I have watched the highlights of Stoke v Spurs on Spurs TV twice, and on The Times once for good measure, and it is fair to say I am going to watch them a few more times before the week is out.
Monday night was pure footballing heaven for a Spurs fan. I can’t recall our attacking movement being quite so fluid, and our intent so lethal. It wasn’t just the result, but the manner of the performance. The hunt is on.
Some micro-thoughts, in no particular order:
1) What must it have felt like as a Leicester player watching that? If they didn’t know they were in a race, they will now. They will be feeling pressure on Sunday, without question.
2) Mousa Dembele was outstanding. He’s had a couple of tricky games of late, reverting to sideways and backwards movement and passing. Against Stoke, everything was forward. It makes all the difference to this team.
3) Legend has it that Nicola Cortese took an interest in Mauricio Pochettino because of his touchline demeanour. It was in full evidence at the Britannia, as a pumped-up Pochettino prowled the touchline and transmitted his hunger to the team. This guy WANTS it. Admittedly, it all got a bit Basil Fawlty after the Dele Alli miss — but that’s the price you pay for passion.
4) Harry Kane never lets a missed chance get him down, such as when he made a mess of an opportunity in the early stages after a poor first touch. Within minutes, he’d made amends. This ability to “forget” misses and treat every chance the same is invaluable. Who does it remind me of? Jermain Defoe. You wonder if Jermain’s mentality rubbed off on a young Kane.
5) Why were Stoke fans booing Danny Rose? As far as I’m aware, he’s never had his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross, or nearly broken by Charlie Adam. Rose responded with a marauding fullback performance, that would thrill Roy Hodgson as much as Pochettino.
6) The narrative around Erik Lamela has finally reached tipping point — his workrate and toughness is widely acknowledged, as is knack of performing in “big” matches. He was an attacking menace last night, and Stoke had no answer to him.
7) Christian Eriksen had a blip in mid-season, but he is on top form now. His assists against Man Utd and Stoke were things of beauty — he had a picture of the play in his head, and the technical skill to execute the passes to perfection.
8) Toby Alderweireld responded to his PFA “snub” with another rock-solid performance. We’ve not seen decision-making of this calibre from a Spurs defender since Ledley King in his prime. It was summed up when Stoke attacked in the first half and Jan Vertonghen drifted slightly out of position as a cross came in, leaving Toby with a 2 on 1 situation at the back post. He wasn’t distracted by the potential overload, and instead made sure he did the simple thing — reach the ball first and get it to safety. This doesn’t win you PFA awards, but it does win you football matches.
9) Before the match, Pochettino revealed that he’d spent Sunday with Daniel Levy watching the Leicester match with a bottle of red wine. This is a club in harmony — a far cry from the House of Cards style political snakepit it has reportedly been under previous regimes. Long may it continue.
10) Sky Sports had Cesc Fabregas as its guest on Monday Night Football, and it is fair to say it didn’t work. He was eloquent, but had little of relevance to say on the title race, beyond his honest admission that he’d hate Spurs to win. Jamie Carragher, on the other hand, was outstanding. His defence of Jon Moss was passioned and backed with strong evidence. After the match he hit on the truth of this Spurs team — this isn’t a “fluke” title challenge as some thought, Spurs could be good for many years to come.
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