Scary huh? There’s no second chances any more. Whatever our opponents do, we have to at the very least win our home games, probably more in all honesty but that’s essential. When Swansea’s equalizer bounced into the corner, the tension slammed down like a 14lb sledgehammer on a melon. Scary.
The final scoreline wasn’t the only common denominator between the Bolton and Swansea home fixtures. For the second game running, when things weren’t going so well Spurs kept playing. There’s a determination and focus that will stand us in good stead over the coming weeks, a rediscovered confidence in our own ability that seemed to have disappeared after the Emirates debacle.
We may have wished for new blood in the January window but it’s the experience in the spine of our team that’s driving us on and yesterday gave Bale the space to come up with a powerhouse performance that rendered him unstoppable. Parker quiet but effectively marshalling the troops. He’s not at his peak but he does more than enough and is prepared to give others the limelight. Gallas the winner – seen it all, done it all and wants to do it again. Again his performance was eclipsed on the day by his younger fellow centre back Kaboul, who tackled and blocked in timely fashion. Two blocks stand out at crucial times, one when it was level and he could not face going a goal down, the other when, the match seemingly won, we were slack at the back. I say we – not Younes, concentrating first to last. But Gallas’s desire to win burns deep inside. First to the celebrating Adebayor, he clasped his head like a loved one and told him just how beautiful his goal was.
And Friedel, calmness personified. Much as I loved Gomes, it’s impossible to imagine him in this team, all fret and agitation spreading like contagion through the side. Most keepers lose their spring as they get older but Brad is a remarkable man. Like him, my friend Adriana does yoga religiously but she couldn’t have got up into that top left hand corner.
Manu’s had his winter break a little later than most and the trouble was, he was on the field for most of it. However, he’s decided he’s back for a final fling. Frankly he’s been rubbish at headers this season. It’s been a real weakness and he’s missed far easier aerial chances on a regular basis. then two come along at once, two classic smacking foreheads of goals, made by intelligent positioning in between the centrebacks followed by prodigious leaps. Sky high they were. Truly a man can fly.
The incentive was two pearlers of crosses, one from a corner (two in two games!), the other on the run from Lennon, who quickly got his range after coming on although he had plenty of time to acclimatise as they barely passed to him for ages.
Why bother when you have Gareth Bale on the left. Playing like this, you can’t stop him. He’s a phenomenon. In a tactical age he stampedes through every barrier. This is old-fashioned pace and power coupled with the touch of a maestro. His late zigzag through the defence, sublime.
Poor Rangel. I felt so sorry for him, yet his manager left him inadequately protected. Rodgers has been justifiably praised for his tactical acumen and his team is a pleasure to watch. It’s rare that at home Spurs concede the majority of possession to our opponents. By not detailing a man to double-team Bale, he refused to sacrifice the balance of his side for the sake of an opponent but it meant Swansea were constantly exposed to danger. Bale had too much space and made full use of it. His crosses were made more dangerous by Caulker’s absence from the heart of the Welsh defence. We’ve scored few goals from headers but the Swans were never comfortable in the air.
Much has been said about Rodgers coming to Spurs should Harry go but for me he’s not sufficiently experienced. In an ideal world I’d like to nurture a youngish british boss but if we are to challenge for the very top next season, the Lane is no place for someone to develop their trade. Like our spine, we need someone who has the experience.
As I’ve said, Swansea keep the ball well but it was their pressing game that made life difficult early on. Still, Modric was able to find ways through, darting into the box or a delightful throughball, outside of the foot inside the full-back, for Bale to set up Rafa. He didn’t need to blast it, confident enough to hit it first time, placement not power always wins the day. Luka had a good match, again not the dominating figure he’s been in the past but in this team he doesn’t have to be. Others will influence it for him and Van der Vaart again epitomised the been there done that do it again mentality. Now he’s fully fit, he covers the ground and has the big match attitude where under pressure he can play at his peak. Late on, Modric dallied unnecessarily after Bale mesmerised but then as Swansea broke quickly, it’s Rafa who’s back tackling 40 yards from his own goal.
Despite their organised approach, Swansea can’t be everywhere at once. Teams that press and push midfielders up into the box are tricky to handle, and in the first half Sandro and Parker failed to track back as often as they should. However, it means they left space behind them and we used this well, moving the ball efficiently and keeping the pressure on their back four. With Lennon to come on, it was the perfect way to sustain that pressure against tiring legs, which resulted in our third. Ding dong!