On Saturday Spurs swept aside Watford’s increasingly feeble challenge in a blur of flowing football and stunning goals. These are days of magic and wonder. Enjoy every moment, breathe it in and never let go. Another glorious afternoon at the Lane, not many left but this is some swansong.
A tight game. Watford depleted but determined, came with a plan. For Spurs, second in the league, the pressure filters into every pass, each stride. We were starting to need a little something from somewhere as Watford were hard to break down. 3 at the back and 5 in midfield to cut down the space. At times they pulled all 11 back without embarrassment but it was their denial of space for Spurs to work on the flanks that was doing the trick. The wide men of their five were an impediment to progress plus their two forwards often split to add their pressure. With the ball they caused a threat early on until Spurs gathered themselves and got hold of the game.
And we have Dele Alli. The move started from Lloris’s hands, playing the ball out of defence not kicking it, through several pairs of feet, to Dembele. He rumbles forward as he did so frequently. He’s stopped only with a foul but the ref plays on because we have Dele Alli. He’s on the ball, checks then switches it on to his right foot and curls it left to right, boot to top corner.
It’s an instant of daring and outrageous talent, executed with the nonchalance that only star quality can carry off. He jogs back towards us on the Shelf and, in those few moments before he’s engulfed by elated team-mates he becomes a boy again, not yet 21, fresh-faced and bright-eyed. Not the table, the TV, the crowd’s roar, just the joy of doing that with a football. World football sits up to take notice, he’s that good. To me, he’s still a kid. One of our family, let’s look after him and as we would with own flesh and blood, encourage him to be the best he can be yet not burden him with unrealistic expectation.
All this is becoming a bit much. I have barely caught my breath after the late goal-rush at Swansea, now four more. In normal times, each one would become a talking point, 3 candidates for goal of the season. Except these are not normal times, these are Spurs’ salad days. Unbeaten at home all season, just another Saturday. I have been transported beyond excitement into a better place, a state of heightened consciousness where celebrating a goal somehow doesn’t do it justice. Alli into the top corner after a move that began in our 6 yard box. I leapt up and saluted the sky with both hands. Clapping? How does that come anywhere close to acknowledging this gem? Later, Son galloping onto Trippier’s cross, first time, drilled into the bottom corner without breaking stride. How many times to we see players fluff their lines in similar scenes? Shanked, yes, defender’s arse of course, row Z commonplace. On Saturday we were beyond all that. Clapping?
After Alli’s opener, Watford folded and sank without trace. Spurs’ regaining the initiative coincided with Trippier forcing his way into space on the right. He was terrific going forward – he didn’t have to defend for the last hour – and changed the game, his first time crosses quickly becoming his trademark. He could easily have had three or four assists.
Dier banged in the second, edge of the box as the ball fell to him. Composed and unobtrusively influential, he’s clearly a better DM than CB and we benefit from his passing ability.
Son on the run, should have passed, thank goodness he didn’t. A lovely goal, low to Gomes’ right. Spurs were rampant.
The trials and tribulations of Vincent Janssen. Vinny’s confidence has increased, or, better, he’s playing with purpose that stems from a grasp of his role within the team. It’s less of the hold-up play, more an early touch but it’s as much the players making the runs past him as the quality of the touch itself that makes him more effective.
But it’s goals we would like. His trials. First half-opportunity, he’s off-balance as he receives Eriksen’s firm pass and it spins off his toe. Second glimpse, balanced now, he deceives his marker with a brilliant turn but misses the chance one on one with Gomes. Then, an awkward ball perhaps but it’s over the bar when his boots were white from goal line paint. A miss of Acimovic proportions.
When Spurs have been playing well over the seasons this blog has been active, I always invoke the Tottenham on My Mind mantra, enjoy it while you can. Occasionally I’ve posed another question in an attempt to put it into context – what does a top class team really look like? Think of those really top teams, Manchester United and Liverpool, who won so much over in my time as a football fan. (Best not think about the other half of north London, mind).
For the first time, the answer can be found at home. Outstanding flowing football, redoubtable and intelligent defence, resilience to put up a fight even if we do get beaten and to carry us to improbable, joyous victory when we win. Goals in the murky depths of the game – three wins this season after trailing on 88 minutes. Goals from nothing to break the deadlock, as on Saturday. Steamrolling sides in the first half. Or just sticking at it in the belief that goals will come.
Faith too that goals will not be easily given away. Alli and Son rightfully take the plaudits but it’s Alderweireld and Vertonghen who are our rocks, the concrete beneath our feet. Stats can be used in any way you want (so I will) but one I saw this week was that Spurs have not conceded a goal this season from a direct central pass.
These are the characteristics of a top class football team. The ability to win from all angles, the belief that anything is possible, trust and conviction in themselves and their team-mates. Comparisons with individuals from the Double side in the comments of last week’s piece may be unfair because Spurs have countless great individuals who have worn the shirt with pride, but this is as good a Spurs team as I have ever seen, certainly the most consistent.
Social media is full of the sniping of supporters from other teams, especially those of our London rivals. Tottenham have always been targets. What really irks these fans is that we’re good. They can’t bear it and find endless ways of trying to prove we’re not.
If we’re so easily dismissed, how come we demand so much of their attention? I’d suggest envy plays a large part if only these fans had the emotional intelligence to suss themselves. A club living within their means, building a fabulous new ground, playing attacking entertaining football with a side that costs less than Paul Pogba. Above all, and this counts for fans, they are committed to Tottenham Hotspur. Their egos, and all top players have at a least of trace of arrogance, are channelled for the greater good. They are close to us, they celebrate with us, they are us. As Pochettino says, the shirt comes first. It makes being a Spurs fan different.
I followed the Swansea win first through BBC London’s excellent coverage and then on my stream about 5 minutes behind. Headphones on, I celebrated quietly on the sofa as my wife was engrossed in Question Time. A few minutes later, I wandered upstairs to take a moment to myself and I confess I was a little overcome. Unashamedly, these are glory days. Three more to go at the Lane. Just when you think the old girl has seen it all, she’s full of life to the very last. This is some swansong.