Tottenham Hotspur played a hugely disappointing match on Sunday, capitulating 2-1 at home to a Newcastle United side that has struggled for results all season. Despite completely dominating the first half, a quick second half sucker-punch knocked the wind out of the side and they never recovered.
It was a terrible result containing some terrible performances and some terrible decisions from the manager. But even though it was almost all completely terrible, there still some bits that were not quite entirely terrible. It's a bit perverse to say anyone was the "Man of the Match" after that result, but let's try and get past our collective gloom and look towards the positive.
Who was the best of a bad bunch on Sunday? Ryan Mason, Danny Rose, or Younes Kaboul?
For 45 minutes, Ryan Mason was playing on another level. He dominated the midfield and completely ran the game. Spurs finished the first half with 75% possession, and a huge part of that was down to Ryan Mason. He controlled the tempo of the match with his tenacious battling and excellent passing. He kept the ball not just moving, but driving forward. He attempted more passes in the final third than anyone on the team, including the four players in front of them.
Mason also created our only goal with a wonderful ball that even Adebayor couldn't miss. Had the players ahead of him made that first half dominance count with a few more goals, this game would have been over thanks to Mason's wonderful midfield play. He was hard-working, incisive, and intelligent.
And then the second half happened. He still did everything well, but the whole team fell apart six seconds after the restart and Mason wasn't able to carry the attack on his own. Where he attempted sixteen final third passes in the first half, he only managed nine in the second. A large part of this, however, is down to the players in front of him. The whole attack went flat, and there's only so much one man can do. You'd hope for more from one of the best players on the pitch, but it's hard to expect it of a guy still only making his fourth start in the league. And you certainly can't fault him given the collapse of everyone around him.
Danny Rose continued his resurgence under Pochettino on Sunday with an assured display at left back. Nothing came down that wing that he didn't deal with. He was strong in the tackle and kept Newcastle's attack totally quiet. In a side that was often frustratingly narrow, Rose provided an excellent attacking outlet down the left flank, getting up and down the pitch excellently. He put in an excellent low cross that found Harry Kane alone in the box that very well could have been our equalizer.
On the downside, he could have done a bit more to help Jan Vertonghen cover Ayoze on his goal (though he wasn't Danny Rose's man). And for all his bombing down the wing, of the eleven crosses he whipped in, only two found someone in the box. Some of that is down to the frustrating attackers who weren't doing their jobs, but Rose definitely has room to improve his delivery.
Many people (myself included) were ready to write Kaboul off after his slow return to form since suffering a major injury. With every match that assessment looks premature. Defensively, he was a rock on Sunday. He led the team with four tackles and five interceptions, well ahead of anyone, and his eight clearances were twice as many as the rest of the defense combined. He also carried the ball out of defense and contributed to the attack more than you'd expect from a centerback. Even when things were bad, he looked hungry to do something.
That said, he persisted in playing long desperate balls out of the back, despite having Vertonghen next to him who is much better suited to passing the ball forward. Also, despite his own strong performances on the pitch, his leadership left something to be desired. After both the first, and especially the second, Newcastle goal the entire team dropped their heads and seemed to lack the fight to keep battling. As captain, Kaboul should have done a lot more to fire the team up after going behind.