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Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Pochettino – The Pros and Cons

A hearty “What ho!” and pat on the back to our newest glorious leader. Primarily for the sake of idling away the hours until the World Cup begins, AANP has cobbled together some thoughts on this Pochettino blighter, some communicating the general line of ‘yay’, others the less salubrious conclusion of ‘nay’.

Huzzah – He’s Not Tim Sherwood

‘Genetically Not Being Tim Sherwood’ is a positive on the CV at the moment. Not that I want to denigrate Sherwood too heavily, he doubtless did his damnedest for the lilywhite cause, but it seems to have been in the best interests of the club to have him bundled up in a sheet, hit over the head and shoved behind a sofa. Out of sight, out of mind.

Enter stage left Mr Pochettino, the sort of canny fish who seems a little less likely to turn the manager’s job at Spurs into a real-time video diary of how he is making things up as he goes along, and is also considerably less likely to be so angry at life.

All things considered, with talk of van Gaal and Ancelotti about as speculative as a Paulinho 20-yarder, and AANP deeply suspicious of De Boer’s record of umpteen consecutive titles in a Dutch league that is not exactly worshipped far and wide as the pinnacle of European football, we can probably be happy enough with this. Indeed, the general reaction amongst Spurs-supporting chums has been to give an understated nod of satisfaction and invite the man into our homes with the offer of a free splash or two of bourbon. He has our blessing.

Huzzah – He Has Premiership Experience

‘Tis also to be celebrated that the chap has some familiarity with the inner recesses of the Premiership. Last summer’s recruitment of umpteen  players who had never previously set foot on this fair isle turned into a bit of a fiasco, while previous grands fromages who arrived at N17 as complete strangers to the  country seemed to spend a mite too long squinting at the road signs and making sense of tea containing milk, when all along we really needed them to fit snugly into the official club blazer from day one. So where Messrs Gross, Santini and Ramos wasted time scouring their Pannini sticker albums to work out who played in which position, Pochettino can swan in already knowing his Lee Proberts from his Michael Olivers.

Huzzah – His Southampton Team Played Some Entertaining Stuff

One of the main selling points of this blighter is that he seems to have a penchant for good old swash and buckle, when it comes to style of play. Whether or not things will materialise thusly at the Lane remains to be seen, but on a scale of George Graham to Brazil 1970 he seems the sort of chap likely to give a knowing wink when it comes to the tactics board. Heaven help us if we go down the road of ‘Dawson Manning A High Defensive Line’ once more, but things should be fun to watch when we trundle forward.

Huzzah – He Gets The Best Out of Players (Apparently)

A little secret just between friends – a couple of years ago AANP had never heard of either Luke Shaw or Rickie Lambert, while Jay Rodriguez was known to me as the chap who made that film in which Salma Hayek danced around in her skimpies with a snake before everyone turned into vampires (you know the one) and Lallana was the sort of dish that would give me a rum tummy while on holiday. It turns out that Pochettino knows exactly how much spinach to feed these sort of chaps to turn them into the next over-priced young English talent to weaken our knees, and such alchemy would be welcome at the Lane.

Talent is currently oozing out of the sides of our squad and forming unsightly puddles on the ground, but by golly if you pop eleven of our lot onto a pitch together they all start digging at the earth as fast as their little hands allow and bury their heads in the ground before you can bluster “But this is £100 million pound of international talent, dash it.” Someone somewhere needs to beg, steal or borrow the best out of Lamela, Townsend, Chadli, Soldado (Naughton, admittedly, is a lost cause) et al, and Pochettino has previous in this department.

All the sort of thing to put hair on the chest you no doubt agree. However, the long-suffering lilywhite in me has accumulated cynicism by the lorry-load over the years, so it would be highly amiss not to pore over some of the seedier aspects of the career of Pochettino, and howl a prophesy of doom accordingly…

Show Us Yer Medals

In an ideal world, young people would dwell beneath rocks and other convenient crevices until they had something useful to contribute, the only member of the Cyrus clan whose music blared from phones on public transport would be Billy Ray, and Spurs would be managed by a chap with more awards, trophies and medals than you could wave a large stick at. Alas, the Pochettino managerial trophy cabinet is not exactly full to brimming at present. Admittedly, lashings of experience and a sack full of sparkling jugs and whatnot were of little help to Capello when he took charge of England, so such things are no guarantee of success – but the deal would be that much sweeter if Pochettino were a proven title-winner. He will just have to start the habit at N17.

One Good Season

Do 18 good months at Southampton a Top Four manager make? If he had been managing in England for five years would he now be regarded as on a par with, say, Pardew circa 2013 or Pardew circa 2014? The point being, the chap is still a little wet behind the ears, and it is rather difficult to average out his performance when there are but one a half seasons over which to pore.

Can He Handle Proven Players?

‘Tis one thing administering a thousand lashes (or indeed a bedtime lullaby, as the case may be) to young wide-eyed bucks like Shaw and Lallana, who are still making their way in the big wide world, but whether or not Pochettino can command the respect of seasoned millionaire internationals like Paulinho, Adebayor, Vertonghen and chums remains to be seen. AVB’s approach to handling the more experienced chaps at Chelski backfired spectacularly, and his Adebayor gambit here at the Lane was not much better; Pochettino will dashed well need some bright ideas if he does not want to wander back to his office one day to find a bucket of water perched atop the door and some sort of coup taking shape on the training pitch.

This Man Lost to Tim Sherwood. Twice.

Not the be-all and end-all of things by any means, but to lose once to Tim Sherwood can be glossed over as being a mite careless, to lose twice, in the space of half a season, is the sort blot that no man of substance ought to have on his escutcheon. It ought to matter not in the grand scheme of things, but it is not terrifically encouraging, what?

THE VERDICT

Well, there is no verdict as such – sorry to mislead. The chap is here, he seems a bright enough young egg, let’s rally around and cheer him to the rafters.

There is possibly more pressure on Levy than Pochettino with this appointment, but in defence of our follicly-challenged supremo, the appointments of AVB and now Pochettino point to a certain type of manager and set-up.

Moreover, the five-year contract suggests that Levy genuinely does want to perch in his hammock with feet up and a good book, without having to march down the High Road and firing and hiring everyone within sight each time the clocks change. Amen to that. Should we finish mid-table, then the rumblings of discontent will no doubt begin again, but I rather hope that even if we miss the Top Four (as seems fairly probable) and rather make a hash of things all round, we nevertheless persist with the manager, personnel and style.

Spurs 3-0 Stoke: Minus Two! Minus Two!

AVB having curiously opted against inviting me into his inner sanctum (despite that halcyon era playing Football Manager in my second year at Uni when I masterminded three consecutive wins to help Spurs avoid relegation on the final day of the campaign, admittedly having steered them to the foot of the table in the first place), I will never know whether, in that world of gravelly beards and even gravellier voices, our erstwhile supremo really did send our heroes out to battle with the order ringing in their ears to pass sideways and sideways again, ad infinitum, until their own brains, the brains of their opponents and the brains of all witnessing the dirge literally melted, forming a puddle of cerebral matter over which he could stand and wax lyrical about his project. Maybe he did, maybe not, but in the brave new world the drill seems to be to point the compass goalwards when plotting one’s next move, and the saints be praised for such a blessing.

One change that can most definitely be attributed to Sherwood and chums is the switch to two upfront, which once again paid dividends. In a general sense there seemed to be bodies in the box whenever we galloped forwards, and on a more particular note the combo once again brought about a goal, Soldado finding Adebayor in the build-up to the penalty. Whether this two up-front gambit will work away from home and against mightier opposition than today’s rabble remains to be seen – and will be seen jolly imminently as it happens – but today things panned out swimmingly.

Shooting Practice

If nothing else, the boy Soldado can take a mean penalty. (If you pardon the wild digression, watching Soldado step up with such confidence again has me wanting to eat my own elbow whenever I hear our national heroes bemoaning a penalty shoot-out as a ‘lottery’, as if the thing were entirely in the lap of the gods. Practise the bally things like Soldado evidently does and every penalty becomes a gift-wrapped opportunity to wed Mr Ball to young Ms Net.) Soldado might want to indulge in a little extra shooting practice from other angles, but at least the chances are now being created, and sooner or later they will presumably start flying in.

That said, one would probably caution him to steer clear of Paulinho when they toddle off for said shooting practice, because the Brazilian still appears to be aiming for a spot about 15 yards high and to the right of the net. Elsewhere, Adebayor is still beavering away like a man sniffing a new contract, or transfer, or whatever it is that perks the chap up every now and then, and while it sometimes does appear that the messages simply do not transit from brain to foot in time, his inclination to poke a first-time pass rather befuddles the opponent and endears him to me. Lovely also to see Lennon making hay, neatly topped off with a goal that had us all purring.

The Annual Rant Against Stoke.

While we might have been fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty or two in the first half, when limbs seemed to entangle in all manner of ways in our area, one of the most pleasing aspects of the whole afternoon was that, for a change, we gave Stoke an absolute roasting. London-based sentiment aside, I do not think there is a team I have abhorred more over the years than this lot. While dissent is good for any democracy, and therefore Stoke’s traditional anti-football is probably in some way healthy for the beautiful game, watching them push, pull, niggle and shove their way to countless one-nils at the Lane had me fearing the worst as we dominated without scoring for the first half hour. This being the new era however our heroes took the most impertinent step of sowing the thing up with twenty minutes to play, securing a three goal lead of all things. Most perplexing, but undoubtedly lashings of fun. Moreover, by breaking from tradition and taking the liberty of winning by more than just a single goal our lot have now moved on the exalted perch of a minus two goal difference. Minus two! Whatever next?

Sherwood, Levy & All The Trimmings

“I hope you’re right. I really do.”

Thus spake surly space lady Ripley, in the Muppets-based whodunit Aliens, when informed by a cocksure chum that everything would turn out just tickety-boo (shortly before things actually went rather awry, when one examines things objectively). Her sentiment of mingled hope, trust and wariness might well be mumbled at the gleaming bonce of Master Levy, for as non sequiturs go this is one of the ilk to have me howling with frustration. Just a few weeks ago we were still contenders for the Top Four, and even now on Christmas Eve we are but four points off said land of milk and honey, but this whole bizarre episode seems to have achieved such a recalculating of aims and ambitions that Top Six is now seemingly the accepted target. What the dickens sort of masterplan is that?

Our all-seeing chairman may well deserve a stern word for letting the guillotine drop without giving much thought about how to dispose of disembodied heads. Ridding the Lane of AVB was not necessarily a bad call, given the style of play we had been sucked into, but it served little purpose if nobody adequate were lined up. Presumably the 18-month contract will be terminated six months in, with the accompanying Levy death-stare, should our heroes fail to progress to the heady heights of sixth by the season’s end, or should someone with but a modicum of experience become available, but it seems a strange approach to shrug shoulders, close eyes, jab a finger onto a 2002 squad poster and accordingly entrust a season and a half to Sherwood. Few top-half teams would appoint Tim Sherwood as Master of their Universe, so it frustrates the bally juices out of me that we have done so.

If ever there were a time to be a fly on a wall, it was during negotiations yesterday, notwithstanding the potentially fatal effects of cold weather upon the poor blighters’ life-cycles. If I understand correctly Sherwood  seems to have talked himself into an 18-month deal on the basis of one home defeat to West Ham, one madcap victory against a Southampton team whose defence and goalkeeper seemed to be playing the wrong sport, and through use of the bluff that he wanted it long-term or not at all. All of which suggests to me that Sherwood is one of the greatest orators of our time.  Should the walls come crashing down on this curious little experiment then a career as FBI negotiator-in-chief blinking well ought to beckon.

Thus concludes the diatribe however. Time to back the chap, and hope that things turn out better for us than for Ripley and her chums (spoiler alert – they didn’t make the Top Four, if you follow my gist). If the Southampton selection were a gamble based on the fact that he knew not whether it were his last game, his new longer-term contract might encourage him to indulge in a tad more circumspection, in the form of a more recognised holding midfielder. Playing two in attack has already born fruit, the squad is certainly strong enough to rub shoulders with the great and good, and with a festive fixture-list that could be more foreboding we are but one string of wins away from a media meltdown about 2014 in fact being a lilywhite year.

Southampton – Spurs Preview: A Potential Flaw In The Levy Masterplan?

Here at AANP Towers we are honourable men. When Dogtanian waved farewell to the folks and left for pastures new, the upper lip did no more than quiver. When baited by rival fans in the office every dashed Monday, reminding me of my idle gloats the preceding Friday and collecting their winnings, while the boss wanders by and reminds me that the pretence of working is more effective when the computer is actually switched on and why must I look at him in such a gormless way, I treat the defeat with stoic resolve, determining to make an even larger wager the following week because that will teach them all. And thus do I unashamedly admit that when the burly security chaps marched up to AVB, grabbed him mid-sentence, frog-marched him out of the premises and unceremoniously dumped him onto the High Road, I did little more than shrug, reasoning that that might well have been the right course of action, and licking my lips at the prospect of our imminent upturn in fortunes.

Alas, the upturn has not quite materialised. In fact, the grand plan of sacking one chappie, lassoing another, more capable chappie, depositing him into the leather chair and watching the marvellousness unfurl has hit an early but quite critical snag. Suddenly, the realisation dawns that Master Levy might not necessarily have the entire strategy mapped out. In fact, it is not particularly clear that the plan even extended to the hiring of a new bean at all, but that he laboured under the misapprehension that firing AVB would in its entirety signal a glorious conclusion of affairs – because quite where he goes next, or even what sort of blighter is brought in next, does not yet seem obvious. That Tim Sherwood may or may not be at the helm for days, weeks, months or even – horror or horrors – permanently is about as underwhelming as an action film in which the pillars are tumbling down and the hero ambling up stage left to save the day actually turns out to be merely Ben Affleck.

Nothing personal against Sherwood of course (or Affleck for that matter), but one suspects that the opportunities for success might not necessarily be maximised by leaving the office intern in charge of the entire A to Z of things for a few weeks, even if the aforementioned does do a sterling job of booking meeting rooms and whatnot. However, this is what we have for the immediate future, and having deployed a bright and breezy 4-4-2 for the first home adventure, Sherwood now has to decide how to go about things away from home, against a Southampton team who seem to be sufficiently well versed in the intricacies of the game. Who knows, Levy might also be using the opportunity to cast a furtive eye over Saints own grand fromage, Mr Pochettino.

Injury to Townsend threatens to derail things somewhat, particularly if the Sherwood gospel preaches touchline-hugging wingers, but the squad boasts enough attacking types, so one of Sigurdsson, Lamela or Chadli will presumably be unleashed. A more defensive-minded chap in the holding role might also be advisable, after Dembele was deployed in that spot midweek, while in defence it will presumably once again be a case of using anyone fit enough to hobble over the line.

It would be a dashed shame if our whole season were to lose momentum because of a yuletide wobble, but such a circumstance lurks menacingly around the corner. The talent is there, and under AVB our away form was generally positive enough, but our very recent history does little to engender expectations of unparalleled success. One can but hope.

5 Potential Managerial Candidates for Spurs

AVB: An Epitaph

Here at AANP Towers we like to see a good, clean contest, with batsmen walking as soon as the finger goes up and a man nobly stepping aside when some bright young bounder on a horse bends his cannon and makes off with his wife. In such circumstances we cannot help but stiffen the lip at the demise of a manager just three shakes of a lamb’s tail into a season.

That said, not a tear will be shed around these parts. The £100 million pound mob were peddling a style so bereft of life that by yesterday evening it had eaten away approximately 78% of my very soul, which was a far from ideal state of affairs. On top of which, every band of rag-tags and hoodlums (hoodla?) with body-art on their arms was swanning up and knocking our lot to kingdom come. Given the circumstances, it is difficult to imagine a murmur of discontent from anybody involved.

So AVB is now swimming with chums of a piscine persuasion, and with that particular king dead we might as well toddle on to the next point on the agenda – the gentlemen whose services may imminently be volunteered.

Hoddle

He has such lovely hair. But coiffeur aside, this suggestion generally meets with a wary eye and murmurs of warning – understandably so, as Hoddle made rather a pickle of things last time out, and has since drifted into the ether of TV studio mumblings. However, if we want our Tottenham back the blighter knows our style inside out. His sterling work with England in ’97 and ’98 merits a ticked box, and while he did admittedly benefit then from a cracking group of players the 2013 vintage at the Lane seem a similarly fruity bunch.

AANP Rating: Gives the impression of a man who knows his after-dinner port.

Laudrup

Blessed with similarly lovely hair, and also a chappie whose playing career suggests he knew a thing or two about the finer points in life. Laudrup may be a little green behind the ears in this managerial tomfoolery – and history suggests that leaving a fresh-faced type in charge of our troops is not necessarily a guarantee of success – but he has his Swansea mob playing football the right way, has some experience in England and a nice shiny pot at home to impress the slew of nubile young women who possibly trail after him.

AANP Rating: Young enough to have his way with the fairer sex, sufficiently debonair to light a cigar afterwards

Capello

Crumbs. I dare not say a bad word about this chap lest he track me down, and disintegrate my insides purely through the medium of an inscrutable stare. That said, I’m not a huge fan of the old bean. It all seemed a bit dour and funless when he managed England to humiliation, and if the last few weeks has taught me anything it is that humiliation without any fun is the worst sort of humiliation. Let’s at least get humiliated in a blaze of glory, what? However, disciplinarian that he is he might be inclined to pick one strategy and stick to it, which would be progress of sorts. None of this Capoue-up-front nonsense.

AANP Rating: The sort of blighter to sink a few neat whiskies and eyeball his guests if they do not do the same.

Klinsmann

He once turned and looked at me after he scored. We had a moment. Striker to striker. One for the dreamy idealists I think, as this would equate to a romantic swoon in managerial form, but with fairly limited substance behind it in terms of club management. He seemed to have a rip-roaring time managing Germany to the brink of glory on home turf in 2006, and I have no idea how he is getting on with the States, but he has just nabbed himself a four-year contract. All things considered this seems like the dreamy gamble that, right now, will not amuse Levy.

AANP Rating: Likely to be the one dancing atop a table, gin-based cocktail in hand. Which is not really cricket.

Guus Hiddink

Might be worth a knowing nod through a smoky haze and a charged glass. Hiddink kept his head down and the muck off his shoes while sipping from the poisoned chalice at Stamford Bridge, only losing once (to our lot, bizarrely enough), and yanking the FA Cup en route, before being shoved out. The CV is sparkly enough, and my spies tell me he is currently loafing around at home doing crosswords at present.

AANP Rating: Picks the appropriate vintage for each dish in a five-course meal.

The unfortunate truth is presumably that, despite the rigorous scientific compendium upon which these findings are based, Levy is likely to make his own call on this one, hard-nosed renegade that he is. So be it. If nothing else, chewing over the identity of the new man at the helm will give us all something to do while the young folk are spilling over the dancefloors at this week’s Christmas parties.

Spurs 0-5 Liverpool: Thoughts On This Month’s Thrashing

Heavens above. To ship six goals away at Man City could be explained away with some embarrassed looks, statistics and mumbled interviews – but five goals at home, to a Liverpool side who have some way to go to emulate the European champs of yesteryear, rather makes one pause for thought and sip the evening bourbon with a little more concern than normal.

Defence

One trying to shake a stick at the plethora of mishaps, mistakes and moments of buffoonery will need a jolly large stick, but using the infallible AVB method of shrugging, closing my eyes and randomly pointing my finger, I point ye gentlefolk firstly towards the high defensive line.

Or, more accurately, the yawning gap it creates in between back-four and goalkeeper, into which Liverpool and their merry band of runners tore with gay abandon. A couple of one-touch passes, some of them – shock horror – going backwards first in order to move forwards, and our befuddled heroes were ripped to shreds. To shove poor old Daws bang into the middle of a system that relies so heavily upon pace seems suspiciously to contravene the UN charter on Human Rights, and sure enough, in the midst of the bedlam our intrepid leader earned his yellow card for hurtling into a centre-circle challenge as a crafty forward slipped the ball beyond him.

It is a measure of quite how bad things were that the more obvious candidate for withdrawal was young Master Naughton, who was sent spinning this way and that, evoking memories of that afternoon last season when Walcott tormented him to within an inch of his life as we conceded five at the Emirates. A theme begins to emerge, what?

Midfield

The midfield deserve a jolly hefty couple of clips round the ears too. Paulinho generously found the time to squeeze in a couple of wild shanks into the upper tier and moments of halting our own speedy counter-attacks with that old ‘put-my-foot-on-the-ball-and-turn-backwards’ gambit, before getting sent off. Holtby buzzed around with some intent, to his credit, but as ever the whole thing was painfully pedestrian going forward (a term I use lightly), while the back-four, the goalkeeper and the seismic gap between them were afforded precious little protection.

Suspicion grows that locked away in the safe at Chadli Towers are some compromising photos of AVB, explaining the Belgian’s weekly selection, while the cunning plan to starve Lennon of the ball again failed to break down the Liverpool defence.

All things considered, quite the muddle, and with precious little in the way of game-plan or consistency of team selection, our glorious leader might be forgiven for shifting his feet uneasily and sporting the look of a toddler discovered with one hand in the biscuit tin. One rather hopes we won’t have to go through this nonsense every month.

Spurs – Liverpool Preview: Striking Dilemma Ahoy

They may only have been the dregs of the English and Russian leagues respectively, but three consecutive wins have done enough to secure nods of mild satisfaction where once there were howls of anguish, so we can go into this one with sentiments bordering on cautious optimism. Moreover, the gods of fate seem to have nonchalantly tossed us a couple of extra scraps, and thus we find that the red mob will toddle up to the front gates sans Messrs Gerrard and Sturridge. Admittedly seeing Dawson go toe-to-toe with Suarez will be a little like having a member of the undead spend 90 minutes pulling a single entrail from our gut, but beyond that particular mismatch we ought to have a decent chance.

AVB would presumably not have dreamed of this a couple of weeks ago, but he actually has a few positive selection dilemmas to chew over today. To claim that we have an embarrassment of riches in attack is perhaps stretching the point, but after Defoe applied himself with some rigour and effect vs Sunderland and Fulham, we then had Soldado stumbling upon the secret formula for alchemy in midweek, albeit against fairly dreadful opposition. There are some who would still love to see the two of them pitted alongside each other and told to go out there and make merry, but presumably it will be one or t’other this afternoon.

In defence there seems to be a fairly definite hierarchy, so selection will simply depend upon who is fit, but the five across the midfield/attack again pose a few positive problems. AVB seems in recent weeks to have settled upon a selection strategy that involves writing names on paper, throwing them in the air and picking the ones that land nearest to him, but Messrs Lennon, Townsend and Holtby have all done the footballing equivalent of jumping up and down in front of him yelling “Pick me! Pick me!” while Sigurdsson seems a reliable sort of egg, and Lamela’s pass for the second goal on Thursday was drop-dead gorgeous. Nice to see the lad Eriksen back on his feet as well, and ahead of all of these in the queue is Master Paulinho, who has been the furthest man forward in recent weeks.

In the grand scheme of things three points would naturally help chivvy us along to where we want to be, but to take them at the expense of one our rivals – and particularly one boasting quite such smug office colleagues as this lot – would be a most desirable conclusion of affairs.

Tromso-Spurs Preview: The Great Hoddle Formation Gambit

Time might consider itself the great healer, but it is about to find itself shoved out of the way in pretty unceremonious manner, because no sooner have our intrepid heroes shipped six goals in one fell swoop than they find themselves farmed off to Antarctica, or that frozen planet in the Star Wars film, or wherever the dickens this lot play their trade. This, of course, is because the Europa League waits for no man, and as sure as eggs is eggs we find ourselves now on the cusp of the greatness that is qualification for The Next Bit Of This Slightly Tortuous Saga.

Qualification has already been successfully navigated by our superstars, and a couple of well-timed nods and winks will apparently guarantee us top spot in the group, and whatever riches that entails. However there is nevertheless an entertaining undercurrent to this distraction, because AVB has a coin to toss. Tradition dictates that he rest just about everybody involved last Sunday, with a view to keeping them fresh for another thrashing this Sunday – but given the debacle and all its trimmings one wonders whether he might be tempted to drag last Sunday’s lot back out for more. Not as punishment you understand, but as an opportunity to right some of the myriad wrongs. Certainly the likes of Paulinho, Lamela and Dawson to name but three have a few lashings of professional pride to restore, so our glorious leader might consider shoving them back out onto the greenery, and asking them as he does so to show a bit of decency and buck up a few notches.

Alternatively, this might be an opportunity for a spot of formation tinkering. Four months too late admittedly, but an opportunity nonetheless. Glenn Hoddle seemed to have caused a bit of a stir amongst Spurs-supporting chums of my acquaintance, by suggesting just prior to the City game that we dabble in a 5-2-1-2/3-4-1-2 looking number, with wing-backs and a lone chappie in the hole (although it looks a tad light on width and creativity to me, so goodness knows what our umpteen wingers would do with themselves while it played out). Perhaps a little more navigable for our addled minds might be an old-fashioned 4-4-2, as briefly and lamentably dabbled in at the start of the second half against City.

Whatever the decision, it all points towards a team selection with the potential to get the juices flowing. The game itself jolly well ought to be a formality, what?

Man City – Spurs Preview: Daws Against This Lot? Heaven Help Us

It’s a rummy thing, but having spent all season enviously eyeing the opposition net from around 20 yards, we now toddle off to the home of the Champions-elect, where they routinely run rings around all-comers, and I feel a darned sight more upbeat about our chances of finding the net. The primary reason being that old ‘Deep-Lying Opposition Defence’ chestnut, which has become rather a curse at the Lane, but tends to be less of an issue on our travels – and against this free-scoring, attack-minded mob and their glittering array of creative superstars it ought not to be a problem at all. Marvellous!

Furthermore, City will be without Kompany, who as well as (or perhaps because of) being possessed of a most peculiarly-shaped head is also quite the defensive lynchpin for this lot. Minus this chap they start to emanate the distinctive whiff of defensive fallibility. And on top of that, last time out against Newcastle, we actually managed to carve out some genuine, bona fide goalscoring opportunities. Not just the speculative 20 yarders, but actual chances from six yards out. Of course we would not have scored one of them if we had played all week, but baby steps, what?

There is, I suppose, a cloud to this silver lining, for while City’s attacking instincts might theoretically open things up for us at one end, this will be of limited value if we spend the afternoon chasing their shadows. In particular, the notion of Aguero and/or Negredo running rings around Daws rather makes one anxiously take a seat and reach for a splash of the old life-restorer. Regular visitors to these four interweb walls, as well as wading through great bally oceans of spam, will be well aware that our loveable captain is admired for many reasons here, just not for his defensive prowess. Should this turn into a backs-to-the-wall Alamo-style affair played on the edge of our area he will be jolly useful, but heaven help us if any of City’s millionaires decide to put their head down and run at him within the high defensive line. Kaboul, Kaboul and thrice I say Kaboul – get him back in the team.

Team News

Eriksen is out, having had a tap on the ankle, which presumably means a starting berth for Holtby, and the continued absence of Rose means that Vertonghen may again do the honourable thing at left-back. It seems rather a shame that we cannot field 15-20 players at once, as Monsieur Capoue is now fit again as well, which leaves AVB needing to select two from Sandro, Paulinho, Dembele and the aforementioned.

I cannot really imagine our esteemed leader suddenly deciding to live by the sword, so presumably Soldado will once again be the square peg at the apex, making runs that nobody feeds and lounging around by halfway when we need him to buck up and charge. Quite why we invested so much effort and money in obtaining the services of a blighter who, four months in, does not remotely fit the system, is beyond me, but ‘tis a grumble for another day. For now let us just close our eyes and hope for another clean sheet and late penalty.

Everton 0-0 Spurs: Will Someone Somewhere Please Solve The Wretched Soldado Problem?

A point at Goodison probably ought not to be sniffed at, even if we cannot help but wonder what might have been, in that heart-warming first half in particular.

First Half

Our heroes came out of the traps as if feral animals scenting blood, hunting down the blue mob in packs and shoving faces into armpits like it was nobody’s business. Foremost amongst the cast in this respect were Holtby and Vertonghen, both of whom were particularly prominent as we piled forward in the first half. In the opening 45 in particular Holtby enjoyed one of his finest jaunts in lilywhite, while Vertonghen had the bright idea to saunter through Everton’s fairly flimsy right-hand side at every opportunity, and with Walker’s willingness to overlap meaning Baines was forced to mope around inside his own half, young Townsend bore the look of a man thoroughly enjoying his playground-esque brand of take-on-all-comers football. On top of which Sandro doing what every good beast should do, his repertoire including occasionally shoving aside the man-mountain Lukaku as if he were one of the diddy guests at my niece’s fourth birthday party.

The only frustrations in that first half were that we were left to rue using up our quota of penalties for the week; that Lennon evidently eyes his left foot as something completely alien, planted there by mysterious forces while he slept last night; and that poor old Soldado presumably suffers from halitosis or some such similar affliction, which means that no-one dared wander within 15 yards of him. Understandable enough, for these are delicate moments amongst chums – but aside from the awkward social context it does create the dickens of a problem because not a soul appears able to offer any support to Soldado in attack – and should he himself peel out to the right then we might as well aim for the corner flags, because nobody will pop up in the area.

Second Half

Alas, albeit rather inevitably, life was not half as bright and breezy in the second half, as Everton upped their game and for significant periods we found ourselves penned further and further back. On the bright side, deep defending is grist to the Dawson mill, a world in which his lack of pace cannot be exposed, but his heart-on-sleeve penchant for last-ditch heroics come in handy.

To their credit our heroes continued fighting the good fight, and the intermittent second half attacks looked threatening, but as ever any shots of note were catapulted in from at least 20 yards.

Soldado

‘Tis an issue that segues neatly into the ongoing Soldado issue. The blighter simply does not fit our system. Or maybe our system does not fit him? Either way, there are two crucial components to this – Exhibits A and B if you will, with the former being Soldado and the latter Our System – and no matter how we try to sugar-coat the issue they still remain about as successful a combo as two chaps trying to negotiate a particularly intricate transaction over the telephone while hindered by the fact that neither speak the same language.

It’s a muddle of a thing at the moment, because when he wants the ball fed into the channels we are busy recycling it in midfield, and when we need him to hold the thing up with a bit of sweat and body-strength he seems to be running away from the ball as if allergic to the thing. The end-result of which is that I can only remember about one and a half chances falling his way from open play all season.

Over in this part of the interweb I am still inclined to think that if we are in the Top Four by 1 Jan we will be there come the season’s end. Still, this goalscoring issue gives our intrepid leader something to ponder over in the coming weeks, in case it has passed him by in the last few months.

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