Good Times At White Hart Lane

A good friend of this blog travelled many thousands of miles to be at White Hart Lane last night, his first ever visit to hallowed ground. He saw moments of dazzling skill, incompetent defending as Tottenham tried their best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, three fabulous goals and extended periods where nothing very much happened at all. In fact, what being a Spurs fan is all about squeezed into 90 minutes.

Two fine goals were bookends to a busy if average first half where Spurs had to work hard to break down a well-organised Villa side, motivated to impress new manager Remi Garde. A couple of minutes gone, Rose knocked the ball down the left. Dembele, on a mission, swatted away repeated challenges, fair and foul, by the hapless Villa centreback, before drilling the ball through the keeper’s legs. It was a confident display of strength and skill from a player realising what he’s capable of, and what a revelation it is.

The game settled into a pattern. A goal up, Tottenham were forced across and backwards before we could get forward. Patience and possession weren’t pretty but the right approach. Sometimes you have to take one step back before you can move forward. It’s tempo, or lack of it, that’s the potential problem and only when we allowed it to drop did the crowd’s frustration become justified.

Youngsters are not renowned for their patience in general but this lot are more mature. They didn’t panic and tried to keep the ball moving. Eriksen and Lamela found it hard to make an impact so once again Dembele’s ability to draw in a couple of defenders to make space elsewhere supported by Dier’s alert tackling caught the eye. Anyway, if we lost the ball all we had to do was wait until Villa gave it back to us. It never took very long.

Packing the midfield denied space but it left Villa extremely short up front. Apart from an early shot straight at Lloris, the only other wound for the best part of 80 minutes was self-inflicted. Hugo dashed out to the edge of his box for no good reason but the ball was muddled away.

Not many chances – Rose shot over from the old Sherwood/Sheringham near post corner routine, Kane and Dembele came close but we had to wait until just before half-time for the second. Rose’s good cross was headed clear to Alli at the edge of the box. One touch on the thigh then a low volley before it hit the ground into the bottom corner. Coolness personified as three defenders closed in. The mark of true class is when it looks so easy.

Second half, busy but unproductive. Spurs well on top, Villa getting nowhere. Kudos to their fans for selling out their end and filling it with gallows humour, the only response left if your side has been managed by Tim Sherwood. They wildly celebrated first hitting the post then scoring, Ayew’s shot deflecting past Lloris after Mason, on as sub, gave the ball away unnecessarily.

They could easily have had some unlikely but real success to cheer when their team nearly pinched a point in the final ten minutes. The story of the game in this morning’s papers is all about the extent of Garde’s task ahead if he wants to keep Villa in the Premier League. This is of course true – they lacked creativity and were shaky at the back. The media have missed another equally valid narrative, that Spurs while being the clearly superior side very nearly threw the whole game away.

As the second half wore on, the game appeared to be drifting to a sedate close. If Spurs were guilty of sleepwalking, they were still in no danger. But they must have dozed off totally because Villa finally attacked and found it too easy to pressure the defence. Conceding ground, for the first time in several games Spurs looked rattled. After the goal, Villa should have equalised. They finally twigged that they were supposed to cross the ball to the muscular Gestede who came on at half-time. Lloris hurtled out 15 yards, missed but the centreforward headed wide of an unguarded goal. So close to ‘Plucky Villa Begin the Fightback.’ To ‘Spurs Show Soft Centre Again.’

Defensively the right hand side remains a problem, not because of Kyle Walker, on the contrary he was strong, quick and confident throughout, but he was not protected in the final twenty minutes as Villa sensed an opening. Lamela for all his praiseworthy recent effort does not present an insurmountable barrier at the best of times and there’s no sense of partnership with his defensive partner. It was no different when Eriksen swapped over towards the end.

All’s well that ends well. In injury time Spurs created a fabulous flowing move that began with the ball in Hugo’s hands, kept going with a Davies one-two with sub Onamah and ended with Lamela setting Kane up for a first-time curling shot placed into the corner. From one end of the field to the other, unchallenged, first-time finish, this was a gem.

The back four once again looked busy and accomplished. Both full-backs did well. Rose has the ability and inclination to pick up the pace if the tempo drops. It’s as if he sees it as his responsibility to perform this role. I’m pleased to see Walker upping his game. Lloris made those two errors, misjudgements coming off his line which have been rare this season. Perhaps he as skipper wanted to influence a game that for the most part was played well away from his box.

In midfield Dier is bringing back the art of good tackling. Alli was busy, all good touches as he worked hard to find a way through before he faded later. Needs a rest before Sunday. Lamela came into his own late on, expertly holding onto the ball to allow time to drift by so we could enjoy the win.

When Kane was knocked heavily to the ground, the groan of anxiety was audible. He then became the only player I have ever seen get an ovation just for standing up. What would we do without him.

Unbeaten since the first game of the season, up to 5th and a good feeling around that comes from a team working together to better themselves, close to the supporters and reaping the rewards of their hard work. That’s a good feeling to have. Not that any were needed, but good reasons to be a Spurs fan now. Pleased and proud of how they have played this season.

19 thoughts on “Good Times At White Hart Lane

  1. The last paragraph pretty much sums up my thoughts at this stage. There are indeed three probably tough games upcoming in the League which will give a further indicator of progress, but at this point in the team’s development I honestly don’t think we can ask for much more. Except of course for a win on Sunday!
    Be careful what you wish for mind, about 75 minutes in I thought to myself last night’s game needed Spurs to get the bit between their teeth as they were in cruise control.As a long suffering fan I feel uncomfortable when there’s nothing to worry about, not that it happens often. I didn’t however want them to concede such a preventable goal that meant they had no choice but to reignite their collective backsides and start concentrating again.
    I promise you and your readers that when we’re two up and cruising Sunday v Arsenal I’ll not inwardly wish for a spark to give the game a burst of excitement and jinx an otherwise easy ride for the last ten minutes!

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  2. Entertaining game if a little Spursy towards the end. Thought Dembele had a great game. When he’s positive rather than playing a safe square pass, he’s a force to be reckoned with. Alli and Dier also had great games. Nice to see Onamah get a few minutes and play a part in the win. Also good to see Mason is back in contention. I’m really enjoying this season.
    Sad to see Villa so poor though. It’ll take a lot to keep them up this season.

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  3. Unless I missed it, the media in general appeared to have overlooked our achievement in using seven, yes, SEVEN English players during the course of the game. Come on you Spurs !

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  4. There’s not much I can disagree with there!
    The up in confidence is evident in the squad. Lamela and Dembele in particular have impressed me recently. Moussa we always knew what he was capable of. He’s a strong no-shit physical midfielder. But Lamela is a breath of fresh air because he’s clearly (not before time) rediscovered that bit of cocktails flair he so badly lost when he landed head first into a league which was out of his depth. Fair play, his work rate has improved extrodinarilly.
    Alli is exciting and so is Dier.
    So,yes. This is a good season to be a Spur, because for the first time since Redknapp, we have a team who dares. COYS

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  5. We came to get three points by using the least energy possible (Dembele had to be told to calm down 15 minutes in) and we succeeded. If Villa got another goal I think we would have turned it up a bit but I think our sights were totally on Arse and partially on Anderlecht.
    It was simple and good and little sweat.Not all that pretty but 3 points and 5th. Move on boys.Its two big games.Lots of subs for the first and unleashing Son for the second. Arsenal game is going to be fantastic.A War.

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  6. Refreshing to read an honest, well written and positive blog. Too many blogger / sites (one in particular – im sure ‘ronwol’ can guess) could see the negative in winning 12m in a syndicate as they had to share it with someone else (even though their ticket didn’t have the winning numbers!).

    Hope Spurs keep giving you the amunituon to keep writing quality…

    COYS

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  7. Alan,
    Sorry that we could not connect before the game Monday evening, I did try to get up to the Lane a bit earlier to soak in the atmosphere if you will. By the time we figured the tube from our Shoreditch flat, transfered, started walking…..the wrong way out of Seven Sisters(???how’s it even possible) turned around and got up the WHL, it left us with little time to have one quick pint, buy a few trinkets and get to the seats. I will be back for another game soon, so maybe then! I did coerced the little lady to join me, and we had a grand time.(can’t convince her that Anderlecht is a must see though)

    The inevitable angst created by the defected Villa goal, made perfect sense and honestly had we polished them off early I would left cheated I think. Funny, trying to explain to Renee that Villa would score somehow and we would be hanging on, “how did you know” she said at the 74th minute… cut to wry smile and knowing nod.

    There is something ephemeral about a night game under the lights, N17 is a grand old lady, and I was enthralled by it all, a 50yr old Yank who felt like I was opening the biggest gift under the tree at Christmas. With the new stadium coming I had to see her before she was gone, and thankfully I have been able to do so.

    As far as individual performances are concerned, maybe being there blunted my judgement but I felt the team performance was consistent and calculated, Villa kept their shape very well and left few gaps. This is the type of game that the good teams need to figure away to win, obviously Villa had little offensive power but did get behind the ball well. Harry gave his usual 110 percent and really does move well off the ball, but he had few looks until the last goal which was perfectly setup and finished. Dembele looks like a man possessed, the Tazmanian devil of Looney tunes fame, hos ability to turn and hold off an opponent is unparalled, and if can start to finish look out.
    D. Ali is a wonder, so settled on the ball, talented beyond belief, sky being the limit, I love his aggression and direct nature.
    Toby and Jan have created a solid partnership , they cover each other better than any two centerbacks have at Spurs in a long time
    Hugo is well Hugo,even with a couple gaffs he is probably our greatest assest, think when he does not start, Alka Seltzer time.

    Alan, thanks for your wonderful blog and beautiful prose, wish I had half of your talent in that regard.
    Cheers hope to meet soon
    Ed

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    • Sorry for the delay in replying Ed,

      Delighted you got to experience the Lane at its best under lights and of course I was thinking of you when I wrote the blog – all the emotions of being a Spurs fan crammed into 90 minutes. The things you say about how it feels can never be said too often. We should talk unashamedly about the emotion – so much football writing and discussion is infused with cynicism. Happy clapping is just as toe-curling for me but being too distant from the emotion means you lose the joy of the game.

      Thanks for the support on the blog, see you next time you come over.

      Regards, Al

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    • Ed

      Great input. Enjoy life here. It’s not a lot, but getting a shade brighter weekly.

      That’s weekly – not weakly!

      CO Yank S!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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