Did the World Cup even happen? Not if you’re Tottenham Hotspur


A new start, a new optimism, a brilliant second half of the season, a new Spurs. Everything will be different.

Except, well, no, not really. In fact, this game might as well have been played on November 12th.

Harry Kane was supposed to be in the midst of a personal crisis, struggling to overcome perhaps the biggest (and arguably the most high-profile) mental challenge of his career after cutting that penalty.

Instead, he was the Kane he’s been all season. He scored, he linked the play with precision, his movement was top notch, he was inches away from scoring another spectacular winner with a header that shot over the crossbar.

Ivan Perisic was supposed to suffer for having played more minutes at the World Cup than any other Spurs player, the most recent of which came last weekend.

Instead, while fellow World Cup final weekenders Hugo Lloris (on the bench) and Cristian Romero (not involved) did not play, there was Perisic again at left-back with a performance typically consistent.

Yves Bissouma and Japhet Tanganga are understood to have spent valuable time with Antonio Conte at the training ground in recent weeks.

Instead, they appeared to have landed from Qatar a day earlier.



Spurs got off to a very sloppy start again (Photo: Eddie Keogh/Getty Images)

And the Spurs. Oh, Spurs. Conceding the first goal again, playing terribly in the first half again, waking up for a spirited comeback at the end again. Did the World Cup even happen?

Six weeks later, the Spurs were busy being Spurs and the rest of us were trying to act surprised.

Dejan Kulusevski picked up exactly where he left off against Leeds last month, blasting past defenders who, despite showing no particular pace, were unable to stop him, as if he was covered in oil and they couldn’t take it

Son Heung-min also picked up exactly where he left off before the World Cup… the odd glimpse of his former self, but mostly continuing his poor form (he’s now scored in just two of his 24 appearances this season with club and country).

Ditto Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, whose attitude and equalizer summed up what he’s been doing for Spurs this season. Also, Eric Dier, whose calamitous received a corner from which Brentford scored their second goal. He’s been doing it for a while too.

He just needed Bill Murray from 1993 to report to the side of the field to complete this particular groundhog day.

There was also historical predictability: Spurs held a remarkable record of not losing on Boxing Day since 2004. It is the second-longest Boxing Day winless run in English football history, stretching to 16 games, with only Aston Villa’s 20 games between 1890 and 1890. 1913 which lasted longer in all four divisions of English football.

And Kane’s goal means he has scored more Boxing Day goals than any player in Premier League history – 10.

But just in case you need a refresher after the World Cup, this was a useful reminder of what Spurs are all about today; a family cocktail of bullshit, carnage and comebacks.

This time of year is all about traditions and Spurs held up their end of the bargain by doing what they always do, just with slightly different players and without a stoppage time winner.

Otherwise, everything was there, mostly crap. It’s usually just turgid and fairly ineffective football that Spurs produce for long periods, but here it was slapstick comedy.

Bissouma fell (leading to an offside goal), Dier headed a pass to the moon, 40-year-old Fraser Forster with a soft dive like a pensioner unsteady on his feet, Hojbjerg ran too fast when he had possession and forgot the ball, Matt Doherty made a blind pass to a Brentford player, Forster flicked the ball over the bar as if waving to his mother in the crowd, Bissouma played the ball directly offside, Tanganga missed his head, missed loose balls and missed the point of being a defender.

Sometimes it was comical. And yet, they didn’t lose. They came back again and got a good result against a good Brentford side who have only lost once at home this season.

“In the end for the people it was an exciting game,” Conte said, looking at the positives. “I would like my team to be more stable. Since the start of the season, many times it has happened that we are down and then we have the strength to come back.

“If you ask me my wish is to get three points, but it’s not easy against Brentford.”

And what about the ridiculous habit of giving in first?

“We have to find the solution. If we want to be aggressive we have to take risks. We are trying to work on this aspect to win duels. If you want to press high and play with high intensity it is important to win duels and second balls. we are working

“I’m disappointed with the goals we conceded. On the other hand, I’m happy about our reaction to what we did.

“This team has shown great character many times, but my question is why do we have to go down so many times, to show that character. We have to show character from the first second of the game until the end.”

How is the cycle broken? Is it really just about character? Without a doubt, the presence of Lloris, Romero, Richarlison and particularly Rodrigo Bentancur would have helped, but they were also there before the World Cup.

Maybe January will change things, but maybe it’s bigger than that. Either way, the Spurs don’t feel like the fourth-best team in the country. And yet there they are on the table.

What is not in question is the importance of Kane, but also the awesomeness of Kane. Players often struggle after the mental and physical exertions and emotions of a major tournament (Mohamed Salah comes to mind after last year’s CAN), but it seems almost insulting to have suggested, even thought that Kane would not return to the business. to lead the Spurs line with class and score more goals. He’s overcome setbacks early in his career and, on this evidence, he’s doing it again with poise.

Where would they be without him?

(Top photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)


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