Spurs | Fresh Spurs - Part 21

Spurs

The New Tottenham Way Of Playing

In recent weeks, Tottenham have been playing a new brand of football that not many of us would have seen before. We’ve been fit, strong, and out run our opponents in the majority of games this season. We may have started the season slower than we would have liked, but the fact of the matter is, we have improved dramatically in terms of fitness and skill, and it all comes down to the training methods of Mauricio Pochettino, his coaching staff and the willingness of the players.

What made me realise how important this new method was to our side when I was reading “Das Reboot” by German journalist and BT Sport European pundit Raphael Honigstein, and it describes how German football had to revolutionise itself to get back to the heights of what they were years before. Now, I’m not for one second comparing Dele Alli to Bastian Schweinsteiger, or even Kevin Wimmer to Mats Hummels, but Tottenham are showing signs that they are following suit.

Our defensive midfielder has to be one who can defend and then turn into a ball player in a blink of an eye (Eric Dier), whilst the attackers are given license to attack, but have a defensive responsibility. The Bundesliga allowed the clubs to have their own youth league, and new state-of-the-art training set ups, which look like they should belong to NASA rather than a mid-table Bundesliga side. But the fact of the matter is, the Bundesliga set up is what Spurs are starting to do as we speak.

We all knew that the new training ground, which opened a few years ago, would benefit us one way or another, and it seems to be working. Our players looked very good technically and physically, and it showed when we managed to defeat Manchester City a lot more comfortably than we expected, and on Sunday when Tottenham and Swansea played out an entertaining 2-2 draw.

Mauricio Pochettino has openly claimed that a lot of his methods have been based upon Marcelo Bielsa and his incredible fitness regime. Unfortunately for Bielsa last season, his Marseille side couldn’t keep up with his fitness demands, and fell away at the final stretch of Ligue 1. But Pochettino has shown that his sides don’t seem to falter at any point. The regime isn’t harrowing enough to ruin a season, but it is tough enough to keep the players going from first minute to last.

Of course, what the Germans did may never be replicated ever again, because 21 of the 23 in the World Cup squad benefitted from the unique training, but with the help of Adidas MiCoach, they developed their individual skills. Imagine if Tottenham Hotspur invested in that kind of technology where the players were training themselves under a structure set about from top to bottom, where every player, fan and coach believed in the same cause? The players we already have, including the youth we all love to watch on social media including Josh Onomah and Nathan Oduwa, who is currently on Loan at Glasgow Rangers.

The fact of the matter is, with Tottenham increasingly getting better in the fitness aspect, and potentially even the mental state which we all know we need, the club is slowly making it’s way to developing players for our future. The future, the style, and even the culture of the club, is drastically changing.

For the next few games, keep an eye on the midfielders and how they play, how they run and how they control their fitness levels during the game. Short bursts here and there. That’s the Pochettino way, and it seems like the important players in the team are picking up his strategy very, very quickly.

Player Ratings: Monaco 1-1 Spurs

After taking the lead through Erik Lamela in the first half, this was a Europa League game that Spurs should have won. However, we travel back to England with a point, and here are our Spurs player ratings.

Lloris (2.5/5)- Didn’t look his usual composed self. Pushed a couple of shots back into dangerous areas and will feel he could have done better for Monaco’s leveller. A very rare off night for our captain.

Trippier (3/5)- Did well on the overlap but was caught sleeping on one occasion allowing an attack from the right. Final ball could have been better.

Alderwiereld (4/5)- Read the game superbly and was dominant in most aspects of his game; continues to impress.

Vertonghen (3.5/5)- Dealt with the massive Traore well enough, not allowing him much space. Was beaten once or twice in the air but they’d understandable considering the size of his opponent.

Rose (4/5)- Impressive. One superb run should have been finished off by Kane. Not much to do in defence due to Monaco lacking a real outlet on his side.

Dier (3.5/5)- Decent on the ball but struggled to cope slightly as Monaco grew into the match late on.

Alli (4.5/5)- Best player on the pitch by a mile. Was clearly on a high after his England call up and he showed exactly what he’s all about. Passed with intent and showed superb composure in the lead up to our opening goal. Another superb turn and pass should have been finished by Kane. Delightful player to watch.

Lamela (4/5)- Lovely skill in the build up to the goal which he finished off himself. Three goals in his last four games is a very good return for the Argentine, who is beginning to show some real consistency. Slowly but surely we may be seeing the real Erik Lamela.

Eriksen (3/5)- Neat and tidy in the final third, however wasn’t able to truly impose himself on the game.

Chadli (3/5)- His superb nutmeg set us on our way for the opening goal, and he’ll feel he could have had one himself with an open net to aim at midway through the first half, however the angle made it difficult.

Kane (2.5/5)- A real struggle. Touch and hold up play was poor and he should have had at least one goal after missing from 9 yards when set up by Alli.

Substitutes

Townsend (2.5/5)- Couldn’t provide an extra dimension in attack as Monaco grew in strength.

N’jie (2.5/5)- Similar to Townsend. Buzzed around with pace but any dangerous moments were snuffed out quickly.

A Year In, And The Pochettino Era Has Only Just Begun

It has taken a while, but the Mauricio Pochettino philosophy finally appears to be kicking in at Spurs.

For the first time since a strong spell at the beginning of the year, we’ve had a series of consistent performances that have demonstrated the type of football Spurs fans expected when the Argentine coach took over last summer.

Fast, energetic, assertive — the lusty rendition of “Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur” after the 4-1 thrashing of Manchester City showed how welcome the Pochettino way is when executed well.

There is a section of the fanbase at Spurs that have never taken to Pochettino, and I can understand the doubts as the glimpses of the Pochettino philosophy have been fleeting at times.

Since the strong spell at the start of the year, Spurs fell out of Champions League contention, crashed out of the Europa League, lost in the Capital One Cup to John Terry’s Chelsea, embarked on a pointless post-season tour when the players needed rest, messed up pre-season with the Audi Cup just before the opener at Old Trafford, failed to sign an experienced midfielder and second striker in the transfer window, and endured a 12-hour Harry Kane goal drought.

It was enough to test the faith of even the most patient fan, though many of the problems could be laid more at Daniel Levy’s door than the head coach’s.

On Monday Night Football, Gary Neville described the Spurs squad that Pochettino inherited as a “mob” — bad characters who weren’t prepared to put in the effort and who didn’t care about the club. It was pretty damning, but hard to disagree. A year ago, Neville talked about Spurs needing to muck out the stables over the course of several seasons, and I guess there is some credit due to Levy and Franco Baldini that they managed to rid the club of almost all the bad characters by Pochettino’s second year. Safe to say, character will matter in future Spurs transfer dealings just as much as stats.

To see the challenge that has faced Pochettino in finding a team he likes, you only need to look at the odyssey the Argentine has been required to undertake to find the central midfielders capable of executing his game plan.

In his first season, his likely candidates for central midfield slots were Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Benjamin Stambouli, Mousa Dembele and Nabil Bentaleb. Fan-favourite Sandro wasn’t up to it physically and was to be shipped out, while Ryan Mason was very much an afterthought despite a couple of decent performances in pre-season.

While Bentaleb showed his good play under Tim Sherwood was no fluke, the rest of the senior contenders failed risibly to take their chances. Perhaps only Stambouli can consider himself unlucky not to have been given more playing time. There was an air of desperation when Mason was thrown on against Nottingham Forest in the Capital One Cup, but he took his chance and even earned an England cap.

Over the summer, it was assumed that Spurs would land a central midfielder of proven quality like Sven Bender or James McCarthy, but nothing materialised. Mason and Bentaleb were the default first-choice partnership, but Mason missed preseason with injury, and Bentaleb started poorly and got hurt. With Paulinho, Capoue and Stambouli sold, and Dembele also injured, against Crystal Palace, Pochettino had to choose two among Eric Dier (a converted centre back), Dele Alli (a 19-year-old), Tom Carroll (who has yet to prove himself at Spurs or in the Premier League) and Harry Winks (who is yet to start for Spurs) in central midfield.

The rest, as they say, is history. Dier and Alli have both performed superbly, with England caps being mooted for the pair of them. Dier’s disciplined and gritty midfield play has given the defence the midfield shield it was crying out for, while Alli’s athleticism and ability to involve himself in key passages of play makes him the perfect fit in the Pochettino system.

Credit must go to Pochettino, for ensuring that when he turned to Dier, Mason and Alli, all of whom were playing slightly away from their natural positions, they were tactically, physically and technically equipped for the job. It’s just good old-fashioned coaching. The same coaching went into Paulinho, say, but he wasn’t up for the challenge.

It will be interesting to see, once Bentaleb and Mason return from injury, whether they are able to win back their starting places. But either way, there appears finally to be a solid rotation of midfield options capable of getting a team playing the Pochettino way.

Expectation in football is never static. Now that the team finally appears to be playing as it should, Spurs fans won’t accept a return to the old style of defensive shoddiness, midfield errors and tedious attacking play.

The test will come for Pochettino when one of his key cogs is unavailable for an extended period. Without Dier, for example, can the defence remain so solid? Without Alli, could the pressing be so intense? Without Harry Kane, can we really score enough to win? News that Son Heung-min has sustained a foot injury suggests that test may be upon Pochettino. The South Korean has been superb since his arrival, and as much as anyone has set the tone in terms of how Spurs should be approaching their football.

But this is a far better problem than the one we had just a few weeks ago — wondering when the team was going to get it, and whether Pochettino was really able to bring the game plan that was so successful at Southampton to White Hart Lane.

It’s taken more than a year, but it feels like the Pochettino era has finally begun.

Charles Richards blogs over at The Spurs Report. Please follow him on Twitter (@crg_yeah) and follow Fresh Spurs (@Fresh_Spurs_) as well.

Player Ratings: Spurs 4-1 Manchester City

What a game, what a performance, and what a way to start the weekend! Not many of us could have predicted the score line and the performance of Tottenham today, who fielded the youngest starting eleven in the Premier League this season so far. I, for one, found it hard to find faults individually with the team today, so here are the Tottenham Hotspur player ratings, and if you don’t agree with any ratings, remember to let us know.

Hugo Lloris- 7

As I noted in “Three key players for Spurs against Manchester City”, Lloris was very important in our victory today. He kept the defense solid, and when he was called upon at set pieces and even with shot stopping, he dealt with it with ease. Not only was his performance fantastic, but his leadership at the back is providing us with some great solidity, and giving us a voice in vital areas.

Kyle Walker- 6:

Not a great performance from Walker, but not a bad one either, so I guess you can say he was above average, which is exactly what Walker needed. Despite giving the ball away prior to the City opener (I know Eriksen played a part in that too), Walker recovered and, believe it or not, actually defended well. Let’s hope that this can be a springboard.

Toby Alderweireld- 8:

Grabbing a goal, and being so solid at the back, Alderweireld is slowly looking like the best buy of the summer for Tottenham. His partnership at the back with Jan Vertonghen is superb, and Alderweireld provides Spurs with confidence in the central position. Let’s not forget that he got on the score sheet too with a rising header to give us the lead!

Jan Vertonghen-7:

Very similar to Alderweireld, Vertonghen is looking like a new player as his partnership at the back is looking superb. Calm play, combined with safe defensive play is making him look like one of the Premier League’s best. Not much more to say about these two really except from the fact this (potentially) could be the best partnership we had since King and Dawson at the back.

Ben Davies-6:

Very quiet in terms of attacking, but Davies was solid when called upon, likewise with everyone else at the back. Davies has been keeping Danny Rose out of the side, and for good reason. He may not be as attacking as Rose, but he is quality nonetheless.

Dele Alli-7:

Yet another stellar performance from the man from Milton Keynes, as he showed he can handle himself in midfield against Yaya Toure, Fernando and Fernandinho. For someone so young, he seems like he has an experienced footballing brain, but the only blot on his performance today is the fact he picked up another booking.

Eric Dier- 9: (Man of the Match)

What a change Dier has gone through this season! Expected to be frozen out of the side as the center back position was chocked full, he must have done something to give Pochettino the idea to play him at holding midfield, and he is playing magnificently. Winning tackles, breaking up play and setting the attackers off with simple and controlled passing, as well as firing home like he did today, Dier is looking superb in recent weeks, with this week being another high point for the former Lisbon man.

Erik Lamela- 8:

The Michael Owen Man of the Match, Lamela played really well today, even scoring the 4th goal, and the relief could be felt all around the stadium when you saw the smile on his face. He chased lost causes and he tried his hardest to create chances for the team, and whilst I gave the Man of the Match to Dier, I won’t argue the decision from Michael Owen (for once).

Christian Eriksen- 6:

A little bit off the pace today after starting in mid week, Eriksen could have played a lot better, but he nearly scored from his free kick which was eventually turned home by Harry Kane. He didn’t effect the game as much as he could have, but he certainly didn’t hide from the ball, and tried to create and to score. When the Dane gets to full fitness, expect to see him have a huge impact on games.

Heung Min Son- 7:

After his great start to life at Spurs, Son would have grabbed another if it wasn’t for the one time the linesman got an offside call correct. He played similarly to Lamela in terms of chasing the City players, and trying hard to get the ball forward and in the goal, but Son put his heart and Seoul into this performance (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

Harry Kane-8:

Finally, our boy got off the mark for the season, and what a feeling! He finished a hard chance following Eriksen’s free kick, but not only the goal, but the performance as a whole was great, with the attack pressing together and moving together as a unit. It was great to watch, and what was even better was seeing the face of the fans, the players, and most importantly, of Kane himself after firing home to give the 3-1 lead at the time.

Three Players Key To Tottenham If They Are To Beat Manchester City

After our North London Derby loss to the Arsenal, Tottenham will want to return to winning ways against top of the table Manchester City. As unlikely as a victory may seem, anything can happen in football, and Mauricio Pochettino will want to get the best out of the squad in this weekend’s early kick off.

But who are the players who could really damage the leaders, and who are the players who could make a serious impact this weekend?

1) Dele Alli

Ever since he signed from the MK Dons, Dele Alli has played superbly for Tottenham, and a good performance against Manchester City can only boost his claims for a spot In the England squad. Adapting well in the Premier League, it will be good for him to be able to test himself out against players like David Silva, Kevin de Bruyne and Yaya Toure, to see what he’s like when he faces the big boys of English football.

2) Hugo Lloris:

Our captain is going to need to be on top of his game this Saturday if he wants another Premier League clean sheet. Hugo is consistently our best performer, and this season has been no different, but the challenge of the City attack will be a big test for the Frenchman, who doesn’t have the best of records against the Sky Blues.

If he can keep Sergio Aguero at bay, that may open up doors for us on the counter, or even boost confidence levels.

3) Harry Kane:

He was so close to opening his account for the season on Wednesday, but Harry Kane is still searching for his first goal of the season, and what better time to get it in the league than at the Etihad. If Vincent Kompany misses out for City, then Kane may fancy himself up against a City defence who look rather lost when their captain doesn’t play.

Either Kane will play out of his skin against Mangala and Otamendi, or those two will suddenly adapt to English football, leaving Spurs hopeless in attack, but personally I can see Kane, with the help of Son, being a threat throughout against Manchester City.

Player Ratings: Spurs 1-2 Arsenal

It wasn’t a great North London derby to watch, coupled by the fact we lost to our bitter rivals Arsenal, the old enemy, in the cup. The reaction on social media was large as it always is with Tottenham, but this reaction was one of anger mixed with confusion in Mauricio Pochettino changing a winning team, with some claiming that he didn’t understand the importance of this game. Now, I’m sure that isn’t the case, but Pochettino did make some mistakes in his selection, making wholesale changes. But who played better than others? Who shone in an otherwise dire North London Derby? Let’s find out, shall we?

Michel Vorm- 6

Vorm had a solid game, but his parry to the feet of Mathieu Flamini is one glaring mistake he made on an otherwise solid game. On another day, in the lead up to the goal he would have tipped it away from goal, but unfortunately, that had to be the one time Flamini was running into the box to pounce.

Kieran Trippier- 6

Solid enough game, without making any game changing mistakes, but without attacking with much threat either. I still rate Trippier, and I feel a lot more secure defensively with him rather than Walker, but maybe we need to start seeing the Trippier we saw at Burnely.

Federico Fazio- 2

Shouldn’t be near the team, let alone a North London Derby. I don’t actually think he can kick a ball, run, or quite frankly defend. Fazio is a shocking player, but blame for this selection is solely at the feet of Pochettino. Don’t understand why he played Fazio instead of, well anyone?

Kevin Wimmer- 6

Wimmer didn’t play to badly, but he is guilty by association at Centre-Back for this one. His “partnership” with Fazio was abysmal, but at least Wimmer is getting valuable game time at the back, which is the only way he can develop.

Danny Rose- 7

A good threat down that left hand side, Rose exposed the weaknesses left by Campbell and Debuchy, but couldn’t get the finishing touch sometimes. Rose is really looking top draw this season, and if he keeps playing this way, then he can only improve as time goes on. Let’s remember, he played in a shoddy backline against Arsenal, so wait to judge until he plays a good run of games with our first choice back line.

Eric Dier-6

Dier is really playing well at the holding midfield position, but in modern football the holding midfielder needs to do a bit more than just win the ball. We all know how good Dier is when it comes to defensive battles, but his ball playing skills and key passing may need to improve to be a starter for the whole season. Saying that, he is still doing a mighty fine job considering we signed him to be a centre back.

Tom Carroll- 4

Carroll has a lot of potential, but as I think I have said before, maybe he just isn’t made for the Tottenham starting eleven. He looked out of his depth in the middle against a weaker Arsenal team, and his passing wasn’t up to standard. Maybe it is harsh to criticise him, but Ryan Mason made his debut against Arsenal last season, and was twice the player Carroll was in their respective games.

Andros Townsend- 5

Frustrating to say the least, but he showed glimpses of what he could potentially do when given the chance, but he didn’t show them well enough. We know he can be a great winger, but if his head is in the game, and his end product is up to scratch, then he can be great. Unfortunately, this game wasn’t to be one of those games for Andros.

Christian Eriksen- 5

I will cut Eriksen some slack here seeing as it was his first start since his lay off, but I hardly remember hearing his name mentioned? A shadow of his usual self, Eriksen looked to be laboring in the second half, but he did show some good passes, and good reasons why he is always one of our top performers.

Nacer Chadli- 4

Chadli started off the game in full swing, attacking with pace and looking like he could be a right handful, but he lost interest when he realised it was going to be a tough game, especially when Arsenal opened the scoring. I like Chadli, and I believe he is a key player, but he has way too many games where he can go missing, and this game was no different. Chadli is, and can be, a top player, he just needs to fancy the game and that is so annoying to me.

Harry Kane- 6

Again, another game goes by without a goal from Harry Kane. But we saw that he is getting close to that goal, despite how long it may take. His runs, his build up play, and his efforts (especially the overhead kick that was cleared off the line) are signs that Kane is coming back, but maybe it will be a long haul effort, but I can bet that when the 1st goal goes in, the rest will come. Just like a London bus, you could say!

Player Ratings: Spurs 1-0 Crystal Palace

Tottenham made it three wins in three in all competitions ahead of the North London derby with Arsenal in the Capital One Cup on Wednesday. A solitary goal from Heung-Min Son was enough to see off Crystal Palace and here are our player ratings.

Lloris (4.5/5)- Composed, confident, and didn’t put a foot wrong. Made a good stop from a Sako free kick before denying Sako superbly in a key second half period. His fingertip stop would prove to be vital as we scored mere minutes later. Truly one of the best around.

Walker (3.5/5)- Did his job in defence and never really looked troubled. Dealt comfortably with Zaha but was lucky to get away with giving the ball away which eventually led to Palace hitting the post

Alderweireld (4/5)- Himself and Jan look to be building an incredibly strong partnership at the back. Confident on the ball, hitting some superb diagonals, and dealt with whatever was thrown at him with ease.

Vertonghen (4/5)- Barely put a foot wrong. One marauding run forward summed up his confidence and with Toby alongside him, he finally looks to be returning to the form we saw in his first season at the club.

Davies (3.5/5)- Good on the ball and untroubled. Kept his place above Rose who was poor midweek and was unlucky to see what would have been his first goal for the club ruled out for offside.

Dier (4/5)- Pochettino appears to have pulled of a master stroke with Dier’s positional change. Dealt with Puncheon with ease and provided exceptional defensive cover.

Alli (4/5)- Looks like he’s been playing in the Premier League for years. Always looking for the ball and always looking to do something positive with it. Has dealt with the step up with ease. He and Dier won the midfield battle with Cabaye and McArthur.

Lamela (3.5/5)- Justified his start. Tested the goalkeeper several times with a decent shot in the first half and a well struck free kick in the second. Some lapses in concentration but he was superb in the build up to the goal, outmuscling Cabaye with ease on the edge of our box and setting Eriksen away.

Son (4.5/5)- Has made a superb start to life in North London. Followed up his European double in midweek with the winning goal in the 68th minute. Was energetic and dangerous all day long , running himself into the ground for his new team. Deserved his ovation

Chadli (3/5)- Better than last week from the Belgian. Some good moments on the ball and some good passes to set up chances for others.

Kane (3/5)- You get the sense that he’s trying to hard. Needs to go back to acting on instinct and the goals will come flowing back. Missed a presentable first half header but as always worked hard.

Substitutes

Eriksen (4/5)- Oh how we’ve missed him. Provided the immediate assist within minutes of coming on and added a new level of class to the attack. He and Son in the same team is a very dangerous proposition indeed.

N’jie (N/A)- Got a ten minute run out and buzzed around without much impact.

Three Players That Have Underperformed For Spurs This Season

Tottenham can finally celebrate a Premier League victory after labouring to a 0-1 victory against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light last Sunday. Ryan Mason bagged the winner, and Eric Dier got Man of the Match from Sky Sports, but there was very little to get excited about, and unfortunately that has been a trend in the opening games of the season for Spurs. Some players haven’t been performing to the best of their ability so far this season, whilst some are just having a bad run of form (case and point, Harry Kane). Let us take a quick look at three players, who haven’t hit top form just yet for Spurs, at least in my humble opinion anyway!

1) Kyle Walker:

I’ve said it for a few years now, and that is Kyle Walker would make a great right midfielder, simply because he can’t defend well enough to be a right-back, and at the start of the season, his frailties have been exploited. The modern day full back has to be quick, strong, a good attacker, and a great defender.

The problem for Walker, however, is that he makes silly mistakes at the back, and makes problems for himself, and luckily gets out of danger. Many thought, including myself, that the signing of Trippier would keep Walker on his toes, and would force him to work harder, but that doesn’t seem to be the case as Walker hasn’t changed, and Trippier is warming the bench every week. I just hope Walker smartens up with his defending.

Player Ratings: Spurs 3-1 Qarabag

Well, Tottenham managed to open their Europa League campaign with a victory, but they didn’t half make it harder than it should have been. Qarabag were actually the ones who took the lead, much to the disapproval to many on social media, finding a few excuses. Thankfully, Spurs managed to score three goals, and got the victory to save our blushes wherever we would have been tomorrow. Some players had a poor game, whilst others stood out compared to those who just put in a shift, but who scored the highest on the Tom Scholes Spurs ratings!

Hugo Lloris: 6-

He failed to keep a clean sheet due to the early penalty, but Hugo did well enough to prevent Qarabag from establishing a larger lead. He showed his commanding of the area, which is key to our squad, and kept the opposition at bay, and cleaned up when called upon.

Kieran Trippier: 5-

I was looking forward to seeing what Trippier could do on his debut, unfortunately he gave away a penalty almost immediately. He looked shaky to start with, but as the game progressed, he grew into the game and looked more assured. Trippier may not be world class, but in my opinion, he looks more of a safe bet at right-back than Kyle Walker.

Toby Alderweireld: 6-

Just a solid game from the big Belgian, which could have been made better if only he could have kept his headers down. He falls into one of the players who put in a good shift at the back tonight, getting his fitness up for the Sunday clash between Spurs and Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace.

Kevin Wimmer: 5-

On his debut, he was rather quiet at the back, and he wasn’t really tested either, which was a shame, as many fans were looking forward to seeing his debut. One for the future, but he needs game time in matches like this to gain experience and to work his way into the first team.

Danny Rose: 5-

Danny didn’t look like himself in the game tonight, as he looked rather lackadaisical at the back. He didn’t advance on the wing as he normally does, and he just let the game go by him. Rose has the potential to be a top quality full back, but I feel that tonight showed he should work on his concentration just that little bit more.

Tom Carroll: 5-

If I’m being perfectly honest, I forgot Carroll was even playing. He didn’t assert himself on the game, and was almost like a bystander for the whole ninety minutes. Some fans think he will come good, but I unfortunately don’t fall into that category. If he was going to make it into the first team, he would probably be there by now.

Eric Dier: 7-

As each week passes, Dier is looking better and better in the holding midfield role, and tonight was no different. He broke up play with ease, and had some good distribution at times. Him and Bentaleb in the middle could be a great partnership.

Dele Alli: 8-

My Man of the Match for his attacking display, and his energy. All game he was on top of his game, setting up Son for his second, and as someone said on Twitter, “Dele Alli looks like what Jermaine Jenas would have been if he had been bitten by a radioactive Zlatan”. Couldn’t put it better myself!

Erik Lamela: 4-

If it wasn’t for the fact he scored, I would’ve scored him a 2. He was awful from first minute to last, he couldn’t keep the ball for more than 5 seconds, and he was wasteful whenever he did keep the ball. Many thought that Sunderland could have been the game to change him, but no, I’m sorry but Lamela is a lost cause. One of the first things we need to do in January is sell this man!

Andros Townsend: 5-

Similarly to Carroll, Townsend was a passenger on this taxing Tottenham first team. Another player who can’t seem to grasp a first team place, despite most people knowing he can do it. Maybe he needs to prove his worth in training before he gets an extended run in the team.

Hueng Min Son: 8-

A brace as well as a energetic performance means that Tottenham might have a player who can add energy and pace into a dire front line. He took his goals well, and harried around to the Spurs’ fans delight. He could grow into a fans favourite, and his partnership with Alli is shaping up very, very well.

Qara-who? Five Things To Look Forward To As Spurs Return To Europa League Wilderness

Thursday night marks the start of Tottenham’s annual foray into the existential wilderness that is the Europa League. Our opponents are FK Qarabag, winners of the Azerbaijan Premier League the past two seasons.

FK Qarabag are from the Nagorno-Karabakh region of the South Caucasus, which is a de facto independent state within Azerbaijan. The Horsemen, which fits rather nicely with Spurs I guess, play their home games in the Azerbaijan capital Baku due to conflict.

For pure existential wonderment, we’ll never beat our Europa League group of two years previously. We faced Anzhi Makhachkala, from Dagestan, but had to play them in Moscow as the region wasn’t safe for visiting teams. We had Moldovan powerhouses Sheriff Tiraspol, who are actually from from Transnistria, a state that is not internationally recognised. And we had Norway’s Tromso, which involved a trip to the Arctic Circle on a winter’s night. Baku may be a five-and-a-half hour flight away, and will be freezing in late November, but at least we can get to Brussels by Eurostar and Monaco is civilised no matter the weather.

Oddly, for the first time in several years, I’m looking forward to the Europa League.

While in previous seasons it has been a distraction and an impediment to our quest for Champions League qualification, in this new age of long-term strategy and minimal realistic hope of gate-crashing the Top Four, it feels like a bonus. More watching Spurs for us fans, and a more game time for Mauricio Pochettino to blood our young team.

It’s a bit like on Football Manager, where the Europa League gives you a bunch of easy games which do not matter but enable you to accelerate the development of all the young studs you are bringing through the academy.

So here are five things to look out for on Thursday night:

THE ERIK LAMELA SHOW: As mentioned previously, I predict Lamela to be a mainstay of the Europa League team. If he performs well, it is a route back into the Premier League team as a starter, and failing that, it is essentially an advert for his talents and he can use the competition to ensure he gets a move away from Spurs. Lamela’s rabona was the highlight of a mediocre Europa League campaign last season, but he is just the sort of unpredictable but exciting player who can make things happen against the mediocre opposition that we will face in the group stages. I imagine he will start in the centre on Thursday, with Townsend on one flank and either Son Heung-min or Nacer Chadli on the other. I’d like to see Alex Pritchard given a start, but it seems unlikely.

HARRY KANE HAMSTRING WATCH: Given he is the only out-and-out striker in the squad, one presumes Harry Kane will start up front. It’s not necessarily a bad shout to give him another run-out while he is looking for a Spurs goal. Kane will get a breather eventually, especially if qualification is looking secure. One assumes, Pochettino will like to use the Europa League to test Son and Clinton N’Jie in the striker role. Son showed his talent in flashes against Sunderland but lasted less that an hour, and N’Jie is not yet match-fit. So until then, we’re praying to the hamstring gods that Kane gets through another 90 minutes.

CENTRAL PERKS: Perhaps the most interesting selection will be in central midfield. One assumes, Eric Dier gets a breather as his midfield protection shouldn’t be needed against such lowly opposition, while Ryan Mason is continuing to recover from the knee injury he picked up against Sunderland. Nabil Bentaleb is out for three or four weeks, and Dembele isn’t yet fit. So it will be a raw central midfield — likely Tom Carroll and Harry Winks. I was surprised that Carroll wasn’t sold in the summer as I find him an underwhelming player, but he has one hell of a chance to impress and prove that he has a future at Spurs. He’ll not only have to control the midfield, he’ll also have to lead with someone as inexperienced as Winks alongside him.

INTRODUCING KEVIN WIMMER: The big Austrian defender hasn’t yet seen any competitive action for Spurs, but this should change Thursday. I’ve not been impressed with the partnership between Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen due to a lack of physicality, but it is early days and Mauricio Pochettino will stick with it for a while. For Wimmer, good performances in the Europa League will secure him status as first choice replacement should injuries or suspensions strike our Belgians, or if the partnership fails to improve. From the pre-season games, he looks big and strong. It will be interesting to see how he does on the ball, and what he is like temperament-wise in a big game. One imagines he partners Federico Fazio, who Spurs failed to sell this summer. Personally, I’d rather see Cameron Carter-Vickers or Milos Veljkovic — Fazio has no future at Spurs, so why waste precious minutes on him?

POCHETTINO PHILOSOPHY WATCH: I was very disappointed by last season’s Europa League campaign. While it provided the basis for Kane to springboard to first-choice striker, and a goal of the season in Lamela’s rabona, Spurs achieved little else. The team struggled mightily against average opposition like Besiktas and Partizan, and too many squad players like Andros Townsend, Benjamin Stambouli and Roberto Soldado failed to take the opportunity these games presented. The performances were listless, and there was no evidence of the Pochettino philosophy in action. This season, I would like to see evidence that the philosophy is taking root beyond mainstays such as Dier, Mason and Kane. It’s not hard to spot — fast, organised football with an intense press and defensive solidity. I’m not too bothered by results — the Europa League is a brutally long competition, and the inability to move Premier League game to Sunday evenings or Mondays leaves the English sides at a disadvantage to teams from Spain and Italy. Spurs may be among the bookmakers favourites, but the chances of victory and a Champions League place feel as remote as, well, Azerbaijan.

Charles Richards blogs over at The Spurs Report. Please follow him on Twitter (@crg_yeah) and follow Fresh Spurs (@Fresh_Spurs_)