A good bourbon. Terminator 2 with surround sound. Scantily clad nubile young women prancing around AANP Towers. Just a selection of some of the finer things in life, which get the juices flowing here at AANP Towers, and to this exalted list can be added an evening kick-off at home to l’Arse. Some of the sheen of the occasion may be spoilt a little if the two managers, understandably, decide to mix and match with their team selections, but a rip-roaring atmosphere ought nevertheless to whip up beneath the floodlights.
Rare Opportunities Knock
I neither know nor care particularly who Wenger picks, but amongst our lot there could be a couple of eye-catching selections. Amidst all the drooling over the arrival of VDV, poor old Niko Kranjcar has been left to fiddle with his alice-band from the sidelines. I feel mighty sorry for the blighter, as he is a cracking little player, about whom I suspect all and sundry might rave were he English. A bargain at £2 million not so long ago, his days may be numbered if his path to first-team football continues to be obscured by a couple of Modric and VDV-shaped obstacles, but tomorrow he has a chance to go out and impress.
The morrow will also signal a debut for young Sandro and his sensational beard. High hopes around these parts, not least because of the gradual decline of Palacios, who looks more rookie foot-solider than Sergeant these days, but who will nevertheless also be on show.
Elsewhere, injuries mean that Hutton is likely to start at right-back, while I imagine that l’Arse will be spared torture at the hands of Bale. ‘Arry has already suggested that the worryingly unfit Gallas will not reacquaint himself with former chums, while Ledley will be up in the stands somewhere, firmly ensconced in cotton wool.
Cudicini; Hutton, Bassong, Hudd, BAE; Giovani, Palacios, Sandro, Kranjcar; Pav, Keane.I guess that the starting XI may look vaguely like this, but whoever the personnel I jolly well expect that they go at the other lot hammer and tongs.
RIP Bobby Smith
Tomorrow night should also give us an opportunity to pay our respects to Bobby Smith. Presumably I am not alone in being too young to have seen him in action, but any member of our Double-winning team deserves to be regarded as a hero, and Smith was an integral member of the class of 61. Many a time and oft my old man, AANP Senior, has lamented the absence within the Spurs team of “a great big striker, like Bobby Smith”, and his 200 plus goals for the club merit the highest adulation.
As if a flight across time-zones was not discombobulating enough, I found myself stepping off the plane to be greeted by the news that Alan Hutton had scored for us, while Jermaine Jenas had put in a decent performance and Robbie Keane had started -all of which left me wondering whether I had flown into a new space-time continuum rather than simply across continents.
No Match Report Around These Parts
No comment can be passed from AANP Towers on the specifics of our win over Wolves, as I was airborne at the time, but certain areas of the team selection certainly caught the eye in the aftermath. In particular, a penny for the thoughts of Messrs Assou-Ekotto and Corluka, once upon a time nailed-in as one quarter each, respectively, of the back four, but now looking like the weaker of the links in the Tottenham team.
Left-Back: Assou-Ekotto or Bale?
On reflection I’m not sure I would ever like an insight into the mind of BAE, given that few men in Christendom have ever been possessed of a gaze more suited to that of a cold-blooded murderer. That aside the chap is currently enduring something of a fall from grace. Season 2008-09 was rather the making of him, as he turned into a mighty dependable left-back in the wake of the Wendy Ramos debacle. Last season however saw Gareth Bale emerge from his cocoon like some infantile god hatching from a celestial egg – meaning that BAE’s selection now largely depends on how far up the pitch Bale will play.
BAE’s concerns have in this respect been exacerbated by the arrival of van der Vaart, as the inclusion of VDV, Modders and Bale is arguably best facilitated by switching Bale to left-back, even despite his defensive frailties.
BAE is nowhere near the equal of Bale when marauding forward, and it hardly helps that his defensive showings have been far from watertight this season. His erratic form so far this campaign seemed neatly encapsulated by the two legs against Young Boys: shoddy in the first leg he was hauled off after half an hour; but he followed up with an impeccable defensive display in the second.
In the final analysis therefore, in common with those undertaking the oldest profession in the world, much of BAE’s fortune depends on others, for if Modders and VDV are to be included in a 4-4-2 then Bale would get the nod at left-back.
But Isn’t Bale Rather Wasted At Left-Back?
This does of course beg the question of whether left-back bring the best out of Bale. Arriving from deep he has the advantage of a midfielder cutting infield ahead of him, creating room for him to overlap as, effectively, a fifth midfielder. Nevertheless there is always the nagging sense that Bale’s all-round attacking wondrousness is curtailed when he slots into his abode within the back-four.
On t’other flank, in his capacity as the complete antithesis of Usain Bolt, Corluka has generally expiated for the total absence of pace with his positioning and fairly sound reading of the game. Nevertheless, show me a Spurs supporter who does not panic whenever a winger knocks the ball beyond Corluka and scuttles, and I’ll show you someone who is blind or quite possibly an Arsenal fan.
The stakes have been raised at right-back by the curious renaissance of Younes Kaboul. Having initially taken to the role like an elephant to ballet, he swiftly learned the ins and outs and while he is still not exactly a classic full-back, he does now combine purposeful defence with speed going forward.
And then there is Alan Hutton, who was evidently hauled out of his two-year stint in a cryogenic freezing chamber on Saturday, and responded by reminding us that deep down he would probably like to be a right-winger. He rode his luck in scoring – first in his cunning use of a one-two with himself, and secondly in the handy deflection off his knee – but I cannot remember Corluka making too many determined sprints into the heart of the opposition area. As with Bale on the left however, Hutton’s attacking instincts have generally gambolled hand-in-hand with concerns about his defensive ability.
As at left-back, much also depends on the selection in midfield, because the Corluka-Lennon combo has befuddled many an opposing left-back, with that weighted diagonal ball inside the full-back a particular favourite here at AANP Towers. Neverthless, in terms of hand-picking the best from both the attacking and defensive worlds, AANP currently plumps for Monsieur Kaboul.
All academic at the moment, with both Kaboul and Corluka currently injured, but something for ‘Arry to consider each morning as he chews on his Weetabix. Your own musings on these topics are very much welcomed below.
Admittedly a wish-lit of things I would like to see this afternoon ought to include an end to world poverty and the like, but with the disclaimer that I focus the following thoughts on goings-on at N17, pray go ahead and dig in to things I would like to see around 3pm British Summer Time…
1. The Match. The AANP Towers merry little jape with its American cousins comes to a conclusion around kick-off time, so while our heroes are busy complicating the straightforward task of despatching Wolves at home, I will be several thousand feet in the air. I look forward with glee to news of glorious victory on my return to terra firma.
2. Fluid One-Touch Football. À la most of the first half against Werder Bremen, and indeed most of last season. Play like that and Wolves won’t be able to live with us.
3. A Clean Sheet. Can’t quite remember what they are like, but I have it on good information that they are awesome.
4. Aaron Lennon Circa Autumn 2009. The shaven eyebrowed one has failed to set the world alight so far this season, to the extent that he has suffered the indignity of being usurped within the England team by Theo blinking Walcott. Last autumn Gareth Bale was still a jinx on Tottenham, and Lennon was beginning to hit the form of his life. A return to such halcyon days on the right wing would be peachy, and might also have the pleasant side-effect of bucking up Corluka.
5. Three Points. This business of adjusting to life in the Champions League is all well and good, but at some point or other our heroes will be forced to get their hands dirty and rack up a string of Premiership wins. Frankly I think I would trade in all of the above and more for a win, just to re-rail a League campaign that has hinted at full-blown derailment.
By no means a definitive list, but as we at AANP Towers are dusting down our cravats and cummerbands, in preparation for nocturnal acquaintanceship with the charming young ladies of America, I’m sure you’ll excuse the brevity. You get the gist – three points; glorious performance; no injuries; return to form from those off colour. Make me proud, chaps.
Take that, Champions League. Cagey away teams? Ten men behind the ball? Sheer gubbins, cried the merry men of White Hart Lane. We did it the Tottenham way, and while some will probably berate ‘Arry for not adopting a more conservative approach, particularly when two goals ahead, I revelled almost drunkenly in our insistence upon flying forward at every given opportunity. Some – nay, many – will lambast our approach as naive, but I was chuffed to my core to witness a Tottenham side deciding against sitting upon an early lead, and instead looking to stretch further and further ahead, playing some absolutely coruscating one-touch football in the process. Our lot looked more psyched than they have done since – well, since the last Champions League game, and were ruddy well worth a two-gola first half lead.
Point of note: we were actually cruising until we actually conceded. Our advantage was by no means reduced because of capitulation to opposition pressure – in fact Carlo Cudicini barely needed to break sweat, beyond thumping the odd back-pass upfield. Trouble only reared its head when Benny Assou-Ekotto delivered a clearance so wild, needless and bizarrely backward that it prompted the chap sitting next to me to proclaim that it was part of a betting scam. From a situation of no danger whatsoever we conceded a throw, from which Bremen scored, and about 43 minutes of cracking first half work was instantly undone. Curses.
Van der Vaart: AANP Favourite
But what cracking first half work it was. Blinking heck. In our first ever official Champions League game Rafael van der Vaart demonstrated all his top-level nous, and played like a man possessed, without any of the rabid insanity. All composed passing and intelligent vision, the mildly cross-eyed Dutch genius coolly bossed the game. And we absolutely rocked. Aaron Lennon was again strangely subdued, despite going eyeball-to-eyeball with the deeply old and slow Mikael Silvestre, but everyone else with an attacking bent handily brought along their A-game.
Par example: it always pains me to say it, but – in the first half at least – Jermaine Jenas was mightily impressive. In fact, I even made a note of the first time I noticed him play a backwards pass: 62 mins, 51 seconds. Until then he buzzed with positive intent and first-time distribution, and his volley to create the second goal was particularly impressive. The Hudd provided a good deep-lying outlet; Kaboul played with aggressive intent at the back; everything was chugging along just tickety-boo. The concession of goals and removal of VDV ruined things, but the first half provided plenty of cause for encouragement, and had me musing that the additions of Modders, Gomes, Daws and Defoe would turn us into a cracking little CL outfit.
Elsewhere On The Pitch…
The AANP theory on Peter Crouch is that the novelty has worn off domestically, so that every Premiership defence feels relatively at ease in formulating a plan to deal with him; but continental opposition, either at club or country level, are inclined to defecate in their shorts at the sight of him, all pointy and long, stumbling towards them like a gargantuan grasshopper. Whatever the reason, Bremen struggled to get to grips with the blighter and he led the line jolly well, holding it up, laying it off as appropriate and taking his goal well. (Didn’t stop me cursing his entire family when he messed up that late chance though.)
I have begun to speculate that everything positive that occurs in the universe is prompted by Gareth Bale, and this near-faultless notion was corroborated by his performance, with the cross for the first goal demonstrating the value of whipping a cross into a dangerous area, rather than trying to pick out a particular chum. Aaron Lennon take note. By contrast, too many bad things happen when BAE gets hold of the ball, and he and Corluka look too much like the weak links in our line-up.
The goals either side of the interval damn well knocked the wind from our sails, and the absence of Mr VDV certainly did not aid matters, as the ball morphed from cuddly pet cherished by all to hot potato feared by every man and his dog, but in the final analysis a point away from home is no mean feat in the Champions League. I don’t doubt that many will demand the rolling of heads, and insist that a more conservative approach is required on European away days, but around these parts the cockles are warmed by the sight of a Tottenham team gamely taking every opportunity to attack, and pinging the ball around in confident one-touch style. I considered that in the first half, even though the away team, we did the right thing in taking the game to Bremen, and had we made it to half-time with a clean sheet we might have returned with three points rather than one. I for one would be a mite disappointed if we abandoned this attack-minded philosophy in favour of defending for a nil-nil, counter-attacking style from first minute to last – but to each their own.
Even observing from across the Atlantic, AANP is well aware of the worrying signs that, for all the cheer and merriment created by our Champions League qualification, our heroes are doing a dashed good impression of a pack of mutts who have bitten off more than they can chew. I’m not quite sure how tiredness can be a factor so early in the season, particularly as many of the players had an international break, but there has been a sluggishness to our recent league form, and the forthcoming glut of CL games is unlikely to freshen up any of our heroes.
Still, we can worry about all that on Saturday. Playing in the Champions League cures all known ills, and there is probably no better way to drag the players out of their stupor than to parade them in the front of the cameras to the soundtrack of the CL theme tune and 36,000 braying lilywhites in the stands.
4-4-1-1 Again. Huzzah!
“Da more I interact with humans, da more I learn.”
So drawled Arnie in Terminator 2, undoubtedly the greatest film ever to grace the AANP Towers cinema reel, and our very own glorious leader is demonstrating a similar capacity to modify his behaviour in reaction to external circumstances. In such a manner was the 4-4-1-1 birthed, and as our heroes will be gambolling across foreign soil today, the designated away formation will be unleashed upon an unsuspecting world once again. After Saturday’s periodically abysmal draw at West Brom confidence will be sky high amongst ‘Arry, Joe Jordan and chums that 4-4-1-1 will make us kings of Europe, and providing that Werder Bremen are no better than the WBA we should be absolutely fine.
Alas, our absentee list would make quite some 5-a-side team, with Gomes, Daws, Defoe and potentially Modders all staring forlornly from the sidelines, but the prospect of Ledley returning to the fold always soothes the savage beasts here at AANP Towers.
The addition of van der Vaart to our ranks reinforces the notion that our side is positively teeming with potential match-winners, and between them I fancy Bale, Kranjcar, Lennon, VDV, Hudd , Pav et al to grab a goal or two. However, this is no ordinary club competition, this is the Champions League – and with such power comes great responsibility, particularly at the back, where dubious defensive lapses will be magnified and punished. A point would represent a fine night’s work – on present form dare we hope for even more?
With apologies for the tardiness – this missive is penned from a NYC-to-DC coach, as the all-action holiday in America continues.
Thus began the glorious new era. Designed with a view to travelling to the San Siro and such places, and chastened by the Young Boys plastic pitch experience, ‘Arry unveiled his brand spanking new and eagerly-awaited 4-4-1-1 away formation, and I found myself anticipating it in the same excited manner with which I used to look forward to the launch of a new away kit, as a nipper.
Back in 1991 it was a yellow Umbro number with jagged blue flashes on one shoulder and the shorts. In September 2010 it was 4-4-1-1, with Rafael van der Vaart in the hole behind the front-man; Modders and Bale working the left; Lennon wide right; and Sergeant Wilson and Hudd providing a central buffer for the defence. On paper it looks awesome, in Championship Manager it probably would work a treat, and for 20 minutes or so on Saturday it seemed a grand idea, but by the full-time whistle our heroes were hanging on in far from convincing manner, and it was apparent that this wondrous innovation required some tweaking.
Homework for This Week
The return of the walking wounded, coupled with improved fitness amongst the newbies, will probably improve matters, but neither manager nor players ought to be short of things to practise in the coming days. Messrs VDV and Gallas would probably benefit from a few shuttle runs and a bleep test, but the former at least showed, sporadically, that he will be a rather tasty addition to the White Hart Lane cast list. Our glorious leader has been licking his lips at the prospect of VDV and Modders getting better acquainted, and it is not difficult to see why, but that particular best-laid plan went fairly swiftly agley on Saturday. As Modders hit the deck and departed stage left, the signal was given and the Bell of Doom duly rung at AANP Towers. Mercifully however the prognosis is not too serious.
Modric’s departure did not help, but in general the midfield made dashed hard work of things. When a greying, pot-bellied Hudd gathers around the grandchildren several decades hence and tells them tales of his glory days in the Tottenham midfield, the September 2010 game away to West Brom is unlikely to figure too prominently in his rich tapestry. With all around him eagerly charging forward he seemed a little uncomfortable with his role alongside the Sergeant, of buffering the back-four.Palacios meanwhile is diligently continuing his fall from grace, with another performance of questionable quality. His arrival some 18 months ago, and the six months of glorious tenacity that followed, seemed a lifetime away on Saturday. Grumblings of discontent will presumably be increasing in volume around the streets of N17, and the name of Sandro more frequently thrown into conversation. Disappointing stuff too from young Aaron Lennon, while the new-look defence will also need to rehearse their lines a little better and poor old Pav beavered away without much joy in the lone striker role.
Must Do Better Chaps…
A draw away to West Brom is not quite disastrous, but if this is the prototype for Champions League away days then by golly our heroes need to sharpen up their act. One point from two eminently winnable games suggests that much elbow-grease will be required (not to mention a striker capable of leading the line on his own in a 4-5-1) if the glories of last season are to be replicated.
Sincere thanks to SiberiaSpur for providing the info that enabled me to watch the soccer out here…
After the mind-numbing inactivity of the summer, this international break brought us more excitement than we could shake a stick at. All initial joy at seeing Michael Dawson march out in the England starting line-up was pretty swiftly tempered by the sight of his knee and ankle turning in about eight different directions as he hit the turf. After his Cup Semi-Final slip last year, the poor blighter must be sitting in his hospital bed plotting how best to burn Wembley to the ground. On the bright side, it is a relief to know that an injury that looked potentially season-wrecking, to the admittedly untrained eye, will only bring about an absence of eight weeks or so.Further up the pitch, there was a dark lining to what had initially seemed a pretty silver cloud in Jermain Defoe world. His England hat-trick charmingly highlighted all that we love most about him – that insistence upon hitting the target hard and low – and, rather startlingly, he also added all manner of extra tricks to his repertoire, holding up the ball, bringing others into play and generally acting like a goalscoring version of Emile Heskey. Quite bizarre. However, it ended with an ankle knock that some dark sources suggest will keep him out for several weeks. The disclaimer to bear in mind here is that a couple of weeks ago he supposedly needed groin surgery, before deciding that actually he was fine and dandy.
After three months of frustration we can now sink our teeth into some shiny new signings. We finally have a face to apply to the name Sandro, and although he may require five minutes or so to bed into the North London way of things, hopes are high that he will prove to be essentially an improved model of Sergeant Wilson. I also look forward to seeing more of his magnificent goatee.
AANP Towers also throws open its doors to welcome into town Rafael van der Vaart and his delectable wife. Not entirely sure how ‘Arry plans to shunt his new recruit, Modders, Kranjcar, Hudd, Sergeant Wilson and Sandro into central midfield, and furthermore the transfer hardly solves the problem of our lack of a hulking big centre-forward to lead the line, but I have no problem with the addition of quality personnel.
Three Points RequiredAmidst all the excitement it is easy to forget the little matter of a trip to West Brom on Saturday. No matter the distractions of our midweek Champions League jamboree, three points are fairly blinking important after the Wigan debacle last time out. ‘Arry has displayed something of a reluctance to rotate his squad unless forced to by injuries, but with games coming thick and fast this autumn he may opt for some pick-and-mixing in the coming weeks.AANP on Holiday
Parish noticeboard – AANP has taken off to the land of Kasey Keller for a couple of weeks, so match reports might be at a premium.