Something for us all to relate to the grandchildren, what? Well not at AANP Towers as it happens, as the entire, monumental, historic tug-of-war played second fiddle to a friend’s wedding in Tuscany of all places. So if you want the lowdown on a belt-loosening five-course meal, copious amounts of a rather cheeky red and the mother of all lightning storms in North-West Italy, then look no further – but alas as to the merits of Caulker at centre-back, or Dempsey as the principal shoulder upon which Defoe could lean, the cupboard is rather bare in this corner of the interweb.
Therefore, alas, the evening’s ramblings may prove even more inane than usual – awfully sorry. However, from general scouring of the interweb I have cottoned on to the general gist of things, and frankly if one of lilywhite persuasion has stumbled their way to these pages at this hour, it could fairly confidently be assumed that they are already well versed in the various scampering of all in lilywhite yesterday afternoon.
Points of Note‘Tis a fairly reliable maxim that the cut-pastings of the MoTD minions are to be eyed askance, but if nothing else the highlights reel reinforced the notion that young Master Bale has been paying attention when taught the principles of finishing, for in aiming for the corner he found the net with his weaker foot, and in shooting across the ‘keeper he assisted Dempsey’s winner. Here at AANP Towers we have always been rather fond of Defoe because his attitude to finishing is generally to lash the thing as hard as he can on target, without any consideration to fancy chips and whatnot, and Bale similarly bypasses superfluities when presented with a chance.
A pat on the back and congratulatory pretzel too for Clint Dempsey. Admittedly he hardly went above and beyond the call of duty in popping up in the area, but within a 4-2-3-1 it is pretty essential that he busts a gut to arrive in the area and apply coups de grace as required. The role becomes all the more important when Defoe heads out to the wings or drops deep, and the above scenarios fell neatly into place for our third. A tap-in it may have been, but the requisite gut-busting had been done in preparation.
Doubtless there are reams more to be written, but while every football fan on the planet will presumably appreciate the torture of monitoring the closing stages of a game via the medium of a regularly refreshed mobile phone webpage, it hardly translates into the most perceptive analysis. On rare occasions such as these however, it can be just as satisfying to gloss over the minutiae, and simply savour that rarest of headlines - victory at Old Trafford.
Not quite as we would have scripted admittedly, but only the most pedantic of lilywhite persuasion will grumble about the manner in which we stumbled our way over the finishing line today. To date this season, the four walls of White Hart Lane have witnessed vastly inferior attempts to wrap up the points and cavort our way down the High Road with the sounds of chortles ringing the air and three points slung over the shoulder – hence we might be well advised to thank the mid-September deities and shuffle off into the gloaming.
Partying Like It’s February 2010
Bale at left-back was the eyebrow-raiser de jour, and while not exactly an unparalleled success, the pre-match verdict at AANP Towers was a slightly sheepish nod of approval. Way back in the sepia-tinged days of February 2010, when young Master Bale was a few shades greener behind the ears, his deployment at left-back worked a treat, as the left midfielder in residence (Bentley I think, bizarrely) tucked inside creating yawning great big acres of greenery into which the handsome young Welshman duly charged, having been granted the bonus of a flying start from 15 yards inside his own half. Alas, the bally thing just did not quite click today, and with lustre distinctly lacking in most other areas there was a most conspicuous forlornness to the manner in which our heroes trooped off at half-time.
To his credit young AVB took time out from his uncanny Vertonghen impressions to rearrange the pawns at half-time, with Master Caulker introduced, Bale shunted forward into more natural habitat and Dempsey adopting something that looked suspiciously like a striking role, and our heroes muddled their way into the lead accordingly.
All of which laid the foundations for that most feared of beasts, The One-Goal Lead At Home In The Last Ten Minutes. ‘Tis a creature that has the same effect upon the current lilywhite troupe as crying women have upon yours truly – but to their credit, rather than spinning around in panicked circles and gibbering unintelligibly, they made a few creditable attempts at bundling a third into the QPR net and putting the whole dashed issue to bed. Admittedly Friedel had to hurl himself full length a few times, and Gallas made one or two of his customary last-ditch blocks, but doing things the jolly complicated way has been turned into an art form by this lot over the years, so we ought not to complain too vociferously. Three points at home, and “Huzzah, huzzah and thrice I say huzzah” (or the Portuguese equivalent) is no doubt the expostulation ringing out within the four walls of the AVB abode tonight. Hear hear.
A fairly straightforward drill, one would expect. Play as we have done in our last couple of games and one would expect that the QPR mob will be worn down soon enough, but AVB has already endured a rather ignominious crash-course in huff, puff and general toil against less talented but mightily committed dross. However, against Reading last week our heroes showed the world that they are beginning to get the hang of this victory malarkey, the only (albeit minor) gripe being that our dominance ought to have merited a greater margin of victory.
What might have been a chin-stroking selection conundrum in attack has morphed into a gentle, straightforward exercise in status quo maintenance, with young Defoe looking sharper than a young viking’s scythe on his first day of school. The inclusion of Dempsey in the starting line-up has elicited a lip-smack at AANP Towers, but as ever the pulse of the operation will be the almighty Dembele.
Things may not have gone to plan in late-August, but few things inject spring back into step as a two-match winning run. One rather hopes our lilywhite chums take the hint.
More little steps in the right direction, one might muse while sipping a late-night bourbon. Admittedly patience tends to be in short supply in this cutthroat age of crazed-internet loons blogging every time the lilywhite heroes troop forth, but when trying to adopt the veneer of a long-term observer – a modus operandi presumably practised by the good pastor Levy – we Spurs-supporting folk ought probably to appreciate that the new era is beginning to take some sort of shape. The XI selected by the AVBmeister signalled in no uncertain terms what the party line is to be on Europa fare, and had the added benefit of allowing our troops another opportunity to get used to the 4-2-3-1 parade.
And a steady job they did of it too - little, rightly-directed steps indeed. But for some officiating whims we might have bounded off a goal or two to the good, but the performance alone was sufficiently pleasing, with possession a-plenty and something like a dozen shots at goal, compared to just the one against.
Not much to report on the debut front, with Lloris required to do little more than take the occasional goal-kick and surreptitiously pick his nose, while Caulker (admittedly not officially on debut) looked calm enough, and Dempsey was a jolly sight unlucky to be denied a classic attacking midfielder’s goal. Amongst our more experienced sages it struck me that both the blessings and curses of being Aaron Lennon were exemplified, as the little chap repeatedly scampered beyond his man, only to make questionable decisions or send his final ball a little awry. Bale’s worrying conviction that he really is the long-lost twin of Cristiano Ronaldo continued, while support continues to grow for the motion that Dembele’s broad shoulders are the type around which an entire team can be fashioned.
Room for improvement then, and when the stakes are higher we will presumably weep and gnash our teeth at the inability to translate superiority into goals, but this was at least an evening on which the AVB masterplan continued to gain some traction.
Ah Lazio, adopted Italian team of many a lilywhite who grew up imitating P. Gascoigne Esq., in the playground, and spent their Sunday afternoons settling into the sofa on to hear that chap yell “GoooLLLAAAZZZZZooooo”, before seeing Gazza turn four players inside out and then merrily burp into the camera.Happy days indeed, and more such joyous occasions are to follow as of this very evening apparently, because the glorious lilywhites of N17 are quite sincere about pilfering the Europa trophy come May 2013, if AVB is to be believed. The new dawn really doth continueth apace.
Champions League qualification is presumably still the priority, but silverware of any sort is most welcome, and the daring combo of AVB’s commitment and our status as one of a handful of favourites suggests that actually winning this whole dashed thing is not beyond the realms of possibility.
With Lazio cheerily waving down from (jointly) atop the Serie A pile, this has assumed the status of rather a heavyweight European clash, and as such one suspects that AVB won’t go a-tinkering with too much gay abandon. Lloris can be expected to bid us all a sunny bonjour from between the sticks; injury to Adebayor means Defoe could be replaced by Dempsey, if our glorious leader is feeling particularly inventive; and the likes of Daws, Hudd and Caulker might also be glimpsed; but a team of scrawny teens last seen practising for a recorder concert this almost certainly won’t be. As Thursday night, ITV4 fare goes, this is shaping up to be quite the lip-smacker.
The lark’s on the wing, the snail’s on the thorn, the three-man midfield is bossing things and young Master Defoe is running riot – it may be over-stating things a mite to suggest that all’s right with the world after a routine dismantling of mediocre relegation fodder, but great big exhalations of relief are being puffed by lilywhites across the land (not least, one suspects, in the household of the assorted VBs). As ever we have had to wait a few games, but the good ship Hotspur has finally lurched off on its way, and huzzah for that.
Dembele and Chums
Defoe might raise a rather piqued eyebrow, but AANP is tempted to suggest that ‘twas won in midfield. Dembele skated along this way and that, oozing regal control over things, with generous lashings of strength, control, discipline, awareness and well-judged, well-executed Viera-esque forward bursts. With Sandro a more-than-adequate Rodney to Dembele’s DelBoy, our heroes seemed mightily well-balanced in the centre, and wholesome goodness accordingly seeped forth from every pore.
Gylfi – Splitting Opinions and Defences
There have been conflicting opinions of Sigurdsson’s contribution, both at Reading yesterday and in general this season, with murmurs in some quarters that he is not quite of the standard of those around him. The presence on the sidelines of C. Dempsey Esquire ought to keep young Gylfi on his toes, and while in these quarters the preference would be for our American cousin in that advanced midfield role, Sigurdsson seems at least to be toeing the party line, in terms of joining in with all that midfield high-jinks and keep-ball, and gamely trotting forward to support Defoe. Moreover, while the close-range miss was a little embarrassing, the supremely-weighted pass for Lennon, which resulted in our opener, ought to have a small statue erected in its honour, for here at AANP Towers a perfectly-weighted pass inside a full-back is right up there alongside the musical adventures of 90s beat combo The KLF and the verbal niceties of Malcolm Tucker, on the list of stuff that has us tipping our hats in goggle-eyed admiration.
Marvellous Stuff From Young Defoe
Of course it would be remiss to pootle through proceedings without clearing one’s throat in honour of Defoe. His detractors will presumably continue to point to his limitations, greediness and propensity for wandering offside, but the solid counter-argument to all this was pretty evident yesterday. Possibly more impressive than the goals he scored was the one he missed, in the first half – plucking the ball out of the sky (taking out two defenders in the process) and, before the ‘keeper had had time to recall what day it was, belting it netwards with the outside of his right foot, which really is the mark of a man wearing his hat at a jaunty angle and not caring who sees. As it left his foot the sculptors of AANP Towers primed themselves to chisel out another commemorative effigy, but alas, the execution was slightly amiss, and rather a shame it was too.
Minor criticisms can be lobbed around – such games as these really ought to be wrapped up and rather boringly ended as a contest not much later than half-time, while the goal conceded was awfully sloppy. Those, however, are for another day. The priority here was really just to despatch this mob and trundle our way up the table.
This is becoming a tad farcical now, no? That a new manager will pop the inherited squad in the shredder and redesign the whole bally thing is inevitable; but tasked with matching or bettering the Top Four the latest shiny new project of Messrs Levy and AVB has not so much gone off the rails as just stalled on the start-line, while everyone else has tootled off ahead in a puff of smoke.
The growing number of restless natives wandering the streets of N17, with burning spears in one hand and mocked-up severed AVB heads in t’other, ought probably to remember that Rome was not built in a day. Nevertheless, even an aedificator XI handpicked by Romulus and Remus would be expected to cling on to home wins against one of Norwich and West Brom, transition process or not.
The WBA and Norwich Debacles
To watch our lot dominate WBA without scoring (at least in the first half) was frustrating enough, but at least the murmur in the stands was “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. New boss, new kit, but while the same problems were evident (possession to goals ratio) our heroes at least zinged the ball around with the aplomb of yore.
However, seeing them crumble under a West Brom assault in the second half, and then achieve the exalted status of being outplayed at home to Norwich, has elicited a few embarrassed coughs from the masses in the White Hart Lane stands. It’s not really the all-singing, all-dancing whirlwind into the Top Four that was advertised on the campaign leaflet, what?
As with the script of Terminator 3, this 4-2-3-1 business sounds rather exciting and on paper it appears to tick various important boxes, but the poor lambs doing the business out there on the pitch have seemed less and less comfortable with their lot with each passing minute.
Sandro and Livermore are both firm favourites at AANP Towers, but they are not exactly providing flashes of ingenuity to leave flummoxed opponents pummelling the turf in confusion, nor, if I may be so bold, are they really fulfilling their combined raison d’etre, of nipping in the bud any planned opposition attack on the lilywhite goal. Out wide, the young whippets formerly known as Lennon and Walker have been spotted aborting their forward sprints mid-dash, and spinning round to pass the ball backwards while desperately trying to remember the instructions and long words of AVB. Egads.
In one 45-minute cameo that Dembele chap has unwittingly volunteered to be leader of the post-Arry revolution, and while VDV/Modders-out-Fulham-midfielders-in might seem a rummy piece of bargaining at first glance, it ought to work out well enough. Both Messrs Dempsey and Sigurdsson can do convincing impressions of a more sprightly VDV; while the inevitable loss of Modders was never going to be compensated for by a like-for-like replacement. Instead, it is not too controversial to suggest that Dembele is a slightly different kettle of midfield fish, and with such galvanising qualities as drive, strength, dribbling skills and the capacity for an awesome beard it is fervently hoped that the revolution begins at his size eights.
Thus do we find ourselves locked in our first relegation battle of the season, of all things. Teething problems they may have been so far, but the time has probably arrived for our heroes to tighten their cravats, slick back their hair and jolly well tear Reading apart.
AVB has a few selection dilemmas, from Friedel-or-Lloris to Defoe-or-Adebayor, via Dembele and Dempsey. Whatever the personnel we ought to be strong enough to prevail, but alas such has been the sentiment in all three games so far. Just do the decent thing and outscore them today, eh chaps?