After Spurs first Champions league victory of the season, thrashing Red Star Belgrade, one thing you’ll have missed in all the reports is mention of a player who sat on the bench for the whole game.
Who knew? Who thought that not playing the player who stops everything going forward with his sideways passes would see Spurs return to the fast flowing, attacking best, that everyone has been screaming out for? Who? Well, all those “he’s one of our own” might have missed it.
I can only assume that Pochettino was resting Winks for the weekend. I can’t quite believe that he dropped the teacher’s pet. I only hope I’m wrong.
Of course in all the reports of the game, main stream media and blogs alike, you won’t see much mention about how much Spurs are better without his hindrance, you know those places that claim he’s the future for England. Yes, Glenn Hoddle was right that the team had more players in it that are committed to the club, only Vertonghen of the running down contract mob was playing, along with Aurier, who the club were willing to sell. This created what seemed a more harmonious team atmosphere.
Poch changed things again. Davinson was in for Toby. Now while Toby has been one of the finest players we’ve had in the PL era, he’s been off it of late and with Vertonghen there’s a serious lack of pace at the back. Davies was in for Rose, now this doesn’t exactly add any pace but it does add defensive security and the leftback covered for Jan a few times.
The centre of the park was occupied by Sissoko and Ndombele. You feel that holding role is something Sissoko can do. You don’t need him near the opposition box but he can break forward with one of those charges of his. Ndombele can drop back and cover when Sissoko does go forward but his main job is pick out those killer passes, or glide forward himself.
Dele was in his favourite position, able to move around, while Son and Lamela were wide of the central Kane.
One missing player wasn’t missed nine minutes in, when Lamela beat not only the first defender but also the second, from a corner, to put the ball on Harry Kane’s head, for him to nod it home. This capped the perfect start. Spurs were up for this. The ball was going forward, it was going forward at pace and there was plenty of one touch stuff.
It wasn’t just the tacking though where you could see the Spurs players meant this. There was more pressing than we’ve seen recently. Son was all over the place and I mean that in the good way. He was tackling back to start things and then straight back up top to try and finish them off.
He finished off Spurs’ second. Davinson got the ball forward, out wide to Aurier, one touch to control and then the next to push it up the wing, curled round the defender, to Lamela who stopped the ball with his right then turned to cross with his left to the back post where Son was coming in to side foot it into the net. Glorious stuff.
But we’d been here before. Two nil up, playing great stuff and cruising only for it to go tits up. They were missing chances. Spurning good openings. Harry Kane in the box lining up a shot only to plant his kicking foot straight into the turf. Ndombele bring out a great save. Lamela not so good with his right. That third was needed just to add to the confidence and take away any doubts.
Especially as Red Star had more of the ball after the opening 20 or so minutes, when Spurs dropped off a bit, weren’t pressing as much. Belgrade were in and about the Spurs area but the defence stood up and that threat of the Spurs counter was always there.
That desperately required third came just before the break. Ndombele with a lumbering press confused the defender into leaving the ball behind. Ambling forward he eventually got the ball under control, Harry took the two defenders with him as he crossed in front, leaving Son charging up in acres of space. Perfect pass, he took one touch and then slid home with the second, for his second.
Lamela was playing his 200th game for the club. He’d had chances to mark it with a goal – he hasn’t really scored enough for a player with his ability – he ballooned one really good chance from a glorious Kane curling cross. It was a sumptuous ball from Kane, the type he would love to be on the end of.
Lamela eventually got his goal. Harry doing more good work, coming back and taking the ball, out to Aurier, he went forward, cut inside into the box, cut the ball across to Lamela, who controlled it, turned and with his only real scoring foot put the ball away.
Kane got his reward a quarter of an hour later. Ndombele playing another cracking ball through to Kane, who left it behind in the box and looked to have fluffed another good chance. But then with the defenders all in front of him he slowly looked at the far post as if saying to them and the keeper “I’m putting it in there” which he then proceeded to do with a precise side-foot shot.
That was your scoring. Spurs first CL victory of the season and their first victory of any type for a bit. Cue the claims of the paucity of the opposition. Yes Red Star Belgrade didn’t look up to much but they had beaten Olympiacos. And well, Newcastle, Watford, Colchester, Olympiacos, Woolwich hadn’t exactly been crash hot when they either beat or drew with Spurs.
You just have to hope this isn’t just another Crystal Palace game, a false dawn. We’ll see as soon as the team sheet is announced at the weekend. Has Pochettino finally seen the light… Spurs are a far better team in a Winks Free Zone…