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Spurs match reports

Spurs 1-0 Fulham: That Old Cliche, & The Beckham Verdict

Blinking heck, that was dashed hard work – to which end our vanquished opponents deserve credit, while we can also direct sneers of ill-disguised derision at those fools who suggested beforehand that while there is no such thing as an easy game in the Premiership, if there were then Fulham at home would probably be it. Ahem.That Old Chestnut

In recent weeks I fear that I have begun sounding like a broken record, with tales of impeccable technique and pretty triangles, but this was a performance cut from different cloth, our heroes emerging with bruised shins and dirt beneath the fingernails. While we would all prefer a champagne football performance, such gritty wins as this, with players flinging themselves at full-length to block opposition shots as the clock ticks down, are a necessary evil as we trundle towards a Top Four berth. Observers across the nation have wasted little time in trotting out that predictable line about winning while playing poorly being the sign of a title-winning team, although we would probably be getting a little ahead of ourselves if we began indulging in such maxims just yet.

Opportunity Knocks

The medical boffins at AANP Towers are working around the clock to diagnose Alan Hutton’s untimely malady, but his departure signalled the return to the fold of Vedran Corluka. Hutton strikes me as the type who would react to bad news by smashing a whisky bottle over the head of the messenger, so I rather hope he is not perusing these pages, but history under ‘Arry suggests that once one man departs the starting XI his replacement wastes little time in leaping into the vacant spot and in the process just about removing from history any trace of the existence of his predecessor. It is a ruthlessness to which Messrs Bentley, Kranjcar, Keane and indeed Corluka himself can attest, so should Hutton’s injury prove lengthy he may struggle to return to the team. But I darned well won’t be the one to break the new to the Scot.

Admittedly I am not the biggest fan of the lumbering Croat (as previously expounded, my personal preference at right-back would be Younes Kaboul), but given the circumstances Corluka’s strength and positioning nous proved mightily useful in helping to stiffen up things at the back. Moreover, we were also treated to a couple of those sumptuous little diagonal passes inside the full-back for Lennon to run onto, passes so beautifully weighted they were worthy of Modders or VDV. A vastly different proposition from Hutton, but Corluka certainly has his uses.

Lennon’s Final Ball

There are few more exhilarating sights in Christendom than seeing Aaron Lennon go flying over halfway in a blur of legs, leading a Tottenham counter-attack, but when he had the chance to settle the nerves and score a second he chose the wrong option this afternoon. Indeed, in the first half too he picked the wrong option when free in the penalty area with time to pick out a lilywhite chum.

Beckham: The AANP Verdict

C’est la vie, but some have suggested that this distributory aspect of Lennon’s game might benefit from the wisdom that might be imparted by a certain D. Beckham Esquire. AANP is not in the habit of passing comment on speculation, but as this whisper is fast snowballing towards fact it probably merits half a moment’s thought. In a nutshell I like the idea, primarily for what might be termed the Eidur Gudjohnsen Effect.

Brought in on loan last January, Gudjohnsen made the occasional, pretty handy, contribution on the pitch, notably in retaining possession when leads needed protecting. Perhaps just as importantly however he also added experience to the side as we closed in on a first Top Four finish. If Beckham can add this, plus the fabled off-pitch contributions on the training ground and the like, he would be a worthy addition. Not sure about him as a like-for-like right-wing understudy for Lennon – it would make more sense to deploy him as a possession-cherishing centre-midfielder, in the Huddlestone mould – but whatever the minutiae, the idea appeals.

Satisfactory Stuff

A slight shame that all the other title-chasers won, but three wins in a week is cracking stuff. Having ploughed through the previous two games with ten men it is understandable that our heroes were not at their slick best, and given these circumstances grinding out yet another win is most satisfactory.

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Spurs match reports

Birmingham 1-1 Spurs: How to Lose Two Points in 45 Minutes

Curses. There has been some debate across various corners of the interweb, but here at AANP Towers we had rather been enjoying the exalted status of title dark-horses, and accordingly mark this down as two points lost. No catastrophe, but if we can win at the Emirates we should be able to win just about anywhere, especially after giving the opposition a one-goal first-half thrashing, if such a thing there be.Everything looked fairly tickety-boo in the first half. While Birmingham occasionally reminded us that they were taking part, flapping around in their own area and occasionally placing half a foot on the little round thing, we generally bossed proceedings. The usual suspects were summoned and duly earned their corn. Modders dictated matters in between nervous flicks of his mop; Lennon occasionally surfaced to race past his man, before racing just as quickly out of the limelight; and Bale continued his search for new and exciting ways to escape the ever-growing army of deviants sent to contain him.

One-way traffic, which ought to have been reflected by a half-time scoreline greater than one-nil, but such are the hazards of operating with Crouch in attack. He seemed hell-bent on getting all his limbs under control before attempting to shoot. Reasonable enough I suppose, but it made for typically infuriating viewing at times, when the ball itself seemed to beg him to be thumped into the net.

In our official capacity as Kings of the Second Half Comeback we really ought to have known better than to wither away and gently die after the break, but that we did. Irony abounded in fact, for not only were we this time on the receiving end of a late fightback, but Birmingham even used against us that very Plan B to which we assumed we had exclusive rights. On came their giant striker, the aerial bombardment began, the goal arrived. The introduction of Birmingham’s very own slightly inept beanpole as we defended a one-goal lead with ten minutes remaining might have been the cue for ‘Arry to reinforce things with the introduction of Michael Dawson, but such a call is easy to make after the event, and as caution is not exactly in the Tottenham DNA the only substitution ‘Arry plumped for was Princess Pav for Defoe.

Elsewhere On The Pitch… 

Gallas continued to lead by example, and Sergeant Wilson’s ongoing malaise does not really show much sign of abating, but one of the most eye-catching aspect of proceedings was on the bench rather than the pitch. Egads – two substitute ‘keepers! This injury business really is veering wildly out of hand, and with those marvellous FA suits deciding that squads this season are limited to 25 we are only a couple more groin strains from the sight of Cudicini showing Palacios how it’s done in midfield, or even an appearance from Niko Kranjcar.

Elsewhere Off The Pitch… 

Monsieur Bassong has also hinted at a move over the weekend, on the not unreasonable basis that he wants first-team football. He certainly does a handy job as sixth-choice centre-back, but presuming Daws and Kaboul return to fitness (Ledley and Woodgate represent a different kettle of fish) young Bassong’s chances will remain limited, and “adieu” it may well be.

Back to the game. An unfortunate weekend to drop points, with l’Arse and Man City both winning, but it hardly signals the end of our season, and there will be weeks when we profit and others slip up. Six points off top-spot – and on a four-game unbeaten run – represents fairly healthy going, particularly with a decimated squad, so I urge ye to pause before creating those “’Arry Out” placards. Victory against Chelski next week – and we can jolly well fancy our chances – would put us right back in the thick of things and banish the memory of the two points lost here. Silver lining? That our progress is such that we now consider a draw at Birmingham two points lost, while looking forward with confidence to the visit of Chelski.

“Spurs’ Cult Heroes”- A Christmas Stocking-Filler 

 

As well as cheerily reminiscing over the Tottenham careers of 20 of the club’s most popular fans’ favourites (Greaves, Blanchflower, Hoddle, Gazza, Klinsmann and the like) the book also covers some of the most fabled traditions etched into Spurs’ history: big European nights, magic Wembley moments, exotic foreign arrivals, questionable musical offerings, dodgy mullets etc. Quite the stocking-filler for the fellow lilywhite in your life.

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Spurs preview

Arsenal – Spurs Preview: The Gallas Conspiracy Continueth

Seasoned visitors to these parts will now that on three occasions each year we simply cannot prophesy doom quickly enough. Away games at l’Arse, Chelski and Man Utd – absolutely positively guaranteed to find the famous “AANP Cheery Optimism Counter” stuck at zero for the duration of the weekend. It’s not just at AANP Towers either – I haven’t met a Spurs fan this week who gives us hope of any more than a draw. In fact, having watched the England match on Saturday I rather fancy I have glimpsed the future and already seen how Saturday’s game will pan out – lots of chaps in white shirts scurrying about with noses in air, trying desperately to get a sniff of the ball, as various French types exchange a few too many slick one-touch passes around our penalty area.The remaining 35 league games of the season I genuinely think we ought to win – all of them – but this is one of the unholy trinity, and I don’t see the pattern changing until I’m grey and old. One never knows though, and while as a fan of many years I have the prerogative to settle down into a grump ahead of this one, I expect nothing less that fire in the belly and passion stirring the souls of the eleven in lilywhite out on the pitch.

 

 

Opportunity Knocks In Absence of Hudd

 

Presumably Monsieur Wenger has hired a sniper, or my conspiracy-theorising, Spurs-supporting chum Ian is right, and William Gallas really is still on the l’Arse payroll with strict instructions to search and destroy, because the Hudd is now out of action too. Forever, from what I can glean.

 

If there is a silver lining to this, or indeed a straw at which to be groped with blind hope, it is the curious trait developing in ‘Arry’s reign for all manner of prodigal sons to come racing back into the fold, make themselves at home and transform into uber-beings of their former selves. This time last year Vedran Corluka was still waddling around the White Hart Lane turf, and Gareth Bale was about to shipped off to Nottingham Forest, while as recently as this summer just about 50% of Spurs fans had wiped Alan Hutton’s very existence from their memories. Since then Bale has become the white Pele and Hutton has established himself as the pick of our back-four, whilst possibly the last two chaps we ever thought would form our central defence have formed the bedrock of a win over Inter.

 

The point of this little warble is that Hudd’s absence will neatly open the door to some other lucky blighter, and history suggests that the next three months might therefore be the making of Jenas, Sergeant Wilson or Sandro. Indeed, whisper it, but Jamie O’Hara is still officially a Tottenham Hotspur employee. The mind boggles.

 

4-4-2 vs 4-5-1: The Defoe Edition

 

The merits and less meritorious facets of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 were given a slightly lop-sided airing on these very pages last weekend, but the question now has a cunning twist, as the messenger pigeons come bearing news that Jermain Defoe has been sighted with jaws locked in a chomp around what is widely known as the bit. Marvellous news I’m sure you will agree, but how does this fit with the head-hurting permutations of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1.

 

Earlier this season on England duty Defoe played atop the formation, with Rooney in a VDV-esque position in the hole, and the entire thing turned into a neon-lit success – yet it seems rather unlikely that such a vertically-challenged type as Defoe will be asked to lead the line as lone striker in a 4-5-1.

A more feasible scenario would be Defoe trotting out with a bona fide striker alongside him, which would suggest Princess Pav or the wretched Crouch in a 4-4-2 (with VDV adopting that suspiciously central “right flank” role once more). Not tomorrow perhaps – away to l’Arse it seems almost certain that we will go with 4-5-1, and quite probably shunt Sergeant Wilson or Sandro into the midfield, in a desperate effort to get close to Fabregas and his chums as they triangle themselves to death -, but longer-term the return of Defoe gives us a fresh option, and a forward who is a darned sight better than Crouch when it comes to thumping the ball goalward when presented with a chance.

 

Defoe or not, there is doleful morbid pessimism around these parts, but by jove I hope that this defeatist stance proves wildly wrong come tomorrow afternoon.

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 4-2 Sunderland: 4-4-2 or 4-5-1?

Blessed relief. With the 4-4-2 formation, flowing pass-and-move stuff and hatful of chances throughout this was vaguely akin to the glory glory days of way back in season 2009-10. Seeing Paul Robinson look on forlornly as the ball crashed repeatedly into the net really did give the afternoon a retro feel, but after our recent run of form the priority was three points in any manner possible, and they have accordingly been lapped up most gleefully around these parts.

 

4-4-2 or 4-5-1?

 

For all the doom and gloom of poor form and lengthy injury-lists in the build-up to this one, I was thrilled to bits to see our heroes trot out in good old-fashioned 4-4-2 formation. It served us jolly well last season, both at the Lane and on our travels, but the kids these days are all peddling some variant of 4-5-1, and with VDV blazing magnificence in every direction we have duly adopted it ourselves. It is understandable enough away from home on big European nights, but at home to Blackburn ‘Arry quite rightly decided to revert to the more attacking set-up of yore.

 

It all worked fine and dandy. Jenas and Modders took turns at loitering deep, but by and large all four across the middle merrily wore their attacking hats; and with two bona fide strikers on the pitch we did not face the difficulties of previous weeks, of lacking presence in attack. Here at AANP Towers we whisper snide remarks and begin malicious hate-campaigns against one-man attacks, and stomp our feet in rage when that one-man attack consists entirely of Peter Crouch, but conversely, nothing soothes the savage beast around these parts quite like a two-pronged forward-line, and so it proved yesterday.

 

Of course, the flip-side of a 4-4-2 is that it leaves VDV homeless. Presumably he was the nominal right winger on the teamsheet, but by and large his contribution to the right flank amounted to little more than an occasional glance in its direction, as he took up residence further infield near familiar chums like Modders and Bale. By accident or design VDV’s general neglect of the right flank proved not to be a problem, as Alan Hutton seemed quite happy to do the job of two men, bombing up the flank and sprinting back to defend faster than you could say “Vedran Corluka”.

 

I can grudgingly admit that there is indeed a time and a place for 4-5-1, but not at home to colourless mid-table fare of the ilk of Blackburn. Given that we beat l’Arse, Chelski, Man City and Liverpool at the Lane last season with 4-4-2, I quietly hope that more often than not at the Lane (that is, in matches in which our heroes amble out onto the pitch as favourites) we retain this approach, and find a way to accommodate VDV accordingly.

 

Odd Stuff From Pav

 

On the subject of our two forwards, what a curious old bean our resident Russian is. He seems dashed determined not to score unless the finish involves high levels of complexity and a jolly good hammering of the laws of physics. As such straightforward penalties and one-on-ones do not interest our Pav, but the less-than-entirely-straightforward chance presented yesterday was positively gobbled up with minimal fuss. All told it was a good lively showing from the Russia, moaning and fussing about the nasty Blackburn rotters ‘tis true, but also demonstrating a laudable willingness to scurry to all four corners of the lush green turf.

 

The same could hardly be said of the gangly one, who for a 6’ 7” striker remains infuriatingly poor at shooting and heading. While he earns polite applause for his goal, in general his greatest value seemed to come in the aid he kindly offered the back-four, from set-pieces and the like. (And on the subject of his defending, it is curious to note that the exact challenges for which he is routinely penalised when attacking (arms splayed all over the torso of an opponent) go unpunished when used by the gangly one while defending.)

 

Modders and Jenas – A Startlingly Effective Central Midfield Combo

 

I would like to think that long after the game has finished and fans have departed, Modders remains out on the White Hart Lane turf simply for love of the game, continuing to control the ball immaculately, dip his shoulder and look for a pass. Not as headline-grabbing as some of his peers, but a joy to behold and currently looking like a man thoroughly enjoying life.

 

As for his central midfield partner – lo and behold. No doubt the entire global membership of The Society of All Things Sideways and Backwards watched on aghast yesterday, as their leading proponent repeatedly broke the habit of a lifetime. Jermaine Jenas has generally edged the better side of average on his appearances this season, and it was most pleasing to observe yesterday that every time he received possession he seemed determined to push forward in search of glitz and glamour. He is hardly in the same class as Messrs Modric and VDV when it comes to caressing the ball as if it were a svelte brunette in a revealing dress, but his energy and attacking intent were most impressive, and he helped give our midfield fairly healthy balance – quite a feat considering that we were without either a genuine right-sided outlet or deep-lying holding type.

 

Further Progress in Construction of The Ultimate Footballer

 

Having already proved himself adept at dribbling, crossing, shooting, as well as boasting the ability to hurl in a throw-in like a man possessed, young Master Bale has now ticked “Scoring With Head” off the list of attributes required by a bionic footballer. His questionable fashion sense remains however, the man who once sported a hair-clip pin thing (to give it its technical name) in his mop yesterday opting for bright pink tape across his thighs. Still, whatever works for him.

 

Other Points of Note

 

A bird? A plane? For those scratching their heads in utter bewilderment I can confirm that it was indeed a Tottenham goal from a corner. My oh my, whatever next?

 

We threatened to throw away a 4-0 lead, but 15 minutes proved not quite long enough for the Kaboul-Gallas comedy routine to hit top gear (I should retract that actually, as both made cracking goal-line clearances), and in truth we ought to have won by far more than a two-goal margin. With l’Arse, Liverpool and Chelski all rapidly approaching on the horizon, a win yesterday was an absolute necessity, so give yourselves a round of applause chaps. The league remains such that the current occupants of the top four positions have been dropping points with gay and fairly frequent abandon, so fret not at our current state, behind Bolton and Sunderland. Despite the mishaps of recent weeks our heroes are by no means out of the running just yet.

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 1-1 Sunderland: Someone Immortalise Them in Lego

I suppose that after Saturday’s relentless barrage of thwacks at the Self-Destruct button by the esteemed members of our back-four, we good members of the N17 public ought to have expected one more seismic defensive catastrophe on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the Kaboul-Gallas Chuckle Brothers audition was so wince-inducingly, jaw-droppingly awful it is probably destined to join Rob Green’s summer howler by being immortalised in Lego.

 

A dashed shame too, because that aside we had looked fairly sturdy value for three points. It was by no means a performance of such riveting gung-ho that it made me want to scamper atop the Empire State Building and beat my chest with pride, but we rather rudely hogged the little round yellow thing from our visitors for most of the night, and made reasonably good use of it too. Scythe them open relentlessly we did not, but regularly prod and poke at them we did, our heroes giving their goalkeeper a good, honest work-out. It was the sort of display that ought to have secured a 1-0 win on a Tuesday night.

 

Instead it seems that if we are going to finish in the top four we are going to take the scenic route. All is not lost quite yet, for while Chelski might hit top gear soon and go motoring away from the rest, it is difficult to envisage the current top four making a clean break from the rest. L’Arse and Man City can be relied upon to drop points every few weeks – perhaps not in such belief-defying manner as our lot, but one way or t’other nonetheless – and a run of three or four successive victories at any point between now and the festive season ought to set us up nicely for a fresh implosion come spring.

 

Hudd’s Technique

 

Back to the game, and while it rather got lost in the fine print, I would happily have stayed at the Lane overnight and beyond, with eyes closed, simply replaying over and over in my mind’s eye that shot from Hudd. The technique of the young man makes me want to cure the blind, just so that they can observe, and then be blinded afresh by its magnificence.

 

I’ll give young Master Bentley a nod of approval too, for his efforts. Not a pat on the back – he wasn’t that good – but a nod of approval. A different sort of bean from Aaron Lennon, Bentley does seem to dovetail quite well with Alan Hutton (which I realise is possibly just a euphemistic way of saying that Bentley is rather slow). He knew the drill, and unencumbered by the vat of hair-gel atop his crown he did his best to whip in crosses, mixing things up with the occasional shoulder-drop and dink inside.

 

Plenty of grumblings have been grumbled about the penalty, an incident which (when viewed on a TV replay) led me wondering if it is possible both to award a spot-kick and book a player for tumbling in the same incident. Anyway, given that our nation’s finest might well have disallowed VDV’s goal for sneaky use of the arm, it seems that in this particular instance ying and yang have reached a healthy compromise.

 

Two points, four games. Mercifully the next fixture is just five minutes away, and a fine, flowing, three point-earning display on Saturday ought to paper over some of the cracks. Nevertheless, we natives are, if not quite restless, certainly discombobulated, as to how to reconcile a win over Inter with one point from games vs the combined might of Bolton and Sunderland.

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Spurs match reports

Bolton 4-2 Spurs: A Unique Way of Boosting Team Morale

From sublime to ridiculous in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. How Inter Milan must have shaken their heads in bewilderment. On Saturday our heroes appeared to be running a competition amongst themselves as to who could make the most mistakes, with bonus points for any particular ineptitude that led to a Bolton goal. I suppose such little games are good for team morale – oh how the rascals must have jested with each other in the changing-rooms afterwards, as they recounted Gallas’ hilarious “clearance” and BAE’s thoroughly unsubtle shove for the third goal. For all the internal merriment however, I could not help thinking that team spirit would have been served equally well by storming to victory.

 

This was a game lost not much because of post-Europe fatigue as plain incompetence all round. While the first goal might have been disallowed for offside it made no difference to the pattern of play. Indeed, if there was a defining moment in the game I would suggest (admittedly while brazenly stretching the definition of “moment”) that it was the ten-minute spell at the start of the second half, in which, rather than fight tooth and nail to restore parity, our heroes gave a masterclass in being half-heartedly second to just about everything. It resulted in Bolton’s second goal and was swiftly followed by a shoddy third, ultimately rendering futile our late fightback.

 

The Lost Puppy in Central Midfield

 

As well as catalogue of individual moments of shoddiness, our choice of personnel in the centre also seemed to bring about our downfall. Young Master Bale often provides the most obvious goal threat, but control against Inter was provided by the unrestrained magnificence of VDV, Modders and Hudd, purring their way around central midfield with impeccable technique and lashings of élan. Although unavoidable, the absence of two of these three, as much as the general sloppiness of our lot, was a contributory to our failure to get a grip at the Reebok.

 

Sergeant Wilson and Sandro are many things, but they most dashed well are not like-for-like ball-playing replacements for Hudd and VDV, and our midfield was consequently unable to get a grip on the game. Poor old Modders hurried and scurried and twisted and turned, but all in vain, as every time he looked up for support he was greeted by the sight of general thud and blundering. The poor blighter vaguely resembled a domestic dog whose owner has died, Modders faithfully trotting around in anticipation of his rewards, but left forlornly wondering why no-one of the ilk of VDV was present to scratch his tummy or return a pass.

 

“Donde El Gringo” or Something?

 

No idea what language is best for young Sandro, but the shout of “Man on” did not seem to have the slightest effect on him, so Gallas and chums ought to settle upon a suitable warning call in the appropriate lingo, and pronto. Frankly Sandro gave a pretty good impression of a man to whom the whole concept of football was entirely novel. On the whole he passed the time gently wandering around inside his own half, carefully avoiding any scenario that might lead to him positively impacting upon the game, an approached crystallised when he was presented with a cracking chance to score from six yards but somehow contrived to flick the ball backwards. The patrons of AANP Towers are hardly about to write him off just yet, but this was spectacularly inauspicious stuff.

 

Crouch: Copy and Paste…

 

Every week Crouch is picked atop the 4-5-1, and every week he demonstrates himself to be painfully inadequate. He has his uses, particularly at European/international level (where our continental cousins remain entertainingly incapable of dealing with him), or as an impact sub, or indeed as a beanpole occasionally capable of nodding down into the path of VDV. However, in recent weeks all things bright and beautiful from our heroes have been achieved in spite of rather than because of him. The gangly one seemed stunned each time the small white orb neared him, reacting like he had never seen such an entity and was completely ignorant as to the physics of the thing. Damningly, when Bale whipped in a low first-half cross, he slid in with knees bent and legs tucked under his rear, rather than stretching out his limbs as far as they would extend.

 

Princess Pav

 

Given the respective performances of Crouch, Sergeant Wilson and Sandro, I was mightily relieved to observe the switch to 4-4-2 at half-time, and an opportunity for Pav to shine, although in truth a substitute’s appearance away to Bolton does not really fit the Russian’s grandiose dreams of personal glory. The last person you want to roll up his sleeves and fight, or track back and tackle, Pav is the sort of princess who would refuse to accept a bed at the Hilton because he would find a pea under the mattress. On he was flung on Saturday, to fairly minimal impact.However, princesses may be pampered prima donnas, but they darned well love a little splash of diamond-encrusted quality in their lives, and for all his moodiness Pav does deliver some finishes of the most incredible quality. Recall ye his awful, half-hearted performance away to Young Boys, suddenly illuminated by an absolutely blistering finish. The goal yesterday lunchtime was similarly brilliant, absolutely ruddy brilliant. He does not seem the man for a 4-5-1 either, but sometimes his finishing is quite superb.

 

 

The New Gareth Bale

 

A quite brilliant goal too from Hutton. Had either his or Pav’s goals come from the gleaming boots of Drogba, Torres or indeed Bale they would have been repeated non-stop across the tv channels. Hutton has never been backward when it comes to bombing forward from full-back, and while there are questions regarding how he links with Lennon, he adds a tasty extra threat on the right. Moreover, he struck me as the pick of our back-four on Saturday, encouraging stuff from a man hardly blessed with a reputation for defensive faultlessness.

 

Elsewhere On The Pitch

 

We at AANP Towers are sticklers for good manners and general decorum, and with that in mind we implore the Hudd to nip in the bud that tendency towards violent cynicism that has emerged in recent weeks. The elbow against Twente and stamp on an opponent yesterday both appeared fairly deliberate, and although he got away with both they hint at a most unbecoming trait.

 

Disappointing stuff from Niko Kranjcar, which will do little to end rumours of a January exit, but despite his anonymity on Saturday I sincerely hope his services are retained.

 

Conclusion? We Must Win The Champions League…

 

One point from our last three league games, and thinking back over the Everton, Man Utd and Bolton games, it is difficult to make a case for us deserving much more. The Champions League adventure is magnificent fun, make no mistake, but we need it to be the norm rather than the exception, to which end simply slacking off each weekend after a European night is not good enough. A run of consecutive wins would put us right back in contention for the top four – otherwise the best means of ensuring Champions League football next season is to win the whole bally thing in May…

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 1-1 Everton: Would We Have Won Had We Not Played Midweek?

Sages the breadth of Christendom have been popping up all over the media this season to opine knowingly that our heroes would struggle to cope with the rigours of Champions League and the Premiership each week. As such I was jolly well hoping that we would emphatically destroy Everton with a loud roar of triumph (or at the very least fashion another 2-1 win) to prove the blighters wrong – but in truth we looked every inch a team jaded from the madcap doings of Wednesday night.

 

Lofting Crosses Into Orbit: The Tottenham Way?

 

The first task of the day was to negotiate the first 13 minutes without going 3-0 down. While this was successfully achieved the effort evidently took its toll, as just moments later we conceded. Still, coming from behind is very much the vogue for our heroes these days, and it was the old Crouch-VDV combo yet again.

 

This time the goal was hardly the prettiest thing we have witnessed at the Lane all season – with Tim Howard attempting to swat a passing wasp rather than bothering with the incoming cross; Crouch doing his best to let the ball roll off his stomach; and VDV seemingly convinced that if he snapped the net from its moorings he would actually be awarded two goals. It is difficult to complain about the tactic of launching balls into orbit from the flanks for the gangly one to set up VDV, as it bears fruit every week. However, here at AANP Towers we would prefer the ball to be kept on the green stuff, at least until the alarm bells clang to inform us that desperate measures are called for.

 

Aside from the goal nothing really clicked, which is always rather a shame. Last season, free from midweek exertions, I suspect we would have found a way to eke out three points; this time our lot looked a tad flat, and by the final whistle, absolutely shattered.

 

Bale and VDV: Possibly Mere Mortals After All

 

Unsurprisingly, every time the ball went anywhere near Bale Everton players swarmed all over him. He still wriggled free occasionally, but his wonderfulness was generally stymied, while VDV was also well-marshalled. (Although it is nice to see that he cares so much for the cause that he is willing to give the advertising hoarding a good kicking. Good lad.)

 

As a result of the focus upon Bale and VDV, young Modders became our default string-puller. He seemed rather to enjoy himself, in his own shy little way, but with no inclination to burst into the Everton area and scare the bejesus out of its guardians, his impact was ultimately a tad limited.

 

Right-Flank Version 2.0: Lennon and Hutton

 

Not sure if ‘Arry, Joe Jordan and chums have ever actually sat down and explained the concept to Alan Hutton, but he jolly well retains the look of a man who simply does not believe that he is a defender.

 

As he seems convinced that victory will be achieved if he sprints to the opposite by-line at a rate of knots, his interplay with Lennon on the right wing is vastly different from that of Corluka and Lennon. Back in the day the lumbering Croat would hang back and play cute little diagonal balls as Lennon whizzed forward, jazz-hands merrily a-waving; now it seems the trick is for Lennon to jink inside, while Hutton overlaps on the right. A fledgling manoeuvre, but one that in time may bear fruit.

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch

 

Kaboul was a fairly reassuring presence at the back; Palacios was decent enough without rediscovering the form of his early days in lilywhite; and right across the pitch similar adjectives of gentle-but-by-no-means-rip-roaring-praise could be dished out. Decent but unspectacular, we did not really do enough to merit a win. A draw at home to an in-form Everton is not a bad result, but is nevertheless the sort of thing that will leave us short of the top-four come May. Curses.

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Spurs match reports

(Back Catalogue) Spurs 2-1 Villa: Is VDV The New Berba or Asprilla?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, many of the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

 

3/10/2010: While all and sundry are blurting out every superlative going, do forgive me if I go for something verging on the sacrilegious, but Van der Vaart actually reminds me of Dimitar Berbatov. Not for his sulky, dastardly personality you realise, nor physical appearance nor playing position; but in terms of being an addition to the ranks who is so clearly head and shoulders above his peers. Not since the days of Berba have we had a player whose technique is simply a class above, a player who does the outrageously difficult and makes it seem like second-nature. The sort of things you or I occasionally tried (and failed) in the park with our mates, when no-one was watching. VDV, like Berba before him, instinctively does those things in the middle of a high-octance, competitive game, and makes them look easy. As with the goal midweek against Twente, there was plenty of room for error with his second this afternoon – awkward height, awkward angle; but not a problem for a blinking football genius.

 

Another Bizarre VDV Comparison

 

Recall ye that season when Kevin Keegan went mad in a live TV interview? I may be mistaken, but I think that was the season Newcastle went about a thousand points clear at the top of the table by Christmas, but then rather embarrassingly frittered away their lead and ended up being pipped to the title by Man Utd, the poor loves. The reason? Well there were plenty I suppose, but one notable factor was the addition to the squad of Faustino Asprilla at Christmas. Personally I adored the chap, thought he was awesome, and one of the much worthier foreign additions to the Premiership in an era of Lars Bohinen and Anders Limpar, but adding him to an already mightily attacking mix rather skewed Newcastle’s tactics, and games they used to win they ended up blowing.

 

Fast-forward to N17 in 2010, and VDV is now adorned in lilywhite, and almost certainly better than any of his chums in the dressing-room. The problem is how the deuces to accommodate him. 4-4-2 worked fantastically for us last season. The central midfield of Modders and Hudd outplayed l’Arse, Chelski and Man City. The 4-4-2 worked, home and away. However, accommodate VDV we must, for the awesomeness seepeth from his every pore, and his natural abode appears to be a free role behind the centre forward/s.

 

But a 4-5-1-playing beast we are not, and there’s the rub. As well as lacking a genuine forward to play this role, there is also the problem of how to accommodate Defoe when he returns (and I personally am saddened that all this nudges Kranjcar towards the exit door, but c’est la vie). Bale, Modders and VDV into a 4-4-2 will not really go, unless the handsome young Welshman is shunted to left-back, which is rather a waste. VDV is no right winger, but we can’t play him and Modders as a central pairing in a 4-4-2, and… Well you get the point. Not that I’m about to solve it. That’s ‘Arry’s job, and in fairness it’s a dilemma about which he has being banging on fairly regularly.

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch

 

Back to the game. Still not a fan of lobbing high balls up to Crouch, but in the last two games his lay-offs and knock-downs have brought about goals and penalties and all sorts, so I simply have to grumble in silence on that point. Nice to see Aaron Lennon looking more like his former self; Alan Hutton continues to look the polar opposite of Corluka at right-back; Hudd grew into his role as ad hoc centre-back, but in an ideal world would still be below Ledley/Dawson/Gallas/Kaboul/Woodgate in the pecking order.

 

Emile Heskey: Scourge of Lightweight Spurs Centre-Backs

 

For all the talk of Van der Vaart the turning-point in this one was arguably the disappearance of Heskey, injured, in the first half. The ease with he muscled past Bassong evoked a Hollywood-style montage in my head of all those instances over the years on which a Spurs centre-back has been sent flying by a big brusing striker. In fact Heskey himself started it about ten years ago, in his Leicester days, when he powered past Stuart Nethercott or someone and thumped the ball in. Anyway, off he went, back we came and the all-important three points were ours. Pre-match I had hoped for three points above performance, injuries or anything else, and a win against a decent Villa side is a jolly good result.

 

Spurs – Villa Preview

 

1/10/2010: This old conundrum again. Whether two games per week is simply too much for their precious limbs, or they really do believe the hype and only mentally attune themselves for Champions League Wednesdays I know not; but for whatever reason our heroes are not coping well with the rigours of a Saturday-Wednesday-and-Saturday-again schedule.

 

It has been hard enough to cope with Wigan and West Ham; now we face a resurgent Villa side, and I don’t mind admitting I approach this game with a fair degree of trepidation. Generally I like our home performances served up with a healthy dose of swash and buckle, but in the interests of keeping pace with the top-four runners and riders, I will happily settle for all manner of scrappiness if it guarantees us another three points heading into the international break.

         

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Spurs match reports

(Back Catalogue) West Ham 1-0 Spurs: Time For A Settled XI?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

26/9/2010: Impossible to gauge, but I suspect I’m not alone in thinking that we would not be in this predicament if we did not have two games per week. Admittedly eight points from six games, and ninth position at this early stage, is hardly the most critical situation, but four points from the quadruple-header of Wigan, Wolves, West Brom and West Ham is pretty shoddy form, make no mistake.

Time to for a Settled XI?

I understand the principle of chopping and changing, resting players if possible and utilising our sizeable squad for the rigours of a two-games-per-week season, but with our league form now looking ropey I would quite happily see ‘Arry simply select his strongest available XI, irrespective of the competition, for the next half dozen fixtures or so. The Ledley situation is obviously the delicate issue here, but another month of haemorrhaged Premiership points would probably leave us playing catch-up in the bid to finish fourth again. Forget the notion of game-time for Sergeant Wilson, Jenas, Keane etc – could we not just pick our strongest 4-4-2 and try to rack up a few wins?

Lashings of Mediocrity

Rant over. The barrage of the West Ham goal for the last half hour or so was all very well, but our heroes were found badly wanting in the first half. There were some bright moments, particularly the interplay of Modders and VDV, but by and large we were second best to a team who simply appeared to want it more.

Rumours of Jenas’ latest resurgence looked woefully inaccurate, as he turned in the sort of anonymous, toothless display that has had all 36,000 at the Lane shrieking vitriol at him week in and week out for around ten years. Perhaps more bothersome, Hudd was also well below par, while Aaron Lennon’s shaved eyebrow does not look half as menacing when etched across a moody, frustrated visage. The back-four looked about as makeshift as Bale-Corluka-Bassong-Hutton sounds. Up in attack poor old Crouchy was on the whole starved both of service and company. If we persist with this 4-5-1 malarkey – and if it means more of the Modders-VDV roadshow there is a compelling reason to do so – we blinking well need a forward who can put the “1” into 4-5-1.

Admittedly, but for the fingertips of Green (barely recognisable from that World Cup clown) and the width of the woodwork, we might be purring admiringly about this being a well-ground out away point or three, but that is one for a parallel universe. Our lot looked a long way off another top-four challenge, and the players have the air of those who consider their Chamipons League status to equate to a cloak of invincibility from criticism. It is plain darn worrying that the urgency to scrape every point going, which by and large was present last season, is lacking this time around. Last season, falling behind at Upton Park meant fighting back and winning, because there was fourth place to play for, and every point gained in autumn would prove precious come May. This time around the thought of May, and points, and fourth, seems of less concern, a wrong that needs righting pronto.

West Ham – Spurs Preview

25/9/2010: A few years ago, during the glory glory days of Christian Gross and Gerry Francis, a trip to the bottom team would have been precisely the sort of fixture our heroes would lose. Back then, we were also the team against which a generally useless foreign striker, without a goal in half a dozen games since arriving in England, would break his duck; or when up against a team that had gone four games without a goal, we would find ourselves two down by half-time.

In recent years, and last season in particular, we appeared to have cured these maladies. Travel to a team in the relegation zone, and last season we tended to dig in and grab all three points. As a reward for such pains we now get to hear the Champions League theme tune every week or two. Admittedly there were hiccups at home, but generally we fared well at the Lane, and showed most un-Tottenham like fight on our travels.

Not quite sure where we stand this season however – the win at Stoke was marvellous, the home defeat to a Wigan team that had, until that point, been doing everything in their power to cast themselves as the division’s whipping-boys, was painfully reminiscent of the Francis/Gross eras.

So tomorrow off we toddle to those delightful folk at Upton Park, for a game against the bottom team in the Premiership, which on paper at least spells out “three points” in block capitals and stencil font, as used to such emphatic effect in the A-Team. The nagging worry is that with all the bells and whistles of the Champions League, back in the Premiership we are morphing back into the Francis/Gross teams.

Mercifully, the Tottenham circa 2010 can be distinguished from its 1990s equivalents by a handful of genuinely top-notch attackers. In van der Vaart, Modders and Bale we have three little nuggets of awesomeness, and even should the rest of them fail to fire on the requisite number of cylinders, I back these three, between them, to do enough for three points.

 

 

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Spurs preview

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: Plenty in Reserve?

A good bourbon. Terminator 2 with surround sound. Scantily clad nubile young women prancing around AANP Towers. Just a selection of some of the finer things in life, which get the juices flowing here at AANP Towers, and to this exalted list can be added an evening kick-off at home to l’Arse. Some of the sheen of the occasion may be spoilt a little if the two managers, understandably, decide to mix and match with their team selections, but a rip-roaring atmosphere ought nevertheless to whip up beneath the floodlights.

 

Rare Opportunities Knock

 

I neither know nor care particularly who Wenger picks, but amongst our lot there could be a couple of eye-catching selections. Amidst all the drooling over the arrival of VDV, poor old Niko Kranjcar has been left to fiddle with his alice-band from the sidelines. I feel mighty sorry for the blighter, as he is a cracking little player, about whom I suspect all and sundry might rave were he English. A bargain at £2 million not so long ago, his days may be numbered if his path to first-team football continues to be obscured by a couple of Modric and VDV-shaped obstacles, but tomorrow he has a chance to go out and impress.

 

The morrow will also signal a debut for young Sandro and his sensational beard. High hopes around these parts, not least because of the gradual decline of Palacios, who looks more rookie foot-solider than Sergeant these days, but who will nevertheless also be on show.

 

Elsewhere, injuries mean that Hutton is likely to start at right-back, while I imagine that l’Arse will be spared torture at the hands of Bale. ‘Arry has already suggested that the worryingly unfit Gallas will not reacquaint himself with former chums, while Ledley will be up in the stands somewhere, firmly ensconced in cotton wool.

 

Cudicini; Hutton, Bassong, Hudd, BAE; Giovani, Palacios, Sandro, Kranjcar; Pav, Keane.I guess that the starting XI may look vaguely like this, but whoever the personnel I jolly well expect that they go at the other lot hammer and tongs.

 

 

RIP Bobby Smith

 

Tomorrow night should also give us an opportunity to pay our respects to Bobby Smith. Presumably I am not alone in being too young to have seen him in action, but any member of our Double-winning team deserves to be regarded as a hero, and Smith was an integral member of the class of 61. Many a time and oft my old man, AANP Senior, has lamented the absence within the Spurs team of “a great big striker, like Bobby Smith”, and his 200 plus goals for the club merit the highest adulation.