A rummy thing, football. Up diddly up, down diddly down, whoops poop twiddly dee, to quote one particularly sagacious soul – after which Man Utd win the whole dashed thing and our lot get edged out by that other lot. And that, it appears, is how football works. But when 38 games end with us essentially taking pride of place at the head of a 16-strong cohort of no-man’s-land stragglers, I am rather inclined to think ‘Dash it all, what’s the point?’
The Game Itself
Still, a game of football was there to be win, and win it we did, which I suppose ticks a box somewhere, albeit one of the more pointless boxes in football history. The urgency shown from the off was commendable enough, a clean sheet rather furtively sneaked its way into the stadium, we jolly well peppered the Sunderland goal throughout – oh that it counted a jot.
The mystery surrounding penalties at White Hart Lane remains as mind-boggling as ever. We can now add ‘Ill-Disguised Rugby Tackle Complete With Unsubtle Thump In Back’ to the list of offences, already including relatively uninteresting items such as ‘Handball’ and ‘Blatant Trip On Galloping Forward’, for which Spurs will most definitely not be awarded a penalty, and for which Bale will probably be cautioned.
On a general note I remain a little miffed at the use of just one genuine striker plus Dempsey, while Defoe picks his nose on the bench, in one-sided must-win games such as this. Similarly, the selection of two holding midfielders seems a little daft once the match pattern is established – although in fairness Parker remains convinced that he is the man to scythe open an opposing defence with one surging run after another, and AVB did eventually introduce Dembele into a fairly progressive role. While the patience shown by our heroes was probably to be lauded, and they did not simply resort to the aimless pumping of long aerial balls, someone somewhere might want to address our lack of lock-pickery, given that it was just about 90 minutes before said lock was unpicked (and even then ‘twas not done by any particular act of subtle wizardry and slick passing interchanges but rather by a sledgehammer swung by Bale).
An End-of-Season Thought On The Main Man
There was nothing particularly new about events on Sunday, but I hope you don’t mind awfully if I bang a favourite drum one last time, for while there is quite astonishing match-winning goodness in those size nines of his, Bale probably has room for improvement in terms of being the man to dictate games. Last season all things good tended to begin with Modric, and often travelled via VDV; whereas now Bale can be fairly peripheral for long periods (admittedly before then slapping the ball in from 20+ yards). The next step for him might be to evolve to match-bosser. Since he clearly is not doing enough for us already.
Further reflections on the season will follow in due course, and the more masochistic among us have already had hours of fun poring over the season’s fixtures to pinpoint the exact moment at which we threw it all away (Everton away? Fulham at home? Those blasted first three fixtures of the season?), but in terms of Sunday’s affair it was all rather hollow. And that’s it. Consummatum est, and in such disappointing manner that the whole bally thing might as well not have taken place. Dash it all.
Despair – it has a reputation as a rather pejorative term, but as the definition is apparently simply ‘the absence of hope’ it fits in the whiskey cabinet quite snugly, what? For sure our lot will put Sunderland to the sword – or complicate things somewhat before stretching ahead in the final 10-20 – but even with a mooted million pound bonus being dangled in front of them, the chances of Newcastle doing the necessaries seem more Stuart Nethercott than Ledley King.
That said, our heroes would feel frightfully sheepish if they made a pickle of things today and then discovered that the ‘orrible lot from down the road had themselves dropped points, so AVB and chums have presumably given strict instructions to everybody to keep their heads down, sharpen their pencils and concentrate on their own exam papers.
‘Tis a big day for all amateur Freudians in the north London area, as the unhinged bag of acorns that is Emmanuel Adebayor lollops around the turf for possibly the final time as a lilywhite. By an act of complete randomness within the universe, his switch has been flicked this way rather than that in recent weeks, meaning that after months and months of Bad Adebayor we are now finally being treated to a few weeks of Good Adebayor. Another storming performance beckons.
A late charge is also being made by Dempsey to win over the unforgiving folk at AANP Towers, and while I would personally prefer to see Defoe deployed within a two-man attack when we play at home as overwhelming favourites, one would imagine that there will be enough incision to wrap things up today. AVB may also be tossing a coin today to decide which – if any – of Hudd and Parker should make way for Dembele. Given the impact he made last week, as being the only blighter willing to dribble past folk and straight into the heart of the opposition area, I jolly well hope he is indeed deployed from the off.
So once more unto the breach, for what is likely to be the latest in the never-ending stream of St Tottingham Days. But after the Chelski robbery of last season, and the lasagne thing, and moments like the Mendes goal – wouldn’t it be absolutely marvellous if an outrageous stroke of luck actually benefited us this time?
Stoke away is traditionally the cue for an AANP diatribe against the merits or otherwise of the long-ball game, and assorted elbows, long throw-ins and whatnot. This time however there are bigger fish to fry, and by golly our heroes need to be at the ready with chef’s hats tipped just so.
The curious goings-on of Wednesday night leave some food for thought. In defence there was the tale of two full-backs, with Benny again believing his own hype, repeatedly attempting moments of trickery closer to ridiculous than sublime and consequently getting himself and the team into pickle after pickle, a performance that had AANP murmuring that he needed to be taken out the back and shot (the common means of dealing with transgressions here at AANP Towers). On t’other flank by contrast, young Master Walker looked suspiciously like a whippersnapper who had stumped scientist types the world over by growing a third lung. The lad looked unstoppable whenever he bombed forward, and if Lennon is below par again today his interventions will be jolly useful.
Glory be, Dembele is reportedly back to fitness for today’s encounter, for the Parker-Hudd combo was painfully lacking in verve. Understandably so, for they are third and fourth choice, but no less galling for that. Hudd’s passing range swung bizarrely between scrumptious and plain awful, while Parker simply no longer looks good enough for games against the country’s finest. He might fare well enough against Stoke however.
And as for attack, head-scratching all round. Bale did his best to shake off the ‘One-Man Team’ tag on behalf of his team-mates (credit to Chelski for the shackling job, but AVB might hav countered this by moving him into the centre). Meanwhile, the suspicion grew that Adebayor is a 5 year-old trapped in a set of limbs too long for his control. As with AANP’s pre-school nephews, when things went well for him his spirits rose and he became amazing; when things go less well he dons the invisibility cloak. Fingers crossed then that he scores or assists approximately every 15 minutes today, as that would probably be enough to maintain an unplayable performance level throughout (as well as providing us with six goals).
Traditionally a point away to Stoke would be acceptable enough for our heroes, but anything less than victory today would almost certainly blow things for the season. No pressure then chaps.
If it’s sunny optimism you want you are dashed well in the wrong part of the interweb. Get out while you can. A dull sense of foreboding has donned its slippers and smoking jacket, put its feet up and is idly flicking through the Raymond Chandler novels, having made itself quite at home at AANP Towers over the last month or so. While the lilywhite machine has gradually run out of steam, those rump-fed runyons at l’Arse and Chelski have ground out win after blasted win, and from this pessimistic viewpoint it is nigh-on dashed impossible to envisage the much-needed away win tonight. The combination of the Chelski attack-dogs misfiring and our heroes suddenly revisiting 90s dance and discovering both the key and the secret to ripping up an opposition defence just seems a little too unlikely. Fingers crossed AVB and the Brains Trust have a slightly cheerier outlook, what?
Having beaten Man Utd (away) as well as Man City and l’Arse, it is of course eminently feasible that we will run amok tonight and leave this particular ‘orrible lot rueing the day. And then of course there is the Bale factor – 15 seconds unsupervised would probably suffice.
The pessimism, however, emanates from the occasional fallibility of our high defensive line (neither Daws nor the magnificent Vertonghen could really, truthfully, hand-on-heart, claim that spinning around, scampering back and making crucial tackles in the blink of an eye are really their respective fortes), which means that one cunning diagonal pass and it’s Hugo time. And damn their eyes, Mata, Hazard and Oscar have been slipping in cunning diagonal passes since the womb.
On top of which, our heroes do not quite have the perfect balance of earnest toil and mind-blowing ingenuity. Things do still tend to tick impotently sideways and out to the wings. The van der Vaart-shaped hole remains, the cunning diagonal womb-bred passes conspicuously absence. And on Saturday by golly there were an awful lot of passengers in lilywhite.
Woe, woe, woe. And we haven’t even kicked off yet. If you have got this far down the page you will probably have inferred that AANP is going to be awful company this evening, so spare a thought for my old man AANP Senior, and pray fervently that the A-game that briefly surfaced for 15 glorious minutes against Man City is rekindled tonight. Our season just about hangs on it.
It would seem after that particular nerve-wracker to swerve rather wildly from reality by suggesting that the Spurs go marching on. Limping on, perhaps, or maybe sputtering to a halt and having our constituent parts stuffed unceremoniously into a sack and dragged towards the finish line by Bale. A less catchy ditty though, what?
Glorious relief though that finale provided, it was rather a poke in the eye for the massed ranks of us who have been insisting all season that we are more than just a one-man team. The problem with this specific one man is that he is not the sort to pull strings and dictate proceedings like some boot-clad revolutionary. The game passed Bale by as much as it did any of the other lilywhite heroes, the only difference being that while the rest of them could have huffed and puffed away until next season without producing anything different, Bale can conjure match-winners from rather innocuous-looking starting positions way out on the right, or wherever else he may be. Our mob is still bereft of a conductor, through whom all business passes – but that is one to be addressed in the summer months. For now, the good fight continues to be fought.
Curiously, for a match on which so much was riding, our heroes opted to a man to produce one of the most anaemic displays in recent memory. Hudd occasionally stroked an impeccably-weighted pass, and Kyle Walker beavered away, but that rather unpleasant sound in the distance is that of the AANP barrel being scraped in search of match highlights, for there was precious little of note from anyone, and after 80 minutes the dream appeared to be dying. The only chances I can recall were the early Defoe snapshot, and the little move involving a Hudd pass, Adebayor back-heel and inevitable Dempsey waft into the stands. The better chances were Southampton’s, in the first half at least, and once again Lloris saved our jambon. On the debit side, Benny had one of those days, producing all manner of suicidal buffoonery that but for the grace of God might have cost us our season, and Daws showed, not for the first time in his career, that it does not really require complex equations from Mensa’s finest to leave him floundering.
Probably best not to dwell on such things. To play badly and eke out a win is vaguely cockle-warming, and ‘tis difficult to imagine our mob being quite so toothless once again for Wednesday night’s cup final. A job needed doing and was done, albeit ultimately by our one man again. Three more points, and the dream remains alive.
Crumbs. You may want to shield the eyes of your children, because this has the potential to turn into a right palaver. Southampton at home ordinarily ought not to elicit more than confident nod, but with things being what they are I think our heroes dare not sneeze in the wrong direction today.
It may be of some comfort that Southampton are not exactly knee-deep in the mire, but I suppose ‘tis unrealistic to expect them simply to roll over and allow us to tickle their tummies. Still, if they found themselves two-down with 20 minutes to go it would be marvellously obliging of them if they just gave up and went the way of all flesh. Oh that life at the Lane were that simple, what?
Having begun the season with the thunderous central partnership of Sandro and Dembele hoovering up all before them, we find ourselves with the slightly more idiosyncratic pairing of Parker and the Hudd as the curtain comes down. If ever there were a time for the Hudd to pick a perfect pass, or deliver any other sort of alliterative brilliance, this could well be it.
Ultimately however, I presume it will come down to Bale. The lad does have quite a sense of occasion, not to mention nerves of steel. Just as well, as I can barely bring myself to watch.