Cut to fit mohair, deep blue not black, hand-stitched. Three button, bottom one undone, buttons on the sleeve, tapered trousers. AVB fits Spurs like a made-to-measure suit and we look sharp.
Genuine silk lining, brushes against the skin as you put on the jacket. Can’t be seen but we know it’s quality. Run your fingers gently on your thighs, that brushed fabric soft and giving. Understated but oozing class and it feels so fine.
Spurs are easing into this new look with the elan of a mod in sixties Carnaby Street. Contemporary but classic – we know who we are and what we are about. A bit cocky but that never did us any harm. We sense this is right for us. Pass and move, on the floor, play from the back. Sandro imperious, dominant. Dembele the playmaker, it’s all in the touch. Details make the difference – the short pass, the ball inside the full-back, keep possession. The buttonhole stitching, silk in top pocket.
Reading on Sunday, Lazio this week. We’ve found our style and like the admiring glances. Perhaps that’s why the home draw against Lazio ended with a contented reaction at the final whistle rather than the grumbles that greeted the last two home draws. We played much better but there was more than enough to provoke disappointment – disallowed goals, the missed opportunity to secure an early home win against the best team in the group, the Italians consistent fouling in the second half. It felt as if we took the long view – at least we know what we are about now, know we can do it if need be. And what we need is three points tomorrow.
This was more like a pleasant evening stroll than a glory glory night. Spurs were on top for the majority of the match without ever threatening to cut loose, while Lazio were satisfied with containment as the game went on, settling back into a comfortable 4-5-1 and dropping deeper as time passed. By the second half, they sussed where the real dangers might come from and took it in turns to foul Bale, Lennon and Dembele, early and high up the pitch to snuff out potential breaks without placing undue pressure on their goal.
For most of the time it was all neat and tidy. Can’t mark that cloth after all. I wondered aloud at one point if this match could set a record low for shots on target. Me, I prefer something a little rougher round the edges. Smart only takes you so far. Bit ragged. Feisty, fire and spark, but this wasn’t one of those games. In the last ten minutes especially, Spurs became a little too comfortable. Lazio slowed it down and we allowed ourselves to play at their pace. Sure, we’re playing the long game – long season, long competition. Don’t want to lose the first match, I get that. But with only Klose up front, we could have pushed our spare man at the back, Vertonghen, into midfield when we had the ball, thereby allowing the others to push up still further. On several occasions in that final period we held 5 men back when we attacked. For once we had a side full of big men yet played two free kicks short rather than putting the ball in the box. Like wearing a floral tie with a mod suit, I don’t get it.
Yet by then we could have been promenading to good effect. Two perfectly good goals disallowed, the first a fine diving effort from Dempsey, who I would like to start alongside Defoe on Sunday. I confess I couldn’t judge it from my viewpoint and as I’ve said, the crowd were philosophical on the night rather than getting worked up over an injustice. Maybe other parts of the ground were. Caulker’s header looked fine to me. However, these days there’s so much fouling in the box from set pieces, I forget what the laws are. We get the benefit sometimes, as did Walker on Sunday – handball or a little push, which does the ref give? We feel good now but those referring errors could hurt come December.
Lennon as the most unlikely ace face, but credit to him for effort and encouragement. AVB set him wide to create space and we used the ball inside the full-back to good effect in the first half until Lazio shut the door. Lenny should have scored, once inexplicably opting to pass when shooting was by the far the simpler choice.
Sandro was magnificent once more. Such is his influence, it could tempt AVB to go with only one DM thus releasing more attack-minded players. Dembele oozes power and class, great left foot, lovely touch. Purring with delight over him, he’s a player and no mistake. Caulker eased himself into the team although he looked nervous. Lloris had little to do. He’s prepared to boss his box, readily coming off his line. His first such run nearly ended in disaster but fortunately Klose fluffed it (not the only time he did so) but it’s what we need. Two fine keepers is a good problem to have.
The game was soured by the racism of a few Lazio fans. I didn’t hear it or see the nazi salutes that Park Laners have reported, but action must be taken by UEFA and the club itself. Di Canio’s nazi salute (alleged nazi salute, sorry, he claims it wasn’t. Pins and needles in his arm, I’m sure), that was to Lazio fans, wasn’t it? The club must take action. It’s not just UEFA’s responsibility.
It’s also a shame because there was a poignant moment when both sets of fans chanted Paul Gascoigne’s name and applauded each other. The memory of a wonderful player endures.
One final and futile comment – Spurs are never going to have European glory nights if the opposition fans occupy most of the Park Lane. I know the safety issues but there must be a way to at least tuck them safely in the corner. No other team in the land would shift their own supporters to that extent.