What a difference a run of consecutive wins makes, though nothing ever really makes the idea of going to The Emirates feel very pleasant. The only recent times I’ve looked at this away fixture and thought we should probably win it, we’ve ended up on the wrong end of 5-2 stumpings.
What’s been so nice about this recent run of good results compared to previous ones under Mourinho is the manner of the football. All of a sudden we feel more like the team that beat Southampton 2-5 and Manchester United 1-6 than the one that scraped past Burnley, Brighton and West Brom. Where before it felt like there were questions all over the pitch, the form of players such as Moura, Bale and Sanchez combined with Reguilon’s return to fitness and random Dele sightings make it feel as if there are options.
That second half against Palace was a pure pleasure to watch, especially Bale’s movement for our second, muscling Ayew off the ball on 1:17 of the below highlights reel, spreading it wide to Reguilon, demanding the cross towards the near post and then powering in Kane’s nod-back a mere nine seconds after starting the move.
Like many others, I’d watched him stroll through Brighton away and other cameo appearances and wondered if this trip down memory lane had been a mistake. No matter what happens from here, at least there have been some moments to treasure. The fact he seems to have the capacity to really upset Graeme Souness is simply a nice shiny cherry on top of a very pleasant looking cake.
Mourinho’s post-match comments about Palace’s goal coming at a good time raise yet more interesting questions about who really has been to blame for the team dropping back on slender leads in the past. In typical Jose fashion, he’s distanced himself from a mess he probably had some part in creating, but no matter who was to blame, there’s no denying that on 52 minutes of a game we’re winning 2-1 we’re pretty much lined up as a front six as Bale slips the ball wide to Doherty ahead of Kane trotting up to make it a front seven and thrash a screamer into the top corner. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
Kane’s performance in his 84 minutes against Zagreb was wonderful, wonderful stuff too, and I thought Ndombele looked really good. I might have made this comment up falsely because I shut my eyes and prayed each time Zagreb were in possession, but my least favourite centre-back pairing of Sanchez and Dier flanked by my least favourite full-back combination of Aurier and Davies looked pretty solid also, with both Davies and Aurier doing more than enough to support our attack: When Lamela strikes to hit the post in the build up to Kane’s opener, Ben Davies is the most advanced Lilywhite on the pitch having brought down a loose ball Dele had fought for to get the move going, and while there was an element of luck in the ball getting to Kane for his brilliantly taken second, it’s Aurier who puts the ball into the danger area following a beautiful long ball out from Ndombele.
(That waste of space Ben Davies creates space for Lamela to cause havoc, and his run towards the penalty spot means Kane is left to stroll wide and free).
Bale’s outside of the left boot cross on 2:05 of the below highlights reel was yet another reminder of what a talent he is, and when was the last time a Spurs manager made seven changes to a starting line-up and we got to watch consecutive competent victories rather than a couple of utter dog’s dinners? It all seems very strange.
And talking of strange, here we are going to The Emirates for the first time since 1st September 2019, and for the first time under Mourinho but the 18th under ENIC (by my reckoning, this will be our 24th away NLD at both Highbury and The Emirates since ENIC took over, not including the 2001 FA Cup Semi-Final at Old Trafford). Our record is horrendous. One League Cup win under Pochettino in December 2018. One Premier League win under Redknapp in November 2010. One League Cup draw in January 2008 (important to point out that this draw laid the platform for the sound thrashing Arsenal received in the second leg of that semi-final as we warmed up for a Wembley win over Chelsea under Ramos) six draws under an assortment of managers, and the rest, well, let’s just not mention.
Although our overall record against them at their place doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it’s worth pointing out they’ve only managed to beat us three times since the ignominy of three straight defeats across the AVB/Sherwood 13/14 season. There was a League Cup game at The Lane in Pochettino’s second season then consecutive Emirates defeats in 17/18 and 18/19 as the game gained a humiliating edge of importance for them in terms of hollow bragging rights over a better performing Premier League rival. Saint-What’s-it-called again? It’s been so long since they’ve mentioned it, I can’t seem to remember.
Add to our slender portfolio of away wins against them today – and extend our unbeaten run against them to six across all competitions – and it’ll be almost a given that we’ll be placing higher than the Woolwich again this season, a ten point cushion between us: As Mourinho sniped midweek, time to look up towards Chelsea and Leicester, not down towards mid-table mulch.
Whether they are there for the taking would be difficult enough to predict even without factoring in the local derby effect. They’ve only lost one of their last four and that was their last home game against Manchester City. They then beat Leicester away 1-3 but could only draw against Burnley in their last league match, though probably should have had a penalty and gifted Burnley an absolute Xhaka of a goal.
The two times we’ve faced them so far under Mourinho have certainly gone our way, 2-1 and 2-0 wins up there with the happier memories of his time with us so far, and I think he’s only tasted defeat to them once across 18 Premier League games with all of his various clubs, so I’m hoping for more attacking merriment and three out of three North London Derby wins for Spurs under Jose along the lines of this sort of thing:
But I’m not looking forward to it, so don’t blame me if we get stumped 5-2.
Come on you Spurs!