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Villa 1-2 Spurs: Post Mortem on Kaboul & Capoue

The eagle-eyed amongst you might have noted that the best part of 48 hours have elapsed since the curtain came down on events Villa Park, but for that long have I been ruminating on the various ills within our mob, and particularly the rearguard.

Attack

Up in attack, while things can hardly be said to be beetling along in a state of serene success, the general gist of things is just about in credit rather than debit. Chances are at least being made.

Every now and then Chap A finds Chap B, Chap C spins around the back, Chap B slides in Chap C, who neatly pings it back to Chap A, and you sit back and wonder why we lose so many of these dashed games. Admittedly one of the chaps will then hit the ‘keeper rather than the net, but at least we have the beginnings of the right idea.

Defence

At the back however, any good being done by the forwards is being heartily undone, with generous lashings of interest, by a back-four fast becoming a parody of themselves. Kaboul’s head appears to swim like a man trying to make sense of the previous paragraph. It’s all very well looking incredibly mean, imposing and just about The Ultimate Bad-Ass at every break in play, but once the nitty-gritty begins he seems to have taken to closing his eyes, swiping a limb in the loose direction of things and hoping for the best. I fancy it might be time to take the batteries out of the old bean and leave him to collect some dust on a shelf somewhere.

With Kaboul running the show it is little wonder that our back-four as a unit has all the resistance and backbone of a particularly gloomy sandcastle. Sure enough, a Villa side that had not managed a goal since around 1997 were soon rattling shots at us from all angles, and within 15 minutes had their lead.

A Short Grammar Lesson

Referees are disinterested.

Vertonghen, Adebayor and the various other assorted prima donnas, with bags of quality but little passion for the club, are uninterested.

Capoue Watch

You know how it is when you suddenly realise that the chap sitting next to you in the office has an annoying habit of clicking his fingers three times every time his computer-box receives a telegram? Once you are aware of it you cannot stop noticing it, and before you know it you can think of nothing else, until it gets to the point that you either want to thrash his head or your own head against something solid and flat. Well thus do I feel about Capoue.

What does the blighter do? It was something I asked myself a few weeks ago, more as a matter of procedure than due to any particular vendetta, you understand, but several weeks on the question still lingers in the air, and with a nasty whiff to it. So on Sunday I watched him like a leopard, and once again his anonymity was thunderously conspicuous.

In his defence he does occasionally show faint signs of life – a crossfield pass here, a Capital One Cup slalom forward there – but on Sunday it generally seemed that he was content to jog around the place in Ryan Mason’s slipstream, always maintaining a careful 10-yard distance from the ball. When Benteke hammered against the post early on, Capoue could be seen jogging along, in the vicinity but not in the action. When Villa scored their goal, Capoue could be seen jogging along, in the vicinity, but nowhere near the chap who flew in to score. And so on.

Positives

Young Mason continues to charge around with the enthusiasm of a slippery, young whelp, and although his radar went awry in the final 15 his was another fairly encouraging performance. Much has been said of Master Kane, and although the hyperbole has got so far ahead of itself that it has begun to trip on its feet (a piece in the Standard yesterday seemed to be comparing him to Bale) the chap seems to make the right noises. And as mentioned at the top of the programme, when our forwards do click, it really does make the pulse race somewhat.

Red Cards and Whatnot

So going forward we were moderate, at the back we were various shades of awful. Although we created some presentable chances at various points, we hardly looked like controlling the thing until the red card. On which note – Messrs Mason and Vertonghen can consider themselves fairly lucky. As with penalties conceded in recent weeks, rather than moan about harsh decisions the players could simply avoid doing the daft things that give the refs a decision to make.

All told it was no doubt a blessed relief for our glorious leader. The poor old fruit must gaze a little wistfully back at Southampton, where lions lie with lambs and happy rainbows spring up left, right and centre. With each game I see I increasingly feel that we must simply muddle through this season as best we can, then let Pochettino do what he wants with the squad and gauge him properly on 2015/16.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Man City 4-1 Spurs: The Definitive Verdict On All 4 Pens

Since the players could not blow their nose without that wretch awarding another penalty this afternoon, it might simplify things to report on things by giving names to the various spot-kicks. So the one that involved Lampard, Lamela and possibly a gust of wind we shall christen ‘Reginald’; the red card fiasco will be ‘Phyllis’; our glorious opportunity shall be known as ‘Maxine’; and the other one can be ‘Greg’.

Reginald

Opening blows had already been exchanged when Reginald struck. Lamela appeared to tickle Lampard with a feather, and that proved all the encouragement needed for our resident law-enforcer.

A salutary lesson here for young Lamela. Like Dier against Liverpool earlier this season (let’s call that one ‘Jan-Michael’, for simplicity), the alleged foul was as soft as the luxurious fur of some endangered species of animal, but the moral of the story is clear enough – just don’t give the referee the option to make such calls. There was no reason for Lamela to nestle up to Lampard from behind, as the City man waddled into the area. Leave him alone man, leave that to one of those chaps facing the right way. (Although ardent followers of ‘Greg’ might beg to differ, but more on that later).

Greg

I rather lost track of the chronology of the thing, but Greg was the clearest penalty of the lot, involving as it did Monsieur Kaboul’s latest real-time demonstration of his waning powers. Once upon a time this chap was quite the colossus - all barrel chest, thundering pace and perfectly-sculpted eyebrows. These days it seems that he has it in his contract to magic from thin air a seismic blunder, as if to illustrate to young protégé Chiriches in vivid HD precisely how one should create catastrophe in the heart of the defence. Bang on cue he flew into a needless, mis-timed lunge, and Greg was born. ‘Sacre bleu’, poor old Hugo presumably mutters to himself, as he views the carnage ahead of him, before pulling off his latest astonishing save. He deserves better.

Phyllis

Another from the Chiriches School of Complete Mental Absence, there could be no doubt that Fazio yanked back the forward, practically shoving the ref out of the way in order to do so. The whole wretched performance was delivered with all the surreptitiousness of a four year-old standing with hand in cookie jar and chocolate smeared all over their mouth, and for that this oak-tree of a man deserves nothing less than to have a limb hacked off with a rusty saw. It would not be stretching things to suggest that liberal quantities of salt be sprinkled across the bloody stump either.

But a red card? Dash it all, in order to be a ‘goalscoring opportunity’ the ball had to bypass two defenders, the striker had to gallop another ten yards and a nearby elephant had to jump through a flaming hoop. Admittedly, I suspect that if Phyllis had not been awarded our heroes would have found a way to concede anyway, but the nub of the thing is that there was a heck of a sequence of bits and bobs that needed crossing and dotting before the goalscoring chance actually materialised. And as such, the red card was even more cryptic than that slapped in Kyle Naughton’s face against West Ham on the opening day of the season.

Maxine

Easy to forget when you slink off 4-1 down at the culmination of things, but with 20 minutes to go an unlikely heist was on the verge of execution. Penalty to our lot, with a chance to reach parity, if you recall.

In truth Maxine was a devious mistress, because the foul appeared to occur a smidgeon or two outside the area. However, the ref by this stage was well into party mood, pointing to the spot with all the gay abandon of a champagne-quaffing reveller, and frankly it was nice to be remembered by him.

Poor old Soldado’s was not the worst penalty ever - it ticked some of the standard boxes one dreams up for this thing (on target; low; heading more or less for the corner;) - but thus do cookies crumble.

Elsewhere – Capoue & Mason

Aside from the penalties there were all manner of bells, whistles, character developments and sub-plots. And none of them seemed to involve Capoue, on whom I kept a particularly watchful eye today, just for sport. What purpose did the chap serve? He held his position religiously enough, bobbing around five yards in front of the comedy act known as our back-four, but seasons will change and empires rise and fall before the blighter ever makes an intervention of note.

By contrast, young Master Mason bounded around with all the enthusiasm of a young puppy released into the back garden for his daily jaunt. The brio will presumably fade and cynicism settle in (a la Dembele and Soldado, par example), but he did not waste an opportunity to burst a lung for the cause today, and could frequently be sighted trying to socialise with his elders in the attacking triumvirate. Not afraid to fly into a tackle either, his challenge creating our goal.

All told, the outcome was rather a blow to the solar plexus, but for over an hour our lot dug away, and a point looked possible. The drill against Top Four teams seems to be clear enough – keep things tight (through team shape, rather than dazzling defensive prowess from the individual personnel), and scamper forward via Eriksen, Chadli and Lamela at every opportunity. At times this front three looked razor-sharp, but the salient point this season is likely to be whether they can score more at one end than the assorted clowns concede at the other, week in and out.

Musings on Arsenal 1-1 Spurs

A quiet triumph for our glorious leader, this one. Coming on the back of the wretched Sunderland draw, and wretcheder West Brom defeat, the polite coughs around Pochettino had been increasing in volume all week, but credit to the man. The air around Finsbury Park presumably still resounds to the irate warbling of Wenger, who took a deep breath at the full-time whistle yesterday and has not stopped grumbling since, but this was a dashed hard-earned point for our lot.

This was not the time for coruscating interplay, merry quip and flashing badinage. This was not a time for Chiriches, and his Dali-esque take on the art of defending. Evidently not a fan of early 90s brat pack western Young Guns II: Blaze of Glory, Pochettino sagaciously eschewed the notion of our heroes getting shot to death one after another in the quest for bravura headlines, and instead stuck to the markedly less glamorous – but infinitely more sensible – project entitled ‘Work Your Cotton Socks Off, Stick to the Plan And Take Home A Point’.

Kaboul and Vertonghen had the right idea, neither toddling off more than six paces from the other, and all around them in lilywhite were faces etched with concentration. Rose and Naughton in particular can puff their chests today, for rarely have two young beans attracted such opprobrium over their careers as this pair from yours truly – but they jolly well filled the unforgiving minutes with distance run yesterday.

Lloris

The shiniest gold star however, without doubt goes to our trusty guardian of the net. Amidst all the hours of debate surrounding his frightfully modern role of sweeper ‘keeper, one sometimes forgets about young Lloris’ du pain et du beurre, but when push came to shove and the shots flew in yesterday he dashed well had every angle covered, beaten only by the elaborate full-body-wrap-around dummy thrown by the wretched Welbeck. Rather excitingly, one second half save even had the gods of goal-line technology awoken from their slumbers, which presumably had Jonathan Pearce’s brain melting out of his ears.

A Mild Regret

Not wanting to sound ungrateful about things, but given that throughout the entire game we only managed to touch the ball about seven times, it was mildly annoying that we made rather a pickle of two or three jolly presentable counter-attack opportunities, in the first half in particular. We did eventually get the final ball right – Lamela hitting the bullseye with his assist for Chadli – but one or two more of those in the first half and we might have had a two- or even three-goal lead to spurn. Ah well, live and learn, what?

A Glimpse of the Future

If our general game-plan was one of locking ourselves in a bunker and waiting for the ongoing alien invasion to pass overhead, the longer-term Pochettino approach was at least given a brief and stirring cameo when we took the lead. Much hot air has been expelled about the whole business of ‘pressing high up the pitch’, but with Adebayor ambling around with all the energy of doleful sloth this fabled approach has been as rare as a two-headed rabbit so far this season, so it was jolly heartening to see our heroes snaffle the ball just 30 yards from the opposition goal yesterday, and proceed to cross t’s and dot i’s until the net was rippling.

And to round things of, a round of applause to the unfeasibly young arbiter of proceedings, who did a cracking job of preventing a full-scale riot by cautioning Chadli for his irresponsible and over-the-top goal celebration. Goodness knows, the very fabric of society would have come crashing down around us if that fine bastion of the rulebook had not waved yellow in Chadli’s face. The relief in the corridors of power today has been palpable.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Sunderland 2-2 Spurs: Reasons To Be Cheerful

Such is life I suppose, but AANP is remarkably sanguine about the Late Own-Goal Fiasco. Mellowing with age, no doubt.

Dembele > Bentaleb

Pre kick-off, hearty roars of approval could be heard to resonate from every corner of the globe, as news filtered through that Bentaleb had been jettisoned and Dembele selected in his stead. No doubt a startled and dismayed Bentaleb instinctively looked sideways and backwards and backwards and sideways for explanations when the news was broken to him, but Sunderland away was no time for such unproductive ambling. All the possession in the world is of little use if we get nowhere near the opposition net, and while Bentaleb would presumably react to such a sentiment by slamming his hands on his ears and howling in dismay, Dembele dithers not. Straight from kick-off the chest was puffed out, opponents bounced off him and every time he received possession he looked to drive forward, and a positive tone was duly struck.

The Attacking Triumverate

Matters were also helped no end by the attacking triumvirate of Chadli, Eriksen and Lamela. Where two weeks ago Chadli and Eriksen in particular flittered around with all the menace and intent of a pair of particularly absent-minded butterflies, yesterday the two of them and Lamela brought with them bucketloads of brio and gusto, and proceeded to slosh it all around the park with gay abaondon.

If there were a pocket of space in between Sunderland’s defence and midfield one or more of that lot were popping up in it, and if there were a cute, eye-of-the-needle pass in the vicinity you could bet every last penny plus a couple of stamps that the aforementioned would be trying their darnedest to deliver it.

Frankly, everything went swimmingly from start, through the middle, via a couple of sub-plots and just about all the way until finale. But dash it all, instead of running riot and popping away the six or so goals we more or less merited, things went vaguely awry each time at the final hurdle. The ball would ping off the woodwork, or splat against the chest of that gormless goalkeeper without him even realising. A last-ditch tackle here, a narrow miss there, and before you knew it we had conceded a bally own goal of all things, and were left wandering off at the final whistle scratching our heads in bewilderment.

The Exciting World Of Vlad Chiriches

Presumably Master Vertonghen had a stubbed toe or man-flu or some other such malady, to explain his absence from the entire squad. As a result, young Chiriches bounded up to the plate, and promptly convinced himself yet again that this was a school playground and his name was Pele. Paying scant attention to the basic principles of defending the lad simply could not prevent himself from trying to dribble past everyone in sight every time he touched the ball. Here is a bean who no doubt grew up watching and re-watching that Saudi lad from World Cup ’94 who picked up the ball in his own half and ran the length of the pitch before scoring. The law of averages suggests that one day Chiriches will do the same, and I rather hope we stick with him because in the medium-term a ball-playing centre-back is not to be sniffed at. But at present the chap ought to have the word ‘CALAMITY’ written across the back of his shirt, because his penchant for dribbling into trouble is as predictable as it is hilarious.

Chins Up, What?

Back to the grand scheme of things, and disappointment aside I that in the marathon that is The Pochettino Era this represented another vaguely successful outing. Two points dropped no doubt, but given that we will regularly face teams looking to sit back and stifle the dickens out of us, the performance was encouraging. Sideways passes and meaningless possession can go boil their own heads, for there was creativity by the sackful here.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Spurs Holiday Musings - Liverpool Loss & Fond Farewells

AANP has just biffed off on holiday this last week (Malta, since you ask), and these sunny retreats to foreign climes would not be worthy of the name if they did not at some point involve tracking down an English-themed watering-hole to watch Spurs get thoroughly dismantled, to the mirth of the nearby pink-faced denizens.

Despite the uncontainable urge amongst some of particularly dramatic ilk to race to the nearest hasty conclusion and yelp “Crisis! False dawn! Just not good enough, dash it!” this strikes me as but a stumble along a fairly promising path. A jolly chastening stumble mind, complete with unceremonious landing and all the trimmings, but not yet the moment to be inciting unrest amongst the nearest angry mob.

Midfield Creativity: AWOL

Particularly infuriating was the fact that that smug lot beat us at our own game, blast them – harrying off the ball, counter-attacking in a blurry burst of heels and generally executing some slick, incisive stuff in the final third.

By contrast, Bentaleb and Capoue seemed resolute in their determination to avoid anything with the merest whiff of deep-lying creativity (which potentially gives the Brains Trust food for thought in The Great Capoue Vs Dembele Debate, given the Belgian’s uncontrollable urge to puff out a chest and trundle goalward). The dull hum of inactivity behind them meant quite the onus on Eriksen, Chadli and Lamela to run riot. Alas, the first two in particular seemed not to care for such frivolous duties, seemingly content instead to bask in the glory of the previous week’s efforts, and other than the occasional long ball hoicked over the top there was nary a sniff of goal all afternoon.

Adebayor showed a hint of spirit, as did Lamela in the second half, like a couple of puppies haring round after the ball, but for all their gusto there was precious little effect, and by and large ignominy was jolly well in her element and having an absolute whale of a time. This being Spurs such things happen, but the imperative for Pochettino and chums now is to ensure that this is most certifiably the exception rather than the rule.

Fond Farewells

And to round off a rather doleful few days we have now bid rather hasty farewells to a couple of the elder statesmen. Few could make a convincing case that Daws is still of top-rate Premiership quality (the highlights of his Hull debut appeared rather cruelly to corroborate this), but the blighter could not have been more committed to the lilywhite cause if he were hatched from a cockerel’s egg laid in the centre of the White Hart Lane turf. And by all accounts a thoroughly decent old bean too. Oh that a spot could have been found for him as a permanent mascot leading the players onto the pitch each week. Gone, but absolutely not forgotten, I suspect that it is not just at AANP Towers he will be welcome to a free bourbon any time he jolly well chooses.

Amidst the hullaballoo of it all, the bods at the top have sneakily shunted Sandro down the exit chute as well. Of quality and endearing commitment he had plenty, and the weekly axis of awesomeness that he formed alongside Dembele a couple of years back will live long in the memory, but the point has been made that the poor blighter was rarely in good health, so the rationale for selling him is understandable, if nevertheless regrettable.

Two long-serving troops is probably enough for one episode of this particular soap opera, but despite a few swirling murmurs Monsieur Kaboul remains in situ. Time is not in the habit of waiting for the good mortals of this sphere, but in Kaboul’s case Time seems to have legged it while the Frenchman’s back was turned and disappeared into the distance. No longer the colossus of two or three years back, the Liverpool game was the latest indication that the chap has lost several yards of pace, and is adding a distinct flavour of fallibility to proceedings at the back. Captain by default he may be, but he looks less and less the inspiring leader with every passing minute. One rather hopes that the new chap Fazio is fully-clad and limbered up, because his appears the next cab on the rank.

Spurs 4-0 QPR: Belated Musings

I would imagine that unborn children leapt in their mothers’ wombs on Sunday, given that we managed to produce our slickest display since ‘Arry was last at the Lane. One could barely move for an interchange of cunning short passes between our heroes that had the QPR players spinning in circles and crashing into each other - the third goal in particular being notable for being the first in history to be preceded by literally a million uninterrupted passes.

This interplay was largely facilitated by the manner in which our heroes buzzed around off the ball like a swarm of particularly indignant white-clad bees. So often the scourge of Tottenham teams in the last couple of seasons, when possession has swung drearily from right to left and back again, due to all and sundry standing idly – and statically – by with fingers up nostrils and hands on hips, this time off-the-ball movement abounded.

Every bit as pleasing as this was the almost demented fashion in which our lot beavered away when QPR were in possession. Sycophantic fawning toward the new manager it may have been, but Messrs Lamela and Eriksen, hardly renowned as the brawn-laden, ball-winning terriers of the team, seemed absolutely demented in their pursuit of QPR ankles at which to snap – one such Eriksen challenge pilfering possession and setting in motion our opening goal.

As well as off-the-ball movement, another wrong of previous seasons that was promptly righted was popping away a goal bright and early. Last year our lot seemed to think it against the rules of the thing, but on Sunday early domination was duly turned into an opening goal at the ungodly hour of ten minutes past kick-off. On top of which, they then flicked the switch to ‘Clinical’ and turned dominance into so many goals that the thing was over by half-time. Where will it all end?

Elsewhere on the pitch

Lamela quite rightly earned himself the drool of a thousand seasoned observers, finally starting to resemble the hero of all those Youtube clips we pored over last summer. The lad also seems to have mastered the curious art of sporting four different hairstyles simultaneously, but young people will do such things.

Young Master Chadli took his chances with aplomb, or indeed several plombs, and there were further reasons, at both ends of the pitch, to muse that Daws-out-Dier-in will prove one of the niftier pieces of transfer legerdemain that the N17 Brains Trust ever produce.

Most sensationally however, AANP has considered issuing a grovelling apology to one D. Rose Esquire. While it would be stretching things a mite to suggest that he has morphed into one of the elite, his pirouette and delicious pass for Adebayor’s goal had me positively purring. Do that week in, week out from now until next May and I may well revise my opinion of the uncontrollably-limbed scamp.

Disproving the usual disclaimers

Of course, this being Tottenham and I being a follower, I had barely pootled along to the train station before all manner of gloomy caveats and disclaimers had sprung to mind – but then such dreary pessimism is what makes us Spurs fans so adorable, no? Thus did I muse that this was only QPR, and the season is but two games old, and we will probably have gone to rack and ruin by Christmas – but a voice seemed to whisper in my ear “Au contraire, AANP, not so.” And a dashed good point this imaginary friend made, for last season I bally well lost count of the number of times we dominated possession against second-rate opposition, looked a tad bereft of creativity and had our pockets picked by some bundled set-piece nonsense. So if this season our lot turn over two lowly teams, good on them. Six fewer points to worry about come May, and I dare say at least one of the (likely) Top Five will drop points at home to QPR at some point.

On top of all of which, our heroes sit pretty atop the tree. Absolutely spiffing stuff.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

West Ham 0-1 Spurs: The Draconian World of Chris Foy

Regular frequenters of this corner of the interweb will be well aware that here dwells no particular fan of Kyle Naughton, primarily for the crime of simply not being Top Four/Five/Six standard (although in addition to this he also spent most of last season convincing me that he was still a whippersnapper with plenty of time to improve, rather than being 25 years of age – 25! – the swine).

However, even at my biased and most wildly unfair it is nigh impossible to attach blame to the blighter for yesterday’s sending off. A handball no doubt (it was hardly filled with cynicism and malice, but his hands were well away from his body), but the mind has been boggling for a good 24 hours now in an attempt to make that a red card offence. Yank back a man as he hares down on goal, or swing wildly at his kneecaps and one can expect to be sent on one’s way, but Naughton’s handball seemed a couple of yards – plus one top-notch goalkeeper – away from being prevention of a certain goal. If resident arbiter Chris Foy dishes out reds for that sort of thing one dreads to imagine the mirthless existence of the children at Foy Towers, who presumably are tossed into a cellar whenever they fail to clear their plates, and are dealt half a dozen lashings for every misspelt word in their homework.

However, once Foy had meted out his own unique brand of justice, to their credit our heroes clung to parity for a good half hour. All the more impressive  when once considers that in similar circumstances in the corresponding fixture last season, when we went down to ten men at a similar point in the game (Kaboul doing the honours) the whole bally lot of them collectively wilted like a particularly world-weary sunflower.

Pochettino

A cheeky nod of approval too in the direction of our latest glorious leader, for the post-red card tinkering he effected. Where convention dictates that in such circumstances the nearest meandering forward should be hooked off and Dawson, or the nearest approximation, duly plonked at the back, Pochettino intriguingly left the entire front four in situ, giving nary a glance at his subs, and instead shunted the resident prodigal Capoue from the defensive shield in midfield into central defence. 4-2-3-1 neatly became 4-1-3-1, and although we pootled along fairly gently thereafter it warmed the heart to see that the sending off was not automatically the prompt for a downing of all attacking tools and reversion to safety-first defence.

Elsewhere on the Pitch

Goodness knows what they feed defenders out in Portugal, but young Master Dier certainly drifted forward for his goal without batting an eyelid or breaking a sweat, and a doff of the cap is duly directed towards him. Elsewhere ye olde problems that were ever present at left-back reappeared with a sunny wave, as Danny blasted Rose allowed himself to be turned inside out by Steward Downing of all people.

Further up the pitch the famed Pochettino alchemy cannot yet be said to have truly been effected across the green and pleasant land, as Lamela missed as often as he hit, but frankly it was just nice to see him lolloping out the place from the off, as if the whole sorry mess of his debut season had never happened.

The rather unique circumstances of this one make it a touch difficult to draw too many conclusions, but bragging rights over that ‘orrible lot are always welcome, a last-minute winner allows for particularly unbearable smugness in the office on the Monday morning and three points away from home is most satisfactory way to get proceedings underway.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

West Ham - Spurs Preview: Perspective & Moderation, Of All Things

The whiff of misplaced optimism fairly pointedly indicates that a new season is lumbering into view, but things are unmistakeably different this time round. For a start, perspective and moderation, of all things, are dangerously close to breaking out amongst the lilywhite fraternity, in a scenario not too dissimilar to the English attitude at this summer’s World Cup. In common with quite a few Spurs-supporting chums, I cannot help but think that we are careering towards a respectable if unremarkable 6th place finish. Wage bills certainly suggest as much, and while those around us have been parading shiny new players at mind-boggling cost, following last season’s transfer glut the rationale at N17 this time round has veered to the other extreme. Big name signings have been conspicuous by their absence, and expectations have been tempered accordingly.

The drill for the new man at the helm seems to be to make the most of what he inherited, with not a peep of dissent, and not a hint of a big money uber-signing. Handily enough, the job description in its entirety seems to be neatly summarised by The Lamela Situation. Contained within one unsymmetrically-coiffeured and over-expensive Argentine winger lies the conundrum facing our man Pochettino – to extricate good value from someone else’s expensive toys. If anyone can perform such alchemy it ought to be the chap who turned Lallana, Shaw et al into £20m+ players.

Just as well, because in addition to Lamela there are a raft of others who need a switch flicked somewhere – while Soldado poached one rather neatly in last week’s friendly against Schalke, there was also the inevitable wild slap into the North Stand from close range, suggesting that certain bad habits linger. Then there is Chadli, Townsend, Lennon, Dembele, Capoue, Chiriches… the whole dashed lot of them in fact, bar Lloris and Vertonghen.

Such ambitions are for the future. Saturday brings the dreary prospect of a trip to West Ham, and a distinct lack of optimism at AANP Towers. I don’t doubt that we will finish ten or so places above them come next May, but this is their Cup Final, and the painful memory of the corresponding fixture at the tail-end of last season lingers heavily in the memory. On that occasion, the performance of Adebayor and Paulinho within our defensive wall set the tone for a defeat so spineless that passing amoeba congregated pitchside to take notes.  Talent they may lack, but one can certainly see West Ham out-fighting us, and should they get their noses in front I fear we will be in trouble. (That pre-season optimism did not last too long then.)

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Davies, Gylfi, Vorm & A 5-Year Ruddy Contract for Rose

Oh how the fates toy with us, when it comes to matters of a left-back persuasion. Regular drinkers at the AANP well will be familiar with my dubious sentiments about that careering, out-of-control ball of limbs known as Danny Rose.  So when the carrier pigeon poked in its head to chirp tidings from the lilywhite transfer office, conveying news of the signing of one Ben Davies Esquire, I did what any right-thinking, Danny Rose-abhorring chap would do, and promptly danced a surreptitious but merry jig.

Not that the life and times of Ben Davies is a particular pet topic of mine, far from it. In fact, beyond the most basic snippets of info, I would have to confess to being almost entirely ignorant of anything about the blighter. He does however undoubtedly possess one feature that in my eyes represents ten million nuts well spent – namely that he is not Danny Rose. This, by any metric, constitutes a forward step.

So ‘twas a distinctly bonny, blithe and gay AANP pootling cheerily about his business this week when the carrier pigeon reappeared – but this time its message was so dashed soul-destroying that I had a good mind to wring its neck, pluck every feather from its body and string it up from the window as a pointed warning to any other soul bearing similarly woeful news. And news does not get much worse – or more head-scratchingly baffling – than that Danny Rose and his kabbadi boots have signed on for another five years at the Lane. Another five years! Blinking heck. Another five years of ill-timed lunges, misplaced six-yard passes and errant crosses slapping into the nearest defender. Someone think about the children, for goodness sake.

I do of course exercise a smidgeon or two of dramatic licence here, for the chap is not entirely incapable when it comes to the germane issues around two working feet and a sphere. Nevertheless repeated viewings of the boy Rose do give the impression that God set out to create a runaway trolley, attached a few muscular limbs - during some sort of deific experimental phase no doubt – but gave up before completion and dumped the result in N17.

Gylfi Thor Sigurdsson Biffs Off

As part of the Ben Davies deal we also bid a teary adieu to Gylfi Sigurdsson, not the least of whose qualities include the middle name ‘Thor’. I was always rather fond of the chap (Sig, not Thor), and one suspects that in a parallel universe he has made a starting berth his own at the Lane. However, the Tottenham midfield is bursting at the seams, with attacking-minded chaps of his ilk spilling out all over the place, so the decision to shove him out is understandable enough.

Vorm

The boy Vorm is inbound, since having a pretty dashed handy reserve goalkeeper now seems to be as fashionable as beards and skinny jeans. A competent chappie this Vorm, so one nods enthusiastically and hopes he enjoys staying out late on Thursdays.

Falque Out, Dier In

Our other transfer dealings have been very much on the low-key side of things. Once upon a time £4 million was almost enough to give the foundations of world football a meaningful shove, and pocket oneself a flamboyant, mulleted winger with a penchant for shoulder-dips. Now it seems, a similar sum will secure the services of a man with but one appearance to his name. Step forward (and wave goodbye) Iago Falque, a bean I would not recognise if he made an appointment and proceeded to give the reel-by-reel lowdown on his instagram page. Bundled off to Italy apparently, after that single appearance. Still, he was on the THFC squad list, and as such will forever be entitled to a free whisky at AANP Towers whenever in the neighbourhood.

A similar delight awaits one Eric Dier, who for another £4 million is toddling onto the White Hart Lane premises all the way from Portugal. An England U21 central defender according to the shady types who know such things. The law of averages suggests he will end up disappearing down the route trod by Antony Gardener, Alton Thelwell and indeed Iago Falque – but one wishes him well.

Precious Little Else

Beyond those it seems that preserving the status quo by is the latest fad. Inevitably, a couple of rumours have wafted along suggesting that we might join the merry band pecking away at the carcass of Southampon, but on the whole it seems that the Pochettino remit is to make the most of the treasures already at his disposal. No bad thing, given that by and large last season we seemed but one decent left-back and an in-form Lamela short of the Top Four, but until we bring in a fourth striker I remain a tad uneasy about things.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

World Cup & New Kit - More Spurs Summer Musings

Not quite sure how I coped before the World Cup, but by heavens life has been a struggle in the seven days since it finished. A handy opportunity however, to cast the eye over those lilywhites in action this summer, as well as various other bits and pieces at N17.

First-rate stuff though the tournament was, alas it was not the sort of World Cup to have wide-eyed maidens rushing to the top of their towers and squealing the good name of Tottenham. Au contraire, from a lilywhite perspective this has been a summer to elicit sneers of contempt from neighbourhood vagabonds.

For a start, one can say what they please about the performance of our national mob, but before a ball had been kicked a hefty thump to the pride was administered, make no mistake, by the decision to include not a single lilywhite amongst the 23 tasked with making England proud. Worse pickles befall the average Tottenham fan, it is true – left, right and centre on a weekly basis last season, if memory serves – but as the summer began this was certainly a fresh ignominy with which gloating rivals bashed us over the head.

Lloris

Nevertheless, corners of various Brazilian fields were sprayed a Tottenham hue this summer, thanks to the efforts of a select few from around the globe.  Monsieur Lloris did not do much wrong, and was not really to blame as his outfield colleagues waved their white flags and sidled home at the Quarter-Final stage.

The Manaus heat presumably did Lloris something of a mischief however, for no sooner had he landed back on European terra firma than he was signing himself up to another season of Just Missing Out On The Top Four with us. In a World Cup replete with impressive goalkeepers he was up there amongst the best of them, consolidating his reputation, and could presumably have bounced straight off to some CL team on the continent in a jiffy - so his rationale did perplex me somewhat I must confess. Not that he is likely to honour the full five years – presumably he will be off in a season or two for a health sum – but he could most certainly have toddled off this summer had he chosen.

Vertonghen (And Chums)

Back to the on-pitch stuff, and the other highlight from our lot was provided by Vertonghen, who against USA in particular could not have gone about his left-backery in more buccaneering style if he had done so whilst galloping along on horseback, with sword in hand and distressed damsel flung over shoulder. A goal in the group stages is also now proudly emblazoned across the top of his Linkedin profile, so little wonder that Belgium’s demise prompted reports that Barcelona were sniffing around Vertonghen Towers with a glass of sangria and a couple of brochures. Having shown all the interest of a particularly errant toddler being made to watch paint dry during his final few games at the Lane last season, I would not be entirely taken aback if he were to tootle off abroad, but one never really knows what goes on in the inner sanctum.

Vertonghen’s Belgian colleagues were rather more on the underwhelming side. Dembele was occasionally spotted puffing out his chest, letting the ball run away from him and barging folk over, and Chadli also dabbled in a few inauspicious cameos, but few skirts were blown up as a result.

Bentaleb

On the Algerian side of the playground young Bentaleb could be seen studiously pinging the ball sideways and backwards and backwards and sideways, before the assorted grands fromage of Algiers presumably got wind of his ruse, and banished him to the sidelines for the knockout game vs Germany.

Paulinho

The most glorious failure was undoubtedly Paulinho’s, who impressively managed to establish himself as one of the worst of an absolutely rotten bunch of Brazilians. He does earn a bonus point for side-stepping the first half of the Greatest Comedy Show on Earth, but one can hardly protest that Brazil’s thrashing would have been avoided had Paulinho been patrolling the grounds from kick-off.

Transfers at N17

Aside from the World Cup, I may be in a minority but the fact that nothing but tumbleweed is currently rolling around the Arrivals Lounge at the Lane jolly well gladdens the AANP bean. Another 51 weeks of this and full-blown stability might actually break out.

I’m not insinuating that our squad is practically perfect in every way – if ever a club needed to knock unconscious its full-backs and stuff them onto a plane, BA Baracus style, it’s our lot with Rose and Naughton – but after the not entirely magnificent seven were scooped up last season, something a little more sedate might be in order this summer. If Pochettino can stick with what we’ve got and snake-charm the magic out of (or into, depending on your viewpoint) Lamela and Soldado I will sink the evening bourbon with a smirk of quiet satisfaction.

New Kit

And finally, as is customary at this time of year, a new kit has been dolefully plastered around the interweb. Accepting the usual caveats (i.e. if they make Top Four and snag a trophy they can do it in stockings and suspenders for all I care) I fling this one into the pile labelled ‘Underwhelming’. The tribute to Bill Nick is a commendable touch, but otherwise, to this untrained eye, the blue lines across the front seem a tad unnecessary, and a collar might be nice. ‘Tis all much of a muchness in the final analysis – white shirt, blue shorts, heinously over-priced. (Although excitingly, the marketing bods have this year resorted to a Wild-Eyed Look of Rage approach to advertising, which makes a change from chaps standing around with arms folded.)

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

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