Of course, take the warnings “this is the only Sheffield United”, but what you like about Tottenham’s performance in their 4-0 victory over the Blades on Sunday was still extremely pleasant.
Throughout the season, however, it should only was Newcastle.
There had to be only it was Fulham.
There had to be only is Dinamo Zagreb.
But it was always more complicated than necessary. With Jose Mourinho, it was always about holding back the opposition, not supporting your own attacking talent to come out and score four or five goals.
That’s why the unbridled joy of seeing Gareth Bale score a hat-trick – his first in the Premier League in December 2012 – was somewhat weakened by the thought of what might have been.
This is Gareth Bale. Undoubtedly one of the best players in the world, even with the lack of time to play in his last seasons with Real Madrid, and it was clear to see in each of his goals.
The caliber of the teams he has scored against this season is hardly incredible. The strikes in the league came against Brighton, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Southampton and Sheffield United, for a total of nine. Each of these teams is in the bottom seven and most are still nervously looking over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
So what? Who cares if the teams Bale scored against are not challenging to qualify for the Champions League? What’s more, it shows how badly Mourinho fucked up his time in north London.
Instead of going out and shining teams when the opportunity arose, the Spurs would sit down. After a few games, the scenario was so obvious that you didn’t even have to watch the games anymore – if you saw Tottenham go 1-0, it would be a pretty good guess that they would fall back around the 80th minute and draw 1-1 after spending too much time defending against teams that can’t hold a candle to their attacking talent.
This is hardly rocket science, and that’s probably why interim coach Ryan Mason has two wins since his first Premier League games.
All it took was some modern tactics and playing your best attacking talent, and now, after just two games in Mason’s term, the Spurs are playing their best football of the season.
This is criminal, to be honest. The idea that “players aren’t good enough” has been around for too long and without any substance behind it, but many people still swallow it when Mourinho declares himself to be “the same coach, different players” after a happy draw. 2-2 in Newcastle.
Now it’s a “different coach, the same players” and suddenly this new pushing attacking football pays dividends, but it all comes too late.
Everyone bragged about the seasons Harry Kane and Son Hung-min had, and rightly so – the pair is in double figures for goals and assists in the league and was outrageously productive with the chances he received in the first half of the campaign. But whenever they did business up front, the super-conservative style of play exposed the people behind them.
Unfortunately, the gap to the first four is too big for Tottenham to close, except for a cataclysm from Leicester or Chelsea. The upcoming games against Leeds, Wolves and Aston Villa are really the ones to win before the last day trip to Leicester. In fact, it can be quite tight, and that’s probably the most frustrating thing.
Absolutely enjoy Bale’s punches in the top corner as only he can. Definitely enjoy the push. They are hardly a perfect team, but the attacking quality of Tottenham is quite ridiculous and we barely touched Dele Ali, who returned in the starting XI and was in his best showboat.
It’s just that everything came too late and in a season where the top spot was really there to take, the Spurs will have to accept the consequences of a terrible style of play that made them capitulate from strong positions over and over again.
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