May 16, 2021

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A healthy midfield helps Gareth Bale and Spurs win


From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – After a manic week in the “spurs”, the dust has finally settled.

The club withdraws from the Super League. Jose Mourinho is gone forever. The trophy drought continues. Seven Days Without Accident is perhaps the longest stretch in Tottenham in decades, their storylines and narratives are just a remix of Billy Joel’s remix We did not light the fire.

But the elephant, which is still in the cheese hall at Tottenham Stadium, is the uncertain future of Harry Kane (and to a lesser extent Son Hung-min).

If the spurs break through and sell their star ahead, they will turn to the transfer market to replace them. Their biggest weaknesses at the moment come in defense, but at least they have a good harvest of midfielders, ready for anyone who is the next head coach.

Tanguy Ndombele (24), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Giovani Lo Celso and Dele Alli (all 25) are entering the heyday of their careers and all show flashes of true quality – albeit rarely intertwined or consistent.

Lo Celso and Ndombele are the two most expensive players in Spurs history, but neither has done enough to raise the team’s floor or ceiling. The defense relies on the structure, the attack relies on goal-scoring, but the midfielders have to I show up just to keep the team functioning at both ends, and Tottenham have not done enough in the last few years.

Tangui Ndombele
Ndombele has many important moments on the drum, but it needs to become more consistent Pool / Getty images

Mourinho’s bizarre expulsion led to much revisionism about how good he was; it is still a player who has provided a healthy comeback of eight goals and four assists in 25 games last season. He was not given enough time for this campaign to show his value properly.

Ndombele and Hoybjerg started this season well, establishing themselves in the team in the half-season conversation, but their failures in 2021 were costly. They didn’t look so sharp mentally or physically, and Spurs will hopefully this is just symptomatic of the pandemic, not a matter of quality.

Injuries and problems with Lo Celso’s fitness also do not inspire confidence. After a promising spell as Spurs’ best player when Son and Kane were ruled out before the pandemic, he offered a few substantial ones.

Mauricio Pochettino’s midfielders always changed from season to season, but they understood their work and performed it expertly. There is an obvious quality in the ranks of spurs – you just have to get out of them.

Ryan Mason
Unsuccessful moment | Pool / Getty images

Ryan Mason is eager to emphasize that he also believes in this. Tottenham have to play on the front foot because there is so much talent in the attacking areas. The Spurs’ performance in their 4-0 victory over Sheffield United was largely for that at the very top.

The spurs played at least with intensity and urgency. Mason’s role as supervisor seems to be twinned with a curator, providing pre-season before pre-season to get the team out of the bad habits under Mourinho.

But apart from Gareth Bale’s title performance, there was at least a rough sequence in the middle of the midfield – they weren’t impressive, but they were doing their job, the shifts they had to introduce if the spurs were serious about the challenge.

Dele Ali
Strong new look for Dele James Williamson – AMA / Getty Images

Dele – much to the detriment of older fans who will claim that his new cover distracts him from football – looked lively, pushing from the front and building from deep. Hojbjerg set aside his miserable form to stand tall in front of the rear four, looking just as streety as he had been in the fall. Lo Celso kept the ball in motion (that’s all I have for him, but hey, he wasn’t terrible).

This gave Tottenham the platform their stars needed, as important as goals or assists when you have Bale, Kane and Son in front of you.

Fans should not expect very big results or eye-catching performances, as the season is running out. But as the club thinks for itself and seeks identity again, the team’s core must do the same – Sunday’s win was a good start.