It wasn’t pretty, but they got there in the end. Tottenham Hotspur hosted a giant green brick wall at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and spent almost the whole of the match beating their heads against it. Christian Eriksen, however, came through in the clutch, scoring a long low goal past Matt Ryan to give Spurs a 1-0 win over Brighton & Hove Albion and giving them a vital three points in the race for top four.
This is a bit of a weird match to evaluate, since Spurs were on the whole not especially great, but they were also stymied by a giant Brighton bus parked in front of goal. Many of you will argue that I should probably lop off at least a star from everyone, but for this particular match I’m grading on a bit of a curve.
In honor of Vincent Janssen’s first Tottenham match action in nearly two years, we thought it’d be fun to do the player ratings theme to “players exiled by Mauricio Pochettino.” And you KNOW who we’re putting at five stars.
5 stars: Vincent Janssen
EXILED NO MORE! The most recent human manifestation of Not In Poch’s Plans™, Janssen has looked like a kicked puppy for the better part of two seasons now. There’s no doubt that he’s gone this summer to anyone who will have him, but necessity and pragmatism are sometimes stronger than values. I’ve never seen a player successfully come back from the U23s to the first team under Poch after going there, but Thicc Vin has successfully transcended Pochettino’s doghouse. That, or he has gone so far into it he has actually warped around and come out the other side.
Vincent Janssen: ALL HAIL THE THICCAISSANCE! Thicc Vin made his first appearance for Spurs since August 20, 2017, coming on as a second substitute for Lucas Moura. And quite frankly, his stats speak for themselves.
One received pass, but it was a beauty. He cradled that ball with his feet as though it were his Dutch lover who was desperately trying to sell their house in London for a Turkish condominium. Three completed passes, none of them more than five yards, all of them in the attacking third delivered with intent and dare I say panache. No shots, but you know that if he had attempted them, they would’ve been glorious. One tackle. One arial duel. One Eric Dier excited expression. We watch football for moments like this. It was something to behold. Brighton most certainly got Thiccrolled on Tuesday.
4 stars: Vlad Chiriches
I know why Vlad was exiled out of the first team: the dude was an absolute maniac. But in doing so, Pochettino deprived us (and by that I mean me) of one of the most delightfully bonkers Tottenham players in recent memory. Vlad was a walking contradiction, capable of sending Spurs fans into simultaneous states of bewildered amazement and vexation. He needed to go, but friends, there are times where I miss him so damn much.
Christian Eriksen: Eriksen was one of the few players who was actually trying to do stuff. The problem is that it wasn’t coming off most of the time, and most of what he was trying was a bad idea in front of a parked bus. That said, his winning goal was delightful and he gets rewarded for continuing effort.
Danny Rose: Yes, his end product was a bit lacking, but Danny had a nice match, pushing forward on the left side and providing a lot of the forward impetus during parts of the match. Came close with a rocket of a shot from distance. Also drifted centrally to help in midfield when necessary and appropriate and had a very nice last ditch tackle on the defensive end. I thought Danny had a very fine game.
Toby Alderweireld: No Tottenham defender is actually getting credited for their defense as Brighton managed an anemic 0.2 xG in this match. But Toby’s passing from deep was very nice and he also very nearly scored with a low shot that was an inch from deflecting in off the inside of the post.
3.5 stars: Younes Kaboul
Kaboul’s fall from grace was notable, especially as he started off his tenure under Poch as club captain, only to have his armband stripped from him and given to Hugo Lloris. The lesson to be learned here is that if you are a captain and established senior player, it is probably unwise to become the leader of a dressing room cabal set in opposition to your new manager.
Dele Alli: Tried stuff. Ran around a lot. Nearly scored from an audacious backheel flick that would’ve been amazing had it worked. Dropped deep to help recycle play, but not super effective offensively. Got the assist for Eriksen’s goal.
Son Heung-Min: Sonny tends to struggle against bunkered defenses because they very seldom give him room to stretch his legs and get space to run behind defenders. Even so, while his shots were... wayward, he was still one of Spurs’ better offensive options.
3 stars: Nabil Bentaleb
The Banter Lad spent much of Pochettino’s first year as one of his main options in the center of midfield along with Ryan Mason. But while Mason endeared himself to Poch through his determination and work ethic, Bentaleb was by all reports argumentative and undisciplined, unsettled at the club after an injury and wanting more too early, something he admitted in a recent interview. Poch eventually had enough and slotted Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele into the midfield pivot; Banter Lad was eventually f—ked off to Schalke.
Lucas Moura: Lucas was largely marginalized in this match out on the wings by Brighton’s ultra defensive posture. He found it very difficult to get into Brighton’s box, which is where he tends to excel, and his crossing wasn’t good enough to really make anything happen. Looked pretty bright in the early stages, though. He was fine, if not great.
Jan Vertonghen: Defensively he was as good as anyone, but Jan had a weird match with his decision making with the ball at his feet, which looked a little off. A fine match, but not a great one in my mind.
2.5 stars: Emmanuel Adebayor
I’m on record as being an Ade fan at the time, and am still one today. However, even I can’t deny that by the time Pochettino came riding into town, Ade’s usefulness had come to an end, having already been banished to the youth team by Andre Villas-Boas (and subsequently resurrected by Tim Sherwood). Poch clearly had no interest whatsoever in utilizing him and Ade acknowledged that he was unsuited to Pochettino’s tactics and methods. He was released shortly into Poch’s tenure.
Victor Wanyama: Big Vic spent a lot of his time trying to cosplay as a deep-lying playmaker instead of doing what he’s good at, which is breaking up play and passing off to more qualified passers. He can thump a ball when he’s open (and can dribble keepers too) but that’s not why we have him in the game. Too many ill-advised shots and wayward passes.
2 stars: Benjamin Stambouli
Another member of the Kaboul Cabal, French defensive midfielder Stambouli not only unwisely hitched his trailer to Kaboul’s wagon, but also had the double misfortune of being kind of shit.
Kieran Trippier: Yikes. Trips spent an awful lot of time (along with everyone else) camped out in Brighton’s half of the field, but he sure didn’t do a whole lot there. His crossing was pretty atrocious and he looked lost much of the time on the right.
Fernando Llorente: You would’ve thought that Nando’s ability to hold up play, bring in other players with short passing, and status as a tall target man who is good in the air would’ve been useful against a team as morbidly defensive as Brighton. You’d have been wrong.
1 star: Mousa Dembele
Yes, there was a time in Pochettino’s first year where Mousa, that glorious unicorn, found himself behind Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in Tottenham’s midfield. Thankfully Poch saw the error of his ways and started referring to Moose as the “genius” that he still is (but not until after he tried to play him as an attacking midfielder for a few months). Or maybe Mousa just let him in on his Bitcoin scheme.
No Tottenham players were as bad as that time Mauricio Pochettino exiled Mousa Dembele.
Paulinho Memorial Non-Rating
Hugo Lloris: Yes, I know he started and played 90 minutes, but he basically didn’t do anything for the entire match, so I’m giving him a big ol’ N/R. For the #banter.
Juan Foyth, Ben Davies