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For Queen and Country - England matters Spurs news, rants

Fabio set to do Spurs a favour

The day before England’s friendly with Germany, and as far as most are concerned the spate of withdrawals has placed the fixture firmly under the folder marked “Farce”. Of the first choice XI the central core of Rio, Gerrard, Lampard, Heskey and Rooney are missing, as well as likely supporting acts such as the Coles and Brown. A shame, as it was to Fabio’s credit that he had planned minimal changes from the team that played in qualifiers. The strategy of maintaining the bulk of the team, and drafting in two or three new players alongside the regulars was one of which I was strongly in favour. It seemed to me that the newbies would have a better platform to impress and showcase their abilities if surrounded by seasoned pros. Unfortunately it’s all pretty academic now – injuries have forced wholesale changes, with James, Terry, Barry and Walcott the only regular starters.

Pretty meaningless then, to many (I don’t quite believe the “There’s no such thing as a friendly with Germany” line being trotted out by squad players and broadcasters). However, for the fringe players this, naturally, is a huge game, a chance to stake claims for regular inclusions in the squad if the not the starting line-up. With Spurs’ Darren Bent the leading English scorer in the country at the moment there is a strong chance that he’ll be given a start, alongside one of Crouch, Defoe or Agbonlahor. I would be particularly interested to see how he fares with a second striker to partner, given that he is primarily deployed in the frustrating 4-5-1 at Spurs. While the 4-5-1 accommodates Modric, it often leaves Bent chasing shadows in attack, always outnumbered and typically having to do a lot of chasing away from goal. With his pace, strength, ability in the air and shooting ability he ought to be a very impressive all-round striker – a poor man’s Shearer. However, as the lone striker he is regularly forced to hold up the ball, or chase balls down the flanks.

Shearer looked best alongside a partner (Sutton, or Sheringham) but such a luxury is rarely afforded to Bent. Conventional wisdom has it that similar strikers can’t play together, and as such one ought to play a more withdrawn role, to feed the other (think Sheringham and Shearer again, or Beardsley and Lineker, Heskey and Owen/Rooney etc). Yet with the possible exception of Crouch, none of the forwards in the England squad is particularly inclined to play the withdrawn role. Should Bent start alongside Defoe or Agbonlahor it would give an opportunity to see how two fairly similar strikers pair up, and how Bent copes as one of a front-two. As such, it will provide an excellent opportunity for Spurs to gauge the effectiveness of such a strategy. ‘Arry deviated from his norm and attempted a 4-4-2 vs Liverpool in the Carling Cup last week, with great success, although with Campbell and Pavluychenko together in attack. It therefore remains to be seen whether Bent is fitted for this purpose, and ‘Arry seems reluctant to experiment with a front-two in a competitive game for Spurs (understandably enough, given our lightweight midfield). Fabio therefore looks set to do Spurs something of a favour in Germany tomorrow night. As one who is far from enthralled by 4-5-1, I hope that Bent flourishes with a partner alongside him.

Squad: James, Robinson, Carson; Bridge, Davies, Lescott, Richards, Johnson, Terry, Mancienne, Upson; Barry, Carrick, Downing, Bullard, Wright-Phillips, A Young, Parker; Walcott, Crouch, Bent, Defoe, Agbonlahor.

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Spurs news, rants

The recurring Gomes nightmare: Fulham 2-1 Spurs

Dagnabbit. The unbeaten run ended on Saturday, in pretty limp fashion by all accounts, and once again all eyes are upon our wretched goalkeeper Gomes. While only the highlights of this game were available, that was enough to stare in wide-eyed disbelief. Remember the fat, malco-ordinated kid in the playground, who was unable to synchronise his hands to clap, let alone catch? Heurelho Gomes take a bow. I bet that when the Spurs players select 5-a-side teams in training, he’s always the last one picked.

In his defence, the guy is a cracking goalkeeper when it comes to leaping at full-stretch to tip away a screaming long-distance rocket. This presumably was the rationale behind buying him (£10 million? Ye gods!), given the chronic inability of last year’s goalkeeper to stop such efforts. However, his confidence now shot to pieces like Butch and Sundance, he treats crosses like hot potatoes, or kryptonite, or the blinking ghost of Christmas past – gawping at them in disbelief and confusion, one step towards them, one step back, arms a-flailing, until eventually the ball gently lobs towards him and he juggles, drops, turns, grimaces and picks it out of its comfy new home – the Tottenham net. If he were a dog I’d shoot him right now and be done with it.

Until the transfer window opens in January ‘Arry has little option but to stick with him – sigh – but unless Gomes pulls himself together we’ll be on the look-out for a replacement. With limited funds available it might have to be a stop-gap free transfer, in the Kasey Keller mould, and that really would be desperate. Personally I’d like to see Given, Jasskeleinen or Friedel brought in. Fridel, having only just joined Villa, is unlikely, but Given or Jasskeleinen would be most welcome, both being strangely underrated (why haven’t Man U or l’arse snapped them up? Bizarre.).

The issue of the wretched Gomes neatly diverts attention from a worrying broader picture – as Redknapp said in the post-match interview, in the first 25 mins our tempo was far too slow. Understandable against, say, Man U or Barcelona, but not really against Fulham. The lack of urgency from midfield has long been at the root of Spurs’ problems, and is hardly going to be redressed by the combo of Huddlestone, Jenas and Modric, all of whom look great players when we’re three-nil up and cruising, but have all the bite and tenacity of an housebound octogenarian who has just removed her dentures . Back in 19th place, and with the new-manager bounce having seemingly ended, it’s time for ‘Arry to earn his corn.

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Spurs news, rants

A test of our credntials, and a trip down memory lane

As honeymoon periods go, six games sounds about right, which means that around about now we can start gauging just how good Spurs are. The draw with l’arse, and wins over Liverpool and Man City could probably be attributed to the natural “bounce” that comes with the installation of a new man at the helm, as well as a fair share of luck. However, irrespective of our form, and the stage of the season, Fulham away is a game we ought to win if we seriously want to finish in the top 6 and secure a UEFA Cup spot. Fulham are no pushover, esp on current form, and away from home is (bizarrely to me) always tricky – but I repeat, if we want to make the UEFA Cup, we have to win games like Fulham away.

The form of our strikers presents ‘Arry with a pleasant dilemma up top – the 4-5-1 system with Bent on his own in attack, and Modric behind him in the hole, has worked particularly well recently, with Bent scoring 5 goals in 2 games, and Modric looking increasingly dangerous (if still lightweight to the point of emaciation). However, Pavluychenko and Campbell struck up an instant rapport on Weds, as we switched to 4-4-2, linking well and each bagging a brace. I suspect today will see a return to 4-5-1 with Bent, particularly as we’re away from home, but I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of the system. Even during the thrashing of Zagreb a couple of weeks ago, I noticed that crosses into the box were a tad pointless as Bent was often the lone target, surrounded by two or three defenders. I suggest that a 4-5-1 system really needs at least one runner from midfield mimicking a striker (ie pushing very far forward, towards the 6 yard box), and prefereably another midfielder arriving from deep, towards the edge of the penalty area, giving an option for a more pulled-back type of cross, and also stretching the oppo defence. With Jenas, Modric and Bentley in the team we ought to have enough runners from midfield to work this, but our lack of presence in the area, particularly when deploying the 4-5-1 formation, is noticeable.

Fulham away also takes me on a trip down memory lane, to one of the definitive all-action-no-plot games. ‘Twas a sunny September afternoon last year, when I went with my kiwi mate for his first ever football match, and my first away game. Away games rock. The atmosphere was cracking (presumably because only the die-hards are sufficiently fervent to go to away games), and as it was still the halcyon era of scary Martin Jol, we had Berba and Keane upfront. Berba scored one of his truly extraordinary goals that day, a volley on the run which left the keeper rooted to the spot, and we were 3-1 up and cruising. Fulham’s defending made the Three Stooges look elegant, with fully-grown men bumping into each other and falling over, presumably while humming to themselves the Benny Hill soundtrack . Anyone with an inkling of plot would have boringly opted to close down the game and nullify any Fulham threat, but all-action-no-plot Tottenham opted instead for the vastly preferable, if high-risk, kamikaze route. Jenas from six yards chose to pass rather than shoot, as only Jenas can, providing some useful insight into why, after five or so years at the club, he still does not have his own song (bar, perhaps, vituperative screams of “You’re sh*t Jenas”). We conceded an unfortunate own-goal, then in the last minute conceded an overhead bicycle kick goal, and drew 3-3. Crazy times, left me cursing all the way home, but it neatly encapsulated in 90 minutes the all-action-no-plot world of Spurs – and let’s face it, it was a million times better than a nil-nil bore-draw.

Back to today – it’s a big test of our top-six credentials, let’s see how we fare…

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Rants on the Beautiful Game

Are Wenger’s latest kids really so special?

Christmas approacheth. Lights are being lit in shopping centres, adverts are being aired on broadcasting stations and pundits are getting over-excited by the performance of Arsene Wenger’s latest crop of youngsters in the Carling Cup – all sure signs of the imminent commemoration of the birth of our Lord. So how good are l’Arse’s latest crop of young gunners? I’d better make clear right now – I haven’t seen them in action (I hate that lot, why would I see them?), so this isn’t really a debate about their quality. I caught the goals in their 3-0 win over Wigan, as I did their 6-0 win over Sheff Utd in the previous round. Well done, very pretty, not particularly impressed. Casting my mind back a few years, Arsene’s kids are regularly trotted out in domestic cup competitions, invariably destroying lesser-rate opponents, but they came a cropper (4-0) vs Man Utd in the FA Cup, and were rather gloriously destroyed 5-1 by my lot in the Carling Cup. Furthermore, lest anyone has forgotten, the 6-0 demolition of Sheff Utd earlier this season was promptly followed by a defeat at home to Hull, or someone similarly nondescript, three days later.

However, there are many (not least the whinger-in-chief himself) who insist that this year’s crop really is something special. I suspect that that Vela character is indeed a bit of a talent, as he’s had the odd cameo in the Premiership, with some degree of success. I’ve also heard particularly good things about Wilshere, and as he is an Englishman with a left foot, there is a sense in which I temper my innate hatred of l’Arse, and watch his career with interest. There may well be a couple of others who make it at the other lot, one or two who go on to the international stage. On the whole however, I’m happy to laugh cynically in the face of all those bleating about what a golden generation this is. Yes, admittedly a sizeable proportion of such guffawing can be attributed to my white-hot anti-l’arse bias – I can admit that my perspective on the red half of north London might occasionally be influenced by two decades of bile and hatred.

However, more broadly, it seems to be a footballing fact, quite possibly supported by the law of averages, that of the plethora of teenagers who debut amidst a blaze of optimistic publicity at a given club, only one or two, if any, go on to establish themselves at that club or a better one. Inevitably, the media fanfare which accompanies the entrance of said youths onto the scene includes the phrases “precocious”, “wonder-kid” and “the boy’s got a big future ahead of him”. But look more closely, my action-indulging chum, and you shall see also phrases synonymous with “shows great potential”, “one for the future” “destined for great things”. And there’s the rub. It’s not sufficient for these whippersnappers simply to break into the first team at 16 or 17. Andy Turner did that at Spurs. (To answer your question – exactly). They need not only to make an instant impact, they need then to progress and improve. Fabregas did it. Rooney did it (although some even dare to question whether, really, he has improved that much, the heretics). But for every Fabregas who made it at 16, nailed his place in the team and carried on improving, there are a bucketload who had their 15 mins of under-age precocity and disappeared into the footballing equivalent of that flat glass thing which whisked away the baddies in Superman II. If a player is at the same level at 22 as he was at 16, or even the same at 26 as he was at 21, he’s not really going to make it. I’m thinking of Caskey, Turner, Austin, Edinburgh, Marney, Gardner, Davies and Etherington – all apparently “wonderkids” from Spurs teams gone by. I fear Lennon is going the same way, as is, less depressingly, Jamie “three-touch” O’Hara. They might make it as good honest pros, maybe even win a medal and a handful of international caps along their journeymen careers. But the hype surrounding Wenger’s latest hoarde of ear-studded, excessively-gelled and already cliché-spouting kids would have you believe that a fair number of them will rise to the very heights of the game. I make no attempt to disguise my scepticism.

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Spurs news, rants

A cracking, all-action performance! Spurs 4-2 Liverpool

Well who’d have thunk it? Six games, five wins, eighteen goals – and last night’s performance owed nothing to luck! It was a cracking performance! With the games coming thick and fast, and goals flying in like they’re going out of fashion, this really is all action and no plot.

Okay, okay, let’s get the smallprint out of the way – it was Liverpool’s reserve team and they were woeful, no shape or fluidity, no passion (at least for the first hour) and no big names bar Torres. However, we were ourselves without the core of our team, in King, Woodgate, Jenas, Bentley, Modric and Bent. Got that?

The midfield in particular was superb – regular all-action-no-plotters will be well aware of Spurs’ inherent uselessness when it comes to working hard off the ball. This isn’t anything to do with individual players, it’s part of the fabric of the club, written into every playing contract as one of the things that defines Tottenham Hotspur FC, and one of the lesser known laws of physics. Pretty in possession, but with a defensive core made of jelly. Last night however, Zokora played like a man possessed! And in the positive sense, rather than foaming at the mouth and speaking in tongues! O’ Hara got stuck in, so I’ll forgive him his woeful first touch, while Lennon scampered about like a 5 year-old who’d had too much Fanta, and Campbell’s work-rate was also impressive. Torres wasn’t given a sniff in the area, consistently hassled by grown men in tight white shirts and hooped stockings. In any other forum he’d have called the polizei.

However, ’twas The Incredible Hudd who really caught my eye, evoking misty-eyed memories of Carrick in his pomp. Delightful, incisive short passes, mixed with the odd, Hollywood 40-yarder. That ability to look up before receiving the ball, and thus knowing to whom he’d pass once he’d received it, without having to pause, control, look up, take a touch, stop, look, listen, think etc. (O’ Hara take note). I shall cherish it, for it shall only happen but once a month, but a good performance from Huddlestone really is a joy to behold for the purist. His passing range is right out of the Spurs manual (as is his allergy to tackling). A true Tottenham boy.

And for a true all-action-no-plot look no further than our all-action attacking performance last night. Fantastic short diagonal passes into space behind defenders on the flanks, as well as good support from the full-backs, excellent movement (admittedly sullied by some pretty poor crossing from Lennon), a shedload of chances and a glut of goals. That’s the Tottenham way. Was particularly impressed by the partnership of Campbell and Pavluychenko, given the common adage that two similar strikers can’t play together.

And Gomes. Blot on the Tottenham escutcheon. Every time he and his huge conk and satellite-sized ears come into shot on tv, I panic. A couple of weeks ago I asked on these pages at what point does a goalkeeper go from inconsistent to a liability? The guy can’t catch a cold. Liverpool barely touched the ball, yet scored twice straight from corners that my one year-old nephew could have plucked out of the sky. Was anyone else secretly pleased when he got lamped and had to be stretchered off? (Relax – he’s fine. The fuss-pot didn’t even go to hospital, the medical verdict was that he got a “blow on the face”. Wuss.)

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Spurs news, rants

Re-appearance of an angry ex

Uh-oh. Liverpool at home tonight. Again. After what happened last time, they are going to be pretty darned angry…

Just 10 days ago they came to our place in a Premiership game, the only unbeaten team in the country and sitting pretty at the top of the table – while we were bottom. They completely outplayed us from start to finish (a boxing ref would have ended it well before time) but we rode our luck and beat them in the last minute. For having the temerity to do so, I fear we might get spanked tonight. Well, for having the temerity and also for not being half as good as them.

We’ve ridden our luck since Harry took over, somehow winning four and drawing one, showing flashes of genius and bundles of confidence going forward – but still having all the fight and spine of a Care Bear. Who has just had his/her spine ripped out. Ideally I’d like us to face a few more of the weaker teams, to gain confidence, continue the good form, continue building momentum. The last team I want to face is Liverpool, reappearing like an angry ex-girlfriend just ten days on, with vengeance on her mind and a chainsaw in hand. We can plead all we want that it was unintentional, it was an accident, she really is superior to us in every way and we wouldn’t dream of doing it again – but to no avail. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorn’d. We took her out, misled her and wronged her. Now, as flies to wanton boys are we Spurs fans to the footballing gods, who have decreed that the angry ex is forced back onto our doorstep before the dust has had a chance to settle, and before she’s found anyway else to assuage the indignity of it all. She won’t rest until she’s humiliated us, in front of our nearest and dearest, and live on Sky Sports. I don’t care if she’s resting Gerrard and Keane, she’s still got Torres. This could get messy.

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Spurs news, rants

Winning the Tottenham way: Man City 1 – 2 Spurs

That’s more like it. 2-1 up, with 20 mins to go, against a team reduced to nine men? Sew up the game and put the oppo out of sight? Do it the easy way? Tottenham? No chance.

After the 4-0 romp a couple of days ago, I felt a tad discombobulated. Wasn’t quite sure what was going on. Needed to sit down. Needed a stiff drink. I asked people not to confuse me with polysyllabic words – after all, I’d just seen my lot destroy a team and offer them not a sniff, at any stage. Forget that Obama chap – a clinical 4-0 win for Spurs was change like we’d never even dreamt of, seismic change that could create global chaos, raising a hind leg and peeing all over the centuries-old laws of physics, whilst chewing up and spitting out common sense for good measure.

But this was more like the Spurs I know. Rather than play keep-ball, toy with the oppo, score a simple third and silence the home crowd, we won it the Tottenham way. That is to say we sat back, got nowhere near their goal, invited pressure upon ourselves, let the oppo build a head of steam, let their players believe they could salvage something, gave their supporters plenty to roar about and then, just to ensure that no-one would get any silly ideas about a comfortable victory, we contrived to have one of our own players sent off with 5 mins remaining, making it 9 against 10.

I had to listen to the game rather than watch it, but my mind’s eye – well-trained on weekly drills since the 1987 FA Cup final – served me impeccably. Ah, if I close my eyes I can see it unfold again. I can see our central midfield trio deciding, ineffably but with perfect synchronisation, to slow down to an amble. Put in a tackle? You’re having a laugh! Why fight for possession when you can run around in circles, loosely following the direction of the ball a couple of seconds after it has moved on? Why gallop when you can lollop? Yes, I can see Jenas, Zokora and Huddlestone losing the 50-50 challenges. I can see mis-hit clearances and ricochets in our own penalty area. I can see players consider blasting the ball into orbit just to clear the danger, then remembering the crest on their shirt, the tradition to uphold, the Tottenham way – and deciding instead to shin the ball some seven or eight yards to the nearest Man City player, ready for the next barrage to arrive.

So, with heart-rates raised to indecent levels, nerves frayed and fingernails dentally assaulted, we collected the three points. It’s a third consecutive league game in which Lady Luck has intervened to get us out of jail – by all acounts, when it had been 11 vs 11 today we were second-best (and went one-nil down). As such the jury, chez Lacquiere, remains out on ‘Arry, but I’m quite satisfied to sit here and smugly write about another win. Lucky or not, it’s strangely gratifying to know that having had the oppo on the ropes, we didn’t win it clinically. Instead, we won it the Tottenham way.

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Spurs news, rants

"Just f*****g run about" – Harry Redknapp, tactical genius

Man City away will be a good test of how far we’ve come in the five minutes or so since ‘Arry took over. Amidst the hype it’s been easy to get carried away by results, rather than analyse performances which have been decent (and lucky) rather than exceptional.

The win at home to Bolton was a decent result, particularly given what had preceded it, but can hardly be attributed to the new boss’s tactical nous, given that he took charge at half-time. The draw vs l’Arse was fun but lucky, ditto the win vs Liverpool. Zagreb was undeniably a strong performance, but the limitations of the oppo ought to be taken into account. So Man City away should prove a handy gauge. Away from home to a decent team, with some fantastic individuals, who aren’t having the greatest run of form – we should be looking for at least a draw.

As ever, happy to back ‘Arry, but not yet convinced of his tactical expertise. In particular, his instruction to Pavlyuchenko to “just f******g run about” at half-time vs Liverpool, while a nice soundbite from that loveable cockney rogue (helping to banish the memories of his surly foreign predecessor, who had the temerity to conduct his press conferences through an interpreter – wot a disgrace) hardly merits a £1.5 million salary, or whatever it is. It’s obviously still early days – won’t really be able to judge him until he’s had a full season, or calendar year at least – but after the drama of a North London derby and the visit of the league leaders, a trip to Eastlands will, for me, provide the first true test of our quality and ambitions for the season.

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Spurs news, rants

Mental Croats at The Lane: Spurs 4-0 Dinamo Zagreb

Confused.com over here. I have to admit that in all my years I’ve never been to a comfy 4-0 win against a second-rate team, and frankly, at The Lane last night I just didn’t know how to react. Admittedly I’ve only been to dozens rather than hundreds of games, but this was easily the biggest win I’ve seen. It’s different on tv, you have more opportunity for animated discussion with the unfortunate souls who have ended up around you. And no doubt it’s different in the stadium when you’re handing out a thrashing in a massive game, against half-decent opposition (I’m thinking 5-1 vs l’Arse, in case you hadn’t clocked). But 4-0 against some impotent Croats? If I tell you that Zokora and Huddlestone bossed the game you no doubt get the idea, Spurs aficionados that you are. (Nutshell summary of the salient points: Bent’s on form; Hutton and Bale were strangely below-par; foreign teams don’t realise that Lennon is one-footed; Modric again looked alright in the hole; nice to see a debut for wunder-kid Bostock, our youngest ever player, he seems to have a good touch)

Cruising at 2-0 after half an hour, without having to break sweat, there was only one thing for it – some good old-fashioned needle and jingoism between the sets of fans. Admittedly the language barrier threatened to douse the hostilities (for all we knew they might have been chanting tactical advice at their coach, or complimenting us on our shiny blue seats). However, that didn’t stop several thousand middle-aged men from Norf Landaaan reminding them of our nationality, chastising the quality of their support and offering hypotheses regarding their sexual preferences, in between the regular reminders of our own team’s identity. Credit to the Zagreb fans though – they just didn’t stop throughout the 90 mins. No doubt they’d made a day of it in London, and were probably fairly well-sauced by kick-off, but I do enjoy the slightly different, utterly enthusiastic and frankly mental atmosphere created by the away fans on these Uefa Cup nights, when they bring along songs we’ve never heard in languages we don’t understand. By setting off flares, although breaking stadium rules and causing panic for the stewards, the fans injected into the arena the sort of electricity that was beyond their players. By removing their shirts at three or four nil down they confirmed that they were enjoying their night out, irrespective of the imposters on the pitch masquerading as the Croatian league-leaders.

The pièce de résistance however, came as full-time approached. By that time we were in olé mode for each pass, and had lost the will to scream obscenities at our Croatian guests. Instead, in a surreal moment of mutual pacifism that conjures memories of the 1914 Christmas Truce, we joined in with their songs. To hell with the language barrier, the “clap-clap-clap-clap… MAD DANCE” number didn’t require words. That one lasted, again and again, for the last 5 mins of the game and a fair while in the stadium thereafter. I jest ye not, it was the sort of bizarre international camaraderie that Ban Ki-moon would kick his own granny to achieve. Do check it out on youtube or whatever (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIT1f5Syd2A). For my part, while enjoying the mad Croats, I remained confused. We don’t win comfortably, it’s not the Tottenham way. We make heavy work of it, whoever the oppo and whatever the occasion. A 4-0 stroll just leaves me baffled. Confused.com.

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Rants on the Beautiful Game

The games played by Wenger, Ferguson and East 17

Within the last 24 hours there have been bizarre rants from both Wenger and Ferguson, seemingly unprovoked, angry digs at imaginary deviants who have been laying into their innocent, virtuous, maltreated players. No-one takes these seriously, and the few who can be bothered to react do so by laughing at their blinkeredness (nb, surely there’s a better word?).

I guess I’ll never know with certainty what they’re thinking, but I’m pretty convinced that this – and indeed, every absurd whinge they’ve had over the past decade and more – is all part of a masterplan. As with East 17’s finest numbers, I trust that they’re not taking themselves seriously, and that what ostensibly appears to be sheer lunacy (ski hats as tall as top hats?) is just an ironic façade, designed to elicit mild hysteria amongst gormless punters who will take the bait and plaster them over the newspapers. Behind closed doors, I’m convinced that Arsene, Sir Alex and East 17 are all sniggering to themselves, whilst giving themselves pats on the back for the straight-faced manner in which they repeatedly deliver these performances.

In the cases of both Wenger and Ferguson, I can only presume that the repeated refusals to accept publicly that their own team and players are to blame for any setbacks are part of their winning mentality. In football it seems that nice guys come last. Wenger and Ferguson only want to win, and that typically means engendering a them-against-us mentality, attempting to pressurise officials and shielding their players from any external negativity. Within the privacy of the dressing-room I doubt that Wenger shrugged off the defeat against Stoke by advising his players that the naughty ruffians were being nasty. He probably went mad at them. Ferguson has probably had stern words with Rooney and possibly given him a slap just to reinforce the point that he’d damn well better not lose it with the refs any more. But in public, they trot out their whinges and rants, deflecting attention from the shortcomings of the players, all in the name of winning, winning, winning.

Mind you, if this isn’t the case, and Wenger, Ferguson and East 17 truly believe in the balderdash they spout, then I despair.