Spurs Start To Gel As Pochettino Gets His Message Through

After Wednesday’s disappointment, Spurs came roaring back to beat Manchester City. It was a performance to quicken the pulse and gladden the heart, scoring three in a thrilling second half where we took the game to City and they had no answer.

All the better because it was unexpected, partly in the sense that City were top of the table and have a good record against us, partly because after half an hour or so they looked so smooth and effective on the ball. De Bruyne at 50 mill plus looked like the bargain of the season. He put City one up, running onto Toure’s perfectly weighted pass and hitting it early past Lloris, who until then had been the last line of defence on several occasions.

Old failings though – it came from a misplaced pass by Walker, across their box and deep in their half. The old adage always was about not giving the ball away in dangerous areas – these days every area is dangerous, it seems. We’d been stuttery in front of their goal too, hanging on and not pulling the trigger.

But times, they are a’changing. Slowly but surely Pochettino is equipping the team to deliver his vision of high tempo, pressing football that moves the ball forward quickly when we get possession. After a slow start to the season and hampered by injuries, Spurs have gradually cranked it up, notch by notch. Palace was a step forward, this firm confirmation that progress is real not temporary.

Pre-season I said Pochettino’s role in shaping the team and getting them to be more than the sum of their parts was the key to success or failure. On Saturday some fine individual performances were eclipsed by the coherence and integration showed by the team as a whole. Every man worked their little over-priced socks off. They knew what they were supposed to be doing, where they should be and when.

Whatever numbers you use to describe a system, its success or failure rests on the ability of players to know where they should be in relation to their team-mates and the ball. This of course changes second by second. I remember reading in the Glory Game, Hunter Davies’ book about the 70s Spurs side, that players like Chivers and Peters would leave the pitch at the end of the game with a splitting headache, caused by the strain of concentration. YAgainst City, even those in the bottom stream for tactics and positioning like Walker and Lamela earned A* grades.

After 30 minutes and at half time – there are witnesses – I was downbeat but whispered that of all the top teams, City’s defence is the most vulnerable. Sure enough, we caught our breath and pushed on. City folded. Kane missed a good chance, when he could have passed, then Walker’s cross was saved by the sprawling keeper but cleared only to Dier whose arrow-straight shot flew 25 yards at a constant height of 1cm above the turf and into the bottom right-hand corner.

Second half and we carried on where we left off. Alli and Dier took over the midfield, a remarkable effort from 2 young men aged 19 and 21. It proves the effect of talent and application. Dier is a remarkable figure. I thought at best he was a stop-gap DM. Now he’s superboy. The intensity in his game is almost terrifying, the sheer force of will swept City’s expensive stars away.

The second half was dreamy, unadulterated pleasure. We roared as Alderweireld headed in a free-kick from close range. No City players between him and the goal. We swooned as Kane steered in the rebound from Eriksen’s free-kick that hit the post. We shared his joy, breaking his league duck, but if there was relief too he showed none of that. Steely gimlet eyes the sign of complete self-confidence.

Then we swooned as Lamela, put clear by Njie, tiptoed round a defender and  keeper before nonchalantly rolling into an empty net. Tip of the hat to Njie, who harried and chased up front after coming on as sub and both won the ball and delivered a great pass to set up this fourth goal. It was the moment he seemed to realise the physicality of this league and play his part rather than sit back. If so, he’s a quick learner.

Replays showed that a myopic linesman scored an assist with goals one and three but we were due a decision going our way/we earned it/these things even out at the end of the season/who gives a flying one – perm one or more from these. Nothing could temper the enthusiasm.

The highest praise is reserved for our defence. The other theme of the season so far is that our defence, reinforced over the summer and protected by Dier and his plus one, is vital to any improvement we make. If we’re not scoring as many, not a problem yesterday of course, then we damn sure better not give so many away.

The stats tell one story – fewest goals conceded in the PL thus far. The real story emerged in the way we handled Ageuro yesterday. Over the past few seasons we’ve not been able to get near him in the box. Yesterday he got nowhere. Late on, He advanced towards Vertonghen. Jan did not plant his feet in concrete, a problem of his in one on one situations. Rather, he stayed upright and shepherded his opponent on to his oppo Alderweireld who completed the tackle and the danger passed. Two centerbacks working together – at last – and credit to Pochettino, a defender himself of course, for getting them to gel so quickly. Vertonghen’s two jaded seasons a distant memory now. Good partnerships all over the pitch – the centrebacks, Alli and Dier or Mason and Dier, Kane and Son, as well as team cohesion.

Behind him, Lloris was my man of the match. Rock solid throughout, he saved the hard ones and cling onto the straight ones like a boa constrictor round his prey.

You could see why Davies gets the nod – strong in defence, close to his back four.Finally a special word of praise for Erik Lamela. Early September and his heart wasn’t in it. Boy it showed. Now, he’s decided he has a future here and is coming to terms with the hard work the PL demands. By all accounts Pochettino insisted he stay when the Berahino transfer fell through. Perhaps this was the vote of confidence he needed. Get goalside more often when you get back, Erik, but a real contribution to the team on Saturday.

Thanks to everyone who commented on my last piece about the team selection for the Arsenal game. Sorry, very busy with deadlines in the real world so for once not able to respond individually. I strongly felt supporters had been let down because this above all else is a game for the fans, one to win. It’s probably the most discussed article I have ever written, in the comments’ section and on social media.

I don’t feel any differently about it now. Big games against arch rivals are the matches we all remember and that’s why we go to football. The four best games at WHL in recent years, ones where the stands shook like the old days and the soul was uplifted – Arsenal and Chelsea last season, Arsenal under AVB, won 2-1, and Arsenal in the League Cup semi-final, 5-1, we played a strong team, they opted for a couple of reserves, we took them apart. One for the fans.

Many (not on here) linked the piece to their own distrust of Pochettino. Not my view – regular readers will know I broadly support what he’s doing, feel Levy has not supported him properly and he deserves my patience.

Saturday’s win was down to team spirit, talent and superb fitness, all of which have nothing to do with Wednesday night. It seems to be part of the folklore of modern football that you can’t win two matches in the same week with the same team. If that’s the case, then I’m glad I’m old-fashioned.

24 thoughts on “Spurs Start To Gel As Pochettino Gets His Message Through

  1. How spurs just distroy city was not a big isseul other fans we all no that totteham is not like before the defeat on wenesday was a winning on saturday

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  2. Mauricio Pochettino is absolutely first class. To finish 5th last year with a load of failed signings was a brilliant achievement. And now he has finally got them off the wage bill and is developing this young, exciting team. And he has done this whilst having to balance the books (and not getting every signing we needed!). It just shows he needed time for his team to start to take shape. Give him time and we will have a fantastic team to grace the new stadium!

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  3. Great analysis, Alan. Glad to sense the more upbeat comments that despair and then joy within a few days can generate. I was there in February two years ago when Citeh demolished us. I had little faith Saturday would be much better.

    Oh! What a pleasant shock — COYS!

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  4. Last week not forgotten but I was happier on Saturday than I was annoyed on Wednesday, at least using hindsight I think I was. I’ve much less to say when we win than when we lose, suffice to say, just like a real footballer, I’m over the moon. Everyone played their part but in my opinion Lloris, Lamela and especially Dier were particularly magnificent. As indeed were the manager and the supporters.
    Aguero kept at bay? Amazing stuff, and as you say the rub of the green was very much overdue against Manchester City.
    I’m still on a high and it would be curmudgeonly to point out any negatives so no more to say except that Sid Little, Liam Gallagher, Curly Watts, Nick Lesson, Eddie Large and Colin Bell, your boys took one he’ll of a beating (some credit to Pellegrino, to my knowledge he didn’t try to pin the defeat on the officials, unlike pretty much every other manager of ‘a big club’).
    I really hope this is the start of something truly special.

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  5. Appreciate your old fashioned ways, Alan, but this is a different world. This high press game (which not only MoPo wants, but so do many other managers, except for the ones who sit back and park the bus waiting for counter attack) takes a lot of energy, and I bet MoPo’s training methods would kill most of us. I like rotation, I think he did the right thing on Sat and last Weds, we were two inches from Harry scoring a super winner last Weds, and MoPo would’ve been vindicated. Plus, I want much higher goals than just beating L’Arse — personally, as my dad’s team is ManUre, that’s the team that my brother and I always want to beat. Overall I want us to beat all 18 other teams. Just saying, we beat the Gunners, so let’s go back to bed, is so low in expectation and self-defeating. I want to take 4P at least from all 18 other teams, not just L’Arse as we did last season. I’d like to write a guest blog from the POV of ex pats or even Yanks over here who support Spurs — we don’t have to deal with crowds, StubHub, all that stuff you loyal lucky lads do, we just go to our Local or watch at home, and seem to have a passionate yet different take on our support of Spurs. Personally, I do think Mr. Levy cares, that he’s not incompetent, and that the club also cares in general. TTID from a colonies’ POV! Cheers, Alan! 😉

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    • I tend to agree, Ashley – I was reminded of Bilic getting slaughtered early on for playing his B team in the Uefa qualifier, then upsetting the Arse the following weekend…

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      • I agree it’s a squad game now and rotation is a necessity but my view would be that you keep mainly the same team but leave out say 3 maximum for a rest in any given game and replace with 3 round pegs for the vacant round holes, rather than make wholesale changes. This would hopefully keep the rhythm and momentum, and disruption is then kept to a minimum. I’d even go further and ensure the 2 or 3 resting were nowhere about the place but having their batteries fully restored, be it in Bognor, Marbella or Dubai, or wherever it is they go for these things.
        Of course the problem here is events disrupting idyllic plans. Injuries, suspensions and loss of form creep up at very inappropriate times. And every team has players that are simply irreplaceable with like for like quality, ourselves included so I accept there’s no right answer as such.
        Even had I the ability and profile to do so I wouldn’t fancy managing in professional football mind, so many complications and things you can’t divulge influencing selection. I’d prefer to be anonymous and have my opinions ridiculed here, rather than by thousands on a Saturday and even more thousands in the days following 🙂

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        • Hahahahah, well said Danny boy about commenting from a distance, away from the thousands on your back, much safer…although some commenters, in general, by their observations, LOL, seemingly couldn’t trap a bag of cement, as our Bill Nick once or twice said! 😉

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  6. Thanks Alan.
    The potential of our young side is enormous and I am enjoying watching them play.
    Have watched the replay of the second half a couple of tlmes and it is great fun
    Let’s enjoy the ride Spurs fans,I think it will only get better!!!
    COYS 😀😀

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  7. Am I the only Spurs fan to be slightly peeved. I mean, it was mighty inconsiderate of Dier to score with seconds to go to half time. Couldn’t he have waited until seconds after half time? I mean, didn’t he know, like, that the odds on Citeh to be winning at half-time and Spurs to win at full-time was 33 – 1 😦 🙂

    And what about the ref?If he had disallowed Citeh’s goal for offside and one of ours, my ‘Reverse Merse’* bet would have come up, also at 33 – 1!

    * The ‘Reverse Merse’ is where you put on exactly the opposite of what renowned p*ss-head junkie Merson says. So, he says Citeh will win 3 – 0, I put Spurs on to win 3 – 0 😦 Mind you, we did still win by 3 clear goals (so they should give me some money for that, really!) 🙂

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  8. When we were losing 1-0 or maybe when it was 1-1 I wrote on another site that we looked very tenuous and nervous and were nit playing well but if we coukd get going we could beat this team 4-1.
    I thought it because Silva was so much the engine of that team.Him and Aguero. When Silva was injured last year it was Aguero who held the whole team up but this year he really wasnt clicking. So I thought we had a chance to kick them.
    I didnt me literally. We booted them all over the park.We were quicker to the tackle,we pressed unbelievably through Dier,Lamela,Kane and Davies. All of us were swarm tacling them. This created our space while squeezing theirs. This opened the field for Lamela and others.
    Its was a beautiful second half,not pretty but gritty. A well earned win. A win that made us sgake our heads and asked if this was really us. I mean our fans are used to a bunch of wimps and victims with our only salvation whining about refs and lasagna. We look like bravehearts out there.
    It wasnt a flowing performance.We played the physical side of City and shook them up.
    The win was less important than the way we handled ourselves.We surely beat City well and good.

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    • Ron, you seem to have two personalities, you and your clone — one for that other site, which I cannot stand, so I avoid, and then one for Alan’s great page, here! The way we handled ourselves, our attitude, the gang-ho swarming, Lamela dispossessing a rival before playing a one-two with Eriksen to send Erik away on the run that earned a FK that ended in HurriKane’s goal. Bravehearts indeed, mate, as you note! Now to keep it going against those that “park the bus” soon coming… 😉

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      • Im pretty consistent with my viewpoint Ashley.
        The other site is totally different,tribal,Monty Pythonesque,Sex Pistolsesque
        Here its intellectual, reserved , conservative,sane.
        I enjoy both.
        As to my viewpoint Ill give you an up to date:

        Levy:
        Clever accountant,conservative businessman,not an entrepreneur.No genius. Good within his iwn boundaries.

        Poch:
        Couldnt understand what he was trying to do.I get it more now. Started and gad a whole season of AVB Mark II . Talked about Atletico but played like AVB.
        Decisions on captains terrible.Man management seemed average but players liked him. Play was mistly incoherent.
        Big change this season. Preseason games in Malaysia and Sydney looked better.Saw flashes here and there with a flow being created.Stoke,Leicester and then the Europa game a couple of weeks ago and then Palace.Fliows sometimes for a half happening.Then the upsetting arse game. But then watched City.
        We literally beat them up.Great pressing and some flows,great tackling and great fight (. I coined the phrase Press and Flow (its forerunner Push and Run) think he is making this new system work.
        But Im still watching to see it all unfold.

        Eriksen.
        I expected more from this talented player.I put him on another level but realise now he cannot be a David Silva.He cannot run an attac,at least yet.. With the speedsters and the pressing,the space he couldnt create last season himself will be his to work with , and so I see him adding to our game greatly.
        Silva simply makes things hapoen as he constantly creates. Eriksen needs the help of others.

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        • Press and flow, I like that, Ron. But as an acute observer of things, there are definitely two shades of you, mate. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I know people and the faces they put on, lol!!! HH Ron says different things than TOMM Ron. I think you may get caught up a little with the hatred, name-calling and sometimes drivel they spout over there. I do like the sanity of TOMM! Kane, Mason, Dier, Alli, and the other youngsters are the new Spurs, give MoPo some time and some patience (injuries and park the bus defences, notwithstanding) for the players to shine! COYS! Cheers, Ron! 😉

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          • Yes that site Ashley certainly brings out the tribal side of me but its also a canvas for humour and irreverence too but yes inciteful.
            We also talk football and systems etc at times.
            At Alan’s site here its much more intelectual,civil but yes less inciteful and mire insightful.
            Quite frankly I like both.

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  9. Nice write up Alan
    I feel at last that we are starting to get a real team spirit going with a fight to the end mentality that has missing for soooooo long. Lets just hope it continue’s

    Would still like us to sign another quality centre forward and another back up centre half but other than that I think we might just about be there (have heard the youth team goalkeeper is actually quite good and is the one we’re pinning our hopes on to back up Hugo in the future)

    Up the Spurs

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  10. Thanks as ever Alan,

    What pleased me most was how well (sparklingly) we managed the game once we got our noses in front.

    I’ll be interested to see what team Poch puts out against Monaco on Thursday :)) Are we going for cups or not this season. I sincerely hope we are and would love love love to win the UEFA Cup/EL again. But I worry how we can play at such a tempo over so many competitions, young side or not.

    The squad, as we know, is light in certain areas and Dier has played every game so far and seems to have become crucial in such a short space of time, which can be a double edged sword, as even City showed trying to fill gaps left by key players. We still have some very good players to come into central midfield (Bentaleb, Dembele, Mason) but none can do what Dier can do in there. Dier has become our new Perryman or Roberts, very good in central defence or centre mid.

    On Saturday, our crowd was excellent, with the old ground rocking. We’ll miss it won’t we?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The irony is if we, and other English clubs, don’t do well in Europe there won’t be any point in finishing 4th in a couple of years as that qualification status will go to another country, Italy being favourite at the moment I believe.

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  11. Yes, that 2nd half was really dream-like to watch.
    One player who I really think deserves a mention is Kyle Walker, who I think has upped his game in general and was Great on Saturday. Yes I know there was a couple of misplaced passes (but they are certainly decreasing). Unfortunately one of those passes started the first goal.
    But he was great at keep Aguero in check and really gave him a beating.

    While I am at it Davis on the other side was also playing some tough intelligent football.
    I think the competition for places is also helping to get the best of the players.

    Let’s hope we can maintain this . . .and not repeat what happened after February last season!!

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  12. Keeping ‘grounded’ as Poch said. When we had those great results against Arsenal & Chelsea last year, the euphoria didn’t translate into a run of successful games. This result may not either, but of one thing we can be sure. We can be proud of this young squad, and optimistic for the future. All they need to do now, under Poch’s influence, is find their shape, and exciting times could be ahead.
    I still worry about the left flank, but less so now about the creativity in midfield.
    Davies is certainly a better defender, but he’s no speedy ‘wing back’ like Rose, and that leaves us shortchanged going forward, in stretching teams on the left (unless we play Rose as a winger in front of Davies …Nah, well, er perhaps on occasion).
    I only say this because neither Lennon, and now Townsend, have played well on the right without balance on the left (since Bale departed from that flank first, and then the club). We have a huge supply of central players (forward, hole, middle and defensive midfield) but we can’t create consistent balance unless we have a specialist left winger. I feels that’s even more important than another main striker, although the point was made well by Gullit about Kane being more a no. 10 than a no. 9 …in which case a no. 9 is definitely needed while Kane runs the channels.
    But I’ve been proven wrong by Lamela, and I’m thrilled with Son and Del Alli. People spoke of City’s spine missing (not that they couldn’t put out TWO teams in the PL with both challenging top four!) ..well, we had 3 proven midfielders out (Bentaleb, Mason and Dembele) with Eriksen not fully fit yet.
    However, with Dier and Verts and Alderwerald operating that strong central defensive triangle we drew City’s sting. Poch may have learned much from this. You get a team that presses high and hard for the first 30 or so minutes, as City did, but if you can limit the damage, then a fitter team like Tottenham can bounce back and control things in the later stages. That’s what happened Saturday. Like a ‘clear favourite’ boxer really going for it for the first 5 rounds, being somehow kept at bay by his opponent, who then comes in late to take advantage as the other guy tires (Tyson’s first ever defeat was like that). Against the best teams, or even the ‘rest’ (as we have found to our cost too many times in recent seasons) we’ve started the pressing game too quickly and too fast and, unless we’ve created enough and scored enough to turn that domination into a cushion, we’ve come unstuck later in the game. I know that our extra fitness often brought us late results too last season, but with our new defense, marshalled by Lloris, we can draw the sting of other teams, and then really pounce. I can’t wait to see this team and squad take real shape!

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    • I think CB that Davies was safer for City as a bigger problem was a gap that Rose would leave.
      Benteleb is better defensively than attacking and Benteleb could be used to back up Rose while shifting Alli to a central role in MF and give Dier a rest.
      I agree with the way we nullified City then took over.It was also unTottenham like. But looks like the new Tottenham and a Tottenham we all like!

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