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Spurs – Everton Preview: Quite the Test for AVB

No Bale. No Lennon. And just in time for the most crucial multipack of fixtures of the season. Maybe Skynet did win after all.

‘Tis a test that ought to put some hair on the AVB chest. For all the huffing, puffing and neat technique, if our heroes are not scything teams open through nifty interplay and a killer pass of the VDV mould – and these days it tends to be the exception rather than the norm – the default setting does seem to be to look to Bale to magic up a goal from nothing, on his own. Time for AVB to stun the watching world, and Everton, with the mother of all Plan Bs.

On top of which, the absence of Lennon stirs some eminently forgettable memories of our lot taking to the field in lopsided manner and promptly turning a 12-game unbeaten run into a three-match losing streak. Presumably rather than the ill-advised solution of sticking Dembele onto the right wing again, the plan this time will be to muddle Messrs Sigurdsson, Dempsey and Holtby around the left, right and central positions, while letting Dembele run operations from the centre.

Elsewhere, Adebayor’s reign as Lilywhite Enemy Number One is reinforced by the game, with the usual array of mis-controls and air-kicks, but in truth I thought the blighter put the effort in on Thursday, his cause not helped by a lack of service. The defence at least ought to have a more solid look to it, with Lloris back and Gallas nowhere to be seen.

There really isno’t any margin for error now, especially with l’Arse churning out results, but Everton are themselves without a couple of key  players, and if our lot can rediscover the zippy passing groove that occasionally surfaces it will matter not that Bale or Lennon are not on hand. Fingers crossed.


Spurs – Basel Preview: The Welfare of Key Personnel

The Top Four vs Europa debate has become increasingly academic over the course of this season, because whatever the rights and wrongs AVB is clearly intent to keep hurling at kitchen sinks and first-team players at his Thursday nights, until that ineffably-shaped pot is in our mitts. As has been pointed out by various scribes, for all the potential hazards around fatigue this whole European campaign has, in general, been a rather edifying process for the mighty lilywhites, allowing the players time to dashed well understand the gravel-voiced murmurings of the grand fromage in the early part of the season, and also providing the occasional night of merriment and good cheer for the shuffling throngs on the White Hart Lane train platform. We might as well go on and win the whole dashed thing now, no? After all there barely seems another team qualified to do it.

Linguistic Befuddlement

A man with an unpronounceable surname is always worth a tip of the hat, so an entire football club possessed of what may – or may not – be a silent ‘s’ ought to be treated with a certain degree of deference. That said, we be the mighty Hotspur, and as such ought really to grind this lot into submission over two legs. Of greater concern at AANP Towers is the welfare of key personnel, for any sort of injuries to Bale or Dembele (or indeed, for the sake of our shape, Master Lennon) would be frightfully unwelcome at this stage of proceedings.

Team News

The usual selection larks and japes will ensue no doubt, with Friedel retained at the back, a soupcon of jiggery-pokery in defence and the usual midfield. Defoe is out and Master Dempsey is reportedly back, but Adebayor will presumably be unleashed once again to wreak his usual devastating brand of havoc across the Swiss back-line.

Traditional wisdom had it that a clean sheet and solid lead would be the order of the day, but this being N17, and the last round’s 3-0 home advantage having been transformed so effortlessly into a monumental pickle, it is difficult to know quite what the target tonight should be. Perhaps, in the finest tradition of a stag-weekend, we should just aim to make it through proceedings with no broken bones and no arrests, and then re-assess.

Inter-Spurs Preview: Who Knows?

Unfamiliar territory, and I half expect that come kick-off players from both sides will simply stand around scratching their heads and gawping, because the game-plan here is a little tricky to establish. It may well depend on how Inter approach this, for should they show the sort of lack of interest displayed quite so vehemently in the first leg this could turn into one of the great tedious nights in our history, with both sides wiling away the time until the final whistle. Alternatively, should Inter score early our heroes will trip over themselves to reach the Panic Button. I suppose a third scenario is that our lot crunch down on the accelerator from the off and blitz Inter away again. C’est possible, one and all, but it really is a dickens of a task to predict beforehand how this one might transpire.

No Rest For The Wicked

AVB has suggested that young master Bale will be the only absentee, of the regulars, and while Dembele and Parker might benefit from a rest it is probably just as well to start with the usual troupe, and withdraw them in the second half if everyone is sticking obediently to the script. Having already had an enforced week off Aaron Lennon is apparently back in the squad, and as the principal speed-merchant in our ranks he has the opportunity to play quite a starring role, assuming we look for counter-attack opportunities (do excuse us at AANP Towers as we drift off to dreamily recall the magnificent breakaway goal that sunk AC Milan a couple of years back…)

“No alarms and no surprises,” warbled musical oddballs Radiohead a few years back, and if that were to be the gist of things tonight we could all light our pipes with subtle smugness this evening. History contains enough reminders of our capacity to complicate the uncomplicated, but the current vintage appear to have their heads screwed on reasonably tightly. One way or t’other we should prevail.

Liverpool – Spurs Preview: Pilfering the Anfield Larder

Another day, another dickens of a lip-smacking fixture for the good ship Hotspur. Merrily enough, our heroes have spent the week positively sneering at the reputations dandily waved around by opponents who dare share the turf – in particular the reaction to the final whistle on Thursday, when a comprehensive battering of Inter elicited little more than a couple of back-slaps and a business-like march back to the changing rooms, suggests that standards have been raised in N17. Pilfering the Anfield larders is not necessarily high on the list of Traditionally Straightforward Premiership Jollies, but our heroes can certainly approach matters in a buoyant mood, for should they play anything like they did on Thursday the red mob will probably wander off in a huff at not being allowed even a touch of the ball. But alas, ‘tis a new day, and our foes are unlikely to roll over and request a playful tickle of their tummies, in the manner of Inter. A slippery prospect looms; such challenges have been met with several shades of aplomb in recent weeks.

Personnel

There is presumably a smidgeon of doubt around Aaron Lennon and his jazz-hands, so Sigurdsson-right and Holtby-left could be on the cards, which is far from being the worst amended line-up ever to traipse the greenery. Having oozed class as if afflicted by some puss-inducing malady in his last two outings at centre-back, Vertonghen would be well-advised to wring out every last drop of the stuff in preparation for an afternoon’s duelling with the multi-talented and renowned good egg Suarez. Dawson and Lloris will presumably return, and while Defoe attracted opprobrium in some quarters for the narrow-mindedness of his approach, his propensity for leathering the orb goalwards at every opportunity renders him the sort of foe to jolly well keep an opponent on his toes – and as such he seems a vastly preferable attacking option to Adebayor.

It seems safe to assume that a stern test awaits, but with our heroes now knee-deep in the tricky final slew of fixtures and faring well enough we can probably approach this one with cautious optimism.

Spurs – Inter Preview: Oozing Glamour From Every Pore

‘Tis a sign of the lucre-riddled times that a home fixture against Inter is only the third most important match of our week, but thus it fairly well transpires, if you give a nudge here and take a hop there. Finishing in the top four (three? Two?) still feels like the priority – but as distractions go this is right up there with kittens, cats, sacks and wives. Spurs vs Inter – truly a fixture to make a grown man stand up straight, puff out his chest and cream with misty eyes of killing wild beasts with his bear hands.

On an arguably more relevant note, it can be assumed that Friedel will take the reins tonight, which is rather a shame in a way, for Lloris’ tendency to burst off his line like a coiled spring recently force-fed E-numbers has proved most useful, in acting as the thinking man’s last line of defence. Gallas, Caulker and Naughton all stand reasonably good chances of being rotated in, and Defoe blinking well ought to start if there is but an ounce of sanity in the world, but I would be a little surprised if AVB chopped and changed in midfield – this tends not to be his wont.

Playing the home leg first is not ideal, but one way or t’other this ought to be a rollicking good yarn (and – whisper it – a useful precursor to fixtures of similarly glamorous ilk in season 2013-14).

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: Come Hither for Sunny Optimism

Regular imbibers of the AANP chalice may be wearily readying themselves for the latest pessimistic warbling, but truth be told I feel pleasantly optimistic about this one.

Physcial Combat  – Conspicuously Absent

For a start, that ‘orrible lot from down the road possess not in their ranks any sort of attacking man-beast of the ilk of Andy Carroll, or indeed a Holt, Lukaku or Drogba type, who can shield the ball, win every aerial battle, say naughty words and generally make our lot cry. The only certainties in life seem to be death, taxes and Spurs defenders failing to cope with bullying centre-forwards, so huzzah thrice over for the absence of one today.

On a note entirely dissimilar note, l’Arse are not typically known for peddling that sort of agricultural, feisty approach that, for example, Norwich and Leeds deployed to good effect against us. History – and indeed personnel – suggests that rather than a fist-fight this will be another absurd end-to-end attack-fest, with tactics ultimately reducing to ‘Outscore the other lot and we’ll be fine’. And should this be the case, AANP just about throws its hat in with the lilywhites, on the eminently scientific basis that our lot are, all things considered, better.

Central Midfield

The horn-locking of Messrs Dembele and Wilshire threatens to be awfully good fun, but in the absence of Sandro, that midfield area is where alarm bells start making the most frightful racket. A willingness to beaver away may be a Scott Parker trademark, but he will have to clear his throat and sing the notes with particular gusto if Wilshire, Cazorla and their devious troupe are to be kept in check.

The Principals

I rather expect this to be the one performance of the year for which Adebayor bothers to exert himself, as he does seem to loathe his former employers. Fingers crossed that a modicum of sense manifests itself in a brain cell or two this time.

Young Master Bale is unlikely to slip onto the pitch entirely unnoticed, but whether or not he delivers his usual two-goal salvo one can expect a quivering swarm of opponents to buzz around him at all times. Marvellously however, there seems no stopping the chap these days – defend deep and he will thrash one netwards from distance; attempt to close down the space and he will skip merrily by, or earn a free-kick in so-doing. Lip-smacking stuff indeed.

While it can probably be expected that Walcott will score (it does tend to happen against our lot, alas), ultimately I do expect that when it is all totted up, our lot will have more in the bank. Exciting times.

West Ham – Spurs Preview: Nervous Hand-Wringing

We ought to approach this with all the confidence of a bon vivant whistling his way through an extended break in southern French, given that the run of form extends to one defeat in the last umpteen, and we boast in our midst a match-winner so rapidly elevating himself above all surrounding mortals that, if one particular ex-lilywhite pundit is to be believed, he now uses “literally three lungs”.

And yet AANP has been wringing his hands like nobody’s business whenever thoughts stray to tonight’s impending to-do. For a start that Allardyce creature troubles me, still furtively trying to kill football through use of elbows, niggles and long-balls. On top of which, uncouth beasts such as Andy Carroll are precisely the sort who traditionally toss waif-like Spurs defenders this way and that in their uncomplicated quest to Hulk-smash their way to goal. Oh for a Kaboul, yearns this particular soul – but in his absence it is but Dawson. Time for him to earn that mooted new contract – he has provided loyal and willing service, but the epitome of reliability and invincibility he remains not.

The post-Sandro era continues to stumble its way to success. Trying to fill that enormous, dynamic Sandro-shaped hole with Scott Parker has understandably enough disrupted things a mite, but there are worse ways to go about the business of flailing into a central midfield war.

For various reasons it can be hoped that Defoe is back in contention tonight, and all things considered we ought simply to be too good for this lot – but the nagging worry persists that our heroes (and particularly the defence) will simply be bullied into submission. That blighter with the three lungs might be needed again, what?

Lyon – Spurs Preview: Twelve vs Eleven

In theory the drill for this one should be simple enough – nice and tight at the back, then step aside to let Bale and Lennon blaze merrily away on the counter-attack, and before you can say “Sur ma tête”, mon fils,” we’ll be home for a late-night bourbon.

Or not. Footballers are renowned for many things, but cerebral robustness probably is not one, and it is easy enough to imagine our heroes straying from the script, and that 2-1 cushion going the way of all flesh within minutes. Still, even if they do take the complicated route, the AANP tuppence is firmly placed on qualification, for our lot simply tend not to lose these days.

The Bale Factor

Quite what the devil we will do once young Master Bale has scarpered for pastures more lucrative is too frightful to contemplate at the moment, but to the pleasure of porcrastinators the world over this is a problem for another day. The One-Man Astonishingness Machine is very much a lilywhite tonight, and as such we line up virtually twelve vs eleven. Stick him on the left, stick him through the middle or just leave him on free-kick detail – his garish size nines are sprinkled with magic dust at the moment, and the Lyon brains-trust are presumably scratching their heads in bewilderment at the task awaiting them.

Grumble Fodder

Elsewhere Messrs Dempsey and Adebayor are each purveying their own unique – but rather different – brand of bally infuriating nonsense, as I believe it is known. Dempsey is certainly a willing trier, so God presumably loves him, but AANP is becoming increasingly irritated at the manner in which his laboured multiple-touch technique sucks the lively juices from any useful-looking attack. Adebayor on the other hand, seems to have made a deep and fervent commitment to doing absolutely anything other than straining every sinew for the lilywhite cause. Nothing that cannot be rectified by a breezy Bale-Lennon-Holtby combo, but still enough to drive one to such despair that there is no option but to emit a sincere – and loaded – tut.

More chopping and changing can presumably be expected in defence, and if he is feeling particularly emotional AVB might use Lloris rather than Friedel. Whatever the minutiae, and whether or not I and my lilywhite office-chums eventually locate a drinking-hole in the Vauxhall area showing itv4, one would expect our heroes to muddle through. Bon chance, gents.

Spurs – Lyon Preview: The Pointy End Beginneth

This smells like the pointy end of things. Forthcoming opponents including l’Arse, Liverpool, City, Chelski and Everton, and what better whistle-whetter for such rumblings than a nifty-looking European tie? You can shove the mundane group games into a musky sack, and give them a furtive kick while you’re at it, because this one has a faint whiff of seriousness. Two legs, away goals, prime-time on ITV1 no less – the pointy end indeed.

Whether AVB is quite aware of the regal privilege of tonight’s scheduling arrangement is debatable, but with no game this weekend he might be tempted to send out a full-strength team. If one player might be given a breather it is Scott Parker, who likes increasingly as if he is about to die in the latter stages of every game he plays. Messrs Livermore, Hudd, Carroll and Sigurdsson chomp at the bit – or jolly well ought to.

Gallas is apparently being readied for action, and Friedel will presumably be unleashed for his monthly gambol, while this might be an opportune moment for Master Adebayor to start recovering some of that goodwill he has been haemorrhaging at a rate of knots. A clean sheet and lead to take to France is presumably the aim tonight. Rather looking forward to this.

Spurs – Newcastle Preview: The Latest Big Selection Dilemma

It’s that time of the week once more – AVB’s latest Big Selection Dilemma is upon us. The gravel-voiced one has shown with Lloris and Benny that he is something of a tease when it comes to awarding regular starting berths, but Holtby-time presumably now beckons. It may have only been two substitute appearances against middling opposition, but the lad has already proved himself as good as Pele, Mandela and that Matrix chap combined, so one hopes he manages to oust Dempsey from the starting XI.

The only certainty is that Defoe is out, so AVB will be donning a blindfold and sticking pins upon one or two from Holtby, Adebayor, Dempsey and possibly even Bale. A similar approach will presumably be used at the back, but marvellous news reaches these parts that Monsieur Kaboul is about to resume training.

As for the opposition, a fiendishly deceiving basket of wriggly elks if ever I beheld one. Be not fooled, ye lilywhites, by Newcastle’s laughably low rung on the ladder, this lot just trumped the European Champions no less. A whiff of garlic and fromage now emanates from the black and white corner, and Newcastle’s newly-acquired French clan appear to know their way around a pitch, so a challenge et un demi is to be expected. Still, our lot tend always to snatch at least a point these days, and on home turf, against a team not resolutely set on defending for their lives, we ought to have enough about us for all three.

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