Thankfully we come to this hurriedly rearranged fixture against furloughed Fulham in better mood than when the game first should have taken place, having just seen off Leeds, Brentford and Marine rather than having just taken two points from twelve and witnessing Jose being beastly to Dele after the EFL Cup win over Stoke.
The win over much-hyped Leeds which got the club’s new year off to a positive start was especially pleasing, yet before the game was even fifteen minutes old I’d started to find the hype for our visitors baffling: The number of passes they misplaced just seemed to be down to their players not being very good at passing to each other rather than our pressing, their fancy football, or any excessive risks being taken when playing out from the back.
The penalty they gifted us around the half hour mark was a perfect example, Meslier having plenty 0f time to pick a pass to several Leeds players before dissecting two of them with the perfect through ball to Hojbjerg, who was simplicity personified as he played in Bergwijn to draw the foul.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that it’s exactly the sort of ricket Hugo used to drop on a fairly regular basis under Pochettino which doesn’t seem to happen quite so much anymore now that arch-pragmatist Mourinho is picking the team.
And, talking of Hugo and pragmatism, although I’m no fan of long-ball football, it is refreshing to sometimes see him launch a long kick forwards from hands as he did at the start of the move which ended with Kane and Son’s beautifully crafted goal, yet another built off the back of roughly thirteen seconds of possession, with Hojbjerg’s industriousness key once again.
As for the win over Brentford, it wasn’t quite up there with this League Cup Semi-Final win:
Or this League Cup Semi-Final win:
But as League Cup Semi-Final wins go, I guess it was okay and we’re Wembley bound once again in a competition Mourinho has never won without also picking up an additional trophy, his Chelsea sides lifting two titles and his United side lifting the Europa League in the three seasons he’s already won this particular pot.
And, talking of Wembley bound, wasn’t it nice to see so many positive vibes coming out of our visit to Marine, with our fans playing a part in ensuring over 30,000 virtual match-tickets were sold, Mourinho respecting the tie and the competition by fielding a strong first eleven and bench, the Dele of late playing like the Dele of old, Vinicius helping himself to a very tidy hat-trick, Spurs scoring direct from a free-kick for perhaps the first time since Eriksen left, Rodon and White looking promising, sixteen year old Alfie Devine becoming our youngest ever player and goalscorer, Bale getting on the pitch and generally looking happy to be there, and the club supplying the non-league outfit with a full set of shirts to commemorate the occasion because COVID protocols prevented the players swapping shirts at the end.
It certainly went better than Arsenal’s visits to York City in 1985 and Wrexham in 1992, though to be fair to our wandering neighbours, those clubs were fourth tier, not eighth.
Following the win over Marine and the subsequent fourth and fifth round draws, we now know our potential route to the FA Cup quarters, with a trip to Wycombe Wanderers up next and, if we can overcome them for the second time in our history, Everton or Sheffield Wednesday away.
Including tonight’s rearranged fixture, that, by my reckoning, is potentially nine games in 31 days – just under half of the nineteen league and cup games furious Fulham have had to squeeze in since their season started on 12th September last year – with Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester City among those to be faced before we travel to Wolfsberg on 18th February for the first-leg of the Europa Round of 32.
Thanks to United’s win over Burnley, Leicester and Everton looking as if they have enough about them to mount serious challenges for top four spots and Manchester City’s ominous return to form, we seriously need to build on our own upturn of results with wins over Fulham today and Sheffield United at the weekend.
I know the old adage about only ever taking football one game at a time, and we all know that it’s never a good idea to count your chickens where cockerels are concerned – not to even touch on the fact we all know Spurs have this ingrained habit of rarely winning games that look easy on paper when the results might actually matter – but should we somehow find a way to not drop a single point in these next two games against two of the three teams in the relegation spots, my decidedly dodgy maths have us sitting in second by the time Liverpool play Manchester United on Sunday, just a point off United, two clear of Liverpool, and desperately hoping for a draw with lots of soul sapping VAR and a fair few red cards.
As I mentioned in the bloeug I put up just before this festive fixture was initially cancelled, Fulham weren’t in a bad run of form before COVID brought their season to a temporary halt, with four draws in their last four games and an away win against Leicester two games before that, making an away loss to City their only defeat in six games: Although COVID has derailed them since then, thankfully it doesn’t seem as if any of their players or staff have been hit too hard by the virus, with reports suggesting they’re all fit and healthy and back at work once again.
Back to the football side of things, and although they’ve only lost one game in six, that win against Leicester is their only away win in the league this season and they’ve also not played a league game since a nil-nil home draw with Southampton on Boxing Day. On top of that, they needed extra time to get past QPR in the cup on Saturday. However, they were able to make something like six changes to their starting eleven across these two most recent games, and I imagine that no matter what Scott Parker might say, we’ll be facing a well organised, well rested and well prepared outfit tonight.
Again, as I said in the original bloeug for this game, our record against the Cottagers is pretty good, with us playing them 98 times across all competitions and winning 51, drawing 29 and only losing 18, and we haven’t dropped a single point to them since a 0-1 home defeat in Sherwood’s partial season in charge with five straight wins in all competitions since that defeat, including this one in Pochettino’s first season at our beloved White Hart Lane.
More of the same today, please, to make sure that at least one aspect of 2021 keeps on going okay and ensuring we can all focus our insecurities and fears on getting tonked by a rejuvenated Sheffield United, who beat us 3-1 the last time we paid them a visit and who have just won two on the trot after previously going the entire season without winning a solitary game.
Come on you Spurs!