After a shoddy opening half hour where our back-line looked like the only three defenders Mourinho hasn’t fallen out with yet plus Davison Sanchez, I thought that was a good performance against Villa last time out.
As the team’s confidence grew, the eleven on the pitch certainly gelled much better than I’d have expected with a midfield consisting of Hojbjerg plus three players in Lucas, Ndombele and Lo Celso who don’t really seem to have a defined position for us as yet.
I’m far from convinced by Lo Celso being asked to play a sort of inverted right-wing role, but Lucas, once more, was exceptional, and Neville can call Kane cute all he wants, but if a defender shields the ball out for a goal-kick and the attacker jumps in at him two-footed as the ball runs out of play, it usually results in a free-kick.
What was most pleasing about going the second goal up was it didn’t seem to alter our front-foot approach, and neither did the introduction of Davies on 57 minutes – after Reguilon had been hacked off the pitch following a series of challenges which I don’t think even earned us a single free-kick – or Bergwijn and then Sissoko.
What was most worrying about going the second goal up was the sense Bale and Dele were only on the bench so Mourinho could sub Bergwijn and then Sissoko on ahead of them: Message sent, end of the line for their time at Tottenham, or am I reading too much into it? It will be almost as interesting to see the line-up and bench Mourinho goes with today as it will be to see who wins the traditional Easter Sunday Post The Team First Race between SSG and Nutty: As it’s an earlier kick-off, my money’s on 61.
The reverse of today’s fixture back in match-week 3 would almost certainly have been a well earned 1-0 win had it taken place in match-week 30, the interpretation of Law 12 around what constitutes hand-ball seemingly being softened soon after we’d been robbed of two points: In a game that’s since been used to strengthen the narrative that Mourinho’s Spurs always fall back and play negative football once they’ve got a 1-0 lead to protect, our 25th minute goal didn’t stop us having a further eighteen shots – two of which thumped back off the woodwork – as we racked up 65.8% possession and should really have been out of sight long before Andy Carroll headed the ball at Eric Dier in the 97th minute.
It was such a ridiculous decision, I couldn’t even be bothered to be annoyed at the time, but as it’s shaping up to be one of those seasons where the margin between coming fourth as London’s top team or sixth as also-ran losers behind Chelsea and West Ham could well be one or two points, I have an ominous feeling in the pit of my stomach akin to eating dodgy lasagna.
Though maybe that’s just the lingering memory of the performances against Arsenal and Zagreb, or the deja-vu dread that we’ll do what we so often do against a team like Newcastle today when a win would really apply pressure to the other teams in the race for that final Champions League place: I still get the shivering shudders every time I think back to our last defeat at St James’ Park which allowed Arsenal to enjoy their last ever St Thingummyjig Day on the last day of Leicester’s title winning season.
Since then, we’ve visited three times, and won each one, getting our 17/18 and 18/19 campaigns off to winning starts and then continuing our strong end to the season with a 1-3 win last July, none-season wonder Harry Kane getting lucky in front of goal for the 200th time at club level.
Further back in the sands of time, Newcastle were lucky enough to witness Teddy Sheringham scoring the first ever Premier League goal at St James’ Park. Hopefully the margin will be greater today, but I’d take 0-1 again if we have to.
Come on you Spurs!