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.