Who are you precisely? And what have you ever carried out with Tottenham Hotspur? At the tip of per week menaced by sickness, schedule horror and lurking occasion anxiousness, one thing sudden occurred in north London, as the gamers of Spurs and Liverpool dished up an excellent, ragged, startlingly carefree recreation of soccer.
Both groups may need scored 4 or 5, or none in any respect, though in the tip a 2-2 draw felt honest sufficient. Both managers had complained in advance a couple of lack of planning time. Antonio Conte was compelled to coach with a set of static mannequins, a state of affairs that presents so many punchlines, to not point out a whole self-contained Eric Dier part, that it calls for its personal devoted two-hour Spurs stand-up particular.
But as the ball was zinged about between the white and purple shirts, the gamers working wildly, with no breaks or breaths, this felt like a glimpse of a extra agreeably anarchic sporting world. Mainly it felt like a shift of gear for Spurs, maybe even a moment of ignition for the supervisor.
Conte has a really distinct, even reasonably hammy form of persona: the inspirationalist, the magnetic persona, the person who merely calls for higher air, purer human materials. So much of that is sure up in theatre and present. But why not? Football is theatre and present.
As Conte whirled and crouched in his rectangle – as he turned to dash and howl, eyes boggling, at every Tottenham purpose, as although he, Antonio Conte, had simply personally zinged the ball into the Liverpool internet – there was a way of one thing stirring; and, by the tip, of a primary real fork of lightning shot by this bolted-together assortment of human components.
English soccer loves to speak about methods, and about “Philosophy”. We are all Philosophers now. I’ve a Philosophy, you could have a Philosophy, Aidy Boothroyd has a Philosophy. But this usually breaks down into one thing extra fundamental: power, emotion, emotions. Conte’s beginning flat again 5 gave a strong fundamental construction. But the actual change was textural, as this hurled-together Spurs crew produced a sort of anger-football, one thing spiky and a bit uncontrolled.
Conte turned to dash and howl, eyes boggling, at every Tottenham purpose, as although he, Antonio Conte, had simply personally scored. Photograph: Alex Pantling/Getty Images
Perhaps probably the most important word of transformation was in Harry Kane, who had sleepwalked by the autumn however produced a efficiency right here that was each exact and scattergun, urgently alive and caked with sleep mud, deadly early on however bafflingly wonky the remaining of the time. Kane and Conte: that is, as ever, the important thing relationship in this setup. And with higher timing and higher ending Spurs’ captain may have scored just about the identical purpose three or 4 instances.
With six minutes gone he drew a beautiful block in entrance of purpose from Ibrahima Konaté, when he actually ought to have scored. Moments later he was in once more, haring into the identical inside-right channel, launched by a tremendous go from Tanguy Ndombele. Suddenly Kane had nothing however grass, purpose, netting, the mustard yellow styling of Alisson in entrance of him. He clipped the ball low into the nook, his first purpose in this stadium since August, his first league purpose right here since May, two managers in the past.
In these early exchanges Liverpool performed a ridiculously excessive line of defense. With the stress eased by a rejigged midfield, Spurs at all times appeared one go away from setting Heung-min Son off in a foot race with the Liverpool centre-backs – a foot race that, frankly, Son wins on one leg carrying a small Chesterfield couch on his again, whereas additionally taking a detour by way of Seven Sisters Sunday fruit market.
And Son was magnificent right here, the excellent participant on the pitch, trying refreshed, Conte-ised, and sharp in entrance of purpose for his late equaliser. Which was factor too, as a result of Kane saved lacking probabilities. He ought to have scored from Dele Alli’s cut-back however tried one thing cute as the ball declined to run on. He may need flicked in a snap header from six yards out. He had pictures blocked that basically ought to have been pictures heading in the right direction.
He additionally may need been despatched off for a sliding lunge by Andy Robertson that required a soar plus ahead flip in order to keep away from mangled shins. Red playing cards are given for much less reckless and fewer harmful acts than this.
By half-time eight totally different Liverpool gamers had taken a complete of 12 pictures at purpose. Jürgen Klopp’s depleted crew had equalised with a tremendous header from Diogo Jota, then took the lead by Robertson who was later (sustain) deservedly despatched off.
And sure, it’s only a level, towards a 10-man Liverpool crew. It is only one recreation in the center of a Covid-shadowed muddle. But it felt like one thing astringent and purging too, to see Harry Winks charging into tackles, Son and Kane as soon as once more like two males roped collectively on a mountain.
Perhaps it was even a sort of exorcism after the deathly presence of José Mourinho, the muteness of Nuno Espírito Santo, who carried all of the emotional presence of a moist V-neck sweater rigged up on the touchline between two broom handles.
What is definite is Spurs are nonetheless unbeaten in the Premier League under Conte. And that coming right here will now current an impediment, an power to be resisted. Show, theatre, plus a bit easy construction. Seasons have turned on much less.