Curiously, our most emphatic win in recent years was achieved without us ever really hitting top gear. There were some moments at the end of the first half when we played true champagne football, and Defoe might have finished off a couple of moves so pleasing on the eye they ought to have been put on canvass and stuck in a gallery. Aside from that however, it was generally a little sloppy and lacking in fluency. You know the sort of thing – mis-placed passes and lack of movement. It was most noticeable in the slightly lethargic start to the second half, which might have been punished by better teams.Ah, who else but a Spurs fan could find room for complaint after a second five-goal salvo in a week? We may not have hit top gear, but there was no real need. While Jenas’ goal had a touch of fortune about it, we scored four others and created plenty more chances besides. The third goal effectively ended the contest, but I suspect we would have raised our game if it had been necessary to do so. Winning 5-0 when playing within ourselves is quite an achievement.
Keane Silences The Bloke Behind Me Who Was Laying Into Him In The First Half
Robbie Keane’s doubters have been given some food for thought. Scepticism about his finishing ability – much of which has emanated from AANP Towers, I must confess – was fairly emphatically addressed today, albeit after he had had saved a first half one-on-one. Another concern since he rejoined us has been that he spends too much time dropping into midfield, where he mixes industry with incessant moaning at anyone in his line of vision, rather than operating as one of a pair in attack. Indeed, at times in the first half he was at it again, buzzing dementedly around midfield areas; but this seemed to change once Defoe went off. Thereafter we were treated to the welcome sight of the Irishman rolling back the years and scampering straight up the middle at the head of the attack whenever we broke forward.
Fear not however, all ye Keane critics – while I’m not sure of the extent of Defoe’s injury, it can be assumed that he will retain his place in the team when fit, meaning that Keane will presumably revert back to his slightly deeper role, and there will be opportunities anew to moan, grumble and raucously curse the man. Hopefully though, he’ll never be stuck out on the left again.
First Impressions of Kranjcar
Our first chance to cast beady eyes on the boy Kranjcar. First impressions are that he is decent enough, without threatening ever to blow up anyone’s skirt. More Corluka than Modric, notably in that lumbering running style of a man attempting to get around while a rope around his waist drags behind him a set of tyres. He certainly seems happy enough to get forward, but his phobia of the touchline might need to be addressed, and his right-footedness leaves the team still looking a little lop-sided sans Modric.
Elsewhere On The Pitch…
I was pleasantly surprised to see Bassong start at the back. When he was stretchered off last week he looked so badly beaten up he seemed for all the world a man about to be euthanized – yet he was full of beans today, and from my vantage-point did not appear to put a foot wrong. Nor did Assou-Ekotto, although it was disappointing to see there was no foundation to rumours that he was once again sporting the ‘fro.
The Hudd just about coped with the rigours of central defence. Although culpable for the disallowed Burnley goal in the first half, he rather appeared to enjoy himself in the latter stages, bringing the ball out of defence with aplomb. I hesitate to suggest that he would handle the likes of Drogba and Torres with any comfort, but for the next few weeks he ought to do the job.
Cudicini had a rather wobbly moment however, his loss of concentration almost gifting Burnley a goal. With Gomes back to fitness, Cudicini’s every move will be under the microscope now. That said, ‘tis pleasing to note our first clean-sheet of the season.
By the closing stages it had turned into something of an exhibition match. Hudd started rolling out his Beckenbauer impressions. Bale was brought on to break his non-winning Premiership hoodoo. Dawson was ushered back into the fold. (Bentley was nowhere to be seen). Chas’n’Dave were honoured in fittingly unmelodic fashion. News of the Chelski result prompted another celebratory cheer. It may not have been a bravura performance, but we natives departed contentedly enough.
How The Blazes Did Burnely Beat Man Utd A Few Weeks Back?
Finally, a word or two on our vanquished opponents. A couple of weeks ago Man Utd came to town and were sublime; Burnely were ruddy awful. Quite how they beat the champions last month is beyond me, because at times they displayed basic technique so bad they resembled a pub team. If there was an opportunity to mis-kick they mis-kicked; if a pass could be mis-placed they duly pinged it miles off target. Presumably they are a much better team than they showed today, and we can expect a much tougher test at Turf Moor later in the season, but their efforts did much today to lull us into a quite appropriate sense of security. Still, our players had to trot out there and beat them, and did so with plenty to spare. Top-six form, at least.
Your memories are still welcomed here on Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the latest to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes. Feel free to contribute your memories – or browse those of others - on Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here, Gary Mabbutt here or Graham Roberts here
Two consecutive defeats it may be, but even the most pessimistic amongst us have struggled to make a convincing case for this being a crisis. Man Utd and Chelski are the best two teams in the country, and amongst the best handful in Europe. Losing to them is not exactly to be welcomed, but neither is it a cause for alarm. That we have lost two games on the bounce says more about the quirks of the fixture-list than any catastrophe at N17.Losing at home to Burnley would be a slightly different kettle of fish however. For a team with aspirations of the top six and possibly more, home games against the newly-promoted ought to represent three points. A defeat here really would undo much of the good work of August, shunting us further towards mid-table and giving a signal to the doleful chap at the back to start ringing the alarm bells.
However, I do not really see this worst-case scenario transpiring. Any suggestion that the consecutive defeats had caused a crisis of confidence was quickly dispelled with the midweek mauling of Preston. In attack in particular, the impression is of a bunch of top-quality players chomping at the bit.
Square Building-Blocks, Triangle-Shaped Holes
Time For Dawson To Prove Himself A True Jedi
Your memories are still welcomed here on Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the latest to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes. Feel free to contribute your memories – or browse those of others - on Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here, Gary Mabbutt here Graham Roberts here
If you want to save yourself time you might as well just cast your mind back to the first round tie away to Doncaster – five more goals, away from home, and despite the occasional early scare the gulf in class eventually told. Deja-vu all over again. It’s not the Tottenham I grew up with I tell ye. Instead of stumbling, slipping and generally making things unnecessarily complicated against lower-league opponents, we turned in a pretty clinical display. Frankly, I’m suspicious.Crouch Makes His Case
And yet… The sentiment persists from over here that he is best deployed as Plan B for us. Hang on, hang on, hear me out. Against weaker opposition – lower league teams and even bottom-half Premiership sides – he will play well, and we will play well, and everyone lives happily ever after. I don’t’ mind him as Plan A on these occasions. But in the big games, against top four teams and also our main rivals for the top six, I’m not convinced he is the right man for the job, and a hat-trick against Preston is not a sufficiently convincing argument. He will still inadvertently encourage too many long balls, and against top teams rarely has same impact when on the pitch from the start as he does when introduced against tiring legs as a late impact-sub. Just an opinion mind, and the floodgates can now be considered officially opened for the plethora of angry voices arguing otherwise.
Elsewhere On The Pitch…
As in the previous round, the emphatic scoreline might have been very different had it not been for some smart goalkeeping in the early stages. It was a return to the good old days for Gomes, with the sublime and the ridiculous merrily co-habiting. If I may be pedantic, a clean-sheet would be nice at some stage, but as long as we outscore the opposition on a regular basis I won’t kick up a fuss.
All told it was a very professional performance. Preston are no mugs, in good from near the top of the Championship, but we quelled them, scored early, and then treated them to a spot of spirit-sapping keep-ball in the second half. That second half mentality really did induce some approving head-nods and even some thigh-slaps from this quarter. It really took the sting out of the game, and was reinforced by the team turning superiority into goals. A third five-goal haul in a season barely six weeks old really is good stuff. These displays may have been against weaker opposition, but Spurs teams of the past have tripped up, and on the back of two defeats a ropey performance would have prompted some murmurs of concern. Job done. Bravo.
Your memories are still welcomed on Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the latest to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a book looking at White Hart Lane legends, due out next spring. Feel free to leave your memories – or browse those of others – here, while those of others can also be perused/added to: Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here, Gary Mabbutt here Graham Roberts here
Well we can call off the missing person’s search. Head down to Deepdale tonight and you’re likely to be treated to rare glimpses of Giovani and David Bentley, last seen being surreptitiously airbrushed into the background as ‘Arry’s favourites went through their pre-match warm-ups. There has been some clamour for Giovani’s inclusion in recent weeks, and after the two woeful attempts by ‘Arry to compensate for the absence of Modric, it would really warm the cockles tonight to see the Mexican put in a virtuoso performance on the left.Nevertheless, that ‘Arry has his favourites is beyond dispute, and the sentiment at AANP Towers is that Giovani could score six goals, save a penalty and discover a cure for cancer tonight, and he’d still be behind Keane in the left-midfield pecking-order. The likes of Giovani, Bentley and Pav are only likely to get a run of games – or even a cameo substitute appearance – if half the squad comes down with plague, and while we’re crying out for centre-halves, the attacking slots seem off-limits at the moment.
There will be welcome returns from injury tonight for Messrs Dawson and Gomes, while Bale may also get a chance to stretch his legs. Spare a thought for poor old Pav though, injured at the one time of the month when he seemed likely to get a game.
The usual mantra applies tonight, about warning against complacency. Spurs certainly have some pedigree when it comes to Imploding-In-Humiliating-Fashion-Against-Lower-League-Opposition-In-The-Carling-Cup, as the inhabitants of AANP Towers still break out into cold sweats at the memory of last year’s debacle away to Burnley. Want it enough however, and they’ll win it tonight.
Your memories are still welcomed on Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the latest to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a book looking at White Hart Lane legends, due out next spring. Feel free to leave your memories – or browse those of others – here, while memories of others can also be perused/added to: Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here, Gary Mabbutt here Graham Roberts here
Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa are to feature in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, the forthcoming AANP book looking at players who achieved status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. You are most warmly invited to share any memories you have of one, other or both – first impressions, memorable moments or personal meetings you may have had.
As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the featured players: Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann hereAnd for those who are that way inclined, the AANP facebook group continues to trundle along dutifully here …
And it had all begun quite encouragingly. Sitting back away from home and soaking up the pressure just isn’t the Tottenham way, so right from the off we took the game to that lot, giving as good as we got in the first half. Jenas, Hudd and Palacios weren’t far off with their long-range efforts, and there was a gorgeous through-ball from Sergeant Wilson to free up Defoe in the early stages. By stages however, everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It was loosely reminiscent of one of those action films in which everything starts off serenely enough, before one by one the characters are all killed off and by the end it’s complete carnage.Interestingly, ‘Arry opted to replace Modric by pretending the problem wasn’t there and doing away with the concept of a left-winger. To be honest I’m not entirely sure precisely what formation it was – a lop-sided 4-4-2, or maybe a variant on 4-3-3. The players did not make it abundantly clear, and either way there was not much of a presence on the left. Whether or not the deployment of a winger on the left would have at least helped to keep a lid on the Chelski full-backs will go down as one of life’s hypotheticals. Our formation actually worked to an extent in the first half - fluid if a little shapeless, and benefiting from Keane dropping back from attack – but ultimately, irrespective of the formation, we missed Modric’s guile. Jenas and Palacios had their moments, but we lacked a cutting-edge.
Pointing the Finger
And on the subject of the centre-backs, I’m really not quite sure what happened in the latter stages, as Stamford Bridge started to resemble the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan. Bodies dropping everywhere, stretcher-bearers working over-time, and the Chelski groundstaff having to sweep bloodied limbs off the pitch at full-time. I doubt that anyone else will want to play centre-back for us now, as the position is clearly cursed.
The hullaballoo over the penalty also glosses over the fact that the second goal was a poor one to concede, as once Cudicini had shovelled the ball sideways two Chelksi players reacted faster than any of our lot. That whole sequence of events – the penalty shout, followed by the strength of Drogba and the sight of our boys casually rocking on their heels as the Chelski forwards gobbled up the scraps – summed things up. Bad luck, bad defending, clinical finishing from the other lot.
No-one does fickle quite like we do at Tottenham, yet despite this, the reaction to last week’s defeat has by and large retained a sense of perspective. 12 points from 5 games still represents a ruddy good start to proceedings, and with forthcoming fixtures involving Burnley, Bolton, Portsmouth and Stoke we ought to be chugging along nicely by the time the clocks go back.Before all that it’s Chelski away today, where the conundrum for us, as ever, is how to replace Modric on the left. ‘Arry has generally made all the right moves since taking over at the Lane, but his selection of Robbie Keane in left midfield against Man Utd was about as close as we’ve seen so far to an unmitigated disaster. The smart money is on Keane returning to attack, giving the option of dropping back to midfield to cast his beady eye over things when the going gets tough.
Contenders for Left Midfield
The other main contender for the left-midfield role is Niko Kranjcar, supposedly bought in first place as a replacement for Modric. A brief cameo against Man Utd did not reveal much, so a lot will presumably hinge on the impact made at Spurs Lodge these last seven days. An outside shout for the role is David Bentley, possibly alternating wings with Lennon – but ‘Arry has his favourites, and it therefore seems far likelier that Bentley, along with Pav, will disappear quietly into the background of the substitutes’ bench once proceedings begin this afternoon.
Anyone fancying a punt on a dark horse for the role could do worse than sticking a monkey on Gareth Bale (boom boom). The lad put in a 90-minute shift in a midweek friendly, so is presumably primed and ready for action. What better place for him to extend his record of never appearing in a winning League game for Spurs than away to Chelski, where we haven’t won since short shorts were cool?
So a big game for Spurs, and a massive game for whomever is selected on left midfield – a decent showing today could do wonders for the long-term future at the Lane of one of the aforementioned.
A Big Game For Hudd. Again…
Elsewhere Gomes may come in for Cudicini, but the rest of the team ought to pick itself. Mouth-watering stuff in prospect.
Loyal club servant, frequent conqueror of adversity and a gentleman of the game, Gary Mabbutt is, naturally, one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. AANP wants to hear your memories of the man – favourite moments from his career, or personal meetings off the pitch. Feel free to leave your comments below.
Memories always welcomed on players already featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here and Graham Roberts here.
Before beginning the gruesome business of the post-mortem I think it’s worth doffing my cap towards Man Utd – they were a quality act yesterday. I demonstrated in my preview that mathematics is hardly the academic subject of choice at AANP Towers, but nevertheless it really did seem that being reduced to 10 men made them play as if they had 12.The Luka-Shaped Hole
If absence makes the heart grow fonder my feelings for Luka Modric had turned into a complete man-crush by the end of yesterday’s game. The problems caused by his absence were two-fold. For a start - and admittedly it’s not rocket-science - we massively missed his contribution on the left. Robbie Keane was a square peg in a Luka-shaped hole, and came nowhere near replicating the class of the Modmeister, for which he can hardly be blamed I suppose. Curiously, by the second half it seemed that ‘Arry simply dispensed altogether with the whacky idea of deploying someone on left midfield, and left BAE to attack, defend, bat, bowl and keep wicket all on his own up and down the left-hand patch. Keane took up permanent residence in the centre, and even his replacement Kranjcar seemed only to station himself towards the left with reluctance.
The other problem caused by Luka’s absence was the very fact that Keane was removed from attack in order to play on the left. To date this season, Keane as a striker has been able to drop back as necessary to create a temporary five-man midfield. We could have done with that at times yesterday, as the Man Utd midfield bossed things. In fact they themselves made use of an attacker dropping deep, with the dastardly Berba occasionally sticking out a languid leg here and there in midfield. Our own attacking pair, of Crouch and Defoe, did not really offer that flexibility. Conclusion? This was all Modric’s fault.
The Second-Best Midfield
Anti-climactic stuff from Lennon, who could not have been more thoroughly shackled if he had been trussed up in a straitjacket with a ball-and-chain on his ankle for good measure.
The Hudd started fairly anonymously, and his influence waned thereafter. If the big lad wants to know the sort of standard he should be striving to emulate he need only look at the man whose shadow he chased for an hour yesterday. Scholes gave a masterclass in how to keep things ticking over in midfield. Tackling aside, mind.
I actually thought that Sergeant Wilson began the game in encouragingly bright and breezy fashion – as typified by the tackle that led to our goal – but once he received his yellow card his options were rather limited, and his half-time withdrawal was understandable.
And so, for the first time this season, to your hero and mine, Jermaine “Sideways! Backwards!” Jenas. Believe it or not I was rather impressed by the entrance he made, taking the fight to United as soon as he entered the fray and very nearly scoring a peach of an equaliser. However, that was about as good as it got. We’ve waited about four months to lay into Jenas, and had to wait another 20 minutes or so after his introduction yesterday, but once the poor blighter made a mistake by golly White Hart Lane let him know about it.
Discrimination at White Hart Lane. Despicable, In This Day And Age.
There was one curious incident in the second half when Crouch and his marker (I forget who) prepared to challenge for a header inside the penalty area, and the marker did his level best to yank the shirt off Crouch’s back in a most sordid manner. In hope rather than expectation I glanced towards the ref – and saw him put the whistle to his lips. Scarcely able to believe it I let out a celebratory yelp, only to see the ref award the free-kick to Man Utd. It’s a phenomenon that unfortunately follows Crouch wherever he goes, and one to which we will all have to become accustomed in future weeks and months.
That aside Crouch did what he is paid to do, and can hardly be blamed for his team-mates’ propensity to belt the ball at his head and yell “Go fetch”. I prefer him coming off the bench as an impact sub, and yestrerday’s evidence did not alter that opinion, despite the first-minute assist.
Elsewhere on the Pitch…
Nicely taken goal from Defoe, on just about the only occasion he touched the ball. Another good shift from BAE. Unfortunately the best player in lilywhite was possibly the one in green, Cudicini making two or three very good saves.
We had our chances, notably in that little 20-minute second half spell, and were only a couple of inches away from equalising through Jenas or Crouch. In the final analysis however, the scoreline did not flatter United. The sending-off of Scholes presented the perfect platform for us, but rather than relentlessly batter down the United door we knocked a couple of times and politely waited for them to open up. We have certainly not become a bad team overnight, but there was proof, lest it were needed, that we remain a work in progress. And a poorer one for the loss of Modric.
Graham Roberts is one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. Feel free to share your favourite memories of the man – or browse those of others – right here, while memories are warmly welcomed on players already featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here
Curses upon the international break. I guess that now we will never know, but I am convinced that if the season had continued uninterrupted by this pesky World Cup business right through until May, such was our momentum we would actually have won literally every one of our 38 Premiership games. Honest.Now however, the halcyon days of August seem a lifetime ago. It reminds me of my not-at-all nerdy GCSE Maths class, which ruthlessly conquered every past paper flung our way, only to be interrupted several weeks of study leave and exams in other topics, so that by the time of the Maths paper itself we could barely remember how to identify a triangle. Like the GCSE Maths core, I trust that our lilywhite heroes will be up well into tonight desperately trying to reacquaint themselves with the fundamentals that served us so well just a few weeks back.
Should we be able to rekindle the legendary spirit of August ‘09, there will certainly be reasons for optimism ahead of the visit of the champions. Defoe and Keane seem to have stumbled upon a little man-little man partnership that works, with the former razor-sharp and the latter effectively industrious. Lennon this week gave a glimpse to the nation of that with which we have become well-acquainted this season. He does not necessarily deliver the goods every time he receives possession, and there remains room for improvement, but you can bet all the tea in China that just giving him the ball scares the bejesus out of opponents.
Hudd and Sergeant Wilson
Kranjcar – The New Modric
And finally, Derren Brown eat yer heart out, for here is an exclusive top tip from AANP’s Betting Masterminds: stick a hefty wedge on a 5-1 home win. To date this season our results have read 2-1; 5-1; 2-1; 5-1; 2-1… see what I’ve done there? That’s one straight out of the GCSE Maths class.
Graham Roberts is one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. Feel free to share your favourite memories of the man – or browse those of others – right here, while
memories are warmly welcomed on players already featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here