Eriksen’s Jubilant Late Winner Keeps Spurs in the Race

I properly celebrated Eriksen’s winner for Spurs last night. Proper big celebration from deep down. Elation at a late winner with so much at stake in the league, a great goal in itself and a huge dose of relief thrown in. That’s a combustible mixture and I took off.

Each year the Championship play-off final is touted as the world’s most valuable match. We’ll only know come season’s end but the worth of that goal to Spurs could be incalculable. It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of this, the best Spurs side in decades led by the finest manager since Bill Nicholson, could hinge on Champions League qualification.

The costs of the stadium are vast but manageable and budgeted for.  The cost of rebuilding this team is a very different matter. Tottenham can’t continue to challenge for honours across the board with a squad with as many holes as the Huddersfield defence, on top of which key players like Eriksen and Alderweireld are tipped to leave. Put these two together, remove the incentive to play for a London team in the CL, and it’s football quicksand, irresistibly sucking the life out of the team. Make no mistake, this year the stakes are sky high. With rivals stuttering, how we needed that goal.

Plus, I want to show the league what my Spurs can achieve against the odds. This thing about not winning trophies pales into significance against the pride and joy I feel in this Spurs side. They are completely genuine. There are no shirkers, only triers. Play for the shirt and for the fans. Injuries, no transfers, low salary budget – show the league what we can do.

Play terrific football at times, and if football is about memorable moments, we’ve had a bucketful of those over the last four years. Here’s an honour – 1982 cup final winners. Remember that everyone? Only because the final and replay were two of the worst finals in living memory. Man City home and away. Remember that? You will until your dying day. So, I celebrated.

Eriksen was the key figure as we remorselessly tried to break Brighton’s resolve. He’s not been at his best this season. Much of what he tried last night did not come off, partly because his touch is not quite there, although that first half pass to put Moura in for a rare goalscoring opportunity was a gem, and partly because our opponents shut down his angles in and around the box. You can’t play into channels if there aren’t any. You can’t chip into the space between the back four and keeper if there isn’t any.

The point is, he kept trying something. In the second half, Pochettino pulled him deeper so he became our busy creator, always available, always on the move, always trying to make something happen. It’s the only way to get through a defensive barrier like Brighton’s. In the end, he succeeded.

So many Spurs sides I’ve seen over the years would have given a collective shrug after 80 minutes and rehearsed their excuses. This lot just keep on playing. It’s this attitude and application that I admire and value so much. They really kept at it in a controlled, purposeful manner. Perhaps it could and should have become more frenzied and gung ho, but lobbing crosses into the box, tempting though it is with 10 minutes to go, had only provided heading practice for Brighton’s centre halves until then, so no reason to think it would change. This approach implies self-belief without arrogance, a conviction that the right way of playing will bring rewards in the end.

 

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Please support the bike ride to Amsterdam in aid of the fight against prostate cancer, as advertised at half-time last night. Two good friends of Tottenham On My Mind, Bruce Lee and Kevin Fitzgerald (talking to Paul Coyte), are taking part, so if you enjoy the blog, click on their name and bung them a few quid. Thank you. COYS!

pic by Justin Ford via Pete Haine

 

Danny Rose is fast becoming my favourite player. He put everything he had into last night’s match, a man of the match performance of total commitment. His first half tackle in the box to deny the Brighton 10 was expertly timed as he came from nowhere. He’s come back from the wilderness because he’s earned his manager’s respect. Now, with this and his stand against racism, he’s earned the respect of the crowd too.

Praise also for Alderweireld and Vertonghen. They kept pressing forward, seeing the gaps in front of them without over-committing and leaving Spurs exposed. This was a performance of sustained intelligence, giving team-mates the freedom to commit to attack and nearly match-winning as Toby’s shot came off the inside of the post and scudded along the goal-line.

Third in the league with Llorente and Janssen up front, Wanyama in midfield, a bench with a keeper, four defenders and an 18year old midfielder, yet somehow Poch fashioned something out of this misshapen squad. Janssen’s name wasn’t even in the programme, that’s how far away from the first team he is. Was.

Llorente was fairly static throughout. Perhaps the plan was to keep the two centre halves occupied while others moved into the space that, in theory, created. In practice, the Spaniard’s flicks were easily blocked. Moura pushed in tighter to him in the second half but got little from it, a tactic not helped by the full-backs’ poor crossing.

Dele had one effort cleared off the line, a sublime right-foot take down of a high ball then perfect balance onto the left for a shot. Otherwise, 80% second half possession brought few chances.

Brighton’s ultra-defensive tactics were deathly dull but I can’t blame them given their league position, although it’s not the best approach against Spurs because it allows our ball-playing back four to get forward without fear of punishment. I do blame the ref for taking no action against their time-wasting keeper. The ref added on one minute in the first half. Teams will keep doing it if refs let it go.

The main reason why the battle for third and fourth is to tight is the late goals conceded versus Southampton and Burnley. It appeared we were running out of steam, understandable perhaps with the injuries and a thin squad. Then we looked tired, now Spurs are refreshed and rejuvenated. I guess a champions league semi-final can do that.  I think the new ground has a lot to do with it, not just the home support but the sense that the club is finally moving forward. Momentum is vital at this stage of the season, especially as our rivals are stuttering. Chelsea and United’s players have been criticised for not all giving everything and pulling together – not the case at the Lane thank you very much.

17 thoughts on “Eriksen’s Jubilant Late Winner Keeps Spurs in the Race

  1. What a pleasure to read one of your blogs again Alan. I’d all but given up hope. You’re spot on, qualification for CL next year is critical and at 85 mins I was despairing . So I celebrated too; albeit in my hotel room listening to the radio!

    What do you make of the new stadium?

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    • Thanks Matt. Blogs will appear but sadly can’t guarantee they will be after every match. Not time to write after arguably the most thrilling CL in a decade or more – some sort of writer eh?

      I felt at home in the new place after the City CL game – the noise was phenomenal. All about the fans making it ours. Certainly changing fan habits and routines – bars so crowded post-match because people staying in the ground that you can’t move around in certain areas. More of a social experience. Sightlines superb.

      Regards, Al

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  2. Always an enjoyable read & your positivity is infectious. I personally thought we looked tired, short on ideas once the early goal didn’t materialise & with one eye on Ajax, not entirely focused on the immediate task of being in the CL again next season. The new stadium is truly magnificent & a joy to visit.

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    • These last few league games are all about getting over the line, so relief the primary emotion. Given our injuries on top of the lack of depth in the squad, I genuinely don’t know how they have picked themselves up after that bad run in the league.

      Regards, Al

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  3. Llorente was awful, watching his positioning off the ball made mm heart sink. You are probably right, it was strategic, but appalling to watch. Like playing with 10 men. Rose the one who looked really up for it for 90 minutes.

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    • I definitely felt Llorente’s job was to suck in the defenders but where all 11 are back defending so deep there are still spare bodies. They covered all angles very well. It was a game of patience and of working it out. It always looked as if a long shot was the way forward, the space was outside the box definitely not in it. I doubt Llorente enjoyed it much either but I wouldn’t criticise him for his performance; just not space.

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      • Yep, he wasn’t great but did a job, as they say. We weren’t great either but it is so hard for any side to get round opponents where in the second half average position map, our CBs are further forward than their striker.

        Cheers, Alan

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    • Llorente has a knack of looking awful! Felt this static play was planned as opposed to earlier in the season when, in hindsight, he was unfit and creaky. We got through it, somehow.

      Cheers, Alan

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  4. It’s happened again: every time I read your reaction to the latest Spurs match the thought pops into my head that “Yes, I thought that too – but not so concisely or coherently as what Alan’s put into words.”

    Your comments about Rose’s chutzpah, Erikson’s recent change of approach and Jan and Toby’s support from the rear all expressed the vague, fleeting sensations I had on Tuesday evening. I particularly enjoyed your “collective shrug after 80 minutes and rehearsed their excuses”. Magic!
    Great to have you back as a consolation highlight to brighten the gaps between fixtures. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. These are indeed wonderful times, Alan. Spurs, with countless irritating injuries to key players at critical times over the past 2 years, no ‘home’ for the bulk of that time (but what a ‘home’ to come back to!), and no significant expenditure on players, have taken on the big battalions of the PL and Europe, mostly matched them, and (with City) occasionally overcome them, despite all the obstacles mentioned.
    True Glory indeed! Of course, our main rivals have had injury problems too, but the difference is that they all have expensively gathered cover for most positions (and in City’s case they have world class cover for their cover!). But then this is Poch’s squad, and his effect on them re player improvement, belief, and a willingness to fight 100% for both him and Tottenham, is his massive strength, and will be his legacy.
    The players love him, and we love them, and him!
    But now a dilemma rears its head as we continue in our hunt for Glory.
    On Saturday we play a West Ham team with nothing to play for, except 1. A huge determination to be the first team to score, and hopefully win, at the New Lane. 2. They hate us, are driven to beat us in ANY circumstance, and will want to exploit potential weakness as we cast our eyes toward Tuesday.
    The dilemma is that we know 3 points on Saturday would pretty much wrap up Top 4 for us, and allow us to focus fully on those CL semis. That would take Bournemouth out of the equation as we could rest ALL our remaining key players for that match, in order to compete in the Amsterdam (hopefully very much alive) return leg.
    But this first leg on Tuesday HAS to be our priority! Despite the otherwise great importance of Saturday, in consolidating an actual CL status for next season, this means resting players against Wham (except Son, of course, who could do a great job on Saturday to make up for his loss on Tuesday). Players like Verts and Toby, perhaps Alli, LLoris, Rose, Moura, Tripps and even Eriksen may step down. Do I think that Gazza, Dier (or Wanyama or both), Foyth, Sanchez, KWP, Davies, Llorente (don’t forget Son), perhaps Skipp etc. can step up? YES I DO.
    And I believe we can win, with perhaps key substitutions late on.
    Make no mistake though; West Ham will be one of our most important games of the season, but it comes as a terrible ‘distraction’ at one of the most pivotal moments in our history.

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    • Thanks for your thoughts, which I agree with. We don’t have the luxury of saving ourselves for Tuesday’s match. Poch will rotate both fullbacks with KWP coming in, maybe rest Llorente and give Son and Moura some freedom up front. Dier can come back in, Skipp maybe alongside him. London derby is the last thing we need right now.

      Regards, Al

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      • Oh well, Alan, the banana skin happened and the boys looked a little tired and out of sorts. You could see they all tried hard, but we should have taken our first half chances. So now Bournemouth becomes a must-win game, albeit one slap bang in the middle of our two most significant matches for decades! Once more unto the breech dear friends, once more ..etc.. And who knows, perhaps our sense of Glory, and our daring to do, will sustain us throughout the next 11 days at least, despite untimely and adverse circumstances.

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  6. Very good blog. Nice to read positivity and enjoyment and not the whinging that accompanies so many football commentaries at many clubs at the moment. I agree with what you said about the Brighton game but I wondered watching it if it was a case of ‘too many cooks’ at times: when Jan and Toby came forward they sometimes lost patience and shot too early. The shots were blocked and twice dangerous counterattacks resulted. I thought we handled the game correctly and were unlucky not to score earlier but you have to give credit to Brighton’s defence – even their attacking players adopted a totally defensive mindset and covered every Spurs move diligently. Don’t often see that. What a lovely goal by Chris though. Superb. He just keeps going every game, keeps trying all the time, what a player.

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    • Thanks. There is a tinge of desperation underlying the blog, which is less about the game itself and more about what hangs on CL qualification. Poch and his players are doing a remarkable job. There is something beyond analysis that’s getting them through. These three points were so important, psychologically to maintain momentum and belief. Nearly there….

      And Eriksen is an outstanding player, fear he will leave if we don’t make the CL.But he may go anyway.

      Regards, Alan

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