I have three cats at home. All of them are aloof, capricious little bastards at some primal level, but two of them are consummate hunters. (The third is 16 and is losing her teeth, so she gets a pass.) We live in an old house and get mice every winter, and our small fuzzy predators make short work of the little buggers. I love watching my cats hunt. Cats are awesome.
They’re even better when they’re big. The broadcast of the new David Attenborough nature program Planet Earth II is what brought this topic to the front of my mind, and watching my two animal-loving kids grow up has given me a fond appreciation for the top predators of genus felis.
So while Tottenham Hotspur went all big dog on the Swansea, it looked more like a pride of lions going up against... well, swans. Even though Spurs’ mascot is essentially a chicken. But never mind. Let’s rank the Tottenham players’ performances to the theme of big cats, just because.
5 stars: Tiger
Tigers are the best. The biggest of the big cats, they are absolutely terrifying predators. They can take down a water buffalo or a fully grown crocodile. And, if you’re a six-year old boy in the woods, they also espouse philosophy and dispense wisdom. Finally, they’re also stripey and stripey = awesome. They are, imo, the undisputed kings of the big cats, screw you, lions.
Harry Kane: Welcome back, Harry. Kane was at his best today, not only bagging a brace but dominating play, finding openings and creating chances. He’s up to seven league goals now, one behind Zlatan.
Christian Eriksen: Fantastic. Six key passes, six shots, five chances created, two goals, and an assist. Yes, it was against a bad team and yes he “accidentally” scored one of his goals, but that’s the kind of performance Eriksen can put in at his best and why he should never be benched except for tiredness.
4.5 stars: Leopard/Jaguar
Death from above. Leopards are as sneaky af and since they can climb trees it means that nowhere’s safe. NOWHERE. Imagine being an impala just minding your own and then OH MY GOD IT FLIES. Mad props. Jaguars are included here because they’re basically jungle leopards. Also, I’m never walking under a tree anywhere in Africa.
Kyle Walker: Walker has been low-key one of Spurs’ most consistent, and consistently best, performers and he was at it again on Saturday, blitzing up and down the pitch all game despite taking an actual boot to the face.
Son Heung-Min: That was one of the best goals I’ve seen from any Spurs player all season. He was working his tail off in the press and had the presence of mind to cut the ball back on a break and tee up Harry for his second goal.
Dele Alli: This was the game where Dele finally looked like he’s back to his old self after his injury. Was one of the primary links between the midfield and Harry Kane, and (controversially) earned Spurs a penalty. Well done.
4 stars: Mountain Lion/Cougar
Respect the North American big cat, y’all. They don’t get the same amount of respect that their African and Asian cousins do, but cougars are pretty nifty cats. They are adapted to living in cold and/or mountainous climes, but they can pop up everywhere, including near urban areas. We had a cougar scare in my county a few years ago. They can take on a bear, and their name sounds great in between “John” and “Mellencamp.” U-S-A! U-S-A!
Jan Vertonghen: The thing I remember about Jan’s game is that in the first half there was a play where Barrow had a half-step on him in a mini break. Jan had the ability to use his body to turn him slightly around and get in front of the ball, effectively negating the play. He did that stuff the entire game and is a big reason why Swansea had an xG of 0.04.
Mousa Dembele: Imperious. 41-44 completed passes, and was a rock in the midfield effectively shuttling the ball and blowing right through Swansea’s midfield. The Swans played Cork, Fulton and Fer in the midfield. Didn’t matter.
Victor Wanyama: I would be remiss if I did not also give full credit to Wanyama, who had a fine game. His passing was more solid than what I expected, and defensively he was superb, not letting Sigurdsson or Llorente into the match.
3.5 stars: Ocelot
Just watch this clip from Archer. (But not at work. There’s language.)
Eric Dier: Eric was actually Spurs’ top passer against Swansea, completing 80/87, mostly safe passes to the midfielders. Had two long balls that turned into chances, too. Didn’t do anything especially amazing, but he was a solid and steady presence in the back.
3 stars: Cheetah
Cheetahs are totally rad, but they’re limited. They have pretty markings, but they’re smaller and about all they can do is run fast and look awesome. They’re the DeAndre Yedlin of the cat world, which is fine, but nothing to write home about.
Hugo Lloris: Didn’t do a damn thing all game. Still glad he was there.
Danny Rose: Was great defensively. Not exactly flamboyant going forward, but in this match he didn’t have to be.
2.5 stars: Lions
Lions are big cats. Top predators, them. Top, top cats. However, they have the reputation as being Kings of the Jungle when they don’t even live in the jungle. They live in the savannah. How’d they get that title? I bet they inherited it. That’s dumb. Lions are just big dumb expensive aristocratic kitties and there are lots of cats that are much better MY COLUMN
Moussa Sissoko: He got an assist! He got an assist! But otherwise, he was mostly doing the same kinds of things that he was bad at in other matches, except against worse competition. But hey, an improvement is an improvement.
1 star: Lee Cattermole
Lee Cattermole is the worst. Since 2010 he’s picked up 63 yellow cards and 6 red cards playing for Sunderland, regularly one of the worst clubs in the league. His horror tackle could have ended Luka Modric’s career back in 2010! The irony that he plays for a club nicknamed “The Black Cats” is not lost on me. The only consolation is that he would be easily mauled by any of the cats listed above him.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as Lee Cattermole.
Zero stars: Hull City
The only toothless cats in the jungle. Just ask Ryan Mason.
Just missed the Big Cat playoffs: Penn State Nittany Lions
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating: Harry Winks, Josh Onomah
POSTSCRIPT: Big cats are awesome, but many of them are endangered. If you’d like to donate to a charity that supports big cat conservation efforts, Cartilage Free Captain suggests giving to Panthera.