Normally, by seven games in, I’d have been moved to submit one article, or possibly two, as therapy; the metaphorical equivalent of standing in the wilderness emitting primal screams into the ether or pummelling a dummy of whatever player, manager, pundit or referee had irked me the most at that point until I collapse into a sweaty, snarling, drooling, but strangely satisfied heap onto its battered body. Such is the capacity of our beloved team to drive its fans to distraction. My first article last year was a case in point, a mere two points from our first three games on the back of some boring football driving me to claim (somewhat melodramatically) that a loss to Everton in our fourth game could mean the end of our season. This year, however, I have, until now, been moved to silence; first, a ‘let’s wait and see’ silence, then an ‘OK, but Liverpool should have stuffed us’ silence, then a ‘too many tight one goal victories for comfort’ silence. But then came Sunday’s result, and, for perhaps the first time in what passes for my memory, I am moved to write not because I am foaming at the mouth and need to vent my spleen lest I enter the record books as the first person to die in the 21st century of spontaneous combustion but, instead, wallowing in a warm bath of contentment.
There is always a downside, of course, that being, as all veteran Spurs fans know only too well, the ‘H’ bomb: HOPE!!!!! And there is plenty of time for it all to go horribly wrong; after all, when we started believing our own hype and Harry’s jovial tweets at the business end of last season we did manage the neat trick, aptly described by Guardian journalist and fellow Spurs sufferer
John Crace, of ‘coming third in a two horse race’.
But, after the City result, it is hard to avoid some hope at the moment. We seem, dare I say it, to have kept the players we should have kept and jettisoned the ones we needed to, while spending relatively small amounts. Sissoko, the most expensive, cost £29/£30 million, broadly only £10 million more that Man. Utd paid Pogba’s agent, would you believe. It’s early days and he hasn’t yet had much of a run but I suspect that he could be a real asset now that the weight of a Toon Army hoping he could single-handedly keep a consistently under-performing side ( a certain 10-man 5-1 victory against somebody or other last season apart) up has been lifted from his shoulders. Wanyama has already impressed, narrowly taking the man of the match award against City over other strong contenders Son and Alli and already with a winning goal to his credit. Janssen is struggling a bit but has a goal-scoring pedigree and hopefully just needs time to adjust to the pace of the Premiership. And, talking of pace, Nkoudou looks like he has that to burn and, going on the few cameos he has produced when introduced from the bench, looks as though he’s equally happy to burn it taking on defenders or chasing back and harassing attackers, something we’ve perhaps lacked since Aaron Lennon at his peak.
Perhaps more important than these signings, however, is the one we didn’t let get away. I was surprised to see/hear rumours of his possible sale floating around before the transfer deadline as I thought that Son had shown enough last year to suggest that he could be a good player with a run of games under his belt. That being said, I never expected him to play centrally like he did on Sunday, filling the large Harry Kane-shaped void left by the latter’s ankle injury, harassing the City defence constantly, linking up well, taking players on and shooting at every opportunity (pity he wasn’t given the penalty opportunity, eh Erik?). And he plays with a smile on his face. At a time when the biggest smiles seem to be on the faces of parasitic agents with no interest in anything other than their own pockets or arrogant managers too greedy to suss out a journalistic sting when they see it, that’s a precious commodity. Call me old school, but I like to see players enjoying themselves on the field.
It’ll probably be the kiss of death to praise our defence but, credit where credit’s due. Alderweireld has been the catalyst for this improvement without a doubt; probably our most important signing last year. And we’ve got decent options on the bench, too, including, now, in goal; Vorm kept us in the game against Liverpool. Eriksen’s playing more like the way we know he’s capable of playing, Lamela’s continuing his improvement (penalty miss apart), being both hard-working and very positive, always seeking to drive the play forward. Alli is getting better all the time, which is great news considering he was already very good. We’ve got Dembele and Dier due to return. And, of course, Harry. The positive, if there is one, of his injury (and hopefully his ankle will be fully repaired, with no long-term effects) is that, based on Sunday’s game, we can survive – dare I say it, even thrive – without him (unthinkable last season) and he’ll come back fit, rested and raring to go.
When you add on the fact that we continue to churn out some very good youngsters – the jury’s perhaps still out on whether Carroll can impose himself at this level but none of Carter-Vickers, Winks or Onomah look out of place on the field and rumour has it that Anton Walkes is a rare talent – the future looks bright, the future looks lily-white. (While on the subject of young prodigies, whatever happened to Bentaleb?).
Obviously the one blot on our record was the home defeat to Monaco in the Champions League. The problem there, of course, was that Wembley, as Arsenal found out when they tried it some time ago, isn’t exactly home and, thus, is not exactly ‘away’ for the opposition either. Maybe we need to approach playing there as we would an away game – our away form certainly hasn’t been bad. Time will tell. But let’s hope that, whatever happens, we get far enough not to have to drop into the dreaded Europa again. Oooh, I sense the negativity creeping back in at the very mention of that competition. I must stop myself. Let’s hope (that word again) that I haven’t cursed things by this unusual, even unseasonal, burst of praise and that after a few more games I won’t be back spitting feathers (cockerel ones, of course). A long period of silence from me now will be a good thing.
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