Tottenham Hotspur got a 2-0 win over Swansea City on Tuesday at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea. It was an important win for Spurs, but the weather conditions in the south of Wales made for an ugly match. The officiating by Bobby Madley and his team made it even uglier.
The weather was so bad and the pitch condition so poor that I’m not really sure how you even rate the players objectively. It was the kind of match where the conditions overshadow any individual performance. If you can barely kick the ball ten feet without the ball coming to a dead stop, can you really accurately judge a player performance?
What I’m saying is, this match was weird, and so is this ratings article. So instead of player performance, let’s instead rank the Tottenham players based on match impact and influence. Which is a subjective distinction, but hey, it’ll at least drive discussion. The theme is adverse weather conditions in sports matches.
I wasn’t alive for the 1967 NFL Championship Game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers, but it lives on in infamy. Playing football in ambient temperatures of -15º and wind chills of -48º strikes me as a pretty bad idea today. Even the officials’ whistles froze. Imagine this match happening today, in an era where Super Bowls can’t be played in a stadium that isn’t a dome.
The Weather: I’ve seen Tottenham play football in some really bad situations before, I but I don’t think I’ve seen them play in weather quite that foul. When you can see the rain falling down in undulating sheets on television, you know it’s pretty bad. The crappy weather and pitch conditions had more of an impact on the match than any individual performance.
Bobby Madley: You might see this and think that I’m praising the officiating. I am not. It was awful, but at least it was awful more or less uniformly on both sides. Spurs had a couple of penalty shouts waved off and an awful offsides call on Llorente, but also directly benefitted from a goal that shouldn’t have counted and Madley not giving a legitimate second yellow to Davinson Sanchez. The officiating was every bit as impactful as the weather.
In early spring of 2013, in what can be seen as one of American soccer’s biggest hold-my-beer moments, USA defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in Denver in the middle of a winter storm that dumped inches of snow on the field during the game. It was a match that never should’ve have been played. You couldn’t see the ball. You couldn’t see the pitch lines. USA were wearing white jerseys and you could barely see them. The ball literally died when it hit the snow. USA won 1-0 only because of a dumb bounce and Clint Dempsey happening to be at the right spot at the right time. It was remarkably stupid.
Dele Alli: Got the clinching goal, might have had a second if Mobby Badley had called the push in the back in the box.
Harry Kane: Didn’t score, but changed the game with his passing. That was a lovely ball to Dele to set up Spurs’ second.
Fernando Llorente: If anyone thrived in the weather, it was probably Fernando. His first goal shouldn’t have counted, but he was called back while one-on-one with Swansea’s keeper and could’ve had at least two goals.
Jan Vertonghen: Swansea had some chances, but Vertonghen made sure that few of them were dangerous ones. Had one moment where he out-sprinted Nathan Dyer to get back and cancel a counterattack.
Christian Eriksen: His creativity was stifled by the pitch and the weather, but his free kicks were on point in Wales, especially his kick to Fernando’s head for the first goal.
I watched this game — a 1988 NFL Divisional Playoffs game between Philadelphia Eagles and Chicago Bears — on television. Well, ok, “watched” isn’t quite right, since the TV cameras showed only pea soup fog with the vague outlines of players. God knows how Randall Cunningham managed to rack up 407 yards of passing in that game when you literally couldn’t see 15 feet in front of you.
Davinson Sanchez: Didn’t especially have a good match, but was a very, very lucky boy not to be sent off for a terrible challenge while he was already on a yellow. In terms of match influence, not forcing Spurs to play in that quagmire of a pitch down a man was extremely influential.
Victor Wanyama: Boy, was it good to see him back. Made a couple of nice tackles in midfield after coming in, and made it through his shift without re-injuring himself. That’s a win.
Hugo Lloris: Didn’t have to do much, but came out to make a couple of key punches in the first half and had a couple of tricky saves of a wet ball in the second.
Eric Dier: Fine in midfield, fine in defense. Had one memorable long pass that found Dele in the box (and that should’ve been a penalty).
Kieran Trippier: Beaten for pace a few times in the sloppy conditions, but also put in a few crosses that were useful.
Did you know that, once a year, there’s a hockey match that’s actually — gasp — played outdoors? The 2008 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabers were played outdoors in Buffalo in near blizzard conditions. Sidney Crosby scored the winning penalty shootout goal in front of 71,000 fans, an NHL attendance record. In Buffalo. In the middle of winter. Hockey fans are nuts.
Son Heung-Min: Take away Sonny’s pace and ability to dribble effectively and you essentially nullify him. Wasn’t really his fault that he couldn’t impact the match.
Ben Davies: Got torched a few times in defense by Narsingh. Had couple of recovery tackles, though. Still, the weather didn’t help him make much of an impact.
Erik Lamela: You’d think that, of all of Tottenham’s players, that this would be the kind of match that would benefit Lamela the most. It didn’t. He had little impact on the match and was eventually replaced by Sissoko.
Moussa Sissoko: I think he was there. I’m pretty sure I saw him touch the ball once or twice.
Just before the start of this game between Oakland and San Francisco, the magnitude 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake struck, doing massive damage to the entire Bay Area, including Candlestick Park. Thankfully, nobody tried to actually play this game, and the series continued ten days later.
No Tottenham players had zero match impact.