Thursday 19 October 2017

Vertonghen injury takes shine off Spurs victory

Tottenham Hotspur 4 West Bromwich Albion 0

Harry Kane scores his second goal, and Spurs’ third, during the rout of West Brom at White Hart Lane. Photo: Reuters
Harry Kane scores his second goal, and Spurs’ third, during the rout of West Brom at White Hart Lane. Photo: Reuters

Miguel Delaney

If Mauricio Pochettino found it "difficult" to say that this win over West Brom was the best performance of his two-and-a-half years in charge of Tottenham Hotspur, it did make one grand claim very easy to say: his team are once again title contenders, and could well be even more dangerous than last season, especially with new father Harry Kane scoring hat-tricks like this.

Everyone around the club believes it and, most pointedly, the manager stressed that they have "learned from last season", that they're "more mature".

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur (L) volleys while Jonas Olsson of West Bromwich Albion (R) attempts to block during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 14, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 14: Kyle Walker of Tottenham Hotspur (L) volleys while Jonas Olsson of West Bromwich Albion (R) attempts to block during the Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane on January 14, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) ***BESTPIX***

It said much about the standards at Spurs now that, after a thoroughly convincing 4-0 win, Pochettino finished that quote by hailing the fact they "didn't even concede one corner". That's how close to perfection this win was, although there were two reasons it was not completely perfect. First, more trivially, they should have won by much more than 4-0. It is not an exaggeration to say 8-0 would have been a fair reflection of the game, and only Ben Foster's heroics prevented such a humiliation.

Secondly, and much more seriously, there was the injury to Jan Vertonghen. He looked distraught after rolling over on his ankle in the second half, and the fear is that it could be ligament damage that keeps him out for several weeks. Immediately after the game, it was too swollen to properly assess. It was also the one post-game question that took the beaming smile off Pochettino's face, as he admitted it "looked bad" and he discussed how disappointed Vertonghen was.

It was still hard to suppress the confidence surging through White Hart Lane at the moment, with even Tony Pulis complimenting how positive everything at the club looks, from the team to the new stadium being built. This was a display that encapsulated everything so distinctively impressive about Pochettino's team, from the way they simply overwhelmed West Brom to the elaboration in some of their play. Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli and Kane were the main hubs in this, the Dane setting up so much, the midfielder offering the touches that lifted it all, and the striker so ruthlessly finishing.

It took just 12 minutes for Kane to innovative a finish from Eriksen's through ball and thereby destroy Pulis' entire defensive game-plan. Spurs never let up from there and, had it not been for Foster, Kane could have had a hat-trick in the first half alone. It didn't take too long to make it 2-0, with Gareth McAuley deflecting in a goal-bound shot that will surely end up being credited to Eriksen.

Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur (C) celebrates his sides second goal after his shot was defelcted in by Gareth McAuley of West Brom. Photo: Getty
Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur (C) celebrates his sides second goal after his shot was defelcted in by Gareth McAuley of West Brom. Photo: Getty

It did take a lot longer for Spurs to build the kind of lead the performance actually deserved, with Kane finally getting his second on 77 minutes through a first-time finish from a Kyle Walker cross, before slotting in the hat-trick goal three minutes later after a glorious chipped return pass from Alli. It was the show of a team in full flow, and that will take some stopping - at least while they have a full team. The caveat is the Vertonghen situation. The length of his absence is something else that's difficult to say right now.

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