Rhythmic control is what Alan Pardew calls it. Football jargon grates but that’s a neat phrase to describe what Spurs are like when it’s working, and it’s how we dominated large swathes of this game. I assume he’s talking about football rather than a method of contraception favoured by Catholics.
We not only keep hold of the ball but move it around the team effortlessly and smoothly. Spurs do this best at a decent tempo. The movement was productive and thoughtful with everyone becoming involved. We look comfortable, at ease with ourselves. A bit of swagger doesn’t go amiss. As one.
We retained possession and created chances for most of the match. Gallas and Caulker joined the attack when Villa had been pegged back deep into their half. Vertonghen and Walker supported the attack, sliding into space out wide or in the Belgian’s case, making early darting breaks into danger areas. Sandro and Dembele diligently covered for each other, the two of them never going right forward at the same time. Bale and Vertonghen combined well down the left.
The pattern was set early on and it was a real shame that Bale and Defoe did not convert the chances to put us two up after as many minutes. Bale was dangerous as Villa struggled to cope with the increasingly intelligent movement allied to fearsome power and ability. Near misses as the crosses whizzed in but we failed to pick out the unmarked men in the box. But no goals, and the half tailed away rather as we dropped the pace and reverted to bad old habits - JD shooting from range when he has two defenders standing right in front of him, Lennon seeing plenty of the ball without getting his crosses past the first defender.
Last season Paul Lambert outmanoeuvred and outsmarted Redknapp as Norwich beat us at home. Yesterday he tried to win the tactical battle again, pressing high up the pitch to disrupt our rhythm and prevent us building from the back. It worked to some extent – Villa’s few chances stemmed from pressure that forced us to give the ball away in our own half. It also curtailed Sandro’s first half influence and his distribution was not as good as usual. However, Spurs could play through or round them, counterattacking effectively down the wings and exposing Villa’s defence.
By the final whistle, Villa’s challenge had been brushed aside and we coasted home. However, it took a while before Spurs undoubted superiority in all areas of the field turned itself into goals and the game turned on a staggering miss by Beneteke, the Villa centre-forward.
Possession is our mantra and Lloris is a disciple. Even his hacked clearances are aimed at a team-mate. I’m all for it, providing it’s safety first but now, and not for the only time, the Frenchman’s distribution put a team-mate under pressure. Villa seized on a wasteful clearance and dispatched a perfect cross to the unmarked Beneteke, who leapt skyward, drew back his frankly ample-sized head, made perfect contact and smacked the ball wide of the post. We got away with it and Villa never again had a sniff of a chance to win this match.
Lately we have developed the knack of scoring at the right time. Defoe suddenly had masses of room; despite this his shot would have gone wide but for Caulker’s shin. Handy. Sandro upped his game, something he is capable of as he matures, to put things behind him and improve. He ruled the turf from then on. Lennon had seen plenty of action without end product, then he switches to his right foot and a perfect rifled shot into the far corner to banish memories of an irritatingly inconsistent afternoon until then. There should have been more.
Full credit to Andre Villas-Boas for enabling the team to feel this comfortable in a comparatively short space of time. Until as recently as a couple of weeks ago, I was saying that he was still searching for his best team. No longer. Benny’s injury and the aborted experiment with Bale at full-back meant Superjan can be, well, super at left back and Dempsey has slipped into an advanced central position, although Adebayor’s appearance as sub reminded us all of what his movement and control can give us.
AVB doesn’t flinch from difficult decisions. He felt the time was right, looked Brad in the eye and told him the moment had come. Lloris as the final piece of the puzzle, at least for a while. Criticised widely for indecision, our manager showed he was in control all along. The French captain will get to know the full extent of his area. Twice in as many minutes in the first half he dashed from his mine to sweep up the danger. There will be many heart-in-the-mouth moments before the season is over, especially as his priority is to get shots or crosses away rather than catch them, but he can certainly tell his defence what he wants – I could hear him from the half-way line.
Bets of the rest: Dempsey had a quiet game but he’s so good at finding space in the area. Should have scored with a header.
Goals are coming from different players. Including the subs, 10 of that team have scored this season.
Sandro’s one-knee triple spin a marvel. It’s the fierce unstinting commitment that drives him on.
Bale – stop diving. You are fouled consistently but that’s more reason to stay on your feet. Curse of the modern game. Don’t like it when others do it, worse when Spurs players go over.