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Man Utd - Spurs Preview: Doom-Mongers Gather Hither

By nature we are fairly optimistic, cheery sorts here at AANP Towers, but I assure ye that nothing fills ours hearts with pessimistic gloom quite like the prospect of a day out at Old Trafford. By hook, crook or absurd refereeing we always lose at that blasted place, and frankly just the thought of it puts me in a mood sufficiently foul to aim a sharp kick at passing cats and old women. This sentiment is hardly lightened by the thought of Sir Alex Ferguson casting his beady eyes over our prized assets, Messrs Bale and VDV, with a view to a spot of Christmas shopping. As ever pre kick-off there exists at least a glimmer of hope, and come kick-off I suspect I will truly believe; but at the moment I fancy that when the lucky monkey does eventually hammer out Hamlet on his keyboard, Spurs will still be waiting for an Old Trafford victory.

 

Midfield New

 

It appears that there are various midfield permutations over which our glorious leader can twitch tonight. Ankle mischief apparently rules out the Hudd, and it is a measure of his progress that his absence tomorrow is being dolefully lamented around these parts.

 

Eyebrow-arching news from the left wing, with ‘Arry reportedly toying with the notion of resting the boy Bale. Although the impending visit of Inter looms large, Man Utd away nevertheless seems a slightly peculiar choice of fixture on which to grant dispense with the services of our resident pointy-looking superhuman. As such I suspect our glorious leader may have been bluffing when he trotted out this line in the pre-match press conference, the rascal.

 

Attacking Concerns

 

Those of a particularly civilised bent ought probably to cover their ears if our gangly-limbed hero is unleashed in attack, for poor old Peter Crouch has been subjected to some pretty fearsome vitriol over the last seven days, following his less than entirely lethal showing in attack last week. Alas for the rack-stretched blighter, the winner against Man City and hat-trick against Young Boys currently seem a lifetime ago, for he has now become the principal target of our ire.

 

While it must not be overlooked that he continues to provide fodder for VDV in his own awkward way, there was unfortunately much to chastise in his performance last week. Not for the first time his heading was so lacking in power and direction as to suggest that he simply closes his eyes and prays as the ball approaches; while closer to ground level his fiercest shots resembled little more than overhit back-passes. We are hardly drowning in attacking striking options, but opportunity may knock for Pav.

 

For all my finely-tuned pessimism ahead of this one I can at least appreciate that we are actually as well-placed now as we have ever been during our seemingly infinite Old Trafford barren patch. Frankly, this is as strong a Tottenham team as there has been for years, and I am quite happy to predict that we will triumph over Inter on Wednesday. Moreover, while rumours of United’s demise have been exaggerated in various quarters, they are not quite as formidable as in days of yore. A point is therefore quite feasible, but all those fans of chapter 20 (verses 24  to 29) of St John’s gospel can eat their hearts out over here, for until I can put my finger on the TV screen that confirms we have won at Old Trafford I will dolefully refuse to believe it possible.

 

 

 

Spurs 1-1 Everton: Would We Have Won Had We Not Played Midweek?

Sages the breadth of Christendom have been popping up all over the media this season to opine knowingly that our heroes would struggle to cope with the rigours of Champions League and the Premiership each week. As such I was jolly well hoping that we would emphatically destroy Everton with a loud roar of triumph (or at the very least fashion another 2-1 win) to prove the blighters wrong – but in truth we looked every inch a team jaded from the madcap doings of Wednesday night.

 

Lofting Crosses Into Orbit: The Tottenham Way?

 

The first task of the day was to negotiate the first 13 minutes without going 3-0 down. While this was successfully achieved the effort evidently took its toll, as just moments later we conceded. Still, coming from behind is very much the vogue for our heroes these days, and it was the old Crouch-VDV combo yet again.

 

This time the goal was hardly the prettiest thing we have witnessed at the Lane all season - with Tim Howard attempting to swat a passing wasp rather than bothering with the incoming cross; Crouch doing his best to let the ball roll off his stomach; and VDV seemingly convinced that if he snapped the net from its moorings he would actually be awarded two goals. It is difficult to complain about the tactic of launching balls into orbit from the flanks for the gangly one to set up VDV, as it bears fruit every week. However, here at AANP Towers we would prefer the ball to be kept on the green stuff, at least until the alarm bells clang to inform us that desperate measures are called for.

 

Aside from the goal nothing really clicked, which is always rather a shame. Last season, free from midweek exertions, I suspect we would have found a way to eke out three points; this time our lot looked a tad flat, and by the final whistle, absolutely shattered.

 

Bale and VDV: Possibly Mere Mortals After All

 

Unsurprisingly, every time the ball went anywhere near Bale Everton players swarmed all over him. He still wriggled free occasionally, but his wonderfulness was generally stymied, while VDV was also well-marshalled. (Although it is nice to see that he cares so much for the cause that he is willing to give the advertising hoarding a good kicking. Good lad.)

 

As a result of the focus upon Bale and VDV, young Modders became our default string-puller. He seemed rather to enjoy himself, in his own shy little way, but with no inclination to burst into the Everton area and scare the bejesus out of its guardians, his impact was ultimately a tad limited.

 

Right-Flank Version 2.0: Lennon and Hutton

 

Not sure if ‘Arry, Joe Jordan and chums have ever actually sat down and explained the concept to Alan Hutton, but he jolly well retains the look of a man who simply does not believe that he is a defender.

 

As he seems convinced that victory will be achieved if he sprints to the opposite by-line at a rate of knots, his interplay with Lennon on the right wing is vastly different from that of Corluka and Lennon. Back in the day the lumbering Croat would hang back and play cute little diagonal balls as Lennon whizzed forward, jazz-hands merrily a-waving; now it seems the trick is for Lennon to jink inside, while Hutton overlaps on the right. A fledgling manoeuvre, but one that in time may bear fruit.

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch

 

Kaboul was a fairly reassuring presence at the back; Palacios was decent enough without rediscovering the form of his early days in lilywhite; and right across the pitch similar adjectives of gentle-but-by-no-means-rip-roaring-praise could be dished out. Decent but unspectacular, we did not really do enough to merit a win. A draw at home to an in-form Everton is not a bad result, but is nevertheless the sort of thing that will leave us short of the top-four come May. Curses.

Spurs - Everton Preview: Never Mind Bale, Van’s The Man

Gareth Bale this. Gareth Bale that.

 

Gareth Bale.

 

Gareth Bale.

 

Gareth Bale

 

That seems to be the general gist of the breathless chatterings amongst Spurs fans in recent days (and with some justification I suppose). Fine by me, particularly if David Moyes has been eavesdropping ahead of tomorrow’s game. Everton are quite welcome to double-team, or indeed stick an entire squadron of players on the handsome young Welshman. The chances are that he’ll escape their evil clutches anyway, but the real beauty of the plan is that all this Bale hullabaloo neatly diverts attention from the chap who has made us tick so far this season. Van der Vaart must be seething with indignation that his thunder has been temporarily stolen, we can all expect him to wrestle back the headlines with a virtuoso performance on the morrow.

 

One For The Sky TV Cameras

 

As a wide-eyed whippersnapper in the ‘80’s learning my leg-breaks from my googlies, I remember watching the Ashes on TV, and seeing a banner in the crowd that read “If you cross the Border there’ll be Waugh” – a pretty nifty reference to two of the batting behemoths in that all-conquering Aussie cricket team. “If you successfully shackle Bale a fool you shall remain, for Van der Vaart will wreak havoc elsewhere I tell ye” may not have quite the same ring, nor the cunning play on words, but I might still scribble it on a piece of paper and brandish it intermittently as the Sky cameras pan over during tomorrow’s game.

 

In fact, not only do we have VDV, we also have Modders and Hudd, while out on something called the right flank, for which I care not these days, young Aaron Lennon is beginning to ease back into form too. We have waited the best part of a year for the positively dreamy combo of Bale storming one wing while Lennon is let off the leash on t’other, and for the first time it looks like they might finally both be hitting full tilt simultaneously. Marvellous.

 

Team Selection

 

Stick Hudd, Modders and VDV in between them, and our cup jolly well floweth over with all manner of attacking juices. (Which is just as well, given the defensive masterclass from Gallas and Bassong on Wednesday.) Crouch or Pav remains the conundrum in attack, with neither yet looking particularly comfortable in a 4-5-1, and given the strains of a ten-man game in midweek, the fresh legs of Pav, Kranjcar and Sandro may be called upon tomorrow.

 

A tricky one this, but if we want to silence those murmurs about an inability to juggle Premiership and Champions League duties, tomorrow lunchtime would be as good as any.

Inter 4-3 Spurs: So Who Was Your Man Of The Match?

Just another standard Tottenham game then. There ought to be some sort of internet tool or iPhone app that takes regular football phenomena and instantly turns them into the all-action-no-plot, Tottenham Hotspur equivalent. Take a  dour goalless draw in Italy (à la Liverpool against Napoli last night), give it the Tottenham treatment and hey presto – you have yourself a mental 4-3 defeat.

Déjà vu

To go three goals down in the blink of an eye on one occasion may be considered unfortunate, but twice is just plain careless. Having failed to learn the lesson of Young Boys, we dug an even bigger hole for ourselves against the Considerably Older, Wiser and More Technically Adept Boys of Inter.

Maybe our heroes just like a challenge. Over-awed and over-respectful, the poor lambs seemed unsure whether they needed permission to approach the European champions, who understandably enough between them made the executive decision to tear us to pieces.

Even by our madcap standards, four-nil and a man down at half-time, to the European champions, was a bit excessive. The barrage of text message abuse from gleeful chums was to be expected, but when Ray Winstone popped up in his gambling advert at half-time to bark that the latest odds were appearing on my screen, the sight of a 7-0 Inter win at 12/1 really did have me fearing the worst. I’m not sure I have ever felt so aghast and helpless as when watching that first half carnage unfold.

A degree of credit then to our lot, for bucking themselves up a tad in the second half. Although Inter undoubtedly took their foot off the gas, we nevertheless showed attacking intent in the second half, committing men forward rather than looking solely for damage limitation options. The goals were admittedly were the product of individual genius rather than any orchestrated team effort, but the second half attitude was nevertheless vaguely comforting, particularly with just the ten men (and bereft of our entire spine too – Gomes, Ledley, Daws, Modders, VDV and Defoe all absent for one reason or another for most of the game).

Man of the Match Contenders

Lennon looked lively. Cudicini made a couple of decent saves.

(I jest).

Gareth Bale

Living tissue over metal endoskeleton. Having quite possibly warmed up by destroying an entire police force on his own, he then carried out the most single-handed dismantling of a team I have ever witnessed. Only a cybernetic organism would race the length of the pitch, against the European champions, hit the bottom corner, spin round, show no emotion and sprint back to halfway – then do exactly the same thing again. I’m just glad he’s been sent here to protect us, rather than kill us.

If we need any further incentive to make the top four again it’s Bale. The secret is well and truly out now – the entire blinking continent knows about him. Iif he does not play Champions League football regularly he won’t hang around in our lovely little corner of North London. I expect that at 21 (sickening, isn’t it?), a seeming good egg and having just signed a new contract, he will stay next season, just to see how we toddle along. However, failure to push on from our current position and he’ll be out the N17 exits faster than you can say “By jove he’s just decimated the European Cup-holders single-handedly - again”.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Neither Bassong nor Gallas looked quite up to the challenge – but then pairing these two against Inter Milan at the San Siro was not really the plan. At the start of the season we wouild have pencilled Ledley and Dawson for nights like this, with Gallas and Bassong to help out as required against Blackpool and the like. Much though we love audacious attacking talent here at AANP Towers, we have to admit that the need for a top-notch defensive type is becoming increasingly pressing. As is the need for a 4-5-1 forward. ‘Twas not Crouch’s finest hour.

Jenas is an odd little fish. At fault in the very first minute for stopping to examine his nails while Zanetti went charging into the area unmarked to score, I howled with anguish when he remained on pitch and Modders was withdrawn, after the red card. Thereafter however, the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards showed the type of attacking intent we have been screaming at him to produce for nigh-on ten seasons. He did not by any means boss the game, but more often than not (at least in the second half) he looked to push forward and create something. It is the sort of thing he only ever normally does against l’Arse. And now he’s done it against Inter Milan too. Perplexing.

Not for the first time BAE deserved a slap on the wrist. While it is hardly appropriate to single out any particular individual for the first half debacle, his snoozing effectively cost us a red card and a goal, and that carelessness occurs far too often for my liking sonny.

On the bright side however, the second half performance far exceeded anything for which we might have hoped. Indeed, the draw between Bremen and Twente leaves us mightily well-placed, which I don’t think was a conclusion anyone was nearing at half-time. Defeat at the San Siro was to be expected (albeit not in quite such mind-boggling fashion); but with 10 points the target and three games left, two of which are at the Lane, progression looks eminently attainable.

Inter-Spurs Preview. That’s Right - Inter Ruddy Milan vs Spurs!

This is it. I was recently texted the pearl of wisdom that being a football fan is like sitting next to Jessica Alba, with her alternately kissing you and punching you in the face. Well, following punch after punch the good times are now rolling. It’s been years in the making - ye older folk have been waiting five decades for this – while more recently we wept over dodgy lasagne, but when Crouchy nodded in against City last season, it set us up for nights like this. Tottenham against Inter in the San Siro. Crikey. What a night.

 

Scary

 

Yes, lovely and exciting – but instead of lapping it up I’m actually dreading the possibility that we might take a right thrashing tonight. My spies inform me that Inter have one or two chaps in attack who are pretty handy, and rumour has it that they actually won the entire competition last season. Slightly scary stuff, no?

 

As it happens I fancy us to beat Inter at the Lane, given the way in which we beat Chelski and l’Arse last season, but tonight, away from home, I do rather fear the worst. The drill tonight will presumably be 4-5-1 with the emphasis on a defensive, risk-free game – and I cringe at the prospect. It is eminently sensible and appropriate in theory, but our lot might as well be asked to go out there and play ice-hockey. The defensive, containing game just is not in our nature, and goodness knows how it will pan out. I suspect we will end up going at Inter hammer and tongs anyway, and come out the wrong side of nine-goal thriller.

 

The absence of Ledley is a particular cause for concern up against Eto’o, Snjeider and whatnot. We have coped without Ledley many times before in the past, but tonight of all nights his absence is a blow. Gallas, Bassong and Kaboul are all decent players, but this isn’t Fulham, this is Inter Milan, and one suspects their forwards will be a darned sight more clinical than that Kamara chap was against us on Saturday.

 

On a personal level too I feel sorry for Ledley – the poor blighter has been at the club for years, and if anyone deserved a chance to lollop around the San Siro with the Champions League logo on his sleeve, it his him.

 

Grounds For Optimism

 

But enough of the negativity. Hudd is maturing, has a passing range to die for, and will be licking his chops at the prospect of mixing it on the European stage. Bale was born for such nights as this, while Lennon looks to be inching back to form, and those two on the counter-attack ought to give Rafa Benitez good reason to stroke his goatee. I am also intrigued to know what Inter fans will make of Jermaine Jenas, now they finally get to clap eyes upon the man they have coveted for the last couple of seasons.

 

The absence of VDV is also a crying shame make no mistake, but we did a darned good job of things without him last season, and if anything his arrival seems to have gently nudged Modders into his shell a little. Fingers crossed then that he crawls back out again tonight.

 

Selection Posers

 

The 4-5-1 formation means that ‘Arry must pick a different face for the VDV role, in the hole behind the striker. Modders himself, as well as Jenas, Kranjcar, Lennon and Keane could all in theory be selected for the role, while our glorious leader also has to choose between Pav and the gangly one in attack. While I have never been a massive fan of Crouch, I am convinced that his rack-stretched frame counts for an awful lot in European/international football, where opposition defenders still seem a tad bewildered as to whether they ought to challenge him or just stand back and gawp.

 

And so on. Tonight’s the night. Crack open a few beers, settle down and enjoy.

Fulham 1-2 Spurs: Well-Deserved Despite The Controversy

That’s more like it. Six points from two tricky fixtures and we now sit level on points with l’Arse and Man Utd. Admittely ours has been a fairly gentle fixture-list to date, but given our struggles to juggle Premiership and Champions League I’m quite grateful for what he have.

 

This Week’s VDV Magic

 

Having bossed games in recent weeks this was a relatively mundane showing from Van der Vaart, but when you hail from Amazingville then even your mundane showings are sprinkled with magnificence, and so it was that VDV’s quiet day still brought about the game’s best piece of skill and a game-changing moment. One-on-one with the ‘keeper from 12 yards out, most mere mortals would have closed their eyes and thumped the thing towards the corner. VDV, naturally, instead took the option marked “Genius” with a chip so impertinent it ought not to have been legal. Pav was a touch shameless in celebrating the goal that was all of VDV’s making, but credit to the Russian for being on his toes while the Fulham defenders were standing around picking their noses.

 

William Gallas – Not Bad For A Human

 

The Spurs-supporting chums with whom I watched the game spent much of the game earnestly peddling the theory that William Gallas has been sent here to destroy us, possibly by Arsene Wenger. Pointing to the fact that Gallas previously threatened to score an own-goal if Chelksi did not sell him, they now reckon that this if this mercenary with evil eyes ever does score for us he’ll rip off his Tottenham shirt to reveal an Arsenal one underneath. Grist to their mill was provided by Gallas’ decidedly average defending for the Fulham goal – diligently deciding to park himself in the middle of no-man’s land, leaving Kamara with an open goal from about six inches out. He then did his best to sabotage our winning goal too, but despite his best efforts the officials decided it would be more fun to allow it.He is actually doing a fine and dandy job for us, but my attitude towards him remains akin to that of Ripley towards Bishop in Aliens. Only when Gallas is ripped in half and then saves my life with his mangled torso will I be won round and my suspicion dissipate.

 

 

Alas, Poor Ledley

 

The price to pay for this week’s three points was the latest Ledley breakdown. It is tempting to chastise ‘Arry for selecting Ledley (personally I would have kept him aside for the Inter game) but it is hardly the fault of our glorious leader. Our captain’s groin is likely to twang every time he takes to the pitch, given that the poor blighter never trains. If it had not happened yesterday it might have happened in the opening minutes of Wednesday night instead.

 

Elsewhere On The Pitch

 

It is easy to forget that in the opening exchanges we almost scored one of the best goals ever. The move in question saw Hudd cheekily dink the ball into Bale, who first-time volleyed into the path of Pav, who took it on his chest and fired wide. Six inches from being a thing of majesty, it was instead a mere goal-kick. Shame that.

 

 

There were a couple of photogenic saves from Gomes; a couple of curiously inept touches from Modders; and a lively debut from Sandro. BAE’s hair looks stranger by the week, while it was lovely to see Aaron Lennon rediscovering his joie de vivre, suggesting that he may have an important role to play against Inter this week, even be it only as impact sub.For all the controversy of the winning goal, on balance of play we merited this win, 2-1 a result that reflected the balance of play. Problems remain – not least 4-5-1 without a striker who fits the system – but this was a fine afternoon’s work from our heroes.

Fulham - Spurs Preview: Bigger Than Inter at the San Siro

Don’t quite remember what life was like before this interminably long international break, but I think the gist of it is that we gather every centre-back on our books and lock them in the treatment room, while the rest of our heroes daydream about the Champions League and wait for Bale and VDV to do their thing.  I read earlier this week that we are yet to win two consecutive league games this season, which sums up our slightly hotch-potch start to the campaign in rather damning fashion. No doubt our Champions League distractions have been largely responsible for this, and with a trip to the San Siro on the horizon I fear the worst at Craven Cottage tomorrow. ‘Arry has rather nobly been suggesting in the build-up to this one that the game against Fulham is bigger than Inter Milan away. While the myriad ways in which that is wrong could probably be turned into a short book, I certainly see his point, for one way or another our heroes need to be reminded that if we continue to fritter away Premiership points we will fall well short of the top four come May. Such tough-but-winnable games as Fulham away are the stuff of which a top-four finish is built.

Team News

Bassong is likely to be partnered by either Corluka or Hudd, and Defoe I think remains out, but the rest are all in working order.

‘Arry again has to choose between 4-4-2 with VDV giving the world’s worst impression of a right-winger, or 4-5-1 with the magnificent Dutchman in more natural habitat.

As for the other lot, my fantasy league research tells me that Bobby Zamora is still injured, while jaws at AANP Towers are still begin scraped from the floor in disbelief at the news from back in the summer that ex-lilywhite Simon Davies is now old enough to retire from international football. Cripes. A draw at Craven Cottage is no bad result, but this one is winnable.

(Back Catalogue) Spurs 2-1 Villa: Is VDV The New Berba or Asprilla?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, many of the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

 

3/10/2010: While all and sundry are blurting out every superlative going, do forgive me if I go for something verging on the sacrilegious, but Van der Vaart actually reminds me of Dimitar Berbatov. Not for his sulky, dastardly personality you realise, nor physical appearance nor playing position; but in terms of being an addition to the ranks who is so clearly head and shoulders above his peers. Not since the days of Berba have we had a player whose technique is simply a class above, a player who does the outrageously difficult and makes it seem like second-nature. The sort of things you or I occasionally tried (and failed) in the park with our mates, when no-one was watching. VDV, like Berba before him, instinctively does those things in the middle of a high-octance, competitive game, and makes them look easy. As with the goal midweek against Twente, there was plenty of room for error with his second this afternoon – awkward height, awkward angle; but not a problem for a blinking football genius.

 

Another Bizarre VDV Comparison

 

Recall ye that season when Kevin Keegan went mad in a live TV interview? I may be mistaken, but I think that was the season Newcastle went about a thousand points clear at the top of the table by Christmas, but then rather embarrassingly frittered away their lead and ended up being pipped to the title by Man Utd, the poor loves. The reason? Well there were plenty I suppose, but one notable factor was the addition to the squad of Faustino Asprilla at Christmas. Personally I adored the chap, thought he was awesome, and one of the much worthier foreign additions to the Premiership in an era of Lars Bohinen and Anders Limpar, but adding him to an already mightily attacking mix rather skewed Newcastle’s tactics, and games they used to win they ended up blowing.

 

Fast-forward to N17 in 2010, and VDV is now adorned in lilywhite, and almost certainly better than any of his chums in the dressing-room. The problem is how the deuces to accommodate him. 4-4-2 worked fantastically for us last season. The central midfield of Modders and Hudd outplayed l’Arse, Chelski and Man City. The 4-4-2 worked, home and away. However, accommodate VDV we must, for the awesomeness seepeth from his every pore, and his natural abode appears to be a free role behind the centre forward/s.

 

But a 4-5-1-playing beast we are not, and there’s the rub. As well as lacking a genuine forward to play this role, there is also the problem of how to accommodate Defoe when he returns (and I personally am saddened that all this nudges Kranjcar towards the exit door, but c’est la vie). Bale, Modders and VDV into a 4-4-2 will not really go, unless the handsome young Welshman is shunted to left-back, which is rather a waste. VDV is no right winger, but we can’t play him and Modders as a central pairing in a 4-4-2, and… Well you get the point. Not that I’m about to solve it. That’s ‘Arry’s job, and in fairness it’s a dilemma about which he has being banging on fairly regularly.

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch

 

Back to the game. Still not a fan of lobbing high balls up to Crouch, but in the last two games his lay-offs and knock-downs have brought about goals and penalties and all sorts, so I simply have to grumble in silence on that point. Nice to see Aaron Lennon looking more like his former self; Alan Hutton continues to look the polar opposite of Corluka at right-back; Hudd grew into his role as ad hoc centre-back, but in an ideal world would still be below Ledley/Dawson/Gallas/Kaboul/Woodgate in the pecking order.

 

Emile Heskey: Scourge of Lightweight Spurs Centre-Backs

 

For all the talk of Van der Vaart the turning-point in this one was arguably the disappearance of Heskey, injured, in the first half. The ease with he muscled past Bassong evoked a Hollywood-style montage in my head of all those instances over the years on which a Spurs centre-back has been sent flying by a big brusing striker. In fact Heskey himself started it about ten years ago, in his Leicester days, when he powered past Stuart Nethercott or someone and thumped the ball in. Anyway, off he went, back we came and the all-important three points were ours. Pre-match I had hoped for three points above performance, injuries or anything else, and a win against a decent Villa side is a jolly good result.

 

Spurs – Villa Preview

 

1/10/2010: This old conundrum again. Whether two games per week is simply too much for their precious limbs, or they really do believe the hype and only mentally attune themselves for Champions League Wednesdays I know not; but for whatever reason our heroes are not coping well with the rigours of a Saturday-Wednesday-and-Saturday-again schedule.

 

It has been hard enough to cope with Wigan and West Ham; now we face a resurgent Villa side, and I don’t mind admitting I approach this game with a fair degree of trepidation. Generally I like our home performances served up with a healthy dose of swash and buckle, but in the interests of keeping pace with the top-four runners and riders, I will happily settle for all manner of scrappiness if it guarantees us another three points heading into the international break.

         

(Back Catalogue) Spurs 4-1 Twente: Truly, Truly, All Action No Plot

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, many of the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

 

30/9/2010: Good grief. Even by our own astonishing standards this was fairly madcap stuff. As well as the five goals, three penalties, red card and various refereeing controversies (thought all three were pens myself, but mine is perhaps not the most objective view) this was also the first game I can recall in which a team has won 4-1 while looking throughout like they might just blow it.

 

You lot of course are well familiar with the all-action-no-plot mentality, and our heroes’ allergy to the dull and boring nil-nil draw, but with THFC circa 2010  now being given the stage of the Champions League it is a rather cheery thought that all across Europe a whole new audience rub their eyes in disbelief at the madness of N17.

 

ATTACK!!!

 

Previous CL escapades have seen the sages queuing up to chide ‘Arry for not adopting a conservative approach on our away days, but this time, with home advantage and an urgent need for three points, he went with good old-fashioned, gung-ho 4-4-2. In fact, the carefully thought-out game plan of “attack, attack and bloody well attack some more” saw just about everyone in lilywhite, including Bassong and King, charging forward towards the Twente goal at one point or another.

 

The task was a lot trickier than might have been envisaged though, our vanquished opponents doing their damnedest to nip in the bud our fluidity. Not sure whether it was a result of this stifling, or a pre-ordained plan, but in the first half in particular young Master Bale appeared to be under orders to hang early, high crosses up in the area for Crouch to gorge upon. Not really an approach of which I’m particularly enamoured, but it brought about both the missed penalty and our opening goal, so I guess I ought keep quiet and be grateful for what we have.

 

Jekyll Hudd

 

If there was an occasional, unedifying tendency to sling high balls Crouch-wards in the first hour or so, I can only stand back and applaud the manner in which we adapted after VDV’s red card and the subsequent withdrawal of Crouch. The prospect of seeing out half an hour a man down – our finest man at that – with a narrow (2-1) lead, and against feisty opposition, had a whole army of butterflies hurtling around the stomach, but by golly our heroes did a grand job. The absence of Crouch removed the urge to go long, and instead, with a maturity I had dared not dream they possessed, our lot played keep-ball, looking for all the world like they were a man up rather than down. Hudd positively revelled in the situation, demanding the responsibility of string-puller-in-chief, and prompting a surge of paternal pride at AANP Towers, where we recalled with misty eyes those days of yore when we flung up our hands, called him fat and despaired that he would never make the grade.

 

Hyde Hudd

 

It should probably be noted that Hudd can also consider himself a lucky boy for remaining on the pitch, for while I am do not think he actually realised he was about to wallop that blighter in the head, I think it is fair to say that The Flailing Elbow is an art-from rarely looked upon with kindness by officials. His demeanour (“Contorted Rage”), was also rather a picture, and may well be invoked when those heroes in blazers at UEFA mete out their retrospective punishments.

 

Jekyll, Hyde, All Action, No Plot - Van Der Vaart Had The Whole Blinking Lot

 

Column inches aplenty for VDV, a player who has taken to the all-action approach like a duck to water. A player of his age and experience ought to have known better than to have gone hurtling in to his yellow card challenges, but it is difficult to begrudge a man who is so determined to be at the hub of activity, and who adds so much quality. His first half volleys were sumptuous, oozing technique, and he then made a difficult goal look fairly straightforward. Lovely to see such difficult skills come so naturally to a player in lilywhite, and heart-warming too that we have in our ranks a midfielder in whom the urge to shoot is always prominent.

 

Bale: Now Showing Too Much Quality

 

Bale did what Bale does, after a heart-in-mouth moment in the first half when he appeared to fall victim to an x-rated challenge from the advertising hoardings. Wondrous stuff as always from the handsome young Welshman, except that now every time he gallops 50 yard, roasts half the opposition team and plonks the ball into the net, I glance nervously over my shoulder for the sight of Alex Ferguson marching up the High Road, cheque-book in hand. Someone tell young Gareth to tone done the quality and lie low for a while.

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch

 

Gomes’ one-handed save ought not to be overlooked; Modders was mightily effective in a supporting role, keeping things ticking over without ever really dipping into his box of attacking tricks; Ledley, as ever, looked majestic.

 

Two forthcoming games against Inter, while Twente and Werder Bremen squabble amongst themselves, might tip the group table upside down, but four points from two games, home and away, is the start for which we had all hoped, while the entertainment value has flown right off the scale. Nobody does all action no plot like Tottenham.

 

Spurs – Twente Preview

 

29/9/2010: The unspoken agreement in place seems to be that Premiership points can be traded off for rip-snorting Champions League performances. (I call it an “agreement”, but this does rather seem to have been imposed upon us fans by the players, without any option. Such is life). It is therefore time for our heroes to stick to their side of the bargain. If they want to amble around the pitch while Premiership minnows sneak off with the spoils, then they had jolly well better repay us – starting tonight. Insouciantly chucking away the two-goal lead in Bremen was acceptable, because apparently a point away from home in the Champions League is allowed, but any similar nonsense at home tonight would leave us with an awkward few evenings in store.

 

Last season we set a healthy precedent of turning floodlit games at the Lane into glory glory nights worthy of club shop DVDs, so the template is in place. A high-octane start, an early goal or two, a throbbing Lane audience – we all know the drill. Time for our lot to make names for themselves.

(Back Catalogue) West Ham 1-0 Spurs: Time For A Settled XI?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

26/9/2010: Impossible to gauge, but I suspect I’m not alone in thinking that we would not be in this predicament if we did not have two games per week. Admittedly eight points from six games, and ninth position at this early stage, is hardly the most critical situation, but four points from the quadruple-header of Wigan, Wolves, West Brom and West Ham is pretty shoddy form, make no mistake.

Time to for a Settled XI?

I understand the principle of chopping and changing, resting players if possible and utilising our sizeable squad for the rigours of a two-games-per-week season, but with our league form now looking ropey I would quite happily see ‘Arry simply select his strongest available XI, irrespective of the competition, for the next half dozen fixtures or so. The Ledley situation is obviously the delicate issue here, but another month of haemorrhaged Premiership points would probably leave us playing catch-up in the bid to finish fourth again. Forget the notion of game-time for Sergeant Wilson, Jenas, Keane etc – could we not just pick our strongest 4-4-2 and try to rack up a few wins?

Lashings of Mediocrity

Rant over. The barrage of the West Ham goal for the last half hour or so was all very well, but our heroes were found badly wanting in the first half. There were some bright moments, particularly the interplay of Modders and VDV, but by and large we were second best to a team who simply appeared to want it more.

Rumours of Jenas’ latest resurgence looked woefully inaccurate, as he turned in the sort of anonymous, toothless display that has had all 36,000 at the Lane shrieking vitriol at him week in and week out for around ten years. Perhaps more bothersome, Hudd was also well below par, while Aaron Lennon’s shaved eyebrow does not look half as menacing when etched across a moody, frustrated visage. The back-four looked about as makeshift as Bale-Corluka-Bassong-Hutton sounds. Up in attack poor old Crouchy was on the whole starved both of service and company. If we persist with this 4-5-1 malarkey – and if it means more of the Modders-VDV roadshow there is a compelling reason to do so – we blinking well need a forward who can put the “1” into 4-5-1.

Admittedly, but for the fingertips of Green (barely recognisable from that World Cup clown) and the width of the woodwork, we might be purring admiringly about this being a well-ground out away point or three, but that is one for a parallel universe. Our lot looked a long way off another top-four challenge, and the players have the air of those who consider their Chamipons League status to equate to a cloak of invincibility from criticism. It is plain darn worrying that the urgency to scrape every point going, which by and large was present last season, is lacking this time around. Last season, falling behind at Upton Park meant fighting back and winning, because there was fourth place to play for, and every point gained in autumn would prove precious come May. This time around the thought of May, and points, and fourth, seems of less concern, a wrong that needs righting pronto.

West Ham – Spurs Preview

25/9/2010: A few years ago, during the glory glory days of Christian Gross and Gerry Francis, a trip to the bottom team would have been precisely the sort of fixture our heroes would lose. Back then, we were also the team against which a generally useless foreign striker, without a goal in half a dozen games since arriving in England, would break his duck; or when up against a team that had gone four games without a goal, we would find ourselves two down by half-time.

In recent years, and last season in particular, we appeared to have cured these maladies. Travel to a team in the relegation zone, and last season we tended to dig in and grab all three points. As a reward for such pains we now get to hear the Champions League theme tune every week or two. Admittedly there were hiccups at home, but generally we fared well at the Lane, and showed most un-Tottenham like fight on our travels.

Not quite sure where we stand this season however – the win at Stoke was marvellous, the home defeat to a Wigan team that had, until that point, been doing everything in their power to cast themselves as the division’s whipping-boys, was painfully reminiscent of the Francis/Gross eras.

So tomorrow off we toddle to those delightful folk at Upton Park, for a game against the bottom team in the Premiership, which on paper at least spells out “three points” in block capitals and stencil font, as used to such emphatic effect in the A-Team. The nagging worry is that with all the bells and whistles of the Champions League, back in the Premiership we are morphing back into the Francis/Gross teams.

Mercifully, the Tottenham circa 2010 can be distinguished from its 1990s equivalents by a handful of genuinely top-notch attackers. In van der Vaart, Modders and Bale we have three little nuggets of awesomeness, and even should the rest of them fail to fire on the requisite number of cylinders, I back these three, between them, to do enough for three points.

 

 

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