After a hard fought victory at the weekend, I would like to take this opportunity to look back on the game and pick out three things that I learnt about this youthful, new look Spurs team. Although many fans may take a home victory over Crystal Palace for granted, we should probably remember that they had won 8 of their last 10 away games prior to Sunday’s fixture and had already embarrassed Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this season. Much as it pains me to say, Alan Pardew has worked wonders with that club over the last 9 months, to the extent that the Palace fans are probably the only people in the world who love Alan Pardew more that Alan Pardew loves Alan Pardew. Now, I know what you are thinking….most journalists use the standard format of “5 things that we learnt” and because I never went some big city writing school, I can only assume that this is due to some form of unspoken industry wide collusion for which I never received the memo. However, time is money and I have very little of both, so you only get three of my learnings. That and the fact that at my age, every time I do learn something new I appear to forget something that I used to know. For example, only last month one of my mates taught me how to do tequila shots properly and as a result, I temporarily forgot how to drive…….
Anyway, enough talk. Here is what I learnt on Sunday:
1) Heung-Min Son is a game changer. Now before everyone gets too carried away, I must point out that Adel Taarabt was also considered to be a game changer. His recent transfer to Benfica is also believed to be one of the key reasons that McDonalds UK has posted a pre-tax drop in profits for the first time in a decade. Anyway, back to Sonny. He may be a little bit lightweight at times but his direct running and willingness to take on his man add an extra dimension to our play that was painfully absent last season. As we saw with his goal, it is this ability to attack at pace that is so unsettling for opposing defenders. The fact that he also seems capable of shooting with both feet makes him equally unpredictable and thus harder to defend against. I know it is early days but I have been very impressed with his attitude and work rate. If he can continue in this rich vein of form, then I have no doubt that he will enjoy a long and successful Korea at the club!
2) Oh, how we have missed Christian Eriksen! He is probably the best thing to come out of Denmark since Lego. It is no surprise that we finally managed to break the deadlock within minutes of his arrival on the pitch this weekend and that it was his assist that sent Son galloping towards the Palace goal. Obviously, any team would miss a player of his calibre and this was all too apparent in the first half, as we were playing some nice football but often struggled with our final ball. Once Eriksen came on, we retained possession much better in the final third and our attacks became more frequent and much more dangerous. With his technique and ability to pick the right pass, we should be getting very excited about the prospect of a fully fit Christian Eriksen linking up with the aforementioned Heung-Min Son and a (hopefully) rejuvenated and free-scoring Harry Kane.
3) Finally, the midfield pairing of Eric Dier and Dele Alli exceeded all of my expectations (which were admittedly quite low before kick off). When I initially saw the team sheet, I was concerned that we would be overrun in midfield. However, this relatively inexperienced partnership dominated their more established counterparts in James McArthur and Yohan Cabaye and barely put a foot wrong over 90 minutes. Eric Dier in fact, has barely put a foot wrong all season. For someone whose natural position is at centre-back, he has adapted seamlessly into his defensive midfield role and certainly has the potential to be our answer to Claude Makelele (obviously without the giant penis….). I firmly believe that his impressive performances of late have helped to solidify the newly formed centre-back partnership of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, as he provides them with a defensive shield that in my mind has been missing since Pochettino took over last year. And what more can be said about Dele Alli, that hasn’t already been said? He has only started a handful of games and we already appear to have run out of superlatives for his performances. Having excelled in a more advanced role in previous games, he was excellent in a much deeper role on Sunday and was the epitome of what a box-to-box midfielder should be. He ran tirelessly for 90 minutes and got forward whenever possible. As a result, he has already won over the majority of Spurs fans with his youthful exuberance and I have no doubt that he will go on to be an England regular and a Real Madrid legend!
So in conclusion, we have plenty to be positive about. And this is normally not my style. For anyone that has ever read my blog, you will know that I am generally about as negative as one of Matt Etherington’s credit references. But we are starting to grind out results and more importantly, keep clean sheets. My only slight concern is the role of our full backs. Kyle Walker played one horrendous pass in the first half, which nearly led to a Palace goal. But as any seasoned Spurs fan will testify, it simply wouldn’t be a Spurs game without at least one catastrophic lapse in concentration from our beloved right back. To be fair, his form has been much better this year and one of his crosses nearly made it off the ground on Sunday. Tragically, this represents progress. However, my biggest concern is Ben Davies, who is being constantly targeted aerially by opposing teams and once again, appeared shaky at the weekend. I think that he is a more than adequate back up but I am keen to see Danny Rose come back to form and reclaim the left back slot because he was one of our standout players last season. The only other observation I will make (and it is certainly not a learning) is that Hugo Lloris is a world-class goalkeeper. Keeping him at the club was probably our best bit of business this summer and if Petr Cech is allegedly worth an additional 10 points a season to Arsenal then I couldn’t even begin to speculate as to what Hugo is worth to us…….COYS.
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