Tag Archives: Mousa Dembele

Spurs do it on a mild Monday evening in Stoke

Paul Wells  FOX HUNT

Image: Twitter…

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.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat. Note, I’ve changed the credit for the image to a more generic “Twitter”.

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Spurs 0-0 Everton: Six morning after thoughts

spurseverton

From Google Images

Spurs vs Everton was the first Spurs match I’ve been able to watch in full this season on TV, without the inconvenience of pop-up ads and shaky streams. In general, Spurs played well, should have won but could have lost. It’s four games, three points, three goals and zero wins. It’s too early panic, but panic is definitely on the agenda.

Dembele watch: Before the game, I thought this was a huge game for Mousa Dembele. In my view, he rarely produces much of substance, and against Everton he was our primary creative player. It was time to put up or shut up. Sadly, his game ended prematurely with a nasty looking injury — I hope he recovers soon. But the game itself was peak Dembele — plenty of beautiful touches, enough effort, threats of creativity, but absolutely no end product. Personally, I think we are on a road to nowhere with Dembele, at least in a creative role. Oddly, I feel him reprising his forward role, which he had when he first joined Fulham, may be the answer this season. Even if Berahino comes in, Spurs only have two strikers. Dembele can hold the ball up brilliantly, has some interesting movement and can trouble defenders. A false nine, with the likes of Deli Alli, Nacer Chadli and Clinton N’Jie running past, may be a nice option in the Europa League.

Dier watch: I thought Eric Dier was superb. He broke up the play and shielded the defence superbly. Some of his passing was lovely, and he rarely gave the ball away. He pressed with good intensity. Ross Barkley was firmly in his back pocket throughout the game. If you had never watched a Spurs game and seen him play, you’d be hard pressed to know Dier is a centre back by trade. What, realistically, would someone like Victor Wanyama have added to the performance from Dier? And more to the point, what massive flaw am I overlooking in Dier’s game? I like the cut of Dier’s jib, to put it in a slightly daft way, but I can see why he is a big Mauricio Pochettino favourite — he’s Poch’s little engine that could.

Kane watch: Harry should have scored when Mason put him through one-on-one. It was a poor touch that caused the damage, and then it was a battle of nerve with Tim Howard over who would commit first. Howard won. Overall, his play was very good — as always. I would like him to dial down on the interviews and publicity until the goals come again, as he is leaving himself exposed.

Poch watch: Make no mistake, Poch is going to get the blame if the results don’t improve. But what, realistically, could he have done more? Kane missed a one-on-one, Mason missed two, and Chadli fired over from close range. The team executed his gameplan, worked hard, created chances and were solid. This was a well coached team. They just aren’t a very good team, yet. The only criticism I have is that Pritchard should have come on 10 minutes earlier as Mason was flagging. But let’s not kid ourselves, Pritchard was making his Premier League debut — we have no idea if he is going to be good enough to impact on Premier League defences.

Levy watch: Poch has been left out to dry by Levy through the failure to bring in another forward. This game was crying out for a second striker with pace to come on against an Everton defence that went 120 minutes in midweek. Berahino could have been brought in months ago — it is just poor squad management, there are no excuses. The lack of a second striker cost us two points against Stoke and could have been the difference against Everton. I’m not sure the striker situation made much of a difference against Man Utd or Leicester, and although perhaps an experienced midfielder may have helped, one point in these two games is probably par. Overall, I’d say the cost of the slow transfer business is four points. Let’s see what that ends up costing us in terms European positions and prize money.

TV watch: According to Thierry Henry, Spurs’ failure to keep Berbatov, Modric, Bale and several unnamed other stars has cost us the opportunity to win the league. Likewise, the failure of humans to master time travel has prevented us from exploring new galaxies. F**king Levy. Henry is the Erik Lamela of TV pundits — very expensive, looks fancy but desperately lacking in any end product. Looks ill-suited to the high-intensity Sky Sports style, may be better off back on the slower paced Serie-BBC, possibly on loan with an option to buy.

Next on TV: We have Sunderland away after the international break on Sunday afternoon. Too soon for jokes about relegation six-pointers, but, well, time for a win.

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