Roller Coaster Derbies

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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Dom Le Roy

Let’s face it—four of these on the spin was always going to be tough. We won the one at home decisively. Deserved better at Wembley but lost nonetheless. Played too tight affairs away against opposition burning to beat us to make themselves safe from relegation and we split them. After nine wins in a row, was this a choke tonight? Same old Spurs? No, it was an off-night and we haven’t had one for quite some time. So now it is just second place and pride to play for—or Pochettino’s pleasure, though I suspect one certain right back has already failed that test.

None of the above should be construed as an excuse. Nor should Adrian’s stellar goalkeeping be foisted as one. Spurs might not have deserved to lose, but we certainly did not deserve to win. The Hammers had a pretty good plan—one we’ve seen before. Clog the middle, force us wide and then defend the hell out of the crosses and the set pieces. Going four in the back played a bit into their hands, but tonight it was the players much more than the manager who were lacking.

On the goal it was a collective effort bookended by poor defending by Walker to allow the ball into trouble, and then by poor marking by Dier who appeared to be in confusion about his responsibilities. In between Vertonghen lose a 1 v 1 battle and Lanzini was there for a sitter. The Argentine could easily scored in a first half where the home side first established their purpose—but for one 6 to 8 minute period when Kane and Eriksen each almost scored, Spurs lacked the type of offensive flow and dominance we have been accustomed to. Like against poor Arsenal.

Wanyama failed to match his stellar performance vs the Gooners; Dier was fairly invisible until the one goal; the troika of Son, Eriksen and Alli struggled to find space and break through the Hammer defence throughout. Yet if I had to identify one Spurs players who was most out of form, it would be Harry Kane. He did have the one golden chance that Adrian just barely flicked away in the first half, but my strongest image of him from tonight was on his backside, muscled down and away from the ball time and time again.
As for Kyle Walker, one suspects that this may have been his swan song in a Spurs kit, with the possible exception of one of the final week away games. I see no reason other than advertisement to Pep Guradiola for him to play Sunday vs United. He did not play badly, but for the one lapse in the build-up to the lone goal. But nor did he excel. And the best example was the ball that was slotted past the keeper from the left in the second half to yards of space—the precise action that led to Victor Moses’ winning goal at Stamford Bridge in November. A rampaging Victor Moses, that is. Kyle? Standing still 25 yards from goal barely able to reach the ball under duress with the chance to shoot for a wide open net long gone. Trippier’s substitution in the final minutes spoke volumes.

There’s still much work to be done for next year, and now Poch must rally this side to avoid the collapse it produced last year after the title was done and dusted. All the doubts will resurface, as they always do. This was an average side—at best—and we were done by them. Champions don’t let that happen.

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.

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