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"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Spurs 0-0 Swansea: Four Lilywhite Observations

1. Sideways

So following the triumphant, mature and slightly lucky Champions League victory midweek, the shiny new tactic unveiled today seemed, if anything, to be to bore the opposition into submission. The sideways passes and keep-ball one understands to an extent, for there was little point in flinging hands heavenwards and lobbing passes straight down opposition gullets. But the fervent, unfailing desire to take three or four touches, pause to contemplate the mysteries of life, swivel and pass backwards was as excruciating to watch as it was ineffectual to pursue. It was as if they had decided en masse to pay homage to all that was most frustrating about Jermaine Jenas back in that halcyon era.

Moreover, it seemed that poor old Kieran Trippier was persona non grata in that first half. Quite what he did in midweek to upset his chums is beyond me, but for around the first half hour they only seemed willing to pass to him once hell had frozen over and all other alternatives exhausted.

Urgency at least increased in the second half, and but for the grace of the Almighty we might have had 2 or 3 (it is not generally the policy around these parts to comment on refereeing calls – the old beans make their calls as honestly as the rest of us), but a good few jugfuls of damage were done in that ponderous opening 45.

2. Son

Son will presumably be stroking the chin with a raised eyebrow and a pensive demeanour as he swills the evening whisky. Having delivered a peach of a performance in the guise of Second Striker on Wednesday – including the most Son-esque goal imaginable – the unfortunate young thing found himself square pegged into the cursed left wing-back berth vs Swansea, as the Brains Trust started to get a little carried away with things.

Pre-match I suppose the rationale was understandable. Son at wing-back vs Chelsea is an accident waiting to happen, but at home to a Swansea team erring a mile or so on the side of caution the risk seemed somewhat diminished. And in truth there was precious little defending required of the chap, particularly with Vertonghen behind him. Moreover, given that his Wednesday night goal gestated on the left wing, one again eyeballs the pre-match rationale, and at least understands, if not necessarily heartily endorsing.

As it transpired, however, the plan was utterly rotten, and while Ben Davies peered on from the snug seats, the left wing-back vicinity proved quite the headache.

3 Ever Increasing Levels of Tactical Bedlam

As things wore on, the already convoluted plan was twisted into increasingly unrecognisable form, and alarm bells gonged away like there was no tomorrow. Our Glorious Leader’s every tactical move began to resemble a bleary-eyed AANP desperately trying to wring success out of a Football Manager shambles in the wee small hours of his University days, with plans being ripped up and replaced with something even more outlandish every 5 minutes or so.
Moving the flailing giraffe that is Sissoko to right wing-back, and shoving Trippier out to left-wing back – while Ben Davies peered on from the snug seats – was certainly rather unconventional, but the point of the exercise seemed to be to thrust Son slap-bang into the centre of things.

And credit where due, Son has the size 8s quick enough to make himself a nuisance and conjure up a little magic. Trippier was fairly neutered on the left, and Sissoko fairly ineffective on the right – but at least Son was making a fist of things in attack.

Still no goal, mind, so Pochettino dipped further into his box marked “Curiouser and Curiouser”. In desperate need of a goal, and with Dembele and Llorente available – and Ben Davies peering on from the snug seats – a second right-back was thrown on. AANP automatically reached for the nearest whisky.

And then, with four centre-backs still in residence, and a right-back still at left-back – while Ben Davies peered on from the snug seats – Son was removed. AANP’s head began to throb.

Easy to mock from the comfort of AANP Towers of course, and we did come within a gnat’s wing of scoring one way or another, but le grand fromage has to live and die by these calls, and the decisions not to include Davies, nor involve Dembele at any point, seemed dashed peculiar with each passing minute.

4. Llorente

A glass was raised on deadline day when Senor Llorente was ushered into the fold. A cursory glance was enough to reveal that numerous boxes were ticked by the arrival of a forward with Premiership experience, a clutch of medals, of decent height and strength, and relatively content to peer on from the buffers as Master Kane peddles his wares. On top of which, Llorente allows for the introduction of a conventional Plan B, should we desperately need a goal in the dying embers of a game.

So, cometh the hour and whatnot. With 15 or so remaining, Llorente entered the fray.

And was dutifully ignored by just about everyone in lilywhite.

What the devil is the point in introducing a robust, burly sort into the attack if there is no inclination to loft him one or two via the aerial route and give the opposition a new point to consider? Heaven knows. I think by that stage the tactical instruction was “Every man for himself”, because nothing seemed to make sense and it all made me want to find the nearest wall and bang my head against it.

Such is life. Wembley or not – and the greater expanses of land do seem to impinge a dash upon the whole high-press routine – this is not the first time our heroes have entered into something of a to-do if they fail to score early. On this occasion, however, the AANP finger of blame jabs squarely towards team selection, and our glorious leader.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint

Everton 0-3 Spurs: Five Lilywhite Conclusions

After the anti-climactic Wembley jollies, and general head-scratching of the transfer window, this was a welcome return to that which we all know and love, what?
1. Eriksen
Anyone brazen enough to argue against Eriksen being Man of the Match would need to produce a fairly ripping sort of body of evidence. The young bean was at the peak of his powers, managing to roll through a range of party tricks – from deft flicks to incisive first-time passes – without ever giving the impression that he were some sort of mere show-pony or luxury item.
Must be something to do with the way he marries dreamy technique with a workrate that is right up there with all those alpha-males referred to, I believe, as “elite athletes”. Frankly just the sight of Eriksen scurrying indefatigably that way and this is enough to make me want to lie down in the AANP hammock and splash myself a whisky, but I rather suspect that if the whistle did not blow on these things he would still be dashing around chasing things today.
Admittedly Everton hardly beset him on all sides with challenges and whatnot, seemingly preferring instead the rather optimistic approach of leaving his arrest in the hands of Mother Nature. Since she was in no such mood, Eriksen was free to dictate the thing with wild and gay abandon, and even chipping in with a poacher’s goal. The whole team purred, and Eriksen was the preeminent vocal chord.
2. Sissoko

Master Sissoko, however, was a decidedly different kettle of fish. In truth, I am not entirely sure what to make of his performance yesterday, because it was quite the assault on one’s senses.
The poor blighter is frequently pilloried – and I’ll issue a swift mea culpa here and be done with it, because within these four walls we have rarely hesitated to greet his work with a heartfelt yowl of despair.
Yesterday, on the other hand… Well, where to begin? The chap certainly was not lacking in effort, that much is for sure. And in a sense, one can well understand why he was brought into the fold a year ago, and why even now, 12 inauspicious months later, our glorious leader opts to start him, in central midfield of all things. With vast limbs barely under control, advancing in a ball of energy, he absolutely resembles the queen alien from Aliens in particularly irate mood – and who the dickens would want that galloping at them at full pelt? The Everton players facing him were pretty much diving for cover.
Oh that there would be an end-product to complement all that unstoppable stuff that goes before. Yesterday was very nearly the day, as it happened, for he certainly had his opportunities. The first half close-range effort was hit meatily enough, but blocked by a blue leg; the second half flying header was delivered with all the power of a runaway steam engine, but alas, the compass was wildly awry.
And then, in another ball of limbs, the poor egg’s afternoon was over, with some sort of muscle strain, which is rotten luck. Should someone, somehow ever refine those rough edges he could be one heck of a player. Moreover, every now and then one suspects that all the little nuts and bolts will fall into place and he will deliver an absolutely irresistible belter of a performance that will elevate him to cult hero status. By and large however, I suspect that yesterday and all its nearlys, cocooned in limb after uncontrollable limb, will pretty much epitomise the lilywhite career of Sissoko.
3. Davies
It seems a rather dreary prospect to switch from Sissoko’s mesmerising limb-flails to neat little Ben Davies, a man who a chum once described as having the world’s most boring haircut, but Davies was another who delivered a jolly effective performance yesterday.
And not for the first time either, which is pretty darned handy given the unfortunate bobbins that Danny Rose has been spouting to amuse himself. Once again aided by the generosity of the Everton mob, who preferred to sit back and assess rather than thunder in and challenge, Davies was quite the useful outlet, putting the “wing” into “wing-back” at every opportunity, and setting up approximately 1.5 goals in the process. Made at least one notable defensive interception too, which was a handy box to tick.
4. Davinson Sanchez
Another chap you would not particularly want to see haring down in your direction, I suspect. Not a flawless performance, but decent enough for his first start, and he seemed to navigate his way around a brand new back-three without too many problems. One suspects that this could be the start of something wonderful. Beast-like, and wonderful.
5. Lloris’ latest clanger
Everton certainly did not ever look like carving us open, so to jimmy things along a tad Monsieur Lloris took to feeding them an open goal, on a plate. They missed, naturally, but still – this rot needs to stop, n’est ce pas? A couple of months ago Lloris was doing something similar for France, and the mess he made of Chelski’s late winner a few weeks ago was not his first faux pas in lilywhite.
I would never dream of labelling him anything other than a near-deity between the sticks, but these embarrassed coughs at his little concentration lapses really ought to stop now.
So good times rolleth once more. Wembley might once again throw spanners into every available works in the coming week or so, but away wins at a newly-promoted side on the opening day of the season, and then an Everton side widely lauded for making a slew of tasty signings, suggests that our heroes are, broadly, fighting the good fight in the right sort of way.

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