Fears of a Villa backlash after the Chel**a defeat were quickly dispelled as Tottenham Hotspur imposed themselves on the game and established the pattern of dominance that lasted almost as long as that of the Roman Empire. This was less a victory, more a rampaging conquest – we were so much on top, the Brummies left the ground speaking with cockney accents.
The first half gave Spurs territorial superiority with nothing to show for it, bar the fact that Walker can’t take corners. In the second, we upped the tempo. When we get one, we’ll get more, and Gareth Bale tore the Villa defence apart with a hat-trick. As emphatic an away victory as Spurs will ever get in the Premier League. It could have been more, and the only talking point from the match is which was the best goal.
Poor Villa. I’d say this was the most one-sided game that I’ve ever seen in the Prem except I saw them play Chelsea on Sunday. Manager Paul Lambert has been given the opportunity to build rather than buy a team but some of the players on show yesterday are so far from the first team, he probably used this week’s training sessions to get to know their names never mind where they played. If ever there was a lesson that modern football is a squad game, their experiences this week are it. Without intruding on private grief, all I’d say is that he had enough problems with finding a team after a series of injuries without making them play in an unfamiliar formation. The double whammy of young men playing 3-5-2 or yesterday with only one striker was far too much. They were all over the place until they came out with an enforced 4-5-1 at the start of the second half when they briefly improved.
I half-expected Villa to come at us out of the traps. Instead, they were more like the stuffed hare. Spurs notched up a first half corner count of 15 to 1 (good title for a gameshow, that) and had 11 shots on target without reply. Bale was always dangerous on the left and we fed him regularly because we had so much possession. Villa keeper Guzan was ironically their best player, saving well from Bale and Defoe.
However, Spurs weren’t completely convincing. Once again there was no drive from Sandro and both Dembele and Adebayor were anonymous throughout. The link-up play between JD and Manu was poor for the third game in a row. Walker did well. Given a free role a little like Bale’s, he used his freedom to come off his wing to good effect, relishing the chance to be temporarily freed from his defensive duties. Good tactics from Villas-Boas.
But this is Spurs, and come, we’re among friends here, when Villa played a bit after half-time, you had that lingering doubt that all that possession would be wasted? Am I right? Ironically the goal that opened the floodgates was on the counter after Villa’s best attacking move. The attack seemed to have lost momentum in the left corner when Naughton’s through ball, perfect in every way, let Defoe in for a right-foot finish.
The second soon followed, again started from deep by another simple, effective pass, this time from Lennon, as Bale rampaged into the wide open spaces of the Villa half. He took it calmly round the keeper to finish with the touch of a master striker. Except this guy used to be a full-back.
Parker was on now, the right substitution to snuff out any doubts at the back and keep Spurs busy. One touch to control the ball, the second to pass it on. That’s the way to play. You can’t make too many long-term judgments from a match like this where we had so much space but Parker’s arrival upped the tempo and eased everyone into the quick pass and move that suits us so well.
Lennon had another good game as part of the supporting cast. This is best season for us. He set up the third, releasing the ball at just the right moment for Bale to tuck the ball away from the heart of the box. He scored his hat-trick from the same spot, putting a Siggy pass to the keeper’s left this time. Please don’t take Bale for granted. He’s a world-class talent. I’ve not seen his like since I began watching football in the sixties.
Finally, a word of praise for William Gallas. Not his most taxing afternoon but he did not put a foot wrong, defending on his own during a little wobble when we played the well-known Christmas parlour game – in a space roughly 60 yards by 30, how far apart can 4 defenders stand? Ever-watchful and reassuring.
A cliche but in my case it’s real so what the hell – all I wanted for Christmas was 3 three points (well, and a turntable for my vinyl but that doesn’t fit so neatly). We came, we saw, we conquered. Lovely stuff.