Coming off the back of an impressive win in Europe on Thursday, excitement was building for us Spurs fans going into our home match against Crystal Palace. The wrongest person to ever live, Paul Merson, had us pegged to lose 1-3, which was hilarious and wrong, and I will tell you why.
We came out of the blocks with breakneck speed, looking like a team that would have destroyed the exact same team who played against Sunderland last week. Our catatonic playing style of last week was seemingly decimated by the performance against Qarabag and we took off in style. Playing with fluidity and urgency, our front 4 really seemed to connect with each other today. Often interchanging and overlapping to create chances, just our final product was missing. We really held on to the ball well, working it up the field with purpose and to my recollection hardly played any wasteful balls. Any time our attack fizzled out and Palace took possession, we pressed hard and stopped them from getting up field. We won the ball in their half an innumerable amount of times (if only there were some sort of person, a man perhaps, who does statistics of this sort for Spurs…a “Tottenham numbers man” maybe?) and were able to turn that into a very dangerous looking attack.
While we weren’t necessarily wasteful, we did not seem to have that final edge needed to put the ball in the net. Harry Kane headed over from a Lamela set piece, Son got the ball stuck in his feet in the box, and Chadli curled it just a little too close to the keeper – McWhatever. Sidenote: I swear half of Palace's players were named McSomething. Lloris was largely untested in the first half which saw our men with, what I measure to be around 100% possession, which was actually 63%, which is why I am not The Spurs Stat Man™. We played a very disruptive defensive performance, barely conceding an inch to palace and hitting them right back with every opportunity.
Lamela looked a new man following his performance against Qarabag, even defending a few times and winning the ball back in Palace’s half. Lamela? Defending? Pochettino, what have you wrought? The interplay between our defensive pairing of Alli and Dier proved to be the vital asset to todays match, as we completely bossed the middle of the pitch. Dier, as we’ve seen literally every game this season, played a blinder of a match doing a perfect job screening the back line and preventing any momentum to build from Crystal Palace. While Alli’s touch let him down a bit going forward, his movement was sublime - seamlessly integrating our midfield with our attacking four.
Our biggest issue could be summed up by a passage of play which saw Lamela take a nice swerving shot that bounced right before McMan and spill out to Kane who was unable to get his bearings allowing the defense to clear. Another play saw Kane gather the ball from a near impossible angle and instead of picking out an open Lamela for a tap in, tried to hit it himself. Seconds later he gathers the ball in the box and hits it on the turn, sending it yards wide. The Harry Kane of old is seemingly weighed down by his desire to score. His decision-making was clearly blurred by his need to score, and although he looked good at times, he was rather selfish in possession. His defending and pressing were faultless though.
Palace were toothless in attack, with the majority of their forward movement coming through Bolaise. Who, just let me point out, has one of the worst haircuts I’ve ever seen:
However, we did have some characteristically sloppy play which saw a wide open Cabaye hit the post right at the stroke of halftime. Our team looked fluid, our defense strong, and all of our players – surprisingly- looked great. With the exception of Kane, it could be argued that every single player was playing very well against a side that many people thought we would lose to. Our only problem is we have yet to find the back of the net. There was so much tension and pressure building up that it felt like any minute we could score and blow this game wide open – we just didn’t. We headed in to the half with our shots up 7-3 (stole these from SpursStatMan. Thanks, boss). As I pointed out before, our tactical pairings of Alli and Dier, with the fluidity of Lamela, Chadli and Son proved to be the difference. While our back four weren’t exceptional, they were solid enough to where our midfield 5 was able to control the whole of the game and really have a go at a win. By allowing our 3 players behind Kane to have the freedom to run, Poch essentially opened up space for Alli and our fullbacks to get forward with room, stretching Palace’s defense and causing them to stumble. Pardew seemed simply unable to match our XI’s tactics, and we ran away with that half.
Coming out after the break, Pardew subbed Fraizer Campbell on, which is a brilliant tactical move, as no one knows how to keep Spurs from scoring like Fraizer Campbell. We were unchanged, and right off the kickoff Son almost scores with his butt, as Michael McDonald sends a clearance right in to the Korean’s backside. Son was rampant throughout the game, but unfortunately, it seemed like Son was just lacking that final end product having scored two during the week. Many times the ball would get caught in his feet, or he would dribble in to a wall of players. Dier, who honestly just looks like a cartoon bully, was essentially everywhere throughout the game, sending Palace’s meagre attacks right back at them – shoving them into their locker like the nerds they are. Eventually, Palace decided to sit back and allow us the Space to work, which ended up causing us to somehow revert to playing like Stoke and if it weren’t for a McCartney? McArthuer? foul on the edge of the box on Alli, we would have been dribbling in to nothing for 20 more minutes. Lamela places it brilliantly, but Mayor McCheese was a match, pushing it over for a corner. A few moments later we score!!! And its Ben Davies!? With…a header? Oh, its offside? Makes more sense. The stadium erupts after Son plays a brilliant cross in to Ben Davies who heads home, however Kane was offside and the goal is called back. On the other end Palace are starting to capitalise on the space were giving them, and Hugo is forced to make a beautiful save off a Sako drive. We’re lucky not to be 2 goals down, as our defensive sloppiness leads to several chances for Palace. We seemed to have been caught ball watching, and allowed Palace open space on the flanks to work. Eriksen returns, and a godly light descends upon the Lane. After a period of pressure from Palace, Lamela gathers the ball and brilliantly dribbles out to safety where he plays a ball in to Eriksen that starts a counter attack. Eriksen plays a ball forward to Son who brilliantly runs wide of Hangeland and slots it home between Connor McDavid’s legs. In a game where we had 60% possession you would not have guessed we would score a counter attack goal…but then again we are Spurs. We see out the remaining 25 minutes with some nervy pressure from Palace, and a few chances of our own. Clinton N’Jie and Tom Carroll come on and we are able to hold off the threat and get our 3rd consecutive win.
Largely, the game was won in midfield. Our midfield pairing of a literal 19 and 21 year old looked like a veteran pivot out there against Palace. Constantly disrupting their attempts to get forward, it was our pressure in their defensive end that saw us win the game. While Kane still struggles for goals, it appears a new Son has risen over White Hart Lane…and with that horribly embarrassing bit of word play I will end this report. On to the North London Derby this week and then a home fixture against Manchester City…what could possibly go wrong? COYS!