Steven Bergwijn could hardly have asked for a better debut. The 22-year-old winger opened the scoring with a wonderful strike against Manchester City on Sunday, helping Tottenham Hotspur secure a vital 2-0 win against Pep Guardiola’s men. Signed from PSV just a few days prior, the Netherlands international made an instant impact in north London.
That is not something Tottenham fans have been used to in recent years. Spurs famously went 18 months without making a signing between January 2018 and last summer. They may have reached the Champions League final in the interim, but their Premier League form collapsed in the final 12 months of Mauricio Pochettino’s tenure. Their squad, while talented, had gone stale. And the situation was made worse by the uncertainty surrounding the futures of Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, all of whom began this season with less than a year remaining on their respective contracts.
Yet all of a sudden there is a sense of freshness about Tottenham, with Bergwijn at the heart of it. Of course, it is far too early to get carried away. The Dutchman did brilliantly to control Lucas Moura’s pass with his chest and then volley the ball past Ederson and into the far corner. But it will take more than one good goal for the winger to justify his new club’s £27m outlay. Sunday’s effort against City will soon be forgotten if it is followed by a series of underwhelming performances.
Nevertheless, the effect of a new signing making an immediate impression should not be underestimated. After all, this has not been a familiar feeling for Tottenham fans in recent times. True, Tanguy Ndombele also found the back of the net on his Premier League debut against Aston Villa. But over the months that followed, the ex-Lyon midfielder was in and out of the team due to injury. Giovani Lo Celso, another addition to the squad last summer, also started slowly. Ryan Sessegnon has yet to progress beyond the periphery.
However, Sunday’s triumph tentatively felt like the beginning of a new era. It was a crucial result for Jose Mourinho, who had lost to Bayern Munich, Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool since replacing Pochettino in November. This was his first statement victory as Tottenham boss.
It also featured noteworthy contributions from Bergwijn and Lo Celso, whose loan move from Real Betis was made permanent by Spurs last week. Ndombele turned in a fine cameo off the bench. Japhet Tanganga was assured at left-back, despite that not being his natural position. Hugo Lloris was reliable between the sticks, and Son Heung-min and Lucas helped to make up for the absence of Harry Kane, Tottenham’s talisman.
It also felt significant that the XI contained no players who did not want to be at the club. Eriksen is still a highly talented player but his continued employment by Spurs in recent months suited nobody. The north London outfit did the right thing in sanctioning his departure to Inter in January, rather than allowing him to see out his contract until the summer.
Moods can change quickly in the volatile world of football. Defeat by Southampton in Wednesday’s FA Cup fourth-round replay would put a dent in Tottenham’s new-found feel-good factor. A loss to Aston Villa in their next Premier League encounter would potentially extinguish it. For now, though, Mourinho will welcome the upturn in optimism, which is in large part thanks to Spurs’ signing of Bergwijn and the Dutchman’s success against City.
“It was a debut goal that was the icing on the cake of a very good performance,” the Portuguese said of his new recruit to the club website. “Independent of the goal I would say his performance was very good, very solid. Very mature. We worked hard during the week.”
With Tottenham now only four points adrift of the top four, Bergwijn and Mourinho will both hope this is just the start.