Kane makes it rain (on Leicester): 4 things from Stoke 0-4 Tottenham
1. Kane might just make the difference
The striker was in fine form once again, scoring two goals to take his Premier League tally to 24
Throughout the campaign the argument against Spurs winning the league has been that if Harry Kane should pick up an injury, they would struggle to replace him. But they haven't needed to.
The striker was in fine form once again, scoring two goals to take his Premier League tally to 24 – one more than relegated Aston Villa.
“We are coming for you, Leicester City we are coming for you,” sung the Spurs fans, when the England striker curled an excellent finish around three defenders and past veteran Stoke goalkeeper Shay Given. His second goal wasn’t quite as spectacular, but his speed and mobility were certainly impressive.
Tottenham now sit five points behind Leicester with four matches remaining, although they won’t give up hope with Kane in their ranks. Far from it: he posted a picture of four lions on social media this week, and suggested that his team are chasing the Foxes down.
“We need to believe that it’s possible, it’s good for the competition that we can put pressure on Leicester,” said Mauricio Pochettino in his post-match press conference. “We are only focused on our team.”
2. Spurs put on a counter-attack masterclass
In the second half we tried to push and force the issue, which played into their hands
In the first half, Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela looked to move laterally between the lines, which meant that both Stoke full-backs, Geoff Cameron and Marc Muniesa, stayed very narrow. Marko Arnautovic and Xherdan Shaqiri had to track the runs of Danny Rose and Kyle Walker, which they did fairly well.
But in the second 45 minutes, Stoke played a very high defensive line of their own, which Spurs beat with ease time and again. In the 68th minute, Dele Alli doubled the visitors’ advantage when he dinked the ball over Given, having broken the Stoke offside trap. It was a sign of things to come as they carved out numerous opportunities in the closing stages.
The attacking midfielder almost added another two minutes later when he rounded Given, but somehow hit the post with the goalmouth unprotected. On the sidelines, Pochettino fell to the floor and beat the ground in frustration.
That disappointment was short-lived for both player and manager, though, as Kane netted Spurs' third after Lamela’s square ball to him. Given’s miserable home debut was compounded when Alli made amends for his earlier miss and completed the rout with a brilliant finish.
“In the second half we tried to push and force the issue, which played into their hands,” admitted Hughes. Pochettino added: “My coaching staff are very proud of our players, we showed character, hunger and passion.”
3. Stoke are on the beach
Although the Potters were clearly second best in the first half, they at least put up some sort of fight and showed why they have developed under Hughes. But that wasn’t the case after the break for the second consecutive match – and all that was missing was a bit of sun cream and an ice-cold beer, as Spurs ran riot.
All that was missing was a bit of sun cream and an ice-cold beer, as Spurs ran riot
It’s obvious that Tottenham are at a much higher level than Stoke – it’s why they’re involved in a title challenge and not meandering around mid-table. But Hughes’s side are much better than this display, and even though the away side have momentum, the game should have been much closer.
Stoke have beaten Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea at the Britannia Stadium this season when the cameras have been present, but anyone tuning in for this performance would have been in shock at their inadequacies. They completed just five tackles in the final 30 minutes of the game, which was a stark contrast from the 21 made in the first hour of the match.
“Is there a fire drill?” chanted the away fans, as the majority of the home supporters left the ground early.
“We know what we are capable of but tonight defensively we were just found wanting,” said Hughes. “Sometimes you have to give credit to the opposition, and tonight we found it difficult to impose ourselves both technically and physically. They are a strong side, they are quick, they are sharp and they have got that edge that going for a Premier League [title] gives you.”
4. Bojan used as a false nine… and it doesn’t work
When the former Barcelona youth player was progressing through the ranks at La Masia, he was naturally labelled the new Lionel Messi. Good ball control, quick feet and a low sense of gravity means that they share a number of characteristics, although their careers have taken very different paths.
The forward had scored in Stoke’s last two matches against Liverpool and Swansea from a No.10 position, but boss Hughes clearly felt that his movement could unhinge Tottenham’s defensive unit. It was a fairly plausible idea given that Arnautovic and Shaqiri offer a direct threat when running from wide to central areas.
It was Arnautovic who caused Spurs the most problems, when he stung the hands of Hugo Lloris from just outside the area after 27 minutes. The Austrian forward headed wide moments later in the home team’s best period of the game.
However, both Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen play in a high line for Pochettino’s side and were therefore happy to move into midfield, while Bojan’s attempts to receive the ball in wide areas were also comfortably dealt with by the duo who occupy full-back roles for the Belgian national team.
Joselu came on at half-time in replace of Shaqiri, with Bojan moving to the right side. The Swiss winger left the pitch due to injury, with Hughes confirming that he had been substituted due to a tight hamstring. It was about the only thing that was tight on the night.
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