Spurs Draw: Reflections On Tottenham’s Growing Maturity

Given the hysteria surrounding Jurgen Klopp’s first match as Liverpool manager, many in the media must have been surprised that another team actually turned up at White Hart Lane on Saturday. Yet once the furore died down, the match said far more about Spurs’ progress under Pochettino than it did about the new kid on the Anfield Road.

Klopp’s good, mind. Because of the international break he only had his players for a couple of days but he certainly got through to them. From the kick-off Liverpool launched a ferocious onslaught, hurling themselves into tackles and blocks as soon as a Tottenham man got anywhere near the ball. For the first 10 or 15 minutes we could barely move, let alone get the ball out of our half. This wasn’t so much a press, more a vice and Spurs were being crushed. The Shelf was shrouded in dark muttered foreboding.

Not only did Spurs not cave in, they gradually came to terms with what was required. You could almost see the players working it out. Rose lost out, Walker lost concentration and Njie, on as early as the 11th minute for the injured Chadli, had no idea what had hit him, his head still firmly on the bench. With remarkable ingenuity, Eriksen and Dembele in midfield responded to the pressure. Eriksen thrived on the challenge. No time on the ball so play it quicker, pass and move, ready in space if needed. Others followed their example, Kane running ceaselessly into channels or dropping deeper, first touch to move it on. Dembele and Alli working hard in central midfield then Rose offering some respite wide left.

By the end of the half, we’d got past working it out, we were on top. We pinched the ball off them, Alli I think and Kane set up Njie whose shot was well saved. Njie just over, Kane missed the best chance of the game, shooting low straight at the keeper and Alli’s shot from the rebound was blocked. Not everything Eriksen tried came off but the angst inspired him to be energetic and creative, looking for the telling pass when he could have justifiably played it safe.

It shows how far we have come. The old Spurs would have folded like Brits on a picnic at the first sign of rain. Less than two years ago (it seems like another era) Rodger’s Liverpool started this fixture in the same manner. Spurs lost 5-0, had a man sent off and AVB was sacked. This was the most mature performance I have seen from Tottenham for a long time. Resilience through flair has become a hallmark.

To underline the point, Mason, Dier and Bentaleb were all missing from our defensive midfield. Once Dembele and Alli sorted themselves out, you wouldn’t have noticed. Alli played his most disciplined game, diligently holding his attacking exuberance in check unless he was free to move up. He didn’t get booked for a rash challenge either. He’s learning.

Dembele was a dervish of the midfield, tackled, holding and spinning on the ball like a man possessed. Holding onto the ball has been his weakness but on Saturday his ability to keep it and not be knocked off the ball gave his team-mates precious moments to find space so he could move it on. I know what you were thinking – he’s going to hang on to the ball once too often and they’ll break away…but he didn’t, not once. More evidence of the committment of this squad. Earlier in the week Dembele was tipped to leave the club in January to fund the purchase of a striker but this was the performance of a player determined to stay, to be part of something.

The second half was tense rather than exciting. The pace dropped, understandably, and it ended up with the teams cancelling each other out. A mistake looked likely to settle it as the ball stayed resolutely away from both penalty boxes. Near the death Eriksen set Kane up at the edge of the box but his shot was saved. At the other end, Alli conceded a free-kick – I feared that was the mistake but we cleared easily.

A touch of regret at the draw because Spurs had the better chances. Kane’s lost the magic in front of goal. It’s tempting to say he’s taking a fraction longer, one touch too many but last season he often had two or three touches while closely marked before scoring. Elsewhere his play has improved – he never hides, never stops working off the ball and twice barely perceptible shimmies plus a sublime first touch set up good moves, a third saw him chopped down mercilessly.

He could have done with some help, and that’s the problem. Too often he was isolated 15 yards from the nearest team-mate, dealing with a long ball against two defenders. Njie is raw talent, he’ll take a season at least to get used to the pace. So with Son injured, no one to share the goalscoring or for that matter anyone on the bench to make an impact or replace tired legs. The failures of the window leave us short. My fear, expressed at the time, was that it was both shortsighted and placed undue, unfair burden on the young squad however willing they are. I don’t want to be proved right.

Writing this blog I’ve come to the conclusion that the perspective from which fans  view the game significantly changes their perception of the performance. Television encourages a critical interpretation. It distorts what is humanly possible, makes the game look easier than it is. I’m not excusing basic errors early on in this game but from my viewpoint, centre Shelf 14 rows up, the speed of the first 20 minutes made me wince. The players had no time to react. I suspect social media was by and large flat after this one. As far as I’m concerned, I take my hat off to those Spurs players, each and every one. I don’t know how they can think straight let alone play that well. It’s unfashionable to make a comment like this and it’s not something that applies every week as regular readers know but there are times when mortals like myself don’t know how they do it. Perhaps we’d all enjoy modern football more if expectations were not so unrealistically high.

21 thoughts on “Spurs Draw: Reflections On Tottenham’s Growing Maturity

  1. Thats the best analyzes of a game that I read up to now.Spot on and considering that LIverpool had a new manager and players are out to impress (and we normally lose games in this situation) Spurs players were superb

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  2. Who wrote this one, Alan, your reduced “expectations” doppelganger? Very nicely observed and reported. Kudos should be made for addressing our obvious big need from last season — stiffen our overall D and concede less goals — because so far, we’ve let in the least amount of goals in PL. Who knew? Dier (Dembele in last game) pugnaciously holding the fort in front of Toby and Jan who’re cleaning up in front of The Boss, and the wingbacks tracking back more — only 7 goals conceded and two of them OGs. With Mason, Bentaleb, and Dembele back, that’ll give us more options and more oomph in midfield. Even with Chadli out for a bit, Mason and Alli could play off Kane until Son returns. And how about a dual awesome pivot of Dier and Dembele? Now, here’s to the goals coming and not just from HurriKane. COYS! 😉

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    • Thanks Ashley. I didn’t mention the defence this week because I have praised them a lot recently but once more Jan and Toby have the makings of a fine double act, and they’re not comedians! Saw this one with my granddaughter who is 10 and plays for her local girls team. I was showing her how to defend by using Toby covering Verts as an example.

      Regards, Alan

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great positive words Alan and Ashley.
    With the best goals conceded stat in the league our back 5 are doing a fine job.
    How is he going to play Dembele, Alli and Dier in the same side ? I hope he can!! That leaves Kane, Ericsen and Son to make up the 11. Surely there will be another striker coming in January. I also like the new boy Njie!!
    It will be a selection dilemma but it looks like we are coming together as a real strong squad.😀😀😀
    COYS

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    • Poch deserves great credit for bringing the best out of these players, making them want to challenge for the first team. We must make the most of our chances though – with a sound defence one will often be enough.

      Njie bought as a raw potential, I think. Bewildered by the intensity of the English game so he has much to learn.

      Regards,

      Alan

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    • Thanks pete, I’ve featured the defence a bit lately but should have given the centrebacks a mention. Good players made better because they work together.

      Good to see you at the Trust Pete.

      Regards, Alan

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Alan,

    Against a side that looked to strangle us to death we created enough good chances to win with a little tread to spare. I’m enthused.

    Harry’s playing well and I have no worries about him. His game shows he’s a very very good player. While the first chance was a good one, Mignolet got his angles right and all strikers great and small often hit the keeper’s leg from such an angle. I did think Harry could have looked to hit the corner of the goal with the attempt late on. Low and early is the mantra. As Alan and many others say, he’s not given the support he deserves at times.

    I was very pleased to see Dembele come back so well as he’d looked thhe part in the game he got injured in. From worrying about central midfield we have 5 very good players in there to choose for 2 positions!

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    • I’ve always thought someone at the club must be able to get the best from his talent but never saw him as an efficient DM. An outstanding performance that was just what was needed to take back the initiative from Liverpool.

      Kane impressive, no doubt.

      Regards, Alan

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  5. Very good article Alan.I didnt see it much differently by the way writing from about 3500 miles away and looking at a 40 odd inch screen and only coloured by my own biases.
    Last week I thought Eriksen was our best player but this week I certainly wouldnt put him up there with Dembele. Dembele was all over the place tackling,dribbling,passing and pressing with presence and Eriksen didnt have a bad game but Eriksen has to do a lot less to impress,Dembele has to earn respect every game and he did. Eriksen came on more near the end but for a lot of the game he was unexceptional.
    Exceptional means getting ahead of the game and making things happen. Of course the energy that Liverpool displayed from the beginning was electric and they pressed and pressed but you are right in the latter stages of the first half we came more into it and the s econd half was ours except we lacked the firerpower or any exceptiuonality to win it.
    This is the Premier League its the most ferocious league on earth but in the first half I thought N’jie was much much better than Eriksen. He at least was making what limited space available work for him he faded in the second and Eriksen came more on.
    While I feel for Kane,and I do believe he will tiumph in the end,he still has to get out of this himself. He doesnt need three more strikers he needs to get beyond the pressure or get on top of it and pound it.
    They were also missing players including their main striker.
    Lots of good battles Skrtel/Kane,Walker/Lallana etc all over the field all the time.
    I dont think we can be ecstatic about a point at home but we did play ok and it was acceptable but even though Dembele was our best player by far,nobody got ahead of the pace of the game.There seemed like 20 like for like players out there all running like mad. It needed a Gascoigne moment but nobody could. 20 players mirroring themselves…it was Liverpool doing a Tottenham and Tottenham doing a Liverpool.

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    • Njie had an awful first 10 minutes on the pitch, he had not prepared mentally for the intensity but then again, he’s probably not experienced much like that before. A lot to learn but bought as raw talent I think so needs time and good coaching, both of which he will get from MP.

      I was OK with the point, disappointed we didn’t get more but evidence of real progress. I will say that home draws will not seem as satisfactory come February but we can worry about that then!

      Best, Alan

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      • I saw that first 10 minutes.N’jie could well have ‘overplayed’ it thinking this was his chance butvyhen hebpicked up his game forvtge balance ofvthechalf. Eriksen goes AWOL on occasion but we only hear about his 10 minutes. Not justbyou Alan. Many.
        I am less worrued about scores than quality. We didnt really impress. We were better than Liverpool but still not great.

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        • I like Eriksen, Ron, but I’m not gaga about him and understand his faults as well as his pluspoints. I’ve featured him a bit this season because when he’s playing well, he sees the passes, the opportunities, the one-twos, better than anyone currently in the side. Lamela is an excellent passer of the ball in central areas, 30 odd yards out, sees that litle diaognal and wieghts it perfectly.

          I also have steady expectations for Eriksen – when he came I thought he could be our playmaker but he will never dominate a midfield for a whole match but he remains the man with the most potential to create something.

          Cheers, Alan

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  6. An enjoyable read Alan and one that provoked some more thought on my own views. I appreciate Liverpool were charging about like men on a mission, but even allowing for that I thought Danny Rose was sloppy early on. You make a good point though, it is easy to say that without realising the pace of the game, and if he has no options available he will inevitability look silly if he is forced into a rash pass.
    I rarely get to games these days due to young kids and lack of spare cash, and envy those lucky enough to be at WHL, but rarely more so on Saturday as you wouldn’t have had to put up with BT’s Klopp-fest. It was ridiculous and it was nice to see the supporting cast (Spurs) comfortably spoil the party.
    On hindsight I’m quite satisfied as we avoided the defeat that inevitability follows the award of Manager of the Month (to Poch), and also the new manager bounce every team sees to get (especially v Spurs on both counts or maybe it only seems that way).
    Not much to add except some concern over Harry’s lack of scoring touch presently, and also the poor standard of corner kicks these days. Not just at Spurs. It can be very frustrating.
    A glass raised to another clean sheet.

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    • These days if I’m at home I seldom watch the pre-match TV build-up – the media love a story, a ‘narrative’, Klopp in this case, but funnily enough a football match is usually enough for me, that’s why I’ve turned on in the first place….

      As I said in the peice, the pace was frightenting but no excuses – Walker, Rose and Njie all made mistakes/gave away the ball when they had no need. It’s an effect of the press – one of the things it does is to put uncertainty into the minds of the opposition. Walker sadly but inevitably will always have at least one lapse of concentration per game but this time we got away with it.

      Cheers, Alan

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  7. Alan,
    Wonderful write up per usual.
    I agree that the first 20 minutes made me cringe, and the unfortunate inheritence of being a Spurs fan is the fear of collapse, as you referred to with AVB. This team has had a couple of “chances” to fold this year and has shown steel, even better this time, to do it without Dier, pinch me I am feeling positive.
    Kane remains goal lite, but his work rate, first touch and ability to play others into the game is truly remarkable, he has great number 10 skills to go with that quick strike. Unlike many strike who go off the boil, he wants the ball and is not hiding from the game. I expect his luck to change, a few deflections, shots slightly wider of the keeper and he will kick off.
    On a personal note, I am coming to London from upstate NY for a conference and will be attending my first game at the Lane, November 1 Monday night against Villa. I have to admit I am a relatively new supporter, 2005 season, but I have never felt such an excitement to visit any ground, or to see any other team than this one!
    COYS
    Thanks again Alan , love the posts and truly do look forward to reading each week or so.
    Ed

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    • Thanks Ed, and sincerely hope you enjoy your first visit to the Lane. WHL under the lights is always a good place to be. Have a wander round beforehand and take it all in. I probably can’t get there early enough to say hallo. Where will you be sitting?

      Regards,

      Alan

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      • Alan,
        We are in area 16, row 11, 197/198 seats, which is west stand lower in the corner, I have been a one spurs member so do get some general sale availabilty, no stubhub:)
        Trying to convince the little lady to get back for the Anderlecht return leg, we’ll see.
        If you are around early on, would love to say Hello
        Ed

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        • Ed, tomorrow will be in the Irish Centre in the road opposite WHL station, 6.45ish, or earlier travelling from Liverpool Street 6ish so could meet there. Probably you want to be around the ground earlier but let me know if that fits.

          Regards, Alan

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