Tottenham are up and running in the second half of the campaign following an impressive 4-0 win over Crystal Palace, which could prove a turning point in their stuttering season.
Spurs travelled to Selhurst Park on the back of the dismal 2-0 defeat to Aston Villa on New Year’s Day and with head coach Antonio Conte issuing his latest threats to walk away from the club’s rebuild on the eve of the match.
The absence of Dejan Kulusevski, who failed a late fitness test, from the starting line-up only increased the sense of impending boom around the club, but Conte’s side produced arguably their best 45 minutes since the opening day of the season to thrash an abject Palace side.
A jubilant away end celebrated by chanting Conte’s name while audibly calling for Daniel Levy’s head, increasing the heat on the Spurs chairman.
There were a number of positives for Spurs, notably a goal for Heung-min Son, important contributions from both full-backs, a clean sheet and impressive displays from youngsters Bryan Gil and substitute Pape Matar Sarr, suggesting Conte’s squad is not as thin as he has made out.
Spurs have a chance to consolidate the positivity with a visit from League One Portsmouth in the FA Cup third-round on Saturday before the visit of League leaders and fierce rivals Arsenal. That game will go a long way to determining whether this win could truly be a springboard for Conte’s side but they will now go into the derby with renewed confidence, and key players back in form.
Spurs’ big three step up
And the trio stepped up when Spurs desperately needed performances from their senior players in south London.
Kane’s two well-taken goals, a brave header and a low, trademark finish, effectively killed off Palace in the first eight minutes of the second-half and offered further evidence that the England captain is not suffering from the World Cup hangover many predicted.
Even more importantly, Son scored for the first time since October 12 with Spurs’ fourth goal, which could prove a turning point in his frustrating season. The South Korean had continued to look shorn of confidence before capitalising on Marc Guehi’s mistake to fire into the bottom corner, via a touch from the centre-half, after Matt Doherty had made it 3-0.
Lloris, too, answered his critics after his mistake against Aston Villa on New Year’s Day, preventing Spurs from falling behind for the 11th consecutive game with a smart save from Jordan Ayew in the first-half, and preserving a rare clean sheet with fine saves to deny the Ghanaian and Wilfried Zaha in the second-half.
It was also a breakthrough night for Gil, who was involved in three of Spurs’ four goals to suggest he can cut in the Premier League after all.
By half-time, Conte’s assessment of the 21-year-old Spaniard as talented but not physically capable of holding his own in English football looked entirely fair, although by the end of the match the away end was singing his name.
Gil was involved in the build-up to Spurs’ first and fourth goals, but his assist for Kane’s second was one of the game’s best pieces of quality, a cute pass between two Palace defenders before the striker rifled across Vincent Guaita.
With Conte saying before the game that Kulusevski’s return date is unknown, Gil can expect to keep his place against Pompey and perhaps even the north London derby on January 15.