and a nice bit of imagination from Dele. In every other way that first half was frustrating as chance after chance went wanting, until Fulham did us much better with their profligacy in the second half when they dominated the game.
Kane fired into a crowd, had a wide-open header which he sent directly to Areola, Bale misfired, Dele struggled but couldn’t find the right combination, and Son? Well I will simply say that I don’t think I’ve ever seen him play worse. He fiddled in space on the left several times to no avail, when perhaps a run around the flank might have done better.
He misfired on at least three passes in the second half where more accurate or weighted balls could easily have resulted in a clinching goal. He sent a horribly weak corner kick toward no one late in the second half. He was bullied off the ball several times (Parker seemed to have a standing order to his players—who have been booked 48 times this season, at or near the top of the league—to take him down at all costs) and then he played matador several times on defence, one of several Spurs who simply allowed the Cottagers to swoop down the pitch for what seemed like the entire second half.
Hojbjerg and Ndombele defended well at times, but when the other team wins 50-50 challenges, when the field is clearly tilted for 45 minutes, when Spurs are unable to gain possession, let alone keep it, I don’t think you can claim any great success to their play. Only Lamela of the three substitutes looked to create something, which he almost did with a nice tippy-toe manoeuvre down the byline.
The back four were generally pretty good, though of course a few clearances went immediately back to Fulham, including Sanchez’ mistake that led to the goal that wasn’t because Lemina handled it. A rule is a rule, but of course Fulham were hard done by. Doherty almost put a ball into his own net—Lloris was pretty cool and made a couple of nice saves—Toby and Davies were good enough—and somehow we held on.
But what does it really mean? Is this team capable of putting the type of performances together to leapfrog four rivals and finish 4th? Of winning three straight home-and-home Europa ties/ of giving City a game in the Cup final? Off last night’s evidence, I’d have to say no. Sixth or seventh and no trophies seem like the far likelier outcome. And what then? How many of the four starting attackers/forwards will even be here by September? And how many of the three substitutes? It would not surprise me if the answer is three at most. Kane or Son could leave. Bale probably will leave. Surely at least one of Lucas, Lamela or Sissoko will be sold. And Dele? He wasn’t bad, but neither was he anything special. It’s too bad he didn’t get awarded the goal for such a deft touch.
Palace will complete the first troika. A win there will lead to a second grouping of three where at least two victories will be necessary to make the remaining two months worth fighting for. They must play better than last night.
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