Juventus 2 Spurs 2
If this is a rollercoaster, I love it.
Yes, Spurs still have their dips. But the momentum built up over the past 3 years is definitely a case of “9 steps forward, 1 step back”. We have a young manager still evolving. His aides and coaches still learning. A young team still growing. A chairman competing at the top table without having some Sheikh or Oligarch prepared to treat our football club as so much bling.
For every disappointment, there are many more highs nowadays, like coming back last night from 0-2 against Juventus. It was another brick in the wall. Laying the foundations for a Spurs dynasty. For so long our Club dealt in papering over cracks; signing a Ginola or a Rebrov, a League Cup win, glorious moments here and there. But we were just a house built on sand. And then came ‘the Project’. Not AVB using that word in his convoluted way to disguise his and our own inadequacies, but a genuine long term mission to build an elite football club.
Oh, we like to make things difficult for ourselves, don’t we? But then, we could already be experienced, savvy operators like Juventus, with all those Scudettos and CL finals on their CV. They wouldn’t have blown the first 10 minutes like we did. Instead Spurs are inexperienced, exuberant, with minimal CL experience. So, we cocked up the start. Like kids who make mistakes. And we might have folded. Instead, what did we do? We seemed to treat giving away a 2-goal start as a learning experience. We dominated them from the 10th minute onwards. 63% possession. 559 passes to 220 passes.
Buffon rarely lets in goals. One per match, occasionally. So, we scored twice. And frankly we should have got 3-4. Chiellini is a master, veteran defender. So Kane and Alli gave him the runaround. Lloris is a very good keeper. He might have done better with both their goals. So after that poor start he produced a couple of magnificent saves to keep us in the match. Aurier and Davies both gave away penalties. They were on Yellow cards. So, they knuckled down and did alright instead of getting sent off.
However, it was in the midfield where the true heroes roamed last night. Dembele was a behemoth. He made a mistake in the first minute. I didn’t notice another. He seems to amble, but at great speed, a combination of pace, power and precision that draws opponents to him like moths to a flame. And then he burns them. Space created for others. We will truly never see his like again. Unique is an overused word. There will be new midfielders, like little Winksy, future signings, but the magnificent beast that Poch created out of under-achieving-ex-Fulham-Dembele is a truly unique player.
And Eriksen. The most underrated conductor in the PL. Perhaps in Europe. He works so hard, buzzing around doing his defensive duties. More hardworking than Ozil. More disciplined than Pogba. But it’s on the ball that he comes into his own. He seems to have that extra second of time that other players don’t have. When Eriksen has possession, I can breathe for a moment, knowing he won’t lose it. Knowing he’ll recycle it safely if there’s no defence-splitting pass he can play. He sees a picture in his head before anybody else.
That perfect cross that Kane headed into Buffon in the first half. The fierce drive that Buffon saved in the second half. The free-kick he scored from, a delicious inch too far for Buffon to palm away. And he seems happy at Spurs. Ready to sign a new contract, prepared to commit his career to the Club that’s grown along with him. Recognising how far we’ve come since he joined us.
It really was a brilliant night, whatever destiny has in store for us over the next 3 months.
Pochettino kept calm on the touchline, when inside he must have been fuming and concerned after those first 10 minutes. He still trusted our players, our systems, his coaching. He exuded confidence. There will be even more talk about Real Madrid and PSG. That’s the price we pay for having the best coach, the best man-manager, the man for whom ‘Project’ means more than mere business-speak. Follow every rainbow. Until you find your dream.
Man City crushed Basle. Liverpool thrashed Porto. Well done to both of them. But going to Turin and facing Juventus was a different kind of challenge. One we met full on. Job half-done.