When Tottenham went 1-0 down to Bournemouth in the opening minutes of their last fixture, it would have been easy to predict a surprise loss. You’d have predicted wrong—Spurs roared back to win 5-1, courtesy of their excellent play and an Artur Boruc horror-show. Aston Villa arrive at White Hart Lane managerless and bottom of the league, demoralised and ripe for a thrashing. But this is the Premier League, so we might be talking on Tuesday morning about how this is where the Villans turn their season around. Stranger things have happened.
Alongside Jan Vertonghen, Alderweireld has helped turn Spurs into an excellent defensive unit. Having played in all 10 league games so far, the Belgian is a big reason for Tottenham conceding just 8 goals—joint best in the league. Villa come into this game having scored just 9 times so far (joint worst in the league with Stoke) so it would be a surprise if they got any joy in North London. Alderweireld won’t even have to be at his best to hold the visitors at bay.
The fans may have been gladdened by his sacking, but the players mourned the departure of Tim Sherwood—none more than Jack Grealish, who credited his ex-manager with his improvement over the last year or so. Afflicted with the same fear of the goal as the rest of his teammates, Grealish has scored only one goal this season and has looked lightweight. The talent is clearly there, but with Villa in the pits, he may well have to move clubs in order to realise it. Someone on the field needs to step up—but is Grealish too young to be that character?
Hugo Lloris daubed “he’s back” on Kane’s matchball after the last match, but is he right? Pundits and fans alike will be watching carefully to judge whether or not the hattrick is a return to form or an anomaly against woeful opposition. In the opinion of this humble observer, Kane will hit 20 league goals again this season—his movement, workrate and creativity do not hint at a player struggling. He’s doing everything right, and more goals are on the way. Especially when Villa can’t stop leaking goals.
Almost, almost sold at the end of the summer window, and how glad Pochettino must be that he retained the Argentinian. Lamela has looked the business ever since, between earning MotM against Manchester City and scoring against Bournemouth last time out, the ex-Roma winger finally looks comfortable in England. If anything his record price tag actually saved him—at a wealthier club they might have taken a loss on him earlier rather than keep the faith. Spurs couldn’t afford to do that, and it’s now paying dividends.