..not bad after all.
Two days after a hard worked last gasp win in the league, which was itself two days after a Europa League game, all a week before the visit of Chelski for an early kick-off the last thing needed was an away trip to a Premier League side in the League Cup.
It had all the hallmarks of an extra-time or penalties loss, with some injuries to key players thrown in for good measure. Didn’t quite work out that way as the “second string” showed again there is real depth to this squad now. Though AVB did throw in the odd surprise.
Glad to see he went with a left-footed left-back in Fryers. Didn’t have much to do defensively but certainly didn’t look out of place. Chiriches was in for his début and wasn’t quite so assured. Some wayward stuff out there, most of it looking like he was trying a bit too hard. Will settle down with time.
And up front on the left was Harry Kane. Not exactly where you’d expect him. And he put in a performance that you probably wouldn’t have expected. He linked up well, looked confident and got into some good positions.
One player who wasn’t a surprise was a certain Lewis Holtby. Already in the first half he was the one pulling the strings. Sandro was beasting it, Paulinho was box-to-boxing it and Lamela was smoothly cruising it. Actually the combination play between Holtby and Lamela it looks like the little German has finally found someone on his wavelength. Which is great. One nice piece of link up, Lamela giving the eyes passing the other way to Holtby, Holtby giving the eyes and passing back to the now wide open Argentinian.
Of course Holtby’s contribution has been overlooked in the media because Defoe scored a couple of goals. No mention of his offsides, or hitting the ‘keeper with shots he should have scored from. He did though start the move which ended with him opening the scoring. A ball into Paulinho whose nifty back heel – another one – found Holtby. He then brilliantly lifted the ball over the Villa defence onto the head of Defoe who had continued his movement after his first ball. Also continuing was Paulinho so with that pair Kane and Lamela there was four players in or around the edge of the box – 5 with Holtby – which is preferable to last season’s none.
Spurs after the break maybe got a bit lucky at both ends of the park. Firstly a tangle of feet between Vertonghen and the Villa substitute Helenius, caused the Belgian to hit the deck. In the process pulling the Helenius’ shorts down. Comical? Yes? Penalty? Quite probably. Sending off? Could be. The ref gave nowt. Maybe he though in the end the striker had a strike, he wasn’t prevented from scoring other than by his own ineptness in trying to do so, even with his shorts round his legs.
The almost straight away Spurs were up the other end and had a corner. Holtby’s set piece was met by Paulinho to knock in the second. Goal, from a corner, goal from a midfielder. What’s going off out there? Well the Brazilian’s foot was high and could have been called for dangerous play by some refs. Though the defender bottled going for it so there was no danger.
Spurs were in cruise control. The defence had little to do bar Walker running off an injury and Friedel making an excellent save.
Just had to wait a little longer for the third and fourth. Chadli had come on for Kane, good to see the former return from injury and the latter look a real part of the squad. Defoe got the ball from a rogue Villa pass and played a nice ball through to match Chadli’s run into the box. A near post hammer beat the ‘keeper for the Belgian’s first goal for the club. ‘Keeper at fault? yes but how many go for the near post these days, most shoot across goal, so maybe not expecting it.
All that was missing was a Lamela goal but the final one came from Defoe. Holtby winning the ball in the middle of the park, he fed Defoe – who was trying to be offside – with a perfectly weighted and placed ball for the striker to round the ‘keeper and slot home his second. Yes he had 2 and one assist but Holtby with his three assists was by far the man-of-the-match, just not English enough even with the name for the media.
Yes a lot of the Villa “big names” weren’t playing but this was a clinical display with a second string against Premiership opposition. With yet another clean sheet, 8 out of 9 competitive games so far this season. Long may that continue especially at the weekend.