x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Dominant win over QPR shows there is method to Spurs’ madness

London club's years of consistent underachievement could be coming to an end, writes Jonathan Wilson

Nacer Chadli, right, of Tottenham Hotspur challenges Nedum Onuoha of Queens Park Rangers during their Premier League match at White Hart Lane on August 24, 2014, in London. Jamie McDonald / Getty Images
Nacer Chadli, right, of Tottenham Hotspur challenges Nedum Onuoha of Queens Park Rangers during their Premier League match at White Hart Lane on August 24, 2014, in London. Jamie McDonald / Getty Images

It would be wrong to draw too many conclusions from a simple home victory against a poor Queens Park Rangers side that must already be contemplating a long, hard battle against relegation, but it may be that this Tottenham Hotspur is not a typical Spurs side any more.

There are times when clubs, despite all logic, despite changes of manager and personnel, remain ineffably themselves, which in Spurs’ case has tended to mean flattering to deceive. For half a century, they have been a side that looks good but falters when the pressure is really on, favouring the pretty over the effective.

Last summer’s spending was a case in point: seven players brought in at a cost of more than £100 million (Dh608.7m) to inflate hopes that led within four months to acrimony and the dismissal of Andre Villas-Boas.

Yet, on the limited evidence of this season, the suggestion is that the Gareth Bale money was not wasted and that the reconstruction of a year ago was actually well-planned, the chaos of last December the result of a lack of patience and, perhaps, a manager who struggled to relate to his players.

Like Villas-Boas, Mauricio Pochettino favours a high line and a hard press. There is sufficient similarity of approach – which was not the case with Tim Sherwood – to see what Villas-Boas was attempting. This is a physically robust side – unlike certain Spurs teams of the past, they will not be bullied. With Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela in full flow, they also have a fluidity and a creative verve.

The latter two looked probably the weakest of Spurs’ signings last year, but they were instrumental in the victory over QPR. Joey Barton, certainly, perhaps was reconsidering his Tweeted criticism of Spurs’ spending as he watched the ball being moved past him at high speed again and again.

“The most important thing is to try to develop our style, our philosophy, and today the team showed our basis. For me, the team showed we play like a team,” Pochettino said.

Chadli got the first, chesting down Nabil Bentaleb’s cross at the back post as QPR’s marking structure – yet again – went missing, before jabbing his shot past Rob Green. He then added the third, heading in firmly after a 48-pass move had been capped by a superb run and chip from Lamela, who looks a different player this season to the injury-ravaged ghost of last year.

“He’s still young, and when young players arrive in a different football, a different culture, he has to adapt,” Pochettino said, “but we all know his skills.”

Lamela, who set up Spurs’ two goals in the Europa League win over AEL Limassol on Thursday, also laid on the second, his corner being headed in at the near post by Eric Dier, a second goal in two games for the defender picked up from Sporting Lisbon.

Spurs’ intensity dropped a little after the break – a common feature of Pochettino sides – but they never looked in any danger, and Emmanuel Adebayor added the fourth after 65 minutes, stroking in Danny Rose’s cross after a superb ball from Chadli.

The quibble, of course, is the flatness of QPR’s display, almost as though they had written the game off before kick-off – an impression that was not dispelled when, at 4-0, their manager Harry Redknapp responded to the Spurs’ fans call for him to give them a wave. The travelling support, hardly surprisingly, were not impressed.

“We started poorly and didn’t get out of it,” Redknapp said. “We looked like a team of strangers. We let them play: we didn’t get close to them and stood off them.”

As poor as QPR were, you suspect they will not be the only team to be well beaten by Spurs this season.


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