League Cup Ennui Quickly Forgotten as Spurs Crush City
Oh, Tottenham. What a curiously unpredictable old dog you are. Before we’d even had a chance to get stuck in to a bloody good moan about the League Cup exit at the hands of the mortal enemy; there you are, taking the champions-elect out back like a dust-filled carpet and giving them a first-rate walloping. Let no-one say this club doesn’t know the meaning of the word drama.
Here’s the week in bits:
The League Cup Dream is Over
No doubt still traumatised by the antics of serial wrongdoer Diego Costa, a small group of Arsenal fans decided to take their ire out on the upper-tier hoardings at White Hart Lane on Wednesday night, in their League Cup 3rd round triumph. We’re ruddy not impressed, one of them was heard to have yelled, while pocketing his tub of Waitrose pitted green olives and hurling the inanimate sheets of flexed-plastic to the crowds below. On a school night, too.
Whatever will their mothers think?
Elsewhere that evening, Mauricio Pochettino was busy committing the most heinous crime of all; a far greater misdemeanour than just casual, Beano-style vandalism. He wasn’t taking the League Cup seriously enough.
The unspeakable monster.
Santa Fe’s favourite son has form here, of course. In early 2014, Southampton fans caught whiff of Pochettino’s indifference toward the domestic knock-out competitions, when he fielded a severely undercooked line-up in a fifth round F.A Cup tie with Sunderland.
For reasons not altogether clear, first-teamers Morgan Schneiderlin and Jay Rodriguez were consigned to an afternoon of admiring the scenery from the dugout, despite the Saints being locked comfortably in upper-mid-table. The Wearsiders, only too pleased to be the antagonist in this cautionary tale, knocked them out and happily took their place in the quarter-finals.
And again, in early 2015, Spurs were bundled out of the F.A Cup in the 4th round by Leicester City, no small thanks to Pochettino’s resolve in leaving the heavy artillery in the hangar. It’s all good fun resting Eriksen, Vertonghen and Kane if you’ve got some nifty replacements on stand-by. But, when it’s the likes of Anti-Footballer Federico Fazio lumbering into your ranks, jamming his boot into a bucket of quick-drying cement along the way, well, you’re asking for trouble.
For anyone out there worried that this was an exclusively foreign disease, here’re a few names plucked from a starting line-up Harry Redknapp fielded in a League Cup tie, way back when in 2010. It was a North London Derby, too, you might remember. Stipe Pletikosa, Kyle Naughton, Jake Livermore, Steven Caulker. In a fixture of consequence, these are not your go-to guys. Even they would’ve been quietly appreciative of the game time. A bit of fresh air, if nothing else.
Any complaints about Spurs’ limp cup exit were partially forgotten by Saturday afternoon, thanks to a quite unexpected trouncing of Man City. Indeed, in recent years we’ve become accustomed to the idea that City could beat us with a team comprised of Sergio Agüero and one other random player/human to high-five with after each goal.
The Scourge of Spurs, Steve Wilson noted before the highlights package on MOTD. With 9 in his last 6 against Tottenham, he must look at our name on the fixture list and feel his heart gallop.
But this wasn’t to be his day. Except for some typical all-action Aügeroness in City’s dominant first half, the South American was kept fairly restrained by Spurs’ industrious young harriers. On the occasions he was able to untangle from his defensive chaperones, Agüero was bested by the strong wrists of Hugo Lloris. One mid-range swivel and popshot in the opening half was turned magnificently round the post by the Spurs goalkeeper.
City were without numerous key players, details they’ll be quick to highlight. It’s certainly true that they look a far inferior side without David Silva, and, Vincent Kompany, you’d imagine, might have put his substantial forehead in the way of Lamela’s looped free-kick which assisted Toby Alderweireld’s goal to make it 2-1.
At the same time, a fully-operational Joe Hart mightn’t have propelled from his line with such reckless abandon as Willy Caballero managed, to put City’s backline into disarray. Meanwhile, Yaya Toure hobbled off with a twanged hamstring to further compound the hardship of the World’s Fifth Richest Club.
Perhaps it’s too simplistic a view, but with their eye-watering resources, City should be able to brace even the most comprehensive of injury lists. It’s difficult to feel sorry for a side who can be without David Silva for a week, only to call upon a £50m-plus Kevin De Bruyne to replace him.
All this- and the fact that the linesman appeared to think he was officiating a game of hockey- shouldn’t detract from how genuinely excellent Spurs were. At the back, the Belgian-axis of Vertonghen and Alderweireld were as defensively airtight as you can be against a side of City’s attacking power. A central midfield of 19-year-old Dele Alli and occasional centre-back, Eric Dier, managed to pistol-whip two seasoned Brazilian powerhouses and Yaya Toure, while Erik Lamela looked very much like a hugely talented footballer. If you’d believe it. A much deserved standing ovation for him when he was eventually called off.
Spurs are doing things the right way, was Gary Neville’s conclusion on Monday Night Football. At last.