All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Spurs – Arsenal Preview Mk II: Ominous Signs as Spurs Fan is Peed Upon

A Spurs fan is p*ssed on, barely 24 hours before the Norf London derby. It’s an omen I tell ye. Cracks will appear in the sky, four apocalyptic jockeys will saddle up and all hell will break loose at the Lane today, so run for the hills, God help you all. I sneer in the face of those who suggest I’m overreacting to the fact that my four month-old nephew urinated on me as I held him yesterday.And baby-related trauma is not the only portent of momentous significance to have emerged in the build-up to this one. All-action-no-plot etchings of Spurs cockerels have been mysteriously appearing across the sandy beaches of Perth. Alright, that’s not really so mysterious, given that I’m frequently to be found next to said etchings, with sand-encrusted finger. And while it may all be a bit tenuous, as the clock ticks down towards kick-off – and the search for a bar that will show the game out here in Oz becomes increasingly frantic* – I find myself preparing as if I’m in some way involved. Admittedly my preparations tend to comprise little more than retreat into a shell of pessimism, but it’s the same before every game, and exacerbated before a game against that lot. The fact remains that we fans do prepare, as if we can make a difference, even when on the side of the world. (Insert tedious comment about the contrasting attitude of the players around here).

Like anything I do will have the slightest bearing upon events at the Lane today. There’s some sort of mentalist theory that if a butterfly flaps its wings in London it causes a hurricane in South America. Personally I find that as believable as a profession of loyalty from a Premiership footballer, but nevertheless, the fact that I’ve been weed upon for the first time in my life, just a day before a North London derby – well, it must be some sort of prognostication of doom, no?

Possibly more relevant to the outcome of the game is the second debut of Robbie Keane. Penalty miss ’07 aside, he’s been something of a bête noire to the other lot, and the odds must be short on a roly-poly and badge-kiss celebration at some point today. For all the rights and wrongs of his departure and return I’m glad to have someone of his mentality in the team for a game like this. In other areas, headline-writers will be disappointed to note that ex-Gooner David Bentley will be viewing things from his beauty-parlour back home rather than the pitch, due to a one-game suspension; while lack of match-fitness may deprive l’Arse newbie Arshavin from crossing scimitars with national striking partner, but categorical non-friend, Roman Pav.

Should we triumph today, on the back of my urinary dousing, a new pre-match ritual may be born…

 

* = A more positive omen is that I might have found a place that’s showing the game live here in Subiaco, Perth, one of the sunniest, but least all-action places on earth. Fingers crossed.

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: Idle Musings on ‘Arry’s Reign

This feels almost like the build-up to a cup match. Providing respite from the usual painful and laborious business of scraps against fellow relegation strugglers, we can all sit back on Sunday and marvel as our wondrous heroes miraculously forget how average they’ve been all season and suddenly improve their game ten-fold against l’Arse. The other lot are by no means invincible, or especially pretty these days, so we may indeed be able to secure the delusory yet priceless bragging rights for the rest of the season.The derby at the Emirates earlier this season was ‘Arry’s first official game in charge of us, so it would be tempting to view this return fixture at the Lane as a barometer of progress. However, a disclaimer is in order: win, lose or draw there’s not a lot that can be read into a game vs l’Arse. Should we win, or draw playing well, we’ll need to remember that l’Arse at home is never a true indication of our quality. Should we lose or draw luckily we’ll have to admit that there are still new faces in the team ‘Arry’s rebuilding. Any game vs that ‘orrible lot is something of an anomaly – much like a cup game.

However, as we face again his first opponents why not indulge in a spot of nostalgia, and hark back to that grainy black and white era when Ramos was jettisoned, ‘Arry was first installed and we skipped up to the Emirates for the start of a brave new ear. The bare statistics of ‘Arry’s reign to date do not look especially encouraging, as we’re still only a point of the drop zone. Tempting though it is to do the Spurs thing and leap to the nearest wildly inappropriate conclusion (in this case “’Arry’s useless, let’s sack him”, rather than “’Arry’s our saviour, give him the job for life”) it would be more useful – albeit rather dull – to adopt a measured approach.

On a general level, ‘Arry’s arrival has brought us a run of good luck and decent form in patches, but there have been enough insipid displays to serve as a warning that this season may yet end in disaster.

Credit where it’s due, one of the key problems appears to have been solved: goalkeeper. Let’s not forget quite how horrendous an issue this had become – once upon a time there was weeping and gnashing of teeth whenever we conceded a corner, so poorly judged and executed were Gomes’ forays off his line. He deserves enormous credit for his improvement, and ‘Arry probably merits a pat on the back here too, if only for brining in Tony Parks to work with the eternally wincing Brazilian. Meanwhile Cudicini has turned the position into arguably our strongest, an astute signing, even though it may, ironically, signal the end of Gomes’ Spurs career.

Other areas have been addressed rather less well. Amidst accolades of ‘Arry’s unique man-management technique, Bentley’s wonder-goal at the Emirates was supposed to catalyse the pretty-boy’s transformation into some sort of footballing deity, heir apparent to David Beckham as a fixture in the England team and terroriser of defences across the land. Fast forward three months, and for all the fancy flicks and brylcreem he’s put on display, we’ve yet to see the best of Bentley. A cross duly marked against ‘Arry.

Our esteemed manager continues to switch between 4-4-2 and 4-5-1, suggesting possible uncertainty about the approach he wants to adopt. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I guess he’ll settle upon a formation once he has his favoured personnel in place and raring to go. However, while he may blame the squad he inherited, I still think a good enough manager would by now have found a formation that works…

Sorry, I almost slipped back into “Sack-the-manager” mode. What I meant to say was that it’s still early days, an excuse we’ll probably have to accept until the summer, when ‘Arry really gets to shape the squad in his own image (ie ugly and with a twitch). Some of the problems having already been deemed insurmountable, he’s made a beeline for the transfer market, rather than try to use the players already at his disposal. Wafer thin midfield? Transfer market. No idea how to get Pav and Bent working together upfront? Transfer market.

While I think they’re all shrewd signings, it irks me a little that he couldn’t have squeezed more out of the crop of multi-million pound internationals he had at his disposal when he took over. Maybe that would have been asking too much of a full-time manager with several decades of experience in the English game.

However, these are just idle musings. It remains too early to pass judgement on the man’s time as Spurs manager, and one home game against the other lot should not colour opinions too much one way or t’other.

Spurs’ Transfer Window Doings Get The Thumbs Up

Believe it or not, back at the start of the transfer window most of the talk at the Lane was whether or not Stewart One-Trick Downing would dip his right shoulder, dart out to the left and pitch up in N17. Seems an age ago now, n’est-ce pas? And who would have possibly imagined back then, as we mixed over-strengthed home-made cocktails on 31 December 2008, that the mid-winter spending spree would end with Defoe, Keane and Chimbonda back in lilywhite? AANP peers back through the January transfer window and tries to make sense of the madness.Players In 

Pascal Chimbonda: Villainous human being, but versatile defender of good quality. Smart thinking, ‘Arry.

Wilson Palacios: Who knows? Haven’t seen enough of him to give an opinion, but hearsay suggests that this is a midfielder who can pass and tackle, pure and simple. As such, he ought to be the best thing since sliced bread, although on reflection, sliced bread really ain’t so special, presuming you possess your own knife. I digress. If the hype is true, Palacios will be our most important signing in years.

Jermain Defoe: Might not be the complete all-round striker, but by golly he can shoot – on target and with venom in his ickle size sixes. We need goals, he scores goals, value for money, QED. (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=196)

Robbie Keane: Controversial. In purely footballing terms he’s a good buy – but it’s so much more than a purely footballing buy with Keane (see http://www.allactionnoplot.com/?p=307).

Players out:

Hossam Ghaly: Probably in everyone’s best interests. We may be childish to hold a grudge for so long, but at least we can’t be accused of fickleness with this one. Unlikely ever to be re-signed.

Paul Stalteri: Served his purpose as a propaganda tool for ‘Arry, who gave him a squad number to show what a motivator he is, then never played him and sold him at the first opportunity.

Cesar Sanchez: Aka “that Spanish goalkeeper”. Might be world class for all we know, but I get the impression ‘Arry would have played Aaron Lennon in goal before picking this chap. He rather sums up the Wendy Ramos reign.

Still at the Lane… Just: Giovanni dos Santos: Alright, he’s only played about 5 minutes of football for us, but it would have been a mighty disappointment had his transfer to Pompey gone through. He’s young enough to improve, he presumably has flair (having come from some Spanish outfit called Barca), injuries have deprived him of a chance to prove himself and he’s supposedly a left-sided attacker. Commons sense suggests he needs another year to bed in and show what he’s about – so we can expect him to be jettisoned straight away in the summer.

Aaron Lennon: Ooh, I’d have caught a small tropical bird and strangled it if we’d traded off Lennon to Liverpool in a swap for Keane, as mooted in some circles. He may never be the player his promise suggests he ought to become, but he’s undoubtedly been one of our best in this season of general mediocrity.

Jermaine Jenas: Hilarious rumours of a move to Inter collapsed when it emerged that the basis for the story was that Jose Mourinho had picked him in his fantasy league team back in the summer. It makes much more sense.

David Bentley and his hair: Seems we can’t go selling off all the mirrors in the changing room just yet. Bentley was reportedly being offered as a slab of meat in any one of a number of deals (Keane, Jones, Downing) but with a loving flick of his fringe he’ll remain at the Lane for several months yet. His attitude has improved this month, it would be nice to see his form pick up proportionally.

Darren Bent: Despite his two-goal salvo at the weekend, despite the injury to Defoe, despite ‘Arry’s protestations that really he rated him all along , the feeling nevertheless persists that poor old Bent will be out the door first decent offer we get. That charming combination of an earnest, well-meaning attitude combined with chronic and almost comical displays of inability have started to remind me of Fawlty Towers’ Manuel.

Missed Targets 

Stewart One-Trick Downing: Was within a whisker of becoming ‘Arry’s first signing. His supporters claim he would give the side natural balance; his detractors – including yours truly – claim that he’s just not particularly good, and certainly not £15 mil worth of good.

Kenwyne Jones: Still yet to see him play (beyond MOTD highlights) but in theory he would have been a good idea, being a striker with a bit of physical presence. Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia became so flustered he threatened to start crying and tell his Mum if we continued to pursue him, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see this story re-emerge in the summer.

Stephen Appiah: Did I imagine all this? Does the guy even exist? Newspapers, magazines, websites and flies on walls were unanimous in claiming that Appiah was having trial after trial with us throughout January – yet deadline day came and went, and there was no news on the chap. Not a murmur. A bit like Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects – supposedly a bit important, but no-one’s seen him, no-one knows where he is, and like that… he’s gone.

Quaresma: Might have offered balance on the left, might have proved too much of a big girl’s blouse for the Premiership. Either way, he’s at Chelski now so we can all hate him.

The AANP Verdict 

In the style of Joaquim Phoenix’s character in Gladiator, on careful consideration I give this transfer window a thumbs up. Cudicini, Chimbonda, Defoe and (just about) Keane each represent good bits of business on their own criteria; while the failure to buy Downing strikes me as a lucky escape, and the retention of Giovanni (albeit by accident rather than design) pleases me. Having initially moaned about how difficult it is to buy decent players in January, it doesn’t surprise me that ‘Arry ended up splashing out the annual GDP of a small, third-world country, but I’m breathing a little more easily now than I was a month ago.

Robbie Keane Returns, Confused Fans Wonder Whether to Cheer or Jeer

The Tottenham transfer policy has begun to spiral beyond the realms of reason with the news of Keane’s return.  The policy of buying back players, which had seemed ironic and mildly amusing at first, now appears to be a dedicated strategy on the part of Levy and Redknapp, with predictable jokes now being made about the imminent return of Mido, Mabbut and Mullery.. However, while the return of Defoe was greeted in the wildly over-zealous manner of a human deity, Robbie Keane’s is likely to be a little harder to stomach for the N17 regulars. Opinion will, inevitably, be split between haters and slightly reluctant accepters, but there are arguments in both camps…“Tree Cheers For The Oirish Scamp!” 

He’s a worker. Yes, he moans, wags his finger and rather tediously blames everyone but himself – but he also buzzes around with the verve of a three year-old who’s been force-fed sugar and class A drugs. Such an attitude is vastly preferable in a relegation scrap to that of a prima donna more obsessed with keeping his shirt dazzlingly white and flicking his fringe.

We made an £8 mil profit over six months. Huzzah! Admittedly this is neither here nor there for the fans – it’s not like the entire sum will be poured into ticket-price reductions. In fact, the entire sum and more might one day be spent upon Stewart One-Trick Downing, but let’s not depress ourselves. Schadenfreude is one of the most wonderful things on God’s green earth, and the opportunity to laugh at Liverpool ought not to be passed up.

“That Treacherous Scoundrel Is Not Fit To Wear The Shirt…” 

He’s no target-man. Forgive my imbecility, but I had thought we were after a great hulking mammoth of a front-man? A Kenwyne Jones-esque beast of a striker, who eats small animals and children for his half-time snack, and who can’t be barged off the ball by a whole fleet of Soviet tanks. Robbie Keane has many, attributes, but being the long-lost twin of Emile Heskey is not one of them.  Having prioritised a big-man upfront, this concerted change of transfer policy is striking – and potentially flawed if ‘Arry remains unconvinced by Pav and Bent.

The Keane-Defoe conundrum. So how does this fit in with Jermain Defoe? Admittedly Defoe is now out for 10 weeks, so there was a very strong case for splashing the cash and bringing in another proven Premiership striker, and pronto. However, Defoe is not about to retire. He’ll be back one day, and when he is we can once again all twist our knickers and write reams and reams about the folly of trying to pair Keane and Defoe. History suggests that failure to solve this one, again, will lead to one of them throwing toys from pram and legging it out of the Lane. As a small child I would shrug and assume that someone, somewhere knew what was going on. Now I shrug and file everything that happens at the Lane under the heading “All Action, No Plot”.

And one final thought, to be mulled over at your leisure. Where the blazes is all this money coming from?

Bolton 3-2 Spurs: Ticking The Usual Boxes

It makes no difference that I’m the other side of the world, there’s no getting away from the same old Spurs. Week in, week out, the usual boxes can be ticked, just as they will be next week, and next year, and in 10 years time.Problem one. 4-5-1. Pav on his own, no support, no bite in attack – I feel like a broken record. Maybe it’s the personnel rather than the formation, but in the absence of a Drogba or a Shearer in attack, or the appropriate attacking midfielders, the infuriating 4-5-1 will not work.

Problem two. Set pieces. Yes, the element of the game perfected after a couple of 15 minute training sessions by schoolboy and amateur teams throughout the country, continues to flummox the multi-millionaires of the Lane. One can only imagine the looks of bewilderment on the players’ faces at Spurs Lodge in midweek as ‘Arry and co. attempt to outline the basic concepts involved. Furrowed brows all round, and incredulous whispers between players – “So he wants us to head the round white thing? Really? That sort of thing is really going to mess up my hair. And tell me again – the other team, it’s ok to let them get to it first, or…?” 

Problem three. Conceding the late winner. Gents, if you’ve gone ten, twenty or eighty-nine minutes without conceding a goal, you are not therefore rewarded with a two-minute break from defending as the clock ticks down to 90 and beyond. Goals conceded during these late periods do still count, no matter how pleased you are with yourselves for the good work of the preceding few minutes.

It is by no means an exhaustive list – these are simply the boxes that can be crossed off the card for last weekend’s Tottenham Bingo. Mercifully, one typical problem, which could be loosely termed “Why Can’t They Play Every Week As If They’re Playing Against Arsenal”, ought not to be an issue next week, when we entertain l’Arse and duly raise our game.

Back to the humdrum of playing the sides around us in the bottom half, and while the same problems occur each week little is done in the way of tackling them in order to prevent their recurrence. Instead, the team seems to have adopted a form of pseudo-martyrdom, whereby they gallantly accept the recurrence of such hindrances as inevitable each week. The mentality seems to be that nothing can be done to prevent goals from set-pieces, or that when adopting 4-5-1 there is no option but to leave the lone striker completely isolated and the formation completely impotent. If I were to pitch up at the training ground and suggest fighting tooth and nail to prevent conceding in the dying minutes I suspect the players would look at me as if I had grown a second head. They would shake their heads and insist that fate cannot be changed. Darwin would turn in his grave to observe such inability to evolve and improve.

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