Sunday 22nd November 2009, Spurs crushed Wigan Athletic 9-1 at White Hart Lane. 6 years later & the score line could have quite easily been repeated.
The similarities between the line up that day and today were nil in terms of personnel. All 18 players in the squad that day have moved on in the 6 years between that afternoon and now, Aaron Lennon the last to depart this summer meaning every member of the squad who made the Champions League at the end of that season was no more. A team, piece by piece, dismantled.
The comparison between that team and today is a lot more telling, no world superstars like Bale, Van der Vaart & Modric (Modric was injured that day, Bale still to discover form and seemingly heading for a January exit), and no over-reliance on one player like interim seasons at the Lane. Just XI players, with a distinct style imposed by Redknapp playing for each other with supreme confidence.
That’s where Tottenham are now in 2015. Who do you mark? Where do you focus your attention? How do you stem the constant waves of energetic attacks? The answer is you can’t. It’s how some of Europe’s top teams who execute this style of play win match after match, title after title, playing this way. Those sides have better players, like Messi Muller and Iniesta. Tottenham don’t need those sort of players for where they need to be though, we’re not talking about title challenging for Tottenham but instead getting to a position that can be used as platform. There’s nothing wrong with looking up every now and then to distract you from looking down at who is coming up the rails. Chelsea winning again and visiting the lane next week in a massive game, and Liverpool registering their second successive away mauling of a pre-season title contender. Klopp’s Liverpool executed a very similar style to Tottenham in both those games at Chelsea and The Etihad. When teams play well in this way they are near impossible to beat, the opponent needs to play exceptionally well. Teams can’t beat Tottenham at the moment, not since the opening day have they been defeated in the league. How Pochettino must regret a few of the draws that should/could have been wins when looking at the table tonight. Stoke, Liverpool & Everton at home the big examples of two points dropped in dominating displays. That’s where the Muller’s, Iniestas and Messi’s come in handy.
There are no outstanding world class individuals in this Spurs team as I’ve already pointed out, but there is still quality oozing throughout the squad. Just like all good strikers endure goal droughts, they enjoy rich veins of form. 7 goals in the last 4 for Harry Kane in the league, not bad for a one season wonder. The centre half pairing is as good as any in England, Dier Alli and Dembele continue to dominate midfields, and I wouldn’t normally mention it as I don’t personally believe a corner and a five yard sideways pass should fall into the special mention category, but since assists seem to be fashionable these days Christian Eriksen chipped in with two as part of this rout.
As the first ten minutes of this game ticked by I was intrigued at how it was going to play out. Two sides who prefer to counter attack both sitting back waiting for the other to dare to push forward. As the home side the onus is on Spurs to find a way through and West Ham looked well organised with the added option of the aerial threat they posed. Ironic then that Spurs’s second came from a set piece header whilst West Ham had earlier failed to make the most of a couple of opportunities from corner kicks, Alderweireld powered a header home following a dart to the near post on 33 minutes. Spurs had taken the lead 10 minutes earlier when a lucky ricochet gave Kane the chance to roll his marker and smash a finish high into the net. Between the two goals West Ham struck the bar when Kouyate was somehow ruled onside.
Already 2-0 up, Dele Alli then hit the bar at the end of a Spurs move created brilliantly by Christian Eriksen. Harry Kane then missed comically when through on goal, it wasn’t even half time.
It didn’t take long in the second half though for him to make amends, smashing one under the keeper after West Ham were sloppy playing out from the back.
By the time Lanzini scored a late consolation, a lovely goal by the only man in claret and blue who had tried all afternoon to make things happen, Spurs had already gone 4 up.
Walker finished beautifully with the outside of his boot after a 1-2 with Son who was really lively in the second half. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Lanzini or Walker should take the goal of the day spoils, that’s down to personal preference.
There were missed chances too, two double saves from Adrian, and Mason striking a post amongst others I’ve probably forgotten amongst the constant bombardment of Tottenham attacks.
It finished 4-1, it really could have been 9 again, an absolute onslaught of a display by Tottenham and this time with the goals and the points to prove it.
Pochettino utilised the ‘one game at a time’ cliche when an interviewer suggested he might look up the table instead of behind. I didn’t believe him. I can’t accept that Thursday’s trip to Azerbaijan will be ahead of Chelsea next Sunday in his thoughts.
A midday kick off after a trip to Asia is not ideal and the absence of Dele Alli through suspension will be a miss too, the only blot on a superb day for Tottenham. If Spurs can get home from Qarabag with their first team unscathed it’s a huge opportunity to open up a healthy gap over the defending league champions.
I’ll leave you with the starting line up from that afternoon six years ago against Wigan:
Gomes; Corluka Dawson Woodgate Assou-Ekotto, Lennon Huddlestone Palacios Krancjar, Crouch Defoe.
If that team can finish 4th then there really is only one direction Pochettino should be looking. Good teams beat good players. Bring on Chelsea