A lot has happened in the last few weeks. Spurs, as ever, seem to be the center of attention in the sports press: players skirting lockdown; former legend Mauricio Pochettino finding a new project in Paris Saint Germain (with an inexorable state of worry drifting into the Spurs faithful about Dele or Hugo Llloris joining his beloved gaffer), and now finally the Mourinho effect has been forged in the players’ mentality with our first cup final of his tenure and a chance to exorcise the demons of 2019’s near miss in Madrid.
So, we finally put the stagnant form (one win in six) to rest with a dominant home victory against Leeds United, and Tuesday night’s professional semi-final performance against an expressive and attack-minded Brentford means we can be optimistic about 2021. With a backdrop of superviruses, the confirmation of Brexit, and its subsequent fallout in the UK, and with the continuation of English football hanging by a thread as the rest of society in England shuts down, we must be happy the act of watching 20 men chase a small, leather ball around a hectare of turf is still going. So, let’s focus on the reasons to be thankful for 2021…
1. ?Tanguy Ndombele’s anger at being substituted after 72 minutes against Leeds?. This was fantastic news; he has finally reached the needed fitness levels needed for a Mourinho team and is showing he wants to play 90 minutes. It is such a shame fans are not present to see this evolution in full flight. He is showing nothing but pure talent right now; his maneuverability in tight situations (that Rabona versus Crystal Palace anyone?), his stamina and high pressing up top, and his forward passes and movement off the ball means we finally have a world-class playmaker further up the field. In light of Lo Celso’s projected January absence we need to protect him; so ironically 90 mins is probably not the best idea right now, though we do still have…
2. ?Dele Alli.? This is possibly down to Lo Celso’s injury, but the club has said Dele is not going to join Poch at PSG, and we can expect to see a bit more of Dele in 2021. Let’s hope he can add some consistency to his game, and show Jose he cannot afford to drop him again. He has shown signs of his old self on pitch with the few minutes he has had, and there is not a single Spurs fan who is not willing him to do well with this chance. He has been unfairly treated in the eyes of many fans; others feel this tough love is what he needs to grow up and be a man. One suspects we haven’t heard the last of Dele, who is due a wonder goal in a big game, and who would bet against a winner for the league cup final?
3. ?Pierre Emille Hojbjerg.? Bravery, leadership, aggression; there are so many nouns to associate with this midfielder. It is simple, really: he has added a huge element of protection to our defence that was lacking since Moussa Dembele retired, and he thrills us with his vision with passing, his reading of opponents’ attacks; his gamesmanship with referees; his passion when celebrating interceptions like goals.
We love this midfield general, and we can see why Mourinho does too. It is no coincidence Spurs have the second best defensive record this season.
4. ?Daniel Levy.? Even with talk of record profit losses for the year, he delved into his normally shallow pockets and gave us Gareth Bale, a host of other great signings, and a realistic chance of a trophy this season. As much as the younger Spurs fans bemoan the pace at which we grow as a club, there is no denying that under Levy we have become a much, much bigger club. Not only this, but the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is now being offered as a Covid vaccine center – and before that a birthing clinic to keep mothers safe during the pandemic. His personality comes across well in Amazon’s ?All or Nothing? docu-series, and we can see he is a fan of the club. Good luck to Man City trying to prize Harry Kane away from those hands. Best. Chairman. Ever.
5. ?Steven Bergwijn.? Not most people’s choice considering some of the chances he missed in big games recently, but there are many things to consider. He has just turned 23; according to Mourinho he has had many small injuries this season that still hold him back; he is a player in development. Bergwijn has started 6 out of the last 9 games, and he provides the graft needed at the top of the field: the high pressing, the dragging full backs out of position to make space for his teammates. Bergwijn tracks back and covers so much ground it makes Son and Kane’s job easier. This is the reason Bale and Lucas have not seen the turf as much this season. Bergwijn is malleable in Mourinho’s eyes, which makes him the perfect player for the squad. He will listen, train hard, and his fitness has improved no end. The goals will come when confidence is higher – not helped by those fans chastising him on Twitter when he misses a chance – and we will see a great player eventually.
So, there you have five reasons to be happy in 2021. Let’s go win that final.