No bueno. An exhausted Tottenham Hotspur, playing its fourth match in ten days, folded like a house of cards at Wembley on Saturday, losing 3-1 to Wolverhampton. It was Spurs’ first loss in six matches, and while the nature of the loss was bad enough, the media #narrative was even worse, as it came just 48 hours after they were declared “title contenders” by the soccerati.
Annoying? Yes. But “Spursy?” I say, hardly. You want Spursy? Let’s talk about Spursy.
I’m going to get yelled at for this theme. I accept it. But sometimes you need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and acknowledge things that you don’t like about what has happened in the past. We don’t like to talk about the whole “Spursy” thing but there’s little denying that it WAS a thing, at least at one point. I despise the term and believe the club has eclipsed it, but sometimes it’s cathartic to actually look at the evidence. These examples will mostly focus on more recent history — I’m sure you can find more back in the Dark Ages of the ‘80s and ‘90s, but those predate me as a fan.
Here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings to the theme of actually Spursy incidents. Note: these rankings are in “reverse order,” ranked from MOST Spursy to LEAST Spursy. Don’t get it confused.
5 stars: Lasagnagate, 2006
Few, if any, incidents are as Spursy as the infamous “dodgy lasagna” match of 2006. This match featured Tottenham under Martin Jol, on the last match of the season, with a chance to finish top four and finish ahead of Arsenal, something unheard of at that time. All they had to do was match Arsenal’s result in their final game. Instead, over half the team came down with food poisoning after the team meal the night before, and there was some question if Jol could even field 11 players. They lost an appeal to have the match delayed, and another to have it postponed by a mere four hours. Finally, they lost the match 2-1 and finished the season in fifth place. If there ever was an example of pure, undiluted, crystalline Spursy — the ur-Spursy, you might say — it’s this.
No Tottenham players reached these “heights.”
4 stars: The Great Redknappian Collapse of 2012
The managerial stewardship of Harry Redknapp was, for the most part, a great time to be a Spurs fan. After all, he got Spurs to the Champions League for the first time ever in 2010 and had a hell of a team in 2011-12 with Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Rafael van der Vaart. It was so good that at by week 25 Spurs had a 10-point lead on Arsenal and looked like a potential title challenger. But then Redknapp and England started making googly-eyes at each other, Spurs took one win and six points from their next nine matches, and eventually finished fourth behind the Manchester clubs and (yes) Arsenal. But the worst part was watching sixth-place Chelsea win the Champions League over Bayern via penalties IN MUNICH consigning Spurs to the Europa League the next season. Still my lowest ever point as a Spurs fan, but it prompted me, then just a lowly commenter, to write what I think was one of my favorite fanposts ever.
Harry Kane: Probably Tottenham’s best performer of the match, which isn’t saying much. But he had that worldy of a goal in the first half, and that’s not nothing. Utterly knackered along with the rest of the side by the 60th minute mark. Got a bullshit yellow card for “simulation,” too (he was fouled). Only had the one shot, but it was a beauty.
Toby Alderweireld: Bless him, he tried. Nine clearances in the match, but was unlucky when Jiminez’s shot went through his legs and past Hugo for Wolves’ second. Spurs’ defensive frailties had little to do with Toby, though.
3 stars: Newcastle 5-1 Tottenham, 2016
Another last-match-week capitulation, this match quickly pushed me in real time from annoyance to blind anger and then over the edge to lol-im-not-mad-this-is-actually-funny-to-me. Once title contenders, a draw in this match would’ve ensured that Spurs finished second in the table, their best result since the treble-winning season. Instead, Tottenham utterly collapsed, losing 5-1 to a ten-man Newcastle that had been relegated to the Championship the week prior. Oh, and that loss meant they finished behind Arsenal. Again. It’s now known as the “third in a two-horse race” match.
Dele Alli: This was not a great match by Dele, but he was also probably the only member of Tottenham’s midfield who was actually trying to make things happen in midfield.
Davinson Sanchez: His stats dashboard isn’t very impressive but he had one very good tackle on Cavaleiro before losing his composure a bit in the second half.
Christian Eriksen: Had some very un-Eriksenish giveaways in midfield, but went close forcing a save out of Rui Patricio. Looked beyond tired in the last half-hour; my guess is Skipp was going to come in for him before Wolves equalized.
Son Heung-Min: Four shots in the match and a heck of a lot of running. Tested Patricio early on, faded badly in the second half.
Moussa Sissoko: Had a few moments of strong possession in midfield, and connected well with Eriksen for much of the time, considering Spurs were basically trying to hit on the break for much of the match. He was fine.
2 stars: Battle of the Bridge, 2016
Another one from that stupid-ass 2016 Leicester title-winning season, a lot of people point to this match, a 2-2 draw at Stamford Bridge that was a must-win for Spurs, as a super Spursy one. But was it really? The arguments for Spursiness were that it was a bottle-job that handed Leicester the title. But Spurs were never title favorites — they were chasing “team of destiny” Leicester all season and never once led the league. Also factor in that, despite Chelsea having a down year, this was a London derby and Spurs had yet to win at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League era (something they didn’t do until this season, heyyyyyy). An extremely disappointing result? Sure. But Spursy? Hardly.
Hugo Lloris: I don’t think Hugo was responsible for the loss, but he certainly didn’t help matters when he got wrong-footed for Wolves’ second goal. He saves that and maybe... just maybe Spurs hang on for at least a point.
Harry Winks: At what point can we all admit that Winksy is an effective passer but played in an unsuited role as the most defensive midfielder in the diamond? I like Winksy. I think he’s also not the player he used to be and I feel like he’s been set up to fail out of injury necessity. He has been not great for several matches now.
Ben Davies: Most of us swallowed hard when we saw Davies was up against Traore, but it was his replacement, Costa, who made Ben REALLY pay. Completely absent going forward.
Kieran Trippier: Bad with his passing, bad on defense, bad with the giveaways, just bad, bad, bad.
Lucas Moura: Came in for Dele Alli to try and change the game. Did virtually nothing.
1 star: Tottenham 1-3 Wolves, 2018
Stop. Just stop. This wasn’t Spursy. This was an exhausted Tottenham side with significant injuries playing its fourth match in 10 days and losing to a very good Wolves side that had taken points from Arsenal, United, Chelsea, and City already this season. Spurs were 2nd in the table in late December and were on a five-match winning streak. Calling this loss Spursy is an absurd goalpost move that renders the term meaningless unless the expectation was that Tottenham was going to win every match. This loss sucked, but it’s hardly a match of consequence.
No Tottenham players were as Spursy as calling this match Spursy.