Five talking points from Tottenham Hotspur’s Premier League victory over Leicester City
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Ben Pearce reflects on Spurs’ thrilling win over Leicester City at Wembley Stadium which guaranteed third spot in the Premier League
Harry Kane and Erik Lamela both struck twice, while Christian Fuchs scored an own goal, as Tottenham beat Leicester 5-4 in their final match at Wembley. Here are five talking points:
1. Tottenham finish third after thrilling victory
Spurs seemed to be crawling over the finish line when they secured their top-four spot against Newcastle on Wednesday – their recent outings have been tired, nervy affairs. Meanwhile, Leicester had little to play for.
This could therefore have been a rather uninspiring affair, with the players already looking ahead of their holidays or the World Cup. Instead, with the pressure off, it was an end-to-end nine-goal thriller full of attacking abandon.
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It was a memorable way for Tottenham to bid farewell to Wembley, especially as they won, thanks to Kane’s stylish 76th-minute winner.
The victory was hardly insignificant either – it meant Spurs finished ahead of Liverpool, who did their job by beating Brighton 4-0 at home, and secured a place in the top three for the third season in a row.
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2. Spurs miss their Player of the Season
Jan Vertonghen was initially named in the starting line-up, perhaps surprisingly as he had played with an ankle injury against Newcastle on Wednesday.
However, he felt a problem with his calf during the warm-up and pulled out of the match. Eric Dier switched to centre-back and Victor Wanyama came into the side.
Tottenham certainly missed Vertonghen, who had only been absent for one other match this season and has rightly been named the club’s Player of the Season. They conceded four times.
Toby Alderweireld and Eric Dier struggled throughout at centre-back, partly due to a lack of midfield protection, and Pochettino eventually introduced Davinson Sanchez, switching to three at the back.
It will be a huge shame if, as is expected, Spurs sell Alderweireld this summer - he remains a fine defender. However, this uncertain outing might help the supporters to contemplate life without him.
Today’s match offered evidence that Vertonghen is the more important Belgian and that his partnership with Sanchez will continue to give Tottenham a firm foundation.
3. Kane can’t catch Mohamed Salah despite his brace
The Tottenham striker started the day three goals behind Liverpool’s Salah as he sought to win the Golden Boot for the third season in a row.
He quickly applied pressure, netting in the seventh minute after Lucas Moura had won the ball deep in Leicester’s half.
However, Salah responded in the 26th minute of his home match against Brighton, scoring his 32nd goal of the Premier League and thereby setting a new record.
Kane refused to give up and curled in a glorious second goal to narrow the gap again, but his efforts weren’t enough.
Nonetheless, he has finished with 30 top-flight goals this season – his best ever tally, after hitting 21, 25 and 29 in his three previous Premier League campaigns.
4. Wanyama labours after late inclusion
The Kenyan has had a tight hamstring in the last few days so it was unsurprising that he was omitted from the initial line-up. Meanwhile, Pochettino had suggested during Friday’s press conference that he was tempted to give young centre-back Juan Foyth a rare outing.
When Vertonghen pulled out in the warm-up, the Argentinian could have introduced Foyth in his place, but instead he opted for Wanyama, who was largely at fault for three of Leicester’s goals.
First he lost the ball deep in his own half when the Foxes went 2-1 up. Then he was left behind, unable to get goal side, when Kelechi Iheanacho advanced through midfield and found the top corner from 20 yards. Finally he allowed Vardy to run in behind him and make it 4-4.
Pochettino might have regretted his decision, but all’s well that ends well.
5. Kyle Walker-Peters ends the campaign as he started it
It has surely been a hugely frustrating year for the 21-year-old full-back.
He was named the man of the match on his Premier League debut, on the opening day of the season at Newcastle, but Spurs promptly signed Serge Aurier. Walker-Peters has struggled for game time since - this was only his ninth appearance of the season, and his first since February.
Walker-Peters made the most of the occasion though. Although Vardy ran in front of him to head in the opening goal, the youngster set up both of Lamela’s goals.
He, probably more than anyone, will hope for more action next term – or a loan move.
Meanwhile, on the left flank, Danny Rose looked more like his old self, constantly posing a threat in the final third and playing a part in two goals.
It is good news for England ahead of the World Cup, just a shame for Tottenham that it has taken him this long to put his injury problems behind him, get fit and show what he is capable of.
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