Spurs’ two matches in three days over Christmas saw a decent return of four points. The hard earned draw against United was probably a better performance than the fortunate win over Leicester.
With so many games in such a short period, Pochettino made four changes between the two matches but kept the spine of the team intact. The central defensive partnership of Fazio and Vertonghen is starting to look more stable and is definitely Tottenham’s best option at present, while Eriksen and Kane have cemented their place as our key attacking threats.
Leicester 1 Spurs 2
2-1 is becoming a bit of a feature of Tottenham games – our last six league victories have been by that scoreline.
It all started so well – Kane got on the score-sheet in the first minute. His progress this year has been truly incredible. Lamela played a beautiful pass to start the break that led to the goal.
After that Leicester were on top, controlling the game. One criticism I would have of Pochettino’s teams is that they can easily lose control of midfield. The players are lightweight in the centre and get bullied off the ball too easily. When we get some possession we are too keen to immediately try to launch a break, when just holding onto the ball and calming things down would be a better idea.
Eriksen, as so often, was the match winner. Him and Kane have the confidence and the attitude – as well as the ability – to change games. It’s an invaluable quality.
Leicester out-shot Spurs 22-8 but we still won. Whether it’s luck, or grit and determination, at least we’re getting the results.
Spurs 0 Manchester United 0
Here was an opportunity for Pochettino to test himself against one-time candidate for the Spurs job, Louis van Gaal. United are always a tough opponent and even more so after their summer spending spree. They came into this game on an eight match unbeaten run in the league, riding high in third place.
Kane had a couple of early chances as we started brightly but soon United took control. Their passing is very slick and it looks like van Gaal’s methods are starting to take root.
The visitors had several good opportunities, including a goal mouth scramble after a Juan Mata freekick hit the woodwork – Chiriches did well to hook clear on the line.
Lloris was on excellent form, tipping away an Ashley Young effort and denying van Persie at point blank range after Carrick had put the Dutchman through. I still rate Carrick extremely highly. His loss to Spurs was as keenly felt as those of Modric and Bale.
The defence held and as the game wore on we fought our way back into the match, as has become the pattern. Maybe those extra training sessions are paying off?
We tend to play well at the start and end of games, as if that’s part of the plan – try to get an early lead, then sit back and wait for the last ten minutes. It’s almost like Pochettino is using the “rope-a-dope” strategy, letting the opponents tire themselves out, then hitting them with a sucker punch at the end.
We had one great chance to win it, created by Kane’s excellent pressing. He charged down a ball from Carrick in midfield and drove at United. As they backed off, he played a lovely reverse pass to the onrushing Mason, dissecting the United back-line. Unfortunately the midfielder couldn’t keep his composure and blasted his effort over the bar.
Spurs should have had a late penalty as Rooney pulled down Kane at a corner but you rarely see a referee brave enough to award spot kicks for holding in the box, especially with Louis van Gaal watching on. United’s players were very vocal towards the referee and committed a series of annoying fouls as they tired.
Post match, Pochettino was asked whether his plan was to “rest, rest, rest” before the New Year’s day match against Chelsea, he replied “no, train, train, train”. We hear so much about players being tired at this time of year but the lack of time to prepare must also add to the problems managers have to juggle.
THE FOUR AREAS POCHETTINO MUST STRENGTHEN IN JANUARY
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What do you think of Spurs Christmas? Are you hopeful for the visit of Chelsea? Let me know your opinions in the comments below.