Last week, Cartilage Free Captain founder and erstwhile manager Kevin McCauley dropped a grenade in the writer's chat room, calling Monty Python "unfunny." Gentle readers, every day I thank God that I have assumed control of this site. Monty Python is one of the most sublimely ridiculous and hysterical things to ever come out of Britain. Today's match ratings are to the theme of Monty Python sketches, and I'm not sorry.
† – OK, so even Michael Palin admitted a lot of Python material was "crap." Don't even care. It's still funnier than most of what's on Comedy Central right now. *drops mic*
Five Stars: Election Night Special
The Election Night Special sketch is a gem. I have laughed uproariously at this sketch since I was a young child, when I had no idea what was actually going on because I had no concept of politics. Every time I somehow get on Wheeler Dealer Radio I'm still tempted to quip "Can I just mention that this is the first time I've ever been on a podcast? (No no, there isn't time)", and to this day I still sign up for anything for which I might receive junk mail with the name "Jethro Q. Walrustitty."
Christian Eriksen – But, you argue, he was mostly invisible for most of the match! True, but he showed up in a big way in the last 20 minutes when Spurs started pressing for that late goal, and his gorgeous turn and well placed shot to win the match more than makes up for the fact that he wasn't getting good service from central midfield the majority of the match. Eriksen is still the guy on the team who can make something out of nothing, and we desperately need that spark from him.
Four Stars – (tie) Cheese Shop / Bookshop
I honestly can't decide between these two, so I'm listing them both. Python staged some of its best work inside shops of various types, and these two are among the best. I can't stare at the cheese area of Whole Foods without instinctively looking for Czech sheep's milk or Venezuelan beaver cheese, and bazouki music brings me right back to this sketch. As for the Book Shop sketch... the ending joke is brilliant, and if you can't laugh at a sketch about "David-Copperfield-With-One-P" or Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying, then you have no soul.
Ben Davies – I think we've found our long-term left back. It may have taken Davies a while and a Danny Rose injury to get his chance with the Spurs first team, but he's made it his own, putting in an excellent overall shift. Sure, you can blame Davies for getting torched in Swansea's goal, but he showed great positional awareness when he knew he was beat, and the actual goal had more to do with the CBs than with Davies. Also: DAT TACKLE.
Hugo Lloris – What can I say about Hugo that I haven't already said multiple times this season? He's amazing, quite possibly the third or fourth best keeper in the world, and we're so lucky to have him. Another great match.
Harry Kane – Kane continues to show why he's one of Tottenham's most important puzzle pieces in this year's team. His nose for goal is just phenomenal, and while nobody would call his goal elegant, it was due to his great positioning and clinical finishing. More of that please, Harry.
Benjamin Stambouli – I'm still puzzled why Stromboli doesn't play more than he does. It became clear early that Mason-Bentaleb wasn't working in this match, and the game was crying out for a holding midfielder to shelter the center backs. Benji came on and changed the match, and Spurs didn't look nearly as susceptible afterwards. Would love to see a Stambouli-Bentaleb midfield before Nabil goes off to AFCON.
Three Stars – Hungarian Phrase Book
This sketch is full of some great lines ("My hovercraft is full of eels!"), and I certainly laughed a lot at it as a kid. But upon growing up and viewing it from an adult perspective you start to see percolating in the background the inherent anti-foreigner bias that permeated British society during much of that era. Especially the bias against workers and tourists visiting from Eastern Europe. It's kind of put a damper on my enjoyment of this sketch.
Kyle Walker – Walker's back, y'all! It's so good to see him doing all the things that we used to scream at him for doing when he was younger and uninjured. His pace on the right flank is still good despite his recent injury, and he's also improved his defensive positioning. What if the missing piece from this season's tactics was Kyle Walker? Let's get him more games with Lamela, as they clearly weren't comfortable with each other (which is hardly Walker's fault).
Nabil Bentaleb – Nabil continues to impress in central midfield, and alongside Kane is turning out to be one of the best players to come out of the academy since Ledley. His poise in central midfield is admirable and he's only getting better. If we can pair him with the right player (i.e. not Ryan Mason) I strongly suspect that we'll see some better performances from Tottenham as a whole.
Mousa Dembele – Pochettino got Dembele's substitution spot on yesterday. With Dembele holding up the ball, Spurs were better able to hold their shape and get into open positions. He showed good awareness in central midfield. I'm still not sure he's a long-term answer but he's put together two nice matches lately.
Two Stars – Dennis Moore
Dennis Moore is a perfect example of a Monty Python sketch that takes a dumb idea, pounds it into the ground, and doesn't let up for far too long. If you're going to make a Robin Hood parody, pick something better than a guy who steals lupins, and cut it off after one iteration instead of dragging it on for ten minutes. Also that Dennis Moore song is a virus. Stand and deliver? Uh, whatever.
Jan Vertonghen & Federico Fazio – There's dissension in the commentariat ranks about the CBs' performance in this match, but I wasn't happy with either Jan or Federico in this match. Yes, they made some big stops at times, but they were equally caught out of position and looked way off the pace. Wilfried Bony is a handful, but Spurs' central defenders made it a lot easier for him to get the shots he wanted. Not a good game.
Ryan Mason – Mason continues to slide a bit in midfield. I'm not sure if it's whether other teams have found him out or if he's reverting to the mean, but he's looking less like that player who was trying stuff in his early appearances. He was torn up pretty badly in midfield and was struggling to make even simple passes by the end.
Roberto Soldado – The good will that Bobby Soldier established after his goal a couple of weeks ago is quickly evaporating. Wasteful and non-existent, he wasn't getting the service he needs to thrive, but neither was he taking advantage of his opportunities when he got them. If Soldado has any sort of finishing ability we win that match 3-1.
1.5 Stars – Sci-Fi Sketch
This is pretty bad. An overlong sketch about aliens that are taking Englishmen and turning them into Scottsmen. Maybe the English found it funny? This American certainly didn't.
Erik Lamela – I want to believe in Erik Lamela, but I'm starting to really lose the ability. There are lots of reasons why you can overlook his recent poor peformances: acclimation to English football after essentially a year of injury, he's young, he's been playing ahead of awful right backs. But Lordy, he has not been good, and he looked aimless out there in Swansea. I'd like to think he'll come good, but right now, Lamela needs to sit and Aaron Lennon needs to start.
1 Star – Mr. Neutron
This sketch, how do I put it mildly, sucks. It somehow takes a ludicrous superhero concept and makes it virtually unwatchable. I can't believe I'm embedding it. No, seriously. Don't watch this. It's dumb.
None of our players were as bad an unwatchable as Mr. Neutron.