Tottenham Hotspur player ratings against Aston Villa: one 7/10 performance, three 6s, and 5s and 4s
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The latest episode of The Madcap Adventures of Big Ange and the Spurs Gang saw a bemused Aston Villa visit Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. This isn't how football should look.
The game, of course, followed a tribute to one of the great Spurs characters, Terry Venables.
Injuries and a few unconvincing performances had Ange rolling the dice. Out go the steady heads of Eric Dier and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and in come Giovani Lo Celso and Bryan Gil, who have both barely played for the club and, frankly, no one quite knows what they're good at yet (perhaps until today).
And the game was every bit as chaotic as you might expect. The high lines which have everyone so excited were in evidence, with opportunities for Son and Kulusevski, especially, to run in behind. At the other end Davies and Romero were never going to be entirely convincing - and moments of confusion were a feature.
But it was Spurs who had the possession and most of the chances and it was Lo Celso who found the breakthrough with a sweetly struck and sweetly deflected volley.
Ollie Watkins had it in the net for the visitors at the other end just a minute later. After what felt like three months of VAR fun it was ruled offside ("Boo, boo, boo, yay," comment the home fans). It was a warning to tighten up that the Spurs defence were likely to ignore completely.
The equaliser, in first-half injury time, came from a perfect Douglas Luiz free kick and a Pau Torres header.
After 15 minutes of good work in the second half, Watkins put his side ahead, strolling nonchalantly between the makeshift centre-back pairing to finish calmly.
What followed was 30 minutes of blood, sweat and ingenuity from Spurs - repelled efficiently by an Aston Villa who have their own feel-good factor this season.
Tottenham Hotspur 1 Aston Villa 2
Guglielmo Vicario (6)
The keeper remains a commanding presence at the back, eager to get the ball moving. There was nothing he could do about the goals, but early in the second half he palmed a shot onto the post and was relieved to see the ball roll up gently behind him. He remains quick off the line, denying Watkins a one-on-one in the second half. A stretching dive saw off a Digne free kick
Heung-Min Son (5)
It was a frustrating game for the skipper. He couldn't take a chance after 13 minutes, the ball played a little behind him. But he finished sweetly just before half time to end a beautiful move featuring Hojbjerg, Udogie and Gill. Unfortunately, he also mistimed his run, unnecessarily and it was ruled offside - the first of three goals ruled out. Early second-half pressure culminated in a header he could only guide over.
Bryan Gil (6)
The Spanish winger looked less 'headless' than at any other time in his Spurs career. He grew into the game, sticking out wide and looking for triangles to find a cross. A poor decision in the first half saw him shoot rather than cross for Son. After 20 he did put in a ball that was just millimetres from his striker's head. All in all, it was a performance that suggested he may yet have a Spurs career.
Emerson Royal (4)
If there was any doubt, it's become apparent in recent games how much the Ange project has relied on World Cup winner Cristian Romero and young superstar Micky van de Ven at the back. Emerson and Davies put in a shift, but they're just not up to this level.
Giovani Lo Celso (7)
For almost the first time in his Spurs career Lo Celso seized the day. Often sitting deep and pulling strings, he chose his moments to attack the box. He repaid his starting position with a beautifully volleyed goal, albeit helped past his international teammate, Emi Martínez, by a cruel little deflection.
Dejan Kulusevski (6)
The Sweded has not always looked himself this season but he relished the openness and unpredictability. In the first half he somehow managed to hit the post after cutting back in the box, fed through beautifully by Son. In the second a snap shot in the box and a finale to a powerful run from his own box only nestled in the keeper's arms. Perhaps most reassuring was an appearance by his trademark far-corner curler. This one swooped just wide but he has been reticent to shoot at all at times during the new era.
Brennan Johnson (4)
Of all the attacking talent on show, Johnson was the one who really failed to grasp the game. His manager would have hoped for more of an impact.
Pedro Porro (5)
Both inverting full-backs put in a remarkable day's work. The ground they cover is incredible. Early on, Porro put lovely ball over for his left-side counterpart, Udogie, who really should have scored. Another time Porro squared when he might have shot - and got the pass all wrong.
Rodrigo Bentancur (5)
After a tidy first hour, the recently returned Uruguayan was taken off with a worrying knock to the knee.
Ben Davies (4)
You can't help but feel that a more natural centre back would have put Pau Torres under more pressure for the equaliser. And certainly Watkins should not have been allowed through the middle for the second Villa goal. Davies could have made amends at the other end but he could only head over from a corner.
Destiny Udogie (5)
The left-sided full back missed a golden opportunity in the first few minutes, trying to lob the keeper but overhitting it. But his performance levels remained high on a day when things just weren't coming off. Although he had the rare honour of being pulled up for a foul throw.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (sub) (5)
Spurs' super-steady sub was on after 30 for the unlucky Bentancur. A shot 70 minutes in was neatly saved by Martinez.
Oliver Skipp (sub) (5)
Skippy came on for the last 20 and looked lively enough, slotting to a busy right side, with Kulusevski desperate to claw back the game.
Alejo Veliz (sub)
Another late appearance for the young Argentinian, who has yet to find a moment to kickstart his Spurs career.