In a week full of sprint finishes and even a despairing dive for gold, yesterday Spurs fell over the line like a bloke wearing a Mr Blobby costume in a charity fun run.
The man who dragged us through the tape was Victor Wanyama. Bought to strengthen our defensive midfield, he displayed an enterprising spirit, often moving upfield to support attacks, although he is equally able to play a 5 yard ball sideways with some intensity. He unmistakably relished the honour of scoring the late winner against Palace on his home debut. Kane rose spring-heeled from a corner and his big straight header was touched past the keeper by Wanyama, loitering 5 or 6 yards out. Kenya’s finest footballing son dashed towards the bench to celebrate with his manager. Clearly they have faith in each other.
The goal was a relief, coming when Spurs had seemingly run out of ideas about breaking down the well-marshalled Palace defence. 10 behind the ball, stifle the space, hit us on the break. Limited ambitions – dull – but it worked last season in the Cup and could have been equally as efficient yesterday if they had had any punch in the box. Benteke is the man for them. Zaha especially elusive in the second half but there’s not much to give the ball to once he gets there.
Final ball. Final touch. Fine margins. Tottenham showed last season’s fluency only sporadically but even so, chances were made and missed. Much of our play came through Eriksen who had a bit of a stinker. Given the congested midfield he did well to find space. However he constantly fluffed his lines, hesitating on several occasions and falling between two stools, either shooting feebly or passing straight to a defender.
When the chances did come, they were missed. In the first half, Janssen was unlucky as Hennessey made a double-save low down, as did the Everton keeper last week. Kane shot wide. In the second, Kane missed a tricky diving header. Janssen was impressive throughout. He reminds me of those warriors in Clash of the Clans, muscular legs and wide shoulders, intent on doing some damage. He’s willing, works hard and takes up good positions. Finally, deep in the second half, the ball reached him in one of those positions as he burst into the box. It was by far the best move of the match, started deep by Kane and energised by Dele’s first touch after coming on as sub. There was no finish to match, however, Janssen missed it, but goals will come. It was an impressive home debut.
Spurs lined up at kick-off with three at the back, Dier to the right of that three, but soon reverted to our familiar 4-2-3-1 with Wanyama alongside Dier, Lamela on the left and Kane playing deeper than Janssen although his mobility meant he was able to get alongside the Dutchman. Maybe it was in response to Palace’s formation, maybe just a bluff.
Whatever the reason, it was pleasing to see Spurs opt for an attacking formation. But there are costs as well as benefits. When Kane came into the side, there was a feeling he was better playing off the front, now we see him as an out and out centre forward, albeit a mobile and adaptable one. He looked slightly out of touch, a hangover from the Euros. More to the point, did it disrupt the team’s flow that looked so instinctive last season? Playing with two DMs provides more strength, less creativity. Benefits and costs. We’ll see how it works out over the games to come.
One benefit was Kyle Walker’s excellence. Top speed down the right, slicing diagonally from right to left into the box, rock solid at the back, especially on the far post in the second half when Palace tried to stretch the back four. At least one English player improved after the Euros.
Lamela has a poise and purpose about him this season. Something’s changed. Maybe he can start putting it together now and taking more responsibility. Meanwhile, Townsend exhibited a masterclass in why Poch sold him. Late on he was stunned into immobility when Lamela nutmegged him, but he won’t be the only right winger this season to get no change from Danny Rose.
Sadly for my state of mind an early thought in the aftermath of the goal was how Pardew would whinge about it. Sure enough, he pointed to centre half Delaney’s injury and the consequent defensive reshuffle. In fact, Palace were allowed to bring on a sub before the kick was taken, whereas usually teams have to wait for a sub to come on after an injury.
The yawning gap in the northeast corner is the shape of things to come. Four cranes watched over us, towering above the old ground. Hard to grasp this is the last season here.
Usurping Walker for man of the match has to be halftime compere Paul Coyte. Interviewing Spurs mute new mascot Lily, Chirpy’s female counterpart (just good friends by the way, those rumours can neither be confirmed nor denied), must have been the lowest point of his professional career. Coyte is a bit Smashie and Nicie but he’s a real pro and people who know him confirm he’s a thoroughly decent bloke and Tottenham to the core. MOM is the least I can do for you Paul.