They had a bit of a bother over here (in the States) with the assessment of ESPN FC of Dele as the 6th best attacking midfielder in the world (Eriksen was 5th. Messi, Ronaldo and Mbappe were classified differently—as “forwards”). In the past month I’d venture to say he’s been in the top three. At least. Knowing Chelsea and Arsenal had leapfrogged us earlier; knowing Manchester City had lost and thus put a title race into belief, but also knowing that Tuesday may be the biggest game of the season, and conceivably the most important of his tenure, Mauricio Pochettino elected to trust Dele and Son to win this game. He couldn’t have placed it better—not Lloyds of London, not Fort Knox, not the sun rising in the east.
After a fairly languid opening half hour in which Leicester appeared a bit more energetic and perhaps likely to score, Dele grabbed control of this game. His moves kept threatening Schmeichel and the Foxes defence; his pressing won the ball back Barca style; his imagination seemed to promise a result. Meanwhile, as I often do, epithets were being hurled Son’s way—two or three disastrous attempts at free kick crosses. Then he tried a Ronaldo-esque direct kick on goal and sent it skying toward Row Z. And then, as surely as his Son does rise in the East, he rewarded my impertinence as he seems always to do, with a stunning goal just before the break that changed the entire tenor of the game. In that same ESPN rating, Kieran Tripper was judged the 6th best right back (Kyle was 3rd) and I scoffed, saying that the player who was forgotten was in their “wide forward” category. Son—left out. But again in the past month or so who has been better of the players we watch, except Leroy Sane?
The first five minutes or so of the second half saw Son and Dele together with Lucas almost produce a second goal several times. One had to wonder whether we would pay for the wastefulness. Not this night. Another break… Lucas began it, I believe.. and Son with all the time in the world from his usual left wing perch, lifted a perfect ball for Dele to head it in and that was that. Poch had gambled with putting Kane and Eriksen on the bench and he was rewarded gloriously, whatever the result on Tuesday. As for the rest, Sissoko was his typical work horse but as is usual failed to make that final pass or play. He and Aurier continue to work quite well together going down the right wing. Winks was perhaps the best player in the middle third of the pitch—time and experience will grant him some better finishing skills. He and Dier were an effective pairing. Lucas was quite active and the two Belgians were simply imperious throughout. Surely with Foyth ineligible and Sanchez still injured they will be called on for all 90 minutes on Tuesday—one or both can rest v Burnley next weekend. Let’s hope Aurier’s knock wasn’t serious—not sure how Poch would play it without him at the Nou Camp.
London sure is fun, as the Gooners played a pretty disappointing game but still got all three points with the late goal from Terreira and Chelsea sent shock waves up and down the country by not only beating City, but frankly owning them in the second half. Liverpool is first up to see if this becomes a true title race, but our deficit of six points—GIVEN WE HAVE PLAYED TWO MORE AWAY GAMES THAN ALL OF OUR MAJOR COMPETITORS—is hardly Mount Everest any more. Maybe Mont Blanc.
Tomorrow will simply be a blast. A couple of key players are carrying knocks, joined by several others from the Blaugrana. But I for one expect Valverde to tell the Atomic Flea (or GOAT) to get out there and shut down this bunch from
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