Lilywhites 2 Aston Villa 0
I don't much care for the sound bites telling me that the visitors to the Lane lacked adventure and desire. Sure, it was an abject display if taken out of context. Any team that shapes up with four right-backs and seventeen centre-backs and then proceeds to park the bus will hardly be applauded for their (lack of) efforts. In context, Villa were not just playing away from home. They were playing against Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.
I know you know that, but if there was ever a more perfect illustration that an away team knew that too it was Monday evening in N17. They pretty much lost the game before the whistle was blown to kick off. It's good thing that a mid-table side comes to the Lane and shapes up to defend for a draw (at best), damage limitation all that's on their mind. They don't consider how they could perhaps win the game, rather how can they stop us from winning it. Sure, it's gutless. QPR at least gave it a go when they visited. But its still of no true significance to me. They're the opposition. We need to win. Whether they decide to turn up and fight or pull their body back into the ropes, that's their concern. Their tactic might have been to counter. Soak in the pressure, turn the midfield into a battleground, stop start play. Frustrate. They got TKO'ed in minutes.
The fact is simply this: It didn't really matter what Villa wanted to do and attempted to do, they never stood a chance. It reminds me of how so many teams in the past would travel to 'them lot down the road' and not even bother to attack, almost accepting the inevitable. Very few teams get lucky at the Lane these days. Hardly anyone turns up thinking they will win. It's something we've built up over the past few seasons and it will continue to strength this sides belief.
This was as comprehensive a 2-0 win you'll ever see. It's a shame it wasn't 5-0 or 6-0 but nobody will scoff at the 70% or so possession and the stunning statistics concerning the likes of Parker and Modric who both recycled possession and out-manoeuvred their counter-parts to oblivion with mid-90 percentages in completed passes. With Harry Redknapp back in the dugout, practically from the opening few minutes we bossed the game. I've been banging on about the necessity to dominate football matches, more so when we take the lead and especially at home where expectancy is always high. We did just that.
Tempo was controlled by the brilliant Luka Modric who gave us a sublime game of how to play make from deep, complimented by Scott Parker who at times appeared to be in three/four places at once. He's like that mutant from X-Men that can duplicate himself, he's practically guarding every blade of grass on the pitch. The level of his focus is something to behold. Honestly, hand on heart, was he this good at Chelsea/Newcastle/West Ham United? I know I had blinkers on and gladly accept that, but he's astonishing. If he's human (no evidence to suggest that currently) then I'd like to see Sandro deputise more, just so that he doesn't run out of fuel once we're into the second half of the season.
What was wonderful about this performance was this: Well, two things. The first, the line-up. You only have to think back to the years in mid table mediocrity wilderness during the 90s and early 00s then open them, glance at the line up and dance David Brent style as your brain bubbles with delight. We're strong. We have powerful pacey players. Creative ones, some more subtle than others. Pulsating marauders and dynamic destroyers. All over the pitch, this team, it works. Physically and creatively, we can compete. If we continue to press and pass in the manner we did last night against any one that shows up at the Lane then it's going to be a solid season.
I underplayed it there.
It's going to be a frigging amazing season. Again, so what if Villa were diabolical in spirit. We still have to dispose of them.
All this glorious rhetoric isn't just based on this one result. Sure, we are capable of switching off on occasions (like any other team out there, aside perhaps from the two Mancs). But when you can still pull it out the bag half switched off, something is right. More so if you can play against the opposing side without ever requiring a shift in gear. Ask Villa about that.
Adebayor should have scored more than the three he could have got. A brace in the end and although you might start listening to the whispers about his composure/concentration I'm hardly going to worry if he needs four or so chances before scoring because we're likely to give him ample opportunity to make amends quickly. Against stronger opposition, he'll have to be as strong in mind as he is in body.
Loved Kaboul. He's had shaky moments in the past but he's developing into a beast of a player. I still remember when we signed him and how the plan was not to throw him into the deep end (which we did). Another player with potential we almost ruined, so I'm thankful we re-signed him. It's an all-time great comeback and as long as he's involved and playing he'll continue to grow and claim a role as a key player. Interesting to see he was all about the surging forward with the tackling whilst King played the father figure standing guard, watching his apprentice take it by the scruff of the neck.
BAE (with afro is teh win) and Walker made up the back four and both we're comfortable in defending and running into forward positions. Benny, brilliant as an outlet for turning defence into attack with a single progressive pass. Walker, a nuisance to the visitors, a tidy reminder of what they're missing. I mentioned pace before, we have it in abundance on the flanks, at the back, in the middle and up top.
Luka and Scott, excelled. The perfect centre-mid pairing. One conducts and dictates the game, the other bites into anything not wearing Lilywhite with relentless energy allowing possession to be reclaimed and protected. Meaning more touches from Luka leading to more movement from the Spurs. We're slick and fluid. All parts fit, everything works.
Lennon, gradually, is looking every bit the player we need him to be. He's knocking the ball past full-backs and beating them. 'Terrorising' - it's a word I've missed tagging him with. When someone like Aaron is at full pelt, he's...drum roll...unplayable. I don't mind talking up our midfield as being damn near perfect (when firing on all cylinders) and the little man is all about the big impact if he has defenders running scared, not a clue which way he's going to twist and turn. Bale on the opposite side is most definitely back to consistent form, assisting twice and looking every bit like Godzilla on roller-skates. Unstoppable at times. Unless he was stopped with the fouling. Those pesky cheaters cheating us out of seeing a Bale goal.
With so much pace, it hardly matters that Rafa doesn't have any. Class positioning, movement and always in amongst it. Parker compliments Modric who in turn compliments Rafa. The most sexy of triangles you're ever likely to see. Ade up top with his non-stop work ethic, working the channels, in and around the box waiting for that delivery/cross/disguised pass. As I stated earlier, shame it wasn't 5-0.
Perhaps those of more analytical tactical astuteness can shed light on why our passing faded when the Dutch maestro was substituted? Perhaps it's easily explained when remembering we play with one up front and that Rafa links the midfield with the attack (Ade). A dimension is always lost when he's not involved. Hindrance they called him, how we laughed. When you possess players of his quality you play to his strengths as long as the team remains functional and balanced. Which it did against Villa. I'd say, come January, we look to sign a player that can play the 'Rafa-role'. One up top works for me just fine.
Not a clue of Friedel played. I blinked early on in the second half so can't confirm if he had a save to make. Ade took his two goals well. Freedom of the park for the first, tap in for the second. Soon, we'll be mass producing another 9-1 dvd. Some one is going 'to get it' when visiting the Lane in the not so distant future.
I spoke about the challenge of competing for the Top Four in my match preview for the Villa game. Top three is hardly an impossibility. A title push isn't either, although that's far more improbable. The big test is how we react to losing a game and if not how we behave with the more points accumulated. We have to remain grounded. Nothing wrong in confidence and bravado. A winning mentality has to contain a few arrogant strands. Complacency is the enemy as ever. The fixture list ahead is hardly daunting, but I guarantee it will be defining. WBA away next. That usually doesn't go well to us. Looking forward to the test.
This is the best Spurs side I've seen since the 1980s. I'd be damned if I'm not going to strut down the street like Travolta. Can you imagine if Aston Villa were really really good and we still beat them 2-0? I'd be found stark naked running up and down outside the Emirates screaming 'you can't touch this'. Or something.
In conclusion. We smashed them two-nil. Rejoice. 3rd. Stunning form. Kudos to Harry. Believe.
Love the shirt.