If there’s one thing I’ve learned as an adult that I didn’t really realize as a kid, it’s this: fairy tales are mostly bad. Sure, we all grew up watching Disney animated films where the hero (or heroine) saves the day and ends up falling in love and living happily ever after, but what I didn’t realize until I started critically analyzing things in college is how buried deep below many of these very old tales are absolutely horrifying stories, situations and themes.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy these tales. We should! They have passed down through the generations for a reason: because they purport to teach moral lessons in the guise of entertainment. Your personal enjoyment of them may vary depending on your reading, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have value, even if the lesson is “don’t do what this character did.”
So after a 6-1 thrashing of Lester, let’s rank the Tottenham Hotspur players to the theme of fairy tales, with this caveat: while most fairy tales may be bad, Tottenham Hotspur is always good.
This is perhaps the original fairy tale, or at least the most common archetype. The story of an “ordinary” person who is able to overcome oppression and rise to triumph is one that is present in many, many cultures throughout the world. It’s no wonder it’s such a popular story and why so many of its themes and tropes appear in so many different permutations and variants. I’ve always loved this particular story despite the patriarchal underpinnings and the fact that the Prince is apparently willing to marry any rando girl who happens to have the right shoe size. (Moral: princes are pretty dumb.) And I suppose the overall lesson would be a little better if Cinderella had in fact been the architect of her own success instead of relying on a magical deus ex machina with a pointy hat and a wand. But whatever. This is a great story.
Harry Kane: It’s hard not to see Harry’s performance on Thursday as anything except a gigantic middle finger to Romelu Lukaku. You could tell right away that Harry wanted goals, and as many as he could get — he even said afterwards that he yelled at Sonny for not setting him up early in the match. This guy is driven and super talented and I hope we keep him forever.
Son Heung-Min: Sonny was delightful in this match. He was living off of the back shoulder of Lester’s makeshift defense, and did a good job of both looking for his shot and also keeping his head up and finding his teammates. 21 goals this season... wow. (And did you see him hug Kevin Wimmer after his second? D’awwwwww.)
Dele Alli: Dele didn’t score against Leicester, but he most certainly could’ve had a couple, and his cheeky little chips over the back line set led to one goal and a couple other big chances. I hope we can keep ahold of him for at least another year.
I always appreciated this fairy tale as a kid because I was the small runty child who got teased an awful lot through junior high. Thankfully I was never driven to despair in the same way the ugly duckling was, but I know people who were, and who eventually grew to become exceptional adult humans once they found their “tribe.” This is a story about self-image and finding acceptance in the right environment. Alternately, it’s about a hidden avian caste system that you can only be born into, and that swans are awesome and ducks are mean and dumb.
Victor Wanyama: Beast. Vic was wonderful against Leicester, pairing up well with Dembele and using his strength to boss people off the ball. He’s tamed down his recklessness and is developing into an elite midfielder.
Mousa Dembele: Moose apparently has a foot problem that will require a trip to a specialist after the season. You couldn’t tell. He was back to his old self again, muscling people off the ball and pushing the ball forward with aplomb.
Toby Alderweireld: It’s tempting to lump Toby with Jan Vertonghen (again) since both were fantastic defensively, but what sets Toby up better was his long passing out of the back, which was again exceptional. Another very nice match.
This is a story of the value of intelligence over raw power, which, as a nerd growing up, is a lesson I could value. Bricks >> straw in a windstorm, after all. However, I have questions as to 1) why the wolf tries to huff and puff and blow the houses down rather than just, y’know crashing through the door and eating the pigs, and 2) why the smart pig didn’t invite the other two into his house. Maybe he got picked on as a piglet, dunno. Moral: nerds are good, pigs are mostly dumb (but tasty), and that wolf went through the wrong job training program.
Jan Vertonghen: Basically Toby but without the long passing. Can we get him a goal against Hull? Let’s get him a goal against Hull.
Hugo Lloris: Hugo made a number of very nice stops against Leicester, and was probably unlucky to concede that goal after making what was really a nice rush out to deny Vardy. Unfortunately, that might cost him the Golden Glove this season. His distribution is still a little wonky, too, but this is known.
Eric Dier: Started the match in the center of Spurs’ back line, ostensibly Toby’s position, which was weird since I expected him wide right. He did well against a Leicester team that wasn’t entirely toothless, even sprinting back and nearly making a goal-line clearance during Leicester’s only goal.
Ben Davies: I’ll say this for Ben: he has gotten better thanks to all this playing time. On Thursday, he was solid on the left wing, pushing forward and putting nice balls into the center of the pitch. The fact that we frequently negatively compare him to Danny Rose only serves to illustrate how good Danny is, really. Ben’s been fine.
This is a complicated one because there are two legitimate readings of the story. One centers on the power of love as an act of redemption, which has parallels to scripture. By virtue of Belle learning to love the Beast, the Beast is able to love her back, let go of his anger, and become human — a transformation of evil into goodness (behind every good man is an even better woman, etc.). The other reading is the lesson that if you kidnap a young woman and hold her against her will eventually you can Stockholm Syndrome her into falling in love with you. Which, eww.
Moussa Sissoko: It’s not that Sissoko was BAD on Thursday. In fact, he had probably his best game in a Spurs shirt since the Manchester City match. It’s just that he also didn’t really do anything especially noteworthy except hold serve and fire a few shots over the crossbar. And if that’s what Good Moussa is, then we can do a heck of a lot better.
Vincent Janssen: His “goal” (which was rightfully called back for offside) was well struck, which shows that Vincent has some wonderful poacher’s instincts. Otherwise a fairly nondescript shift up top beside Kane.
Filip Lesniak: Normally he wouldn’t get a rating, but the fact that this was his Tottenham first team debut and he got an assist by setting up Harry Kane deserves mention. He looked pretty good out there, and I would not have expected that the 21 year old Slovak on loan in the Czech Republic this season would be the one to get his late season debut this year.
Did you know in the original Goldilocks fairytale, the titular character is a foul-mouthed elderly vagrant named “Silver Hair” who is despised by her family, sneaks into the home of three bachelor bears, and breaks all their stuff just because she’s a nasty person? Then when she’s caught and confronted, she runs away and breaks her neck, sending her to the hospital. And somehow, in today’s version, the bears are the bad guys. While this fairy tale is a solid platform for all kinds of metaphors (i.e. “the Goldilocks principle”), the moral of the story should be: don’t commit a f**king home invasion.
Thankfully, there were no Tottenham players as poor as this fairy tale.
The one season that people could’ve celebrated an improbable Spurs run to compete for the Premier League title is the same season Leicester does the same thing, and Spurs end up being the villains. Not only that, but buried below the veneer of “scrappy underdogs win” is the reality that Jamie Vardy and Robert Huth won a Premier League title. Worst story ever.
No players were as bad as Leicester winning the 2016 Premier League title.
Georges-Kevin N’Koudou: I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t rename this category after GKN.