Usually, I start my articles by getting the (often quite brief) positives out of the way, before embarking on spewing up the negatives that I’ve been desperate to get out of my system after some inept display or, worse, a semi-decent performance marred by too few chances created and a hideous ‘let’s shoot ourselves in the foot’ moment ( @copywight Kyle Walker). My only previous article this season was one such, arguing melodramatically that our season could be as good as over should we lose at home to Everton, that our football was, in technical terms, ‘fucking boring’ and that we needed to get rid of a player whose nickname ought to be ‘Lamentable’.
Not for the first time – and I’m certain it won’t be the last – I’ve had to act like a dog returning to its own vomit, or eat my own words, if that presents you with a better image. Yes, folks, what a difference a couple of weeks make. I am now in danger of becoming an Erik Lamela fan. We still haven’t seen the consistent display of the sort of skill that you expect a £30 million Argentinian forward to bring but I confess to warming to him greatly in the Qarabag and Palace games, where, even though his first touch let him down now and again, as did the occasional short pass, he not only worked his socks off to get the ball back but he also refused to hide. An admirable quality in someone who – I hadn’t realised, given that this is his third season – is still only 23.
Now, Harry Kane has, until yesterday, gone through a little bit of a dry spell but you can virtually touch the goodwill generated towards him by the Lane faithful. Judging by many other fan articles I’ve read, and the groans of the crowd when he’s given the ball away, mis-controlled it or skied a rare chance, I don’t feel I’m being controversial in claiming that
Mr. Lamela has not been held in similar regard and whatever slack he was being cut by the fans in the hope that Pocchettino could get something, anything, out of him had itself been cut so much that it doesn’t even count as ‘slack’ any more. Alas, poor Erik, indeed. Then came a one-on-one with the Qarabag keeper, finished in confident style, followed a few days later by a great tackle back on the edge of our box, assured retention of the ball under pressure, a perfect release for Eriksen to race away on the counter attack and a winning goal for Son against Palace. And then came yesterday’s game against City.
A few games ago, I would have been praying that he wasn’t even on the bench but I found myself before the City game hoping that he’d be in the starting line-up. And, as others have observed, he produced by far and away his best display for Spurs, against a team whose star Argentinian forward normally beats us on his own. He was involved in everything and even after he failed to convert Njie’s great early cross first time, he showed great composure to recover, sidestep the keeper and score the fourth. The ovation he got when he was subbed near the end was well-deserved, and must have been music to his ears.
Talking of music, let’s move to the title of this piece, which some of you older readers may have noticed bears a certain resemblance to a famous record by a certain Seattle grunge band. Now, it’s probably a bit premature to suggest that Spurs fans have now reached a state of nirvana – ‘nervous’ is more like it for most fans – but it’s safe to say that we are in a much happier place than we were a few weeks back. For one thing, we are beginning to see some method in Pochettino’s possession football madness. I know I described it as boring but, dare I say it, he does seem to be sensibly building from the back, making us a bit harder to beat than previously, and slowly upping the risk-taking going forward. He’s also, as I cried out for him to do in my last article, throwing our new and young signings in – Alli and Son already seem like regulars and Njie seems to be getting a little extra playing time from the subs bench game by game (wouldn’t be surprised to see him start against Monaco on Thursday). He’s giving youth a chance ( I was tempted to entitle this article ‘The Young Ones’, though that musical reference would really age me) and a lot of home-grown youth at that (nice to see young Carroll getting a look in and I’m keen to see Pritchard, who did really well on loan at Brentford last year, when he’s fit again).
I know we had the rub of the green with offside decisions against City, with our two to their one (in which context, the linesman’s decision to disallow Son’s late effort was an inexplicable aberration) and had to rely on a couple of brilliant Lloris saves at crucial times, but let’s celebrate the positives this time. We laid the Man. City hoodoo at last. ( Roll on Liverpool and hopefully we can put that one to bed as well!). We made more chances than we’ve done for a while. We are beginning to play some fine, quick, first-time passing football, the sort Spurs have traditionally been associated with. Our defence is beginning to look the part: Alderweireld has been a great buy and, moreover seems to have helped Vertonghen to rediscover the sort of form he showed when we first signed him; Ben Davies is showing why he’s now being preferred to Danny Rose, while no-one would panic if the latter had to come in; Walker is (touch every bit of wood in striking distance ) making fewer errors and not just having to use his the pace to recover from something he shouldn’t have done in the first place. Eriksen’s fit again, Alli and Son both like going forward at pace and trying things, not just playing safe, crab-like football. Harry boy is back scoring. Hell, we even seem to have discovered how to beat the first defender with our corners or free kicks.
We may be a hyper-critical bunch of fans at times, but everyone warms to triers and we seem to have them in abundance and got rid of the sort of player whose head drops at the first sign of adversity. Yes, as Pochettino rightly warns, there’ll be some hiccups along the way – it’s inevitable with such a young team. But when they occur, let’s cut him and the team some slack and not call for his, and Levy’s, heads. The decision not to go mad in the transfer market now seems like a good one. The shopping spree with the Bale transfer money bought us a lot of individuals, not a team.(And look how much Man. City, who’ve spent a fortune creating a massive, highly paid, squad, are now bemoaning injuries to a couple of ‘key’ players). Now we seem, dare I say it, to have developed some team spirit. And, on this showing, and to steal another line from that Nirvana song, one with the ability to – everybody sing it loud – ‘entertain us’. Long may it last.
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