Tottenham Hotspur went down early to Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium thanks to a strike from Junior Stanislas, but leveled before halftime and scored three in the second period en route to a 4-1 away win. Dele Alli got his first goal in what felt like forever, Son Heung-Min added a brace, and Serge Aurier headed home Spurs’ fourth to put the game away.
Here are some of my notes from the match.
We were right to worry about a UCL hangover. It didn’t matter.
Heading into this match, there was some concern that an emotionally draining loss midweek against Juventus might filter into the performance against a Bournemouth side that has only lost once in its last ten league matches. And it sure seemed to! Tottenham looked off its feed almost from the opening kick, and never wrestled control of the midfield away from the Cherries.
Bournemouth pressed Spurs early and it gave Tottenham some problems that not even Mousa Dembele could overcome. Moose only attempted 62 passes against the Cherries, completing 59 of them, but that’s uncharacteristically low for Moose (he completed nearly 100 against Huddersfield). That, combined to some derpy defense, nearly put Spurs down into a deep hole, and they looked pretty un-Tottenhamish for the whole of the game.
So the strange thing is not that Spurs were able to complete a comeback from behind (the first time they’ve done so all season), but that all four goals were pretty spectacular. Dele’s goal was well taken and completed thanks to an excellent pass from Aurier; Sonny’s first was scuffed but he was in a great position; his second was pure class in the open field; and Aurier’s header showed great positioning and placement.
And I haven’t even mentioned that Harry Kane went out with an injured ankle in the first half.
This is what good teams do: they find a way to grind out wins even they’re not at their best. Nobody will look at this match and say it was good football, but it was a solid win.
Tottenham’s fullbacks are still a problem.
The major weakness of Tottenham’s loss to Juventus mid-week was the play of the fullbacks. And despite rotating both ‘backs for Bournemouth, you could say the same for this game. Serge Aurier got a goal at the death for Tottenham, but he was... well, let’s just say “not at his best,” going 36/48 in passing, looking lost at times defensively, and (yes) gracing us with another foul throw.
Danny Rose was even worse. His crossing was woeful today, and he completed only 38 of 61 passes on the day. He was hooked in the second half for what looked like a cautionary knock for Kieran Trippier.
I really don’t want to make too much of this, but if there’s a weak area in the squad right now, this is it. It should be something that Pochettino takes a long, hard look at in the summer.
Spurs are deep now. So why aren’t we seeing it?
We’ve been muttering about Mauricio Pochettino’s substitutions and rotation all season, it feels like, and I’m going to do it again. Poch decided to roll with almost the exact same lineup that he played midweek against Juventus, rotating only the fullbacks and with Victor Wanyama replacing Eric Dier. It was a curious decision, especially considering Spurs often looked like they were half-asleep out there.
I was really hoping that players like Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura would get a chance to stretch their legs against Bournemouth with an important FA Cup match coming up next Sunday. Lamela DID play a lot, but only because Kane went down injured. Lucas never took the pitch.
Obviously, players like Son, Dele, and Eriksen were the reason that Spurs won today, but I can’t help but wonder if a rotated side might not have done the same thing, and without scaring us by conceding early.
Spurs are now set up nicely to finish top four
This was a game that Spurs really needed to win if they wanted to position themselves to finish in a Champions League qualification spot this season. That, plus Liverpool’s loss to United on Saturday, means that Spurs are now in third, two points ahead of the Reds and five ahead of Chelsea with eight matches to play.
“Five points is nothing,” you say, and yes, Spurs still have to go to Chelsea and host City. But Liverpool also has to play Chelsea, and City might have wrapped up the league by the time they come to Wembley anyway. Spurs may not go undefeated the rest of the season, but if as of right now their Premier League future is in their hands, and is not dependent on Liverpool or Chelsea failing.
Oh, and we’re 13 points up on Arsenal with eight to play. That’s nice too.