All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs Summer Musings – Baldini, Fixtures & Folk Released

Out yonder on the horizon there has been barely a flicker of action since the end of the season, not even a new kit over which to pore. Mercifully this sorry circumstance changed ever so slightly this week, as there has now been some semblance of news, so pour yourself a bourbon, make yourself comfortable and join me for a perusal.

The Fixture List

It’s official. Next season we play every team, both home and away.

In an effort to make things slightly more exciting I did scour the final six fixtures or so and note the absence of any of the likely Top Four challengers – but was unable to decide whether this should be categorised as blessing or curse. And re-scheduling gubbins probably means that there will be additional fixtures haphazardly sprinkled in anyway.

Baldini Arrives

If ever proof were needed that this has been a grey, barren wasteland of a Spurs summer it is in the fact that the biggest – nay, only transfer summer so far has been neither a player nor even a manager. After his fairly impercetible contribution as Assistant to Fabio Capello with England, Franco Baldini has joined the Lane as Technical Director or some such business. Quite what difference he will make to the 11 who trot out onto the pitch each week is questionable, but I suppose if he can see to it that deals are done a little earlier than 23.59 on August 31, or whenever the window closes, then he will have achieved some purpose.

Bale Trademarks His Finger-Heart Celebration

Oh the ignominy. Mind you, it looks a lot less awful when produced 5 seconds after one of his blinding last-minute winner wondergoals.

Released Players

Gallas and Bentley were amongst the slew of players inevitably released a week or two back. In the case of the former it is just as well – frankly he had become a liability, even in the gentlest of Europa League ambles, and with Kaboul to return we should be fairly well stocked in the centre-back department.

The case of Bentley is viewed with a little sadness here at AANP Towers. Full of potential, a willing tryer and capable of the occasional moment that prompted a murmur of approbation, things simply did not click for the lad, despite the fairly regular need for an able right wing deputy. Admittedly for that 40-yard moment against l’Arse if nothing else, he will be remembered with a certain curious fondness around these parts.

And amidst the flotsam and jetsam, it pained me to note that also amongst those released was one J. Bostock Esquire. Signed in something approaching a frenzied hype, he genuinely was touted as the next big thing in English football, but had even fewer moments of lilywhite glory than Bentley. One wonders to what extent that was our fault as well as his; but alas, ‘tis done, as if it barely even happened at all.

Until the next piece of action of the vaguest substance, toodle-pip.

Spurs 2-1 QPR: The Portuguese For ‘Huzzah’

Not quite as we would have scripted admittedly, but only the most pedantic of lilywhite persuasion will grumble about the manner in which we stumbled our way over the finishing line today. To date this season, the four walls of White Hart Lane have witnessed vastly inferior attempts to wrap up the points and cavort our way down the High Road with the sounds of chortles ringing the air and three points slung over the shoulder – hence we might be well advised to thank the mid-September deities and shuffle off into the gloaming.

Partying Like It’s February 2010

Bale at left-back was the eyebrow-raiser de jour, and while not exactly an unparalleled success, the pre-match verdict at AANP Towers was a slightly sheepish nod of approval. Way back in the sepia-tinged days of February 2010, when young Master Bale was a few shades greener behind the ears,  his deployment at left-back worked a treat, as the left midfielder in residence (Bentley I think, bizarrely) tucked inside creating yawning great big acres of greenery into which the handsome young Welshman duly charged, having been granted the bonus of a flying start from 15 yards inside his own half. Alas, the bally thing just did not quite click today, and with lustre distinctly lacking in most other areas there was a most conspicuous forlornness to the manner in which our heroes trooped off at half-time.

To his credit young AVB took time out from his uncanny Vertonghen impressions to rearrange the pawns at half-time, with Master Caulker introduced, Bale shunted forward into more natural habitat and Dempsey adopting something that looked suspiciously like a striking role, and our heroes muddled their way into the lead accordingly.

All of which laid the foundations for that most feared of beasts, The One-Goal Lead At Home In The Last Ten Minutes. ‘Tis a creature that has the same effect upon the current lilywhite troupe as crying women have upon yours truly – but to their credit, rather than spinning around in panicked circles and gibbering unintelligibly, they made a few creditable attempts at bundling a third into the QPR net and putting the whole dashed issue to bed. Admittedly Friedel had to hurl himself full length a few times, and Gallas made one or two of his customary last-ditch blocks, but doing things the jolly complicated way has been turned into an art form by this lot over the years, so we ought not to complain too vociferously. Three points at home, and “Huzzah, huzzah and thrice I say huzzah” (or the Portuguese equivalent) is no doubt the expostulation ringing out within the four walls of the AVB abode tonight. Hear hear.

Spurs’ Summer Doings Viewed From A Beady AANP Eye

What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale 

Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.

More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.

Formation 

Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.

Erm… a centre-forward? 

Other personnel 

Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Dovi?enja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.

Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.

 

 

Spurs – Hearts Preview: Children of the Night

Like the Queen visiting the troops in Helmand in a symbolic gesture to bolster morale, we lilywhites need something to raise spirits, for few amongst us found anything comforting in Monday night’s debacle and gloomy faces abound. Timely then that that Hearts are pootling along the High Road to be given the run around tonight, for another gentle, if pointless, five-nil win would be timely.Alas, the chances of another drubbing are fairly remote. With the tie already settled our heroes are hardly likely to go charging out of the blocks tonight, and our starting line-up will presumably comprise a sleepy combo of those who will be rather embarrassed to be picked for such a non-event (Bassong, Pav, Bentley etc), and kids we are unlikely to see much more of before they disappear on loan (Harry Kane, Tom Carroll).

While the odds are against the likes of Kane, Andros Townsend and Jermaine Jenas cracking it at the top level, this is at least a chance for them to demonstrate that they can handle first team football. Controversially, ‘Arry has hinted that Luka Modric may even be asked to do that for which he is paid handsomely, and play for us. Any excitement tonight will presumably be generated by such sub-plots, but levity aside we at AANP Towers hope at least to see some encouraging signs for the morrow from our children of the night, as well as maintenance of a proud European record of White Hart Lane and, of course, no more blasted injuries.

Spurs – Bolton Preview: Dawson’s Mysterious Shrinking Ban

One down, seven to go – the dream of a run of eight consecutive League wins remains, at least within this particularly deluded little mind. This afternoon’s task will not be easy – Bolton outdid us on their patch earlier in the season, and in Kevin Davies have precisely the sort of striker whose presence makes me shudder from my Park Lane vantage point.Ye gods be praised then that some suit-wearing FA type is struggling to count beyond one. AANP often walks a disciplinary tightrope during its 8.30 – 5 daily office routine, and has long harboured the impression that should it be shown a red card then a three-match ban will follow pronto. However, for some reason, Michael Dawson is back in the reckoning today, despite what looked suspiciously like a straight red card just one week ago. Shhhhhh. Nobody say anything, and with a bit of luck it will go unnoticed that he has only missed one game…

Right-Footed Left Midfielders: Abundant At The Lane

We may be down to our last one and a half central defenders, and still be lacking that critical-if-overpriced striker, but by golly when it comes to right-footed midfielders playing on the left, few can shake a stick at our mob. Modders, Kranjcar and Bentley have all done their time on the left, with varying degrees of comfort, and while I’m not entirely sure as yet I suspect that young Master Pienaar may be inclined to lean rightwards – which did not stop him making his lilywhite (albeit sky blue) on the left a fortnight back, at Newcastle. Recent weeks have seen young Aaron Lennon, skipping infield from the left – and as ad hoc solutions go it may not exactly have the unborn leaping for joy within the wombs of their mothers, but it bore fruit in the dying embers of the game at Newcastle, and given the inconsistency of his crossing hte opportunity for in-field skippery seems to accentuate his major strength.

Second-guessing ‘Arry’s team’s selections is becoming increasingly difficult, but with Pienaar fit again today, I would guess that he will find himself in the centre (given the absence of Modders), alongside Jenas/Palacios, with VDV right and Lennon left. Whatever the teamsheet, this is one a fixture that a Top-Four chaser ought to win, and buoyed by the midweek success the mood around these parts is positively perky.

 

Everton – Spurs Preview: Time For Squad Rotation?

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

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

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

Team News 

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

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

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.

Spurs – Blackburn Preview: Bloodied Limbs As Far As The Eye Can See

Heavens above, have you seen our injury list? What the blazes are they doing to the players in between match days – wrestling with tigers? Jumping through fiery hoops?  Just standing in a big circle thrashing each other with great big iron bars? Whatever the training drills, something has gone horribly wrong, as Bentley, Hudd, Lennon, Keane, Giovani, Daws, Ledders and O’ Hara are all out, and whinging Princess Pav is a doubt (although I am willing to wager that he’ll be tickety-boo come Saturday afternoon).

 

No further injuries amongst the back-four, which I suppose is a good thing, although given the madness of recent games I’m not entirely sure how to greet the news that Gallas and Kaboul will be strolling out shoulder to shoulder on Saturday.

 

Scavenging amongst the bloodied limbs at the training ground, ‘Arry and chums have actually managed to rescue a midfield that retains a rather exciting look, which is a pleasant surprise. Bale, Modders and VDV have all been cocooned in cotton wool, and will be carefully unwrapped and delicately placed out on the pitch. They ought to be joined by Niko Kranjcar, who has been quietly shuffling towards the exit door in recent weeks. The chap’s grumblings of discontent are understandable, but it was unfortunate that he performed quite so anonymously when granted his neon-lit chance at Bolton last week. I fervently hope he excels tomorrow, because although it is difficult to accommodate him within the current starting XI he did enough last season to indicate that he is a quality player, and one very much carved in the Tottenham mould.

 

Three Points! Three Points!

 

One way or another we really ruddy well absolutely have to pick up three points tomorrow. Concerns about our striking deficiencies, the startling regression of Sergeant Wilson and the cracks in our back-four can probably wait for another day. The eleven who take to the pitch are likely to be the only ones not covered in bandages and supported by crutches, so we will jolly well have to accept and support them. The suspicion here at AANP Towers is that l’Arse and Man City will keep dropping points every now and then, but it won’t matter a jot if we grind to a halt at home to the likes of Blackburn each week. Three points, I beseech ye, three points.

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.

Spurs – Sunderland Preview: Consecutive Wins? Why The Devil Not?

One point, three games. Generally the solution at AANP Towers when things are not quite tickety-boo is to drink plenty of water and wait it out. In extreme circumstances we have even been known to chew on some raw garlic. However, something a little more drastic will probably be required from our heroes tonight, to shake them from the alarming torpor that characterized Saturday’s performance.

 

Things have gone so wildly awry in the league that we are now level on points with Liverpool, who I’m pretty sure were about to sack their manager and explode in a ball of flames a moment ago. There is nevertheless a salutary lesson to be gleaned from their fortunes, in providing evidence of the wholesome benefits of a string of consecutive victories. Three wins on the bounce has Liverpool back in contention for the top four; we now find ourselves playing host to Sunderland and Blackburn within the space of a week, a double-header that suggests that if we play our cards right by Saturday night we could find ourselves breathing down the necks of those rotters from l’Arse and Man City once again.

 

Team News

 

No Aaron Lennon, which suggests that Niko Kranjcar or David Bentley might be invited to watch in awe as Alan Hutton goes surging beyond them on the right. If fit, VDV and Hudd will presumably return to central midfield, while I imagine Jeans has also risen up the midfield pecking-order, simply by virtue of not being Palacios or Sandro; and Pav for Crouch is the logical but by no means certain alteration in attack.

 

It appears that Darren Bent is absent for the other lot tonight – bad news for my Fantasy League team, but good news from a lilywhite perspective, as Bent, like Kevin Davies, is one of those types who always seems rather likely to find our net one way or t’other. This means that the dashed exciting Asamoah Gyan ought to be in action for Sunderland tonight, representing another useful test for Younes Kaboul. I am beginning to grow quite fond of the boy Kaboul. He blinking well needs to iron out those lapses in concentration – sliced clearances and whatnot – but it’s nice to see someone big, strong and quick on the prowl in our defence. As that evil Emperor chap noted of Darth Vader when he was still a fiendishly annoying young whippersnapper, I shall watch his career with interest.

 

With the Champions League anthem removed from the playlist for the next week or two I have supreme confidence in our heroes tonight, and indeed on Saturday. A return to our daring, doing best ought to do the trick, for when our lot start to purr, particularly at the Lane, few sides in Christendom can live with us.

 

 

 

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