Out of the Champions League. One nil down. Kane injured. Narrative warriors were preparing our season's obituary, but then Son, Dele and Lamela stepped up.
Never should the words “we’re a better team without Kane” be uttered. It’s nonsense, not true and perhaps the most Twitter thing you could say in real life. It’s an example of 60 minutes of football hiding three years of glorious work from the front man, but what yesterday showed is that without Kane there is still life and breath in a team once labelled “The Harry Kane team.”
When Harry fell to the floor and stayed down, there was a brief thought that this is where the season ends. After defeat to Juventus, going one down to Bournemouth, then losing Kane to an attacking move that was offside, it seemed as if the footballing Gods and already set the board against us.
However it wasn’t so.
Pochettino who was left scratching his head after losing a tie we never looked losing in the Champions League, proved some doubters wrong.
Our manager proved he is more tactically savvy than we give him credit for. Yesterday the obvious replacement for Kane was Llorente, but either Pochettino’s lack of faith in the Spaniard or a realization that even when we had Kane fit, there was no space for a Kane type player, he changed his plans. Instead of going like for like Pochettino showed his tactical acumen and courage to change formation, switch things up and totally confuse a Bournemouth team that had done its homework and was implementing the plan perfectly.
Sometimes to improve you need to be taught a lesson. Wednesday was painful, but if we learn and progress then long term we’ll be ok
We introduced Lamela, dropped Eriksen deep, out manned their central midfield pair and gave the Cherries centre back pairing a headache. In the end it was death by a thousand paper cuts. Lamela, Dele, Son were a #ProperFootballMen nightmare. All False 9s, trequartistas, inverted wingers, shadow strikers and deep lying forwards. By not having a set positions Bournemouth were unable to stick to their pregame plan and by the time Eddie Howe realised what had happened the game had gone.
Howe will learn from this, just like Pochettino will learn from the Allegri and Juve three minute sucker punch at Wembley. In football there isn’t a ready-made success template, even if you’re Pep Guardiola and at helm of the Man City it still takes a year before a genius and £800m of talent comes good. Sometimes to improve you need to be taught a lesson. Wednesday was painful, but if we learn and progress then long term we’ll be ok. Pochettino has continually improved and stepped up after every setback.
Yesterday, as much as it belonged to our managers changes of tact, it also belonged to the once again the superb Son. For a man once labelled instinctive and lightweight, he’s proving this year to be a heavyweight in the Spurs squad. The rise of Son can be traced back to the injury woes of Lamela, however, there was a moment last year when both played in tandem, once again in the absence of Kane, and the duo were instrumental in tearing City apart at White Hart Lane.
I once labelled Son the easy option, the player most likely to be dropped when Kane, Dele and Eriksen are all fit, but Tottenham’s inability to play a back three this year has made Son integral, and even lessened the loss of Alderweireld. Tactically aware, flexible, penetrative and dangerous in possession Son is reaching new levels and his importance to the team now sits him at the top table.
For a seemingly shy and quiet character, he’s created a place for himself in our starting XI among some strong characters and gifted players.
The rise of Son also highlights the mistakes that have been made in transfer market at Spurs. In our obsession to find a replacement for Kane, we’ve continually opted for the budget version. We’ve tried to replace a Ferrari, with a red Ford Mondeo. Instead of signing a direct competitor to Kane, we’ve signed a player who could feature instead of, but all this has done is lumber us with two strikers in Janssen and Llorente, who offer us nothing different to Kane, but give us a whole lot less in performance.
In our obsession to find a replacement for Kane, we’ve continually opted for the budget version
Going forward Son is the model we should be looking at. A player flexible enough to earn himself valuable game time and match sharpness alongside Kane, but different enough that we can vary our play.
Kane is one of the best players we’ve seen at the club, but as our spearhead he can on occasion be blunted by opposition teams simply flooding the spaces he operates in. At Wembley Juve stopped the ball being played into his feet in and around the area, and instead invited us to hit him with crosses or longer balls. They were confident enough in their centre back pairing and goalkeeper in handling these and it is credit to Kane that he very nearly scored despite the close attention, but simply remove that player from the space and all of a sudden you have four players marking zonally with no one in the zone.
Bournemouth’s centre backs when faced with no direct opponent lost shape and were dragged into areas they didn’t want to be. Dele’s goal owes so much to Lamela and Son dropping deep and combining, Aurier hitting the space on the right and Dele doing what he does best and reading the play.
With Swansea up next, a team that showed this weekend a willingness to give up possession, block the channels and defend deep, perhaps its not the worst time to be without Kane, and instead start with a flexible and highly mobile front three?
Long term life without Kane is something I don’t want to really think about at Tottenham, but short term we seem to have the tools to survive and also a blue print for this summer’s transfer window.
Basically buy more Sonnys.