Credit to Tactics Tim for managing to appear genuinely shocked and enraged when he bounced into work earlier this week and found the locks changed on his office door. ‘Twas a move that one suspects had been planned by Daniel Levy within nanoseconds of hiring him, and accordingly, barely had the lights been switched off after Ledley’s marvellous testimonial before the team of burly sorts were yanking Sherwood from his chair and flinging him headfirst through the nearest window and out onto the High Road.
Seasoned visitors to AANP Towers will doubtless be aware that around these parts we greet Sherwood’s removal with a cheery wave and care-free whistle (even if it has had the regrettable side-effect of him popping up in every dashed nook and cranny to wave his fist and rant about how well he would have done if he had just been given more time. Someone gag the chap and hide him behind a boulder until after the World Cup.)
The epithet on his N17 tombstone ought probably to capture that his pointed observations about the fighting spirit – or lack thereof – amongst our heroes did briefly locate a very pertinent nail and bash it squarely on the head. Alas, painfully under-qualified, seemingly incapable of filtering his thoughts in even the crudest fashion before they tumbled out of his mouth and without any tactical masterplan beyond ‘Pick Bentaleb,’ the blighter fairly quickly drifted into caricature, seemingly finding fault with everyone but himself.
Sherwood’s points tally may suggest a fairly successful tenure, but the statistics can be interpreted in various ways, and while I have the floor I bang drums, ring bells and wave placards at the fact that we ended up more points adrift of the Top Four at his departure than we were at his arrival.
On top of which performances swayed between fairly mediocre and downright awful, we continued to take ritual drubbings from any team with the faintest inkling of quality. My particular bête noire about the whole dashed thing was the absolutely maddening tendency to fiddle with personnel and tactics on a weekly basis (bar that almost religious devotion to selecting Bentaleb), seemingly just to prove a point to anyone who cared. It all seemed rather apt that in his final match Sherwood plucked a lucky chappie from the crowd and popped him into the hot seat, for his own managerial career at the Lane could not have been more neatly summed up.
Levy – The Opposite of the A-Team
So as sure as the seasons ping along in well-ordered fashion, we find ourselves looking for a new manager. Back in the ‘80s, if you had a problem and no-one else could help you nipped off to the Los Angeles underground to bring on board a ragtag bunch of soldiers of fortune. Daniel Levy however seems increasingly determined to style himself as the opposite of the A-Team, with no inclination to see whether a plan will come together, and seemingly precious little patience to invest in a plan in the first place. Hannibal and chums would presumably have been out on their ear before their first fist-fight had Levy hired them.
With each passing day the £100 mil shopping spree, removal of AVB and hiring of Sherwood seem less like part of a prepared strategy, or even a considered contingency plan, and increasingly like the teenage AANP flexing his muscles for the first time on Championship Manager. Quite what Levy will do next is anyone’s guess, but in the decade or so that he has been in charge it has not been massively clear what, if anything, the chap is getting at. Directors of Football, plain-speaking English rogues, European tacticians, bright young things, gnarly veterans – Levy no doubt wants us in the Top Four, but there is now something reminiscent of a crazed general adopting increasingly extreme behaviour as all around him things go awry, before finally placing a gun to his own head and giving one final, manic laugh. Crumbs, he had better get the next appointment right.
Where was this lickety-split brand of football when we needed it earlier in the season? Throughout the first half, and even at 0-0, the one-touch interplay was slicker than a young bounder rolling into the office in braces and a shiny pair of cufflinks. Admittedly it was against a Villa side that looked suspiciously like it had been plucked from their mob of (rather mischievously entertaining) supporters, but nevertheless. Rollicking stuff. If ever there were an award for The Best 45 Minutes of Football At The Most Pointless Juncture of the Season, our heroes would be amongst the red-hot nominees.
Credit to Tactics Tim, in his valedictory charge, for spying that the opposition were but fan-based doppelgangers and accordingly going with two upfront plus a midfielder instructed to bomb forward and beyond. With Sandro holding fort, and Eriksen and Sig surreptitiously drifting infield towards that fun-filled centre, we had options a-plenty, leaving the various competition-winners entrusted with the Villa shirt for one day with little to do but step aside obligingly and let their ‘keeper face things single-handedly. And then as a particularly cruel additional prank they took a pop at him themselves, for our second. With friends like that, eh?
So tip-top was the build-up play in that first half that even our mishap-riddled full-back pair looked worthy of the epithet “Actual Professional Footballer”, Messrs Rose and Naughton taking time out from their season’s worth of misplaced passes to ping in a couple of wicked crosses and diagonals. Moreover, having spent all season resolutely knocking the ball sideways or backwards, Paulinho suddenly discovered the joys of actually progressing forward, in a manner vaguely akin to a blind man having the veil removed from his eyes, albeit with marginally less emotional impact. The opening goal was marvellously crafted, with the applause at AANP Towers ringing loudest for the cheeky, dinked lay-off provided by sideways merchant himself in the build-up. More was to come from Paulinho moments later, including a slide-rule pass for someone or other to blaze wide, proof indeed that after a full season the lad has finally begun watching and learning from Master Eriksen.
Naturally things tailed off in the second half, a gentlemen’s agreement having been brokered at the interval guaranteeing that all 22 of them they could all gently doze off – and that was that. The season that could not end soon enough has ended, the Sherwood era has (presumably) ground to an angry halt and the glorious Europa journey will be ours once more. Huzzah! If anything I rather suspect that the coming weeks will be a dashed sight more interesting around N17 than those just gone. Eyes peeled, as end of season awards will imminently this way come.
Shameless Plug Alert – Lest ye be feeling bereft of inane witterings and lilywhite marvels already, by all means browse the nearest bookstore for AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, which continues to decorate coffee tables and prop open doors the across the country.
Credit to our heroes for their ingenuity. In a season in which sacrificial slaughters seem to have taken place on a monthly basis, as well as half a dozen transfer failures and an off-the-pitch approach to running a club that would leave a team of monkeys red-faced, it did not seem possible to reach a new low in a game against a West Ham team hated by their own and at a point in the season in which there was next to nothing at stake. This season however, our lot have exercised every ounce of creative licence to come up with new and fantastical means of generating car crashes from thin air. Admittedly it might have been a tad more productive for them to expend their energy on something a little more conducive to success, but baby steps, what?
It seemed a tad indulgent of Monsieur Kaboul to finish up his work for the season after half an hour of the penultimate game, the cheeky rascal, but his was a worthy entry nevertheless into the pantheon of Astonishingly Bad Ideas From Our Lot, 2013/14. Here at AANP Towers our hearts have burned with good honest man-love for Monsier Kaboul ever since he puffed out his chest and went bulldozing up the right flank vs Man City a few years back, to create the goal for Crouch that secured our CL status. Thus have excuses been made for him ever since, when he returned to action this season as part of the back-four that was torn to ribbons back at Man City, and apologetic shrugs were offered on his behalf when both feet became completely disengaged from reality and he resorted to a first minute back-heeled o.g. at Anfield.
Alas, the chap’s mishaps have drifted from occasional aberrations to his own unique brand of farce. Presumably these days when he moves from one room to another at Chateau Kaboul he trips over the carpet, careers into the dining table and sends crockery crashing everywhere. With his pace going, and well-timed interventions playing second fiddle to ill-timed lunges, he now seems to offer us precious little beyond a couple of startling eyebrows. ‘Tis with heavy heart that these sentiments are voiced, but his contract is up this summer in any case. Be gone, Kaboul, and take thine eyebrows with thee. In fact, take the entire defence with thee, apart from angry young Kyle Walker. Let’s just start from scratch at the back, because at the moment the whole dashed thing is making my eyes bleed.
Paulinho and Adebayor
However, the bar for scarcely believable lilywhite buffoonery was undoubtedly raised by the intrepid heroes Paulinho and Adebayor, in facing up to a single size 5 football as if it were a vigilante mob armed with numchucks, machetes and those awesome massive gun things that Vasquez wielded in Aliens. With that sort of commitment to the cause one would not fancy their chances in wrestling a ball of string from a heavily sedated kitten, let alone hauling us into the Top Four against the Premiership’s finest. Still, there is some comfort in the thought of the spittle-flecked apoplexy that presumably greeted them when Tim Sherwood sauntered by for the post-mortem.
Almost everywhere one looked on Saturday there was an excruciating limpness about all things lilywhite. Lennon, another whom AANP has resolutely defended year after year, seems to have become a parody of himself, trotting out those jazz-hands and that predictable shoulder-feint-and-dash-out-right routine in an entirely perfunctory manner. Kyle Naughton’s blandness has reached such levels that he is now entirely incapable of stirring any emotion in me whatsoever. Chiriches I imagine is a lad who understands not one word of the instructions he is fed, but nods blankly and then decides to play as the voices in his head dictate.
Excused from the debacle, as ever, were Eriksen and Lloris, but there is no getting away from the fact that this was yet another calamitous chapter in the tome of our 2013/14 season – a tome that will, rather incongruously, nevertheless be titled, “Heavens Above – Look How Many Points We Garnered! Huzzah!”