Each time the final whistle blows now there’s more than a tinge of sadness. Spurs were dominant for one half, and when they weren’t in the second, they were professional and saw the three points through. But in this glorious season of 17 successes and but two draws at our historic home each result brings the end to the era even closer.
A Champions League place is getting closer, too. The away fixtures could be nettlesome, as could the two WHL finales vs Arsenal and Man Utd—but one senses this Spurs squad has its focus firmly on finishing since last year’s version could not. I type this watching proceedings at the Etihad knowing that any result other than a Liverpool victory advances Spurs’ prospects another key step forward.
No Kane. For 45 minutes, no problem. Son was sent in early and only the first of two fine stops by Fraser Forster kept him off the score sheet. Mousa Dembele, typically brilliant throughout, made a wonderful possession and turn to open up space for Christian Eriksen, who once again used his other foot to beat a keeper to his right. The second was a bit soft, but a penalty nonetheless and Dele can be happy Forster guessed wrong, for his shot lacked Kane’s unerring placement in the corner. The third was in off Toby’s head but for a superb Forster reaction. But for one Gabbiadini run followed by his exit Saints were absent in terms of real chances.
That changed in the second half as Puel must have inspired a reaction with Hair-Dryer tactics and a period of greater Saint aggression was rewarded when Alderweireld whiffed on a cross and Ward-Prowse made a terrific first touch and shot low to Lloris’ left, just avoiding a Vertonghen tackle, and we had nearly three-quarters of an hour to sweat. The defending was professional throughout, however—Walker, Dier and ultimately Wanyama all played with a yellow but kept calm and in control. Perhaps wishing to reduce Kyle’s workload in advance of an international break where Gareth Southgate will ask him to play at least one full game, Poch went with an early move to Trippier. The latter’s defending was fine, but he made two or three curious attempts at through-balls that surrendered possession a bit too easily.
Winks and Janssen also came on, and both helped seal the deal. Winks because of his possession skills, and Janssen because he has the one skill Son clearly does not possess—holding up a defender and thus winning the ball- and was able to guarantee an extended period of Spurs’ command in stoppage time. As for Son, he played fine, but he is not Kane providing that extra burst or forceful kick. We will drop a game or be forced into a draw somewhere in the next month—one can hope it is a singular sensation.
Dembele would be my MOTM, followed by Vertonghen. This was the type of victory that Pochettino’s philosophy produces—Spurs more clinical to win the lead and then more disciplined than past sides in holding it. Two or three more in the next month like this, and a Top Four finish will be certain and we can begin to shift our focus to the massive clash with the league leaders at Wembley.
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