It had only been seven weeks. Seven weeks since a curious but correct penalty decision in the first 20 seconds had essentially ended Spurs’ Champions League dreams—a decision that would presage a host of others in the women’s World Cup that may in turn warn of penalty box confusion all this next season.
Seven weeks since Harry Kane struggled to produce much of anything in his first game nack in nearly two months, Seven weeks since Christian Eriksen’s Tottenham career had seemingly ended with a whimper. Seven weeks since Mauricio Pochettino had stated, confirmed again recently, that if his team had won the biggest trophy of them all, he might just walk off into the sunset, this job done, other challenges awaiting in the future.
Yet on an early Sunday morning in a sweltering Singapore, there they were again. Half a world away and playing a familiar foe (and isn’t that statement everything these days? The fact that Juventus and Cristiano Ronaldo are familiar foes.) in a seemingly meaningless friendly. Juve had barely started training and Spurs were missing their captain, several fullbacks and a midfielder or three.
In the first half we stormed their end with very aggressive pressing, which ultimately produced a goal from a shot by the 17 year old Irishman Troy Parrott, making a nice impression, pounced upon by a quite active Erik Lamela (be honest—you had kind of forgotten about him too in the speculation about our midfield and attack).
At the half Vertonghen, Foyth, Sissoko and a couple of untested midfielders came on, and Higuain and CR7 managed to spring free to put the Italians ahead. As the hour mark passed, one could be forgiven for thinking the result didn’t matter, their were a few nice performances, and on to the next game as we await the culmination of what is bound to be a busy final few weeks of transfer news.
Enter Tanguy Ndembele. In one startling set of actions soon after he took the field, our future opened up wider than the gap between Johnson and Corbyn. First there was a leaping touch, intercepting a Juve clearance, controlling the ball—then, as advertised, the instant move forward toward goal followed by, again what we’ve been promised, a picture book through ball that found Lucas (was De Ligt on the pitch again? I think so) for a wonderfully slotted equaliser. It almost took your breath away, and as a coda, about to go to penalties which surely neither side wanted, our talisman took a Lucas deflection and, clearly having formed this plan seconds before, chipped a 50 yard ball over Wojtech Czezsny and into the net for a glorious winner. Of course it mattered that it was a fomer Gooner who has always been quick to put the cosh on Spurs. But mostly it was a moment of sheer joy and audacity—Kane and the Juve keeper both laughed about it two minutes later when they met after the final whistle.
So where are we now? Toby was captain in Hugo’s absence due to illness—it appears he’s here for another year. Danny has been given a chance to find another club—surely Ryan Sessegnon is days away from moving north from Craven Cottage. The right back situation is unclear—Walker-Peters may finally get his chance or perhaps Foyth will be tried there as he did relatively well for Argentina in the Copa America. As for our big Six opposition, Lampard surely will struggle without Hazard and under a transfer ban.
The Woolwich wolves are out and baying over Kroenke’s frugality. United still have a couple of big moves to make— at either end—before we can determine whether under a full season of Solsjkaer a true renaissance will begin. As for the top two, anyone who saw Gabriel Jesus thrive on the right wing for Brazil in the Copa America (I was lucky enough to attend a game in person. The wrong Sanchez prevailed over our guy Davinson in a 0-0 penalty shootout at Corinthians Stadium in Sao Paulo—the Chilenos were in full voice when Alexis slotted home the winner) shouldn’t doubt Pep’s charges have what it takes to produce a season similar to the last two. Liverpool are more complicated—it has been two long and hard seasons for the likes of Salah, Mane and Firmino—one would suspect some slippage is likely and could bring our squad into a possible title race.
Eriksen? I’m prepared for either outcome. If he leaves, we probably welcome one or two younger talents to N17—if he stays, well, he will have something to prove, and mainly to himself. The thing is—it’s less than 20 days away, and we have everything to play for. That’s the best gift of all.
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