It was an afternoon of firsts last Sunday at White Hart Lane, and Spurs once again ran out winners to record their fourth Premier League victory in succession, and stretch the unbeaten run in all competitions to nine games. Paul Lambert played his part in the victory, relegating Darren Bent to the bench once again despite his recent run of goals for Villa, and instead opting for the services of the misfiring Benteke. Bent was once criticised during his time at Spurs for missing a sitter of a chance, with Harry Redknapp famously claiming “my missus could have scored that,” and Benteke’s missed chance was right up there with that.
One person who wouldn’t have been complaining about Benteke’s wastefulness was Hugo Lloris. Drafted into the starting line-up for the first time in the Premier League, and bringing to an end Brad Friedel’s run of 310 consecutive Premier League appearances, it was his misplaced throw out that led to the chance. That aside however, he had a solid game, even if Villa didn’t provide much in the way of a stern examination. It will be interesting to see if he resumes his place against Chelsea after the international break – AVB was quick to provide a diplomatic response claiming that Friedel will be back in the first 11 ‘as soon as possible’, but you have to suspect that could well have represented a changing of the guard. Up until now, Lloris has been making his appearances in the Europa League – it wouldn’t be a big surprise if we were to see the role of the two keepers reversed.
Elsewhere on the pitch, Stephen Caulker claimed his first goal for the club, but it perhaps wasn’t one he’ll be showing the kids ten years down the road. Saying it owed a little to luck would be putting it mildly – pinging in off Caulker’s heels after Defoe’s shot, he knew nothing about it whatsoever until it was nestling in the goal. Still, it crowns a series of impressive performances for the youngster after he’s broken through into the first team, and a clean sheet for the first occasion in the Premier League this season.
Plenty has been said about Gareth Bale’s hilariously terrible dive approximately a mile away from Brad Guzan’s incoming tackle, so no need to dredge it all up again, but suffice to say that it was unnecessary, and not the kind of thing we want to see Bale doing regularly. It crept into his game a couple of times last season, so it’s a shame to see that it still hasn’t been kicked out. Hopefully someone behind the scenes will have had a stern word with him after the game, and we won’t see anything of its like in the near future. That said, the penalty he won for Wales against Scotland last night looked more than a little suspicious. We don’t want him getting a Suarez-esque reputation…
Adebayor’s return was, on the other hand, good to see. Whilst Defoe has done an admirable job in his absence, essentially as the only other striker on the books, in one or two games we’ve missed having the big man to hold up the ball up front, and once Adebayor gets a bit of match sharpness and back in amongst the goals, the team can only get better from his inclusion. On the subject of goals, it was also good to see Aaron Lennon back amongst them after a barren spell stretching back to January. One of my problems with Lennon is that he can sometimes spurn excellent shooting positions in favour of a pass – he’s almost the complete opposite of Defoe in that regard – so it was refreshing to see him get into a good position, then rifle in a finish.
So, was it a convincing performance from start to finish from Spurs? Well, no. AVB’s side still looks a little rough around the edges, and one or two players still haven’t shown the ability they’re capable of. Sigurdsson, in particular, is still far from an integral part of the team, but his chance will come. What’s important is that, unlike the first three games of the season, Spurs are getting the points without necessarily being on top of their game. Once AVB has had time to fully implement and consolidate his ideas for the team, they could get even better. As it is, we sit in 5th place in the league, after our second best start to a Premier League campaign. Not too shabby.
On Twitter: @AEFSpurs.