Spurs Youngsters Come of Age

The white-hot heat of the North London Derby inspired a young Tottenham side to one of the finest displays of teamwork for many a long year. Ar****l were shattered, groggy, punchdrunk as Spurs were on the edge of a famous victory. Unable to deliver the final blow, a moment’s weakness and the win slipped away. The memory of the performance will live long not only in the minds of supporters but more importantly in the heads of the players, who surely will take from this the confidence to say, we can do it, stick together and bring them all on.

At full-time I was bursting with pride and contorted with frustration. 24 hours on, I’m still full of praise for a manager and squad who under scrutiny showed what they can do and what’s still to come. I had high hopes for the team’s potential but no idea it would be realised so soon. They have exceeded all my expectations and perhaps their own.

Yet the disappointment remains. Before kick-off, an away point, that will do, at the final whistle it was two points dropped. The defence, a pillar many times this season, eventually succumbed to another of a series of inswinging crosses. Up front, we failed to put away another goal that would have been richly deserved.

All did well, a few were outstanding. Dele Alli, £5m from League 1, 19. Fearless. Hanging back to begin with, he timed his movement forward with the nouse of a veteran. Five games ago he was keen but untutored. Now he’s a mainstay of the side. That’s taken him five games.

Who amongst us thought we would live to see the day when Moussa Dembele was pressing in the 91st minute? Never has the redemptive power of teamwork been demonstrated more effectively than in the Belgian’s recent performances. A man transformed, he’s transfixed us with his power and grace, a muscled hunchback stooped over the ball as he dares allcomers to take it from him. Second half, he fashioned an attack on the left corner of the Arsenal box. It broke down, they shifted it right and who charged across to cut out the danger.

Lamela worked tremendously hard and to good effect. One swaying run nearly broke through. In the end he was so excited, he was booked and had to come off for his own protection. Next time, push on, one touch fewer near the box and put your foot right through it. Not his nature, just hit it. Eriksen running for the whole game, bringing those shrewd passes into play.

Kane masterful on his own, not content with bringing the ball down, he has to turn away from his man in the same movement. He took his goal calmly, running onto to a long curling ball from Rose and slotting it past Cech’s left leg. Two or three years ago, remember Rose, a rabbit in the headlights caught on the halfway line and dispossessed for a goal. How things have changed.

But this was all about the team. As one player advanced, another ran into space, a third unobtrusively fell back to cover. Graham Hunter’s interviews on his podcast allow his subjects to stretch out, to think over what’s on their mind about the current game before they say it, a rare opportunity these days despite the abundance of material available. Graham Souness, his most recent subject and young player who Spurs went to great lengths to sign then let slip through their fingers, was tough physically, uncompromising mentally and delightful on the ball. In short, everything Tottenham needed when he was in his prime for Liverpool.

When asked about how that great side went about things, two points stood out. One, they concentrated on what they could do and didn’t worry about the other side. Two, the message was ‘find the dope’. Someone in the other side, however able, would switch off mentally when they thought they could get away with it. Find that weakness and exploit it.

Find me a dope in Sunday’s Spurs side. You’d be hard pressed. The coherence of their team ethic was determined and sustained. Working as a unit without the ball, from the kick-off they never allowed Arsenal to settle on the ball. The pack hunted Cazorla out of the game and left Ozil a desperate, isolated figure with only a marginal influence on the game.

Arsenal came back into things after the break, buoyed by a couple of near misses. Past Spurs sides would have wilted. This one came back to play our best football around the hour mark and beyond. Eriksen’s shot slid past the far post, Alli a fraction over. Cech beat away another powerful effort from the Dane, who then set up Kane with a slicing pass but Harry dragged it wide from a position where’s he’s usually comfortable.

Son came on like a Spaniel puppy eager to please and just as ill-disciplined. He left gaps on our left, in comes the cross and Gibbs bundled over the line at the far post. Walker who had another good game and kept Sanchez under wraps, was caught between two opponents to cover and couldn’t deal with what was in any event a fine deep ball. Next time, cut out those crosses at source.

I can’t recall a time when the team played with such continued cohesion. Pochettino in conveying his rigour and discipline to his young charge has changed a culture. Spurs are all about the individual, the star with flair and panache to brighten up our afternoons and take our minds off how ordinary the rest of them are. MP deserves huge credit: unreservedly remarkable.

Tottenham supporters have every reason to be proud. Fans of other teams, mostly, still see as big-time wannabees with over-inflated aspirations. Perhaps they look afresh at Spurs as showing the way, spending within our means and cultivating a group of young players to come through into the first team, several of whom are English.

We began the day optimistic, ended it as much more than that, as real contenders, a side opponents will worry about. Two points dropped and plenty to do in the future but cast-iron evidence of substantial progress and plenty to look forward to. For now, that will do nicely.

One final thought. In these days of instant gratification and hubristic expectation, consider this. Pochettino has taken nearly 18 months to get this far, in the process changing a culture and dumping half a team of expensive ballast overboard, and there’s still a long way to go. Football fans would do well to look to this example the next time they reach for their keyboard and take to Twitter.

The Spursshow pod recorded at the London Sports Writing Festival this Saturday at Lords with good friend of TOMM Julie Welch, John Crace, Terry Gibson and Gary Mabbutt, talking about Spurs and being a Spurs fan. Should be good, I will be there too.

29 thoughts on “Spurs Youngsters Come of Age

  1. Excellent piece. Can understand why amidst the euphoria you avoid criticism, but you do point out that Son was a weakness. And Poch still just doesn’t ‘get’ substitutions. With monotonous regularity he weakens the team. I agree that unfortunately Lamela had to go before he was sent off. Son was clearly going to be unsuited to the hectic pace of the game. i groaned I moaned when he came on. To me it was obvious, move Alli wide and bring Mason on. The goal conceded was at least partly down to Son. Dembele coming off last Monday was nearly fatal. Someone please tutor Poch on the art of the substitute or it will cost us more points this season. And it’s looking like those points just might matter.


    • On the other hand, he brought on Dembele as a sub on Thurs and he scored the winner. MoPo got that spot on, and when Son and N’jie get up to speed, they will be excellent coming off the bench. I’m more likely to trust an international, progressive manager who has coached at a high level — there was some fact that close to 10 English players he’s coached have gotten England senior debuts from both Southampton and us — that he’ll get all aspects of the game right with this/his squad. Cheers!


    • I like Son but as you did, I feared he would try too hard and not keep his discipline, which was what was needed at that point. Poch likes to keep the pressure on in the forwards with his subs and not fall back. I like that but it’s about keeping the shape, keep pressing. Son didn’t. Poch tends to make subs but not change the shape or tactics, which can be a problem.

      Good to hear from you Jill.


  2. Agree with some of what you have written. At the beginning of the season, if someone had told you that we had only won 5 of the first 12 games, I’m not sure you would have written the article. I have never been a fan of Poch, and I would suggest that fans don’t get carried away with, what was, an excellent performance. Anderlecht away, and Villa at home were hardly perfomances we could be proud of. I’m not saying things aren’t looking up, they are but we are not top 4 contenders.


    • Didn’t hold back with the praise on this one but it’s the overall progress that I’m most pleased about, even if we don’t hit the heights it’s the progress that cheers me.

      By ‘contenders’ I meant as the sentence said, teams worry about us because we are, as Martin Tyler said on Sky, a tough nut to crack. I’ve used ‘being a contender’ over the years in that sense as my ambition, so I should have been clearer – not about all about the top four.

      Although keep improving and…

      Regards, Alan


  3. Great positive comments Alan!!
    Who are those negative so called Spurs supporters who have responded ? Have a good look at yourselves!!!
    This is a great time to be a Spurs man.
    We have a young side on the way up with many good players and a manager who can bring the best out in them.
    How’s this for positive??
    Look at the opposition, Man City are not as good as they were, we can beat the Arse, Liverpool can’t win, Chelsea are gone and Man U are rebuilding. On form the best team is Leicester City.
    These stats mean one thing, we can actually win the PL this year!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The presence if Dembele is a wonderful image. He looks powerful and tall these days, Add that to some deft footwork and a tireless workrate and you have another anchor for this young team.
    Last year it was Kane and Lloris that offered that kind of leadership….now add Demvele and Dier and you have core of power. Add to that Alli and a soon to be healthy Son,chip in with Eriksen’s special moments,Walkers rennaisance,the Alder-Vert Belgian fort and overlay Poch’s developing system and what is being created is a force with more substance than we have seen at Tottenham for eons.
    Its not one off fluff like we have seen with a class player here and there but something of more depth with foundations and even more potential.
    There is also fear in the hearts of our rivals and their fans. A beautifil time to be a Tottenham fan.
    Cheers to all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fear from rivals, envy from other fans Ron. Spurs doing things the right way and it’s great to feel part of it.
      There will be steps backwards but now we can handle them.

      Thanks as always Ron.


  5. Games and performances like this demand that you suspend the usual dissection of individuals and what was good and bad. Instead, just sit back and enjoy the performance and how well it represents another brick in our wall. No need to nitpick or spotlight deficiencies. It was a third outing in six days by a team that was hungrier, quicker, and ‘joined up’ than the so-called title pretenders.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A bit surprised at negative comments after that performance. The result was ultimately frustrating but the way we dominated for long periods was most encouraging. There’s no reason why we can’t challenge for the top places with what is still very much a team growing together. My friends are amazed at me of late, normally irrespective of what I really feel I play Spurs’ chances down to be on the safe side. These days, while I know we’ve a way yet to go I have to keep myself in check from singing that old 80s Timbukt3 tune, The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades.
    There will be setbacks but we’re pretty far down the right road as far as I’m concerned. Poch has been excellent in my view and the fact so many home grown players are getting a chance is great.
    I’m so glad you praised the oft maligned Walker, I think his performances have been under rated recently.
    Really good and positive write up which I enjoyed very much. Julie Welsh’ s biography of Tottenham and John Crace’ s Vertigo are two of the most enjoyable books I’ve read, let alone just Spurs books. You must be up there in the Spurs Royal Family these days Alan if that’s the company you’re keeping 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers Danny. I have defended Walker in the past. His positional play and concentration are his weakness but I’d never reject him because of his motivation. To get back in games he’ll do shuttle runs up and down his wing like a 400m runner in training. Under Poch both fullbacks tuck in when we don’t have the ball therefore he’s clearer about where he should be. Needs protection though.

      I’m a paying customer on Friday! I will listen in the audience. Will say that I’ve interviewed Julie a couple of times for the blog and she’s a regular reader of TOMM. Proper Spurs.

      Regards, Alan


  7. Once again thoroughly enjoyed your blog Alan.
    I have just had keyhole surgery for a torn cartilage on my knee yesterday and have missed the Europa and league games, last game being against City.
    I got the good news that I will be up and able to drive and walk within the week, so I will be able to see Westham and Chelsea game after thinking I would not be able to 😁
    I can just see great things ahead, and a little tweaking converting our chances will push us further forward to the dizzy heights we have been amaing for.
    So happy for the young lads all doing well and can’t wait when they get even better as we will, I’m sure, will be the new class of 2015 Alan 🙏
    As always keep up the good work Alan


  8. Thanks Alan,

    A very strong, disciplined and skillful performance which should have brought us the win. Like lots of teams these days, Spurs don’t do enough to stop the cross coming in and there is a susceptibility to high crosses. Stopping the cross coming in is a basic tenet of defending, and I am amazed how few players want to break their necks to ensure this is done. Crosses and pumps into the box were the goons had on Sunday, so it was doubly frustrating and costly.

    Nonetheless, I was mighty proud of the team and their performance and we gave notice of being serious contenders for everything this season.

    Wailing “Injuries, dizziness and tiredness” … Only Arsenal!!! We shook them up and no mistake.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good to hear them moaning…

      Stopping crosses is our problem. The two wide forwards don’t cover enough – Lamela does the running but has a lot to learn about actual defending. Could be a problem, other teams will have seen that.

      Cheers, Alan


  9. Before the game I would have taken a point all day long, but after it, one point felt like a real loss. And that’s how good Tottenham were for most of the game. We certainly are on the up, and our young squad are tapping into Poch’s ideals more and more. But as with what followed after the results last year against Chelsea and Arsenal, we cannot take things for granted, or get carried away. That desire, cohesion and energy, along with the fitness levels, must stay with us for good now. And all teams we play must be viewed as ‘Arsenal’!
    No more losing focus as we did in that first Anderlecht game.
    On Sunday, this ‘knackered’ and injury ridden Arsenal side were there for the taking, but it wasn’t the ‘chances’ we had to kill the game that frustrated me (Arsenal could say the same of their chances – missed chances are part of the agony and ecstasy of football) it was the chances we failed to generate when their midfield was nowhere, their defence was stretched, and we were running over them like a steamroller. That final killer ball on the edge of their area, with little pressure on us, to a man better placed to score, often didn’t materialise, and Poch, with his seamless passing plan (so wonderful on the eye, and overriding that of individual glory) must address this. Glory is our ethos, sure, but too many players (when in sight of goal) went for misplaced glory or made the wrong choice on Sunday instead of adhering to that team ethos and passing to someone with far greater opportunity to score.
    In most games we won’t get that time on the ball and lack of opponent pressure again, unless we’ve already killed the game off. We’ll be picking locks in the final third against more determined midfielders and defenders of lesser teams, because that’s how tough the PL is, and although we have a wonderful group of midfielders and forwards who can do just that, we must not lose the team focus just because we’re on the edge of the opponents’ penalty area and have a glimpse of goal. Our passing is superb, so let’s be aware when we’re able to pass it into the net, rather than take a glory strike, or vice versa. I’m certain this judgement will come from these young and talented men, and I’m really excited about this team (as I was with the side under Harry for two seasons) but with just a 1-0 lead and not having the vision to score more against a team on the ropes, we allowed Arsenal to retain hope, become revived, and eventually exploit our inability to kill them off.
    Having said all that, the way Spurs are playing is negating the need for a deep lying creative midfielder and a left winger ..and I never thought I’d say that. They are all being creative as well simply keeping the ‘push and move’ flow going, they’re all covering each other and filling in seamlessly when others are out of position, and they’re pressing hard up the field. They may be still narrow, but they have balance, and this is something we’ve missed for a few seasons.
    One more striker in January, to take the pressure off Kane, and we’re almost there. Let’s see how this squad pans out. We may not get top four with this young squad, but we’re strangely also in with a
    chance of winning it (the PL) ..and that’s how exciting these times are as a Spurs fan.


    • The missing puece for me if there is one is a more dynamic creative force. Eriksen may have it and on occasion shows it , but not enough for me (though with the higher pace generally in our team now,its offering more openings than last season). He is good enough as we are not going to find snyone fir the type of money Levy wants to spend. He just needs to kick it up a notch.
      We do need to create more chances. I think when Son is 100% that pace is scintillating (N’jie is good too)
      and that may offer Eriksen more time on the ball to create


    • CB
      You just about summed it all up for me. Together with Alan’s consideration of individual performances, your more distanced appreciation was very insightful and useful.

      From Kamchatka


  10. Great piece Alan as always
    Have to agree with Ronwol this time in that I still feel we need another very dynamic creative midfielder as without Eriksen we can become very one dimensional and all it takes is one niggling little injury to keep Christian out for a couple of games and that could ruin a lot of good work this year
    However, to me, its starting to look promising, and 6 points from the next 2 games may have even me believing in the impossible dream of a top 3 finish.
    See Alan, I’m even setting my sights higher than fourth now
    Up the Spurs

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Steve. This optimism – I’m worried about you, have a word with the kids, they should look after you 😉

      I stand by may early season comments about transfers – it’s about having cover, without it one injury can undermine the potential of these brilliant young players.

      Regards, Alan


  11. Just want to say one thing. In 1960 I was 13. I cant explain how much excitement there was around our team of that time. It was a special time for the fans.
    I have no idea what is really transpiring with Tottenham now but it has a good feeling about it.Some positive performances and more so a formulation if something. We can see something taking shape. It doesnt seem same old same old right now it seems new.
    We dont know really but even when Arse scored it still felt different.Lijed we turned a corner.
    I hope so. As you send Alan we might take a step back here and there but something is brewing and it smells good.
    I love Spurs and hope I see it all again in my lifetime.The feeling of that kind of success was good.

    Liked by 1 person

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