In what will be the club’s one and only unique season at Wembley whilst the new stadium is being built, Spurs rounded off their pre-season fixtures with an impressive 2-0 victory over Italian giants and last season’s Champions League runners-up Juventus on Saturday.
Spurs, who have famously struggled at Wembley in the past few seasons, set up for the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with a strong starting line up showing how important Pochettino viewed this game.
The game couldn’t have started much worse, with what now seems to be first choice right-back Kieran Trippier going down injured, holding his ankle after a very rough tackle coming in from Juventus left-back Alex Sandro after just 4 minutes.
Spurs looked impressive throughout the early stages and took the lead when Harry Kane finished off a brilliant team goal, with both full-backs pushing high up and the goal eventually coming from a Trippier cross which was met by Kane after 10 minutes.
Juventus fought back, with Dybala and Higuain testing Lloris in the Spurs goal, as they tried responding to Kane’s opener.
Spurs then almost made it 2-0 on 31 minutes, with Kane missing from close range after legendary Juve keeper Gianluigi Buffon miscontrolled the ball and failed to clear properly. Moussa Sissoko then went even closer to doubling our advantage two minutes later, seeing his shot hit the post and then bounce across the goal line, eventually bouncing to safety and keeping the score at 1-0 to the home side.
Pochettino was then forced in to making a change after 41 minutes when Trippier signalled to the bench that he was unable to fully recover from the tackle in the opening 5 minutes which saw him go down clutching his ankle, so he made way for Kyle Walker-Peters, who has featured regularly in the club’s pre-season matches this summer.
Following the half time interval, in which Pochettino decided not to make any substitutions, Spurs went 2-0 up with a goal from Christian Eriksen after 52 minutes. Vertonghen fizzed a pass in to Dele 30 yards from goal and his perfect ball found Eriksen, who beat the off-side trap, rounded Buffon and stroked home. And, but for a stunning fingertip save from Buffon a minute later from Kane, it would have been 3-0!
Harry Winks, Anthony Georgiou, Vincent Janssen and Tarshan Oakley-Boothe all come on as substitutes in the second half for Spurs, and as a result of all of the changes made for both sides, the game lost it’s flow and the final third of the game become very disjointed. Nevertheless, it was a huge win for us and with the Premier League now less than a week away from starting up, to get a win against a real European heavyweight at Wembley was a huge plus for everyone associated with the club, despite it only being a friendly. Had we lost that game, then it would’ve only added to the growing concern that is already being spoken about regarding the club’s “curse” at the stadium.
When asked for his thoughts on the game, the boss Mauricio Pochettino said ;
“It’s important to recover the good feeling from last season, get fit and try to arrive in the best condition at Newcastle. For me, what was most important was the performance, not the result. In pre-season you know the team is working the day before (a match) and that’s not a good reference, the most important reference is the feeling you can get and then how you play. I’m happy with the performance, many players improved a lot and reached another level, step by step. Now we have one clear week to work hard to arrive in perfect condition at Newcastle.”
Spurs (4-2-3-1): Lloris (c), Trippier (Walker-Peters 41), Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies, Dier, Dembele (Wimmer 90), Sissoko (Georgiou 65), Dele (Winks 65), Eriksen (Oakley-Boothe 90), Kane (Janssen 78). Substitutes (not used): Vorm, Whiteman, Carter-Vickers, Dinzeyi, Miller.
So, now that the Pre-Season fixtures have been played and everything is almost ready to go for the big Premier League kick off, how has this summer been for the club?
Well, the main talking point amongst fans for some time now has been the activity (or lack of it) in the transfer window. Following the record-breaking £50m sale of right-back Kyle Walker to Man City, it was widely expected that the cash would be reinvested back in to the playing squad ASAP to ensure his loss was not felt too much. Despite the rumours of a fall out between Pochettino and Walker being attributed to the players departure, to lose someone of that calibre out of the team and not replace him (so far) is inexcusable. Following the second placed finish in the Premier League last season, it was clear that we did not have the strength in depth to compete across all competitions for the duration of the season and serious concerns were raised on Social Media amongst fans regarding this. The fact the club are the only team in the top four divisons of English Football not to have signed a single player this summer so far is a serious worry when you compare us to how the other teams who will be challenging for the title this season have spent – Man United spending £150m, Man City spending £200m+, etc. Pochettino insists that the club is working on new additions to the side and as fans, we can only hope this is true, otherwise qualification for the top 4, let alone a title challenge, will look a very long way off.
In terms of performances, it’s been a mixed bag. The 4-2 win over PSG in our first pre-season game showed the good, bad and ugly side of Spurs’ game, and also brutally exposed just how far off Cameron Carter-Vickers and Kyle Walker-Peters are from becoming first-team regulars. Going forward, Kane has looked his usual self, getting on the scoresheet multiple times in both the American Tour games and the game against Juventus at Wembley, whilst Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli also look as if they will kick on from their mightily impressive campaigns last year. Defensively is where the worry will be heading in to the new season. For a club who finished with the Premier Leagues best defensive record last year, to concede 2, 4 and 3 in successive matches is a serious worry and Pochettino did seem to correct some of these issues by keeping a clean sheet against Juventus on Saturday evening. Toby Alderwiereld and Jan Vertonghen will play a key role in ensuring Hugo is as quiet as possible this season yet again, whilst Victor Wanyama and Moussa Dembele will act as the shield in midfield once more. The Full-back positions have gone from being one of our strongest departments to undoubtedly our weakness, with Trippier’s ankle injury looking like Kyle Walker-Peters or Eric Dier will step in to replace him, should he not be fit enough in time for the first game of the season against Newcastle this weekend.
The other main talking point to come out of this summer has been which formation Pochettino will favour this year. The American tour saw him favour a 3 at the back defensive formation, with wing backs and two attacking midfielders supporting Harry Kane, delivering mixed results. The side looked much more comfortable and controlling against Juventus in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Saturday and also kept a clean sheet, something which the side failed to do whilst playing 3 at the back in the USA. Much of what formation is picked will be down to the personnel Pochettino has available, but the performance against Juventus may just have convinced the boss to stay with the 4 at the back for the first few weeks, results pending.
Pochettino is known to be very demanding and very attentive to detail in his pre-season preparations. Last season’s achievements will be very tough to beat and this year brings challenges which the club will have never faced before. As always, there’ll be many ups and downs, and I hope you enjoy my coverage and opinion of it all.