Spurs stated a real sign of intent that they aren’t going to settle for the top four but charge for the title with a determined, aggressive and hard-fought victory over title rivals Manchester City at the Etihad where luck hasn’t always followed them. A spectacular season bursting with thrills and spills witnessed another on Sunday evening as Spurs maintained their superb form, making it 5 wins in 5 games to ensure that they retain their status of being the league’s form team. Spurs’ mean defence were rarely undone despite Jan Vertonghen being a key absentee and the North London side’s focus on getting bodies centrally nullified City’s attacking maestros; Sergio Aguero looked incredibly isolated up front for long periods of the game.
And, once again, we are thrown into a hot debate surrounding what is a handball. Referee Mark Clattenburg awarded a penalty to Spurs based mainly upon the reactions of the Spurs players to Danny Rose’s cross striking a combination of Raheem Sterling’s side and elbow. Mauricio Pochettino, when questioned several months ago regarding football’s future with modern technology, stated that he believes errors from referees are vital to the game and only spark more interest into the sport. I bet he would be fuming if a similar decision had been given Manchester City’s way.
Joe Hart’s attempts to engage Harry Kane in conversation were futile as the England striker buried the ball straight down the middle. Kane later revealed that Hart said he knew Kane would be going to the keeper’s right having watched him in training with England. Unfortunately for Hart, Kane’s nerve, although tested, stood strong and he stroked it home for 1-0 Spurs. Kelechi Iheanacho’s equaliser was the result of City’s quick-tempo, precision passing, one touch game and ended up with the young academy graduate firing into the roof of the net. Yet more pandemonium in the Spurs away end was to come as Christian Eriksen swept the ball around Joe Hart on his birthday, following Erik Lamela’s nutmeg on Otamendi, to ensure that Spurs would return home the perhaps maybe unlikely victors in a match that certainly lived up to expectations.Embed from Getty Images
Pochettino’s tactical skill has rarely been questioned and he deserves full credit for the deserved win over Manchester City. With the game evenly balanced at 1-1 after Iheanacho’s thumper, Pochettino didn’t settle with the draw and made attacking substitutions. Erik Lamela and Nacer Chadli both made appearances off the bench, the former providing the vital assist for the winning goal.
Erik Lamela is the prime example of how Pochettino nourishes talent. Failing to live up to the hefty price tag attached to his shoulders, the Argentine attacker struggled to adapt to the physicality of the Premier League under Andre Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. But when his fellow countryman took the helm, he has rediscovered his goalscoring form with the stunning rabona effort last season and 8 goals to his name this term. Such is his confidence under Pochettino, that he attempted further rabona goals against Sydney FC in pre-season and against Norwich in the Premier League mid-December. Pochettino gets the best out of players and, now Lamela tracks back and helps by performing his defensive duties as well, the Argentine attacker has the perfect foundations on which to build upon.
Additionally, Pochettino’s decision to match Pellegrini’s formation (4,2,3,1) certainly resembles the positive attitude that Spurs have towards winning the club’s first league title since 1961.
Strength in Depth
What really has gone under the radar this campaign is Pochettino’s ability to rotate his squad. The four fullbacks (Rose, Davies, Trippier, Walker) have all received around the same amount of game time and have all performed. The competition for these spaces in the starting eleven is really bringing the best out of the British quartet and there really is nothing to choose between them, they are all evenly matched.
Danny Rose’s commitment this season has been second-to-none. The way in which he flings himself in front of anything is something to be admired. In the Crystal Palace away fixture, it was Rose hurling himself at everything and now in the Manchester City game, it was Rose yet again. He threw himself in front of Raheem Sterling’s early shot and was superb in attack, creating opportunities whenever and wherever he could. Even when Iheanacho scored, Rose was sliding in to try and prevent the shot from being taken in the first place.
Roy Hodgson was present at the Etihad for the game and if he wasn’t already considering calling up Danny Rose for England, perhaps he is now.
Spurs boast the best defensive record in the Premier League having only conceded 20 goals this term as Pochettino has foreseen a revelation at Tottenham – having conceded 53 goals last season, Tottenham’s defence needed to be addressed. And Pochettino has done just that: Eric Dier has been revelatory in a defensive midfield role and Toby Alderweireld is arguably the best centre-half in the league currently.
And with Pochettino’s intelligence being displayed in bringing in the ideal defensive partner for Jan Vertonghen for a minimal fee, he deserves praise. Kevin Wimmer also looks like a bargain deal – he performed his defensive duties without fault on Sunday.
Is Spurs’ tough defence going to bring them the title come May?
Why Spurs fans must take Bill Nicholson’s advice
“It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low”
The legendary Bill Nicholson proclaimed that we should be setting our sights high so why don’t we, as fans, get behind the team and push them on to cup glory this term.