Winning as Ugly as Possible

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Let me start with the obvious. If Spurs play like that Sunday, we might as well give Van Gaal the three points now and save us all the trouble. After the immediate goal and sharp beginning, Leicester were by far the better side for most of the remainder of the proceedings. Lloris and woodwork combined to deny them the three or four goals that their play deserved.

The high-wire act that is Vertonghen and Fazio was on full display—it is gotten to the point that we just watch wondering when the fatal breakdown will occur—in this case there were multiple breakdowns, including a fortunate non-penalty against the Belgian late in the second half. For any who believe Rose and Davies are virtually interchangeable, I give you Exhibit A: I grew tired of the number of times the Foxes burst in on their right wing. Whatever Danny gives you for pace and ability to possibly break down a defense on the offensive end, he more than takes away with baffling lapses on the other. For any who believe DeAndre Yedlin shouldn’t be forced into action prematurely with Kyle Walker back and healthy, I give you Exhibit B: Leicester broke past Walker almost as much as they burned Rose.

And yet, the three points. Provided yet again by Christian Eriksen, whose game was fairly quiet until it mattered most. That sort of quality could be what separates a Top Four team from those below—the ability to win when one shouldn’t. More likely—and at present—it is what separates Spurs from a handful of teams (Liverpool, Swansea, Everton, Stoke) who have played about as well but have less to show for their efforts. Kane has liabilities—see below—but he also has the goal scorers’ knack for being in the right place at the right time and a work rate that will continue to earn his side chances, including Eriksen’s winning strike today.

The more disappointing aspect of this match was the poor finishing and generally uninspired play in the final third. Kane a few times—and Soldado near the end—had open space and several teammates in the frame and yet either couldn’t beat his man or passed incorrectly. Chadli made the superior cross early to give us Kane’s goal—after that he was just average. Lamela showed effort and seemed to pop up at the right place more often than his running-mate Eriksen, but again that last act of dynamism was too often missing. Nabil Bentaleb had two puzzling moments—the first when he got in alone and obviously acted like he hadn’t been their before—easily being dispossessed; the second in the latter half when a ball popped over to him from the right—in space, no defender within 5 yards, 25 yards from goal, with multiple forwards on either side of him—and he chose to make a sideways and somewhat back pass to Walker, which was predictably intercepted and turned into a Leicester attack.

The second-best solace I can take from this (the best being those sweet points) is that I have no fear that Mauricio Pochettino will fail to point any of this out to his charges. He knows better than anybody how much better his side must play to gain any points in either of the next two home fixtures. FWIW, Van Gaal pretty much played his best today against Newcastle—so fatigue should not be a critical factor on Sunday. It’s been three seasons since Spurs lost to United—Clint Dempsey bailed us out at WHL two Decembers ago and only a Walker giveaway and Lloris penalty enabled Rooney to score twice and gain a London draw last December. It should be the best game of the season—let’s hope Poch can bring this team to a peak.

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Paul is a respected U.S. political pollster (Democrat) based in Madison, Wisconsin and Los Angeles. His love for Spurs began when the Premier League games started appearing regularly in the U.S. and an American lover of football had to choose a side. Bale, Rushdie, Adele, Shakespeare, the Spurs faithful, The Lane, etc. were all irresistible attractions and have made Maslin a Spur for life.


  1. The good was that we started brightly and that Eriksen and Lamela were both in the top 4 of distance covered this weekend in the EPL ! The bad was being embarrassingly poor from 30 minute onward, Walker, Rose, Bentilib, Mason and Verts & Chadli were especially poor- Walker and Rose exposed time and time again although the latter did pass to his own teammates. Bentilib was soft in the tackle and gave them their goal. Mason anonymous. Verts is on self destruct mode ! Two penalties (not given) and an ugly, pouting face that is getting more and more on my nerves. I don't mind winning ugly if we play majestically other times (pity reading aren't in the EPL!!).

  2. Benteleb needs to be released for the African Cup early… as soon as possible. I watched the game against The Foxes and every time Spurs failed to complete a pass, it came from Bentaleb. And against Burnley, he was no better. Too much pressure on the back four and too much confidence given to the opponent when you have a midfielder doing that all the time.


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