All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Bolton 1-4 Spurs, Plus A Timely Catch-Up On Recent Events…

Heavens above. AANP ought to have known better than to wave away the whisky for five minutes while real-life gubbins intervened, but since I last tapped at these keys there have been debacles against Chelski and Norwich, followed up by rather professional dismantlings of Blackburn and Bolton. What to make of it all? Charge your glasses and follow hither…

Spurs 1-5 Chelski

Cast your minds back to Wembley if you will. Lest ye need reminding, all sorts of indignation flowed around the streets of North London, and quite rightly so, given that Chelski seemed to be awarded a goal for the fairly innocuous achievement of having a shot charged down in the area; but such is life, and of more concern at AANP Towers was the ease with which Chelski took their other four goals.

Rarely have our heroes performed with such gusto as when racked with the injustice of life and the refereeing decisions it produces, but equally notable was the decision taken en masse to give up the whole bally thing as soon as we went 3-1 down. Naturally enough Scott Parker can be spared too much criticism, fighting the good fight all the way to the 90th minute and beyond, but to see the rest of them collectively slump shoulders and exhale with 10 minutes remaining and the situation by no means irretrievable was dashed bothersome.

QPR 1-0 SpursThe usual ills, with which we have become depressingly familiar in recent weeks, were paraded in all their glory against this rabble – plenty of possession but precious little invention; a complete and resolute absence of off-the-ball movement; the mind-boggling determination to stick Lennon on the left and Bale on the right – but when the ever-reliable Brad Friedel gets an attack of Gomes-itis it really is time to remove oneself quietly and go for a lie-down.

 

Spurs 2-0 BlackburnJolly well more like it, and not a moment too soon. A pedant – and they are hardly a dying breed here at AANP Towers – would continue the season-long grumble about our profligacy in front of goal, with a 2-0 scoreline hardly justifying near-100% possession and 19 shots on goal, but given the travails of recent weeks perhaps we should just quietly sacrifice a small rodent in gratitude to the gods of Champions League qualification, and be grateful for what we have.

 

Sandro generally comes across as a good egg. Perhaps bereft of a couple of well-tightened screws, and not necessarily a chap you would entrust to feed your goldfish, but certainly not lacking in enthusiasm and dedication. This has at times manifested itself in wildly mistimed tackles, but on Sunday he struck all the right notes – winning every tackle with a merry crunch, surging through half a dozen challenges and straight down the heart of the Blackburn defence and at one point almost snapping the crossbar. (On top of which he dealt with the potentially awkward scenario of on-field vomiting most adeptly, by simply taking a deep breath and continuing to stretch every sinew for the lilywhite cause.)

Yes, ‘twas only Blackburn, but mediocrity of opponent has hardly prevented some insipid performances from our lot in recent weeks. In the absence of Parker, Sandro’s was a most useful contribution, and a most professional performance from our heroes as a collective.

Bolton 1-4 Spurs

What a difference an Aaron Lennon makes, particularly when the Brains Trust stumbles across the most novel idea of parking him on the right, winding him up and releasing him. From the off he was a blur of little legs and jazz hands, which provided a handy cue for the rest of our heroes to pile forward on top of their hosts and provide a few nostalgic reminders of that glorious era, Ye First Halfe of This Season.

And how right it all looked, with Bale galloping down the left, Modders yanking strings hither and thither in the centre and VDV always on hand to roll possession along. Lennon may not have necessarily been the outstanding performer, but his very presence on the right seems to provide stability to the fabric of the universe, and as a serendipitous side-effect it also gives our Starting XI a useful balance. Oh that ‘Arry had invested in a reserve right-winger in the January sales (or simply retained Master Pienaar).

Admittedly there was a wobbly 15 minutes at the start of the second half, when the incessant bombardment from the skies threatened the general serenity of things, but unlike against QPR and Norwich, our superior class and technique was translated into net-bulging. Witness Modders’ goal, and the weight of his pass for our third. Such moments deserve to win games, and the best Bolton could offer in return were the elbows of Davies.

If there is a point of concern from our two recent wins it appears to be Danny Rose’s continued ignorance of the basic tenets of playing left-back, playing football and the very principles of physics that govern the behaviour of a moving ball. By the start of the second half even his own team-mates seemed to think twice when he availed himself for a pass.

However, with two games left it is to the credit of our heroes that they have recovered from those self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the feet, and hauled themselves back to within a whisker of that ‘orrible lot down the road. Good grief, this might even come down to goal difference.

Tardy Musings on Spurs vs Chelski, Bolton…

Chelski 0 – 0 Spurs

Awfully puzzling game this one, as you no doubt recall. The first half of dedicated non-aggression was followed by Chelski probably edging things, only for our lot to carve out enough clear-cut chances to hand out a right thrashing. Alas, the conclusion to draw was that our lot to a man need to spend a full week engaged in nothing but shooting practice (or they could just stick Defoe on the pitch, and watch as some of those chances miraculously cause the net to bulge). Still, ‘twas another fairly encouraging performance – and in truth the standard of performance has rarely been a problem during our recent slump (the game at l’Arse excepted).

One other point of note from last weekend was neatly made by Neville on the tellybox – namely that when we counter-attacked in the second half at Chelski, the only man making a charge upfield in support of Adebayor was young Kyle Walker, belting up the pitch like his latest piece of body-art depended on it. Contrast to just about any game in the first half of the season, when such counter-attacks would have just about every man and his dog in lilywhite pouring forward. We are, it appears, beginning to pay the price for a lack of squad-rotation.

Spurs 3-1 Bolton

A return to the good old days – which, curiously enough, turned out to be just as frustrating as the decidedly more average new days. As at the start of the season, we gave the opposition an absolute battering, but watching as shot after shot was repelled by the Bolton goalkeeper sent the blood pressure at AANP Towers soaring to levels not previously witnessed in a featherless biped.

A doff of the AANP cap was made towards young Master Livermore, who supplemented his usual output of energy and tackling with a couple of quite sumptuous passes. However, the need for both he and Parker in central midfield quickly became utterly redundant. Adebayor, Bale, Modders and VDV tore Bolton to shreds, but again there were too many occasions when Adebayor received precious little support when crosses were flung his way. All this while Parker did no more than spectate around the halfway line, and Defoe spectated from the substitutes’ bench.

Still, the job was eventually done, and with the aplomb of old. It bodes well.

Spurs – Bolton Preview: A Break From Our March Towards Doom

This, I am reliably informed is a desperate situation. Quite possibly the desperatest. Handily glossing over the fact that our three consecutive defeats have been to three teams who, for one reason or another, stumbled upon optimum form just as they took to the field against us, the people have spoken in their lilywhite hordes, and this run of form is now scientifically proven to be the most wretched thing in history. Still think we can finish third? A thousand sneering glances in your direction! Forget about our form over the entire season – look at our last three results! We lost them all! People are tweeting and everything! If you’re not bashing your head against a nearby wall and itching to dust off the “’Arry Out” placards from a couple of seasons ago, you have clearly become drunk on common sense. The season is heading irresistibly towards meltdown, and anyone who tells you otherwise has had their judgement clouded by a reprehensible fog of perspective.

“Owen Coyle For Spurs” – Yes, I Really Did…Mercifully somebody somewhere thought of the children, and as a result we handily now get to punctuate our inexorable march towards Premiership doom by trampling our way past Bolton in the Cup. Back at the start of the season yours truly demonstrated his sagacity on all subjects football-related by wisely opining that Owen Coyle should be lined up as an outside bet for the next Spurs manager, a sentiment that is now hurriedly dismissed with a loud clearing of the throat and murmuring of “I probably meant that Swansea chap.”

 

Once upon a time Bolton existed solely to acquaint the ball with the clouds; then they became rather trendy and pretty, stringing passes together and whatnot under the auspices of Coyle; but now it seems their raison d’être is to make a beeline for relegation. Quite the opportunity then, for our heroes to advance ever closer to faux glory at Wembley.

Injuries (That Matter Not)Poor form or not, our lot should make light work of this. The exhausting and fairly futile search for a solution to the absence of Aaron Lennon is set to continue, the little man still sore of hamstring. Adebayor is apparently also a doubt, and Ledley is unlikely to be risked, but even allowing for these absences and one or two others, elimination here would be an affront to decency.

Spurs 2-1 Bolton: What Happened to the Phantom Third Penalty?

Last-minute winners and multiple penalties are the least we have come to expect from a 90-minute adventure at the Lane, but as the cheery dissection of events was conducted at AANP Towers one question sprang to mind, yet to be satisfactorily answered: what the devil happened to that third penalty we were awarded? You know the one – VDV pinging off short passes, a vagrant arm giving the ball a little nudge and hearty roars of approval from the Park Lane, all fairly shortly before half-time. The ref awarded it, then wandered over to his assistant, had a brief chin-wag and then seemingly decided that as we would probably miss it anyway he would just skip the whole bally affair and give the Bolton ‘keeper the ball to do with as he pleased.Quite what happened is a mystery. I do not recall seeing a flag being earnestly waved out yonder, to signal a prior offside or any such thing. It could I suppose be that refereeing superstar Mark Clattenberg decided that as he had not been in the limelight for a full five minutes the world needed to focus upon him one final time before the break. Most perplexingly however, the entire episode was omitted from Match of the Day in a vaguely Orwellian style, the BBC’s Ministry of Truth presumably keen to convince licence-payers that in fact no third penalty incident ever existed.

The Re-Birth of Kranjcar?

Ultimately it mattered not, Niko Kranjcar saving the day with a shot that practically squealed at ‘Arry, “Look here you twitchy rotter, I’m a full-time footballer and darned well capable of cutting it within this lilywhite mob.” Amidst the euphoria of yet another injury-time winner it was easy to overlook quite how stylishly he took the opportunity, a timely reminder of what jolly good technique he possesses.

So what might the future hold for young Master Kranjcar? If the hallowed corridors of White Hart Lane could speak they would have plenty of tales to relate of outcasts taking advantage of injuries elsewhere to cement their first-team spots in the ‘Arry era, as Messrs Bale and Hutton can attest. With nobody daring to mention how long Bale will be out injured, and VDV picking up his usual weekly knock, ‘Arry might just be tempted to resort to Kranjcar on left midfield at some point in the near future.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Minus Hudd, Bale, Modders and, latterly, VDV, this was a decent attacking performance, of the rip-roaring, slick, high-tempo mould. Benny brought his A-game (which presumably means we can all expect a shocker from him next week) while poor old Jermaine Jenas seems destined never to be the headline-grabbing superstar, coming within a whisker of glory but ultimately having to defer to Kranjcar in the hero stakes.

Goodness knows what year it will be before Jermain Defoe next scores, but I remain of the opinion that given a run of consecutive games he will get there eventually, and in a flurry. Temporary form, permanent class and all that nonsense. However, as long as he and Crouch are struggling with the concept of net-bulging fare we could probably do without Gomes’ curious aberrations.

Still, all well that ends well. Two consecutive wins, and six more eminently winnable games approacheth. Over the last week alone we have narrowed the gap on each of the four sides ahead of us. Rack up a string of wins through February and we will nibble away at the advantage held by the stuttering four atop us.

 

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.

 

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

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

 

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

 

The Lost Puppy in Central Midfield

 

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

 

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

 

“Donde El Gringo” or Something?

 

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

 

Crouch: Copy and Paste…

 

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

 

Princess Pav

 

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

 

 

The New Gareth Bale

 

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

 

Elsewhere On The Pitch

 

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

 

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

 

Conclusion? We Must Win The Champions League…

 

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

Bolton – Spurs Preview: Gareth Bale – “Photogenic”? Really?

Quite a week for Gareth Bale, now universally regarded as being up there alongside Pele, sliced bread, the wheel and opposable thumbs on the list of The Best Things Anyone Has Ever Seen Anywhere, Ever. Unfortunately, and I suppose inevitably, one publication has gone completely overboard in their praise of the chap, the Daily Telegraph going to the ludicrous extent of describing Bale as “photogenic”. Really, that’s what they call him. Here. Golly.

 

I jest. We who worship at the Altar of Bale don’t care a hang for his appearance, as he long as he stays free of injury and retains forevermore that enduring ability to go merrily a-shredding any defence that lays before him. Following the less-than-entirely-successful approach to stopping Bale adopted by Rafa Benitez in midweek, of granting him the freedom of White Hart Lane, it seems likelier that Bolton tomorrow – and every team thereafter – will take leaves out of the books of Everton and Man Utd by doubling up on the poor blighter at every opportunity.

 

As an aside, the boffins here at AANP Towers have mused whether a response to this approach might be to withdraw BAE, switch Bale left-back and move Kranjcar/Modders/AN Other to left midfield. Thus, Bale could begin his runs from inside his own half, reaching a full gallop by the time he is in the opposition half, and making it a tad more difficult for Bolton to latch onto him. Moreover, the presence of Kranjcar/Modders/Whomever already on the left would give the double-teamers something else about which to fret.

 

Admittedly it may not be as scientifically flawless as E=MC², but we will presumably need to adopt some sort of strategy to deal with the extra attention that now seems inevitable.

 

Team Selection

 

In fact, I would not be entirely surprised if ‘Arry opted to rest Bale tomorrow. Following the monumental efforts of Tuesday, one or two changes in personnel are probably to be expected amongst the starting XI, with Bassong, Corluka, Jenas, Sergeant Wilson, Sandro, Pav and Keane presumably all on standby (not entirely sure of the current status of Messrs Giovani and Bentley). While Bale has assumed the mantle of havoc-wreaker-in-chief, the heartbeat of the team on Tuesday was formed by Hudd, Modders and VDV, who between them pretty much controlled the game. Rest may be required for weary limbs, but I do jolly well  hope that at least two of these three trot out for kick-off tomorrow afternoon.

 

Tuesday night’s heroics have done much to restore our reputation as a big domestic – and indeed European – name, a reputation that has been withering away over the last 20 years. However, more glorious European nights are required, and to this end top-four finishes are essential. A draw at Bolton would be a decent result; victory at Bolton would be a top-four result.

Spurs 1-0 Bolton: Romance Blooms At The Lane

Why do they toy with us so? This whole business of wingers who can zip across the turf at twice the speed of light is all well and good if the counter-attacks lead to a glut of goals, but, as against Chelski a couple of weeks ago, our glorious heroes seemed determined to avoid making the game safe – anyone else get the impression that Gudjohnsen quite deliberately placed that last-minute shot at the advertising hoarding rather than the net?Thus ends the rant. Victory by whatever means was all-important, and I’d have settled for a last-minute goal from that over-zealous ball-boy if it had guaranteed the three points. That the players had to make it quite so nail-biting is presumably just part of their contracts, to do things the Tottenham Way. Useful preparation for Wednesday night too, this nerve-shredding approach.

We ticked the necessary boxes, as we have generally done at home all season. In no particular order therefore, a handful of musings from the weekend’s goings-on.

The Romantic Hit Of The Summer 

Younes Kaboul Does A Surprisingly Good Cafu Impression

Younes Kaboul certainly looked like a man who has been eating his greens this week. Previously a peculiarly-eyebrowed square peg in a right-back-shaped hole, he was one of the best players on the pitch on Saturday. While there is something about him that will always suggest God did not intend him as a natural right-back, he took every opportunity to haring up the flank with all the speed and power of a runaway train. And to pretty good effect too. His distribution is hardly Beckham-esque but he delivered a couple of well-judged cut-backs and one inviting cross atop the mullet of Pav, whilst also applying himself with good wholesome gusto in defence. Top marks, sir. (The slightly worrying question of how he will fare against Craig Bellamy on Wednesday can be shelved for another 24 hours.)

Ledley: Pushing The Boundaries of Language

Someone invent some more superlatives, because Ledley is exhausting the current supply. I’d take him to the World Cup, elect him Prime Minister and have him open the batting for England this summer. Aside from the usual (pace, calmness, use of the ball) his reading of the game, to intercept passes before I even had time to utter panicked profanities, was particularly eye-catching. What a boost if we could patch him up again for Wednesday.

So there endeth a jolly impressive season of home games. Bar a couple of struggles against our more negative guests, and a no-show against last season’s champions, we Lane-goers have been rather spoiled – wins against the Champions League-chasers, goal-fests against rubbish teams, and all served up on a bed of good old-fashioned champagne football. Time to take the show on the road. Fingers crossed, prayers said and small animals sacrificed for Wednesday.

Final Chance to Catch Gary Mabbutt Signing Spurs’ Cult Heroes – THIS SATURDAY 

No game this Saturday – so a tidy little opportunity to pop into Walthamstow Waterstones for the final signing session by

Gary Mabbutt of AANP book Spurs’ Cult HeroesWaterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pm 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play). You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs – Bolton Preview: No Excuses

Tempus doesn’t half fugit when things are going swimmingly. It barely seem five minutes ago that we pitched up to the Lane for the first time this season, to offer Steven Gerrard some legal advice (“Self-defence, you’re having a laugh”) and salute BAE’s frankly mental long-range effort. Eight months on and who would have predicted that the top four we would be ours to throw away? Harking back through the yellowed pages of AANP’s archives I note that top-six was the target around these parts last August. Not that that will soften the blow should we mess things up from here…Seeing off Bolton will hardly be a straightforward task – Kevin Davies in particular has taken rather a liking to our onion bag – but there are no excuses. Three points today (and next Sunday) are essential.

No Ledley. Not Today

If Ledley goes trotting onto the pitch at 2.55 I think I’ll personally march out there and slap a chloroformed handkerchief across his face just to prevent his participation. I fancy us to beat Bolton with Bassong and Daws bringing up the rear; vastly more important that Ledley’s knees are tickety-boo ahead of the clash with Tevez, Adebayor et al on Wednesday. The only sighting of Ledley ought to be encased from head to toe in a cocoon of cotton wool, as the players amble around for the end-of-season lap of honour at full-time.

A similar argument might also be made in favour of restricting Aaron Lennon to a cameo, with one eye on Wednesday night. Whether or not he starts, it seems likely that at some point at least we will be treated to the sight of Bale on one flank and Lennon on t’other, which would serve as a delightful end of season gift.

Elsewhere on the Pitch

It’s been debated ad infinitum, but to be honest the central midfield combo ought not to be as critical an issue today as against Man Utd. Impose our game upon the other lot and it won’t matter whether or not Sergeant Wilson is patrolling the centre-circle, or Modders starting out left. (Of course, should the players themselves adopt an attitude of complacency similar to that at AANP Towers our top four dream could be in tatters come the final whistle.)

Corluka is still out, so Kaboul/BAE/Walker will be tasked with doing the honourable thing on the right. (AANP would opt for Kaboul, to lend a hand in case of any aerial assault from our guests today). Bentley was a little isolated on the right wing last week, so a slightly more generous attitude from today’s chosen right-back would go down well.

Win-draw-win will do the trick – but when did our lot ever do things the straightforward way?

 

Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses at Waterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pm 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , Tesco, Waterstones and Play).  

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

Spurs 4-0 Bolton: ‘Arry’s Newfangled Concept Works A Treat

It was just like old times, those sepia-tinged, heady days of late-summer 2009, when rubbish teams would traipse up to the Lane and be promptly destroyed, with our heroes requiring nothing beyond second gear. From the outset the only worry last night was that we might fail to turn domination into goals, but merrily this was not to be one of those wretched occasions. A job well done, and without breaking sweat.Madness I Tell Ye

The evening began in thoroughly perplexing fashion, with the announcement that Assou-Ekotto was back in the team as well as the boy Bale. Completely discombobulated, AANP and chums frantically bandied around hypotheses in an effort to get our heads around the madness. Were we about to witness 3-5-2? Or Bale as a left-winger? Or a novel – if highly illegal – use of 12 players from the outset?

As it turned out it was nothing more outlandish than BAE at right-back. Some newfangled concept known as “squad rotation” apparently (it will never catch on). We have perhaps been a little spoiled by the frequent gallops, up the length of the pitch and back, by our handsome young Welshman, and last night was a reminder that the braided one is a little more restrained in his attacking forays, but it was still good to see him back in the fold. His reluctance to bomb on and inability to use his right foot had a rather detrimental effect upon poor old Bentley, who through little fault of his own was rendered fairly ineffective, but as events transpired this was no huge loss.

Pav Still Super

The other notable selection was, of course, Pav up-front. It is perhaps a little premature to laud him to the heavens and name the new stadium after him, but in one and a bit games he has done all that could possibly have been expected of him, and certainly looks sharper in front of goal than Crouch ever did. The AANP jury is out on whether he and Defoe qualify alongside Sheringam-Klinsmann, Greaves-Gilzean and Bert-Ernie in the ranks of The World’s Greatest Ever Double-Acts, but while their partnership is hardly telepathic, it has nevertheless now become difficult to drop either.

Daws And Palacios’ Passing Master-Class

”You don’t know what it’s like to really create something; to create a life; to feel it growing inside you. All you know how to create is death and destruction…” 

As it happened though, the rather glorious exception to this yesterday was Palacios’ hand in the second goal, a delightful pass into the danger-zone. As with Bale in the second half, it is easy to chuckle at the buffoonery of the opposition for scoring own-goals, but let us not overlook the cracking delivery of the passes from Palacios and Bale, into areas against which it is jolly difficult to defend.

The All-Star Hollywood Midfield

Amusingly, ‘Arry came over all Ocean’s Eleven in the second half, and decided to cram as many silky superstars as possible into the team, with complete disregard for such ugly notions as tackle and bite. Thus it transpired that Sergeant Wilson was withdrawn, and we were treated to possibly our prettiest midfield ever, ball-players of the ilk of Modders, Hudd, Kranjcar, Gudjohnsen and Bentley alongside one another. It ought to have made for 20 minutes of the world’s most beautiful football, but by then the game was over and they just went through the motions. Rather a shame actually.

Gudjohnsen

Or Sheringham Mk II, if you prefer. He has no real inclination to go sprinting hither and thither, but with those little flicks and disguised diagonal passes he’s clearly far too laid-back for any such plebeian exertion as running. Not sure how he would cope in the hurly-burly of a high-octane Premiership fight to the death, but as a fourth striker he seems a welcome addition to the squad. He adds something very different; will be of value in games in which our front-men find themselves isolated; is of sufficient quality to give one of the other forwards a breather as fixtures pile up (there’s that crazy “squad rotation” concept once more); and adds some much-needed experience to what is generally a young squad.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

More attacking wondrousness from our Bale, again neatly glossing over his occasional defensive deficiency. Another watertight performance from Gomes. It would be easy to ignore, but he shot-stopped and punched impeccably, and made a particularly smart save at 2-0 just before half-time, which might otherwise have made things jittery. Sergeant Wilson became the first Latin American footballer in history to fail to execute perfectly a back-heel. The boy Rose looked good, if one-footed. And so on; we did the bare minimum, and it was more than enough. Fulham away is not easy, but eminently do-able, and suddenly…

[Shameless plug alert] Victory last night means that we’ll be in the Quarter Finals on Saturday 6th March – and also means that Gary Mabbutt’s signing of

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, that same day in Enfield Waterstones, is brought forward to 12 noon. 

Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 March – but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith, Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

All Action, No Plot © 2012. Theme Squared created by Rodrigo Ghedin.