Ryan Mason, Erik Lamela lead Spurs in impressive win vs. Fiorentina
There is little doubt that Tottenham's squad is stronger than it was this time last year after their comfortable and impressive 3-0 victory over Fiorentina at White Hart Lane.
Last February, with the likes of Vlad Chiriches, Federico Fazio and Roberto Soldado in the side, Spurs exited the Europa League at the last-32 stage after losing to the Italians 3-1 on aggregate.
On Thursday night they were missing Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele and Harry Kane -- three key players at the spine of the team -- while the additional absences of Tom Carroll and Clinton Njie meant 18-year-old centre-back Cameron Carter-Vickers was required to fill the seventh place on the bench, along with fellow teenager Josh Onomah.
Yet Spurs nonetheless overcame Fiorentina -- who are third in Serie A -- with Ryan Mason and Erik Lamela scoring in each half before Kieran Trippier forced an own goal from Gonzalo Rodriguez.
The Premier League may be the priority for Mauricio Pochettino's men but, on this evidence, they will be a match for anyone in the last 16 of the Europa League.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Hugo Lloris, 7 -- Played his teammates into awkward positions with a couple of risky passes but otherwise provided a reassuring and commanding presence as usual, particularly when he rushed off his line to dive at Nikola Kalinic's feet 15 minutes from time.
DF Kieran Trippier, 7 -- Booked in the first half after a clumsy challenge, and an error in the second resulted in a shot from Borja Valero. But the right-back got forward to good effect once again, forcing an own goal in the last 10 minutes with a dangerous low cross.
DF Toby Alderweireld, 8 -- Oozed experience and class, not only halting Fiorentina's attacks but often keeping control of the ball in the process with some calm touches, while his passing was intelligent and accurate.
DF Kevin Wimmer, 7 -- Another solid display and another clean sheet, although there was also another unnecessary challenge well outside his box in the first half, which earned him a very avoidable yellow card and gave him little margin for error for the rest of the game.
DF Ben Davies, 7 -- Defended well and played a part in the opening goal with a positive pass forward, while he got a slap on the back from Lloris for blocking a Mauro Zarate shot in the second half.
MF Eric Dier, 7 -- Dependable as ever in front of the back four and deserves his share of the credit for the fact that Fiorentina did not get an away goal, while he threatened from a corner, glancing a header beyond the far post early in the first half.
MF Ryan Mason, 8 -- Mousa Dembele's absence seems a little less concerning after this display. The 24-year-old passed the ball nicely, worked hard defensively and took his goal well, showing composure he has sometimes lacked in similar positions. He nearly scored again, too, as a spectacular volley was tipped over the bar in the closing stages.
MF Erik Lamela, 8 -- Sharp in the final third, setting up a goal for Nacer Chadli which was ruled out for offside before netting for the ninth time this season. He is Tottenham's second-highest scorer behind Kane.
MF Christian Eriksen, 7 -- A key figure in Spurs' rapid passing moves, knitting the play together with customary style, and he pressed energetically too. The Dane was denied a deserved goal late on as his low shot was saved.
MF Dele Alli, 8 -- Like Eriksen, his impeccable first touches, vision and quality helped Tottenham to attack at speed and it was he who bravely played the ball to Mason to set up the opening goal before getting a whack for his trouble -- not for the first time this season. The 19-year-old's attempt to convert Trippier's cross also pressured Rodriguez into the own goal. The only sour note was a booking for diving, which rules him out of the next European tie. Only he will know if he meant it or if he has been hard done by.
FW Nacer Chadli, 7 -- After a quiet first half the Belgian grew into the game. He saw a goal disallowed after a smart finish, played a part in Spurs' second strike as his deflected effort was saved and fell to Lamela, and he also teed Mason up for his volley.
MF Josh Onomah, N/A -- Replaced Lamela after 76 minutes to gain more European experience and nearly wriggled free in the box before the end.
MF Nabil Bentaleb, N/A -- Allowed Alli to have a rest for the final few minutes.
MF Harry Winks, N/A -- Briefly appeared in place of Mason for his second appearance of the season.
Ben covers Spurs for Ham & High, the local weekly newspaper for Hampstead and Highgate, and the Hackney Gazette. Twitter: @BenPearceSpurs.