Richarlison’s chase for a Spurs league goal is becoming increasingly dramatic. Good job they’ve still got Harry Kane to keep scoring without fuss. For now.
If you really wanted to take a long look into the dark night of the soul that is Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, you probably couldn’t have done much better than the opening five minutes of their latest game against the still relegation-haunted Nottingham Forest. After all the to-ing and fro-ing this week between Richarlison and Antonio Conte, Conte opted to start Richarlison against Forest, and within three minutes the striker had the ball in the back of the net. Go on, then. Prove yourself. Okay then, I will.
Such a moment would be peak Premier League Narrative at most clubs, but Tottenham Hotspur Narrative doesn’t work like it does at others. Richarlison ran away after scoring, shushing Conte on the sidelines, and as if this little DVD extra wasn’t enough, the punchline landed a couple of minutes later, not only with the video assistant ruling the goal out after all, but also with the suggestion on social media being that the lines that determined the offside decision might have been drawn in the wrong place.
Whether this was the case or not, we can at least all agree that this sequence of events happening in the order in which it did was very, very funny, all the more so because in picking up a yellow card for removing his shirt after scoring against Nottingham Forest, he’d repeated something that he’d done exactly the same at the City Ground earlier in the season.
If the mood around the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has been as dark as it has in recent times this week, then at least Liverpool were on hand to give them a little shot in the arm once Saturday afternoon came around with a shonky performance of their own against Bournemouth in the lunchtime kick-off. Over the last few weeks, Spurs’ continuing presence in the top four when they’ve seemed to lose every week has been a cause of much head-scratching bemusement; perhaps the bottom line over the chase for fourth place is that none of the others near the top are much good this season, either.
And while Richarlison’s attempts to break his Premier League duck for Spurs this season have been becoming increasingly dramatic (and rich in low comedy) as the weeks have progressed, Kane has simply got on with the job of scoring goals. He managed this twice in the space of sixteen minutes throughout the first half of this game, and perhaps in the most Harry Kane way possible, with the sort of header he’s been scoring with ease for years from a Pedro Porro cross and then with a penalty kick, scored straight down the middle with the minimum possible fuss.
But while this sort of performance may well have indicated a ‘positive response’ from the the Spurs players following their recent trouser-soiling escapades against Milan, Wolves and Sheffield United, it is worth also pointing out that this all came against an extremely limited looking Nottingham Forest team who offered little of note throughout that first 45 minutes. It seems likely that they will need to rely on their home form if they’re to steer clear of relegation, come the end of this season. Prior to this game, they’d scored three goals in thirteen Premier League games this season, and had showed little sign of adding to that tally to that point.
Forest did start the second half a little more brightly, but a reminder of what Richarlison can bring to this team was displayed just after the hour when he crossed for Heung-min Son to score Spurs’ third goal and put the result beyond any reasonable doubt. Spurs had reached something approaching cruising altitude, but even then they were capable of looking shaky at the back.
Serge Aurier brought an excellent save from Fraser Forster, who shortly afterwards found himself getting beaten to a cross that he’d come for, allowing Joe Worrall scored at the far post, and a little extra jeopardy was added in the fifth minute of stoppage-time when a penalty was given for a handball by Dejan Kulusevski, only for Forster to save Andre Ayew’s kick. It was probably too late to stir a late comeback from Forest, but it was the closing act of a win that was, for once, about as comfortable as the final scoreline suggested.
So a week that had really been all about the crisis facing the club following their elimination from three knockout competitions since the start of the year ended with them six points clear in fourth place in the Premier League table, and only one point shy of third-placed Manchester United. The likelihood of this remaining the case beyond the rest of this weekend is slight, but for all the talk of the club starting to crumble, they remain in a position in which most of those below them in the table would love to be in.
When this sort of catastrophising starts, there will inevitably be talk of when Kane is going to leave Spurs. Whether that happens this summer or not – and it has been noticeable, the extent to which the breathless press coverage of Kane has decided that he needs silverware more than he needs life itself – at least for the time being he can be entrusted to keep to his end of the bargain.
Spurs needed a big result against Nottingham Forest, and they got it thanks to their main man. For how much longer he will keep digging them out of the sort of hole in which they’ve recently found themselves remain open to question, but he’s doing it for now and after the couple of weeks that supporters of the club have had, perhaps all that everybody needed, for now. It remains to be seen what on earth all of this might look like on Zombie Match of the Day, tonight.
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