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Spurs – Aston Villa Preview: Two Reasons To Be Cheerful

Amidst the vacuous football-speak loosely bandied around, the phrase “massive” is merrily pre-fixed to just about every fixture of the season, by managers and players alike, but Spurs-Villa today is probably more deserving of the epithet than most fixtures. Not only are three home points at stake, but winning this one would go a long to reducing from four to three the group of contenders for the Champions League spot. While I can see Man City and even Liverpool stringing together a run of six straight wins, Villa strike me as having too small a squad to last the pace, and stretching out a five-point gap at this stage would go some way to getting shaking them from our coat-tails.”Massive” indeed then, and at AANP Towers we see at least two reasons to be cheerful going into this one.

1. No Ten-Man Defence At The Lane This Week 

If we need a template for victory today, the win over Man City before Christmas should be studied and memorised by our lot: the weathering of an early storm, followed by some lightning-quick counter-attacking and the usual flurry of chances. Admittedly Aaron Lennon’s pace was crucial on that occasion, but it was an open game, well-suited to our style of play, and the sort we can expect again today.

2. Villa Weren’t Very Good at Villa Park 

Team News

The latest post-Keane era beginneth, with Eidur Gudjohnsen in contention to come in for Crouch. Not wanting to over-burden the blighter, but personally I cannot wait to see him in action having quite happily heralded him the new messiah. Ledley is fit again, while Younes Kaboul and his quite scary eyebrows could also be back in a Spurs shirt at some point.

Having been in decent form in recent weeks David Bentley will presumably remain in the right, which means that Kranjcar would drop to the bench to accommodate Modders on the left. The concern at AANP Towers is that Gareth Bale may face his sternest test since returning to the team, his defensive capabilities likely to be fairly rigorously tested against Villa’s various pacey forwards.

Nevertheless, I am confident about this one. These big games at the Lane, against opponents willing to come here and have a go, tend to bring out the best in our heroes.

 

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

Leeds 1-3 Spurs: The Reason For David Bentley’s Resurgence?

In between various planes and trains back from Morocco I managed to catch yesterday’s goings-on at Elland Road, and jolly heartening they were too. One of my brothers, for whom the rigours of parenthood mean that Spurs-watching is less frequently indulged in these days, texted afterwards to note that, as the first full Spurs game he has seen in around a year, he was pleasantly surprised by our performance. He has a point, for it was an all-round performance of the sort to which we have grown accustomed in recent months – general neatness in possession, while creating a healthy number of chances. It is perhaps easy to lose sight of this amidst the frustrations of umpteen missed chances and haemorrhaged Premiership points, but on the whole these days we play an extremely attractive brand of football, and progress over the last 12 months has been exceptional.Interesting to reflect on how the team has evolved even within the space of half a season, partly through accident and partly through design. Having shot out of the traps back in August with Modric, Keane, Lennon and BAE in the ranks, last night we eased through with Kranjcar, Bale and Bentley each looking impressive. Whisper it, but recent weeks have shown that there really is a degree of squad-depth there, albeit still with a few bad apples in the White Hart Lane barrel.

This article, forwarded to me today by a particularly highly-regarded Spurs-supporting chum, makes the point that much of our progress has been due simply to the improvement of quality, on a player-for-player basis, over the last year or two. To borrow from the article:

Jermain Defoe is a better version of Darren Bent, Wilson Palacios is a better version of Didier Zokora, and the Spurs boss feels that Gudjohnsen is a better version of Keane. 

Bentley’s attitude in recent weeks has been admirable. Cynics may suggest that his motivation is personal rather than team-oriented, and personally I reckon his lip has been quivering with rage ever since Kranjcar arrived to steal his crown as Team Pretty-Boy, but whatever the reason I hugely approve of his approach. He has put his head down, slapped on even larger amounts of hair-gel and worked hard, producing decent quality both when delivering crosses and when cutting infield. He is by no means the finished article, and the smart-money remains on him heading elsewhere in the summer, but it is good to see him rising to the challenge.

Defoe 

Statistics could probably be reeled out to counter the “flat-track bully” claim (and from memory I can pick his goal against Man Utd earlier this season and a harshly-disallowed goal at Anfield, as well as a blinding strike against l’Arse a few years ago as examples of strikes against the top-four) but the little drum I’ll bang here is that even if he is deemed no more than a tormentor of English football’s less-refined urchins this is nevertheless a mighty handy quality to have at a club with Top-Four and trophy aims. Long may it continue. Given our struggles this season against those sides we ought to be demolishing, the occasional Defoe hat-trick against a weak defence is quite welcome, and if the moniker best describing him is that of “flat-track bully” that elicits little more than a shrug.

Honourable Mentions 

 

Some of the others however, still appear stuck permanently within cruise control. He probably can’t help it, but by smiling and sticking out his tongue each time he misses a chance Crouch gives the impression that settling for second-best is not a problem. Tottenham players should be cursing, swearing and ready to kill with their bare hands when they miss chances or concede goals, and by golly they should be busting a gut to make sure it does not happen again. In short, we need to see them reacting on the pitch with the same passion we show in the stands.

Jenas

Really, what’s the point?

Spurs Are On Their Way To Wembley

It was only Leeds, but it might have been a lot worse. Many Spurs teams of yore would have started timidly yesterday, given the venue and the weather, but to their credit our lot played well for all but the ten minutes or so prior to half-time. Removing foot from throttle after taking the lead does not rank too highly on the list of The World’s Greatest Sporting Ideas, but that aside it was a pretty professional performance. A nod of approval too for the none-too-subtle attitude towards closing out the game in the final minutes, all and sundry displaying a quite stoic determination to head for the corners and run the clock down. Bolton away is tricky but winnable – a description one might pin to the tournament as a whole.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out on 16 Feb 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

Birmingham 1-1 Spurs: The Adel Taarabt View

Apologies for the radio silence, been sunning myself in the land of Adel Taarabt and Noureddine Naybet over the last few days. Therefore, if you want a blow-by-blow analysis of this game, look elsewhere – as indeed I’m sure you have done, at some point since Saturday afternoon.Premiership goings-on are not top of the agenda in Morocco, but I did eventually ascertain the outcome of this one. Away from home, against a Birmingham team in pretty solid form of recent months, it struck me as decent enough. There have been a few too many draws in recent months, and the value of this one was certainly sullied by wins for Villa, Liverpool and Man City; but a draw at Birmingham was not bad.

A day later however I found out the timing of the goals, and the AANP brow, so untroubled during every preceding moment of my time in Morocco, immediately furrowed. A last-minute equaliser? Karma of sorts, some would suggest, following the mighty late steal against Birmingham at White Hart Lane back in August. I have lost track of the points thrown away by missed chances and last-minute mishaps now, which is a damning indictment in itself. The saving grace this season is that all our rivals seem to be dropping points with just as much gusto as we.

While there is precious little I can add, one line in an English newspaper I saw on Tuesday caught my eye, as it named one David Bentley as Man of the Match. C’est vrai? Less surprising was the news that Jermaine Jenas was introduced onto the pitch in the 89th minute, and the team promptly imploded, seeming victory instantly melting down to a draw. Just this once I’ll cut the blighter some slack, and presume that his entrance had little to do with the circumstances surrounding our concession of the equaliser. (Nevertheless, seasoned AANP followers will not be surprised to know that I find it mighty tempting to pick up the rubber stamp that reads “Scapegoat” and emblazon the word across his forehead…)

Short-Term Disappointment; But Long-Term Progress Continuing? 

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, comes out on 16 Feb 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

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