You can change the players, you can change the manager, you can probably even change the owners, but Spurs will still be Spurs. This was a classic Tottenham performance. Some attractive football, dominance of possession, missed chances, poor defending and an unlucky last minute own goal.
The day started with several players missing from the team sheet; Ben Davies and Jan Vertonghen most surprisingly among them. Vertonghen is currently the only defender that can be sure of his long term place in the starting lineup and there have been rumours he is likely to be made captain next week. His omission was an early setback.
The two week gap between games frustratingly coincided with the 3-0 defeat to Liverpool. It was as if the players had been impatiently waiting to make up for that disappointment, as they flew out of the blocks. Within two minutes Spurs had the lead. Sunderland’s defence stood off Adebayor. His shot was parried by Manone. Chadli was first to the rebound, slotting the ball past the former Arsenal keeper.
It was a shock to score so early on – Tottenham didn’t register a goal in the first ten minutes of a league game all last season. In fact, Spurs had 7 attempts on goal in the first 9 minutes. Pochettino at least seems to have solved the problem of slow starts.
Here was something to build on, but within two minutes Tottenham had thrown away the advantage. Johnson ran unchecked through the penalty area, his shot took a deflection and trickled into the net. Dier and Capoue missed tackles, Rose should have done better on the line.
All four of our defenders looked shaky in their own way. Probably none of them would start if others were fit and settled. Rose was poor, his good start to the season now seems a false dawn. Dier looks promising but his inexperience shows. Kaboul is not the player he once was.
Chiriches is an interesting case – a classy “mistake waiting to happen”. Full of skill and confidence but poor at the basics, he reminds me of David Luiz. Great at bringing the ball out of defence but a liability when he then loses it in a dangerous position. His skill set is so interesting for a centre back – especially for a team that wants to play the ball out from the back – that I can’t help but think that, with a bit of coaching, he could be a real asset.
Lamela was good again here after a disappointing performance last time out. He’s at his best, leading counter attacks with driving runs through the open field. Copying Liverpool’s successful shackling of the Argentine, Sunderland tried to foul Lamela to halt Tottenham breaks. A late cynical, scissor tackle from Wes Brown was a particularly nasty example.
Eriksen had his best game of the season, with some nice link up play in the centre, and the second goal. Chadli was again involved, this time putting in a dangerous cross that Sunderland failed to clear. The Dane scrambled the ball into the net.
At 2-1 Spurs had several chances to make the game safe, coming closest when a Lamela shot hit the woodwork. Pochettino made some uncharacteristically defensive substitutions, taking off both goalscorers and the tiring Adebayor. You just knew Sunderland would make us pay.
Poyet’s side played mainly on the break, with Connor Wickham up front. The 21 year-old caused the Spurs defenders problems with his pace and general nuisance value. Adam Johnson was also a danger but it was Giaccherini’s arrival in the 65th minute that gave Sunderland a cutting edge.
The equaliser was conceded in typical Spurs fashion – a ridiculous own goal. Capoue, who generally had a good game dominating the midfield in a promising partnership with Dembele, gave away a foul in a dangerous crossing position. The free-kick went through a crowd of players, hitting the unfortunate Harry Kane and dropping into the net.
Tottenham dominated possession (63%) and out-shot the opposition, 15 to seven. Six to one if you only count efforts on target. You can count yourselves fairly unlucky when you let in two goals to a side who only had one shot on target.
The general play was good but you can’t help feeling we were missing a striker and a bit more organisation in defence. At this early stage we shouldn’t be judging Pochettino on results, more on performances and the general direction of travel. In that sense this was a positive, if frustrating, game.
Did you think Spurs deserved to win? Were you happy with the Tottenham performance? Let me know in the comments below.
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