A Hero For Our Time

Spurs comprehensively dismantled QPR yesterday at White Hart Lane with a first half display of sustained flowing football that was delightfully easy on the eye. Everyone contributed and there’s a confidence about the way they went about taking control of the game from the kick-off that is remarkable given this is only Pochettino’s third competitive match in charge. 

From Lamela’s running with the ball through to Rose the overlapping full-back and Capoue’s purposeful graft to Eriksen cushioning a sky-high ball stone dead and thumping a free kick against the bar, the first half was pure purring pleasure. For once Tottenham could be excused easing off in the second. Let’s not get carried away – Rangers were dire – but Tottenham On My Mind’s mantra is enjoy it while you can and if my ambition for this season is to enjoy it all again, this was a great start.

“Unhappy the land that is in need of heroes.” (Brecht) Football needs heroes and we’ve been looking for so long. Someone to revere, to get us excited when he’s on the ball, to boast about, to anticipate. In Erik Lamela, maybe the search is over.

There’s a theory that while coaches can make the running style of elite athletes more efficient, for most of us the body sorts out the biomechanics, which is why our gait is individual. Lamela is at his most natural with a ball at his feet. Relaxed and at ease in possession, he has to be on the move. He glides over the turf, effortless yet alert, making his own space and time, in search of an opening. Like a venus fly trap he seduces defenders into believing it’s safe. A slight figure, no outstanding pace, the temptation to tackle is overwhelming. They commit and he’s gone. 

He carries himself with the casual, oblivious insouciance that defines class. See him on the other side of the field, amidst a group of players, he stands out just by being there. He may not spend that much time on the ball but that’s not the point. His sudden bursts into space are game-changers. There’s danger for the opposition whenever he has room to breathe, even if as yet he’s not quite sure what to do with the power at his feet. Reminds me a lot of that great Spurs maverick, Alfie Conn. Yesterday he had more time in the second half as QPR vainly pushed forward and paradoxically was less effective. On one occasion in particular he dallied in the box when beautifully set up. Sometimes you just have to put your foot through the ball. We like our heroes to be fallible. 

Every time he was on the ball, there was anticipation in the air. He worked hard too – a few of his best moments came after he had won the ball in a hard challenge. On the few occasions we spotted him last season, he wandered aimlessly but Pochettino has enabled him to find a role. Capoue and Bentaleb provide a secure platform for the attacking midfield three to take the ball to our opponents. Capoue was strong throughout, although he must moderate his challenges or else he will be booked every game. Bentaleb had a good first half hour, important as we quickly established midfield superiority despite Rangers putting 9 and 10 men behind the ball. Rangers missed a great chance at 1-0 and that was that.

 

In front of them, Lamela, Chadli and Eriksen’s fluent interchanging of positions kept the opportunities flowing. Rose and Dier willingly pushed up to offer width. One big improvement with the new model Spurs is that as one element of the system moves, so the others shift around to maintain stability. Two examples. Last season Adebayor often had to be in two places at once, moving wide to create space while simultaneously being in the centre to get on the end of a pass or cross. Yesterday he missed two good chances, an early header from well within the box and a tame shot from the edge of the area, straight at keeper Green when Spurs had a 3 to 1 advantage after slicing through the Rangers defence. But later, when he pulled wide to unsettle the three centre halves, others took advantage of the space. Chadli at the far post controlled Manu’s cross on his chest and with calm delicacy touched it home for our opener.

Chadli again for the fabulous thrilling third. After a period of possession, Lamela burst diagonally leaving defenders in his wake. Chadli launched himself at the Argentinian’s cross, athletically powering home a thumping header. This was just terrific and Spurs were rampant. 

Also, Danny Rose can time his runs better and move forward knowing that Spurs won’t be exposed at the back if he does so. He’s not trotting forward to make up the numbers. He’s decisive, and his wing eforts helped dismantle the hapless QPR 3-5-2 system, exposing the full-back/midfield whatever (he didn’t know what he was supposed to be doing). Three of our four goals came from crosses from the left. Our fourth, Rose belted onto a Chadli pass and crossed for Manu to slide home. Two passes, 50 yards, 5 seconds. Sitting on the Shelf I could hear Rose call for that ball from the opposite side of the field. That’s how much he wanted it.

Rose was excellent defensively too. When he said he wanted to stay and fight for his place, for once it wasn’t just an empty soundbite. 

I wish Glenn Hoddle well in his new coaching role at QPR but this appeared to be a case of what looks good on the tactics board fails miserably when it comes to putting into practice. It was easy for Spurs to get round their flanks and the three centre halves just confused each other. It’s not that easy to leave so much room in the box but they managed it. Barton dutifully pressed then looked round in despair to see that none of his team-mates followed his example. 

The Rangers fans could not have been more let down by their side, except of course by their manager. Four down, the Spurs fans chanted, “Harry give us a wave”, and he obliged. I could feel the heat of their fans’ anger from the Shelf. There’s an article on the Four Four Two weekly online, entitled something like, Why Do Fans Hate Harry? I don’t hate him but wherever he goes, you don’t need to hand him a shovel, he can dig a hole all on his own.

Dier looks a right bargain of a prospect, a second accomplished game with a bonus goal, a near-post header from a whipped Lamela corner so firm Green got two hands to it but could not keep it out. Pochettino’s substitutions kept our momentum going, with Dembele coming on for Bentaleb and Kane too. He’s in tune with the rhythm of the game and is pro-active.  

 

33 thoughts on “A Hero For Our Time

  1. An excellent performance. Last year, it looked like the players had just met each other. Yesterday, there looked to be a plan. Very impressed with Dier. Saw him play in a couple of Sporting games last year but he seems to made a big leap forward. Good to see the players who didn’t do well last year come good too.
    I think I’ve enjoyed these two games more than the whole of last season. I’m not getting carried away but there were some really positive signs from the game.

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      • AVB was fine for the first season but overwhelmed by the task of integrating 7 new players, and by some accounts they were not the men he wanted. Agree it is the coach that makes the difference but even now the big money purchases of Soldado and Paulinho not part of this.

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    • My feelings exactly Pete. Sterner tests to come etc etc but enjoy it while we can. It’s not just the results – the whole mood has lifted and it’s down to Pochettino. He has clearly got through to the players.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Yes. What a joy.

    Even watching on a stuttering online feed that looked more time-lapse than superfast broadband, I was amazed by just how well-disciplined the boys looked in making off-load angles g=for each other and then exploited resulting development opportunities fast. I didn’t/couldn’t count but… 48 successive passes to score. Come back AVB – you’re forgiven (not). Perhaps a tad different from push and run, but being less than 80 I’m guessing…

    Just two games in, let’s retain a sense of proportion. However If next Sunday’s performance and result are anyway north of the first two, then we could be in for something special this season — at last!

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    • I missed the 48 pass count at the time! Knew we were using the ball well – angles, movement as you say. You may have seen superb stat yesterday that no only 48 passes but every one of our players touched the ball at least once in that move!

      I use wiziwig to access streams, has worked pretty well for me in the last year.

      Regards, Al

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  3. I really do want to get carried away, but QPR looked a right mess and Spurs switched off at the back badly in the last 20mins, when they had 3-4 very good chances. I was struck by Saints fading a fair bit in the 3-4 games I saw them play under Pochettino last season too.

    Nonetheless, as Alan says Spurs and football are to be enjoyed and I did so yesterday. A full and sunny lane with Spurs playing super stuff in glorious lilywhite, what’s not to enjoy …

    I was very pleased for Lamela, as he’s someone I’ve seen play a lot for Roma and rate very highly. Lots of options on the bench too; Chadli and Lamela, and one or two others, feel like new signings all over again.

    Liverpool next week may be a better gauge of where Spurs are , though all games are traditionally tough for us as we so often stumble vs presumed lesser sides.

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    • We did ease off and should not have done so, and it could have been very different if QPR had not missed a golden chance at 1-0. So right to not be carried away. Liverpool will put intense pressure on both our back four (with Kaboul looking out of sorts) and on our pressing game.

      Regards, Alan

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  4. As you point out, the main difference so far this season is our willingness to get men forward quickly when we’ve won back possession. Long may it continue.

    It would also be great if after 8 games, rent-a-gob has 2 points

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    • TMWNN, thanks for not bringing your “hate ENIC/Levy” mantra over here (from DML), mate! Or, are you just doing it all tongue in cheek?! If not, you got to get a life, brother! Or have a few stiff ones! 😉

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      • TMWNN always welcome round these here parts. Man’s got a perspective, argues his case. I don’t always agree but want to hear what he and you have to say. Best part of blogging,, I reckon.

        Best, Alan

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      • A little bit tongue in cheek, Ashley. Although I trust ENIC about as much as I trust Redknapp. It does tend to wind up the 10 year olds over there. Much more grown up over here, which I respect.

        I think we’re pretty much stuck with ENIC until the fans have repaid uncle Joe’s mortgage on the new stadium and he finally cashes in. In the meantime, let’s hope MoPo has the nous to get this side performing consistently. We’ve got a great squad, but it will take some doing to mount a challenge when money is no problem for several other sides. A bit of CL footy and/or a cup or two will do me for the foreseeable.

        You still in LA LA land?

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        • TMWNN, mate, good to get your real feelings, hopes, fears…and I understand the wind-up, and this Blog is, as you quite rightly note, more grown up. What can I say, LA is LA, it’s always paradise with a few perils. We have a huge LA Spurs following here, ranging from 50 (for the 4.45am games) to 150 (lads, wives, kids, ex-pats and Yanks) for the NLD games on TV. And we’re getting more and more American fans to become Spurs fans — first for the badge and kit (they like the cut of our jib), then our illustrious past, then because they like to support a team that has potential, and that just doesn’t throw money at the squad. I think sports fans here get a little bored with the Yankees/Dodgers/Red Sox trying to win everything (and they mostly don’t) through money. So, us Spurs are a good bandwagon to get onto. I’ll tell you this, as much as we might level criticisms at ENIC, if MoPo is given time, and gets it right the next couple of seasons, with basically the squad that Bale bought, then we may have to hand it our little Napoleon, eh?! Cheers Alan and fellow Yids! 🙂

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    • ‘Transition’ I believe we now have to call it but whatever it is, we do it well. It’s moving forward and back as a team not a collection of individuals. Re HR, I get the impression he’s losing interest. Leaving us and not getting the England job has hurt him more than he would ever care to admit.

      Cheers, Al

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  5. It’s so nice to have something positive to write about for a change. I was struck by the way there was always a teammate on hand, in defence and attack. When pressing one player would challenge, then another would come in and get the ball. When attacking there was always a runner giving support. The movement and one touch passing looked choreographed it was so quick and effortless. Viva Pochettino!

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    • Good observations, ABP. One thing that MoPo did at Southampton with LB Shaw as his main attacking FB, was to have one of his two DMs to immediately cover the space Shaw would vacate. You can see it now with Holtby in pre-season, now Bentaleb, covering the space that Rose (and/or Davies) leaves. It helps the attacking left-sided FB to feel he can attack with his back covered. Simple but effective tactics, and we’re just getting started. COYS!

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      • I really cant understand how the master tactician AVB couldnt solve two major problems in a year and a half. One was the fact that their was a road block at the final third and the other was the gap between the back line and the midfielders that chronically got worse.
        That was in a year and a half.
        Poch in 5 minutes has us playing like Atletico.

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        • AVB’s best times in his first year were with the same defensive set-up of 2 DMs, who provided that sort of cover. Where he fell down was the transition from defence to attack. We ground to a halt in the final third.

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        • Yet people still wanted to give him more time. If it’s not right fundamentally after 18 months, it’s just not going to work out. AVB didn’t even get close to the ceiling Redknapp hit.

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    • Exactly it. The players make themselves available and in midfield form hexagons and squares so passes and angles are always available for the man in possession. Also, players off the ball are beginning to respond two or three passes ahead. Transition from defence to attack is as a team. Quietly impressive.

      Cheers, Alan

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  6. Wow!!!! How great was that!!!!
    The players seem to be enjoying themselves playing this attacking football.
    The new manager is getting things out of the boys and they are responding.
    Liverpool next week. Let’s beat them and put last years horrors behind us.
    Dier looks the buy of the year at that price. Lamela could be anything, a budding champion!!!!
    COYS

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    • That’s what we need, rampant optimism – and hopefully well-founded. But Liverpool’s drive and pace could pose a problem, not that they showed an awful lot of that yesterday.

      Best Alan

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  7. Alan something I love more than winning,is quality poignant football.
    Winning football without quality is a short time high.Its usually not sustainable.
    I am much more concerned about structure..
    The team we play of course is important but the teams on the continent have lots of easy games but the fact that they can develop a flow even if its in those games,is great for their cohesion an confidence.
    This game was a treat not because beating QPR was such a feat but its the fact that it was comprehensive.
    Lovely football.
    Poch I think has great self esteem,is comfortable in his own skin,is confident,and isnt into instant gratification.He has a plan and his plan is coherent.It offers the closing down of space in defence,passing out and taking more chances that tip tappy football and aggresively getting the ball back and quick counters.Its exciting. Its real.
    Thats all Im looking for right now.
    I want to see us play the same way with a great flow against Liverpool and if we go down go down giving our best.
    I dont think we will though.Poch just gives me faith.

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    • Agree, and it is a good sign that we are all warming to Pochettino, more than the victories it’s the way we have gone about it that impresses.

      Regards, Alan

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      • The others were not full of shit they believed in what they were doing.
        Harry believe in what he was doing but was limited,AVB believe in what he was doing but was supposedly a tactician but a tactician gets going when things are going badly.He just had a plan.It didnt work.So he blamed everyone else. He was stuck in his own head.
        Tim thought he was a good manager. He couldnt manage himself

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  8. “Where have all the good men gone,
    And where are all the gods?” Bonnie Tyler

    Great article Alan. Whilst researching the book, we were struck by what a difficult first season my dad had. Admittedly
    he was still travelling back to Berwick to fulfil his National Service, and also had other personal issues, but he was also
    really unsure of the role that Bill Nick wanted him to play. It’s also been well noted that the crowd took a while to warm
    to him and understand his genius. Here’s hoping for another Ghost. Hope to see you soon. Rob

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    • Of course, Tyler or Brecht and I had to go for Berthold…

      Ta Rob. Interesting re John’s first season. Something similar could be said about many players, to the point where the exceptions would be the ones who DID perform at the best in the first season. And John was, what, 22? when he came down south, big thing in those days. I’ve said before how Chivers was slaughtered in the early days, when he was coming back from injury.

      Catch up soon for sure,

      Regards,

      Alan

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