Spurs Paint A Masterpiece

The ball is played out of defence to Victor Wanyama. He’s about 40 yards from the Tottenham goal, near the touchline, facing the wrong way. Three West Brom midfielders swiftly cluster around him. The game is long gone by now, Spurs triumphant, but they sniff a chance to make something happen.


The Kenyan controls the pass perfectly and sways gently like long grass in the wind, shielding the ball as he does so. His opponents check back and hesitate, and in that moment Wanyama has created half a yard of space with which to first turn and then play it without fuss to an team-mate advancing in the middle.


Wanyama puts the defend into defensive midfielder. The guy who protects his backline at the expense of the side’s creativity. Or that’s what everyone says. Yet this solid block of muscle with football boots is airily running the midfield. I could just as easily picked any moment of any Spurs player on the ball. They reeked of self-assurance and bravura. Confidence seeping from their pores, assurance coursing through their veins.


We came to White Hart Lane expecting a dour struggle. Instead Spurs painted a modest masterpiece, no fanfares or bright lights but a gem for the true aficionados of the Spurs Way. Tottenham’s football flowed with grace and power, insistently inventive, always played on the run, a torrent of ideas that slowed down only for a couple of short periods in the second half, and then only to draw breath.


West Brom are our bogey side, shorthand for, they are highly organised and Spurs have consistently failed to break them down. Last season the 1-1 draw on a Wednesday night at the Lane saw our title momentum grind to a halt. It wasn’t the Chelsea game at all. That night we not only gave away a daft goal after going ahead, we ran out of ideas. Towards the end the players had the ball and were looking around not knowing what to do next.


On Saturday the contrast could not have been greater. I wouldn’t want to single out individuals: they all played to the highest standard, played for each other, played for their manager, played for the shirt. The first half was a delightful haze of movement, blurred white shirts dashing by onto passes that were invisible and impossible from the stands but crystal clear to those amidst the hurly burly on the pitch. Almost everything came off. We won the tackles and second ball, we spread fifty yard passes from boot to toecap, one-twos in the tightest of spots. Spurs had the lot.


This season as last, Spurs have had plenty of possession but have slowed down when we get to the edge of our opponents’ box. The big change recently, which I would argue is one of the two changes that has turned us into genuine contenders, is that we have men making runs into the box and we are finding them. I say men – Dele is barely more than boy. He’s not the only one but attacking instincts released by Pochettino, he is hard to stop and impossible to control, as Chelsea found out to here cost. Eriksen is creating an endless supply of diagonal balls into the box for him. If only his first half goal had not been offside, what a stunning memento from this match that would have been.


We’ll have to make do with his scooped pass for the fourth, a one-two with Kane and finished by the hat-trick striker on the volley, made because they just get each other perfectly. Kane scored three, missed another two that were easier that than the ones he put away. His body shape for his second, Spurs’ third, horizontal to get over the ball after Walker was rewarded for his refusal to give up a lost cause by the goalline. He left nothing to chance and made an awkward hit appear straightforward. His movement was a joy throughout, ghosting into space in the box where none seemed to exist, or coming off the front to allow others to move up past him.


The other change is of course going three at the back. For Pochettino this is primarily about the attack. It gives Spurs the platform to play, for the best pair of attacking full-backs in Europe to get forward and for Dele to have freedom. Our centre backs can all play. They eagerly pushed up into the space vacated by a retreating West Brom side, as one goes up the other moves across to cover. The sole blemish on the afternoon was Vertonghen’s injury. He beat the ground not so much in pain but in frustration that he would not be able to play for this team for some time. Right now any time out is a curse. He’s been good all season, outstanding in the last ten games.


Defeating West Brom was in its own way as strong an indicator of our progress as beating Chelsea. Hard to beat, we swept them away. Building up a head of steam in December and January is the new Spurs Way. Compared with last season, we are stronger physically and mentally, able to remain inventive when minds, hearts and legs grow weary, all this powered by massive self-belief. Add the improvements in individual performances – Walker, Rose, Dele, Vertonghen, Eriksen (playing so well right now) – Wanyama’s influence and the continued form of Kane, Lloris and Alderweireld, and we have become genuine contenders. Second in the league having beaten the top side two weeks ago is a good place to be.


When asked if this was the best performance since he took over, Pochettino agreed.Spurs v West Brom ‘17 could be become one of those ‘remember when’ performances admired by the cognoscenti and true believers, like the first half against Feyenoord in 83 or Gazza beating Oxford singlehandedly (or so it seemed) in the Cup. Not famous or a glory glory night but one of the best examples of pure Tottenham football that you could ever wish to see. Beautiful to watch.

19 thoughts on “Spurs Paint A Masterpiece

  1. Always love reading this, always makes me smile… my first post on this blog, but been reading it for a while.
    That was the way to end our ‘curse’ against West brom. I was L for a tough, frustrating game… How my team proved me otherwise!!!!!
    Comfortable from start to finish, fantastic all round performance, what more can one want
    Loved the way Jan was almost always playing like a third mid with Dembele and my countryman Wanyama

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good spot, Daudi, on Jan stepping up into midfield alongside Moussa and Vincent in the first half. Baggies weren’t offering much threat, so Eric and Toby could handle them, and Super Jan was very effective, having one of his best ever games, until the injury. But great to see such variety in formation, almost on the fly. And your countryman is been such an important add this season. PS Why is Kenya not in African Cup? COYS!


  2. From a very old supporter this brought memories of the double side,and one of the reasons they did this was the great Dave Mackay Wanyana his playing like him with every match or go back even further tireless Bill Nicholson

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Balance! Now we have it …like a finely tuned piano or violin.
    Balance was our problem for many years. We were still seeking the final
    touches to it under Harry until he left, and when Modric fled to Madrid. The end to that
    ultimately disastrous season where we somehow snatched defeat from the jaws of victory (the
    first two thirds of it being brilliant with as close to fine balance as we could get in a genuine
    quest for the title itself ..while in the final third, capitulation, as Harry cast his eyes and ears
    toward the siren rocks of England) truly ruined our momentum, ruined a fine DM in Parker (with Modric’s move), and negated the closest we’d been to having a balanced ‘exciting’ side for many years. .
    The following season, Bale (without any balance in our team whatsoever) single handedly
    dragged us to our highest ever PL points total ..even tho’ we just missed out behind Arsenal (again) and finished 5th. When Bale went, and with the coming of dud replacements (and AVB fitting square pegs into round holes) the lack of excitement (let alone balance) did for us and AVB.
    But now look at us!
    What a team! Even the cover players are getting it. This is truly about forging a team ..with real balance! No individuals or egos, and although we know there are some wonderful players among them, they are all playing harmoniously and in tune!! This is Poch’s work, and he even has two workable systems now which retain full balance. If he is allowed to continue in this vein, and we can somehow keep the vultures at bay, and the desire of players to play for Spurs intact, then who knows what we can achieve! The new stadium, the ever-growing worldwide fan base, the profile of the club, fine players, a young and hopefully long-term manager, and, most importantly, the way we are now playing makes this one of the best times I can remember ..and I’ve seen many top fours, FA Cups and League Cups and Euro Glory nights since the mid 1960s!
    City up next. While we mustn’t take that wounded beast for granted ..it is another statement we can make. It won’t be disastrous if we lose, but we have to believe we can win there. I’m sure Wimmer or Davies will do a good job stepping in, but I hope Verts is back very soon! Injuries, despite good cover, is something we can do without for the big games.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Just wonderful from start to finish. We blew them of the park and could easily have had a brace. One of those games you win 4-0 and come away thinking the opposition were left off lightly. They don’t happen very often.

    No one to single out. It was a team performance rather than a superstar lifting us out of our doldrums.

    Thoroughly enjoyable. I hope Jan isn’t out for too long but it looked really, really serious. Ben Davies should be a decent replacement given he plays there for a Wales team which is not too shabby.

    Let’s hope Costa’s manoeuvrings derail Chelsea’s season. If they do, we are in with a serious chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. How can I put this, a fan since the age of 14. never got to see the Double side, just the smouldering embers of a side lost gone, so I never got to see them live. Fast forward to the 70’s, big Chiv, England, Peters et al, and the slow decline, although Alfie Conn filled us with hope. Into the 2nd division with a new manager Keith Burkinshaw, and a re building job. To rebuild the side with the likes of Hughton, Stevie, Meaty, Maxi, the Oz, TG, and the King of WHL,Glenn,and Ricky, with “”we’ll take more care of you Archibald” ringing in our ears, with Crooksie outpacing every defense. The magic came back, like the magic fairy we believed, alas came the Falklands ripping out our key members. The cruelty, and the decline. A brief hope with”” Pleaties” side of 87, and his downfall. Then the Venables era, but funds drained due to problems, that Gaza goal against Arsenal, a brief moment in time to savour. I was there for those moments. Alas, the 90’s and new millennium passed, a move abroad and the subsequent giving up a season ticket ( 3 -0 up against Man Utd and losing 3-5, heartbreak ). Even in this century, M.Jols brief joy ripped away by lasagna-gate, a brief respite with Ramos, and then Harry, who gave us a chance only to ruin it by chasing the England job, despite being backed earlier in illness and courtcases, going against the board. So what do I see now, viewing with envy from abroad. A plan, a joined up business plan from top to bottom. This is what we are going to do from the bottom up. A team ethic, backed by a manager that could create a dynasty, without the rantings and ravings of a certain ” Hairdryer Manager “,creating an idea, a philosophy, an ideal that is not based on the size of a chequebook, that could bankrupt our beloved club. | steel eyeyed Manager who knows what he wants and expects everybody to buy into his philosophy. DL supporting that ideal, that idea. The Spurs way, when we took players from lesser clubs to turn them into greats. Look at Blanchflower, McKay, Jones, White, Greavsie, Gilzean, all bought in with their potential, added to the likes of Norman etc. Sides built around an ethos , rather than fitting in square pegs to round holes.I now look at our side, and think how many of those players mentioned above could fit into the current ethos. Even God would find it hard to get into this team,sorry Glenn. Maybe OZ as a sub, but that would be it, so hope springs eternal as I watch from afar, maybe this is it, but at least we are in the mix, and not playing catch up anymore, the ghosts of last season aka Chelsea and WBA put to the sword,a smile on my face etc,


    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks Alan.
    What a great time to be a Spurs supporter!!
    You can tell from all the comments that we are all pumped. Man City this week and they look vulnerable at the back. Let’s beat them and continue this winning feeling.
    The double plus Europa. We are living the dream!!!


  7. I don’t read an awful lot of football websites but after a big or good victory I do admit to looking about for positive reviews of the team. Today in the Weekend winners section of the football 365 site, the write up Spurs got was very upbeat. I had to re-read it a few times to firstly ensure I’d read it correctly, secondly to bask in such a positive piece. There were so many impressive stats but I was particularly chuffed to see Saturday’s starting Xl at WHL cost £7m less than Paul Pogba! I’m too lazy to check if this is indeed true, but if so, while I’m not knocking Pogba, that is truly amazing (& we’ll ignore that £30m Sissoko was one of our subs so we don’t spoil such a lovely narrative!).

    Saturday was close to perfection and you’ve captured it so well, especially as I was sure it would be another tense watch against another well drilled Tony Pulis team. If we win this week – and City have way too much attacking talent to be written off , irrespective of Pep being this week’s ‘in crisis’ choice of the media – I foresee more sleepless nights similar to the title run in from last season.
    Say what you like, but the mediocre early noughties and dreadful late nineties didn’t cause so many frayed nerves and sleepless nights. I think it was easier to cope then, all things considered 😉
    Cheers – I hope next week’s piece is along the same lines


  8. Great piece! But there was nary a mention of the great Belgian Dembele. I hardly see him lose the ball and seems to be anonymous. But always available for a pass. I wonder if we can find someone to replace the work that he does. Winks seem to be younger version but time will tell.


  9. Hey ashleycollie, about Kenya not being in the African cup has to do with too much politics in football which as everyone knows don’t go together. Players also don’t get paid well, or get paid very late.. players end up just giving up so there is almost always a new team for an international ‘even recently there was a stalemate with our sevens rugby team over unpaid wages dating back to last season’s world series!!!
    There is also an issue with Kenya having two federations who are always haggling over power, no of teams in the league, national team selection etc… It’s really frustrating… So many factors to choose from….
    If Kenya could have gotten it’s act together a while back we could be having Divok Origi playing for us but chose Belgium instead, with the above factors being an influence on his choice…


  10. To tell the truth I can’t separate it from other great performances that I remember. It was not as good as the half against Feyenoord, but it did last the whole game and used the whole team. The Feyenoord performance was mainly based on Hoddle and runners. This is such a team – such a full team the like of which I have not seen at Tottenham since I first went in the early 70s (I imagine the Double side was like that, at least it was according to my Dad).


  11. I simply love this team, these boys, as much as any heterosexual bloke, old enough to be their grandad, could. I’m 60 and have supported Spurs since the Double year. We might have had some better individuals in the past, a few better moments here and there, some silverware, but nothing like this team. Or rather this squad, this manager, and his backup team, and our momentum right now.

    But what do I love about them, more than the teams of the 60s, 70s, early 80s, more than Burkinshaw and Pleat, more than Ossie and Gazza ? It’s partly the way they play, the swaggering style that just needs a touch more consistency. The team ethic. But it’s about WAY more than that. I forgive this lot the blips, the dip in form earlier this season, the tail-off at the end of last season. They are so good and so positive, you can forget they’re very young and inexperienced, still learning, improving, trying new ideas.

    No, what I love about them more than anything else is that I respect them as MEN. As human beings. They could maybe earn more elsewhere ? They might find a transfer a quicker route to a trophy ? They could certainly spray cash and get in trouble like numerous spoilt footballers, or whinge and generally misbehave, or do a Payet-Costa, a Balotelli-Barton, etc.

    But to me the likes of clean cut Kane and sophisticated Lloris, ebullient Dele and determined Dier, look, sound, play and behave like people I actually WANT to support. It’s not just the white shirt and cockerel. For many years it felt like that, as a conveyor belt of decent to mediocre players arrived, wore the shirt, forcing me to want to like them. A few gems who I loved, like Ginola and Bale, almost made it worse, like a taste of nirvana, dashed from my lips.

    Our journey back was slow, full of false dawns and uphill climbs. Then, suddenly, beautifully and totally unexpectedly, the sun was shining. It was but 12 months ago that a title chase began, bringing with it love and nerves in equal measure. Yes, we ‘failed’ but last season Nicholson’s famous words truly echoed for the first time in decades. Sure, Cups have been good, top 4 was nice, but I want a PL title. Old Spursy teams didn’t win titles. Too many individuals, not enough team. Too many weaknesses to undermine our strengths.

    But this team, this squad, our club, is different now. Full of men with stout hearts and big balls to go with flying feet and cool heads. Men it’s easy to admire at last. Men to make spurs fans turn our beloved WHL into a fortress, even as she starts to undergo her makeover.

    I named names above – Kane, Lloris, Dele and Dier – but the truth is I love em all, and those on the bench like Son and young Winks, and our exciting kids. Truth is I shouldn’t single ANY out. They’re a team. But one man does truly deserve to be singled out. Our manager. Poch. For he is way more than a coach, way more than a manager. He is a man who has created a culture, indeed transformed a culture. And in doing so he’s given me a team to love again. Players and fans as one. And I sincerely believe our chairman deserves much credit too. Mistakes, yes. But he had a vision.

    Of course, the double sided coin of love, has fear on its flip side. It was easy to shrug at a 1-0 loss a decade ago. It wasn’t even so bad when we won ugly only 3 years ago (read Alan’s review of Spurs v Everton Feb 2014, as an example). I cared, just not as much. But last season taught me about the old bile inducing fear again, of caring too much about 22 men running around on grass, as if a game matters.

    Well, the truth is, it does. As we all know.

    How great to be able to care so much again.


  12. I never saw them play and would be grateful for the thoughts of anyone who did. Were Mackay and Blanchflower any better than the way that Victor and Moussa played against West Brom?


    • I saw them both play in the double side they were incredible players,if Mackay was in todays side I would take them to win the title he had so much energy, Blanchflower played like the captain.This was a wonderful side and at my age I will never see the likes of again


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