Crystal Palace 0 Spurs 1
27th April 2017
A gritty, uninspired one-nil.
The type of victory that Fergie’s Man United teams built numerous PL titles on. Go away, don’t concede, nick a goal and get back on the coach with the 3-points.
The very sort of victory that, as a club, Spurs haven’t been associated with for most of their history. Under the midweek floodlights in April, a London Derby against a resurgent ‘smaller club’, when the pressure’s on. Squeaky bum time.
In so many ways last night was a bigger achievement than any amount of 4-0 cakewalks in the sunshine at the Lane. We didn’t play well, especially in the first half. Several individuals looked ponderous, dithering on the ball. Our team moves didn’t gel. Moose was getting frustrated and petulant. Victor Wanyama nearly spoilt any chance we had of a win with two bad tackles.
So Poch changed it at Half-Time and, without exactly playing well, Spurs started to dominate possession and territory. It no longer looked like Palace would score. The only question was whether we’d get 1 or 3 points. The genius that is Cristian Eriksen provided the answer. Already the best player on the pitch last night, he produced the single moment of magic required.
A Spurs fan I know doesn’t rate Eriksen. The guy didn’t used to rate Lamela either. Says they both “drift in and out of games” and “don’t always deliver.” It was only after Lamela’s role changed last Season that this fan could appreciate our Argentine presser-in-chief. He’s a season ticket-holder of 20 years so he’s entitled to his opinion like anybody else. But he’s also an overweight Guinness-swilling geezer who hasn’t kicked a ball himself since he was about 11.
Players like Eriksen don’t appeal to the emotive groaners in any fan base (well, not unless every shot goes in and every pass comes off). Sweat’s visible, tackles are obvious. But magic’s invisible to the naked eye. However, those who have played the game a bit, or studied it, or simply fans looking for the good in life, they tend to spot what others miss. Eriksen’s specific role is, indeed, to ‘drift in and out’. Like a silent assassin. Hidden in plain sight. Finding space. Waiting like a sniper for his chance. An heir to Hoddle.
But unlike the 70s and 80s, Eriksen is also required to hassle and harry, defend and intercept. In this Season’s PL Stats (amongst all players), Eriksen ranks 2nd for assists (12), 10th for passes (1,788) and 22nd for goals scored (8), but he also has a 75% tackle success rate and has made 19 interceptions.
In sum, his performances this Season have been sensational and all but the most fickle fans recognise it. (As an aside, yes, his free kicks and corner delivery do need to improve).
Eriksen was MOTM but, all round, every player still did his job, on a night when our free flowing football deserted us. Son overran the ball, Dele put a great chance wide, Walker had a nightmare first half. It really was the type of victory that Fergie would have been proud of. Imperfect. Job done. Move on.
Chelsea 4 Spurs 2