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Aston Villa 2-3 Tottenham: player ratings to the theme of deserts

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With thanks to Eric Dier’s existential journey.

Sagauro Cactus Photo by Epics/Getty Images

Last week I wrote fan-fiction about Eric Dier taking a vacation to the Moroccan desert, which naturally got me thinking about deserts — their stark beauty and the importance of water to the delicate balance on Earth between life and death.

There are 25 officially-recognized deserts in the world, some of them split into smaller named regions. Some of them are hot, some are cold. Most of them are beautiful, all of them are desolate in some way or another. While Dier’s existential expanse didn’t make the cut here, I thought it a worthy theme on a Monday morning in late February.

So without further ado, here are the Tottenham Hotspur player ratings for their 3-2 win at Aston Villa, to the theme of deserts.

5 stars: Sahara


When someone says the word “desert,” what’s the first one you think of? Chances are it’s the Sahara, and there’s a good reason for that — with its gigantic, wind-swept sand dunes and stark beauty, it’s probably the Platonic ideal of what a desert is in most people’s minds. And it is a lovely, lovely desert. Nothing but mountains of sand and ochre sands for miles upon miles upon miles. And camels. And the occasional oasis.

Unfortunately, no Tottenham players were as beautiful as this desert.

4 stars: Patagonia


We think of deserts as oppressively hot, sandy places, but there are cold deserts too, and none are more beautiful than the Patagonia desert. Primarily in southern Argentina and extending into Chile, this desert is one of rocky bluffs, scrub, wind, and cold temperatures. It’s more of a steppe, but it qualifies. And it’s actually a gorgeous, wild, untamed place.

Harry Winks (Community — 3.5): Arguing about Winks having a good match against Aston Villa? This really IS just like week 1. But he did. He’s still a defensive sieve, but if you accept that fact and have structures in place to mitigate that it becomes less onerous. And Mourinho has clearly unlocked something in Winksy because he’s pushing forward and is a lot more ambitious with his forward passing. Spurs bypassed the midfield a lot in this match, but Winksy made a noticeable impact, especially in the second half.

Steven Bergwijn (Community — 4): Man, I love this kid. He continues to show for the ball extremely well and is already forming a good playing relationship with Dele and Son in the attacking band. Was unlucky not to score when his shot was cleared off the line, but won the equalizing penalty. Play him in all the games.

Davinson Sanchez (Community — 3.5): Spurs’ back line collectively had a bad match but Davi was the best of the group, by far. Consistently got a foot in on Villa attacks on an Alderweireld off-night, and while he didn’t get the assist for Son’s winner, it was a lovely deep ball.

Jose Mourinho (Community — 3.5): I don’t know if Mourinho planned for Spurs’ defense to be quite so porous or so profligate in front of goal, but man oh man did they ever look fun. It sure seems like Spurs are starting to click in the way that Mourinho wants them to play. If they do what they did yesterday going forward and actually convert some chances against Leipzig, watch out.

3.5 stars: Sonoran


Personally, this is my favorite desert, owing to its rich and plentiful life, both flora and fauna. It’s interesting that a desert contain this much wildlife, and the Sonoran gets more rain than a lot of deserts do, which fosters the diversity of its plant and animal life. It’s also staggeringly beautiful, if hot.

Son Heung-Min (Community — 4): After this match, Sonny said that he didn’t think he played very well. That was obliquely confirmed in a SpursTV interview where Mourinho butted in and joked with Sonny, questioning whether “the goals” were “the ones he scored or the ones he missed.” I’ll take him at his word — Son was unquestionably wasteful in front of goal, but also had a brace and got the winner when it counted, so how can you be upset at that?

Ben Davies (Community — 3.5): Gentle Ben looked a little shaky at the beginning and got spun around in Villa’s opening goal, but settled down nicely and put together a very good shift. For a guy who Mourinho wants to use as an auxiliary third central defender — and he had a team high five tackles and three blocks — he had some really good moments pushing forward with the ball, too. Welcome back, Ben.

Giovani Lo Celso (Community — 3.5): Gio was probably a substitute only because Mourinho plans to run him into the ground against Leipzig and Chelsea this week. That’s fine, but it was noticeable how much Tottenham’s midfield passing improved when he came on for Eric Dier. I think the players ahead of him are starting to recognize that he’ll get them the ball in good positions and are anticipating those passes more when he’s on the pitch.

3 stars: Australian bush


If you were to pick a perfect desert in which to stage a series of highly-successful post-Apocalyptic movies, the Australian bush is a pretty great choice. It’s flat, hot and dry, but also has plenty of rocky crags and escarpments in which to hide your precious petrol while you try and start up your pig-shit fueled despotic trading empire. Plus there are kangaroos and wallabies.

Toby Alderweireld (Community: 3): In this match Toby taketh away and giveth in equal measure. I’m not sure whether his own-goal can be attributed to poor communication with Hugo or not, and he looked turned around and strangely ordinary by an excellent Grealish. In fairness, he’s probably suffering from “new-dad brain” and Serge Aurier hung him out to dry on several occasions. But his half-volley goal was absolutely spectacular, so I’ll give him a bump for that.

2.5 stars: Arctic/Antarctic


OK, so technically these count as deserts because of the lack of rainfall on both poles, but come on, it’s literally tundra (at least before global warming melts away the polar ice). BORING.

Dele (Community — 3): Man, it just did NOT come off for Dele in this match, did it? Once again he was really working his tail off out there, but he fluffed three golden chances to score. He probably should be given more credit for trying things, but nothing really seemed to work.

Lucas Moura (Community — 3.5): Lucas worked hard covering in the space vacated by Serge Aurier (three tackles!) and was 6/8 on take-ons, but his passing and decision-making continue to be pretty weak. He squandered a couple of good attacks and made a meal of his header attempt on goal.

Serge Aurier (Community — 2.5): Jack Grealish is a hell of a player, but Aurier pretty much let him waltz past him at will on Sunday, and left Toby hung out to dry. I’ll give him credit for his quality tackle on Nakamba, but those early fouls on Grealish almost put the team in a huge hole and he didn’t exactly make up for it going forward.

2 stars: Black Rock


Burning Man sucks and so does this desert. I have spoken.

Hugo Lloris (Community — 3): Man, Hugo. Failed to command his area in Villa’s first goal (looked to be a hesitation/missed communication with Toby, but he should’ve come out), and was rooted in place for the set piece goal. Could’ve and should’ve done better on both. He has saved Spurs before and will again but this will give substantial ammo to the “Hugo is past it” narrative.

Eric Dier (Community — 2.5): Plodded along in midfield, looking cranky and at least a full step off the pace. Rightfully hooked for Lo Celso in the second half, as he sure didn’t look like he was going to generate any meaningful offense.

1 star: Food deserts


I dare anyone to argue with this category. Food deserts are described as populated (primarily urban, but not restricted) areas that do not have access to affordable, nutritious food. Usually that means living more than a mile away from a supermarket in cities, or ten miles in rural areas. That often leaves the populace with convenience-store or highly processed foods at the expense of affordable fruits and vegetables, and unfortunately is more prevalent in low income, majority-minority districts. According to the USDA, 23 million Americans live in a food desert. That’s bad and not a desert you want to visit or see.

No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as a food desert.

Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating


Gedson Fernandes, Jan Vertonghen