It’s frustrating to say the least but that’s the way Premier League football works. After the magnificent result against Manchester City last time out, much was expected from this game. Would Spurs be too strong for WBA? On paper perhaps, but football games aren’t played on paper.
Tottenham Hotspur have been under the radar of most football pundits as a contender for this season’s Premier League title. But today, against leaders Manchester City, Spurs proved that their challenge for the title will not be ignored.
Simply put, the Spurs squad passed the difficult test put before them in this tricky Champions League fixture in Moscow against CSKA. Without 5 first-teamers, Spurs did enough to take away 3 points from the Russian champions.
Unbeaten and up to second. All told, a very successful away day for Spurs. Manager Mauricio Pochettino tested his squad by resting key players Danny Rose, Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele ahead of the tricky midweek Champions League tie in Moscow against CSKA.
Last time out in the Premier League, Spurs ground out a narrow 1-0 victory (over Sunderland) with alarm bells ringing out loud over injuries to Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele. Whilst Kane is definitely out with an ankle injury, manager Mauricio Pochettino will take a late decision on the fitness of Dier, Dembele and Danny Rose (suffering from a hamstring injury picked up on international duty).
Clearly, progress in the EFL Cup this season is not top priority for manager Mauricio Pochettino after he selected a completely different eleven from the one that beat Sunderland over the weekend in the Premier League.
A frustrating night for Spurs as everything that could go wrong did. Much capital was made about the sell-out 85,000 crowd and of course, Spurs’ return to Champions League football but it was Monaco’s night as the French Ligue Un table toppers gave a superb away performance to earn themselves a precious 2-1 win.
I have to say that I was pretty much pissed off after this game. As usual, the ‘Special One’ had the last say – asking for Jan Vertonghen to get a retrospective three match ban – which was a pretty brilliant smokescreen. After all, nobody seems to be talking about how the Chavs should not have been given their equalizer to begin with.
As Mata floated the ball into the Spurs box, Ivanovic held and pushed Mousa Dembele into the box allowing Terry to ghost in onside and score easily. A clear foul – but somehow the issue is about Vertonghen? Ridiculous. And as the picture above shows, Torres should have been red carded much earlier for laying hands on Vertonghen. Typical Chavs misconduct.
Again, my prediction of a 1-0 win was proven correct. But for 90 minutes, it really looked like we were not going to get the three points we richly deserved. At the very end, the combination of substitutes Lewis Holtby and Erik Lamela provided the pass which Paulinho finished off with aplomb (a back heel no less). Cue pandemonium as the Spurs players celebrated wildly. And well they should as the victory had looked increasingly unlikely as the match wore on.
Spurs sit in third place going into this match, knowing that a victory will at least put them joint top (or even in the clear, if Arsenal is unable to beat Stoke earlier in the day). In midweek, Spurs strolled to a comfortable 3-0 win over Europa League minnows Tromso with goals from Jermain Defoe (2) and Christian Eriksen (an absolute stunner). And head coach AVB will be hoping that his new-look team will continue the good work of the last two games and maintain the good start to the season.
I predicted that the game would be close and that Spurs would win by at least two goals. Well, the first part of that prophecy was off the mark for sure! In fact, Spurs dominated the game so much that 4-0 or 5-0 would have been a greater reflection of its superiority. Christian Eriksen was given his debut and immediately, he demonstrated why he is one of the most exciting young prospects in European football. Eriksen provided the link play between midfield and Roberto Soldado (which had been missing from the first three games) and was behind most of Spurs’ penetrative forward moves.
1. New players take time to bed in.
2. We still have problems breaking down teams who ‘park the bus’.
3. Dembele is not the solution to our playmaker problem.
On the plus side, AVB’s pressing game seems to help us to dominate games by and large but now we need to add goals and we are going to have a highly successful season. Norwich at White Hart Lane seems to be reasonable opposition from which to bounce back from the NLD defeat but under-estimating the Canaries might prove fatal.
With the window closed till January, we now have the opportunity to see whether either Eriksen (above) and/or Lamela will help to fill in the gap left by Bale. In all other departments, we appear fairly solid – but we dearly need someone to make that incisive pass and to bring the others in offensive play. At the back, it just may be time to ditch Dawson and bring in Kaboul for starters. New boy Chiriches is unavailable so depending on Kaboul’s fitness, AVB might need to risk Dawson once more.
In midfield – with Capoue injured and Dembele off-form – it seems clear that the Brazilian pair of Sandro and Paulinho (above) will start in the middle of the park with the possibility of Townsend and Chadil taking the flanks due to the lack of fitness of Lamela and Lennon. With Soldado a fixture upfront now, it must be the moment for Eriksen to show what he can do in a creative role.
I fully expect Norwich to be very disciplined and defensive and so, it might mean yet another 90 minutes of almost total possession. How quick can Eriksen adapt to the Premiership and fit in to the AVB’s tactics and formation remains to be seen. Overall, I expect it to be close game with Spurs coming up on top by at least two goals.