Back in sunny July - when formations still looked vaguely 4-4-2, VDV handily picked diagonal passes in the final third and here at AANP Towers we could not remember off the top of our heads if West Ham were even in the Premiership - a glance at the fixture list had this one nailed on as a home win. All jolly different now, with West Ham looking a decidedly awkward kettle of fish, and Carroll precisely the sort of hefty rotter who causes lilywhite defenders endless problems (witness Lukaku and Holt cameos against our lot earlier in the season).riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside a bit of a shambles. The canter against Maribor and riotous opening 17 against l’Arse gave a tantalising glimpse of what might be with two in attack, but with Adebayor sitting on the naughty step we have to rely upon Dempsey leaving West Ham defenders quaking in their boots. History suggests that Defoe tends to profit against his former employers (at least that’s the rationale in the AANP Fantasy League team this week), but the more critical selection is likely to centre around Dembele.
Our lot remain a
Goodness knows what sort of vitriol will be unleashed from the fickler members of the lilywhite community if our lot trip up again today. ‘Tis a sign of the times that I rather fear the worst.
Life just seems jolly unfair sometimes. We might I suppose have lost 6-2 if Adebayor had stayed on the pitch, but the first 15 minutes at least suggested that our heroes had bounced out on the right side of bed this morning and sneakily indulged in an extra Weetabix at the breakfast table to boot.
A thousand violent curses then upon the devil on Adebayor’s shoulder. No complaint at all about the red card, but it is nothing short of maddening that the game swung so completely (and so early) at that moment, something l’Arse did not earn at all but had gifted to them entirely by us. Pardon me while I wince at the sourness of the grapes in the AANP fruit bowl, but I cannot help grumble that this ages-old affair between l’Arse and Lady Luck continues. Still, ‘twas a mistake by a Tottenham player, so ‘twas only right that we reaped accordingly.
A 5-2 defeat in this game of all games would not ordinarily endear the glorious leader to fickle armchair followers such as yours truly, but I rather fancy that AVB earned himself a few points today. The selection of both Adebayor and Defoe away from home was a most unexpected gamble from one who has been peddling conservatism quite so sedulously, but by golly for those 15-odd glorious opening minutes things seemed to pootle along swimmingly.
Similarly, the half-time switch to a vaguely 3-5-1-looking formation seemed to put a little fire into bellies, at a time when I suspect I was not alone in fearing we would submit like resigned lambs philosophically accepting slaughter as just part of life. 5-2 was hardly the desired scoreline, but the manner of the second half performance and AVB’s second half tactical adjustment gave grounds for optimism. To live by the sword and die trying to claw back a two/three-goal deficit is infinitely preferable around these parts to simply limiting damage and accepting defeat with a whimper.
Elsewhere on the pitch
Hudd and Sandro fought the good fight well enough, and until his dismissal Adebayor looked to be making a sterling contribution, while this is unlikely to be a day that will be talked of fondly in the Naughton household for years to come - although the poor lad might have benefited from a tad more assistance from Bale. The handsome young Welshman had a strange sort of day, having seemingly made an early executive decision that team-mates are overrated, and consequently decided to take on the entire Arsenal team, solve the economic crisis and cure AIDS all single-handedly. Not a particularly bad call, for there was further net-rippling evidence today that a Bale on the charge takes some stopping, but the second half chance to pass for Defoe, at 4-2, rather than shoot, would have made life a lot cheerier (a sentiment that is admittedly remarkably easy to express with the benefit of hindsight).
Defeat it is then, but vastly less painful than the Wigan capitulation. AVB remains a curious fish (the goalkeeping selections continue to appear entirely arbitrary) but today it did at least feel like he earned his corn. There are flashes in there, that this season might yet bear fruit.
Pessimistic times at AANP Towers, as yours truly reflects morosely upon the unholy concoction of unconvincing wins and limp defeats. Curiously enough, our resident l’Arse-supporting chum, Hawthy, is in similarly sombre mood going into this one, as apparently that horrible lot from down the road are doing just as topping a job as we are of creating needless problems from thin air. As you can imagine, recent drinking sessions have been real bundles of fun, as we regale each other with prognostications of gloom. The result of this general coterie of despondency is an insistence on both sides that defeat is inevitable. The sharp-eyed amongst you early Saturday morning robins will notice that logic prevents the transpiring of such mutual ignominies – which leads to the inevitable conclusion that this match must end in a 7-7 draw. (Although I’m still willing to wager that we will throw away a winning position as the clock ticks beyond 89).
The general inability of our heroes to bed in this season has of course been hindered no end by injuries to key personnel, and the absences of Dembele and Kaboul in particular will again be keenly felt today of all days, while Parker and BAE also remain out, and the Friday news was that Defoe and Lennon were amongst those having fitness tests. Crivens. AVB may mischievously fire the occasional curve-ball, but it seems safe to assume that the usual suspects will line up to demand the keys, which means that Messieurs Lloris and Defoe will moodily take their places on the bench today. Young Caulker faces the latest in a series of rather sizeable tests of ability and nerve, and Messrs Vertonghen and Walker could jolly well do with bucking up their ideas from last week, but possibly the greatest onus lies on the rather broad shoulders of Sandro and Hudd, to control matters in the middle. I must confess, the AANP heart is hardly indulging in cheery leaps and whoops at the prospect.
Having beaten United away our heroes ought to have grounds for optimism, but on these occasions there really is no knowing what the dickens will transpire. The AANP prediction is simply that there will be goals.
In truth, AANP speaks very little of any language beyond the mother-tongue – some impeccably-chosen Latin once the bourbon flows, the odd bon mot in French and bits and pieces of Modric-speak for the benefit of Ms AANP and her kin – so I am hardly an authority on what goes on in the AVB household, but the sneaking suspicion is that there simply is no Portuguese equivalent of the phrase ‘all action no plot’. Certainly the eye-gougingly mental replacement of Defoe with Adebayor as we chased the game yesterday seemed to betray a fervent subscription to meekandmildtinkeringtoprotectthealreadyvastlyovercomplicatedplot.com rather than anything in this neck of the interweb.
That said, tempting though it always is to grumble at the glorious leader, our heroes on the pitch seemed pretty determined to do anything that might be construed as competitive. The two ‘holding midfielders’ would at times be better defined as merely ‘subsisting midfielders’, given that they neither create nor destroy with any particular distinction, nor do anything of note beyond the bare minimum required for existence’ while poor old Dempsey still looks like a man who needs a few jolly good steak-and-chips dinners to bulk up a tad before he will add any particular lustre to the lilywhite cause. Frightfully gaunt, that lad. But carrying considerably less threat than the Walking Dead extras he resembles. Still, with AVB evidently convinced that the simultaneous fielding of two bona fide strikers will destroy the very fabric of the universe it seems that the One-Striker-Plus-A-Dempsey masterplan is here to stay, so we may as well settle down and enjoy it.
As it happens however, by virtue of this lucre-fuelled division and its top-three subset, the realistic goal - of fourth - remains eminently manageable, and is likely to remain so until May ’13, no matter how relentlessly the lilywhite horde peddle their impotence in displays such as these. In the nearer-term, the prospect of redundant, snail-paced sideways passing against Man City and l’Arse ought to keep us all entertained in the coming weeks.
The table continues to suggest that life is actually tickety-boo, but the brow furroweth with fresh earnestness around these parts, because hanging on for a narrow victory/draw, in games that ought to have been stopped after an hour for sheer cruelty to the opposition, now sits alongside inane twitterings and naughty-business-with-good-looking-but-vacuous-reality-TV-models on the list of favoured past-times of our heroes, with Maribor, Southampton and now Norwich providing recent evidence of this dubious trend.
This recurring business of taking the lead and then embarrassedly retreating and practically rolling out a red carpet for the opposition to wander back into the game, whether they want to or not, is frightfully sporting, but does have the dubious side-effect of leaving the army of lilywhite support wrenching out their hair and boiling their own heads in sheer, unabated frustration.What the dickens goes in their empty heads when they finally take the lead is quite beyond my ken, but for those perusing the interweb pre kick-off today – and I’m sure most of them do indulge in a spot of AANP while they go about their pre-match rituals - for goodness sake chaps, next time you have a mediocre bunch of rag-tag overweights and amateurs down on the ground, kindly whip out your medical encyclopaedia app, locate the blasted jugular, grab hold of the nearest weapon or stabbing implement and thrust repeatedly until blood spurts all over your garish green boots and the opposition are nothing but a twitching, bloodied, defeated mess.
And Don’t Think You’re Escaping Without Blame Young Man
Our glorious leader hardly covers himself in glory either, for his enterprising tactical approach of bringing on extra defenders when our opponents are ready to crumble, just to make sure that everyone realises the official party line is ‘We’re-One-Goal-Ahead-Of-A-Weak-Team-So-Rather-Than-Take-The-Game-By-Its-Neck-Scruff-And-Deliver-A-Thrashing-Let’s-Barricade-Ourselves-In-And-DEFEND-FOR-OUR-LIVES’. Which is not really the Butch and Sundance modus operandi. Just telling the troops to keep going and score again would probably do the trick, instead of this bizarre reversion to skin-of-the-teeth mode every time.
‘Twas noted by an onlooker after my last witterings that a hidden agenda lurks within the corridors of AANP, to unroot AVB, hurl him from the top floor and reinstall ‘Arry. To reiterate my response, the assorted denizens of AANP Towers tend not to roll thusly. ‘Give AVB a few years’ is very much the mantra being hummed morning, noon and night around these parts, after which we can assess if his range of party tricks extends beyond looking uncannily like a stubbly Vertonghen.
A troubling observation of the early days of his reign is undoubtedly that the fare peddled by our heroes these days has all the gung-ho action-packed content of a dreary black and white arty French film with subtitles, which strays somewhat from the blitz of attacking excitement to which we have been treated in recent years – but one imagines that this will be righted soon enough, particularly when Dembele returns and Adebayor is available again. The trade-off of VDV for Dempsey/Sigurdsson continues to look like shoddy business however, and I will take some convincing otherwise.
So Wigan roll into town today, and top of the wish-list at AANP Towers is that once our lot finally take the lead, they jolly well knuckle down and look for more. The frantic final 10 minutes plus injury time is not big and not clever.