Spurs started slowly but in the end had little problem seeing off FK Qarabag. The Azerbaijan champions could play — they were organised, efficient in possession and technically competent. But they had no answer for Spurs’ intense press. Spurs should have put the game out of sight sooner, but it made better viewing for those of us watching from home.
The only scare was Eric Dier’s injury, but fingers crossed he is OK. All round, it was a perfect start to the Europa League and there should be no excuses for a sluggish performance on Sunday.
Here are five thoughts:
KANE AND SON: With Son Heung-min named up front and Harry Kane rested, we got our first glimpse of “Plan B”. First impressions: It works. Two goals, 88% pass success and a warm ovation from the crowd — Son can be pleased with his night’s work. Watching it from TV though, I just couldn’t shake the feeling of deja vu seeing Son up front. In gait, physique, attacking movement and technique, he is almost identical to Kane. It is really weird — I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it before. They both even have the same gormless, flappy mouth that doesn’t close. Separated at birth? Kudos to Paul Mitchell and the rest of the Spurs recruitment staff — they must have spotted this, despite Son playing wide for Leverkusen.
WHO DOES ALLI REMIND YOU OF? It’s not quite the same “seperated at birth” similarity as between Kane and Son, but watching Alli reminds me of someone. Alli is long-legged and ultra athletic, but combines that with excellent technique and ability to involve himself in crucial moments of the game. We’ve not seen yet if he has the same ability to score from range as the player who comes to mind, but his YouTube highlights from MK Dons suggests it is a possibility. Who am I thinking of? Steven Gerrard. Of course, it is early days, but Alli’s ability to impact games so early in his career is hugely impressive. There is nothing wrong with getting excited about a player, and if Alli is even half as good as Gerrard, we’ve got an incredible talent on our hands.
TOWNSEND AND LAMELA: Watching the game, every touch from Erik Lamela was greeted with a groan from Clive Allen on commentary and the sparse White Hart Lane crowd. He can be hugely frustrating, and I’m not sure he can ever retain possession well enough to survive at Spurs. But, at the very least, he makes stuff happen. I’d rather a frustrating player in Lamela who is involved, than a frustrating player who does nothing like Andros Townsend. This may not fit in with the “one of our own” philosophy at the club, but I’d pick Lamela over Townsend any day of the week. All round performance in football is important, but it’s not the only thing. When you watch a game, it is about moments — moments in a 90 minute match when a player does something that unlocks the opposition defense. Lamela does this way more than Townsend, and players including Mousa Dembele. He may drives us mad, but Lamela is needed in this squad.
TOMMY CARROLL: Like Townsend and Lamela, Carroll started poorly as he was clearly rusty. But, I wasn’t impressed by his overall play. He had one or two nice passes, but he didn’t assert himself in midfield. Dier stepped forward more and tried harder to make things happen. What this Spurs team, especially without Mason, lacks is drive from midfield — someone prepared to take the game by the scruff of its neck and move the game forward. Carroll is too happy merely recycling possession. He passes off sideways and backwards, when he could be driving the game forward, especially against a defence of average quality like FK Qarabag. He will get more chances, but needs to do more.
POCH PHILOSOPHY: Spurs started slow, and the penalty concession was clumsy by Kieran Trippier on debut. Overall, i thought Trippier did fine, he had a better game than Danny Rose at left back. However, neither managed a telling contribution from the flank, meaning too much play came from the centre. But, once Spurs got up to speed, the pressing speed was good, and when Spurs tried to move the ball quickly the gaps appeared. Lamela and Townsend were wasteful in possession, but on a better day Spurs would have created more. The defence was solid enough, Rose aside, but it was tricky to balance the desire to run up the score with the importance of keeping things tight. I thought the play was much more in the Poch style than the Europa League performances of last season. Tougher tests await, but this looked like a Pochettino side.