It’s irrelevant that the victory was assisted by the utter idiocy of a man who is very much ‘that kind of player’, assuming ‘that kind of player’ is an imbecile, the only thing of relevance is that Tottenham claimed three points after an exhausting week when even one of Mauricio Pochettino’s own players openly questioned the club’s transfer policy.
Had Tottenham failed to win at Newcastle – and until Jonjo Shelvey’s latest in a long line of moments of madness, that looked a distinct possibility – then the questions would have got so deafening that the Argentine may well have wished he had put off learning English a little longer. As it is, victory means that Jurgen Klopp and Antonio Conte will be this week’s pressure-cooker managers while he can quietly prepare his players to face Chelsea and their Wembley demons. They will need to be better.
Tottenham had looked ponderous, rusty and all those other synonyms we use when teams are not quite playing badly but are lacking pace and invention. Dele Alli was poor right up until the moment Shelvey decided to use his ankle for leverage, Harry Kane was deep in his usual August slumber and Moussa Sissoko was Moussa Sissoko.
One ridiculous stamp, a typically wonderful ball from Christian Eriksen and a trademark Alli run later and Tottenham had a one-goal lead that already seemed insurmountable by a Newcastle side who struggled for ambition even with 11 men. And Pochettino could breathe again and know that he would not be in too many crosshairs after the Premier League’s ludicrous opening weekend.
29 – Since the start of the 2015/16 season, Christian Eriksen has assisted more @premierleague goals than any other player (29). Creator.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 13, 2017
Within this priceless victories, there were small victories. After the sale of Kyle Walker and Kieran Tripper threatened to highlight the paucity of his options, Pochettino reached into his bag of tricks and pulled out 20-year-old World Cup winner Kyle Walker-Peters, who was named Man of the Match for his mature, assured display at right-back. A solid 90 minutes and a goal from Ben Davies were splendidly timed after this week’s diss from a Rose, while a clean sheet highlighted once again why Tottenham will not be left behind, regardless of their lack of new faces.
The truth is that Tottenham have again managed to start another season with Kane, Alli, Toby Alderweireld, Eric Dier and the brilliant Eriksen still in Spurs colours, regardless of their lack of earnings in comparison with less talented footballers, and that is testament to the excellent job being done by Pochettino and the goodwill that has created. Walker has been the only player to leave and Rose the only player to publicly revolt; on Sunday, Tottenham looked comfortable without both.
There will be tougher tasks ahead, and the opening exchanges suggested that Spurs still do need an injection of new blood, but for now Pochettino is a very relieved winner.