Our world looks odd from the outside. I follow comedian Simon Evans on twitter because he’s funny, not for his perspective on sport. This weekend, he’s more involved with football because he wants Leicester to win the league. His conclusion after checking all the results, predictions and permutations was this: “It must be bloody exhausting to genuinely give a sh*t.”
My life at the moment, right there. On the same day Spurs had one of their easiest wins of the season against an ailing Villa side. By the end, I was knackered. I’ll tell you how bad it got. Of the many dire cliches in football, the worst of the worst is “2-0 is the most dangerous scoreline.” No, it isn’t. 1-0 is worse because you have one goal fewer. 0-0 is worse because you do not have the lead. And I’ve not even mentioned losing 4-0, which I would venture is more dangerous still. But for one terrible moment in the second half, I found myself solemnly evaluating the merits of something as self-evidently wrong as marmite and custard (don’t try that at home kids). Then there’s always “One of those days when the keeper saves everything….” don’t get me going.
This clammy fear was compounded by Peter Drury, the commentator on the stream I was watching. He had Spurs as winners as soon as we were two up and spent the rest of the match talking about all the possibilities at the top, all with his commentary trademark of using ten inappropriate words when one simple one might do. The computer screen was several times in danger but survived, as did I.
Villa and Bournmouth are two winnable matches and we have to take maximum from them. Spurs took the right approach and in truth I could not have asked for more. With a full-strength side, we took the game to our opponents from the start. The tempo was self-generated because our opponents were as shapeless as a woollen jumper left out in the rain. Kane chipped onto the bar, Lamela the post and the keeper saved everything thrown his way. Guzan has been dropped recently because he has been so shaky but yesterday for twenty minutes he played us on his own.
Despite the setbacks we kept going, undeterred and largely untroubled. As everyone was winding down for half-time, Deli Alli was wide awake. He was fouled after making yet another little burst through midfield. He picked himself up, took the kick quickly and placed a perefect ball at Kane’s feet. He rolled the ball across the keeper into the far corner.
The second came just afer half-time. Villa lost the ball in a tight spot 60 yards from their goal. 5 passes and 8 touches later the ball was in the back of the net. Alli, Lamela and Kane made it, Kane finished it, Alli and Kane both touching the ball twice in a flowing, effortless piece of football.
Along with Kane, Walker and Alli stood out. Refreshed after a rest this week, Alli had both assists and his combination play with Kane posed a constant threat while took advantage of the freedom of the right wing. Villa don’t bother with all this covering back malarky – Walker could operate as a winger most of the time. Lamela did well, linking up in and around the box. His early pass split the defence but Kane lobbed the keeper and onto the bar.
I genuinely feel for the Villa fans, cruelly treated by unknowing and uncaring owners and management, who reward failure by creating jobs and fat contracts for themselves. How can people do these things to any football club?
A good win but there are no new lessons to be learned from this week. All season Spurs have been a match for anyone if the best nine from eleven play, perform to their best and are all fit. Of the side that played yesterday, Wimmer is a very able replacement for Vertonghen, otherwise it’s only Lamela in my view about whom there’s any selection debate. Maybe Mason to allow Dembele to come forward. The problem with the Dortmund game was that our squad is not deep enough to offer rotation that maintains quality. Lamela is far more effective if he has an extra half a yard of space and Villa were much more generous. All this we know.
My main worry at the back is our comparitive weakness in the air at set pieces, which we’ve seen a lot since Christmas. Gested missed two good chances that he should never have been allowed.
Spurs have to go flat out for the rest of the season. Don’t think of rotation. Clear heads of all doubt, the only thing left is to give everything, every game. Banish fear and doubt -all we have left this season are opportunities. Same approach for every match, leave nothing behind. Opportunities we can take.