Spurs match reports

Bolton 4-2 Spurs: A Unique Way of Boosting Team Morale

From sublime to ridiculous in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. How Inter Milan must have shaken their heads in bewilderment. On Saturday our heroes appeared to be running a competition amongst themselves as to who could make the most mistakes, with bonus points for any particular ineptitude that led to a Bolton goal. I suppose such little games are good for team morale – oh how the rascals must have jested with each other in the changing-rooms afterwards, as they recounted Gallas’ hilarious “clearance” and BAE’s thoroughly unsubtle shove for the third goal. For all the internal merriment however, I could not help thinking that team spirit would have been served equally well by storming to victory.


This was a game lost not much because of post-Europe fatigue as plain incompetence all round. While the first goal might have been disallowed for offside it made no difference to the pattern of play. Indeed, if there was a defining moment in the game I would suggest (admittedly while brazenly stretching the definition of “moment”) that it was the ten-minute spell at the start of the second half, in which, rather than fight tooth and nail to restore parity, our heroes gave a masterclass in being half-heartedly second to just about everything. It resulted in Bolton’s second goal and was swiftly followed by a shoddy third, ultimately rendering futile our late fightback.


The Lost Puppy in Central Midfield


As well as catalogue of individual moments of shoddiness, our choice of personnel in the centre also seemed to bring about our downfall. Young Master Bale often provides the most obvious goal threat, but control against Inter was provided by the unrestrained magnificence of VDV, Modders and Hudd, purring their way around central midfield with impeccable technique and lashings of élan. Although unavoidable, the absence of two of these three, as much as the general sloppiness of our lot, was a contributory to our failure to get a grip at the Reebok.


Sergeant Wilson and Sandro are many things, but they most dashed well are not like-for-like ball-playing replacements for Hudd and VDV, and our midfield was consequently unable to get a grip on the game. Poor old Modders hurried and scurried and twisted and turned, but all in vain, as every time he looked up for support he was greeted by the sight of general thud and blundering. The poor blighter vaguely resembled a domestic dog whose owner has died, Modders faithfully trotting around in anticipation of his rewards, but left forlornly wondering why no-one of the ilk of VDV was present to scratch his tummy or return a pass.


“Donde El Gringo” or Something?


No idea what language is best for young Sandro, but the shout of “Man on” did not seem to have the slightest effect on him, so Gallas and chums ought to settle upon a suitable warning call in the appropriate lingo, and pronto. Frankly Sandro gave a pretty good impression of a man to whom the whole concept of football was entirely novel. On the whole he passed the time gently wandering around inside his own half, carefully avoiding any scenario that might lead to him positively impacting upon the game, an approached crystallised when he was presented with a cracking chance to score from six yards but somehow contrived to flick the ball backwards. The patrons of AANP Towers are hardly about to write him off just yet, but this was spectacularly inauspicious stuff.


Crouch: Copy and Paste…


Every week Crouch is picked atop the 4-5-1, and every week he demonstrates himself to be painfully inadequate. He has his uses, particularly at European/international level (where our continental cousins remain entertainingly incapable of dealing with him), or as an impact sub, or indeed as a beanpole occasionally capable of nodding down into the path of VDV. However, in recent weeks all things bright and beautiful from our heroes have been achieved in spite of rather than because of him. The gangly one seemed stunned each time the small white orb neared him, reacting like he had never seen such an entity and was completely ignorant as to the physics of the thing. Damningly, when Bale whipped in a low first-half cross, he slid in with knees bent and legs tucked under his rear, rather than stretching out his limbs as far as they would extend.


Princess Pav


Given the respective performances of Crouch, Sergeant Wilson and Sandro, I was mightily relieved to observe the switch to 4-4-2 at half-time, and an opportunity for Pav to shine, although in truth a substitute’s appearance away to Bolton does not really fit the Russian’s grandiose dreams of personal glory. The last person you want to roll up his sleeves and fight, or track back and tackle, Pav is the sort of princess who would refuse to accept a bed at the Hilton because he would find a pea under the mattress. On he was flung on Saturday, to fairly minimal impact.However, princesses may be pampered prima donnas, but they darned well love a little splash of diamond-encrusted quality in their lives, and for all his moodiness Pav does deliver some finishes of the most incredible quality. Recall ye his awful, half-hearted performance away to Young Boys, suddenly illuminated by an absolutely blistering finish. The goal yesterday lunchtime was similarly brilliant, absolutely ruddy brilliant. He does not seem the man for a 4-5-1 either, but sometimes his finishing is quite superb.



The New Gareth Bale


A quite brilliant goal too from Hutton. Had either his or Pav’s goals come from the gleaming boots of Drogba, Torres or indeed Bale they would have been repeated non-stop across the tv channels. Hutton has never been backward when it comes to bombing forward from full-back, and while there are questions regarding how he links with Lennon, he adds a tasty extra threat on the right. Moreover, he struck me as the pick of our back-four on Saturday, encouraging stuff from a man hardly blessed with a reputation for defensive faultlessness.


Elsewhere On The Pitch


We at AANP Towers are sticklers for good manners and general decorum, and with that in mind we implore the Hudd to nip in the bud that tendency towards violent cynicism that has emerged in recent weeks. The elbow against Twente and stamp on an opponent yesterday both appeared fairly deliberate, and although he got away with both they hint at a most unbecoming trait.


Disappointing stuff from Niko Kranjcar, which will do little to end rumours of a January exit, but despite his anonymity on Saturday I sincerely hope his services are retained.


Conclusion? We Must Win The Champions League…


One point from our last three league games, and thinking back over the Everton, Man Utd and Bolton games, it is difficult to make a case for us deserving much more. The Champions League adventure is magnificent fun, make no mistake, but we need it to be the norm rather than the exception, to which end simply slacking off each weekend after a European night is not good enough. A run of consecutive wins would put us right back in contention for the top four – otherwise the best means of ensuring Champions League football next season is to win the whole bally thing in May…

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Bolton – Spurs Preview: Gareth Bale – “Photogenic”? Really?

Quite a week for Gareth Bale, now universally regarded as being up there alongside Pele, sliced bread, the wheel and opposable thumbs on the list of The Best Things Anyone Has Ever Seen Anywhere, Ever. Unfortunately, and I suppose inevitably, one publication has gone completely overboard in their praise of the chap, the Daily Telegraph going to the ludicrous extent of describing Bale as “photogenic”. Really, that’s what they call him. Here. Golly.


I jest. We who worship at the Altar of Bale don’t care a hang for his appearance, as he long as he stays free of injury and retains forevermore that enduring ability to go merrily a-shredding any defence that lays before him. Following the less-than-entirely-successful approach to stopping Bale adopted by Rafa Benitez in midweek, of granting him the freedom of White Hart Lane, it seems likelier that Bolton tomorrow – and every team thereafter – will take leaves out of the books of Everton and Man Utd by doubling up on the poor blighter at every opportunity.


As an aside, the boffins here at AANP Towers have mused whether a response to this approach might be to withdraw BAE, switch Bale left-back and move Kranjcar/Modders/AN Other to left midfield. Thus, Bale could begin his runs from inside his own half, reaching a full gallop by the time he is in the opposition half, and making it a tad more difficult for Bolton to latch onto him. Moreover, the presence of Kranjcar/Modders/Whomever already on the left would give the double-teamers something else about which to fret.


Admittedly it may not be as scientifically flawless as E=MC², but we will presumably need to adopt some sort of strategy to deal with the extra attention that now seems inevitable.


Team Selection


In fact, I would not be entirely surprised if ‘Arry opted to rest Bale tomorrow. Following the monumental efforts of Tuesday, one or two changes in personnel are probably to be expected amongst the starting XI, with Bassong, Corluka, Jenas, Sergeant Wilson, Sandro, Pav and Keane presumably all on standby (not entirely sure of the current status of Messrs Giovani and Bentley). While Bale has assumed the mantle of havoc-wreaker-in-chief, the heartbeat of the team on Tuesday was formed by Hudd, Modders and VDV, who between them pretty much controlled the game. Rest may be required for weary limbs, but I do jolly well  hope that at least two of these three trot out for kick-off tomorrow afternoon.


Tuesday night’s heroics have done much to restore our reputation as a big domestic – and indeed European – name, a reputation that has been withering away over the last 20 years. However, more glorious European nights are required, and to this end top-four finishes are essential. A draw at Bolton would be a decent result; victory at Bolton would be a top-four result.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Inter: Practically Perfect In Every Way

Well this Champions League business is turning out to be cracking fun. Never mind the tube strike, I think most of us floated home aboard Cloud 9 last night.


White Hart Lane’s finest hour? Those who watched Danny Blanchflower lift the League title back in the spring of ‘61 might beg to differ, and by all accounts the UEFA Cup Final win of ’84 was one heck of a night, but the denizens of AANP Towers have been up all night carefully weaving a blow-by-blow account of last night’s fun into the tapestry of The Most Blinking Marvellous Tottenham Moments of All Time.


If Spurs were the Predator, White Hart Lane would be our home planet, Gareth Bale would probably be that three-red-dot missile thing on the left shoulder, and our collection of skinned victims hanging upside-down with their skulls ripped out would now look mightily impressive. Having accounted for Liverpool, Man City, Chelski and l’Arse last season, we have now raised the bar just about as far as it can go, with arguably the biggest skull of them all – the European Champions. No two ways about it – we must now fancy our chances against just about anyone at the Lane. Heaven knows where it will all end.




Eschewing traditional Champions League caginess for an approach based primarily on copious amounts of swash and buckle, our lot went at it hammer and tongs from the off. ‘Arry could have been forgiven for exercising a modicum of caution at the prospect of a visit from our illustrious opponents, given the contents of their trophy cabinet and the memory of that four-goal blitz in the San Siro. Instead, our glorious leader reasoned that soaking up the pressure is just too dull and boring, and squashed as much attacking talent as was physically possible into an eleven man outfit. Inter, one suspects, did not quite believe our temerity in adopting a formation that at times resembled 2-1-7, as Hudd stayed within shouting distance of the centre-backs, and everyone else bombed forward as often as they could.


Taxi For Maicon


Frankly there is not much I can add about Gareth Bale’s performance that has not already been spluttered in awe by someone else. (Other than to wonder what the deuces are those black tape things he sticks to his thighs.) His pace has been showcased many a time and oft; but wasn’t it heart-warming to see him whip in crosses so vicious they would make small children cry?


Elsewhere On The Pitch…


Naturally enough the handsome young Welshman takes the plaudits, but to a man those in lilywhite played to the peak of their powers. Even pre kick-off the sight of BAE finally having sorted out his hair gave a signal of quite how seriously our heroes were treating this. The philosophy of throwing absolutely everything we had at Inter from the very first whistle may have lacked a little subtlety, but it was a masterstroke from ‘Arry, and impeccably executed the players.


Curiously underestimating our attacking threat, Inter were ravaged from all angles. There were puffs of smoke on the flanks, where our two wingers merrily zipped back and forth, aided and abetted by the wonderfully enthusiastic two full-backs. In addition, the central midfield triumvirate gave an absolute masterclass in control, technique and creativity – all gloriously crystallised in that utterly sumptuous first goal. If VDV, Modders and Hudd can play any better as a collective unit I fear the universe will simply give up and collapse under the weight of footballing magnificence.

…And Off The Ball

Moreover, when not in possession our lot beavered away like men demented – the forwards pressing and harrying, and everyone else diligently scampering back to protect Cudicini like their lives depended on it. Inter had their moments, but with every Tottenham man and his dog working their socks off, by and large our esteemed guests could do little better than peer wishfully at our penalty area from afar


Even when Jenas replaced VDV – all things considered quite probably the worst substitution it is possible to make in any sport, not just football – it did not disrupt our mentality, the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards at least working hard to help retain the initiative. ‘Twas that sort of performance, practically perfect in every way.


So huzzah, huzzah and thrice I say huzzah. Goodness knows where we go from here, but rather than concern myself with the future I resolve to enjoy the present, for this quite simply was the greatest result of my Spurs-supporting life.




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Spurs – Inter Preview: Five Reasons Why This Will Be A Glory Glory Night

As the great man said, it’s a funny old game. Prior to a trip to a slightly below-par Man Utd I could not for the life of me envisage a three-point haul; and yet ahead of the visit of European Champs Inter I bound around AANP Towers all bonny, blithe and gaily optimistic that this will be one of the most famous nights in our history. Never mind a DVD, this will be turned into a surround-sound, home cinema, 3-D, HD, blu-ray. Pourquoi, you ask? Come hither, and discover the five reasons why…


1. The Lane Under Floodlights


To suggest that in these evening kick-offs White Hart Lane becomes a fortress would be to stretch the truth fairly outrageously, but nevertheless the stadium does have absolutely crackle on nights such as these. And the current crop of players have shown that they duly rise to these occasions – note just last season the floodlit wins at home to Man City and l’Arse, and the rip-roaring start against Young Boys this season. The wins over Chelski (admittedly by natural rather than artificial light) and l’Arse last season have convinced me that when everything clicks at home we can beat the best in Europe. Produce our best tonight and we’ll be nattering away about it when we’re grey and old.


2. The San Siro Comeback


Another five minutes and goodness how things would have panned out back in Milan. The Bale hat-trick certainly papered over a few defensive cracks and general all-round timidity, but we at least have conclusive proof that Inter are vulnerable. As Arnold Schwarzenegger so sagely opined in Predator, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” So let’s go for the jugular, and make Arnie proud.


3. Hudd and VDV – Fully Fit and Raring To Go


This is crucial. I was not so much crestfallen as crestplummeting when VDV hobbled off at the weekend, and the prospect loomed of taking on Inter with a midfield bereft of both him and the Hudd – a midfield which would therefore presumably comprise Jenas and Palacios, with Modric in the hole. Joy upon joy then, that VDV is actually a bit of a drama queen when it comes to niggles and strains. It seems that the suspected hamstrung twang was no such thing, and with Hudd back in training too we will be able to field a midfield high on technique and vision. Bale-Modders-VDV-Hudd-Lennon might not exactly offer the back-four much protection, but if we are going to beat this lot we will have to play to our strengths, which means high-tempo madcap attacking from the off.


4. The Ref


I don’t know who he is, but as he is almost certainly not Mark Clattenberg in a mask, the chances are that if he decides to play advantage at any point he will signal that he is doing so by stretching out both arm ahead of him, in ye olde recognized fashion of a robot newly-freed from a straitjacket, thereby making quite clear to all the good folk watching and partaking exactly what the deuces is going on. Marvellous.


5. “Sammways Ahead… And Lineker Uses Him By Not Using Him…”


Naturally enough we’ll all be looking impatiently at Gareth Bale to go motoring past the Inter team every time he touches the ball, but the chances are that Rafa will have instructed all eleven of his mob to swarm all over Bale every time he even sniffs in the direction of the ball. Given the treatment meted out by Everton and Man Utd since his San Siro hat-trick, in pointedly directing him infield onto his right foot, it is just possible that his impact may be a little muted tonight.


So be it, but this need not be to our detriment. Harking back to the glory of St Hotspur’s Day, in the Wembley sunshine of April 1991, Gary Lineker gave an unlikely masterclass in the virtues of exploiting the space created by a team-mate whose presence was distracting bewildered opponents. Should Inter decide to focus on Bale, opportunity will knock for Modders, VDV and even Benny Assou-Ekotto to make merry in the space vacated.


By golly this is exciting stuff. White Hart Lane will rock tonight, and if things go well they’ll hear us all over the country. Inter Milan at White Hart Lane – bring it on.

Spurs match reports

Man Utd 2-0 Spurs: In Defence Of Mark Clattenberg

First things first – in the sprit of Mark Clattenberg’s fairly liberal definition of the term “advantage” I thought it apt to mislead the public by using the phrase “In Defence of Mark Clattenberg” when really there is no such thing. Should anyone look towards me for clarification I shall merely shrug, in an exasperating and ever so slightly arrogant manner, which really clarifies nothing for anyone. Play on!The Preceding 83 Minutes

Rather a shame that our lot collectively drifted off for the free-kick that brought about the opening goal, for that aside we traded blows fairly evenly – no mean feat at Old Trafford. Various theories have been bandied around regarding whether the blame lay with Kaboul or BAE, or whether we marked zonally or man-for-man. Whatever the conclusions, this moment, rather than the Clattenberg farce, was the crucial moment.

The Van Der Vaart Conundrum

In the first half in particular Modders and VDV were afforded more space than was entirely wise by the United mob, who came within a post’s width of paying, but life became a darned sight trickier in the second as United tightened up. The disappointing truth is that when we needed to increase our urgency levels we were simply unable to, and while we defended well enough on the whole it is difficult to remember our forward line ever actually penetrating the sacred environs of the United penalty  area. The deployment of VDV in a 4-5-1 certainly gives our midfield a healthy glow, but brings with it the problem of a lack of presence in attack, and it hardly a personal criticism of Robbie Keane to note that he is not the man for a 4-5-1.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Lennon started fairly brightly, but diligently pinged his final ball straight into the first man in red time and time again, and retreated back into his shell thereafter. Out on the left Bale was shackled fairly effectively, although a frisson of excitement did work its magic on yours truly when the Welsh demi-god went storming forward on his right foot rather than his left, in the second half. If it turns out that the lad is actually two-footed I may just pop from the sheer excitement of it all. The counter-balance to any excitement engendered by Bale is the feeling somewhere in between apathy and rage generated by Jenas, who seemingly deployed in a holding role, was his usual fairly anonymous self.


It was of course all overshadowed by the farce of the final few minutes, but for all the incredulity and expletives I would much rather we receive that sort of decision away to Man Utd, in a fixture from which we never really expect much anyway, than from a fixture against rivals for fourth spot.