Yes it was only QPR (nota bene, Chelski), and no one does not really like to brag – but by golly our lot could not have played with more swagger if they had purred around in Lamborghinis with Megan Fox in the passenger’s seat and Snoop Dogg mixing cocktails in the back, while the stereo blared out Test Match Special. In truth this was not so remarkable – recall ye the similarly imperious dismantling of Liverpool on that very same patch of turf but a couple of months ago – but it was still absolutely ripping fun to observe. Like a man-size version of those rather charming little 6-a-side keep-ball games in which they indulge in the pre-match warm-up, the attacking five, plus full-backs, made it look for all the world like we had twice as many players as they, particularly in the first half. Two goals was the minimal requirement at the break. Something of a mixed bag from Adebayor in attack, his ability to hold up the ball a wonderful vindication of the observations of just about every Spurs fan in Christendom last season that we needed a forward of presence, yet the radar needs some maintenance, for his finishing was curiously awry. Attention from this mini-drought is neatly diverted by the net-bulging prowess of others.
But curses upon that break, and the deplorable half-time routine in which our heroes seem to engage. They seemed to have swapped half-time energy drinks for warm milk laced with laxatives and horse tranquiliser, duly trotting out looking ready for bed rather than another 45 minutes of blood, thunder and corners. Mercifully the 2011 Tottenham vintage does possess more class in attack than one can shake a giant stick at, so no matter how susceptible we looked in retreat, there was a general air of menace when we went forward. Thus, matters were duly secured in another blur of breakneck first-time six-yard passes, followed by the sort of finish that really separates wheat from chaff.
Nevertheless, this habit of scoring first and duly conceding does not quite have me dancing jigs of delight across the corridors of AANP Towers. And somebody somewhere might want to teach sit them down and teach them the intricacies of the noble art that is set-piece defending.
It is peculiarly appropriate that Scott Parker has something of the geeky, unspectacular air of Clark Kent about him. Within a performance overflowing with attacking flair, his was probably the stand-out contribution, based on grit, energy and other attributes the like of which are perhaps a little anathema to some of our more feted superstars, past as well as present.
So it’s two out of two within a run of six eminently winnable to-dos, and a game in hand no less. Honestly, where will this all end?
Another chance for us all to pore laboriously over he pros, cons, t’s, c’s and minutiae of the Great VDV or Defoe Debate this afternoon, and with the added caveat that, this being a home game against a newly-promoted mob, we really ought to grab the bull by the horns and play two genuine strikers. In fact, if I were in charge I’d leave Friedel to sort himself out with only Kaboul for company, and stick the other nine in attack, but ‘Arry will presumably be a tad more circumspect. The chances are that Lennon will be dropped, Defoe will partner Adebayor in attack and VDV will start on the right, before looking suspiciously at the touchline and deciding life is far jollier when wandering towards Modders, Adebayor and other chums straight up the middle.
Elsewhere the usual concerns can be reeled off – fourth and fifth choice centre-backs, general juggling of Sandro, Livermore and Parker alongside Modders, but they should all be moot concerns. Both on paper and on grass we ought to destroy this mob. Convention and decorum both dictate that the usual glut of insincere guff ought to be droned ahead of this one – they’re a good team, we’ll treat them with respect, and the world is really just a fluffy orb of wonderfulness where nobody offends anybody and we all gambol happily in the meadows while lions and lambs play hopscotch together.
Here at AANP Towers we find it difficult to keep up the pretence however, and have no particular inclination to avoid showing them disrespect. In fact I hope our lot dispense with respect from the off, and treat them with such superiority, disdain and disrespect that mothers keep cover their children’s eyes and old ladies tut in disapproval. Nine times out of ten we’d beat this lot at the Lane, so let this be one of those nine. A couple of early goals ought to crush their spirits, after which we can focus on notching up the goal difference.
(So that’s 1-0 to QPR then…?)
1. Collect Underpants
As the South Park Underpant Gnomes so crucially failed to diagnose, some things are a dashed sight more difficult in practice than they appear on paper. Nota bene, ‘Arry and the assorted Hotspurs, for bottom of the table Blackburn may be, but alas it is unlikely that they will simply roll over and allow us to tickle their tummies before disappearing into the night with three points. Teams at the squalid end of the table certainly gave us problems last season, and after a generally below-par performance away from home last week complacency would be a grossly misjudged sentiment going into this one.‘Arry has to choose between VDV and Defoe in attack, the former generally preferred for away days, the latter looking frightfully bright and perky in recent weeks. The return of Sandro to the fold in midweek gives an extra option in midfield, but the unlikely chaps in the spotlight pre kick-off today will be the behemoth that is Kaboul and the not quite so imposing Bassong, without whom we may be forced to field life-size cardboard cut-outs of Ledley and Daws. Having said all that however, if we turn in a performance of the ilk of those in September, Messieurs Kaboul and Bassong ought to be spectators for much of this one. Three points please chaps.
Me neither. In fact, I’m not sure there is a soul alive who understands quite how we managed to toddle off from that with a win, but bearing in mind the perils that lurk within the mouths of gift-horses I suggest we stuff the three points under our jumpers and sneak off before anyone notices.It might be an idea for Jake Livermore and Sebastien Bassong to bond over a Jason Statham DVD night or some other such bromantic activity, because last night neither seemed to be aware that the other was of the same species, let alone the same centre-back pairing. The Russians had a fair amount of joy poking and prodding at this soft and squidgy underbelly of ours, and frankly had enough possession and chances to wrap this up well before the last person left and the lights were switched off. Not for the first time AANP is left to muse that the difference between our mob and esteemed opponents is a sprinkling of class in attack.
While here I may as well cast an eye over the various performers of last night, before they are stuffed back in their packaging to warm the bench during Premiership games.
Make no mistake there were good saves from crazy, crazy Gomes, saves that secured our win, but he managed in 90 minutes to deliver more completely unnecessary scares than Friedel has done in seven full games to date. A line of thought is beginning to develop around these parts that the better the ‘keeper the less AANP notices him.
Meanwhile AANP continues to scratch its head in bafflement at Giovani. Admittedly the Spurs website runs a line propaganda that would have made that Comical Ali chap blush, but every time Giovani returns from international duty it is to tales of wondrous success and match-winning heroics emblazoned across tottenhamhotspur.com. Presumably ‘tis his evil and slightly more mundane twin turning out for Spurs in the Europa League, because the name aside there has been little about him to suggest any particular Latin panache.
Young Carroll had a cracking game in the centre, so neat, tidy, skilful and sensible that he might have had the letters M-O-D-R-I-C emblazoned across his back. Kyle Walker also excelled, whatever his limitations as a natural defender he expiated with oodles of bona fide jet-heeled pace. Out on t’other flank young Rose, for all his earnestness, was less wondrous in his doings – although a high-five is waved at him for fine and noble feet jinkery to win the crucial free-kick. BAE can sleep untroubled in the short-term at least, safe in the knowledge that his left-back spot is under minimal threat (not that there is likely to be much that causes the His Royal Unflappableness to lose his nightly shut-eye).
La Donna e Mobile
AANP’s various fun-filled escapades in the world of courting have introduced him to a range of female types, amongst the most incomprehensible of whom are those whose moods and behaviour swing wildly from one extreme to another at far less than the drop of a hat. Thus is Pav afflicted, for when good, as yesterday, he can be very good; and when bad, he is a whiny exasperating pest. Like one of AANP’s more temperamental would-be paramours, Pav was in buoyant spirits from the off yesterday, keen to fox Russia’s watching millions into believing that he is the main
человек in Premiership circles. Cue a performance of threat, a cracking goal and a general level of interestedness of which I had rather forgotten him capable.Add to all that a fair degree of luck, and Younes Kaboul producing the best cameo since Ben Stiller popped up with a ‘tache in Anchorman, and ultimately it turned into the three points that probably ought to see us through to the next stage of this interminably long saga. Lovely stuff.
Few things in life scream “Pointless Money-Making Charade!” quite like a Europa group stage game, but this one actually has relevance, sub-plots and all other sorts of curious goodies the like of which have rarely been seen on a Thursday night on Channel 5.On a formal note, this game is actually laden with group-deciding significance no less. We and the good folk of Rubin Kazan appear to be trotting along towards the dizzy heights of group leadership, so the glorious crown of UEFA Europa League Group A Victor is likely to be decided over 90 minutes at the Lane tonight, followed by a similar stint in some sprit-crushingly chilly corner of far-flung Siberia two weeks hence. I must confess that I tend not to wile away my hours examining the whys, wherefores and qualification criteria of the Europa League, but I suspect that winning the group would grant us relatively gentle opponents in the next round, so there is an incentive of sorts for triumphing over this Russian mob ce soir.
Moreover – they’re Russian! And we have Pav in our ranks! It will be like when Spock fought against the Vulcans! That’s right, a headline-writer’s dream, if Pav can somehow be cajoled to stop whingeing and don his shooting boots for the night. Might also help him secure the move back to the motherland that he presumably craves.
The usual phalanx of kids will presumably be shoved out there again, and it’s made for interesting viewing in previous weeks, so AANP graciously grants permission for the policy to continue. Defensively however we have something of a problem, as only Bassong and Kaboul have the requisite number of working limbs for this one, and with Premiership concerns on Sunday ‘Arry would probably prefer to rest the latter. As such, a case may be made for young Livermore to deputise at centre-back, because frankly I’m not sure if anyone else has the requisite bullet point on their CV. Rose, Townsend, Kane, Carroll and possibly Walker are also likely to feature, as well as Giovani, and anyone else returning from injury (Lennon? Pienaar? Kranjcar?)
Presumably it will be a much sterner test than Hearts, PAOK and the Irish lot; but the AANP fiver is still being slapped down on the side of “home win”.
Blast, and other unseemly vituperations. Apparently armed with a game-plan to avoid, at all costs, ever stringing together more than three passes, our heroes stuck to the drill fairly resolutely throughout, and it’s two points a-begging, faster than you can say “someone track that Ba fellow, he’s making a late run into the area”.Admittedly all t’s were crossed and i’s dotted in the first ten minutes or so, with pressure applied and short passes passed as standard; but thereafter the four walls of AANP Towers resounded repeatedly to the sounds of groans and curses, as far too many in lurid purple picked the wrong option, or just displayed a rather wild sense of geography with their passing. And dash it all (if you pardon my French) even despite this blistering second-ratedness we could – and probably should – nevertheless have still won the bally thing. Two-one up in the last ten minutes, with possession and rather tasty chances in tow – it was jolly winnable in the final furlong, and yet we unwon it.
First Gear (Or Lack Thereof)
For whatever reason, our heroes never really found first gear. The central core of Livermore-Parker understandably enough had their dials set to “Destroy” rather than “Create”, while out on the right in the first half, Bale generally had the doleful air of a man who had recently watched his national rugby side suffer an injustice or two, and consequently failed to deliver a performance that would blow up anyone’s skirt, even when dutifully taking up his natural left-hand abode. Modders showed sporadic flashes of invention, particularly in the second half, but when the media bigwigs put together a compilation for his Watch the Little Fella Bossing the Game With Footballing Alchemy In His Tiny Boots dvd, this particularly afternoon jaunt is unlikely to feature too prominently.
Nevertheless, there are some certificates of merit to be dished out when the players next convene at school assembly. Young Livermore’s impression of Sandro was laudable, the tackle that helped create the penalty a notable highlight; and out yonder on the right Master Walker generally seemed to have understood the various dos and don’ts in defence. Mind you, if memory serves he might have done more to prevent the first goal (as might Livermore), and for all his spunk and brio on the charge, one suspects he is ill-served by the little grey cells when given time to think, around the opposition area.
Cracking finish from Defoe, although it will do little to settle the debate that occasionally surrounds him – the lovers will continue to point to his single-minded and darned effective approach to the game (blast the thing low and on target), while the haters will ask what he adds to the team when he fails to score. (AANP has pitched its tent, unfurled its sleeping bag and cracked open the Thermos flask in the former camp, since you ask). A pat across the sturdy back of Kaboul too.
Not Looking Quite So Bionic
I suppose four games and 30 minutes was about as much as I was expecting from Ledley until Christmas, so to have been treated to all this (and the victories that inevitably accompany his presence) by mid-October has been something of a bonus. It is hardly most jaw-droppingly controversial statement of the millennium to suggest that Bassong is not quite a replacement of similar ilk - the lad chugged away earnestly enough, but if you can judge a man by the company he keeps, it is worth noting that Bassong was but one swish of a fountain pen away from calling the good folk of QPR his team-mates, at the end of the summer transfer window.
In a parallel universe Ledley played the full 90 and our lot hung on for three points, but having not been at our best an away point is probably acceptable, and on balance ‘twas a fair enough result. The next handful of games looks winnable. On y va.
I have looked it in the eye, monitored its pulse-rate and threatened all manner of violations that contraven the terms of the Geneva convention – yet I can confirm ‘tis true: the league table doesn’t lie. Newcastle are currently in the Champions League spots.Not that even the most fervent of their breed would harbour much hope of them still being them come May 2012, but fourth they are, and reading between the black and white strips this points to a team pootling along in marvellous early-season form. Quite the challenge then, but quite the carrot a-dangling in front of our heroes too, the nutritious and delicious prize of fourth place awaiting should we bag all three points.
VDV’s Wheezy Rant
A couple of weeks ago against l’Arse VDV was plopped on the right wing and ordered to track back whenever necessary. Judging by that particular square peg performance he is probably still catching his breath now, but in between the panting, wheezing and puffs on his inhaler he has taken the time to bang on his door and complain that he no longer wants… (wheeze…) to play on the right, because he is far more… (deep breath…) effective down the middle. A fair point, but rather marvellously ‘Arry rejoined by telling him to shut up and play where he was told.
The dilemma is crystallizing fairly clearly now – VDV or Defoe to partner Adebayor? Alas, ‘tis likely to be a moot point today, as Adebayor has apparently been struggling with some sort of hamstring ailment. A crying shame, for away days like these are precisely the occasions for which he was lassoed into the lilywhite fold. Still, the official records of Tottenham Hotspur FC no doubt record countless occasions of us winning away from home without Adebayor in the line-up, so this is by no means an insurmountable obstacle.
Beating both Liverpool and l’Arse at home marked two sizeable strides in the merry gambol towards a Champions League place, but the three points on offer today will count for just as much come May. Over to you now chaps, go carpe that diem and get us up to fourth.
If the sign of a good team is winning when not playing the most coruscating stuff then I suppose our lot are trundling towards half-decent, and the Top Four goodies contained therein. Although things picked up in the second half, today we were certainly not at our Give-Scousers-The-Run-Around-And-Score-Goals-For-Fun best. Nor, I suppose, we were playing the toughest opponents around. Still, a handy three points, and the ongoing transition of General North London Eminence continues, now seemingly irresistibly.Where we pressed high up the pitch at Liverpool and tore them apart with multiple instances of football’ greatest shape – the humble triangle – today the drill seemed to be to sit back and contain their three man-midfield. Consequently, and a tad frustratingly, in the first half the other lot had most of the possession – although sportingly enough they did step aside and grant us the best chances. As the deep-lying member of their midfield triumvirate Arteta had the freedom of the Lane when in possession, while for our lot Modders was most decidedly below par in the first half.
The Great VDV Debate
VDV got the nod, but how many future nods will be directed his way – particularly within a 4-4-2 - remains a point of debate. As seasoned Corluka observers will no doubt testify, there is something a little incongruous about a top-level professional athlete waddling furiously hither and thither in what often looks like slow-motion, and at times we looked to have ten and a half men.
The flip side of the VDV argument is that few have the technique to finish as he did. Craftily side-stepping the issue of whether armpit equates to handball, the finish was a darned difficult skill made to look simple, an area in which VDV is quite the connoisseur.
As it happened, the replacement of VDV with Sandro – a move for which my little party of fellow onlookers were creating a petition by half-time – swung matters in our favour, the Brazilian doing a better impression of Scott Parker than Scott Parker himself. Things tightened up, we created more chances, and by the end of the game Ledley and Kaboul were repelling attacks simply by directing stern stares in the direction of their feeble foes. Thus does the balance of power swing up the High Road.
“Walker Makes Great Strides” And Other Predictable Word-Play
Young Walker’s Danny Rose moment would no doubt have had tabloid-writers across the country licking their lips. While blowing kisses at his chums in the stands, Walker generously opted not to make rude gestures at AANP, for around this part of the interweb aspersions have been cast on the young blighter’s defensive prowess (or perceived lack thereof). Today however I come to praise the lad, not bury him, and even as I write some bespectacled veteran of such occasions is carefully etching the chap’s name into Tottenham folklore. Although the occasional error of judgement does slip into his defensive game, these things will happen (recall ye, if you can, a young Ledley erring rather seismically in the 2002 Worthington Final), and ought to aid the learning process. One suspects Walker will make that particular right-hand strip of lilywhite turf his own for a few years to come. Good lad.
The Advance of the King
That said, the AANP Moment of Choice from today’s proceedings was the sight of Ledley ambling forward in almost reluctant fashion in the closing stages, to become, somewhat bafflingly, an auxiliary striker. One could almost hear the creaking of his bones, but mercifully the international break gives him plenty of time to do whatever he does while everyone else is training.
All things considered, a jolly satisfactory afternoon’s work. Things may not have begun quite as we planned, but by the end of proceedings we were solid in defence and chance-laden in offence, the stuff upon which all sort of wholesome end-of-season goodness is built. With a two-week break upon us, and this particular scalp swinging merrily from the mantelpiece, it seems that the most appropriate thing for all of us to do right now would be go forth and brag.
Strange times these – the first in my living memory that we’ve gone into a match against that ‘orrible lot from down the road with the bookies sidling over into the lilywhite camp. The noisy babblings of my l’Arse supporting chums ring a little hollow these days. Current form; playing personnel; summer transfer dabbling; inside out; upside down – any way you look at it we have the edge at the moment.Unfortunately, this does not necessarily count for a great deal – the standard North London ruckus tends to produce four goals in the first 20 minutes, at which point pre-game indicators are accordingly lobbed out of the nearest window. Nevertheless, it’s nice at least to go into this one using little more than a knowing smile in the traditional pre-match verbal jousting with fans of the other lot.
Selection Dilemma: VDV
A big moment for ‘Arry this one, as the conundrum that quietly brewed away throughout last season is now presenting itself in the form of a life-sized, VDV-shaped selection dilemma. Where best to begin with the Dutchman - right-wing, behind a lone striker or on the bench? The mildly controversial view here at AANP Towers is to mark a big cross in the box entitled “Impact Sub” today. Before you gather the rotten fruit and proceed to pelt, consider the reasons: Aaron Lennon is now back to fitness, providing an alternative on the right; while 4-4-2, with Adebayor-Defoe as bona fide strikers, seems a darned sight more positive (and threatening) for a home game than 4-5-1 with VDV chipping in occasionally in midfield. Moreover, VDV does not seem capable of lasting more than an hour or so, a fact presumably entirely unrelated to his occasional appearances in the kebab house down the road from AANP Towers. That said however, be we 4-5-1 with VDV or 4-4-2 without, the Wenger brow will be etched with worry lines. As selection posers go, it’s rather a topper.
Selection Dilemma Part Deux: Walker – Corluka
Another possible pencil-chewing matter for our glorious leader is at right-back. Young Master Walker appears to be the incumbent at present, and the lad certainly enjoys pelting towards the opposition by-line at a rate of knots – but can he defend? “Adequate, But Not Without Mistakes” might not be good enough this afternoon. I guess the Walker-Corluka choice might also depend on whether Lennon or VDV is picked on the right wing, at which point this all becomes terrifically complicated. As ever, my preference would be Kaboul.
Elsewhere, a collective sigh of relief would no doubt echo around the Lane once it is confirmed that Ledley is fit to start again, and Sandro may well drop to the bench, in the interests of glorious, pulsating, all-out attack. This being what it is I presume there will be at least five goals, of which van Persie will presumably score one and VDV another, while the laws of science dictate that Adebayor will score, get sent off or both. In a nutshell, it really does contain just about as much excitement as is legal on a Sunday afternoon. Home win.