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Everton 1-1 Spurs: 5 Lilywhite Observations

1. Casting A Dubious Eye Over Tom Carroll

Carroll does have a dreamy touch, and if Premiership football were all about popping four-yard passes sideways, and backwards, and actually dispensing with boots and ball and just drawing pretty pictures of trees, then one suspects he would be revered far and wide as some sort of deity. But occasionally, the central midfield waltz seems to require hefty dollops of blood and thunder. Not to mention winning tackles, effecting clearances, tracking opponents and other fittings of similar ilk. And in these respects it seemed from my distant perch that Carroll was wafting his bat but missing the ball by a good foot or two, if you get my drift.

Now it may be that I have pre-judged the chap. You know how it is, you mark a blighter down as ‘nay’ rather than ‘yay’, and thereafter, even if he covers every blade of grass, and rescues a yelping maiden from a burning cottage for good measure, you still dock him points for messy handwriting. So maybe having knocked Carroll as a lightweight, waif-like, toothless, shadow of a lad by about the halfway stage, I may have been far too blinkered in my judgements thereafter. The TV folk certainly sung his praises, which rather goes to show.

But the moments that struck me were when he let Barkley wander past him and then wrapped his arms around him to give him a hug – rather than tackling him – to earn a booking; and when we broke on the left, he received the ball twenty yards from goal and produced from nowhere his best Jermaine Jenas impression by swivelling towards his own net and knocking it backwards fifteen yards to groans from across North London; and the astonishingly inept attempt at a clearing header late on, which bounced off the top of his head in a manner completely bereft of any control, to an Everton chappie who lashed a volley goalwards to draw an outstanding palm from Lloris. Rather a mouthful, but gist of the thing is that Carroll gives the impression of a boy who is only loitering there because his parents have forgotten to collect him.

2. Vertonghen

A big day this, for those charged with keeping things under lock and key. Belgium are apparently the best national team in the world at the moment, which ought to have made today’s game about the standard of a World Cup final if you think about it, but irrespective of that curiosity Messrs Vertonghen and Alderweireld had a challenge and a half in front of them, in the shape of the considerable frame of Lukaku. Being the sort of chap who always struck me as likely to be completely at home diving head-first through a brick wall, our two centre-backs needed to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed – and by and large they made a solid fist of things. Not all their own way, and the nerves rather frayed a bit towards the end when everything stretched and the pressure ratcheted up several notches, but he was shackled as well as such behemoths can be.

However, if there were one moment that had me uttering a few choice curses it was the goal we conceded. Well, naturally enough I suppose, but particularly Vertonghen’s role in it. I’m not sure he can be faulted for losing the initial header to Lukaku – let us not forget the capacity to headbutt brick walls and suchlike – but why the dickens did Vertonghen turn his back on Lennon as the latter took his shot? This man’s very bread and butter lies in the act of preventing exactly that by any legal means necessary, and he gets paid sackloads for the privilege. Fling every limb at him, dash it. Take one full in the face if you have to.

(While on the topic, it also struck me as a bit odd that Lloris grasped at the thing with his wrong hand (his left), but it seemed a fairly futile cause by that point in any case.)

3. Rip-Snorting First Half

Truth be told, these are relatively minor gripes, and ought not to form chorus and the first couple of verses when the whole thing is eventually committed to song. Our first half was akin to one of those runaway trains that one sees in action films of a certain era, but which never actually happen in real life. Hurtling along at a rate of knots, sparks flying and all sorts. That poor old Kane and Davies failed to strike oil with their respective long-range efforts is to be solemnly lamented, as Kane’s could not have been closer and Davies’ almost ripped the net from its frame. (Although as my old man, AANP Senior is never slow to point out, they only deserve credit if they were aiming for the woodwork.)

Even aside from the close shaves however, our heroes looked at the peak of their powers in the first half. It was as well as they had played all season. The goal conceded was a rotten injustice, but such is life I suppose, and to their credit they kept beavering away until the break. When they play thusly one really does think that they are capable of staying in the Top Four.

4. The Ongoing Ode to Dembele

Not to harp on again about the personnel who were picked in central midfield, but in a quiet moment tonight, as we swirl away our Sunday night bourbons and reflect on life, I suspect many a Spurs fan will wistfully think of what might have been had Dembele been growling around in the centre. Barkley had his moments, and the substitute they brought on had a bit of bite to him, but Dembele when in the mood can snaffle up such opponents like a bulldog chewing at a sausage roll. As the game wore on and Everton exerted more pressure, the heart yearned for yet another Belgian to enter the fray and start barging folk around.

5. Weary Limbs

Pochettino is evidently a man who knows his apples from his oranges, so I would not dare presume the right to criticise – but if I were to be so impertinent I would respectfully clear the throat in the direction of a little squad rotation. Preferably the sort that does not involve young Master Carroll. Our heroes looked a little jaded as events progressed and Act Three hurtled towards its denouement, and Everton almost profited. Something similar occurred a couple of weeks ago at Newcastle, when again the players looked bang out of gas. The brow furrow, what?

Chadli and Son were dutifully thrown on, but might a fresh pair of legs be in order in the engine room? Amidst the evening gloom one could pick out the frame of Bentaleb on the bench, and there might be worse ideas than introducing him for the closing stages, to ensure that angry flecks of spittle continue to fly until the end. Moreover, Harry Kane will sooner or later splutter to a halt and require roadside assistance, although one suspects that the Brains Trust are fully aware of the need to scratch this particular itch.

A closing sentiment? Wonderful, wonderful goal from Dele Alli – the pass, particularly the control, and the very smart execution. Ten festive points is a strong haul. Bonne année.

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 0-0 Man Utd: Turning Luck Into An Art Form

Somebody somewhere once warbled to the effect that if you can play badly and still win then you must be doing something right in the small print. Now the eagle-eyed amongst you will no doubt have spotted that on this occasion we did not actually win, but a few days earlier against Leicester we did, after an eminently forgettable performance, and yesterday we could perhaps be described to have hung about gamely.

The point, which admittedly I have deviated from by a good few hundred yards, is that I am feeling rather heartened by recent events. Heartened in a guilty way, ‘tis true, because if it wasn’t Vertonghen scything down an opponent in the area and walking away scott-free it was the finest forwards money can assemble suddenly losing control of their lower limbs when two yards from goal with ball at feet. On top of which, you couldn’t move for opponents slamming the ball against Hugo’s woodwork with gay abandon. And a propos Monsieur Lloris, the chap has yet again been forced to leap around like a man possessed to keep the good ship Hotspur afloat, despite the seemingly porous framework upon which it is built.

But heartened I am. A string of wins, followed by a point against Man Utd, is not to be sniffed at, no matter how much one picks it up, inspects it and points accusingly at it. Points are points, and while few will suggest that we are now ready for a title-tilt, most would presumably agree that somewhere or other behind the scenes some good work is being done.

There is no disputing that we have not just ridden our luck but have enjoyed a trip in luck’s first-class cabin, complete with complimentary champagne served by a sultry hostess. No real disputing that one. No sir. I suppose it helps even out the dodgy penalty decisions of earlier in the season (Man City and Liverpool, to name a couple).

However, on a more constructive note, much has been made of the fact that our heroes seem to have an extra bit of puff in their lungs these days, and well does it serve us. The last-minute goals seem too frequent to be entirely down to chance, and in the closing moments of yesterday’s game we had not just stirred into life but seemed positively the likelier to win the thing, so three cheers for Pochettino’s beep test, or whatever method the coaching team use these days.

Individual Performances

The tinkering by Pochettino was understandable enough in principle, albeit a little ineffective in practice. The choice of Davies and Chiriches as full-backs in place of Rose and Walker was presumably effected with the dual purpose of giving the latter two a moment to catch their breath, following return from injury, as well as stifling the Man Utd wing-backs. Alas, Messrs Valencia and Young could be described as many things yesterday, but not, truthfully, ‘stifled’. Still, this being our lucky month and all, that was soon taken care of when Valencia disappeared stage right and Rafael-Or-Fabio took his place.

The rarely-sighted Townsend was given a gambol, and beavered away as is his wont, all enthusiasm and willing, and precious little product. I suspect I am in a minority but I like the chap, for he permanently seems to be one smidgeon away from being quite the game-changer. The dinked pass to Kane early on, a sturdy long-range shot in the second half – the law of averages suggests that sooner or later he is going to spend the full 90 minutes absolutely destroying a team single-handedly. I just get the feeling that this will happen after we have sold him.

Typical fare from Mason and Stambouli, the former’s performance encapsulated by that late miss, when he showed all the energy of a young hyperactive puppy to race half the length of the pitch before displaying that absence of top-notch class, in blazing the ball over. Stambouli did everything one would expect of a first-reserve, and the pair of them together generally struggled to prevent the all-singing, all-dancing cast of United midfield talent from pouring forward, particularly in the first half. Not really a criticism, as they were outnumbered, and frankly up against far better players.

But that marvellous combination of willing and luck got us to the finish line, rounding off what on paper looks a pretty darned impressive month’s work. Another seductive smile or two from Lady Luck on 1 Jan against Chelski would go down mightily well.

Categories
Spurs news, rants

Davies, Gylfi, Vorm & A 5-Year Ruddy Contract for Rose

Oh how the fates toy with us, when it comes to matters of a left-back persuasion. Regular drinkers at the AANP well will be familiar with my dubious sentiments about that careering, out-of-control ball of limbs known as Danny Rose.  So when the carrier pigeon poked in its head to chirp tidings from the lilywhite transfer office, conveying news of the signing of one Ben Davies Esquire, I did what any right-thinking, Danny Rose-abhorring chap would do, and promptly danced a surreptitious but merry jig.

Not that the life and times of Ben Davies is a particular pet topic of mine, far from it. In fact, beyond the most basic snippets of info, I would have to confess to being almost entirely ignorant of anything about the blighter. He does however undoubtedly possess one feature that in my eyes represents ten million nuts well spent – namely that he is not Danny Rose. This, by any metric, constitutes a forward step.

So ‘twas a distinctly bonny, blithe and gay AANP pootling cheerily about his business this week when the carrier pigeon reappeared – but this time its message was so dashed soul-destroying that I had a good mind to wring its neck, pluck every feather from its body and string it up from the window as a pointed warning to any other soul bearing similarly woeful news. And news does not get much worse – or more head-scratchingly baffling – than that Danny Rose and his kabbadi boots have signed on for another five years at the Lane. Another five years! Blinking heck. Another five years of ill-timed lunges, misplaced six-yard passes and errant crosses slapping into the nearest defender. Someone think about the children, for goodness sake.

I do of course exercise a smidgeon or two of dramatic licence here, for the chap is not entirely incapable when it comes to the germane issues around two working feet and a sphere. Nevertheless repeated viewings of the boy Rose do give the impression that God set out to create a runaway trolley, attached a few muscular limbs – during some sort of deific experimental phase no doubt – but gave up before completion and dumped the result in N17.

Gylfi Thor Sigurdsson Biffs Off

As part of the Ben Davies deal we also bid a teary adieu to Gylfi Sigurdsson, not the least of whose qualities include the middle name ‘Thor’. I was always rather fond of the chap (Sig, not Thor), and one suspects that in a parallel universe he has made a starting berth his own at the Lane. However, the Tottenham midfield is bursting at the seams, with attacking-minded chaps of his ilk spilling out all over the place, so the decision to shove him out is understandable enough.

Vorm

The boy Vorm is inbound, since having a pretty dashed handy reserve goalkeeper now seems to be as fashionable as beards and skinny jeans. A competent chappie this Vorm, so one nods enthusiastically and hopes he enjoys staying out late on Thursdays.

Falque Out, Dier In

Our other transfer dealings have been very much on the low-key side of things. Once upon a time £4 million was almost enough to give the foundations of world football a meaningful shove, and pocket oneself a flamboyant, mulleted winger with a penchant for shoulder-dips. Now it seems, a similar sum will secure the services of a man with but one appearance to his name. Step forward (and wave goodbye) Iago Falque, a bean I would not recognise if he made an appointment and proceeded to give the reel-by-reel lowdown on his instagram page. Bundled off to Italy apparently, after that single appearance. Still, he was on the THFC squad list, and as such will forever be entitled to a free whisky at AANP Towers whenever in the neighbourhood.

A similar delight awaits one Eric Dier, who for another £4 million is toddling onto the White Hart Lane premises all the way from Portugal. An England U21 central defender according to the shady types who know such things. The law of averages suggests he will end up disappearing down the route trod by Antony Gardener, Alton Thelwell and indeed Iago Falque – but one wishes him well.

Precious Little Else

Beyond those it seems that preserving the status quo by is the latest fad. Inevitably, a couple of rumours have wafted along suggesting that we might join the merry band pecking away at the carcass of Southampon, but on the whole it seems that the Pochettino remit is to make the most of the treasures already at his disposal. No bad thing, given that by and large last season we seemed but one decent left-back and an in-form Lamela short of the Top Four, but until we bring in a fourth striker I remain a tad uneasy about things.

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