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Spurs - Everton Preview: Pav or Crouch, Bale or BAE - Who Would You Pick?

As I’m away for the weekend, thought I’d post the Spurs-Everton preview nice and early… 

Confusion hath made its masterpiece here at AANP Towers. Are we back on track, or is this just a fleeting break from the woes of 2010? Sunday’s game should help clarify a situation that has become rather confusing for legions of bandwagon-jumpers. It barely seems five minutes ago that we were struggling for goals, and grumbles were being raised about ‘Arry’s future. Since then however, convincing wins against Wigan and Bolton have, temporarily at least, silenced such mischievous chatter, and ought to put some swagger in our step; but Everton will be a rather different kettle of fish. Seasoned visitors to AANP Towers will be aware that I rarely like to dwell on our opponents, but with successive wins over Chelski and Man Utd recently added to their CV, this lot are, strictly speaking, one of the most in-form teams in Europe.As such the microscope falls on several in lilywhite. It will be a day for the Hudd to shed that pesky anonymity cloak of which he is far too fond; Lennon’s continued absence means Bentley will be pitted against a potential England left-back in Leighton Baines; while in the absence of Ledley I don’t think any of us have quite the same confidence in our centre-back pairing, but it’s nevertheless another chance for Daws and Bassong to prove their worth.

Pav or Crouch?

Rather excitingly, we also have a couple of genuine selection posers. Assuming that Crouch recovers from his knock, ‘Arry will presumably have to choose between him and Pav. The Russian certainly takes his goals with aplomb, but chins across N17 and beyond are being thoughtfully stroked as we ponder whether he does enough off-the-ball, or shows any signs of developing a partnership with Defoe. However, his classier touch, white-hot form and frankly the fact that he does not automatically induce the long-ball from his team-mates make him the preferred option around these parts.

Bale or BAE?

The return of Assou-Ekotto on Wednesday also provides some choice at left-back. Gareth Bale has been in blistering form, and in the absence of Lennon has often been our primary attacking outlet. With our left midfielders cutting infield, his overlapping from full-back has seen many an opposition’s right side cut merrily to shreds. Doubts remain over his defensive capabilities however – doubts which surfaced away to this same Everton side a couple of months back, when he was given the run-around at Goodison. In the long-term this does not strike me as a problem – Bale is still a whipper-snapper, and has plenty of time to improve his game – but in the short-term we cannot really afford a glaring defensive error at this stage of the season. BAE is a more solid defender, but offers nothing like the same attacking potency. The AANP verdict is Bale, particularly at home; ‘Arry’s opinion is as yet unknown.

Plenty for our glorious leader to ponder then. There are those – including yours truly – who suspect that our lot simply don’t quite have the desire to stand up and be counted at crucial junctures in the season; this represents a cracking chance to silence such criticism.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March - with Gary Mabbutt signing copies that day in the Enfield Waterstones - but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Spurs 4-0 Bolton: ‘Arry’s Newfangled Concept Works A Treat

It was just like old times, those sepia-tinged, heady days of late-summer 2009, when rubbish teams would traipse up to the Lane and be promptly destroyed, with our heroes requiring nothing beyond second gear. From the outset the only worry last night was that we might fail to turn domination into goals, but merrily this was not to be one of those wretched occasions. A job well done, and without breaking sweat.Madness I Tell Ye

The evening began in thoroughly perplexing fashion, with the announcement that Assou-Ekotto was back in the team as well as the boy Bale. Completely discombobulated, AANP and chums frantically bandied around hypotheses in an effort to get our heads around the madness. Were we about to witness 3-5-2? Or Bale as a left-winger? Or a novel – if highly illegal – use of 12 players from the outset?

As it turned out it was nothing more outlandish than BAE at right-back. Some newfangled concept known as “squad rotation” apparently (it will never catch on). We have perhaps been a little spoiled by the frequent gallops, up the length of the pitch and back, by our handsome young Welshman, and last night was a reminder that the braided one is a little more restrained in his attacking forays, but it was still good to see him back in the fold. His reluctance to bomb on and inability to use his right foot had a rather detrimental effect upon poor old Bentley, who through little fault of his own was rendered fairly ineffective, but as events transpired this was no huge loss.

Pav Still Super

The other notable selection was, of course, Pav up-front. It is perhaps a little premature to laud him to the heavens and name the new stadium after him, but in one and a bit games he has done all that could possibly have been expected of him, and certainly looks sharper in front of goal than Crouch ever did. The AANP jury is out on whether he and Defoe qualify alongside Sheringam-Klinsmann, Greaves-Gilzean and Bert-Ernie in the ranks of The World’s Greatest Ever Double-Acts, but while their partnership is hardly telepathic, it has nevertheless now become difficult to drop either.

Daws And Palacios’ Passing Master-Class

”You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction…” 

As it happened though, the rather glorious exception to this yesterday was Palacios’ hand in the second goal, a delightful pass into the danger-zone. As with Bale in the second half, it is easy to chuckle at the buffoonery of the opposition for scoring own-goals, but let us not overlook the cracking delivery of the passes from Palacios and Bale, into areas against which it is jolly difficult to defend.

The All-Star Hollywood Midfield

Amusingly, ‘Arry came over all Ocean’s Eleven in the second half, and decided to cram as many silky superstars as possible into the team, with complete disregard for such ugly notions as tackle and bite. Thus it transpired that Sergeant Wilson was withdrawn, and we were treated to possibly our prettiest midfield ever, ball-players of the ilk of Modders, Hudd, Kranjcar, Gudjohnsen and Bentley alongside one another. It ought to have made for 20 minutes of the world’s most beautiful football, but by then the game was over and they just went through the motions. Rather a shame actually.

Gudjohnsen

Or Sheringham Mk II, if you prefer. He has no real inclination to go sprinting hither and thither, but with those little flicks and disguised diagonal passes he’s clearly far too laid-back for any such plebeian exertion as running. Not sure how he would cope in the hurly-burly of a high-octane Premiership fight to the death, but as a fourth striker he seems a welcome addition to the squad. He adds something very different; will be of value in games in which our front-men find themselves isolated; is of sufficient quality to give one of the other forwards a breather as fixtures pile up (there’s that crazy “squad rotation” concept once more); and adds some much-needed experience to what is generally a young squad.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

More attacking wondrousness from our Bale, again neatly glossing over his occasional defensive deficiency. Another watertight performance from Gomes. It would be easy to ignore, but he shot-stopped and punched impeccably, and made a particularly smart save at 2-0 just before half-time, which might otherwise have made things jittery. Sergeant Wilson became the first Latin American footballer in history to fail to execute perfectly a back-heel. The boy Rose looked good, if one-footed. And so on; we did the bare minimum, and it was more than enough. Fulham away is not easy, but eminently do-able, and suddenly…

[Shameless plug alert] Victory last night means that we’ll be in the Quarter Finals on Saturday 6th March – and also means that Gary Mabbutt’s signing of

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, that same day in Enfield Waterstones, is brought forward to 12 noon. 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March - but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Spurs - Bolton Preview: The Hard Part is Already Done

It’s a chipper and optimistic AANP that will go traipsing along the High Road tonight. While it is too early to bleat on about our name being on the Cup, having done the hard part of emerging unscathed from the Reebok stadium our name really ought to be in the Quarter-Final draw without too many alarms.Pav In, Crouch Out 

Under-Strength Bolton? 

No real room for complacency mind, as we’ve all seen just how spectacularly awry things can go at the Lane when we start as favourites. Methinks we will breathe a lot easier if our heroes can score the opening goal; but I shudder to think how painfully familiar the tale might be if we fail to score early, or fall behind. The Kevin Davies factor also bothers me, particularly in the absence of Ledley.

‘Arry might be tempted to make a few changes, given that Sunday’s game in the Wigan mud seemed pretty energy-sapping. Kaboul is cup-tied and, crushingly, Jenas has a groin strain, but despite this hammer-blow our lot ought to be too strong for our guests. Unless it goes to penalties…

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March - but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter hereAnd as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Wigan 0-3 Spurs: How Delightfully Un-Tottenham

Well we can postpone work on those “Sack ‘Arry” placards for the time-being at least. With a maturity that even they themselves probably did not realise they possessed our heroes adapted to the conditions better than the other lot, made better chances and saw out the game with consummate professionalism. While I braced myself for a late bout of insanity from someone or other, the players abandoned an age-old Tottenham tradition and instead navigated through to the end without any scares.The pitch hardly made for champagne football, and for a while it looked like our lot were under orders to bypass the mud by pinging long balls at every opportunity, but to their credit they persevered with the passing game as much as the conditions allowed. (Before Modders came and made it look like he was playing on a bowling-green.)

As well as their use of the ball and acclimatisation to the conditions, the willingness to roll up sleeves, slide through the mud and fight the attritional war was also most gratifying (in theory at least, although Messrs Defoe and Bale adopted dangerously dubious interpretations of the notion of “getting stuck in”). While we did not necessarily always win those 50-50 balls, neither did we look like we would shirk the challenges. Top marks, chaps.

The Opening Goal

I suspect even objective Wigan fans would admit that we were good value for the win, but there is no denying that the first goal went miles beyond the boundary of “fortuitous”, and ensconced itself comfortably in the world of the downright absurd. While Bale’s charge down the left merits thumping applause, Defoe had, as ever, clearly jumped the gun. He did at least have the grace to look suitably embarrassed by it all.

C’est la vie. Statistics may suggest otherwise, but AANP is of the train of thought that these things loosely even out over a season, and we have certainly been hard done by in recent weeks (off the top of my head Defoe’s disallowed goal against Liverpool, and penalty shout against Villa, in recent weeks). Moreover, for all the controversy surrounding it the opening goal did not make a huge difference to the general pattern of the game, throughout which manful efforts to plough through the quagmire were achieved better by our lot than theirs.

However, there is a counter-argument that that opening goal was crucial for us inasmuch as that breaking the deadlock has become something of a mental barrier for us in recent weeks. Time and again we have played well but failed to get that all-important first goal, with the result that we have ended up battering away at a ten-man defence. On Sunday, through outrageous officiating we found ourselves ahead - and were then able to play against a team forced to edge out towards us. Wigan did not exactly come at us all guns blazing, but nor were they able to pile bodies into defence. As a result, particularly in the second half, our forwards found themselves man-to-man against a defender, rather than facing two banks of four.

Triffic Substitutions 

Pav: Super

He is evidently a popular little bunny amongst his team-mates, but ‘Arry did not exactly look thrilled to bits with Pav’s little cameo, the camera close-up straight after the third goal capturing a particularly morose expression across the face of our glorious leader. However, there is now no avoiding the fact that our head honcho has a selection dilemma. An inspired twenty minutes as substitute is one thing, but can Pav produce the goods on a regular basis? Does he only play like that against weaker teams? How would he fare if given a regular run in a settled side (I discount the Wendy Ramos era in which he featured as not constituting “a settled side”)? Would he and Defoe work as a combo?

Such questions are unanswered at present, but he looked mighty darned classy on Sunday, the contrast with his gangling strike partner neatly emphasised when he scored precisely the sort of chance Crouch had missed moments earlier. Not many tears would be shed if the lanky one were dropped to the bench and Pav given a starting-berth alongside Defoe for a few games. Crouch is a jack of various trades but master of none, and the time might be right to lock him in a cage labelled “Plan B”.

Corluka: Not So Super 

All told however, it was a staggeringly professional display. Solid in defence; determined and creative as necessary in midfield; sharp in attack. That’s three consecutive halves of good football from our lot – so for one week at least the Prophets of Doom have courteously shuffled aside, to let the Top-Four Delusionalists make themselves heard.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March - but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Wigan - Spurs Preview: Nine Things I’d Like To See From Tottenham Today

Just picking an entirely arbitrary number, it’s AANP’s (by no means exhaustive) nine-point wish-list for this afternoon’s trip to Wigan…1. Same Old Same Old From Gomes


Watching l’Arse goalkeeper Lucas Fabianski pass his Three Stooges audition with flying colours this week gave a pleasant reminder that, for all our problems at the other end, between the sticks we are well-blessed. In generations to come AANP’s grandchildren will gather around and listen with disbelieving ears at tales of how calamitous Gomes was in his early days, but mercifully such an age is long passed.  The big Brazilian has been one of our best performers this season, and at the end of a week in which even such goalkeeping luminaries as Shay Given and Brad Friedel have erred rather prominently, it is good to know that our last line of defence is so secure. More of the same this afternoon please.2. Domineering Performance From Hudd

Whatever the varying opinions of his contributions, it is beyond dispute that Hudd is first-choice centre-midfielder – so let’s see him play like one. Every week. All the best players have occasional off-days, but the big lad’s are far too frequent. Wigan away might not necessarily be the jolliest of cake-walks, but a central midfielder at a top-four team ought to dominate such fare.

3. Score The Next Ruddy Penalty We Are Awarded 

4. Give Us Back Our Modric 

5. Law of the Ex 

6. Striking Alternative 

7. The Return of Lennnon 

8. Turn Up at Kick-Off 

9. Three Points

By hook, crook or penalties. Forget nine goals, just one more than the other lot will suffice. The momentum has disappeared from our season in the manner of a Jenas forward burst, pause, about-turn and backwards pass; but we are still very much in touch with the top-four chasers, and our current malady is nothing a little string of wins would not cure.

 

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March - but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Bolton 1-1 Spurs: Heaven Help Us If The Replay Goes To Penalties

Well that could have been a lot worse. Having taken a few deep breaths and poured myself a stiff drink prior to kick-off, proceedings began in precisely the depressing manner expected. I suspect there is not one soul in Christendom surprised by our early struggles in the face of perennial tormentor Kevin Davies, as well as the stream of set-piece deliveries. Vastly more dismaying however was our inability to handle the bread and butter of competing on the turf. Concepts such as winning second-balls - rather than gaping and watching in mild terror - or closing down opponents in possession appeared entirely alien to our glorious heroes, who were then torn to shreds for the second time in a week by a multi-pass move for the opposition goal.Moreover, when we did gain possession, in stark contrast to Bolton our lot regularly insisted upon two or three laboured touches, sucking all momentum from our play and giving our hosts plenty of time to organise themselves at the back.

I probably ought to hop straight to a confessional after typing this, but much that was wrong with the early part of the performance was typified by Modders. Too weak to handle the feistiness of Bolton’s midfield, our doings picked up around the time of his replacement by Kranjcar, who approached the challenge with just as much trickery but a little more muscle, linking better with Bale in 30 minutes than Modric had done in the previous hour.

Why it took an hour for our lot to switch on and boss the game is quite the mystery, but once we did it was fairly impressive stuff, just about everyone raising their game and playing with pace and zest aplenty. Bale, as ever, was at the hub of much that was good going forward. This also represented his first significant defensive test, and he performed these duties steadily without being necessarily flawless. Certainly there seems to be good reason to retain him at left-back for the foreseeable future.

In recent weeks as we have all searched for scapegoats, few have levelled any criticism at the boy Defoe and today gave an indication why. Through little fault of his own he has had precious few chances in recent weeks, but on being given approximately a yard and a half of space in the area he delivered a stinging reminder of what he does. Left foot too.

The 12-Yard Crisis

Right, time for a quick vox pop – a show of hands, please, from those who instinctively reacted to the award of the penalty by punching the air, then gave it a moment’s consideration and swiftly concluded that it might be more fun to stab out both eyes, rather than watch the kick be taken? No idea why Hudd could not just have approached it as he approaches every other shot he takes, putting his laces through the ball and leathering it to within an inch of its life. If we he were nervous – and that stuttering run-up dashed well gave the impression of man who would rather have been elsewhere – then he should have stepped aside and let someone else do the honours. It takes quite some doing, but our heroes have succeeded in turning the award of a penalty into a moment of on-pitch crisis.

Ooh, Handbags

As an aside, I noticed on the television replay that while ‘Arry and chums on the bench punched the air as appropriate in reaction to Defoe’s goal, behind them the Rarely-Sighted Pav did little more than squint apathetically in response to our equaliser.

Twelfth Man

Television also indicated that while the Reebok stadium was littered with empty seats there were vast legions of Tottenham supporters gathered behind one of the goals, and a mighty fine racket they made too. Awesome work.

On perusing the fixture-list each season I always consider that a draw at Bolton would be a decent result, and that this was a Cup match made no difference to my ambitions, for we never seem to play well against this lot, particularly on their patch. After the first half performance and score-line, and on the back of the confidence-sapping fare of recent weeks, we appeared to be staring down the barrel. Two efforts against the woodwork and a saved penalty may suggest that this is an opportunity missed, but I am mightily relieved with a draw, and back us to wrap this up at the Lane.

With Fulham to come, Chelski potentially up against Man City, and Villa also involved in a replay, a trip to Wembley is still on the cards. Perhaps more encouragingly, today’s late rally and performance in the final half hour give us a template to take into the next few League performances.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out in early March and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Bolton - Spurs Preview: Clinging to Meagre Hope

The response to our current blip has included a vitriolic chorus from some quarters for the sacking of ‘Arry. Having dragged us from the relegation zone to contention for the top-four – via Wembley – in little over a year, it seems a slightly disproportionate reaction, but defeat in the Cup today would not go down well amongst already restless natives. Coming on the back of arguably our worst performance of the season, a trip to Bolton is hardly ideal, but we have enough quality in our ranks to win this.For all our possession againt Wolves in midweek we showed precious little fluency, and our midfield ball-players now owe us a nice slick performance. While he may now be a fixture in the team Hudd’s performances still alternate between outstanding and ineffective; while Niko Kranjcar has gone off the boil in recent weeks, beavering away  diligently enough, but with precious few of his inventive ideas coming to fruition, a syndrome typical of the entire team. Modders has shown the odd flash of genius since returning from injury (the assist against Fulham is adoringly ingrained in the mind) but he too has hardly hit the heights, and we need one of these chaps to pull the strings for us today, as the weight of attacking responsibility currently weighs rather heavily upon the shoulders of Messrs Bale and Bentley.

The Rarely-Sighted Pav is apparently back in contention, which suggests we have a choice of two from four in attack, but nevertheless I would be surprised if ‘Arry did not revert to Crouch and Defoe. Apparently there are injury worries over both Ledley and Daws, and with Kaboul presumably cup-tied this could mean either Hudd or Corluka moving to centre-back.

While recent form makes me feel nothing but pessimism ahead of this one, I cling to the meagre hope that Spurs are always capable of producing the completely unexpected – pointing to a rip-roaring performance and handsome victory today. Ahem.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out in early March and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Wolves 1-0 Spurs: A Possible Silver Lining

Oh dear. Going down all guns blazing, with seventeen shots on target and against a goalkeeper possessed by the spirit of Jennings is one thing; being outplayed by a side in the relegation zone is another. We actually started relatively well, with some slick passing all round, and Bentley looking a good bet for general mischief on the right. Unbelievably, that was as good as it got – once the goal went in we promptly ran out of ideas, and could probably have played all night and into the wee small hours without scoring.While surreptitiously glancing over the shoulder of the chap next to me on my morning commute, I noticed in his newspaper a quote from our glorious leader that, with regard to what is going wrong at the Lane, it was “Difficult to put your finger on it.” How encouraging. I blinking well hope that behind closed doors ‘Arry is able to put an entire grubby paw on it, diagnose it, solve it and ensure it never rears its ugly head again. The man’s remit, as I understand, extends beyond merely picking 11 of the blighters 30 minutes before kick-off each week. Heaven help us if he genuinely is out of ideas. While we probably cannot get much worse, it is quite feasible that we could maintain this standard of shoddiness for a few weeks more.

Debuts…

Before switching off for the evening and watching on cluelessly, ‘Arry made five changes, including the two debutants. Kaboul has apparently come on leaps and bounds as a central defender since he last appeared in lilywhite a few years back, but whether this be truth or cruel hoax remains unknown, as he was curiously shunted into the team at right-back. Every inch the square peg in a round hole, he showed plenty of energy and willing, none of which masked a chronic tendency to give the ball away.

Gudjohnsen I imagine will eventually come good in a Spurs shirt. With his back to goal approach, tendency to drop deep and penchant for an eye-of-the-needle pass there is much of the Sheringham about him – but unfortunately last night this similarity also extended to his mobility and energy. His vision and astute little passes created a couple of early openings, and once he and his new chums are singing from the same hymn-sheet some wondrousness ought to ensue, but at the moment he looks rather off the pace. If Gudjohensen is to play, our midfielders will need to learn to bust a gut in support of Defoe upfront. Although Kranjcar and Jenas each made one charge into the Wolves area in the early stages of proceedings last night, by and large Defoe was left isolated.

And Swansongs?

Could the silver lining to yesterday’s nightmare be a less than entirely fond farewell to everyone’s favourite scapegoat? Offered a drink in the last-chance saloon, Jermaine Jenas eschewed a shot of vodka or neat whisky, and opted for a saucer of milk. His half-time withdrawal hinted that ‘Arry might have run out of patience. Or so I would like to think. After one encouraging attacking burst in the opening stages last night, he quickly reverted to type, alternating between ineffective and useless (note his failure to track Jones into the area for the Wolves goal, and a particularly fairy-like shake of the leg when Wolves’ Guedioura went galloping straight through the centre and into our area). While Bale, Bentley, Kranjcar and Pav typically show themselves to be capable – and occasionally excel – at Premiership level, Jenas is repeatedly poor.

However, Jenas was by no means the only man to turn in a woeful performance last night. There was huff and puff to varying degrees all over the pitch, but precious little intelligence or passion. While the pitch looked in places like a vegetable patch it hardly excuses the relentless stream of misplaced passes from our heroes, who would do well to note the dozen or so passes Wolves strung together in scoring their goal. Bentley began brightly but faded like the rest of them; Bale worked his way into some promising positions; Daws, while imperious as ever in the air, made another clumsy penalty area challenge. To suggest that the game might have panned out differently had Kranjcar buried his early chance is fair enough; but whether he scored or missed we still ought to have hammered away at Wolves until they caved.

Still In The Hunt

Naturally, lusty choruses of disapproval are ringing out from all quarters, and indeed, if we maintain this form we can expect a quite serene descent into the lower reaches of the table. However, at present we remain just one point off fourth – level on games with Liverpool and two games ahead of Man City, with a dozen left to play. It is still a handy position in which to be – we are by no means out of the race for fourth. If we can wipe the slate clean and hit some sort of form – and pronto -  there is every chance we will remain in the hunt for fourth until May. The return of Lennon will undoubtedly help to this end, but even without him we ought to have enough to beat the likes of Wolves.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out in early March and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here 

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Wolves - Spurs Preview: More Frustration Beckons

On the back of yet another ten-man shut-out, the prospect of Wolves tonight hardly has the AANP heart leaping in unbounded joy. Wolves boss Mick McCarthy earlier this season threw in the towel in one fixture, by resting his entire team, in order to save their juices for a more winnable fixture a couple of days later. Hardly the attitude of a man about to send his troops out hell for leather in search of victory tonight. A 10-0-0 formation and further frustration therefore beckon, rather ominously, to the extent that I am considering sticking an unhealthy proportion of my weekly earnings on a goalless draw, just to numb the pain.Meanwhile, without playing particularly well at any point this season, our rivals have caught us, overtaken us and, with games in hand, threaten to disappear over the horizon and far away. Fail to win tonight and we really will be drifting from the land of milk and honey, with fewer points in the bag but more games played than our rivals. Fingers firmly crossed over here that this proves the most wildly inaccurate preview of modern times, and that we instead score a couple of early goals, exhale in relief and settle back for a good old-fashioned thumping, as in those halcyon days at the start of the season; but in the countdown to kick-off this one seems to have “Frustrating Goalless Draw” stamped all over it in the emphatic chunky font they use in the A-Team logo.

Team News

No Ledley, although I doubt our back-line will be over-worked tonight. Bassong and Kaboul will therefore be in line to partner Daws, but more interesting will be ‘Arry’s selection up the other end. Pav is apparently back in contention, while Gudjohnsen awaits a debut. After 90 minutes of goalless huff and puff on Saturday, ‘Arry will be sorely tempted to try something different in attack tonight, and possibly even tinker further by accommodating Gudjohnsen somewhere in midfield. He can stick him in goal as far as I’m concerned, as long as one way or another we trundle back to North London with three points in the bag this evening.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out in early March and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here 

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

Spurs 0-0 Aston Villa: How The Devil Do We Score At Home?

Frustrating stuff. A couple of months ago I was fairly sanguine about points dropped at home, reasoning with sage, Yoda-like calm that as long as we kept playing well the goals and wins would eventually follow. Never folk to take decisive action if we could get away with thrusting our heads into the sand and waiting, we at AANP Towers reasoned that there was no need to panic - the problem would take care of itself.Not so, it appears. Week after week we seem to turn in a strong performance but draw a blank, and as well as making for an unhappy trek down the High Road this is now beginning to derail the top-four push. The notion of turning White Hart Lane into a fortress seems to have been wildly misunderstood by our heroes, currently labouring under the misapprehension that it requires clean sheets for both sides. Future visitors to the Lane include Everton, Blackburn, Bolton and Pompey (as well as l’Arse and Chelski), and more ten-man lock-outs are on the agenda.

The team of monkeys here at AANP Towers has been hard at work brainstorming ideas as to what the devil we are doing wrong at the moment. And so, in no particular order…

Not Playing Good Football? 

Luck? 

A Different Forward-Line?

Controversial perhaps, as the problem seems to be that the opposition penalty area is just too darned crowded these days before we even get the ball to the front-two. Defoe’s raison d’être is simply to put the ball in the net when given a chance, and few are better at the art. Crouch has his limitations, but he had a decent enough game on Saturday, winning his fair share of headers and holding it up, giving us the option of the aerial route. As a combination, the pair work fairly well. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing Gudjohnsen given a chance to stretch his legs, and provide something a little different in attack, especially in those games in which the opposition back-line looks to have the measure of us.

A Dribbler? 

Lennon?

Bentley is doing a good job, but when it comes to Aaron Lennon, as that closely-cropped lady from the 80’s used to warble, nothing compares. For all the neat passing and technical ability, our team lacks pace. At the moment, opponents seem able to line themselves up in formation and repel. A burst of pace would help us actually get behind them and have a dig at their soft underbelly. Bale on the left gives glimpses of the panic this can cause in opposition ranks, always looking threatening when he hares down to the by-line.

Such hastily garnered suggestions are unlikely to go down in history as the footballing equivalent of neurosurgery, but are a selection of the wonderings swimming around the AANP mind. More pertinently, what solutions can ‘Arry provide? He may have assembled a coaching team to cover every eventuality, but, worryingly, after each shut-out he seems to repeat the same line, at least publicly, that he could not have asked any more of the players, and that they tried everything they could. Almost, one might suggest, as if he himself is out of ideas as to how to win these games. If only he had had a couple of capable and creative substitutes to whom he could have turned on Saturday…

A Grumble About Substitutes

It seemed a little strange that ‘Arry did not look to the bench for some fresh attacking inspiration. Retaining the on-pitch status quo would have made sense if all were going to plan and we were romping home, but circumstances rather strongly suggested that a case could have been made for a change or two. Each of Hudd, Modders and Bentley were performing fairly well without ever scything open the massed ranks of Villa defenders, yet Kranjcar and Gudjohnsen were left to twiddle their thumbs on the bench.

And while I’m having a grumble, here’s another point that struck me on Saturday - our ratio of goals-scored-from-corners to corners-taken must be appalling. The statistic, whatever it is, is all the worse for the fact that we have a whole army of big, sturdy six-footers marching forward for each corner these days.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

An honourable mention to Gomes, now one of the finest ‘keepers around. A cracking double-save in the first half crowned yet another solid all-round performance, secure on crosses and always keen to prompt attacks hastily. Sergeant Wilson showed again that his bite seems to be returning, but his doings when actually in possession remain erratic. There was also another good showing from the handsome young Welshman on the left on Saturday, doing all that was required defensively as well as offering his usual potency in attack.

So yet again we have to rely this week upon other sides to do us favours. Hull, unbelievably, obliged, turning over Man City, but Liverpool have, for this weekend at least, capitalised upon our failing. I still cannot see Villa lasting the pace in the race for fourth. Utterly bereft of attacking ideas, it seems the principal reason they remain in the hunt at present is their goalkeeper, the ever-magnificent Brad Friedel. However, we ought to be capable of stringing together a run of wins that would render academic the form of our rivals. A draw against Villa, while disappointing, is not calamitous, and the blow would be softened by a few consecutive wins in future weeks.


AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out in early March and is now available to pre-order from WHSmith, Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories - and browse those of others - regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

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