If the undisputed two best sides in Spurs’ recent history came up in opposition, who would prevail? It’s a thought that has been festering on social media for some time.
Just two weeks ago, I was pleading that the media would stop making unnecessary comparisons between Kane and Lukaku, and here I am, making comparisons. Disclaimer: this is totally trivial, so insignificant yet so sentimental.2010 was exhilarating. It reaped no real rewards but a place in the quarter finals of the Champions League at the first attempt. En route, Tottenham conquered Inter Milan, the then European champions at White Hart Lane, and oppressed a diminishing AC Milan over two legs; a side that still boasted the qualities of Alessandro Nesta, Thiago Silva, Clarence Seedorf and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Despite their extravagance on the pitch, Tottenham had deeper operational and structural issues within the club. Resultantly, in just a few years, they vanished just as quickly as they had resurfaced. Transfer mishaps meant they were wholly futile in their attempts to gain entry to the Champions League, but just a few managers and structural adaptations later, they found themselves competing once again under Mauricio Pochettino. Simplistically, the side now tangibly compares to the one in 2010. They both reached the artificial Promised Land of the Champions League. But we want computable methodology: Who would really win?
Given the sheer complexity of tactics and formation under Pochettino, it’s more productive to compare personnel. Tactics aside, let us dissect the key players in both squads:
Heurelho Gomes vs Hugo Lloris
Well, I don’t think there is much debate here really. While the gum shield-bearing Brazilian had his moments of genuine excellence, that is more of a weekly routine for Hugo Lloris.
Alan Hutton vs Kyle Walker
Once again, I think Tottenham 2017 wins by TKO here. ‘Super Al’ was a fan favourite for a while, mostly down to his no-nonsense approach to stopping opposition wingers, but Walker’s variety of qualities reach far and beyond those of the Scot.
Ledley King vs Toby Alderweireld
I’ve seen this deliberation banded around Twitter and still, I struggle to commit. It’s a genuinely hard-hitting choice for any Spurs fan, but I think, on points, Ledley King takes this one. While Alderweireld is the most dependably astute centre back Tottenham have had in the modern era, King carries with him everything that defines the club. In some ways, I still think of King as part of this squad. It’s time to move on.
William Gallas vs Jan Vertonghen
Gallas was a profound cog in the Tottenham setup, even if the majority of his qualities were tied to experience and a ‘winning mentality’. That signing was so Harry Redknapp. On the other hand, Vertonghen’s lively role in the partnership with Alderweireld makes for the best in the Premier League. The Belgian takes it, but Gallas’ role remains largely understated. There’s reason for that, too…
Benoit Assou-Ekotto vs Danny Rose
You have to admire Assou-Ekotto’s honesty. From the onset, he never claimed to have a vested interest in football, let alone Tottenham. Conversely, Danny Rose is the current squad’s longest serving player and has been quick to state his dedication to Pochettino and Spurs. Danny Rose takes this one quite effortlessly.
Wilson Palacios vs Victor Wanyama
Tottenham had been crying out for a terrier in midfield, so upon Palacios’ arrival, he was treated like gold dust. Qualifying for and in the Champions League, the Honduran was a focal point and eased the pressure on an aging back four. Wanyama is an updated version of Palacios, proficient in both the hearty and delicate aspects of the game.
Sandro vs Eric Dier
A fuzzy comparison. The Brazilian Sandro was a rare diamond in the rough discovery for Redknapp and proved to be of momentous use throughout the Champions League campaign, most notably over two legs against AC Milan. Likewise, Dier was a victory for Spurs’ scouting system, but has seen his form slip just slightly below par this year. Both on form, toe to toe, it is difficult to call.
Tom Huddlestone vs Mousa Dembele
While Huddlestone was one of the most technically gifted footballers to have played for Spurs, he never quite reached the heights that many thought plausible. The same can be said for Dembele, but the latter takes this one on his ability to carry Tottenham when they need it the most.
Luka Modric vs Dele Alli
A warranted comparison, even despite their clear positional differences. If you could pick one for your side, it would undoubtedly be Modric, but Dele Alli epitomises the energy of Pochettino and the current Spurs side so… it’s complicated. Let’s just appreciate them for what they are; sublime talents.
Gareth Bale vs Erik Lamela
Gareth Bale. Sorry Erik, you really drew the short straw here. Someone had to.
Aaron Lennon vs Heung Min Son
Lennon won a lot of hearts at White Hart Lane; his last gasp equaliser at Arsenal, his winner to end the Chelsea hoodoo, his pass for Crouch at the San Siro. Heung Min Son is yet to replicate that, but glimpses of class are increasingly starting to shine through. For me, Aaron Lennon.
Rafael Van der Vaart vs Christian Eriksen
Van der Vaart was a peak into the unknown excellence of a seasoned Champions League footballer. Because of that, he was adored as a true cult hero. He was all for the occasion, but we tend to overlook his obvious fitness issues. Eriksen, on the other hand, is less flair and more in tandem with his teammates. Individually, Van der Vaart, but as a necessity in a team, Eriksen.
Peter Crouch/Jermain Defoe/Roman Pavlyuchenko/Robbie Keane vs Harry Kane
Despite being heavily outnumbered, Harry Kane prevails here. For once, Tottenham have cultivated a striker who will consistently score 20 goals each and every season. We should not forget Crouch’s Champions League campaign, though.
Redknapp’s 2010 vs Pochettino’s 2017
So, who wins? Frankly, I think the current crop would come out on top. As nostalgic as it is to idealise over the quarter final achievements in 2010, barring Ledley King, I don’t think the defence could deal with the fluidity of Kane, Alli and Eriksen. Meanwhile, at the other end of the pitch, Bale, Van der Vaart and Crouch could threaten on the counter, but you’d have faith in 2017’s defensive competencies.
Visions of King with the armband, Lloris’ reflexes, Alderweireld’s composure, Bale gracefully gliding down the touchline, Modric unlocking defences, Alli experimenting with the impossible and Kane letting loose from range all in Spurs colours carries tremendous romantic value.
Honourable mentions to notable others: Michael Dawson, Jermaine Jenas, Niko Kranjcar and Sebastien Bassong, who played roles but ones not sufficient enough to warrant themselves a place in this esteemed match up. The squad of 2010 was notably sturdier, often cited as the primary weakness in Pochettino’s setup and a possible explanation for why they made it further in the Champions League. That said, my belief is that Lloris would captain his side to victory, and that was not an easy decision to make.