Good times to be a Spurs fan right now. High in the table, high on the intoxicating football that’s got us there. A thumping victory against the Whammers achieved by an outstanding performance as Tottenham just get better and better, individuals at their peak, the side flowing with the effortless instinctive ease of true teamwork. Seldom seen, especially at the Lane of late, but never forgotten.
Yes, I am going to rave about this one. It was a joy to behold. Football at it should be played. Attacking football, ball on the ground, pass and move, played by a young side bursting with pride for the shirt, playing for each other, for their manager, playing for us. Overflowing with skill, bundles of effort. A side we’ve put together ourselves, giving young men the chance to prove themselves. Doing things the right way, taking the game to the opposition, hard as nails when needs be. It’s what I want my Tottenham to be.
We’ve watched it form before our very eyes, growing pains at first and some painful efforts last season to be sure. Now we’re in at the birth of something that could be special. I’ve seen team-building and re-building over the years but nothing like this, when almost without noticing and without any one particular thing happening, it all comes together. Seen good teams but seldom a side that works so hard for each other, filling gaps, understanding the space and time around them. Comparisons with our glory years are invidious and unwarranted, but this must be a little like the feeling fans had in 1949 when Arthur Rowe put his push and run team together in Division 2 or a decade later when the pieces of Billy Nick’s side fell into place, no trophies but the sense that something’s changing. Looking back we won’t be calling 2015/16 a transitional season, that’s certain. This lot aren’t up to the standards of their illustrious betters but that’s not the point. Let’s see where this takes us and enjoy the ride.
Yesterday after a scratchy opening, Spurs asserted themselves. Once again we saw Tottenham suss out how to overcome the problems posed by well-drilled opponents set up to stifle the space and attack on the counter. Pochettino made a shrewd tactical switch, playing Alli in the forwards with Dembele, who has done well in an advanced position over the past few weeks, in a deeper role alongside Dier. Presumably this was to give more strength in that area and maybe to allow the Belgian to hang on to the ball under pressure and give others a fraction more time to get into position, as he did versus Liverpool and the Klopp press recently.
Whatever, it worked. Wham were unable to create anything much. We kept up our press for the whole game and were stronger in one-on-one situations. It meant we dominated for extended periods and at times played simply glorious football.
By the twenty minute mark, Spurs were on top, scored twice and subsequently seldom challenged. Alli’s shot at the edge of the box but fell to Kane. He thumped the ball home after an utterly gorgeous shimmy away from a hapless defender. Reminiscent of the barely perceptible move that set up his second half goal versus Chelsea last season, it was a thing of great and lasting beauty.
Alderweireld scored the second from an Eriksen corner, perfectly delivered to the near post. We were right behind the line of the ball. It seemed as if the net opened wide to receive it, a huge gap in a packed penalty box. The Hammers’ scouts obviously hadn’t watched the City game – this was the same move, same outcome – but it’s hard to defend if the player comes across the defender at full tilt to meet a ball coming at pace. It reminded me of goals Chivers regularly scored from set pieces. I’ve often wondered why the move is not used more often.
Then my goodness me we were good. A bewilderingly fast move took the breath away, Rose, Eriksen, I don’t know, all a blur….Alli hit the bar with a header. Kane horribly shanked a left-footer when clean through. And as the half closed, the other reason why we’ve improved so much. Vertonghen expertly defended in his box twice, he and Toby rock-solid, playing as a partnership. Alderweireld is one of the buys of the season.
Second we kept up the press and the tempo. Dembele came into his own, a rock upon which attacks broke up, going forward he was irresistible. Eriksen seized on a poor pass out of defence, to Kane who lent back and athletically creamed a low shot past the keeper. It looked better from the Shelf – it went under the keeper’s body.
For the rest of the game, Spurs attacked with creativity and exuberance. Mason, on as sub, hit the post and shot a dropping ball straight at the keeper when anywhere else would have scored. Walker as reward for a good game and fine season curled drove in the fourth with the outside of his foot.
Minutes later he was beating the ground in frustration and anger after his mistake let in West Ham for a late absolutely-no-consolation-whatsoever goal. The fact that this and a dodgy Lloris clearance are the only defensive mistakes of note says volumes for our performance.
That goal was celebrated wildly by the two hundred-odd away fans left in the ground. The others may have wanted to get back in good time for Countryfile. They would have been disappointed in their side’s lack of fight. Before the match I thought they would be a sterner test than Arsenal because of their organisation but the motivation evaporated after our second.
So Dembele the best, Toby and Verts just behind, everyone else merely excellent. Son did not get on the ball very often but his movement gives us an extra dimension. And through it all, there’s Eric Dier. Last week I was lucky enough to meet Gary Mabbutt at the London Sports Writing Festival and I was struck by the similarities. Dier could well follow in his footsteps. Like Mabbutt, he came into the side earlier than planned (Mabbutt was told on signing that it would be two years before he got into the first team, in the end it was two months), and he’s versatile, starring in midfield and full-back before settling into the back four. He certainly has the leadership qualities, with a fierce focus and determination. Yesterday he took no nonsense whenever there was handbags, first there to sort it out.
Also at the Festival, three top journos, Henry Winter, Michael Calvin and John Cross, told how Pochettino is very close to his players, highly popular and mucks about in the dressing room. The evidence was on show yesterday.
Coming home I felt calm and serene. Hard to see how that could have been bettered. It’s lasted. A fabulous performance infused with the joy of players and fans discovering just how well they can play. Over in the West Stand, Stephen, a good friend of the blog, e-mailed to say, he’d never thought he’d see the day but Daniel Levy smiled. Praise indeed.