If I were you Andros my friend, I’d pop down the bookies and bet on every 100-1 shot, buy a lottery ticket (you’ll only need one) and nip into the casino on the way home. When you’re hot, you’re hot and Andros my boy, you are currently smoking. If Townsend ever again has a couple of weeks anywhere near as good, we Spurs fans are in for a treat. A sensation for England and yesterday the crucial opening goal, a cross rather than a shot at that. Give Scarlett or Mila a bell when you have a moment, it can’t go wrong.
Spurs deserved this win against Aston Villa without ever reaching top form. After a frantic opening, the game settled into a flat, monotonous pattern, all effort but little guile or inspiration. Just as our performance was in danger of spiralling down the plughole, Townsend’s goal lifted the spirits and crucially the tempo. From then on, Spurs stayed on top save for the period around the hour when Villa talisman Benteke came on. The earth shook and defenders’ nerves trembled as he leapt then fell to the ground, vainly trying to convert a series of dangerous crosses. Narrowly wide on a couple of occasions, the ball went safely by the woodwork and that was essentially that. Spurs’ second, delightfully set up by Holtby and Paulinho, finished by Soldado in style, may have been a rare instance of incisive creativity but it put us out of sight. Again it came at just the right moment, effectively extinguishing hopes of a home revival. From then until the final whistle, the momentum stayed with Spurs.
Townsend won the man of the match award. Undeniably he played well, contributing throughout and running rampant in the last 15 minutes when he had more space as Villa pushed forward in search of a goal. However, our Brazilian central midfield (I can’t believe I’ve written that about a Spurs side, think I’ll type it again), our Brazilian midfield made a telling contribution to victory. Sandro was the unobtrusive powerhouse, loping across in front of the back four to sweep up the danger and provide a platform for our more creative players. Paulinho was industry and application from first until last. He was always available for his team-mates, made a series of telling runs into the box (missing a great headed chance from close in to make it three near the end) and his energy kept the ball moving when Spurs were in danger of falling into the torpor of a slumbering first half.
Last night on twitter Townsend modestly said his award should rightfully be Sandro’s, a rare and interesting insight into the mind of the professional who knows that the dribbles and runs are not possible without foundations of graft and effort, without someone to get the ball back when it has been lost. It was heartening to see the Brazilian’s return. He looked fully fit and determined to play both for a win and for his place in the side. It’s something I advocated in last week’s blog and so it proved. Paulinho began the game alongside him but was able to get further forward as the match settled into a pattern. In the second half in particular he supported Soldado as well as asserting his authority in midfield. This central axis proved decisive yesterday: it has to be the way forward.
After a busy first few minutes, Spurs allowed the tempo to fall and with it the standard of performance. We have to shift the ball around quickly to be at our most effective. Agbonlahor missed early on then Villa posed few dangers. Spurs were lacklustre, giving the ball away too easily and clumsy in our distribution from the back with our opponents’ main efforts coming from our mistakes.
Then Townsend’s goal, an inswinging left-footed cross that Soldado and Holtby both missed at the near post but occupying keeper Guzan’s attention so the ball floated in at the far. It was fortunate in some ways but the quality of the ball created that indecision and the sight of two Spurs players attacking the ball in the box augers well for the future.
Soldado’s goal, his first in the league from open play, was a beauty, calmly converting a well-worked set-up. With the ball at his feet in the box, in a trice he was a player transformed. Upright, calm, in control of the ball and everything around him, it was a moment of high class finishing. He’s busy up front, not a target man but the target for crosses and balls into channels. He waits, that’s what he does, and so we have to be patient and give him the ball in those areas. He can do the rest.
Holtby did well, staying involved and he has both the eye for an angled pass into channels and a left foot to deliver. He deserves a run in the side. While it was good to see Chiriches make his debut, Vertonghen left too many openings in the second half and did not have a strong match. he needs a rest on Thursday. Daws was involved in a couple of shaky moments but won his share of challenges. Pleased to see Lennon scampering enthusiastically onto the field like a puppy out for his first walk.
Overall, a win we earned and, glancing back at last week’s piece, some early signs that Villas-Boas understands more about what might constitute his best side.