At times this week AANP has been reminded of those halcyon days studying for a Philosophy degree through the medium of countless hours (days? weeks?) on Football Manager, when occasionally the inconvenience of a match would interrupt the hours (days? weeks?) spent on the fine art of transfer dealing. Thus have events in the real world transpired, for the respective sagas of Modders, Daws, Hudd, Bassong, Adebayor, VDV, Defoe, Willian, Leandro and various others must now be interrupted for 90-odd minutes, during which our will heroes struggle to break down a resolute nine-man West Brom defence before being suckered by a scrappy poke from a set-piece.A second debut awaits for Adebayor, and although AVB’s nose did appear to grow as he insisted in yesterday’s press conference that Defoe remains part of his plans, our glorious leader nevertheless hinted that he might one day play Defoe behind Adebayor. This would seem to turn his 4-2-3-1 into a straightforward 4-2-4, but let’s not worry about the minutiae for now.
One of the failings of the ‘Arry era was the inability to break down nine-man defensive units. While AVB’s glossy, new, up-tempo formation had some joy against a an attack-minded Newcastle on their own turf, it remains to be seen how penetrative it will be against a band of merry man content to play from first minute to last for a nil-nil. Given the context, a scrappy, single-goal home win would be fairly gratefully received in this quarter.
Hudd to StokeWEEP! Weep - and while you’re at it wail and gnash your teeth – for Hudd is a lilywhite no more! Admittedly the veracity of the above does depend on a technicality, as the blighter has departed only on loan for now, but apparently AVB deems him too slow for this post-Corluka era.
Whether or not he returns seems fairly questionable, for while the loaning of younglings is generally geared towards ripening them for First XI action, loans for more established 20-somethings are typically more akin to a commercial on the tellybox - designed in no uncertain terms to entice viewers to part with tuppence ha’penny.
So weep then, for possibly the silkiest stroker of a leather sphere witnessed on N17 turf since Hoddle has now seemingly munched on his last doughnut from the White Hart Lane canteen. Admittedly Moutinho may still be on the radar, but otherwise it seems jolly uncanny that AVB cannot find room for Hudd within a 3-man central midfield, particularly with Modric still persona non grata, Scott Parker injured and Jermaine blinking Jenas hovering in the background with evil grin on visage and custom-made sideways-and-backwards-passing boots slung over shoulder. Thus, however, does our esteemed leader roll. AVB likes his troops to scuttle around the ankles of opponents like a troupe of particularly sprightly monkeys caught up in the excitement of the mating season, and alas, such a description will never, ever befit Master Huddlestone.
To add to the pain of it all, the marriage of a technician extraordinaire such as Hudd, with an elbows and long-ball outfit like Stoke, seems the very paradigm of incongruity. Should he be travelling to the Britannia in the capacity of Champagne Football Evangelist one can only hope he fares better than our distant cousins who first attempted that preaching lark. Would be a dashed shame if he were mauled to death by lions.
Daws to QPR
Big and brave and inspiring though he regularly is, our heroes are not peddling a production of Henry V so there is a limited need for Dawson’s qualities. In particular, his penchant for roaring at the Paxton end and sticking his head where boots swing fails to mask the fact that in the act of Paxton-roaring and head-sticking he has wandered out of position, about-turned with the nimbleness of an embarrassed elephant and flicked his switch to Clumsy-Last-Ditch-Challenge mode - and at 28 the problem was hardly about to remedy itself. In Kaboul, Gallas and (admittedly the little I have seen of) Vertonghen we have three centre-backs who are better, or at least his equal, while Caulker is developing well and is young enough to improve.
A fine servant to the cause, and the goal vs Chelski circa 2006 remains one of my favourite lilywhite memories of recent years, but on this one AANP concurs with AVB, and a mooted sum of £9.5 million would be fairly health business.
Adebayor to the Lane
Glory be. It had got to the stage where Steven Fletcher was being mentioned in dispatches, so to have dotted t’s and crossed i’s on this is a blessed relief.
For added chortle-value it appears that in order to rid themselves of him, Man City have hit upon the novel idea of paying him the sizeable lump of wage that we poor and needy White Hart Laners could not afford. While it may furrow the brow of one J. Defoe Esquire, at £5 million this is a reason to doff the cap in the general direction of Master Levy.
Ah, gloomy hue of disappointment, how I’ve missed thee. After the dashed unfairness that was Chelski pilfering our Champions League spot with the final act of last season, a couple of months on and our heroes were straight back in the groove, slinking off home with nothing but empty hands and slightly hurt expressions, when they deserved to hold aloft the carcass of a freshly captured point. Merrily, smatterings of cautious optimism can still be detected if one squints a little and tilts the head sideways. The 4-2-3-1 rather forces our heroes to trot hither and thither, and the end result seems to be a healthy degree of off-the-ball movement and various options for the man in possession. The midfield five (for want of a better collective noun) seemed pretty happy with life in their respective roles, and galling though both conceded goals were, we were hardly scythed to pieces by the Geordie mob. Indeed, a couple of minor adjustments of the radar might have had us wandering in a half-time with a two goal lead to throw away - although as my old man the venerable AANP senior is always quick to point out, they only deserve credit for hitting the woodwork if they were aiming for it (and that would betray a slightly rummy approach to the game, what?)
That said, there was of course plenty to satiate the doom-mongers in our party. Defoe fought the good fight jolly well, but six foot three and fourteen stone he most decidedly isn’t, which leaves Daniel Levy 11 days to thumb through his wallet or start intravenously injecting Defoe with spinach and oily fish to turn him into some sort of Drogba reboot.
Messrs Lennon and VDV made a solid joint effort for this season’s prestigious Softest, Most-Ill-Advised, Worst-Timed, Never-Going-To-Get-The-Ball tackle, although my Spurs supporting chum Ian later opined that their clumsy clanking had begun outside the area. All rather moot now, one might sniff.
AVB’s Choices of PersonnelYoung AVB will presumably spit out his dummy and bawl for a lollipop unless AANP affords him some column inches, so I oblige by questioning a couple of selections – notably the choice of Gallas ahead of Vertonghen. His prerogative, and Gallas performed steadily enough - I would just be interested to hear the rationale.
Elsewhere, the omission from the entire matchday squad of Hudd bodes ill and leaves me awfully concerned. AVB has some history of ostracising folk, and given that our new formation allows for a ball-playing central midfielder or two it would be a dashed shame if a rope were tied around the significant frame of Hudd and three burly chaps from the nearest building site were tasked with slowly hauling him out of the doors and along the High Road before slapping a note on him that read “FAO Martin Jol”.
Neither was Daws anywhere to be found. Injured, does anyone know? In truth, loveable and huggable though he may be, Daws has never quite been the very embodiment of reliability, but this was again, nevertheless, an eyebrow-raising call.
The Long GameRumour has it that Season 2012/13 will be, in common with every single one of its predecessors, a marathon rather than a sprint. This accords rather neatly with the AVB era, which does appear to be something of a long-term project. As such, issues such as supplementing the forward line and bundling Modders out of the exit will eventually be resolved, and the Top 4 may or may not be on the agenda this season, but in the longer term one can begin to see the blurry outline of a plan.
We will have to play them all twice each anyway, but the Dutch women’s hockey team might have been a preferable opener, and not just because they are a darned sight easier on the eye than that Geordie mob. While ‘tis difficult to know whether Newcastle will function with the same aplomb as last year, this is a testing old to-do with which to begin proceedings.
Inevitably, we will take to the battlefield still a work in progress, with young Harry Kane nervously clearing his throat in the absence of a you-know-what to lead the line. Serendipitously enough young Master Defoe has shown in national colours that he can still merrily belt the orb netwards, and this will have to suffice. The midfield does at least look well stocked, despite the recalcitrant Modders wandering the reserve training ground in solitude, and Messrs Vertonghen and Kaboul appear to be rather more than just amply-framed hat-racks guarding the lilywhite goal.
Grounds for cautious optimism, but in truth AANP has barely an inkling of what to expect. Away we go.
What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale
Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.
More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.
Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.
Erm… a centre-forward?
Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Doviđenja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.
Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.