First minute, bottom of the table Leicester attack down Spurs’ left. Walker is out-paced but despite the fact that the attacker is offside, launches himself off the ground, man and ball go flying. The only casualty is Hugo Lloris, our best player and mainstay of a shaky defence, who is stretchered off with what looks like a serious leg injury. Probably performing a public service – unchecked Walker would have taken out the entire front row of the Paxton, such was his velocity. From the restart, Spurs give the ball straight to opponents. Cue goalmouth scramble which we eventually clear. This week Eriksen claimed in an interview not to know what ‘Spursy’ meant. You do now, my Danish friend, you do now.
This bizarre opening set the tone for a match that was genuinely extraordinary, and not in a good way. The sort of match where your full-back putting your keeper in hospital wasn’t the strangest thing that happened. That honour could fall to any one of several players and events, but the most peculiar thing was that we won.
Parts of the match were average Spurs, flashes of brilliance from Eriksen, effort from Rose and a close-range tap-in for Kane, amid the familiar stuttering, lack of fluency and inability to keep possession against teams below us in the league. Parts were jaw-droppingly crass stupidity, levels of mindlessness surpassed only by a steely determination to at all costs throw away a two-goal lead. Twice. Tactics be damned, mistakes I can live with, goodness knows I’m used to that by now. This is about one thing – how can professional footballers possibly be so witless?
On two or three occasions we passed free-kicks in the Leicester half backwards. Seconds later they had the ball and bore down on goal, scoring from one such gifted opportunity. Instead of being two up and coasting, we were straight away under pressure. Walker allowed Vardy inside him repeatedly by getting caught under the ball. Like others, the Foxes targeted our vulnerable right side. I have no idea where Townsend was, which sums up his afternoon in fact.
I’ve criticised Nacer Chadli since he came to the club. He’s the sort of player I don’t like, hugely talented but not prepared to work for the right to play. When he does put the hard yards in, as against Chelsea, he gets results. Yesterday he had a nightmare worse than the Omen, Exorcist and Chucky rolled into one. He whacked two great chances over the bar, an open goal in the first half after Eriksen’s superb run across the box, quality out of character with the game, ended with his shot hitting the post and rebounding to the Belgian, the other at the far post from Dier’s perfect cross.
In between, his performance was a series of calamities, all of which he brought on himself. The worst? First half, put through, he ended up doing the worst dive since my belly flop from the ten metre board at Crystal Palace in 1981 (I swear it still hurts…). Second half was when I confess I lost it. No danger, until he tried to shepherd a ball out of play that was never going to go out of play unless he kicked it. He didn’t and Leicester nearly scored or had a penalty or nearly had him sent off as he had already been booked. We were winning at the time but our Nacer wasn’t having any of it. Miraculously he stayed on the pitch until the final whistle. He must have some dirt on Pochettino, that can be the only reason.
We won. I have no rational explanation for this. Before kick-off a friend of mine told me she would cut out the swearing as another pal was bringing her young niece. She could not have possibly kept that promise, watching a game like this one.
All over the place and two up after a quarter of an hour. Do you get it now, Christian? Dier improvised a poor low near-post corner with a clever flick. The keeper pushed it obligingly onto Kane’s foot, then for the second Kane’s shot was massively deflected, and in. Some neat football with Eriksen’s clever passing and Kane’s willing running was soon forgotten as we let Leicester back into the game. Time and again we gave the ball away. Rose played well, getting into the box from deep and just before half-time making a goal-saving tackle.
Rather than signalling a resurgence, the second half became more farcical as time went on. Spurs are not a big side. At set pieces Bentaleb had been marking Morgan, one of the three Easter Island statues Leicester play at centre-half. He surged past the Algerian to thump an equalizer home.
It looked as if we had thrown this one away – no idea how to score. In fact, make that no idea. Then we got lucky, frankly not for the first time this season. Rose went down and the ref gave a dubious penalty. Kane converted confidently, no rebounds this time, for his hat-trick. Sincere congratulations, where would we have been without him this season? And because I care about you, H, some advice. If you know what’s good for you, don’t remember anything apart from the goals in heinous sin of a performance.
When you’re down, you’re down. As if Leicester needed reminding of this, Eriksen’s shot was blocked by the keeper but the rebound hit an onrushing defender who despairingly tried to scoop the ball off the line, and failed.
We won. I’m still not sure how. Two goals to the good again with a few minutes to go is not enough for us. Some sides would close it down but we allow an aimless long-ball to destroy our defence. Vertonghen got under it, round it, over it, everything except defending it. Nugent scored but we managed to play out time, only after another goal-saving last-ditch challenge, this time from Vertonghen.
The flaws of the squad, mental as well as in terms of talent, laid bare. Eriksen and Mason had little impact on the second half. Townsend was hooked again after contributing nothing. I like the fact Pochettino gives players a chance but you wonder why he regularly picks Andros and then substitutes him.
We won, I don’t know how but I’m grateful. This could be the worst I have ever seen Spurs play and win. Certainly the worst where we have scored four goals.
So much wrong with this performance but I’ll end by singling out just one point. The lack of on-field leadership is becoming glaringly obvious. Young players learn resilience over time. They are made of the right stuff – Mason, Kane, Dier and Bentaleb are all fearless and willing to take responsibility. However, they need some guidance and it won’t come from the current squad. After his error, Vertonghen gave that silly half-shrug he does as he chuntered on to the other players. Can’t even shrug properly. He is the experienced player, an international and World Cup player. Older maybe but not wiser. He’s not willing to step up. Worse in my mind than making a defensive error.