All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Spurs – Aston Villa Preview: Preferably Not Another Scott Parker MoM Performance

What ho, and I trust you are in as fine fettle as AANP, for today’s basic algebra lesson is that a win today will take us third, and with a game in hand no less. Crivens! Let’s ruddy well get out there, dominate, take the lead, sit back, invite pressure, concede one and hang for dear life for those three points! Our current streak of fairly relentless goodness bodes well, as does Villa’s winless away record this season, but this being THFC there will inevitably be many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.

Scott Parker’s inexorable march towards Fans’ Player of the Season has seen him just about Man of the Match his way through all eight of his games in lilywhite to date, games that have seen us record seven wins and a draw. Just this once however, I rather hope that Parker’s contribution is minimal, and that we can cruise through to victory without recourse to his indefatigable last-gasp heroics. It would be absolutely topping if the headlines tomorrow were all about Adebayor, VDV/Defoe, Modders, Bale and Lennon, with Friedel a spectator and Parker just occasionally required to play some of his gentle one-twos on halfway, before the forward line launch their next little blitzkrieg.

Corluka is apparently restored to full health, but it is unlikely that young Master Walker will be displaced. If there is a change at all it might be in attack, where, VDV has been recuperating from his latest hamstring mischief by shopping in the supermarket aisle next to the venerable AANP Senior. Defoe no doubt strains at the leash. Meanwhile, the terms of his loan mean that The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards will not pop up in midfield for Villa, to invite pressure upon his temporary employers, but one former lilywhite on show will be Alan Hutton, whose defensive frailties ought to be brutally exposed by Bale at full gallop. All things considered this should be three more points for the pot.

Ahoy-Hoy & Toodle-Pip: Musings on Spurs’ Transfer Window

The dust may have settled, but it would be frightfully remiss to pootle along any further without casting a beady eye over the various to-ings and fro-ings of the transfer window. Step this way please…Welcome to the Lane… 

Curiouser and curiouser, we now somehow find ourselves bottom of the table yet with both of last season’s Players of the Year in the ranks. This one get a raucous slapping of the thigh, as in the absence of Sandro, and the now dearly departed Sergeant Wilson, our central midfield personnel have barely made a tackle between them. Like a cereal gone wrong Parker is all bustle, harry and snap. Moreover, for those of us still scarred by memories of Palacios misplacing six-yard passes, or ducking for cover as Steffen Freund shaped to shoot, Parker also has enough technical ability to look at home within a typical Tottenham midfield. Just as behind every good man is a woman, behind every Hudd and Modders we need a Parker.

A bonus point too to someone or other – probably Daniel Levy – for haggling for a price as low as £5 mil for Parker, on the grounds that his aged 30 year-old limbs merited no higher fee, while simultaneously purloining £10 mil (possibly to rise to £12 mil apparently) for 30 year-old Peter Crouch, a man who didn’t win Player of the Year last season…

Emmanuel Adebayor

As previously mentioned, AANP approves of this one too. Like or loathe the man we certainly need the player. A point of concern for the future is that come next summer we will presumably find ourselves without either Adebayor or Modders (and back in possession of Jenas once again), but many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, so we’ll concern ourselves with that at a later date.

Brad Friedel 

Luka Modric

The swine. One jolly well hopes that after all the brouhaha he retains his undoubted ability to direct operations from deep, rather than transmitting his recently discovered dastardliness to on-pitch performances of apathy.

While I’m not sure I’d buy a used car from the man, I give credit again to Levy for sticking to his word on this, after being strung out by Berba in similarly unsavoury circumstances back in the days of yore. As well as raising a couple of choice fingers at players’ disregard for their contracts, £40 mil in the dying embers of the transfer window would have been of limited use, and even earlier there is only so much we could have done – our problem is wages rather than transfer fees. Rather than stock up with more Premiership standard players, we need world-class talent, and the £40 mil we would have gained would presumably have gone towards the former rather than the latter. A replacement of similar transfer fee and quality (eg Snjeider) simply would not have come. Far better that we retain Modders, at least for a year.

And Shunted Unceremoniously Toward The Exit Door… 

 

Robbie Keane 

Wilson Palacios

Having resembled a cross between Rambo and Robocop when he joined, poor old Sergeant Wilson seemed completely perplexed by the physics of the football by the end of last season, with the result that of every 50 attempted passes, 49 tended to find an opponent, all of which rather negated his tackling ability. The arrival of a new, improved model (in the shape of Sandro) has brought about his ruthless but entirely sensible culling from the fold. In the context of the £5 mil arrival of Scott Parker, the £8 mil sale of Palacios represents more frightfully good business from the N17 moneymen.

Peter Crouch

Ye gods be praised. No doubt he’ll loop a header into the Tottenham net later on this season, but for a chap of that structure to be quite so poor at heading was nigh on unforgiveable. The constant concession of free-kicks tended to be more the fault of the officials than Crouch, but nevertheless, aside from a purple patch in partnership with VDV, this chap contributes precious little of value as a striker. Poor in the air, possessed of a ludicrously weak shot and prone to grinning whenever he missed, frankly he riled us here at AANP Towers, a situation exacerbated by the dismissal against Real and own-goal against City last season.

Jermaine Jenas

Rejoice, rejoice and thrice I invite ye – rejoice. At least until the end of the season.

Once upon a time – about three years ago, Jenas threatened to make good on all that youthful promise. Alas, the rest rather besmirches the history of Tottenham Hotspur, AANP frequently shaking its head in wonder, and concluding that the lad must be magic in training, because his performances on the pitch hardly merited a regular starting berth. That unique brand of Sideways and Backwards will take the Midlands by storm this year.

In Conclusion

Some fine dabblings, in both directions. The grass is always greener, so we may well chunter away about the failure to nab young G. Cahill Esquire, but nevertheless, “Clear out the deadwood; bring in a midfielder with bite; and ruddy well stick a powerful striker upfront” were three fairly critical points on the summer to-do list at the Lane. AANP approves.

Scott Parker

Man Utd – Spurs Preview: A Team of Younes Kabouls

Rejoice, all ye fellow lilywhites. Admittedly it is also with a degree of trepidation (Old Trafford will do that to a Spurs fan) but goodness me it is wonderful finally to be able to look forward to Spurs in Premiership action tonight. ‘Tis with delight therefore that I invite you to gather round and peruse with me the permutations of team selection for the evening’s festivities.Goalkeeper 

Right-Back? Kaboul?

BAE at left-back and Daws as half of the centre-back combo pick themselves; thereafter it becomes a bit tricky. Kaboul would be the obvious partner for Daws, given the absences of Gallas and Ledley, but what of right-back? Kyle Walker began against Hearts, but a Europa qualifier is a vastly different kettle of fish from a Premiership game away to the champions. Although I’m not quite sure where he was hiding last Thursday, I suspect that if fit Corluka will get the nod, so we can all enjoy the sight of him waddling along in the puff of smoke that Ashley Young leaves behind. Personally I’d go with Kaboul over any of the others at right-back.

Holding Midfielder? Kaboul?

No doubt ‘Arry, Joe Jordan and chums have been chuckling away to themselves at the irony of the fact that we possibly have more central midfielders in our squad than any other team in the Premiership, yet not a single one is fit for tonight. Ah, the hilarity! Livermore and Kranjcar then, I suppose. However, if ‘Arry wants someone with a bit of snap in central midfield the options are either sticking a jersey on Joe Jordan’s back and shoving him out there, or going with… Kaboul?

No Modders tonight, apparently “his head isn’t right”, which is an excuse I must try with my boss next time I just don’t fancy a day at the office. Still, where there is Bale and Lennon there is hope.

Attack? (Maybe Not Kaboul This Time) 

The Other Lot 

Moreover, United have thrown oodles of cash at a new goalkeeper who at best looks like he’d rather not be the chap hovering between the two big white sticks. De Gea will presumably prove his worth soon enough, but in his two appearances so far this season, as well as looking a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday and committing a crime against facial hair, he has displayed what appears to be a rather untimely allergy to ball. Apparently the lad also conceded a dozen or so goals from outside the area last season – and on a marvellously serendipitous note I read this morning that we scored more than any other team from outside the area last season…

It would be rather stretching the facts a mite to suggest that United are therefore there for the taking, but circumstances might be more favourable tonight than usual. Let the madness begin.

The All Action No Plot Ten-Point Wish-List for Spurs This Season

Old hat it may be for everyone else, but here at AANP Towers we bounce around the walls like toddlers on a strict diet of fizzy drinks and E-numbers as we await the start of our Premiership season. Still, rather than pacing the corridors, rubbing hands together in feverish anticipation until tomorrow night, it occurred to me that the time is rather ripe for making public the various musings that have echoed around the walls of AANP Towers all summer. By golly that’s right – in no particular order, it’s the All Action No Plot Ten-Point Wish-List for Spurs’ Coming Season!1. Solve The VDV Conundrum

This one moonlights under the crafty pseudonym “Get Our Strikers Scoring Again”. While he has more talent than the rest of our forwards put together, the uneasy truth may be that VDV’s presence has rather discombobulated our strikers. Like gravity and the temperature at which water boils, that Messrs Pav and Defoe prefer playing within a front two is a scientific truth. Indeed, given a weekly starting-berth and a 4-4-2 one imagines that both would be capable of hitting 20 goals a season (although maybe not alongside each other). However, playing as the lone striker supported by VDV suits neither.

The solution we’ve been screeching from the stands for over a year is the purchase of a striker capable of playing on his own, Adebayor now apparently having displaced Llorente and Rossi atop that particular list. Be it a new signing, or somehow shoving VDV into a 4-4-2 – or even as my Spurs-supporting chum Ian recommends, shoving Bale up top – we really need our strikers to hit 40+ goals between them this season.

(While there is the Crouch option, which does sporadically bear fruit for VDV, my fragile mental state is such that I may eat my own brain if I have to endure another season of his headers flying off a random angular point of his cranium and looping gently into the Paxton.) 

A moot point admittedly, because if he comes ambling towards us making a heart with his hands it means a you-know-what scored by you-know-who, and we would all gratefully accept one of those each week. Nevertheless, one can hardly imagine Bruce Willis skipping off with heart-shaped fingers after capping a bad guy, or Mike Tyson acting similarly after pummelling some poor blighter back in his hey-day. Tyson bit off people’s ears dagnabbit, and while that might be a tad extreme, I hope that this season Bale produces something a bit less akin to an eight year-old girl celebrating the creation of a daisy-chain.

3. Kyle Walker to Prove He Can Defend

Having existed on a right-back diet largely comprising Vedran “Usain” Corluka and Alan Hutton last season, hopes are high for young Master Walker, particularly after his loan at Villa somehow ended up with him being shoe-horned into Fabio’s England squad. I confess I barely watched Villa last season, but Walker’s U21 exploits this summer made interesting viewing: plenty of youthful brio when flying forward, but defending remains a crucial – if oft-overlooked – facet of being a defender, and on this topic the jury at AANP Towers wandered out and is yet to return. Harking back to his occasional Spurs appearances a year or two back (Bolton/Blackburn away?) he looked promising enough, but a hardly the finished article, a soft penalty numbering among a couple of mistakes.

He will get his chances, particularly in the Europa League, and looked impressive enough against Hearts, which might help answer the crucial question: can the lad defend? Until that one is answered I’d quite happily go with Kaboul at right-back.

4. Pav to Stop Whingeing

When the mood takes him he’s a mighty fine player, one who seems to delight in scoring spectacularly from 25 yards rather than anything more mundane, but goodness me, Pav acts like a big old baby at times. He was not built for a 4-5-1, nor has he had a consistent run in the team, so one sympathises, but every time a butterfly sneezes near him he squeals and goes down, and whenever a pass is placed a couple of yards beyond him that look of pained anguish is etched across his face, tears seemingly just around the corner, and arms inevitably a-flapping. For goodness sake sir, life is not fair, it’s the same for all of us – just roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

5. Hudd to Speed Up 

6. Fewer of Those Goalkeeping Clangers

Oh to have been a fly on the wall during transfer negotiations with Brad Friedel. Presumably he has not joined with the intention of warming those comfy-looking seats on the sidelines all season, yet Gomes appears the custodian as we chug along towards the belated season opener. Nevertheless, Friedel’s arrival can be interpreted as a shot of Jagerbomb at the Last Chance Saloon for Gomes: no more flapping. And that incorporates the fumbling of straightforward, straight-at-yer shots approaching with all the power generated by a sedated kitten, as well as general flailing at corners. Early signs, from the friendly vs that Spanish lot and the Europa game vs Hearts are not entirely encouraging – Gomes’ shot-stopping looked decent but one can almost hear the panic bells ringing in his head as a set-piece is delivered in his direction…

7. Don’t Sell Niko Kranjcar

A

dmittedly the opta stats would probably reflect that Pienaar covers about three times as much ground as Kranjcar, but while he may be a tad, ahem, languid, the Croat has undiluted magic in his boots, and given our struggles to break down rubbish teams last season he may have delivered that je ne sais quoi for which we searched in vain. On his rare opportunities last season he delivered a couple of belting strikes, and in midfield against the admittedly rubbish Hearts last week he looked imperious. Still, when Bale was absent ‘Arry seemed willing to try everyone but Kranjcar on the left, and the signing of Pienaar was about as unsubtle as it gets when it comes to ‘Arry’s plans.8. Joe Jordan to Eat Someone

Literally. Deep down he must be dying for a fight, and having restrained himself against Gattuso last season maybe, just maybe, Joey Barton or Arsene Wenger may push him just a bit too far on the touchline this season…

9. Finish in the Top Four 

10. Owen Coyle to Take Over When (“If”) ‘Arry Leaves Next Summer 

Controversial one this, not least because, as the pedants amongst you will have noted, an a wish-list for this season ought not to concern itself with next season. However, the chances are that when Fabio scrams in summer 2012 ‘Arry will cry God for England and St George. I admit immediately that my knowledge of up-and-coming European bosses is negligible, but of the British lot Coyle impresses me. All sorts of caveats here – not least that he’s unproven at a big club, with the cash, egos and whatnot – but he turned Bolton from a loathsome long-ball team to one that plays jolly decent passing football. Just a thought.

Hearts – Spurs Preview: VDV in a 4-4-2?

And so, finally, off we go, in the rather unorthodox settings of ITV4 and Edinburgh. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any Scottish team whose name does not rhyme with either “Beltic” or “Changers” is there for the taking, so first game of the season or not, this lot must be destroyed. ‘Arry has understandably  enough made noises about fielding kids and reserves in the Europa League, but while none of us want injuries ahead of the United trip on Mon, it would nevertheless make sense to field a full-strength side tonight. The players will hardly need a rest, a competitive game will probably do them good ahead of our Premiership bow and it would be nice to put this tie to bed tonight, and rest personnel for the second leg at the Lane.My spies inform me that Modders is amongst the absentees tonight. Whisper it, but this might be the last time the name of our tiny genius crops up amongst excited pre-match natterings, for alas ‘Arry’s latest musings suggest that he is willing to cash in if he can bring in various others (although our beady-eyed chairman is displaying admirable intransigency on the matter).

Not quite as devastating is the absence of Jenas, but the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards is joined on the list of absentees by the Hudd, Sergeant Wilson and Pienaar, while the official prognosis for Sandro reads “out for blinking ages”. Not quite sure who that leaves in central midfield – necessity being the mother of invention, we may even be treated to VDV within a 4-4-2, which would be greeted heartily at AANP Towers and, one suspects, Crouch Mansions and Chateau Defoe. Gallas, Hutton and, inevitably, Ledley, are also crocked, but I expect we’ll muddle through.

Ave Atque Vale 

But still. Let that not detract from some fine and noble contributions previously, notably in the 5-1 and Carling Cup wins, and the laudable feat of 100 goals for the club. Quite thrilled to see the back of him in truth, but good luck sir in the fulfilment of your latest boyhood dream.

Spurs – AC Milan Preview: Could This Be The Inaugural St Wenger’s Day?

Well if this doesn’t get your juices flowing I suggest you go and boil your head. Tottenham Hotspur vs AC Milan. It’s the sort of fixture that makes me want to don nothing more than a loin-cloth and go wrestle a bear, then save a small child – and svelte, scantily-clad brunette – from a burning building, before reducing Colonel Gadaffi to tears with a devastating best-of-five demolition in Scissors-Paper-Stone. Precisely that sort of fixture.Various Spurs fans – both of the flesh-and-blood variety and those tiny little men who live inside my computer box – wailed and gnashed their teeth when we drew this lot. By contrast, at AANP Towers the walls resounded with cheers and the fattened calf quite rightly wore a look of doom, for win, lose or – well, just win or lose really – Spurs vs Milan is the sort of glamour tie that makes the bad old days of Gross, Francis et al seem worthwhile, the sort of glamour tie that puts us back on the map of Europe’s elite. Moreover, from the moment the tie was drawn I fancied us to beat them at the Lane. I hold up my hands, clear my throat and give a sprightly, if tuneless, rendition of Mea Culpa in admission of the fact that I certainly did not anticipate the win at the San Siro, oh me of little faith. At home however, with the Lane absolutely heaving, we can beat anybody, the bigger the better.

That said, the last time we were in this sort of situation, protecting a lead in a crucial two-legged European tie, Sevilla were two goals up before the chap next to me had even found his seat, so complacency will be way down the list tonight.

The Champions League Does Funny Things To A Man

Last time, ahead of the trip to the San Siro, I was bemoaning the absence of Jermaine Jenas of all people. And today I petition my manager to allow alcohol consumption within the office, in order that I may raise a glass to the return to fitness of Corluka. I rather like the fact that Alan Hutton is essentially a winger trying to escape the shackles of the back-four, but we can darned well do without his weekly penalty-area yanking of an opponent’s shirt tonight. He may wobble rather than run, but Corluka has more of a defensive head on his shoulders, and given that we’ve conceded six goals in two games against Wolves and Blackburn, I would opt for him against AC Milan. Plus, I can’t get enough of those weighted diagonals he plays to Lennon. Weighted diagonals, I miss thee.

Other Team News 

VDV and Modders will get the chance to play their own little private game of Awesomeness in the centre, while Sandro gets the AANP vote for the final midfield spot, on the basis that he more closely resembles Wilson Palacios Circa Early 2009 than Wilson Palacios currently does.

Defoe’s goals have presumably given ‘Arry food for thought, but Crouch-VDV is his preferred European axis, and with good reason given the bewilderment instilled in foreign sorts by the gangly one.

Mind you, this will all be fairly academic if Gomes and the back-four indulge in any more of those spontaneous acts of lunacy. At the moment the entire back-line is typified by BAE, who on nights like this can either produce a masterclass in full-backery, or resemble a demented, risk-happy loon with not a care in the world for the cleanliness of the Goals Against column. Please, please, please chaps – no madness at the back tonight.

Happy St Wenger’s Day

Strictly – or rather chronologically –  speaking, we have already progressed further in the Champions League this season than that ‘orrible lot down the road, so happy St Wenger’s Day everybody. However, for all the gentle ribbing in the office this bright and breezy morn, it does not really count. Yet. Avoid defeat tonight though, and my goon-supporting chums won’t be able to avoid another attack of their silent foe, Ye Grin of Smugness.

Seven hours to go and I can barely contain myself, it really is that terrifically exciting. Fingers crossed one and all for the latest, Greatest Night.

Fulham – Spurs Preview: Life Without Gareth Bale

Life without Gareth Bale? It began after 10 minutes last weekend, will continue today and, if scurrilous rumours are to be believed may even take on a more permanent edge, with Inter understandably keen to see “Year abroad” added to his already astonishing CV in the near future. Mercifully, this is one of the transfer window’s less likely rumours, but his absence nevertheless seems likely this afternoon. At one point last weekend we adapted to his absence by reverting to what looked like a 3-5-2, with Lennon wide left, Hutton wide right, and Pienaar, Modders and VDV central midfield, as ‘Arry crept ever closer to his goal of one day fielding a team of eleven outright attackers. The all-or-nothing nature of FA Cup fare gives him another chance to throw caution to the wind, and such is his all-action mentality that the day cannot be far off when he decides with 10 minutes remaining to haul off Gomes and replace him with Pav upfront.Initially however, a more familiar 4-4-1-1 is on the cards. The FA Cup is now our lowest priority, and although Fulham away hardly constitutes an easy afternoon’s work ‘Arry may be tempted to rest one or two of the key players, particularly with a league game in midweek. This may therefore be an opportunity for supporting cast members such as Kranjcar, Sandro and Pav to go scuttling around to no great effect for an hour or so, before Modders, VDV and Lennon are sent on to rescue the situation.

Once upon a time our heroes could not go five minutes without scoring from some angle or other, but the goals have dried up in recent weeks, and when they do arrive they tend to be from midfield. While a victory by any means would be welcomed, it would be encouraging to see the forwards click and goals flow, particularly against Premiership opposition. And then we up our bid, sign Andy Carroll and everyone lives happily ever after. Huzzah!

Newcastle 1- 1 Spurs: Testing Times at FC Hotspur

All in all this has been a bad few days for us fans of FC Hotspur of Tottenham, or whatever the inevitable spin-off movement will be called once our heroes have moved off to Stratford, or Geneva, or the moon. One point for our lot, but wins and goals galore for the other Top Four-ites (bar Man City, sunk by Darren Bent, most entertainingly) means that the 50th anniversary of the Double won’t end in a Disney-esque finale with Ledley emulating the great Danny Blanchflower, hoisted aloft team-mates’ shoulders, gleaming trophy in his mitts. Unless we win the Champions League I suppose. Wonderful though it was to see a late, late equaliser, once the roar of approval had died down it fairly swiftly became evident that one point was not enough from this sort of generic Away-To-Mid-Table-Side fixture. In fact, even three points would not really have been enough; what we need right now is a win so magnificent that the FA in their wisdom spontaneously award us ten points. Failing that, or the only marginally more plausible scenario of, say, a ten-game winning streak, I think it is safe to put the Title dream to bed, and those who fancy can now also officially enter Panic Mode with regard to qualification for next year’s Champions League.Close, But Cigars Conspicuously Absent

The Geordie mob’s current boss Alan Pardew (a former Spur, as you Intertoto Cup aficionados will recall) threw quite a few compliments in our direction post-match, sounding very much like one taken aback by quite how slick our passing and movement is these days. All very charming stuff, the sort of football a young lady would introduce to her parents without any qualms about ill behaviour, but when it come to the muckier business of getting down and dirty our heroes again fell short, leaving the frustrated grumbles about towering behemoth strikers to continue.

Back Problems: Not Uncommon

My lovely Nan, God bless her soul, was not Welsh, did not possess the lungs of a particularly energetic racehorse and in all probability was not left-footed, but one thing she did have in common with young Master Bale was a troublesome back. One fervently hopes that Bale’s affliction is a lot less severe than the osteoporosis that ultimately left her unable to master the right-foot-left-foot routine, but barely had the game begun before he was contorting his curious visage into all manner of winces and grimaces. Aside from the brow-furrowingly worrying longer-term implications, this also put to waste a jolly good plan to raid Newcastle down their right, where they were tucking in and keeping things narrow. Curses.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

On a brighter note, Steven Pienaar demonstrated that he has sneakily spent the last 18 months or so perusing the book of Lovely Little One-Touch Passes and Neat Triangles that has become essential reading for anyone wishing to join the technique-fest that is the Tottenham midfield. The chap had a relatively quiet debut, but he appears to have taken to the Tottenham way as if to the manor born. Next door to him Modders’ star shone brightly as ever, and Defoe’s pace and movement offered more threat than Crouch has in recent weeks, but he fairly promptly undid any good work by spurning our best chances.

There were however some jolly worrying signs at the back. Daws appeared strangely discombobulated by a fairly standard aerial bombardment, while Cudicini’s mishandling of the goal was the worst of a couple of errors, and Hutton got himself into a pickle that lasted from just about first whistle to last.

Mercifully, cometh the 90th minute, cometh the man. Aaron Lennon is turning the Crucial Late Goal into something of an art-from, if one can describe a blur of skippy tip-toes and frantic jazz-hands as “art”. No doubt that we deserved a point, but that is hardly the stuff of which a top four finish is made. Alas, with that Awesome Striker-shaped hole still very much evident in our line-up the odds are lengthening.

Spurs – Charlton Preview: Squad Player Bingo at the Lane

And now for something completely different. At third (and, later fourth) round stage the FA Cup hardly constitutes fixture congestion, so the question of where it stands in our list of priorities can probably be deferred to another day.Bingo cards out then, as we look to cross off the names of various squad members last season posing merrily in the club photocall back in August. Participation from Bentley seems unlikely, as a loan to Birmingham looms, while the current status of Robbie Keane is best summed up by a big fat question mark, but Cudicini, Corluka, Bassong, Sandro, Kranjcar and Pav are amongst the candidates for promotion. Crikey – as reserves go that particular mob are a jolly competent bunch, representing probably the strongest substitutes’ bench in the country. In theory then making half a dozen changes ought not to be catastrophically detrimental to our quality, but be warned all ye purveyors of complacency, for the memory still lingers a little painfully of our much-changed line-up putting in a blisteringly ordinary display at home to l’Arse in the Carling Cup a few months back.

Modders, VDV, Bale (and Hudd) – Can We Manage Without The Lot of Them?

A strong case could be made for excusing from duty Messrs Modders, VDV and Bale this weekend. Admittedly they all had a break before Christmas, when they picked up their wages for hurling snowballs rather than chasing footballs. Nevertheless, this is shaping up to be a long old season, and as well four games in the last couple of weeks, Bale has played just about every League and European match this season. The whippersnapper does appear darned well indefatigable, but it would be a slightly pointless experiment to grind game after game out of him, just in order to see how long it would be before he breaks down completely and turns to dust. Moreover, his back problem in midweek suggests a further reason to give him a breather.

VDV is a fragile little lamb, bless, who rarely completes 90 minutes at the best of times, Modders is another from whom we like to wring every last drop of energy during the League and European campaigns. Conclusion? Drop the lot of them.

However, while the medical arguments probably point towards resting these leading lights, I do fret that a midfield shorn of VDV and Modders, as well as Hudd, would be a few cans short of a six-pack when it comes to bossing, creating and generally playing that slick brand of attacking football to which we have become so accustomed over the last couple of seasons. Jenas and Sergeant Wilson between them do a decent job of slotting in alongside the regulars, but the prospect of these two and Sandro taking charge of affairs hardly leaves my gasping fro breath in excitement.

The Niko Kranjcar Fan Club

This could also be a big day for Niko Kranjcar, who effortlessly earned himself status as a firm favourite at AANP Towers last season, but who has been limited to a couple of completely impotent substitute appearances this season. Noises have been made at various points about him pootling off to pastures new, but his career in lilywhite is not necessarily irretrievable, for the efforts of Bale and Hutton over the last 12 months have illustrated that it is quite possible for a couple of strong cameos to earn a player a regular berth at Spurs, such are the vagaries of circumstance and fickleness of our glorious leader.

All things considered, our mob, reserves and all, ought to be strong enough for any time featuring an aged Gary Doherty. After the disappointment of midweek let’s just have a nice, serene injury/suspension-free cruise into the fourth round.

Everton – Spurs Preview: Time For Squad Rotation?

Around ten days ago I mused that I would have settled for eight points from our four Christmas-New Year games. Three games in and we already have nine, which means that the riotously good fun continues into 2011 – still not yet out of the title race, most definitely still in the Top Four race and looking down upon the rotters from Stamford Bridge, languishing beneath us. Glorious fun.Squad Rotation: Not Welcome At The Lane 

I do furrow my brow in contemplation of another possible side-effect, namely that playing the same blighters on a twice-weekly basis will imminently lead to the pinging of a hamstring, or some similarly vital body-part, of someone dashed important. I cannot remember the last time Bale was omitted, while Modders is another who seems to get 90 minutes every time. Admittedly it is not exactly a medical opinion, but I suspect that the practice of non-rotation might have been a contributory factor in Hutton’s injury last weekend, while there was a mild air of sluggishness about everyone in lilywhite during the Fulham win on Saturday.

However the rather compelling counter-argument to all this is that if the likes of Bale and Modric are fit we might as well reap the benefits. When key personnel do get injured/suspended (eg VDV, Hudd, Defoe, the massed ranks of centre-backs) the other chaps simply roll up their sleeves and cope, and moreover, there might be a mini-riot in the Park Lane if Bale were left out one week. ‘Arry seems to have stumbled upon the occasional right call during his time at the helm, so perhaps it would be best if I piped down at this point and left him to get on with things.

Team News 

Flabbergastingly enough we have a jolly good chance to record a third consecutive clean-sheet. While one must never discount the possibility that Gomes will briefly and without any warning completely lose the plot and go rugby-tackling the nearest opponent in the penalty area, the return of the marvellous Daws has stiffened up things no end at the back. On top of this Everton’s strikers are currently being investigated under the Trade Descriptions Act, and my Fantasy League dealings have alerted me to the fact that their principal goalscoring threat, Tim Cahill, is so embarrassed about his countrymen’s surrender of the Ashes that he has scarpered the country under the spurious claim of playing in something called the Asian Cup.

Everton away is traditionally a tricky one, but they appear to be having a rough time of things this season so presumably we will adopt our usual cagey away mentality and go all guns blazing for another three points.

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