A new start, a new optimism, a bright new second half of the season, a new Spurs. Everything will be different.
Except, well, no, not really. In fact, this game might as well have been played on November 12.
harry kane he was supposed to be in the midst of a personal crisis, struggling to overcome perhaps the biggest (and certainly most prominent) mental challenge of his career after failing that penalty fee.
Instead, it was the Kane he’s been all season. He scored, he laced the game with precision, his movement was top notch, he came within inches of scoring another game-winner with a header that bounced off the crossbar.
Instead, while the weekend companions of the World Cup final Hugo Lloris (on the bench) and Cristian Romero (not involved) didn’t play, Perisic was back at left-back with a typically consistent performance.
Instead, it looked like they had landed from Qatar a day earlier.
And Spurs. Ah, the Spurs. Conceding the first goal again, playing terribly in the first half again, waking up for a spirited late comeback again. Was the World Cup even made?
Six weeks later, the Spurs were busy being Spurs and the rest of us were trying to act surprised.
Dejan Kulusevsky Picked up exactly where you left off against leeds last month, passing defenders who, even though he didn’t show any particularly breakneck pace, couldn’t stop him, like he was covered in oil and they couldn’t get a hold of him.
Son Heung-min also picked up exactly where he left off before the World Cup… a strange glimpse of his former self, but mostly continuing his poor form (he’s now scored in just two of his 24 appearances this season for the club and country).
Ditto Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, whose attitude and equalizing goal epitomized what he’s been doing for Spurs this season. Also, eric dierwhose calamitous whistle and cut conceded a corner from which brentford he scored his second goal. He’s been doing that for a while, too.
I just needed 1993’s Bill Murray reporting from the sidelines to fill out this particular Groundhog Day.
There was historical predictability, too: Spurs held a remarkable record of not losing on Boxing Day since 2004. It’s the second-longest Boxing Day unbeaten run in English football history, stretching to 16 matches, with just 20 games remaining. Aston Villa between 1890 and 1913 lasting longer in the four divisions of English football.
And Kane’s goal means he has scored more goals on Boxing Day than any player in Premier league story, the 10th.
But in case you need a refresher course after the World Cup, this was a helpful reminder of what current Spurs are all about; a familiar cocktail of garbage, carnage and return.
This time of year is all about traditions and Spurs upheld their end of the bargain by simply doing what they always do, just with slightly different players and without an injury time winner.
Otherwise everything was there, particularly the trash. Usually it’s just pompous, rather ineffective football that Spurs churn out for long stretches, but here it was slapstick comedy.
Bissouma fell (causing an offside goal), Dier directed a pass to the moon, fraser forster A 40-year-old with a soft plunge resembling a pensioner unsteady on his feet, Hojbjerg ran too fast when in possession and forgot the ball, matt doherty played a blind pass to a Brentford player, Forster flicked the ball over the crossbar as if waving to his mother in the crowd, Bissouma played the ball straight offside, Tanganga missed headers, missed fumbles and lost the point of be an advocate.
Sometimes it was funny. And yet they did not lose. They came back from behind and got a good result against a good Brentford team, who have only lost once at home this season.
“In the end, for the people it was an exciting game,” said Conte, looking at the positive aspects. “I would like my team to be more stable. Since the beginning of the season, many times it has happened to us that we are down and then we have the strength to come back.
“If you ask me my wish is to get the three points, but against Brentford it’s not easy.”
And what about the ridiculous habit of conceding first?
“We have to find the solution. If we want to be aggressive we have to take some risks. We are trying to work under this aspect to win duels. If you want to press high and play with a lot of intensity, it is important to win duels and second balls. We are working.
“I am disappointed with the goals we conceded. On the other hand, I am happy about our reaction to what we did.
“This team has shown great character many times, but my question is why do we have to go down so many times to show that character? We have to show character from the first second of the game until the end.”
How do you break the cycle? Is it really just about character? Undoubtedly the presence of Lloris, Romero, Richarlison and above all Rodrigo Bentancur it would have helped, but they were also there before the World Cup.
Maybe January changes things, but maybe it’s bigger than that. Either way, the Spurs don’t feel like the fourth best team in the country. And yet there they are on the table.
What is not questionable is the importance of Kane, but also the wonder of Kane. Players often struggle after the mental and physical exertions and emotions of a big tournament (Mohamed Salah after last year’s AFCON comes to mind), but it feels almost insulting to have suggested, even thought, that Kane would not get back in the business of leading the Spurs line with class and scoring more goals. He has overcome previous setbacks in his career and, based on this evidence, is doing so again with composure.
Where would they be without him?
(Top photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images)