The Warmdown: Spurs diminish demons through Ndombele's moment of magic  
HEFFIELD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 17: Tanguy Ndombele of Tottenham Hotspur scores their side's third goal as Aaron Ramsdale of Sheffield United attempts to save during the Premier League match between Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur at Bramall Lane on January 17, 2021 in Sheffield, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Mike Egerton - Pool/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur were in danger. 

2-0 up against Sheffield United and in control they, once again, allowed their opposition back into game when David McGoldrick guided his header home. 

After this, it felt like Jose Mourinho and Spurs came to a crucial collective realisation: they had to go and find a third goal.

And so, in devasting fashion – Mourinho’s Tottenham took a brave step outside of their comfort zone. 

Four minutes later, their adventure was rewarded. Take a bow, Tanguy Ndombele.

The French midfielder, with good intensity, laid it off to Steven Bergwijn.  

Helped by Chris Basham’s overcommitted run, the winger chipped the ball into the vacant space on the left side of the penalty area. 

What happened next is quite simply stunning. Ndombele chased the ball with his back to the goal. 

Then, in a moment of genius improvisation, he extended his right leg and arced a delicate, perfectly directed lob over the scrambling Aaron Ramsdale.

It was jaw-dropping. If fans were present, the pessimist in me would like to think the home end would’ve stood up and applauded such inspiration. 

But individual brilliance aside, this represented something bigger for Spurs.

They didn’t let the game slip out of their control.

Yes, they only beat an uninspiring Sheffield United who have only accumulated five points this season. 

But this could be a great step back onto the right direction for Spurs who have lost their way of recent times. 

Demons diminished

As explained above, Spurs’ demon almost reared its ugly head again. They’ve lost 10 points from winning positions this season. 

The games in which Spurs have failed to win after taking the lead are as follows: Newcastle United, West Ham United, Crystal Palace, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Fulham. 

All of them – other than West Ham who sit in 9th – are in the bottom-half of the table. Those 10 points would see Mourinho’s side six points clear. 

So, when they did concede in the 59th minute – their reaction was pivotal.

They simply had to learn their lesson and know that if they conceded more territory and possession, they are almost asking the other team to nick a point. 

But lesson well and truly learned. They responded almost instantly, through Ndombele’s moment of magic. 

After the third goal they did settle down a tad, but they did still commit numbers and on another day probably would’ve had four or five. Harry Kane usually scores that chance in the last minute.

Apart from the first 15 minutes of the second-half, Spurs were really positive all afternoon. 

Within minutes of the game starting, Bergwijn found a nice pocket and let fire but Ramsdale made a good save. Serge Aurier scored from the resulting corner.

Moments later Son Heung-Min, sent through from Kane's delicate through-ball, hit the post from a tight angle.

Then, as it looked like Spurs would go in at 1-0 – Kane received a pass, swivelled, took two touches, and then bent it in the bottom right corner brilliantly.

As Roy Keane said perfectly on Sky Sports: “That’s like a tap in for him.”

The standards he has set for himself now are quite incredible. That sort of goal is standard now. 

So, demon diminished for Spurs. But, with Liverpool next – it will be a very interesting to watch how Spurs setup. 

Tanguy Ndombele with a moment of genius 

The midfielder has been imposing this season and the stunning goal cemented that. 

"He is incredible," said Mourinho after the game. "For me sometimes you can score a great goal isolated from your performance - in this case the goal confirmed his performance, really, really good."

He is just so much fun. The flicks, the body feints, the manipulation of his body, the vision and the relentless ball-carrying firmly cement the view that he is one of the best footballers to watch on his day.

Anyone who watches the midfielder week in, week out will not be surprised in the slightest that he attempted that shot with his back to goal.

He rarely takes the safe option, so when he does lose the ball, you have to forgive him because his genius will eventually come out. It’s just the player he is.

He’s a player that thrives on his natural instinct, dazzles with skill on the regular, and constantly looks to influence the game. 

He’s not just that. Ndombele covered more distance (10.94km) than any other Spurs player against Sheffield United. 

He is now, without doubt, one of the first names on the team sheet. The creative genius and the disciplined Mourinho was always going to be an uneasy marriage. 

It wasn’t love at first sight. But, my god, look at them now. 

Mourinho gets the system right

Mourinho opted for a wing-back system, naturally leaving three centre backs behind them. 

Immediately, people were concerned. More defenders = negative. Right? 

In fact, no. It was an attempt to match Chris Wilder's system so they wouldn’t get caught out and overloaded. It worked.

Serge Aurier and Sergio Reguilon suited the role. They are both full-backs who thrive off getting involved in attacking situations and stretching the opposition through pure width and marauding runs. 

Also, it allowed Son to play in his favoured inside forward position.

Ndombele and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg worked very well as a double pivot. 

Playing deeper, in a midfielder pairing with some license to go box-to-box was the role he thrived in at Lyon. 

Hojbjerg was at his usual best. Sniffing out everything, while offering protection to the back three. 

He got an assist when he won the ball off Oliver Norwood and shifted the ball to Kane. 

That’s what he’s there to do: stop the opposition and just simply progress the ball to the dangerous players. 

Overall, Spurs’ system worked. And it was more positive. Happy days.

Joe Rodon proves his worth

Joe Rodon made the most recoveries (9), clearances (4), aerial duals (4) and interceptions (2) in the game. 

The 23-year-old was fantastic throughout. In his limited minutes so far, he has shown enough evidence that he can be in contention to be in Spurs' best defence.

He’s good in the air, calm on the ball and very quick. He has all the components to become a top centre-back. 

Mourinho said: “He played well. He did many things well, a couple of things not so well, but he's a player who of course was playing in the Championship. A young guy, he has to learn.

Overall complimentary, but with a tone of criticism: classic Mourinho. 

But he clearly likes the defender. He has put him in for the important Chelsea fixture and now this.

Although strong in certain games this season, the centre-back position is probably the weakest area in the squad.

You get the feeling that Rodon could become a household name around N17 for years to come. Too early? 
 

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