Tottenham Hotspur traveled to Newcastle United on Sunday in what was Toon’s first match since being bought out by the sovereign wealth fund of a Middle Eastern nation with a horrific record of human rights abuses. And while it sure looked bad in the opening 10 minutes in a raucous atmosphere at St. James’ Park after Callum Wilson headed Newcastle in front after just two minutes, Spurs pretty quickly turned things around and put in a really solid performance. The 2-3 win was a lot more comprehensive than the scoreline showed.
Plus Spurs helped save a life in the stands! Overall, a good day.
A background to everything was of course the Newcastle takeover by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which is unspeakably gross. Nearly as gross were the images of white Newcastle fans wearing robes and headscarfs to cosplay Middle Eastern people in the stands. Saudi Arabia has an absolutely terrible record of human rights abuses, from codifying discrimination of women and LGBTQ+ individuals in law, to arresting dissidents and human rights workers, to murdering journalists. There are very few regimes on earth as unflinchingly repressive.
The truth is that most of the in-country human rights advocates have already been arrested by the Saudi government, which puts a pretty fine point on it. So for today’s theme, in which everyone was pretty good, we’re ranking the Tottenham players to the theme of international organizations that support human rights in the Persian Gulf region, including Saudi Arabia. These organizations are listed in no particular order, and are only ranked for the sake of ranking, not because any one is better or worse than the other.
It’s obviously an uphill battle, but every little bit helps. Consider making a donation to one of these organizations if you feel so inclined — the headers for each category will link to information about KSA’s human rights record.
Tanguy Ndombele (Community — 4.5): This is the kind of performance we hoped for from Tanguy. Five shots (most on the team!), an excellent goal, a whole bag of tricks and ribbles, and just as importantly five tackles. And he even played some on the wing! Wingdombele! God, he was fun to watch.
Sergio Reguilon (Community — 4.0): This was Reggie’s best match all season and quite possibly his best in a Tottenham shirt. Just fantastic both up and down the pitch all game long. He also quite possibly helped save a life thanks to his quick thinking to convince Andre Marriner to stop the match when a fan had a heart attack in the stands.
Lucas Moura (Community — 4.0): Lucas frustrated me a bit at the beginning with some errant passing, but grew into the match afterwards and was a real force going forward. Also had a good header on target that clanged off the crossbar. Newcastle were trash, but Lucas was quite good.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 4.0): Sonny! Had a great run to get open at the back post to tap in his goal, and also was pretty solid from corners. Slightly less energetic than maybe we’re used to seeing but I mean he did just get back from three international matches in Korea, so...
Harry Kane (Community — 4.0): Welcome back, Harry. Only two shots on the day, one of which he converted for his first Premier League goal this season, but did a ton of work off the ball and set up Son’s tap-in. Was also doing a bunch of strikery things, which isn’t really a given for him these days. Great match.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 4.0): Boy, did Pierre go HAM on Sunday or what? 99/103 for passing, and had nine tackles! Nine! Also put that gorgeous ball to Kane’s feet for his goal.
Emerson Royal (Communmity — 3.5): I was impressed with Emerson’s defensive performance on Sunday considering he was just back from international duty with Brazil. His passing needs a little work and he should stop faking injuries, but he had five tackles and three clearances and rarely let Saint-Maximin get the better of him (while he was upright).
Oliver Skipp (Community — 4.0): I’ve been more critical of Skippy this season than most, I suspect, but he’s gotten steadily better as the season has gone on. I think he has more progressive ideas in his locker, but he’s doing what Nuno is asking of him and being a safe distributor while shielding the back four. A couple of really important tackles, as well.
Hugo Lloris (Community — 3.5): Not a whole lot Hugo could do for either Wilson’s goal or Dier’s shinned own goal, but was rarely called into action the rest of the match. We’ll call it a default performance.
Eric Dier (Community — 3.0): Saw Dier get slammed for the own goal and perhaps he could’ve done better, but it happened super fast and he was otherwise pretty decent in defense. Seems to be forming a partnership with Romero.
Cuti Romero (Community — 3.5): Let Wilson get a half-step inside of him for Newcastle’s only real goal (and only real chance), but was otherwise solid.
Nuno Espirito Santo (Community — 3.5): Newcastle are a bad team, but Nuno set up Spurs to actually play football and take advantage of their shoddy defense rather than play cautiously. And that’s good! But Nuno, come on, you have a bench and three subs to use. Can’t believe we fired Pochettino and ended up with a manger who’s even worse at subbing.
1 star: Doing nothing
I know everything feels overwhelming right now and there are very powerful forces at work preventing actionable steps to fight these issues, but no Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as just throwing up your hands and saying “Welp.” Fight to end systemic oppression, wherever it is. Don’t stand idle.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating
The entire substitute’s bench
Erik Lamela Memorial Shithouse Award
Emerson Royal — With the caveat that Newcastle were actually going in hard on him hard early in the match, Emerson proved to everyone that he is in fact Brazilian by overplaying every tackle and rolling around on the ground, Neymar style, like he broke his ankle. The coup-de-grace was the absolute shithouse flop where he “injured” his ankle without anyone touching him, allowing Allan Saint-Maximin to run unimpeded up the left flank. An excellent shithouse maneuver, but Royal needs to try and tamp that stuff down a notch or two.