Tottenham Hotspur continued to chase the Foxes with a 3-0 beating of the Red Devils. Dele Alli opened the scoring with 20 minutes to go before Toby Alderweireld's header from an Erik Lamela freekick found the back of the net four minutes later. The provider turned goal scorer to kill the game off two minutes later.
While United controlled the midfield and had 53% possession they hardly threatened Hugo Lloris in the Spurs goal. The Red Devils had five shots at goal with only one hitting the target, compared to Tottenham’s 16 half of which were on target.
Slow start for Spurs
The game was delayed by half an hour because the United team bus was caught in traffic on its way to White Hart Lane, yet this seemed to effect the Tottenham boys more than it did the United. The Lilywhites took longer to settle into the game then they normally do. They barely had any possession in the opening twenty minutes, so much so that their first touch in their opposition’s penalty area was in the 16th minute.
The first half saw United swamp the midfield, while applying constant pressure to the Tottenham players hence delaying their impact on the game. It further resulted in sloppy first touches, passes and at times a lack of awareness from Spurs. Yet Tottenham were clinical when they needed to be. Spurs took advantage of a weak period in the United defence and consequently scored three goals.
Lamela helps Tottenham turn it around
The Argentine finished the game with one goal and an assist but he had a wider impact on the game than it first seams. The winger’s work rate and determination is perfect for Pochettino’s high pressing system, and this was seen in the build up to the first goal. In the 69th minute Lamela can be seen on the floor fighting Morgan Schneiderlin and Chris Smalling for the ball, his dedication to win the ball pays off as he managed to get the it to Harry Kane, who quickly goes on to send the ball up field to Christian Eriksen. The Dane went on to set up Alli for the opening goal. Lamela had earlier in the game made one of the worst misses of the season, missing a header at the far post from six yards out, but this seemed to hardly effect the player as he bounced back through creating changes and eventually assisting and scoring a goal. This shows the players tremendous mental strength and determination.
Lamela didn’t only have an attacking influence on the game. Lamela won six out of nine tackles during the game, more than any other player on the pitch, considering he is an attacking player it makes it all the more impressive. While Lamela hasn’t been able to bring his form from Italy to North London his ability to still impact a game, whether in an attacking or defensive way, makes him so critical to the Lilywhites.
Wimmer or Vertonghen?
The game also saw defender Jan Vertonghen return from injury after just over two months out. Before the game it was questioned whether to include Vertonghen, who hasn’t had any match practice since his injury, would start in front of Kevin Wimmer.
Vertonghen and Alderweierld formed a perfect partnership up until Vertonghen’s injury. The two had not only previously played alongside each other at Ajax first team but had grown up in the academy together, on top of this they both play for the Belgium National Team together, however they often feature as fullbacks rather than in the centre of the defence. It is also rumoured that the reason Alderweierld chose to come to Spurs over Southampton was due to the fact he would be reunited with his childhood partner. The two solidified the basis of what Tottenham’s defensive transformation and eventually their title push.
The integrity of the Alderweireld/Vertonghen partnership posed the question of whether Kevin Wimmer would be able to keep up the defensive composure witness in the first half of the season by the Belgians. Not only did he do so but Wimmer filled the spot that was left seamlessly and hasn’t put a foot wrong throughout the whole two months. In addition to dealing with defensive duties tremendously, Wimmer also adapted to Pochettino’s demands of centre backs, which have to be calm and composed on the ball as well as distribute balls well from the back. Dropping him for the game was labelled as harsh by fans who believed it was undeserved. However the fact remains that Wimmer was in the team to fill the gap and now that it no longer needs filling his job is finished.