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A Right Royal Rumble

Tottenham 1 - 0 Crystal Palace: A lilywhite's reaction to the Premier League action.

By Matthew CurtisPublished about a year ago 4 min read
Photograph: David Klein/Reuters

Now I'm not much of a monarchist, but I must admit, when the national anthem began minutes before kick-off, I joined in with my own revised rendition; God Save Tottenham Hotspur. I genuinely feared that come 5pm, I'd be watching scenes of celebration being led by Roy Hodgson, a man who could have been banished from England on two occasions, made possible by the efforts of a resurgent Crystal Palace.

The announcement of the starting line-up prior exacerbated my anxiety. It looked a 4-4-2, a step-away from the 3-4-3 we'd been using the bulk of season. In a year of inconsistencies, only the formation has been a constant. It is the only thing every weekend we have been safe to expect. My mind went to St James' Park, where Spurs had last rolled the dice and where Stellini had been sacked. There were some returning faces in Royal and Bissouma and others who'd been axed. Dier's dismissal to the bench was the most eye-catching. I was worried Spurs would come out another stubborn, disorganised mess; the likes of which we saw slaughtered at Newcastle and Liverpool.

Thankfully, reality was much kinder. Or perhaps, the quality of opponent simply weaker. Tottenham were fluid, switching between a back 4 and a back 5 in and out of possession. It is something we haven't seen since the Jose days, but the biggest change was not tactical, but mental. Tottenham played this game instead of watching it pass them by. In the first half in particular, Spurs dominated the ball and it was refreshing to see players sending the ball up the pitch, taking risks and looking to threaten their goal.

There was one moment, where Son 35 or so yards out and close to the touch-line, swung a hopeful but testing ball into the Palace box. It was over-hit, but Kane matched Son's enthusiasm and made the sprint all the way by-line and connected with the cross. It was going nowhere but rebounded off a Palace defender and out for a corner. A corner. Moments earlier Romero had hit the bar from one. A precious corner. Out of nothing. Nothing but a little bit of effort. A bit of will to make things happen. This basic thing is something Tottenham have been missing for much of the season. It is amazing what can happen when you get your foot on the ball and actually have a go at moving forwards.

Richarlison's passing range took me by surprise. One or two of his swift switches of play actually conned me into thinking he was Kane at a glance. Son, although he failed to find the net, put on one of his best performances of the campaign. This is definitely a tactical one. On the ball, he was lurking exactly where we needed him to be. With Tottenham comfortable in possession, Son loitered out left as an ever-present danger to Palace's right side of defence with his wicked delivery. With Tottenham turning possession over, he stood beside Richarlison ready to run; the ball over-the-top threat we've seen him be for years. Defensively though was where he really impressed me. At times he was glued to Olise and Zaha like a limpet, and he used his head, his strength and his pace to contribute in spades to Forster's clean sheet.

The Perisic vs Davies debate continues to fascinate and astonish me. The Croat had recently been repairing his reputation with impressive performances against United and Liverpool, but found himself dropped in favour of steady ol' Davies. He struggled today. At Anfield, Perisic kicked off our phantom comeback with an exceptional move on Virgil Van Dijk, which gave the Dutch defender the look of an aging limbo dancer. He still leads our Premier League assist charts with 8, but I worry that at this point none of it will not matter. He was not exactly a long-term solution at left-back and his replacement Destiny Udogie will arrive in the Summer after he has thoroughly celebrated the Scudetto and Davies will return to his position by the phone as substitute teacher.

Another assist for Porror and Kane's header makes it 26 goals for the season and 209 for his career in the division, relegating Rooney to 3rd outright. There is a conversation taking place about which English striker had the greater skillset. It can be settled easily. Rooney partook in one of the greatest units, under the greatest manager, during their greatest years of Premier League success. Kane plays for Tottenham and has beaten Rooney's output in nearly 200 less appearances. Imagine Kane in those days with Ronaldo beside him. You'll find that the argument is closed. It isn't just his goal tally that is so impressive though. It is the nature of the goals themselves. How many of them this season have been singular, match-winning moments? Off the top of my head I recall Fulham away, Brighton away, Wolves at home, Man City at home, the draw at Stamford Bridge...

Treasure every strike while you can.

All that being said, let's not make a mistake, Spurs were okay here. Not at all bad, certainly worthy of praise, but only so good as you'd expect us to be given where we are in the table. It is where we belong. Crystal Palace will be disappointed they didn't take something from the game and certainly seemed to want the result enough to get into a fight every 5 minutes. Usually its the team that wants it more, that wins, isn't that right? Don't underestimate Tottenham's composed management of the game in the second-half. That, more than petulant pushing and shoving, illustrates a motivation to win.

It just didn't happen for them. Their goal for some reason would not come, the ball didn't quite drop for them, Kane cleared it off the line and once or twice there was a simply divine intervention from Romero or Lenglet. Speaking of, the Frenchman's tackle on Zaha was something I have rarely seen in my time following the sport. Rugby, yes. But football, no. Zaha was already fed up enough after having his spat with our returning right-back and that very moment taught me something I didn't know about myself. Turns out, I am actually a royalist after all, except I like my royals Brazilian.

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About the Creator

Matthew Curtis

Queen Margaret University graduate (Theatre and Film studies).

Currently trying to write a book.

Lilywhite, Pokemon master, time-lord, vampire with a soul, Virgo.

Likes space and dinosaurs. And Binturongs. I'm very cool.

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    Matthew CurtisWritten by Matthew Curtis

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