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Spurs 4-1 West Ham: 4 Lilywhite Observations

1. Man-Love For Dembele

As is the vogue these days, all manner of stats have been trotted out to do homage to the performance of Dembele. Tackles, touches, passes, interceptions – the man apparently won the numbers game hands down, which is excellent news for those who like their pivot tables on a Monday morning. In more practical terms it was, as ever, a joy to observe the chap in such fine fettle. Blessed with his curious combo of barrel-chested Samsonesque strength and footwork smoother than a particularly debonair silkworm, Dembele has the capacity to float like a butterfly while stinging like an angry minotaur, and games are being duly dictated from his lair in the centre.

2. The Best And Worst of Walker

It feels like ever since AANP was but a twinkle in the eye, the life and works of K. Walker Esquire have divided opinions amongst the lilywhite hordes. Bang on cue, both the prosecution and the defence made fairly compelling cases, and one suspects that nobody who previously held an opinion will have seen a reason to change course.

For the best part of proceedings Walker spent the day tearing up the wing to offer cheery companionship to whomever had the ball infield, acting for all the world like a de facto winger. On top of which he appeared for much of the thing to have his defensive duties down to a t, producing on a couple of occasions that signature upper-body move of his – the one that shields the thing as it trickles out of play, while an opponent tries in vain to budge him and simply bounces off. Even when he picked up a rather daft booking for handbags in the latter stages I was happy enough to shrug it off, for the chap was simply showing some fire in his belly, and over the years that has been a rare commodity. Then came his goal, a sumptuous finish to a cracking little move – and all seemed right with the world.

Alas (and inevitably, his detractors would say), there then followed not so much a mental aberration as a decision en masse by every one of his brain cells to vacate the premises, and Walker delivered his token Walker moment. Two or three minutes that summed up the blighter in a microcosm (well, two microcosms I suppose). A favourite he remains in this corner of the interweb – but detractors gonna detract.

3. Alli And Dier Pick Up Where They Left Off

Much has been made of the elevations of Alli and Dier to the national stage, and on their returns to the Lane they duly did the sensible thing by picking up where previously they had left off. Alli remains a little rough around the edges, understandably enough, but even when he makes the odd wrong decision or his touch lets him down, the nature of his play – by which I mean that willingness to breeze into the penalty area and sniff around for scraps – gives all sorts of benefits to the team as a whole. One does not have to squint too hard to recall the days when poor old Kane (or whomever) would be checking his armpits and breath for explanations as to why nobody would go anywhere near him. With Alli in the team (and nods of acknowledgement are also due to young Sonny Jimbo) there is at least always a second body in attack to keep the opposition defence honest.

This being Spurs, and old habits die rather hard, so naturally the air in AANP Towers pre kick-off was rich with the smell of pessimism. Where Heskey, Martins, Benteke and others had gone before, yours truly was envisaging Andy Carroll going today – namely the little road named Bundle The Soft-Centred Lilywhite Defenders Out Of The Way And Bludgeon In A Goal Avenue. The probability was amplified by our bizarre brittleness in the face of the aerial challenge from that ‘orrible lot up the road a couple of weeks back.

Credit therefore to the back-four and, in particular, Young Master Dier, for standing up to Carroll, shoulder to shoulder and elbow to elbow. Ironically enough, where this gloomy doom-monger had prophesied all manner of woe from set-pieces, it was glorious to observe a cracking set-piece goal from our lot instead. Both delivery and movement were worthy of a tip of the hat.

4. A Goal In Poch’s Image

When Senor Pocehttino downed tools and hits the sack for his eight hours of tired nature’s sweet restorer, I would hazard a bet that the goal that afforded him the most pleasure was the third. A goal cast in the manager’s very own chubby little features, it was born of energetic, high pressing by the younglings, swarming all over the opposition defence. The gist of the thing is typically to make the opposition punt the ball aimlessly towards us in our own half, so to bypass all that and pilfer a goal was quite the well-earned bonus.

So in the final analysis it was nutritious and delicious goodness all round. It ended up with near total dominance – four goals, the woodwork a couple of times, a dozen shots on target and plenty of showboating – but the game had begun evenly and feistily, and our lot ground down the visitors and forced their way ahead. Being young and sprightly they will presumably stumble here and there, but this was an absolute triumph for the Pochettino way, and they duly deserve a day or two of basking.

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

West Ham – Spurs Preview: Nervous Hand-Wringing

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

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

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

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

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!

Spurs – Newcastle Preview: Scouting Andy Carroll

Reasonably enough our title chances are being written off by just about every man and his dog, but the great and the good of the football world will, with weary shakes of their heads, have to take us into account.Win today and we overtake Chelski, which would be fairly meaningless at this stage of the season but still jolly good fun, and quite the incentive. Indeed, four wins from our four festive fixtures remains possible, with Fulham at home and Everton away to follow the barcodes this afternoon. The uncomfortable truth is that as long as we keep winning the more commonly-accepted title-chasers will be unable to shake us off. Should we emerge from this little glut of games still within shouting distance of the title favourites, a couple of well-judged January signings could set us up for another corking year ending in 1.

On the subject of January signings we all get a chance to compile our own personal scouting reports on Newcastle’s long-haired hoodlum of a centre-forward, Andy Carroll. The AANP verdict is “Sign him up pronto”, because while he might not necessarily be as effective an emergency substitute centre-back as Peter Crouch, he appears to be approximately a thousand times better than the gangly one when  it comes to the more routine trades of leading the line, bullying defenders, heading with power (and direction, dagnabbitt) and scoring. Moreover, he has the muscle and aggression to suit the VDV-inspired 4-4-1-1 quite neatly. Our heroes have traditionally struggled against great big muscular centre-forwards – Messrs Heskey, Martins, Drogba and even Daniel Amokachi way back in the day, I’m thinking of you – so I expect Daws to have his hands full today, and given that we always concede I might put today’s tenner on Carroll. For their consolation goal, you understand.

With both Modders and VDV in midfield we rang glorious little rings around Villa, but two games in three days might be a bit much for the Dutch master and his brittle hamstrings. ‘Arry may therefore toy with the idea of resting him today, by switching to 4-4-2, or bringing Jenas into the midfield. Defoe now misses three games, so Crouch and/or Pav will be called into action in attack, but whatever the personnel and formation, the game-plan is hardly shrouded in mystery – attack, attack and attack some more. We played for long periods at Villa Park on Boxing Day as if we were the home team, even when down to ten men, so I rather look forward to more pretty triangles  all over the lush Lane turf today. It would be nice at some point to nudge the goal difference up and over double-digit level, but given the attacking threat posed by this mob today I would settle for three points by whatever means.

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