Amidst Fuss over Supposed Disaster, Plucky Son and Spurs Continue to Plug Away
Trouble loomed. Spurs’ disaster-meter was seemingly going off the charts. Two cup exits in four days. Another season without a trophy moved from possible to very likely, Spurs had supposedly gone Spursy again. And late in the Watford game on Wednesday, confirmation of disaster was about to come. Behind at home to Watford, slipping further off the top two and almost certainly into the top four squabble. Add to that injuries to key players, the catastrophe of no new signings, and the stadium issues, Spurs season may well begin to unravel.
But two late goals changed that, and another late, in their latest game, at ‘home’ to Newcastle, keeps them very much on track in the league, and four points off the top (albeit having played a game more). That’s the third league game in a row in which Spurs have left it late to claim all three points, and the fact that two of those games have come after those cup eliminations only reinforces their sense of resilience. The backbone that they’re almost eternally accused of not having, they seem to have it.
And no one embodied that resilience, certainly at the moment, like Son Heung-Min, Spurs’ Mr Efficiency. A man who’s been directly involved in 14 goals in hi9s last 10 games for Spurs. A player who’s scored 12 times in 16 games since November. Someone who’s been involved in 18 games in 64 days for club and country, who returned from his nation’s Asian Cup exit – after which he hinted to be running on empty – to grab a late equaliser in that win over Watford, looked spent after fulltime, had only two days to recover before the Newcastle, and did recover, to be the match-winner on Saturday.
Spurs have looked leggy in spells in the past few games, not least the three recent league wins, as well as the League Cup semi-final second leg at Chelsea, showing that talk of their tiredness is by no means a stretch. But they continue to plug away in spite of those drawbacks, every time it looked like they’ve given everything, and can’t really give anymore, they keep giving.
It’s not just the physical tiredness that Spurs are up against. There’s the pressure, the eyes on them, the quickness to label any defeat as a case of Spursing things up or as evidence that they are running on fumes and are maxed out. As much credit as Spurs and Mauricio Pochettino have received, and while some recent criticism is far from unfair, they deserve more praise for plugging away still, no matter the situation. This isn’t just succeeding in an area where the others have a bigger net spend and wage budget, this is succeeding in spite of everything, internally and externally.
In spite of the stadium issues that have seemingly got fans, and players as well as the manager, displeased, they continue to push ahead. Irrespective of the injuries to key personnel, they keep going. Amidst the talk of them starting to unravel and probably edging towards a crisis, they are not far behind. They might have still have a shot in the title race, and why should they be denied a claim in it? With the top two having proven that they’re by no means infallible, Spurs have earned the right to be called title chasers, or at least outsiders. And such is their achievements this season that any potential failure to eventually keep up in the title race, which is not unlikely, should be recognised as a show of effort in spite of themselves and amidst them being surrounded by teams with greater spending power, not talk of bottling it.
In these seemingly trying times, Spurs are keeping up, whichever way they can. They weren’t at their best against Newcastle, but kept going until they found a way. With the team not letting its head down in this period, imagine what happens when they get the upcoming eight-day break and players become fit again.
A return to winning ways for Manchester City, as Sergio Aguero grabbed a hatrick, his 10th Premier League treble, and his ninth, tenth and eleventh goals against Arsenal. Another game on the road that the Gunners have failed to win, although there are positives that should be taken from this performance at the Etihad.
After that comeback win against Brighton, it’s nice to know that it only set the tone for another listless display for Fulham, as they suffered a meek loss at Crystal Palace. Claudio Ranieri’s side are a fair bit away from safety.
It was a welcome win for Cardiff, as the Bluebirds saw off Bournemouth to come within two points of safety. But that was an aside on the day, as the club paid tribute on the first home game since the Emiliano Sala tragedy. Neil Warnock couldn’t contain himself at fulltime, as the home fans sang; as if we needed a reminder that football is far from everything.
Two goals for Gonzalo Higuain. Two for Eden Hazard. A clean sheet. Huddersfield aren’t the toughest opposition at the moment, but those were three welcome points for Maurizio Sarri and Chelsea. For the Terriers, the fact that they made the hosts look vulnerable, yet hardly threatened them, sums up their season so far. They still search for a win, point, or goal under new manager Martin from Wakefield.
A seventh league win in eight for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Manchester United, as they won at Leicester, who have produced two commendable performances in four days, but have one point in that period. More importantly, Mike Dean waits to issue his 100th Premier League red card.
Speaking of cards, Ashley Barnes does well not to get one after yelling his guts out at a linesman in Burnley’s draw with Southampton.
Crystal Palace 2-0 Fulham
Tottenham 1-0 Newcastle
Everton 1-3 Wolves
Leicester 0-1 Manchester United
Manchester City 3-1 Arsenal
Burnley 1-1 Southampton
Chelsea 5-0 Huddersfield
Cardiff 2-0 Bournemouth
Brighton 0-0 Watford
Monday Night Football: West Ham v Liverpool