Well, that went well! Tottenham Hotspur started out a touch rusty in their Premier League opening match against Southampton at home, but quickly turned things around en route to a 4-1 dismantling of the Saints at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Incredibly, Tottenham scored four goals and got the win without either of their stars, Harry Kane & Son Heung-Min, scoring. Still, there were some really outstanding performances in this match.
You might remember last week that The Athletic’s Charlie Eccleshire published an interview with Spurs central defender Eric Dier about his budding Spurs bromance with Matt Doherty. That dynamic was evident in the video footage released by the club during Spurs’ visit to South Korea earlier this summer. There’s a lot to be interested by in that interview, but what caught my attention was when Dier started talking about board games.
Dier was known as one of the group that fell in love with Settlers of Catan along with Spurs’ then-Belgian contingent of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, and Nacer Chadli. More recently, the Spurs clubhouse was the site of some absolutely top rate Uno tournaments. But when asked about board games with Doherty, Dier said the following:
“With Jan and my brothers, because there were four of us, we used to do a lot of board games at either house,” Dier says. “Catan is the greatest board game in the world.
“With Matt, I’ve been trying to get him onto backgammon. That’s where I want to start with him.
“Board games… I feel like I’d be cheating on Jan if I played board games with anyone else.”
Now look, far be it from me to crap on backgammon, which is a perfectly fine game and these days woefully under played. But Dier does sound like he WANTS to try and convert Dohberto Carlos into a Euro gamer.
I can help with that! I’m a big fan of board games, as are, I suspect, many readers of this blog. And I have some IDEAS for introductory board and card games that aren’t Settlers of Catan (or backgammon) and might just turn Doherty, Harry Kane, and everyone else in the clubhouse, back into gamers.
Here are your Tottenham Hotspur player ratings for their 4-1 win over Southampton to the theme of Better Board Games for Dier and Doherty.
[NOTE: normally when I do a ratings theme the top category is the best, and the 1-star category the worst. This time, these are all good games and would be worthy additions to your collection.]
5 stars: Wingspan
I thought long and hard about what game with simplish rules, good strategy, and infinite replay value I’d first recommend to Dier and Doherty. This is my choice. I know hard-core gamers have issues with some aspects of Wingspan’s gameplay, but it’s a pleasant engine-building game, the artwork is GORGEOUS and the theme — collecting birds for your personal aviary — is just delightful. Besides, can’t you see Eric and Matt endlessly discussing the merits of playing the Wood Duck over the Spragues Pipit? I would gladly watch a live stream of Dier teaching the team how to play this game on SpursPLAY.
Dejan Kulusevski (Community — 5.0): Wow. We knew Deki was good, but this was just next-level good. On a day where their top two stars weren’t firing, Deki stepped up in a big way. His close control in and around the box was stellar, his assist to Sessegnon was sublime, and he took his goal very well. Good luck getting in front of this guy, Richarlison.
Ryan Sessegnon (Community — 4.5): I’m so, so pleased for Sess who played like something clicked in his head this summer. He looked noticeably bulkier out there, and kept Kyle Walker-Peters in his pocket the entire match and was making consistent dangerous runs into the box. This is the Sess we have been waiting for since his arrival.
Antonio Conte (Community — 4.5): Got the tactics spot on, which just means he set them up to play his usual way. Spurs had a bit of the “first matchweek energy” but that had little to do with how he set them up and asked them to play. Would’ve liked to have seen the late subs come in a little sooner instead of as a quad sub with five to go.
4.5 stars: Patchwork
It’s fun to have games where you can include all of your mates, but sometimes when your bestie Matt is over you just want to play a good game that’s custom made for two players, and too many games just aren’t made for fewer than three. Patchwork is a game about quilting that sees you earn “buttons” that you can use to purchase and place randomly shaped, Tetris-like fabric pieces onto your playing board to form a seamless patchwork quilt. Look, I realize I’m stretching acceptability for professional male footballers with the theme here, but this is just a solid two player game with tons of replayability and strategy, with simple and approachable rules. It’s become my partner’s and my favorite in recent months.
Eric Dier (Community — 4.5): Rarely put a foot wrong in defense, and his goal was a deft little flick past Bazunu. Just a wonderful performance on both sides of the ball, and was impressed with his leadership.
Rodrigo Bentancur (Community — 4.0): Really impressed with Lolo’s simple, understated performance in midfield. Tackled well, didn’t make any real mistakes, ran the midfield. Not always a glorious job, but he did it very, very well.
4 stars: No Thanks
Games don’t have to be complicated. In fact, when dealing with professional footballers who also play during their off hours, complicated tactical sims like Scythe or Gloomhaven probably aren’t going to go well. Sometimes when you’re knackered after a long training, all you want is a simple to learn and easy to play card game, like Uno. That’s why I like No Thanks. It’s a simple take-or-pass card game with easy rules (points are bad, you have to take a card unless you “pass” by using a limited number of tokens in your hand), it’s fiercely competitive, you can play with up to seven players, and you can teach it in five minutes. It’s also small enough to fit in your toiletries bag so you can play it on the team bus. I highly recommend it.
Emerson Royal (Community — 4.0): Really, really solid in possession and in defense. Had some really fun moments on the offensive side of the ball as well with two goal contributions, marred very slightly by a couple of brain-fall-out incidents, including in the build-up to Soton’s goal. Laughed out loud at the bicycle attempt, that was one for the comp.
Cuti Romero (Community — 4.0): Played well out of the back, rarely let anything past him. I’m subtracting a half star for that awful (and yet strangely hilarious) late tackle on Romeu that somehow didn’t even earn him a card... What a maniac. What a king. (I’d have been furious if he got suspended for the Chelsea match though)
Ben Davies (Community — 4.0): One cracker of a long shot at goal, and was pretty solid overall, though he let his man behind once or twice. I expect even better performances ahead with Lenglet around to push him harder.
3.5: Formula D
Dier mentioned that Doherty is constantly at his house watching sports. It feels natural to me that professional sportsmen are going to enjoy boardgames about professional sports, so why not Formula D? It’s a racing simulator board game that can operate basically as a Formula 1 simulator, complete with gear shifts and variously sided dice representing movement. The base game comes with the Monaco Grand Prix map (there’s a street race on the flip side), there are TONS of expansion tracks both officially published and fan-made on the internet. The rules also scale from basic to super complicated sims so as you get better you can make the game (a little) more realistic. It’s a chunky setup and it’s not one you can easily pack on the plane for trips, but set it up on the card table at home (or in the clubhouse) and you can easily lose a few hours — or longer — running races and even full season campaigns.
Son Heung-Min (Community — 3.5): Honestly, I was pretty meh on Sonny’s performance, but that might be because we know how good he CAN be. Had some horrific moments passing in the first half and could’ve easily laid off to Kane in the buildup of one big chance. Improved later on and got the assist for Dier, so it’s clearly not all bad, but this was not one of his better games.
Harry Kane (Community — 3.5): Would probably be rated lower had Spurs not won big today, but they did and I’m in a generous mood. A strangely off-kilter performance where Kane did plenty of work to play in others but wasn’t able to get shots off himself. Might have tapped in a goal had Sonny thought to find him on that one chance.
Hugo Lloris (Community — 3.5): Couldn’t do much for Ward-Prowse’s bounced, ugly goal but made a quite nice save on Joe Aribo later on.
3 stars: Pandemic
I wanted to include at least one cooperative game in these rankings, because while it’s fun beating your teammates, team sports are about working together towards a common goal. Pandemic is hardly a unique choice, it’s been around a while and you can buy it at Target, but it is one of the best cooperative games out there. The theme — you are disease researchers trying to stop the spread of four deadly viruses from killing everyone on earth — is a little on the nose, but the gameplay is fun, it makes you think, and it can be BRUTAL to win. And if Eric and Matt end up forming a Tottenham gaming group, I recommend the Pandemic: Legacy games, essentially a Pandemic campaign where you literally tear up cards as you go, changing the game.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Community — 3.5): At the risk of igniting another Hojbjerg War, I thought General Ho could’ve done better on Soton’s early goal, and looked hesitant in transition, especially in the first half. He wasn’t bad by any means, but looked like the one of the weaker players in what was an overall very good performance. Improved in the second 45, but I’d love to see what Bissouma could do with an extended session in that role.
Ivan Perisic (Community — 3.5): Didn’t have a huge impact on the match, but also didn’t really have to as Spurs were already up big by the time he came on.
1 star: not teaching your new bestie to play board games because you think you’re “cheating” on Jan Vertonghen
Yeah, this was a thing Dier said in the interview. Don’t be like that, Eric. Spread the love of board games to a new generation of (Irish?) Tottenham players. Start a gaming group. Teach Old Man Perisic how to play Carcassonne. Force some dice into Sonny’s hands. It’s a lovely hobby, it promotes an active and healthy mind, and also keeps schlubs like me watching from afar extremely entertained. Jan would understand. He would even bless it. That’s just the kind of person Jan is.
No Tottenham Hotspur players were as bad as not playing board games.
Tom Carroll Memorial Non-Rating
Lucas Moura, Matt Doherty, Yves Bissouma, Clement Lenglet