Well this should be entertaining. Tonight we play Randomdutchguysh FC, or someone, and their unknown manager has taken advantage of the 15 mins of fame this affords him to denounce us as “predictable”, “long-ball” team. I love it when random foreign lads get a bite at a (relatively) big-name English team, and take the oportunity to go off on one like a madman, offering wildly deluded tactial insights with the most delightful, straight-faced insistence. It’s like when one of the Absurdistan teams is about to play England, and their boss insists for half an hour in a press conference that Rooney wouldn’t make the Kazakh under-17s women’s XI. Because he’s not aggressive enough. Think Comical Ali, but in football terms, and you get the idea.
So Mario Been, coach of NEC Nijmegen, has been fighting his corner, insisting:
“Tottenham is Tottenham. They play a type of football that is predictable. They play the long ball, then the game will start. We know that because we see English football every week. We are prepared for that.”
Erm, thanks for that Mario. Now admittedly I’m playing a dangerous game here, because if anyone can complicate the uncomplicated it’s Spurs. I should really know better than to patronise the charming little Dutch outfit, and ought to avoid complacency like the plague, given some of the results we’ve had this season. But irrespective of how the game pans out, that sort of chat is hilarious because it bears so little resemblance to reality. We certainly do have enough weaknesses in our team, but a penchant for long-ball tactics? Sounds like one Dutchman’s been spending too much time in the coffee shops. Been’s patter is vastly more intimidating when he offers an opinion that loosely corresponds to life on earth, such as the rather dangerous observation about our goalkeeper Gomes:
“Maybe he doesn’t have confidence in this moment.”
Dammit, Been’s done his homework. However, he rather spoiled the intimidatory effect, by then adding:
“It’s maybe a different way of playing for him – always the long ball.”
Schtop, schtop – Mario, we don’t play long-ball! We don’t play anything resembling the long-ball game. We may be allergic to tackling, and pass as sloppily as mushy peas, and treat the ball like a hot potato in defence, and spurn chance after chance, and have a goalkeeper who can’t catch and have in our ranks Jamie “Three-touch” O’Hara – but we definitely do not play long ball.
With such a tactical mastermind at the helm, I suspect we’ll be ok tonight. Maybe I will have to eat humble pie – after all, we’re without the ineligible Pavluychenko and Corluka, while Modric, Giovanni and Hutton are all injured and Ledley is being rested again. However, the stats suggest that we’ll cope – this lot stumbled to a 3-2 defeat against Dinamo, a week before we stuffed the same Dinamo 4-0 in the most one-sided game I’ve ever been to. Should we prevail, I’ll be intrigued to hear what Mario makes of it in the post-match interviews.
“They didn’t deserve it. They had no skill. They just kept hitting long balls at us…”