Tottenham Hotspur’s first Premier League match was supposed to be an opportunity for the club to turn over a new leaf. The first half of the season ended with Spurs in fourth place, but with the overall tone being one of disappointment, full of middling performances and improbable come-from-behind results. There were even suggestions that Conte had instructed Spurs to conserve energy in the first halves of matches so they wouldn’t burn out before the World Cup with so many games to play. Surely now that we’re in the back half of the season Tottenham can take the handbrake off, right?
Guess not. Spurs’ first Premier League match after the World Cup sure felt like most of the rest of their matches from earlier. Tottenham traveled to Brentford, admittedly a tough place to play, and spotted the hosts two goals before coming back to level the score in the second half, resulting in a 2-2 draw. There was certainly a lot of rust to shake off, but the performance didn’t exactly inspire a ton of confidence, even with a number of key players still out either injured, suspended, or recovering from Qatar.
Today’s player ratings theme is a holiday one, but it’s a genre of ratings that I fear I may have tapped out over the years of doing this. But I think I found an angle on one this year. A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favorite Christmas television special, but let’s call it for what it is: it’s really about anti-commercialism and seasonal depression. Charlie Brown is depicted as an Everyman in the comic strip, and in this special, which is mostly cribbed from the strip, Schultz turns him into an archetype of the minority who struggle, often quietly, during the holiday season with feelings of sadness, despair, and hopelessness.
Charlie Brown’s depression in this special is mostly played for laughs. The opening lines are Charlie Brown confiding his feelings of sadness to Linus, who unfortunately appears less than sympathetic. Charlie Brown is able to muddle through his existential despair only when confronted with the Christian “meaning of the season” speech from Linus (which I’m sure turns some people off), but Schultz was tapping into a real issue that people continue to struggle with during these times, and both he (and by extension Charlie Brown) found hope in the scriptures.
And hope is so important, especially to people who are struggling. Nobody talked about this on TV back them. Admitting Christmas made you feel depressed just wasn’t done. In the special, Charlie Brown even goes to see a “psychiatrist” in Lucy and talks about his feelings! Schultz was giving a voice to a host of people who didn’t feel heard, or seen, or appreciated. This is pretty progressive, and dare I say it, subversive stuff for 1965! I know Charles Schultz himself struggled with these feelings — before his death he admitted that he suffered from long-term depression as an adult, and he poured a lot of himself into Charlie Brown.
So for today’s player ratings, I’m going with some of my favorite quotes from the special. The quotes themselves aren’t ranked, per se, nor are they meant to reflect the Tottenham player performances — they’re just lines Schultz wrote that stuck with me, for good or for ill, over the years. Some of them are positive. Some of them are cries of despair. Some are just funny. All of them remind me why A Charlie Brown Christmas continues to resonate with people, 57 years after the special first aired.
Note: if you are also struggling with feelings of depression or suicidal ideations during this season, know you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to, try the Campaign Against Living Miserably [CALM] (UK) - 0800 132 737 or SAMHSA (USA) - 1-800-662-4357.
Charlie Brown: “I’ve killed it! Oh! Everything I touch gets ruined!”
Linus: “I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”
No Tottenham players deserved to be in this tier.
Lucy : “All right, now, what seems to be your trouble?”
Charlie Brown: “I feel depressed. I know I should be happy, but I’m not.”
Lucy: “Well, as they say on TV, the mere fact that you realize you need help indicates that you are not too far gone.”
Look y’all, I don’t know what to tell you but none of the Tottenham players were this good either.
Frida: “We can’t go on! There’s too much dust. It’s taking the curl out of my naturally curly hair!
Charlie Brown: “Don’t think of it as dust. Think of it as maybe the soil of some great past civilization. Maybe the soil of ancient Babylon. It staggers the imagination. He may be carrying soil that was trod upon by Solomon. Or even Nebuchadnezzar.”
Pig-Pen: “It sort of makes you wanna treat me with more respect, doesn’t it?”
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 3.5): We know by now what we’re getting from Pierre: a ton of effort and running, some tough tackling, and if we’re lucky, maybe a goal. Spurs’ midfield struggled in aggregate, but Hobby’s fifth league goal got us a point.
Clement Lenglet (Community — 3.0): Lenglet’s passing and ability to put in a good cross was on full display in this match, but upon rewatch it struck me that he was a little frail defensively in the first half. Still, a pretty good overall performance in a match where nobody played especially great.
Harry Kane (Community — 3.5): My dude didn’t get much of a post-World Cup rest and gutted out a pretty decent performance, sparking the comeback with an excellent header off a corner.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community — 3.5): Added a dynamism that the match desperately needed, but it wasn’t a perfect performance by any means. Some nice work in and around the box but like others had a tendency to disappear during portions of the match.
Ivan Perisic (Community — 3.5): I don’t know where Perisic gets that well of inexhaustible energy, but he needed it today. Looked tired on the offensive side of the pitch but was able to put in a number of good balls into the box. Pretty good.
Lucy: “I know how you feel about all this Christmas business, getting depressed and all that. It happens to me every year. I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys or a bicycle or clothes or something like that.”
Charlie Brown: “What is it you want?”
Lucy: “Real estate.”
Matt Doherty (Community — 3.0): Yeah. Sure. He was fine! No major issues, apart from that we need to upgrade that position.
Davinson Sanchez (Community — 3.0): It’s a weird situation when Davinson Sanchez is called upon to be your defensive savior, but he really did stabilize the back line when he came in for Tanganga. Also laced a rocket of a shot late that was regrettably saved. Good shift.
Lucy: “What kind of Christmas music is that?”
Schroeder: “Beethoven Christmas music.”
Lucy: “What has Beethoven got to do with Christmas? Everyone talks about how great Beethoven was. Beethoven wasn’t so great.”
Schroeder: “What do you mean, Beethoven wasn’t so great?”
Lucy: “He never got his picture on bubble-gum cards, did he? Have you ever seen his picture on a bubble-gum card? -Hmm? How can you say someone is great who’s never had his picture on bubble-gum cards?”
Schroeder: “Good grief.”
Son Heung-Min (Community — 2.5): Sonny still doesn’t look like himself, but was able to stretch Brentford’s defense on a couple of occasions and get some shots away, even if they were relatively tame.
Fraser Forster (Community — 2.5): I don’t want to bag too much on Spurs’ backup keeper, but while Forster provides a bigger physical presence he moves like he’s suspended in a vat of oil. Spilled a save that led to the first goal, was in no-man’s land on Brentford’s called-back third goal, and looked unconvincing in a couple of other situations. His distribution was fine, but he’s not the answer to a declining Hugo.
Yves Bissouma (Community — 2.5): I honestly thought Bissouma was a slam-dunk signing for Spurs this summer, but he has struggled more than he’s excelled in Conte’s system. He got better in the 2nd half, but his performance was exemplified by the moment where he tripped over the ball which led to Toney’s goal, blessedly called back for offside.
Antonio Conte (Community — 2.5): Conte got it wrong this time. Brentford overloaded the midfield and pressed Spurs hard in the first half and Tottenham didn’t know how to cope. Spurs got back in the match thanks to some Kane brilliance after Brentford started to tire, but Spurs just can’t keep spotting their opponents a goal or two in matches and expect to get anything out of this season.
Charlie Brown: “This little green one here seems to need a home.”
Linus: “I don’t know, Charlie Brown. Remember what Lucy said? This doesn’t seem to fit the modern spirit.”
Charlie Brown: “I don’t care. We’ll decorate it, and it’ll be just right for our play. Besides, I think it needs me.”
Eric Dier (Community — 2.0): Oh Eric. It was a pretty poor match even before that incredible shanked clearance that led to Brentford’s second goal off the resulting corner kick. He’s certainly capable of playing better (we’ve seen him do it earlier in the season), but this was not an encouraging performance.
Japhet Tanganga (Community — 2.0): Tanganga put in some decent performances in the friendlies against Nice and Motherwell, but it was still a surprise to see him get a chance. Unfortunately, he didn’t take it. Ivan Toney turned him inside-out on several occasions and he looked completely at sea positionally. Not a match that will inspire Conte to keep him around, unfortunately.
Charlie Brown: “Rats. Nobody sent me a Christmas card today. I almost wish there weren’t a holiday season. I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”
No Tottenham players were as sad as seasonal depression.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating
Ben Davies (95’)