Tottenham Hotspur 3 (Kane pen 29, Son 43, Alderweireld 50)
Leeds United 0
MARCELO BIELSA and Jose Mourinho are often portrayed as polar opposites, the idealist versus the pragmatist, a proponent of the beautiful game against Mr Anti-Football, introvert and extravert, but in reality they have the same aims, ambitions and frustrations as football coaches seeking perfection – and a winning team.
Their demeanour on the touchline during Tottenham’s 3-0 win over Leeds United on Saturday, summed up their similarities. Both were on their feet from time to time, Bielsa jumping up from his upturned drum, Mourinho leaping from the dugout, either to urge their players on or berate them for mistakes, and there was far more of the latter from the Leeds manager.
And when players were substituted, there were few signs of affection or the sort of hugs that were the trademark of Mauricio Pochettino, Mourinho’s predecessor and a coach, like Pep Guardiola, who learned at the feet of Bielsa.
Ezgian Alioski was barely acknowledge by Bielsa as he trudged off in the 64th minute after some defensive howlers, while Tanguy Ndombele stormed straight to the dressing room when Mourinho hauled him off after missing a couple of decent chances to finish off Leeds.
Tottenham’s record signing actually played more than his usual hour, with his regular replacement Giovani Lo Celso both injured and in the doghouse after he, Erik Lamela and Sergio Reguilon broke lockdown rules by celebrating Christmas with their families at the house of West Ham’s Argentinian midfielder Manuel Lanzini. The players can expect disciplinary action, and Mourinho expressed his upset and disappointment, but the incident was not his primary concern this weekend.
Getting Tottenham back on track is his priority, and a three goals and three points was a marked improvement on their previous four league games, when they had failed to win or score more than once since beating Arsenal 2-0 a month ago.
Heung Min Son and Harry Kane scored that day, and the pair set Spurs on the way again on Saturday before Toby Alderweireld made it 3-0 early in the second half.
Kane’s 29th minute penalty was his 17th of the season, ten of them in the league, in which he has made eleven assists. Many of those have been to set up Son, who has scored 12 of his 15 goals in the league, and the pair now share the Premier League’s record of combining for 13 goals, with less than half the season gone.
Son’s strike against Leeds was his 100th goal for Spurs and typical of his goals this season – quick thinking from Kane to take the ball wide and then whip it in towards the near post, where Son sprinted to lose his markers and clip it home almost nonchalantly.
Mourinho revealed afterwards that the pair had rehearsed this move on the training ground. “We spoke about it in advance. The mobility was so important, for a striker to be on the right wing and a winger to be scoring at the near post, it pleases us from a strategic point of view.
“They are very good players and doing special things for Tottenham this season. They have played together for many years, and the way they interact brings goals.”
Son added: “We’ve been working hard for a long time. Sometimes it is telepathic, sometimes we talk about it. I could not have scored 100 goals without my team-mates and the staff here.”
He could have added a word of thanks to the opposition, too. Leeds made it too easy for Spurs, with some awful defending and poor finishing. Hugo Lloris was barely stretched, while his opposite number Illan Meslier had a shocker, giving the ball away too often and carrying it over his goalline when Alderweireld flicked on a corner in the 50th minute. For all the bright football Leeds play between the penalty areas, their lack of quality in attack and defence that will let them down.
Bielsa was not the first manager to leave Tottenham speaking about statistical superiority, in terms of possession, corners or shots. Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta have also turned to the numbers game, when the only statistic that counts is the column showing goals for and against – and that is where Mourinho prefers to be measured. He has made the Tottenham defence difficult to break down – hence accusations of ‘parking the bus’ – and only Manchester City have conceded fewer goals. And at the other end of the pitch he has Kane and Son scoring for fun – they have scored more league goals between them (21) than Arsenal and most of the rest of the bottom half of the table. Of the bottom ten, only Leeds have scored more (30), but they have conceded 33 – and therein lies their problem.
Lloris 7; Doherty 6, Alderweireld 8, Dier 8, Davies 7; Winks 7 (Sissoko 75), Hojbjerg 9; Son 7, Ndombele 7 (Moura 77), Bergwijn; Kane 9 (Vinicius 86)
Meslier 4; Dallas 5, Ayling 7, Struijk 6, Alioski 5 (Shackleton 64); Phillips 6; Raphinha 6, Rodrigo 5 (Hernandez 65), Klich 5, Harrison 6 (Poveda 60); Bamford 5
Ref: David Coote