Winks Melts Hearts of Stone

Modern football’s greed and rampant consumerism threatens to drive fans away from the game they love but if any of those departing paused to look back over their shoulder, Harry Winks’ goal celebration on Saturday would melt the hardest of hearts. Janssen’s fierce shot was beaten away by the keeper and up Winks popped to thump the bouncing ball home from close range, whereupon he dashed joyfully to the touchline and into the arms of the manager who had given him his chance.

Nothing rehearsed, no in-jokes but wild youthful exuberance from a player delighted just to be out there, for whom pulling on the white shirt is a privilege. I say youthful but he’s actually 20 but looks younger. Compared with the others, with his fresh face and hair carefully parted, he’s somebody’s young brother who has sneaked into the party. Local boy makes good after manager from halfway round the world reckons he can play. The rest of the side piled in, pleased for him.

And play he can. He’s a fine player, willing to take responsibility, always play the ball forward quickly and has the right weight on his passes. Switched to a more central role in the second half, he shone, playing without fear in a fearsome, frantic derby atmosphere. Highly impressive.

His team-mates celebrated the goal with him but, and let’s fall to earth here, their pleasure was mixed with relief because up until then, Spurs were second best. The first half belonged to Slaven Bilic. His set-up gave West Ham the edge all over the pitch. He had three at the back and two wing-backs in Creswell and Antonio suited for that system, i.e. not converted midfielders, plus one up front. Against that, Pochettino went 4-1-3-2, with Kane and Janssen up front, as opposed to like for like after the success of our three at the back versus Arsenal.

Our strikers were still outnumbered while our full-backs could not get forward. Also the forward three, Dembele, Winks and Eriksen, are all essentially central players, so they drifted in and we had no width. Repeatedly our opponents were first to the ball, no more so than when Antonio picked up a loose ball from a corner to open the scoring. That passage of play – two corners in succession – came after we gave away possession playing it from the back. Kicking the ball long can give it way too but we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves and gave away the initiative.

This was a cracking game for the neutral, full of high-speed attacking football and complete commitment from both sides. The only problem is, I’m not neutral, so enjoyment was to be had only after the final whistle (but that made up for the rest, mind). Four games in one, as Spurs lost it, looked like they would win it, threw it way then improbably but joyously pinched not one goal and a point, which I would have settled for, but two and three respectively.

At half-time I couldn’t see anything changing. Then Winks’ goal changed everything. Never mind the tactics. I enjoy the sophisticated analysis that people like Spurs Fanatic and TTT Tactics do superbly on twitter and on their sites, it’s fascinating. However, nothing compares with scoring a goal. Spurs were rejuvenated, winning tackles all of a sudden and putting some useful passing moves together. Any passing move was an improvement on what had gone before.

Tactics though – yep. Rose was finding a way through on the left. Once more he was outstanding. He’s among the best full-backs in Europe now and if there is a player who has improved his game more in the middle part of his career then I’ve yet to see him. First to the byline for the cross to set up the equaliser then from deeper he found Dier, whose header was well-saved low down but he really should not have given the keeper the chance to get near it.

At this point Spurs had the Hammers rocking, Winks leading from the back, comfortable again in front of the back four, then from a corner Janssen blatantly fouled Reid, penalty. Back on our heels again, no ideas or creativity, ten yard passes had become too much again. Vertonghen’s tackle on Payet was perfect and saved a certain goal, making up for his ineffective marking at the corner that put them one up. Later, when Payet was belatedly a danger, Dier jockeyed him to safety in a manner that suggested he is a centre half born and bred.

Son came on to give us width. Instead he provided tragi-comedy, perhaps the worst, least-impactful 10 minutes possible, running into defenders and kicking it at them at every opportunity. Switched left, transformed. Few minutes left, low cross to Kane, touched in. Unexpected even by the most optimistic and missed by the many who had already left in exasperation.

Son again, on the left, going away from goal then going down after a clumsy tackle. Kane, calm, bottom corner, bedlam. Lost and won then lost, now won, didn’t see that coming, unexpected and all the sweeter for it. A game to savour more on the way home than during the 90 minutes.

My mantra – enjoy it while you can. But while we defended well – Lloris had little to do again – for extended periods we showed little creativity and the tempo was slow. The problems we have had all season in making chances, let alone scoring goals, were evident again and Pochettino was outmanoeuvred in the first half after a fine ‘performance’ last week. But this was Harry’s game – Winks that is. he’ll remember his debut until the day he dies and who knows, in twenty years fans may be saying, ‘Winks, I was there when he made his debut you know…’

So victory in the Lop-sided Derby – their cup final, we’re indifferent. It’s an odd relationship, one which if not unique then can’t be repeated in too many towns and cities across the country. Bilic himself said this was their most important match of the season and I have no doubt they despise us with a passion, but it’s not reciprocated, at least not to the same extent. Derbies have to have a balance of feeling on both sides, surely.

The stadium business cranked up the anger. To me Stratford is W Ham territory, no question, and I don’t blame them, I would get wound up at the very thought of another club muscling onto our patch. 1913 was bad enough…. Again though, it wasn’t reciprocated because most Spurs fans didn’t want to go there and we delighted when we stayed in N17. When in the lead, the Hammers’ fans taunted us with ‘it’s happening again.’ I’m duty bound to ask, what exactly? They won the last match, 1-0 and fully deserved it, in the process forgetting their 4-1 defeat at the Lane and the series of late goals that have given us a point or three in recent times. Kane’s 95th minute penalty rebound winner, Bale’s glorious top-corner winner, Stalteri’s late tap in or Dier’s cultured touch round the keeper. Odd.



13 thoughts on “Winks Melts Hearts of Stone

  1. Yes, it was aggravatingly frustrating. I was ready to find something more interesting at 45 minutes- clean out the budgie cage…? Nah.
    I am finding myself screaming as yet another slo-mo move is reversed to Dier, Vertonghen or (worse) Lloris when the simpler more direct forward pressure was at least on and maybe certain to offer a postive opportunity. Similarly Eriksen must now be living on borrowed time with Winks gaining credence and Lamella surely dying for a game. Is it that our attacking midfield and the strikers up ahead are just not offering reasonable targets?
    Son offer a glimmer of invention. But I’m concerned that we could be steam rollered this weekend especially as a trip to the riviera must be mastered meantime.

    Good review as ever, Alan. Thanks.


    • The slow build up play has been there for all to see since the start of the season. In patches we have played our non stop press of last year. We did it against City and for a few spells against the Hammers.

      It starts from the front and must be applied by everyone to work. The problem is so many players have been half empty since last season and many have had to have a break. There was little mention of Dele’s cameo as I thought he looked fresh again, the glide was back. The weight of his pass was also back on form.

      Jansen for me hasn’t learned the style of play that served us well last season. We pressured and harried most opponents into submission last year.

      We are still in a good position and are having to deal with UCL football as well. Big players coming back from a break ready for the push. COYS


  2. Thought Harry Winks was seriously impressive. As well as his lovely goal celebration have a look at his reaction at the final whistle. At a time when players (rightly or wrongly) get criticised for not giving a fig, he clearly does. Very well played and congratulations to a fine young player and seemingly decent young man.

    Thought there were spells when we played quite well but both their goals left us deflated. Overall I thought we lacked width and accuracy. Balls too far ahead or behind the player they were sent to. Endlessly ploughing through the middle of the pitch. West Ham could have played against us like that all day.

    Good substitutions by Poch opened the game up for us. After a poor start Son’s movement created some space for us and forced West Ham into errors, most notably our pen. Harry Kane is such an iconic figure I can’t believe Daniel Levy won’t sign him up very soon and get those contract negotiations done and dusted.

    Last minute winners are always the best against West Ham. Long may it continue.


  3. Thanks Alan. Spot on with your analysis as per usual.
    Boy, how sweet did that feel. As you say, it looked for all the world like we’d blown it.
    Such a shame that Rose is suspended for the game against Cheatski. I agree, what a wonderful player he has become – what an athlete, what an engine and he can pass it through the eye of a needle too.
    Despite Janssen’s blunder, I sense that he is beginning to adjust to the demands of the Premiership. His assist for the Winks goal was decent and he is starting to find spaces in the opponent’s box. Surely he’ll hit the back of the onion bag soon!
    As you say, we really need to eliminate these long periods of ponderous AVB type football. I am sure Poch will be working on it.
    Shame Eriksen slightly misjudged his run for his early offside goal. Kevin Kilbane’s assessment of him on MOTD 2 was excellent. Again, signs that he is starting to rediscover his mojo but when, oh when, is he ever going to score again from a set piece?
    Our unbeaten record will be severely tested on Saturday. We are going to need to produce a Man C type performance. COYS.


  4. Thanks Alan,

    I think the “It’s happening Again” from WHU fans is from when they beat us 3 times in that AVB-Sherwood shambles of a season? Our “it’s happening again” with numerous recent last min winners and match savers, obviously too subtle for them.

    Personally, until the advent of new (but still racist) Chelsea, West Ham were always the second most important London derby for me. No Chelsea friends, why would anyone have any? But quite a few West Ham friends. It’s been a good weekend for catching up ….

    Anyhow, I’ve nothing sensible to say on the game. Pop … pop … pop … pop … pop …

    Up the Spurs!


  5. Completely agree with everything about Winks. I think we all saw us far from our best for much of the game – but there is nothing like a win to re-boost confidence. So I am very happy.

    I do think you were underplaying the impact of Son – he did stretch them, and we did contribute significantly to the change in fortunes. Winks deserves man of the match. Son deserves the title of game-changer. To win, we needed them both to play their parts.


  6. Great drama and coming great to see the Hemel lad scoring. Made up some ground too. But….Agree with you Harvey, we looked a bit AVB. Seems to me the best teams all have at least one player who can run with speed at a defence. Madrid; Ronaldo, Barca; Messi and in the humble EPL, City; Sterling,, Chelsea; Hazard etc. It’s like breaking the gain line in rugby and causes havoc to defensive shape. Son is the closest we have in the first 15 and it makes a difference. Maybe that’s what Sissoko is for. Nice write up Alan, even playing WHU, football has the ability to lift the spirits!


  7. Great report, as usual Alan, and good comments. I wondered if we’d sing he’s one of our own for harry winks too, since it scans and applies perfectly. But maybe that’s Kane’s song.
    It was an interesting experience as the second half was the first match for ages I had to listen to on the car radio; not there live, or sky/bt or live stream. Fortunately I’m old and experienced enought to visualise things with 5live commentary. Watched it later on TV.
    It seems to me our passing to Walker in particular is too safe, behind him. Forces him to cut back and pass across – not his forte – rather than using his pace as Modric, Hudd and Lennon used to. There’s a slowness to our build up that’s different this season and hard to put a finger on why.
    But lovely, important 3 pnts and that’s what we’ll all remember, along with Winks’s superb debut. If we hit form in the crucial Dec-Jan period we could still match or better last season.


    • Problem is playing Dier, Wanyama and Dembele. They are all very similar, Dembele can be a driving force but is more suited to a holding role and isn’t driving enough.

      All 3 of them are too safe we need to be bolder and go after teams.


  8. Walker tends to delay his crosses trying to be too sure. He needs to be told to be brave enough to whip them in first time like Rose then maybe Kane & Janssen might work together


  9. With 88 minutes gone my Saturday night appeared bleak and the remainder of the weekend was looking grey and bland. Five minutes later it was carnival time (in my head of course) . Football, eh?
    Anyway, it looked like one of those performances that had the old Spurs written all over it, and for a fair bit of the time, it was just that, but there were periods of encouraging play and maybe such a dramatic turnaround will be the thing that ignites the season – a strange thing to think when we remain unbeaten. And by the way, this unbeaten run is making me stupidly optimistic given there is so much more yet to come from the team.
    I try to keep my glass half full and part of me thinks that so many injuries early in the season, and following a summer of tournament football, may actually work to our advantage and the enforced rest of such key players may be a blessing in disguise, and exactly what those players needed.
    Again your writing covers the performance better than I ever could, but its my view – like your own – that this messing about at the back is unnecessary and costly but seems to be the current trend in football, no matter the amount of goals conceeded as a direct result. Of which there are many (at all levels of the game).
    One more point. I like Eriksen, but my favourites are currently Toby and Harry Kane, I’ve never thought of him in their class, and this season he’s been for the most part, disappointing. But I take my hat off to him, he’s not hiding, he’s not trying the easy pass, he’s still attempting a ball that will make a difference. He must be aware of a few groans and grumbles when he cedes possession, but he’s still not being put off and his mental strength must be incredible, which I genuinely really admire. Fair play.
    I hope you’ve two new and happy blogs this week. I’m optimistic about Monaco, I’d be happy with a draw at Chelsea though.
    Cheers , DB.


  10. Half time in Monaco following the 2nd half joy of Saturday. Alli is floundering like a young lad making his 1st team debut. Son, after Saturday, has reverted to his all-running but brainless default mode. Trippier advances forward frequently without the ball but passes the bloody thing back every time he gets it. Dembele’s attempts at spinning around, avoiding a tackle and just holding onto the ball is becoming tedious, especially as he needs to get his bloody head up and spot an incisive pass. No real criticism of effort. But no sign of our high press and no sign yet of the fitness levels that laid the foundations of our success last term. Still. Another half to go and we still have a chance against a very good side.


  11. Mmmm… 1-2.

    So. Maybe squandering the Champions League was after all the game plan so as to concentrate on the Premiership. Feels rather negative to me and certainly doesn’t resound to the echo of Danny and Bill’s glory game.

    Are our players up to it? Watching tonight was even more depressing than usual. I hope that Saturday supper-time brings along something just a touch more inspired and encouraging for us poor plebs.


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