A rummy thing, football. Up diddly up, down diddly down, whoops poop twiddly dee, to quote one particularly sagacious soul – after which Man Utd win the whole dashed thing and our lot get edged out by that other lot. And that, it appears, is how football works. But when 38 games end with us essentially taking pride of place at the head of a 16-strong cohort of no-man’s-land stragglers, I am rather inclined to think ‘Dash it all, what’s the point?’
The Game Itself
Still, a game of football was there to be win, and win it we did, which I suppose ticks a box somewhere, albeit one of the more pointless boxes in football history. The urgency shown from the off was commendable enough, a clean sheet rather furtively sneaked its way into the stadium, we jolly well peppered the Sunderland goal throughout – oh that it counted a jot.
The mystery surrounding penalties at White Hart Lane remains as mind-boggling as ever. We can now add ‘Ill-Disguised Rugby Tackle Complete With Unsubtle Thump In Back’ to the list of offences, already including relatively uninteresting items such as ‘Handball’ and ‘Blatant Trip On Galloping Forward’, for which Spurs will most definitely not be awarded a penalty, and for which Bale will probably be cautioned.
On a general note I remain a little miffed at the use of just one genuine striker plus Dempsey, while Defoe picks his nose on the bench, in one-sided must-win games such as this. Similarly, the selection of two holding midfielders seems a little daft once the match pattern is established – although in fairness Parker remains convinced that he is the man to scythe open an opposing defence with one surging run after another, and AVB did eventually introduce Dembele into a fairly progressive role. While the patience shown by our heroes was probably to be lauded, and they did not simply resort to the aimless pumping of long aerial balls, someone somewhere might want to address our lack of lock-pickery, given that it was just about 90 minutes before said lock was unpicked (and even then ‘twas not done by any particular act of subtle wizardry and slick passing interchanges but rather by a sledgehammer swung by Bale).
An End-of-Season Thought On The Main Man
There was nothing particularly new about events on Sunday, but I hope you don’t mind awfully if I bang a favourite drum one last time, for while there is quite astonishing match-winning goodness in those size nines of his, Bale probably has room for improvement in terms of being the man to dictate games. Last season all things good tended to begin with Modric, and often travelled via VDV; whereas now Bale can be fairly peripheral for long periods (admittedly before then slapping the ball in from 20+ yards). The next step for him might be to evolve to match-bosser. Since he clearly is not doing enough for us already.
Further reflections on the season will follow in due course, and the more masochistic among us have already had hours of fun poring over the season’s fixtures to pinpoint the exact moment at which we threw it all away (Everton away? Fulham at home? Those blasted first three fixtures of the season?), but in terms of Sunday’s affair it was all rather hollow. And that’s it. Consummatum est, and in such disappointing manner that the whole bally thing might as well not have taken place. Dash it all.
Despair – it has a reputation as a rather pejorative term, but as the definition is apparently simply ‘the absence of hope’ it fits in the whiskey cabinet quite snugly, what? For sure our lot will put Sunderland to the sword – or complicate things somewhat before stretching ahead in the final 10-20 – but even with a mooted million pound bonus being dangled in front of them, the chances of Newcastle doing the necessaries seem more Stuart Nethercott than Ledley King.
That said, our heroes would feel frightfully sheepish if they made a pickle of things today and then discovered that the ‘orrible lot from down the road had themselves dropped points, so AVB and chums have presumably given strict instructions to everybody to keep their heads down, sharpen their pencils and concentrate on their own exam papers.
‘Tis a big day for all amateur Freudians in the north London area, as the unhinged bag of acorns that is Emmanuel Adebayor lollops around the turf for possibly the final time as a lilywhite. By an act of complete randomness within the universe, his switch has been flicked this way rather than that in recent weeks, meaning that after months and months of Bad Adebayor we are now finally being treated to a few weeks of Good Adebayor. Another storming performance beckons.
A late charge is also being made by Dempsey to win over the unforgiving folk at AANP Towers, and while I would personally prefer to see Defoe deployed within a two-man attack when we play at home as overwhelming favourites, one would imagine that there will be enough incision to wrap things up today. AVB may also be tossing a coin today to decide which – if any – of Hudd and Parker should make way for Dembele. Given the impact he made last week, as being the only blighter willing to dribble past folk and straight into the heart of the opposition area, I jolly well hope he is indeed deployed from the off.
So once more unto the breach, for what is likely to be the latest in the never-ending stream of St Tottingham Days. But after the Chelski robbery of last season, and the lasagne thing, and moments like the Mendes goal – wouldn’t it be absolutely marvellous if an outrageous stroke of luck actually benefited us this time?
Stoke away is traditionally the cue for an AANP diatribe against the merits or otherwise of the long-ball game, and assorted elbows, long throw-ins and whatnot. This time however there are bigger fish to fry, and by golly our heroes need to be at the ready with chef’s hats tipped just so.
The curious goings-on of Wednesday night leave some food for thought. In defence there was the tale of two full-backs, with Benny again believing his own hype, repeatedly attempting moments of trickery closer to ridiculous than sublime and consequently getting himself and the team into pickle after pickle, a performance that had AANP murmuring that he needed to be taken out the back and shot (the common means of dealing with transgressions here at AANP Towers). On t’other flank by contrast, young Master Walker looked suspiciously like a whippersnapper who had stumped scientist types the world over by growing a third lung. The lad looked unstoppable whenever he bombed forward, and if Lennon is below par again today his interventions will be jolly useful.
Glory be, Dembele is reportedly back to fitness for today’s encounter, for the Parker-Hudd combo was painfully lacking in verve. Understandably so, for they are third and fourth choice, but no less galling for that. Hudd’s passing range swung bizarrely between scrumptious and plain awful, while Parker simply no longer looks good enough for games against the country’s finest. He might fare well enough against Stoke however.
And as for attack, head-scratching all round. Bale did his best to shake off the ‘One-Man Team’ tag on behalf of his team-mates (credit to Chelski for the shackling job, but AVB might hav countered this by moving him into the centre). Meanwhile, the suspicion grew that Adebayor is a 5 year-old trapped in a set of limbs too long for his control. As with AANP’s pre-school nephews, when things went well for him his spirits rose and he became amazing; when things go less well he dons the invisibility cloak. Fingers crossed then that he scores or assists approximately every 15 minutes today, as that would probably be enough to maintain an unplayable performance level throughout (as well as providing us with six goals).
Traditionally a point away to Stoke would be acceptable enough for our heroes, but anything less than victory today would almost certainly blow things for the season. No pressure then chaps.
If it’s sunny optimism you want you are dashed well in the wrong part of the interweb. Get out while you can. A dull sense of foreboding has donned its slippers and smoking jacket, put its feet up and is idly flicking through the Raymond Chandler novels, having made itself quite at home at AANP Towers over the last month or so. While the lilywhite machine has gradually run out of steam, those rump-fed runyons at l’Arse and Chelski have ground out win after blasted win, and from this pessimistic viewpoint it is nigh-on dashed impossible to envisage the much-needed away win tonight. The combination of the Chelski attack-dogs misfiring and our heroes suddenly revisiting 90s dance and discovering both the key and the secret to ripping up an opposition defence just seems a little too unlikely. Fingers crossed AVB and the Brains Trust have a slightly cheerier outlook, what?
Having beaten Man Utd (away) as well as Man City and l’Arse, it is of course eminently feasible that we will run amok tonight and leave this particular ‘orrible lot rueing the day. And then of course there is the Bale factor – 15 seconds unsupervised would probably suffice.
The pessimism, however, emanates from the occasional fallibility of our high defensive line (neither Daws nor the magnificent Vertonghen could really, truthfully, hand-on-heart, claim that spinning around, scampering back and making crucial tackles in the blink of an eye are really their respective fortes), which means that one cunning diagonal pass and it’s Hugo time. And damn their eyes, Mata, Hazard and Oscar have been slipping in cunning diagonal passes since the womb.
On top of which, our heroes do not quite have the perfect balance of earnest toil and mind-blowing ingenuity. Things do still tend to tick impotently sideways and out to the wings. The van der Vaart-shaped hole remains, the cunning diagonal womb-bred passes conspicuously absence. And on Saturday by golly there were an awful lot of passengers in lilywhite.
Woe, woe, woe. And we haven’t even kicked off yet. If you have got this far down the page you will probably have inferred that AANP is going to be awful company this evening, so spare a thought for my old man AANP Senior, and pray fervently that the A-game that briefly surfaced for 15 glorious minutes against Man City is rekindled tonight. Our season just about hangs on it.
It would seem after that particular nerve-wracker to swerve rather wildly from reality by suggesting that the Spurs go marching on. Limping on, perhaps, or maybe sputtering to a halt and having our constituent parts stuffed unceremoniously into a sack and dragged towards the finish line by Bale. A less catchy ditty though, what?
Glorious relief though that finale provided, it was rather a poke in the eye for the massed ranks of us who have been insisting all season that we are more than just a one-man team. The problem with this specific one man is that he is not the sort to pull strings and dictate proceedings like some boot-clad revolutionary. The game passed Bale by as much as it did any of the other lilywhite heroes, the only difference being that while the rest of them could have huffed and puffed away until next season without producing anything different, Bale can conjure match-winners from rather innocuous-looking starting positions way out on the right, or wherever else he may be. Our mob is still bereft of a conductor, through whom all business passes – but that is one to be addressed in the summer months. For now, the good fight continues to be fought.
Curiously, for a match on which so much was riding, our heroes opted to a man to produce one of the most anaemic displays in recent memory. Hudd occasionally stroked an impeccably-weighted pass, and Kyle Walker beavered away, but that rather unpleasant sound in the distance is that of the AANP barrel being scraped in search of match highlights, for there was precious little of note from anyone, and after 80 minutes the dream appeared to be dying. The only chances I can recall were the early Defoe snapshot, and the little move involving a Hudd pass, Adebayor back-heel and inevitable Dempsey waft into the stands. The better chances were Southampton’s, in the first half at least, and once again Lloris saved our jambon. On the debit side, Benny had one of those days, producing all manner of suicidal buffoonery that but for the grace of God might have cost us our season, and Daws showed, not for the first time in his career, that it does not really require complex equations from Mensa’s finest to leave him floundering.
Probably best not to dwell on such things. To play badly and eke out a win is vaguely cockle-warming, and ‘tis difficult to imagine our mob being quite so toothless once again for Wednesday night’s cup final. A job needed doing and was done, albeit ultimately by our one man again. Three more points, and the dream remains alive.
Crumbs. You may want to shield the eyes of your children, because this has the potential to turn into a right palaver. Southampton at home ordinarily ought not to elicit more than confident nod, but with things being what they are I think our heroes dare not sneeze in the wrong direction today.
It may be of some comfort that Southampton are not exactly knee-deep in the mire, but I suppose ‘tis unrealistic to expect them simply to roll over and allow us to tickle their tummies. Still, if they found themselves two-down with 20 minutes to go it would be marvellously obliging of them if they just gave up and went the way of all flesh. Oh that life at the Lane were that simple, what?
Having begun the season with the thunderous central partnership of Sandro and Dembele hoovering up all before them, we find ourselves with the slightly more idiosyncratic pairing of Parker and the Hudd as the curtain comes down. If ever there were a time for the Hudd to pick a perfect pass, or deliver any other sort of alliterative brilliance, this could well be it.
Ultimately however, I presume it will come down to Bale. The lad does have quite a sense of occasion, not to mention nerves of steel. Just as well, as I can barely bring myself to watch.
Quite the 80th birthday present for AANP Senior. Is there a more joyous sight to behold in nature than a tide of adrenalin-pumped lilywhites pouring forward in wave after wave of irresistible attack at a sun-baked White Hart Lane? A spritely cheetah catching a young upstart of a gazelle and tearing it to pieces perhaps? That scene in Terminator 2 when Arnie shoots the padlock while riding his bike, then reloads seamlessly by twirling the shotgun around in his hand, and shooting another padlock? All worthy of a moment’s silent admiration, and reason if ever it existed to top up the tumbler with a fresh splash of bourbon in a gesture of unadulterated admiration - but by golly the sight of our heroes simply overwhelming the current champions in that mesmerising final 20 minutes, to the soundtrack of the most remarkable White Hart Lane din, was enough to make me smash a bottle of champagne against the side of the nearest ship, so rip-roaring were the events unfolding.
All of which came about, incredibly enough, after a dispiriting hour in which the dream looked set to die. The willingness of our heroes could not be faulted, but in the early stages ‘twas eerily reminiscent of many a Saturday evening in the nightspots of London, when AANP has attempted to woo the good womenfolk of London by delivering a ten-minute stream of unfunny bluster, before a rival cad strolls by to instantly sweep the young maiden off her feet with little more than an arched eyebrow. Thus was our valiant but slightly desperate gameplan of headless chickenry swiftly punctuated by one effortless flash of genius from Tevez, and lo – we trailed.
The pattern changed little thereafter, our attacking trio of Dempsey, Bale and Sigurdsson conspicuously lacking the nous of a Tevez, while ahead of them Adebayor gave a glimpse of a dystopian future in which teams play without a striker.
AVB’s Moment of Glory
But enter stage left the sort of managerial jiggery-pokery so barnstorming it can shoot pterodactyls out of the sky whilst blindfolded. While here at AANP Towers the suggested solution was nothing more progressive than a plaintive whinge about swapping strikers, AVB turned the universe on its head by switching from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, and unleashing the Hudd. Memories of the introduction of Jamie Redknapp at half-time in the Euro 96 England-Scotland match no doubt came flooding back to the lot of us, as Hudd instantly brought with him the perfect polygamous marriage of calmness, vision, technique and hair, giving us complete control and a nifty selection of dreamy, defence-splitting passes. The lad looked like he owned the ruddy pitch, and with Holtby buzzing around like a demented wasp ahead of him, Bale flicking the ‘Magic ’ switch on his left boot and Defoe showing the sort of bloody-minded eye for goal that Adebayor would not know if it slapped him in the face with a wet fish, all pretty swiftly became right with the world.
This does create a wonderful few conundra for AVB, around whether to select Defoe or Adebayor next up (relatively straightforward methinks); and whether to go with the brand of sorcery that Hudd delivers a little too effortlessly, within a 4-3-3, or the tireless but slightly directionless pirouetting of Parker, in a 4-2-3-1 (perchance more of a poser). These are queries for another day; now is without doubt still the time for making merry and, frankly, rubbing our eyes in disbelief. Where on earth it came from is slightly mystifying, but our heroes have got their groove back, and it was rollicking stuff.
One final Herculean effort please chaps. Actually, six more such efforts, but you get the gist. After that ten-day hiatus it is all a mite breathless from now until the season’s end, and the drill is essentially win, win and win again – which sounds straightforward enough when hammered out in Arial 10, but is presumably going to be eked out in typically excruciating fashion by our heroes.
First up are the current champions, for the sort of to-do that will require a darned sight more cunning and brio than the average Sunday lunchtime transaction. Thank heavens then for the returns of Masters Bale and Lennon, who in their own unique ways, heralded and unheralded alike, add a touch of majesty to the earnest but occasionally sparkle-lite endeavours of their colleagues. The return to fitness of Defoe also provides an extra option, but I rather suspect AVB will stick with Adebayor, who, ludicrous penalty-taking aside, has showed some renewed energy in recent engagements.
Elsewhere, Dembele ought to be yanked aside immediately pre kick-off for a gentle reminder that this is no time for him to mooch around in the off-boil manner off Basel a week or two back, while Scott Parker will need to deliver the sort of performance that we all probably think is beyond him now. And if the back-four could tighten up a mite it would prove jolly timely too.
A tall order for sure, but not beyond the realms of possibility. We blinking well need to win this really (although, writing before any of the weekend fixtures, it is possible that others around us may drop points), so A-games all round please.
With curses duly bestowed to the interweb for breaking yesterday, preventing this from being a more timely posting…true villain of the piece as… Vertonghen! Except that that is not a particularly fashionable line of social media punditry to adopt, so dedicated truth-hounds that we are, an even closer inspection reveals that Vertonghen only had to make his challenge because possession was conceded when Daws chugged forward and mis-controlled straight to a Basel player, who played his pass into the gap vacated, leaving Vertonghen to cover. Which means that the actual villain of the piece can be unmasked as… Dawson! But that really would not be cricket, because the blighter was… what’s the phrase we used to use for Sol Campbell before we learnt to hate…? Colossus! Dawson was a colossus, becoming increasingly colossus-esque with each passing minute, so no blame there. (Apart from several madcap lunges in the first-half over which Basel forwards nonchalantly skipped.) And besides, going back to the red card, if one were to don the monocle and look closely at the replay it appears that Vertonghen did actually nick the ball. So perhaps it ought not to have been a red card, which means that the villain, inevitably, is… the ref! On top of which, the corner from which Basel scored their second mighty well looked like it should not have been awarded, having touched a home player last. Which points to the real villain being… the extra official who semi-squats on the goal-line and intensely stares at the action three yards away from him before looking up at the ref with a blank expression! Oh dash it all, let’s just blame Adebayor, it’s far easier.
I suppose Adebayor most conveniently matches the e-fit of “Dastardly Scapegoat” that was issued almost as soon as the deed was done on Thursday night – and he certainly made a complete pig’s ear of the penalty, but in the occasional moments of sanguinity that have interrupted the otherwise non-stop grump at AANP Towers since then, it has seemed reasonable to attribute both praise and opprobrium where appropriate.
In which spirit – yes, ‘twas a wretched penalty, but rather than hanging on for penalties with last-ditch blocks, cramping limbs and a couple of players appearing to need chest compression before they could get back on their feet, we might have continued with that momentum we gained after our second goal, and gone into extra-time on the front-foot with a realistic chance of scoring a third – and potentially decisive – away goal. That we lost this momentum is nothing to do with Adebayor, but due to the sending-off… which means that in the finest tradition of Scooby-Doo we can unmask the
Elsewhere On The Pitch
Frankly there is little inclination around these parts to do much else than sift half-heartedly through the wreckage and zip up a few body-bags, rather like in the post-climax scene in Terminator. Or indeed Alien 3. As against Everton last weekend there was a fair amount of controlled possession, but a distinct dearth of By-Jiminy-That-Has-Carved-Them-Open incisive passing from our lot. The ball was regularly shipped sideways, but with right-footers on the left flank and no natural right winger on the right (try babbling that after a few good bourbons), crosses into the box were at a premium. Which was rather a shame, as we looked to have the beating of them in the air. Dembele was a little off-kilter, but by golly Messrs Dempsey, Sigurdsson and Holtby pounded the treadmill, and Carroll made some useful little contributions, albeit without exactly bossing things. Whether or not Hudd might have become an influential midfield figure in extra-time we will never know, the re-jig forcing him back into defence, and ‘tis a blinking shame, because having created our second there was just a suspicion that he might have grown in influence.
Oh well. If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly. Except this being Spurs, it were done in excruciatingly long-drawn out and agonising fashion, with the not entirely salubrious side-effects of sapping the beans out of half of our squad and occasionally costing us Sunday points. All things considered however, I am actually rather glad for this season’s European jaunt, for as a long-term exercise it has its benefits (familiarity with the AVB way; experience gained of how to handle these nights; some impressive never-say-die Henry V stuff) and the nights themselves have thrown up more enjoyment than when done by the ‘Arry drill. Just an opinion, I hardly expect universal concurrence. days off then. Use them well.
In terms of a late-season wobble, this ought to separate the Mild-Swaying from the Pillars-Crashing-To-Earth-All-Around-Us. After the slipshod events of recent weeks, and given the meddlesome lather in which we now find ourselves, there has never been a more apt time for someone with a glint in his eye and young floozy on each arm to swagger up to the bar and pay for everyone’s drinks for the rest of the night.
Oh that life were so straightforward. Keener students of current affairs may be aware that the regular cape-wearer-in-residence is currently indisposed, which leaves a lot of head-scratching amongst us licence fee-payers as to precisely who tonight’s hero will be. Dembele? Adebayor? Vertonghen? Now does not really seem the time to be rotating Friedel back into the frame, but thus will personnel presumably be selected (although grateful prayers can be murmured if Gallas’ injury prevents him from adopting his usual Europa slot). In midfield and attack there does not seem to be a great deal of choice, unless AVB suddenly gets the urge to spring a Huddlestone/Carroll-shaped surprise upon us. By and large therefore, the match-winners tonight will have to be one of those who huffed and puffed away on Sunday. If ever there were a time for Dempsey to silence the ever-growing horde of critics at AANP Towers…
AVB has spent all season shoving eggs into his Europa League basket and not caring a jot who sees him do it. Admirable sentiments for sure, but to limp home at the quarter-final stage after all this palaver would be an awkward one to explain to the parents. At this stage, and with everything teetering so dashed precariously, I personally would take Top Four over Europa, but frankly our fortunes in both seem intertwined at the moment – one way or another we need to stop the rot, and start winning every blinking game we play.