Score any goal in a victorious effort for your team and you will spend at least the rest of that day wanting to relive the glorious moment (and probably for days after, too, if it was a bit special). Professional footballers usually have the benefit of recorded evidence, but even they will be replaying that physical and emotional feeling in their heads right up until they fall asleep.
You suspect Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane was in such a jubilant daze after netting a hat-trick in a 5-1 win over Bournemouth a year ago (see below). In addition to the usual buzz of scoring three in a single match, the display signified the end of a frustrating dry spell and commencement of a run that would result in him winning the Premier League Golden Boot.
⚽️ ⚽️ ⚽️ It was an afternoon to remember for @HKane when we last visited @afcbournemouth… #COYS pic.twitter.com/ZzvsPnhUU9
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) October 20, 2016
Kane had been far from a luxury in the Spurs side even without goals. He had continued to lead the line manfully, battling for his team and persisting in his attempts to find the back of the net. Strikes for England and one in a 4-1 win over then-title favourites Manchester City had proved respites only.
Leading up to the trip down south, he had been toiling somewhat, looking fatigued by his efforts to fully kick-start his campaign. It is credit to Kane he kept trying, deserving his Dean Court breakthrough.
Tottenham’s latest away game with Bournemouth comes at a similarly crucial juncture for several first-teamers.
Like Kane last year, they have not, for various reasons, been able to reach strong previous levels. Now the team is on the eve of the most challenging stretches of their season—an EFL Cup game at Liverpool and a meeting with last season’s title rivals and champions Leicester City concludes October before they face three London derbies and two Champions League group-stage games.
Manager Mauricio Pochettino offering leeway for those figuring things out will understandably be downgraded in priority throughout all this.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino has plenty to ponder right now.
"For me every game is a test, every game is very important or the most important to me," Pochettino said in his pre-Bournemouth press conference, rightly cautious about a side who thrashed Hull City 6-1 last week and whose manager Eddie Howe he was highly complementary of. "Always for us the game that we have ahead is key."
Nevertheless, it is the final game Spurs have until December that does not carry some big-game hype. Fail to impress here and a player may find themselves watching someone else starting during this season-shaping month or so.
The vast majority of a Spurs squad sitting third in the Premier League, one point off first, and holding their own in the Champions League is matching or has exceeded expectations set by last season’s efforts (new signings like Victor Wanyama are exempt from this particular evaluation).
The defence has quickly re-established itself as one of the country’s stingiest, not yet conceding a goal in open play in the league. Save for an off-colour night against Monaco in Europe, they have been excellent.
Behind them, Hugo Lloris was at his best to keep out Bayer Leverkusen this week. In front, Dele Alli has been typically spirited, adapting well to various changes in role and formation. Christian Eriksen has been a little more up-and-down attacking-wise, but other aspects of his improved all-round game have contributed to Spurs maintaining a good balance.
In the category of those improving their stock, goalkeeper Michel Vorm and left-back Ben Davies have done well in their sporadic opportunities. Academy prospects like Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josh Onomah and Harry Winks have impressed, too, when involved.
Heung-Min Son’s work leads those looking to exceed expectations around them, though.
Heung-Min Son celebrates his winning goal away at CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.
The attacker is Tottenham’s top scorer so far this season with five goals. Pochettino’s faith in him after a mixed, though still encouraging, first year in England has been rewarded with the player’s overall exuberance a key factor in maintaining the team’s solid start.
The performances of the defence, Son and the introductions of those like Wanyama have shaped the landscape where some are experiencing difficulties getting to where they want to be.
In the opening month, Kane was both working off the summer’s rust and getting used to a potential new strike-partner in Vincent Janssen.
By mid-September, Pochettino was focusing the attack more around the Englishman again, and Kane responded with a goal apiece in wins over Stoke City and Sunderland. The latter was his best performance of the fledgling campaign, and it was unfortunate an injury late on would halt his momentum and has kept him out since (though his manager confirmed he is back now training with the ball).
Injuries have been problematic for Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier, too, both of whom suffered knocks in the same game as Kane.
That win over Sunderland was Dembele’s first start of the season after he completed a six-game ban dating back to May. After a cameo against Monaco at Wembley, his return proper at White Hart Lane saw the midfielder striding around his domain with all the style and strength that has made him so popular to Spurs fans and so imposing to opponents.
Alas, that injury and a subsequent recurrence of a foot problem kept him out for four games, including the club’s impressive 2-0 win over league leaders Manchester City.
Injury and changes to the team’s formation has made getting going this season a tricky proposition for Eric Dier.
Dembele returned off the bench during the 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion and also came on at Leverkusen. Now fit, he will hope to get going and back to where he was.
The presence of Wanyama in the Tottenham midfield during Dembele’s absences could influence just how he is deployed.
In the meantime, Pochettino has utilised a 4-1-4-1 formation where the ex-Southampton player has dominated as the midfield anchor. Dembele and Dier shared those positional responsibilities in the central line of the 4-2-3-1 commonly deployed up until recently (and still in the manager’s playbook) so something is going to give.
Dembele has the option of being utilised as part of the attacking midfield quartet. The more defensive Dier is deputising for the injured Toby Alderweireld at centre-back, but once the Belgian is fit (again, Pochettino is hopeful that will be soon), last season’s mainstay could be locked in a battle for minutes with Wanyama.
Prior to West Brom, a fixture Dier started on the bench, Pochettino dismissed the notion Dier had already been relegated in the Kenyan’s favour. He had earlier alluded to the 22-year-old needing to "build his confidence and […] improve in his self-belief" after his injury and a tough outing for England away at Slovenia, but also reiterated the international "will be an important player for us."
Dier had not started against Man City because he had only just returned from injury, and anyway, this was just the improved lay of the land at Spurs in 2016-17.
"But football is about 25 [players], maybe last season was only him, but this season we want to improve our squad," Pochettino said of his playing staff’s greater strength in depth.
Already experiencing a slow start as he got used to an initial pairing with Wanyama in which both were a little too defensively minded, the next few weeks could be an intriguing test of his mettle.
Kevin Wimmer was a big part of Tottenham’s squad last season but has not been deemed so necessary so far.
Alderweireld will likely reclaim his place at centre-back. Dier will have to hope a good covering shift does enough to impress Pochettino he is worthy of a shot at reclaiming the sole holding midfield spot (Dembele is likely to be preferred as a partner for Wanyama if a two-man midfield is restored).
Still, the versatile Dier will take this. At least he is involved, unlike Kevin Wimmer.
It is not so much that the Austrian is not playing. Jan Vertonghen—the man he covered well for at the beginning of the year—has been fit so would have been keeping him out of the side.
The surprise has been youngster Carter-Vickers mostly being preferred as the back-up defender on the bench.
After Leverkusen, Pochettino played down any issue, explaining it was a need for balance with Carter-Vickers there to ensure a right-sided defender was available if needed, left-back Davies already covering the other side—per ESPN FC’s Dan Kilpatrick.
Still, having done little wrong up until now (he also did fine alongside the academy defender against Gillingham in the EFL Cup), Wimmer will be frustrated at losing his previous status. Especially after signing a new contract in July.
Wimmer is not expected to see action against Bournemouth. He may feature at Liverpool, which is a tough place to go when you are looking to impress your boss.
Given he has featured in all of Tottenham’s games so far, Lamela is someone who will expect to feature.
Erik Lamela has still been putting himself about for Tottenham but has underwhelmed in his attacking play.
He most of all probably represents a player in need of a big game, especially from an attacking perspective. Save for the highlights of his equaliser in the season-opener against Everton and an influential runaround of lower-league Gillingham, he has underwhelmed in this department.
Lamela has not been awful by any means. The attacking midfielder is still combining well in build-up and is contributing to the team defending from the front as well as anyone—the only midfielder to better his 1.6 tackles per game in the Premier League is Wanyama, via WhoScored.com.
At Leverkusen, he could have been more urgent getting back when Spurs were under sustained pressure in the second half. But on the whole, his competitiveness in these aspects may see Pochettino continue to trust in him for the games ahead.
Still, for a player so talented and who, it is hoped, will build on last season’s progression, Lamela has been a little off.
If he does not up his game sufficiently, he could become a high-profile casualty of Pochettino maximising the players at his disposal. With central-midfield positions limited and plenty of competitions further forward, Lamela does not have a guaranteed place.
Seasons, for both individuals and teams, can hinge on responses in moments like this.
Watch this space.
Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.