Having dried his tears and collected the assorted toys from outside his pram, a l’Arse-supporting chum earlier this week sent a message my way, the gist of which was that he was scratching his head in bewilderment trying for the life of him to remember the last time Spurs had enjoyed a week of quite so much good news. The man has a point. The derby win was followed by Champions League knock-out qualification, which was followed by an approving nod for a new Tottenham-based stadium, which has been followed by news that Michael Dawson is back in training, and even the rumour that Ledley is gingerly lifting himself from his wheelchair, sellotape and blu-tac duly applied to his balsawood limbs.There is talk in some quarters that our heroes really have turned the corner, and that those mentioning Spurs as potential Premiership or Champions League winners ought not necessarily to be thrown into a dusty spot of land and given a damn good thrashing for crimes against reason and common sense. A cautionary note echoes around the walls of AANP Towers for sure, as there remains a strong chance that we will finish the season not only empty-handed but also trapped in the arid and unforgiving wasteland that is the Europa League. As such, the policy around these parts is not to speculate too wildly about how the world might look come May 2011, but simply to wring every last drop of enjoyment from the present moment.
The abacus has been dusted down, and all manner of rigorous arithmetic drills undertaken, the upshot of which is that AANP can confirm that in all competitions it is now three wins and counting for our lot - and in a spirit of bonny, blithe and gay optimism I am rather inclined to think we will have our fourth come Sunday evening. The danger after a good Champions League win is that the next pre-match huddle actually consists of the players patting one another on the backs for a midweek job well done, rather than spitting, snarling and straining at the leash in preparation for the forthcoming 90 minutes. No such danger this Sunday I would hazard. The time for complacency was probably Wednesday night, with the memory of the Emirates still fresh, but Liverpool at home represents a bigger kettle of fish, the importance of which is unlikely to be underestimated.
VDV may again miss out, and the list of other absentees remains longer than a gangly limb of Peter Crouch, but there is positive news in both the return to fitness of young Master Defoe, and the sparkling efforts of Aaron Lennon on Wednesday night. If both he and Bale could hit top form simultaneously cracks would probably appear in the High Road N17 as Mother Earth struggles to cope with the thrill of it all. The bubble will burst eventually, but I have faith in our heroes to maintain the winning habit for at least one further week.
Ahoy-hoy! Still in triumphant spirits I hope? Floating hither and thither about your business aboard Cloud Nine? Excellent stuff.A more rigorous examination of the potential pitfalls and glories of Sunday’s encounter is imminent on this very corner of the interweb, but until then do pour yourself a cheeky little something from your finest bottle of bourbon, and have a look yonder. The Liverpool Offside is to football blogs on the red half of Merseyside what Mrs Van der Vaart is to footballing WAGs the world over. With Spurs – Liverpool on the horizon, The Liverpool Offside and All Action, No Plot settled down to chew the fat, and if you click right here can indulge in the entire ruddy conversation!
If that doesn’t whet your appetite then the first exchange probably won’t either, but here it is anyway:
The Liverpool Offside: I have it on good authority that Gareth Bale is in fact more powerful than seven Super Messis and that his merest glance can destroy worlds, or at the very least Brazilan fullbacks, a species of footballer we find ourselves in possession of. I have also been lead to believe that he will be sold to Guangzhou FC in January. Is there any truth to this?
AANP: ‘Tis well known around the lilywhite half of North London that Gareth Bale’s curious appearance is due to the fact that, like most deities, in his natural form he exists as beams of light radiating in all directions. In order to fit in amongst the mere mortals of the Premiership he has adopted an outer shell that in truth only partially resembles your average human. Young Master Bale really is in quite humdinging form, his every touch currently meriting inclusion on a highlights reel. As he is yet to be infected by The Curse Of The WAG, I suspect he will hang around these parts for at least one more season, but thereafter the bidding could well begin in earnest, alas.Read the rest, here…
How surreal. If there were a worry prior to kick-off it was that following the euphoria of Saturday our heroes might be a little too complacent, and simply stroll through this one. And in truth, they were indeed a tad complacent and most certainly did stroll through – yet it was of little consequence. Can anyone remember a match of such magnitude being so mind-bogglingly easy for Spurs?Bremen: Awful
It made no sense, but then very little did last night. To see Spurs cruising through in such untroubled fashion was almost ineffably peculiar, and the attitude of the Germans simply added to the confusion. Only if the heavens had opened and the players been soaked to the skin could Bremen have looked more forlorn and less motivated. (Although that blonde attacking chap did a good Modric impression throughout.)
A strange old evening for sure. There have not been too many occasions on which I have lamented the fact that Jenas has been forced to depart early, yet he has been in relatively steady form in recent weeks and made an eye-catchingly positive start last night, so I rather felt for the chap when he limped off. Moreover, with Hudd off radar for a few months we can ill-afford to lose another central midfielder for any length of time.
That said, this was one of the best days Sergeant Wilson has had in months. Every tackle seemed perfectly-executed, and (almost) every pass distributed simply and accurately. Further curiosity was to be had in the serenading of William Gallas with the strains of “Yiddo! Yiddo!”, as he effortlessly outmuscled the German mob. In so many respect things are a-changing at the Lane these days.
The Cream of a Mighty Impressive Crop
That said, it was the usual scintillating stuff from young Master Bale, who added a Cruyff-turn to his super-human repertoire. Personally I am convinced that he was actually aiming for the cross-bar with that second-half free-kick, for the very best players set themselves those sorts of challenges, and as for the penalty – well, like forearm tattoos and the pre-match huddle, missing from the spot is just a trend amongst the current crop of heroes in lilywhite. It will pass.
Crouch’s Grinning Visage
And while I’m grumbling, perhaps this is a good opportunity to draw attention to the manner in which my heart-rate quickens whenever Benny Assou-Ekotto goes near the ball. He is not a particularly bad player, simply maddeningly lackadaisical about just about everything he does. I’m not sure there has ever been another Spurs player at whom I so constantly want to bellow “CONCENTRATE, you loon,” as he attempts shoulder-dinks and the like on the edge of his own penalty area, whilst working assiduously to pick out opposition players with every pass.
Strange Times at White Hart Lane
All things considered however this was probably as serene a Tottenham victory as I can remember. It may not prove the most thrilling of our commemorative DVDs, but it is probably worth purchasing simply for the variety of rare bonus features thrown in – a clean sheet, a sprightly Aaron Lennon, a Kranjcar cameo and, taken in its entirety, a Tottenham performance that was just about the epitome of professionalism. Admittedly Bremen were woeful, but we threw away a two-goal lead against them before, and conceding at any point until we scored our third (the 80th minute) would have made for a nervy finish. Instead we were dominant and efficient from start to finish – I frankly cannot remember the last time I ever saw that from Spurs. Whatever next?
It has been so much fun watching l’Arse fall apart at the seams over the last few days that I had almost forgotten we have our latest Biggest Game In Recent Memory tonight. Victory tonight would guarantee qualification to the knock-out stage of all things, and another chance for ‘Arry to shoehorn a mention of “Two-Points-Eight-Games” into his post-match press rounds. Of course in theory if things go awry on the pitch tonight - and off-pitch in the coming months - it could actually be White Hart Lane’s last ever Champions League night, which is a slightly gloomy thought. That really is a worst-case scenario however, for it seems far likelier that one way or t’other we will be reconvening in the spring for more of this floodlit revelry.These continue to be heady times for the Band-Aid manufacturers of N17, as Bale, VDV and Kranjcar are the latest injury doubts. In fact the curse of wearing a Spurs shirt and promptly collapsing in a bloodied, mangled heap has even reached AANP Towers (broken foot in Monday’s 5-a-side, since you ask). As it happens, on paper at least our team retains a look of some adequacy, for 12 months ago we would have fancied our chances with Lennon – Jenas – Palacios – Modric lining up across the midfeld. Moreover Defoe is back, looking sharp and sprightly, and now having added Aerial Bohemoth to his list of attributes, judging by his performance on Saturday. This being the Champions League, and they being foreign opposition, tonight ought also to see the transformation once again of Peter Crouch from gangly halfwit whose only value is in assisting defensively at set-pieces, to unplayable goalscoring machine who leaves opposition defenders gibbering in awe, unable to fathom which limb they should approach first.
Apparently Bremen’s recent form has been of the variety to leave their fans rushing for the nearest high ledge off which to hurl themselves, but if they are in the Champions League they can pack a punch, and in the second half in Germany they made us all sweat. No doubt they will come armed with some sort of stifling, hard-working game-plan, and if we really are minus both Bale and VDV, as well as Hudd, our attacking prowess might be a little more laboured than that to which we are accustomed.
Nevertheless, Champions League nights at the Lane have so far tended to result in goals a-plenty, at least one dodgy penalty and a handsome victory, so I anticipate that it will be a cheery mob crowding the White Hart Lane train platform come 10pm tonight.
“`All right,’ said the Cat; and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.”
And all across the lovelier half of North London, grins remain, just lingering in the air. What a marvellous weekend’s work.
Fully aware that we had failed to win away at the top four since the last Ice Age, ‘Arry ordered our heroes to adopt The Lazarus Approach that has served us fairly well on a couple of occasions this season on our travels in the Champions League. Accordingly, our lot just did not bother in the first half when things began at 0-0, instead opting for the challenge of overturning a multi-goal second half deficit, against a ticking clock and away from home, because it’s just much more fun that way. With the second half comeback in mind, the central midfield of Jenas and Modders diligently avoided doing anything that might be interpreted as gaining a semblance of control of the game in its opening 45 minutes, and also surreptitiously made their excuses whenever the back-four needed help in that lamentable first half.
All of which set things up nicely for the latest chapter in the ongoing 4-4-2 vs 4-5-1 debate. How easy it is to forget how at the start of the season ‘Arry was derided for the gung-ho 4-4-2 away to Young Boys. No two ways about it, on Saturday the half-time switch to 4-4-2 helped to prompt the about-turn. Amidst all the excitement and nerves, from my lofty perch I must confess that I rather ignored some of the subtler tactical nuances of the game, and opted instead for the more Neanderthalic approach of screaming and cursing at the TV whilst slurping beer, spearing wild animals and making fire. Nevertheless, on reflection it did seem that the addition of Defoe made the world of difference, not least by giving the l’Arse back-four reason to break sweat; while our 4-4-2 featured a distinctly narrow midfield four, which mightily effectively nullified the other lot.
Van Der Vaart – Huzzah!
VDV remains convinced that the boundaries of the pitch are marked by electric fences rather than white paint, and consequently spent his time as a right-winger ploughing straight up and down the centre of the pitch – but given that he created/scored all three of our goals, I think he earned the right to sit down on the centre-spot and smoke Amsterdam’s finest for the rest of the game if that is what he wanted. The chap’s technical mastery and love of the game was epitomised in his assist for the first goal, when I’m pretty sure he actually kissed the ball as it dropped from the sky, before letting it roll down his chest and flicking on to Bale.
Bale – Huzzah!
A propos Bale, the slick manner in which he collected the ball without breaking stride was worth a goal in itself, at least in terms of downright dreaminess. As luck would have it the equally slick manner in which he then flicked the ball past Fabianski was worth a goal in the more commonly-recognised literal manner. Aside from the magnitude of the occasion, in terms of pure quality, it was a cracking little effort – as most of his goals tend to be.
Gallas – Huzzah!
However, while VDV and Bale did the glamorous stuff, the hero of the hour and a half was back at the other end of the pitch. In recent weeks on this very corner of the interweb the commitment of Gallas to the lilywhite cause has been under great scrutiny, with suspicion rife at AANP Towers that while picking up his pay-cheque from Daniel Levy he still packs his sandwiches in an Arsenal lunch-box. Yesterday however, Gallas turned in the performance of a man possessed by the spirit of an indomitable blue and white cockerel. In the first half in particular, while his lilywhite chums fell over themselves to let l’Arse do whatever they jolly well pleased, Gallas shook a clenched fist and did his damnedest to keep those rotters at bay, with all manner of crunching tackles and dogged harrying. Whatever next?
Some Words on Our Vanquished Opponents
We tend not usually to bother with the opposition around these parts – ‘tis a Spurs blog after all – but having watched the game in the company of a couple of gooner chums the sweet smell of Schadenfreude has been wafting through the corridors of AANP Towers all weekend. Sometimes a memorable win is marked by a performance practically perfect in ever way (Inter Milan, or Chelski last season, par example). This time however, I’m happy to accept that we were awful in the first half, and hardly vintage Tottenham Hotspur in the second. It was not so much a game that had me beating my chest with pride as crying with laughter come the final whistle, for the glory glory of this occasion was to be found in the quite magnificent manner in which l’Arse imploded. Within spitting distance of the top of the table they completely lost the plot, with their handshakes and handballs and whatnot. To nab game, set and match, from two-nil down, and on their own patch – it was just too much fun.
Where Will It All End?
While our heroes no doubt charged off to Faces to celebrate, ‘Arry ensured that everyone associated with the club kept their feet on the ground by talking up our title prospects. It is possible for sure, mathematically and all that, but AANP is not going to grab its latest pay-cheque and charge down to the bookmakers quite just yet.
As with Saturday’s win, success this season seems likely to be aided as much by the shortcomings of others as by our own good work. One startling feature of this campaign has been the fact that every five minutes one of the genuine title-challengers is losing to a non-descript team from somewhere in that grey mid-table area. One or two good wins by any of the top five and over-excited types start making breathless noises about winning the title – which is actually a Man City reference. Opportunity certainly knocks for someone or other, and for all our dropped points against Wigan and West Ham, another top four finish remains very much within our grasp (although the return of the Champions League this week will presumably dent our league form once again).
Still, even if the season ends in the ignominy of failure to win the Premiership, we have already ticked off more boxes than I would have dreamed possible a few months back. Wins at home to l’Arse and Chelski last year; and sealing our top-four spot; and beating Young Boys; and beating Inter; and beating l’Arse on their own pitch – in isolation all of these are just commemorative DVDs, but add them together and our heroes are trundling along in the right direction, make no mistake.
Seasoned visitors to these parts will now that on three occasions each year we simply cannot prophesy doom quickly enough. Away games at l’Arse, Chelski and Man Utd – absolutely positively guaranteed to find the famous “AANP Cheery Optimism Counter” stuck at zero for the duration of the weekend. It’s not just at AANP Towers either – I haven’t met a Spurs fan this week who gives us hope of any more than a draw. In fact, having watched the England match on Saturday I rather fancy I have glimpsed the future and already seen how Saturday’s game will pan out – lots of chaps in white shirts scurrying about with noses in air, trying desperately to get a sniff of the ball, as various French types exchange a few too many slick one-touch passes around our penalty area.The remaining 35 league games of the season I genuinely think we ought to win – all of them - but this is one of the unholy trinity, and I don’t see the pattern changing until I’m grey and old. One never knows though, and while as a fan of many years I have the prerogative to settle down into a grump ahead of this one, I expect nothing less that fire in the belly and passion stirring the souls of the eleven in lilywhite out on the pitch.
Opportunity Knocks In Absence of Hudd
Presumably Monsieur Wenger has hired a sniper, or my conspiracy-theorising, Spurs-supporting chum Ian is right, and William Gallas really is still on the l’Arse payroll with strict instructions to search and destroy, because the Hudd is now out of action too. Forever, from what I can glean.
If there is a silver lining to this, or indeed a straw at which to be groped with blind hope, it is the curious trait developing in ‘Arry’s reign for all manner of prodigal sons to come racing back into the fold, make themselves at home and transform into uber-beings of their former selves. This time last year Vedran Corluka was still waddling around the White Hart Lane turf, and Gareth Bale was about to shipped off to Nottingham Forest, while as recently as this summer just about 50% of Spurs fans had wiped Alan Hutton’s very existence from their memories. Since then Bale has become the white Pele and Hutton has established himself as the pick of our back-four, whilst possibly the last two chaps we ever thought would form our central defence have formed the bedrock of a win over Inter.
The point of this little warble is that Hudd’s absence will neatly open the door to some other lucky blighter, and history suggests that the next three months might therefore be the making of Jenas, Sergeant Wilson or Sandro. Indeed, whisper it, but Jamie O’Hara is still officially a Tottenham Hotspur employee. The mind boggles.
4-4-2 vs 4-5-1: The Defoe Edition
The merits and less meritorious facets of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 were given a slightly lop-sided airing on these very pages last weekend, but the question now has a cunning twist, as the messenger pigeons come bearing news that Jermain Defoe has been sighted with jaws locked in a chomp around what is widely known as the bit. Marvellous news I’m sure you will agree, but how does this fit with the head-hurting permutations of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1.
Earlier this season on England duty Defoe played atop the formation, with Rooney in a VDV-esque position in the hole, and the entire thing turned into a neon-lit success – yet it seems rather unlikely that such a vertically-challenged type as Defoe will be asked to lead the line as lone striker in a 4-5-1.
A more feasible scenario would be Defoe trotting out with a bona fide striker alongside him, which would suggest Princess Pav or the wretched Crouch in a 4-4-2 (with VDV adopting that suspiciously central “right flank” role once more). Not tomorrow perhaps - away to l’Arse it seems almost certain that we will go with 4-5-1, and quite probably shunt Sergeant Wilson or Sandro into the midfield, in a desperate effort to get close to Fabregas and his chums as they triangle themselves to death -, but longer-term the return of Defoe gives us a fresh option, and a forward who is a darned sight better than Crouch when it comes to thumping the ball goalward when presented with a chance.
Defoe or not, there is doleful morbid pessimism around these parts, but by jove I hope that this defeatist stance proves wildly wrong come tomorrow afternoon.
Blessed relief. With the 4-4-2 formation, flowing pass-and-move stuff and hatful of chances throughout this was vaguely akin to the glory glory days of way back in season 2009-10. Seeing Paul Robinson look on forlornly as the ball crashed repeatedly into the net really did give the afternoon a retro feel, but after our recent run of form the priority was three points in any manner possible, and they have accordingly been lapped up most gleefully around these parts.
4-4-2 or 4-5-1?
For all the doom and gloom of poor form and lengthy injury-lists in the build-up to this one, I was thrilled to bits to see our heroes trot out in good old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation. It served us jolly well last season, both at the Lane and on our travels, but the kids these days are all peddling some variant of 4-5-1, and with VDV blazing magnificence in every direction we have duly adopted it ourselves. It is understandable enough away from home on big European nights, but at home to Blackburn ‘Arry quite rightly decided to revert to the more attacking set-up of yore.
It all worked fine and dandy. Jenas and Modders took turns at loitering deep, but by and large all four across the middle merrily wore their attacking hats; and with two bona fide strikers on the pitch we did not face the difficulties of previous weeks, of lacking presence in attack. Here at AANP Towers we whisper snide remarks and begin malicious hate-campaigns against one-man attacks, and stomp our feet in rage when that one-man attack consists entirely of Peter Crouch, but conversely, nothing soothes the savage beast around these parts quite like a two-pronged forward-line, and so it proved yesterday.
Of course, the flip-side of a 4-4-2 is that it leaves VDV homeless. Presumably he was the nominal right winger on the teamsheet, but by and large his contribution to the right flank amounted to little more than an occasional glance in its direction, as he took up residence further infield near familiar chums like Modders and Bale. By accident or design VDV’s general neglect of the right flank proved not to be a problem, as Alan Hutton seemed quite happy to do the job of two men, bombing up the flank and sprinting back to defend faster than you could say “Vedran Corluka”.
I can grudgingly admit that there is indeed a time and a place for 4-5-1, but not at home to colourless mid-table fare of the ilk of Blackburn. Given that we beat l’Arse, Chelski, Man City and Liverpool at the Lane last season with 4-4-2, I quietly hope that more often than not at the Lane (that is, in matches in which our heroes amble out onto the pitch as favourites) we retain this approach, and find a way to accommodate VDV accordingly.
Odd Stuff From Pav
On the subject of our two forwards, what a curious old bean our resident Russian is. He seems dashed determined not to score unless the finish involves high levels of complexity and a jolly good hammering of the laws of physics. As such straightforward penalties and one-on-ones do not interest our Pav, but the less-than-entirely-straightforward chance presented yesterday was positively gobbled up with minimal fuss. All told it was a good lively showing from the Russia, moaning and fussing about the nasty Blackburn rotters ‘tis true, but also demonstrating a laudable willingness to scurry to all four corners of the lush green turf.
The same could hardly be said of the gangly one, who for a 6’ 7” striker remains infuriatingly poor at shooting and heading. While he earns polite applause for his goal, in general his greatest value seemed to come in the aid he kindly offered the back-four, from set-pieces and the like. (And on the subject of his defending, it is curious to note that the exact challenges for which he is routinely penalised when attacking (arms splayed all over the torso of an opponent) go unpunished when used by the gangly one while defending.)
Modders and Jenas – A Startlingly Effective Central Midfield Combo
I would like to think that long after the game has finished and fans have departed, Modders remains out on the White Hart Lane turf simply for love of the game, continuing to control the ball immaculately, dip his shoulder and look for a pass. Not as headline-grabbing as some of his peers, but a joy to behold and currently looking like a man thoroughly enjoying life.
As for his central midfield partner – lo and behold. No doubt the entire global membership of The Society of All Things Sideways and Backwards watched on aghast yesterday, as their leading proponent repeatedly broke the habit of a lifetime. Jermaine Jenas has generally edged the better side of average on his appearances this season, and it was most pleasing to observe yesterday that every time he received possession he seemed determined to push forward in search of glitz and glamour. He is hardly in the same class as Messrs Modric and VDV when it comes to caressing the ball as if it were a svelte brunette in a revealing dress, but his energy and attacking intent were most impressive, and he helped give our midfield fairly healthy balance – quite a feat considering that we were without either a genuine right-sided outlet or deep-lying holding type.
Further Progress in Construction of The Ultimate Footballer
Having already proved himself adept at dribbling, crossing, shooting, as well as boasting the ability to hurl in a throw-in like a man possessed, young Master Bale has now ticked “Scoring With Head” off the list of attributes required by a bionic footballer. His questionable fashion sense remains however, the man who once sported a hair-clip pin thing (to give it its technical name) in his mop yesterday opting for bright pink tape across his thighs. Still, whatever works for him.
Other Points of Note
A bird? A plane? For those scratching their heads in utter bewilderment I can confirm that it was indeed a Tottenham goal from a corner. My oh my, whatever next?
We threatened to throw away a 4-0 lead, but 15 minutes proved not quite long enough for the Kaboul-Gallas comedy routine to hit top gear (I should retract that actually, as both made cracking goal-line clearances), and in truth we ought to have won by far more than a two-goal margin. With l’Arse, Liverpool and Chelski all rapidly approaching on the horizon, a win yesterday was an absolute necessity, so give yourselves a round of applause chaps. The league remains such that the current occupants of the top four positions have been dropping points with gay and fairly frequent abandon, so fret not at our current state, behind Bolton and Sunderland. Despite the mishaps of recent weeks our heroes are by no means out of the running just yet.
Heavens above, have you seen our injury list? What the blazes are they doing to the players in between match days - wrestling with tigers? Jumping through fiery hoops? Just standing in a big circle thrashing each other with great big iron bars? Whatever the training drills, something has gone horribly wrong, as Bentley, Hudd, Lennon, Keane, Giovani, Daws, Ledders and O’ Hara are all out, and whinging Princess Pav is a doubt (although I am willing to wager that he’ll be tickety-boo come Saturday afternoon).
No further injuries amongst the back-four, which I suppose is a good thing, although given the madness of recent games I’m not entirely sure how to greet the news that Gallas and Kaboul will be strolling out shoulder to shoulder on Saturday.
Scavenging amongst the bloodied limbs at the training ground, ‘Arry and chums have actually managed to rescue a midfield that retains a rather exciting look, which is a pleasant surprise. Bale, Modders and VDV have all been cocooned in cotton wool, and will be carefully unwrapped and delicately placed out on the pitch. They ought to be joined by Niko Kranjcar, who has been quietly shuffling towards the exit door in recent weeks. The chap’s grumblings of discontent are understandable, but it was unfortunate that he performed quite so anonymously when granted his neon-lit chance at Bolton last week. I fervently hope he excels tomorrow, because although it is difficult to accommodate him within the current starting XI he did enough last season to indicate that he is a quality player, and one very much carved in the Tottenham mould.
Three Points! Three Points!
One way or another we really ruddy well absolutely have to pick up three points tomorrow. Concerns about our striking deficiencies, the startling regression of Sergeant Wilson and the cracks in our back-four can probably wait for another day. The eleven who take to the pitch are likely to be the only ones not covered in bandages and supported by crutches, so we will jolly well have to accept and support them. The suspicion here at AANP Towers is that l’Arse and Man City will keep dropping points every now and then, but it won’t matter a jot if we grind to a halt at home to the likes of Blackburn each week. Three points, I beseech ye, three points.
I suppose that after Saturday’s relentless barrage of thwacks at the Self-Destruct button by the esteemed members of our back-four, we good members of the N17 public ought to have expected one more seismic defensive catastrophe on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Kaboul-Gallas Chuckle Brothers audition was so wince-inducingly, jaw-droppingly awful it is probably destined to join Rob Green’s summer howler by being immortalised in Lego.
A dashed shame too, because that aside we had looked fairly sturdy value for three points. It was by no means a performance of such riveting gung-ho that it made me want to scamper atop the Empire State Building and beat my chest with pride, but we rather rudely hogged the little round yellow thing from our visitors for most of the night, and made reasonably good use of it too. Scythe them open relentlessly we did not, but regularly prod and poke at them we did, our heroes giving their goalkeeper a good, honest work-out. It was the sort of display that ought to have secured a 1-0 win on a Tuesday night.
Instead it seems that if we are going to finish in the top four we are going to take the scenic route. All is not lost quite yet, for while Chelski might hit top gear soon and go motoring away from the rest, it is difficult to envisage the current top four making a clean break from the rest. L’Arse and Man City can be relied upon to drop points every few weeks – perhaps not in such belief-defying manner as our lot, but one way or t’other nonetheless – and a run of three or four successive victories at any point between now and the festive season ought to set us up nicely for a fresh implosion come spring.
Back to the game, and while it rather got lost in the fine print, I would happily have stayed at the Lane overnight and beyond, with eyes closed, simply replaying over and over in my mind’s eye that shot from Hudd. The technique of the young man makes me want to cure the blind, just so that they can observe, and then be blinded afresh by its magnificence.
I’ll give young Master Bentley a nod of approval too, for his efforts. Not a pat on the back – he wasn’t that good – but a nod of approval. A different sort of bean from Aaron Lennon, Bentley does seem to dovetail quite well with Alan Hutton (which I realise is possibly just a euphemistic way of saying that Bentley is rather slow). He knew the drill, and unencumbered by the vat of hair-gel atop his crown he did his best to whip in crosses, mixing things up with the occasional shoulder-drop and dink inside.
Plenty of grumblings have been grumbled about the penalty, an incident which (when viewed on a TV replay) led me wondering if it is possible both to award a spot-kick and book a player for tumbling in the same incident. Anyway, given that our nation’s finest might well have disallowed VDV’s goal for sneaky use of the arm, it seems that in this particular instance ying and yang have reached a healthy compromise.
Two points, four games. Mercifully the next fixture is just five minutes away, and a fine, flowing, three point-earning display on Saturday ought to paper over some of the cracks. Nevertheless, we natives are, if not quite restless, certainly discombobulated, as to how to reconcile a win over Inter with one point from games vs the combined might of Bolton and Sunderland.
One point, three games. Generally the solution at AANP Towers when things are not quite tickety-boo is to drink plenty of water and wait it out. In extreme circumstances we have even been known to chew on some raw garlic. However, something a little more drastic will probably be required from our heroes tonight, to shake them from the alarming torpor that characterized Saturday’s performance.
Things have gone so wildly awry in the league that we are now level on points with Liverpool, who I’m pretty sure were about to sack their manager and explode in a ball of flames a moment ago. There is nevertheless a salutary lesson to be gleaned from their fortunes, in providing evidence of the wholesome benefits of a string of consecutive victories. Three wins on the bounce has Liverpool back in contention for the top four; we now find ourselves playing host to Sunderland and Blackburn within the space of a week, a double-header that suggests that if we play our cards right by Saturday night we could find ourselves breathing down the necks of those rotters from l’Arse and Man City once again.
No Aaron Lennon, which suggests that Niko Kranjcar or David Bentley might be invited to watch in awe as Alan Hutton goes surging beyond them on the right. If fit, VDV and Hudd will presumably return to central midfield, while I imagine Jeans has also risen up the midfield pecking-order, simply by virtue of not being Palacios or Sandro; and Pav for Crouch is the logical but by no means certain alteration in attack.
It appears that Darren Bent is absent for the other lot tonight - bad news for my Fantasy League team, but good news from a lilywhite perspective, as Bent, like Kevin Davies, is one of those types who always seems rather likely to find our net one way or t’other. This means that the dashed exciting Asamoah Gyan ought to be in action for Sunderland tonight, representing another useful test for Younes Kaboul. I am beginning to grow quite fond of the boy Kaboul. He blinking well needs to iron out those lapses in concentration – sliced clearances and whatnot – but it’s nice to see someone big, strong and quick on the prowl in our defence. As that evil Emperor chap noted of Darth Vader when he was still a fiendishly annoying young whippersnapper, I shall watch his career with interest.
With the Champions League anthem removed from the playlist for the next week or two I have supreme confidence in our heroes tonight, and indeed on Saturday. A return to our daring, doing best ought to do the trick, for when our lot start to purr, particularly at the Lane, few sides in Christendom can live with us.