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Burnley 2-1 Spurs: Four Tottenham Observations

1. Dreadful

I don’t mind admitting that my eyes bled profusely on watching 90 minutes of that rot. Never mind losing a perfectly winnable game to a team drifting along in the nondescript rushes; the quality of the fare was utterly dreadful.

From the off it reminded me of my days playing amateur level Old Boys football on pitches boasting barely a blade of grass, in which the ball spent the majority of the game either rising into or dropping from orbit, with barely more than three passes strung together at any one time. Thus was the brand peddled yesterday by our heroes.

I must confess to having surveyed proceedings from the comfort of the AANP sofa rather than the Burnley terraces, so could not testify with any first-hand knowledge to the actual conditions faced, but the tellybox gave the distinct impression that something of a gale was blowing, and to say our lot struggled to adapt would be to submit a pretty robust entry for Understatement of the Year. If there was a five-yard pass on offer, one of our mob could be relied upon to misplace it; if the ball was in the vicinity, you could bet your life on one of our mob miscontrolling it. ‘Sloppiness’ seemed to be epithet on everyone’s lips, and Burnely, understandably enough, lapped it up.

There were intermittent periods in which we patiently shuttled the ball back in forth in search of a nook or cranny, but on the whole our heroes simply did not get into gear, and hardly created a chance all match. Gallingly, once we equalised, and with around half an hour to eke out a winner, we barely made it to the Burnley penalty area.

2. Refereeing Decisions

The mantra here at AANP Towers has long been to do the chivalrous thing by refereeing decisions, and accept them with stiff upper lip and not a mumbled word of dissent. And while Our Glorious Leader had the air of a man with a meaty list of quibbles come the final whistle yesterday, and thrust himself into the face of the officials to suggests as such, I was more inclined to shrug the whole thing off as part of life’s rich tapestry.

Getting down to the meat and veg, it seemed to this untrained eye that for the corner that led to the opening Burnley goal, one might objectively opine that the ball came off the Burnley player last. Be that as it may, the ref awarded a corner, and a corner is therefore what it was.

For the throw-in that led to the equalising lilywhite goal, one might subjectively opine that the throw was taken from the wrong spot, the sort of call which is very much open to interpretation, and tends to be waved on as long as nothing of note accrues. Be that as it may, the ref deemed it perfectly above board, and perfectly above board is therefore what it was.

That’s the AANP tuppence worth, and the eagle-eyed will note that both teams benefited to the tune of one pretty fortunate decision each, which some might suggest is enough to render all pedantry pretty null and void. Far more bothersome to the AANP eye was the defending that allowed Burnley to score from their corner; or the general manner in which our football petered away to nothing for the 25 minutes or so after we’d equalised. This game was not lost because of refereeing decisions, dash it.

3. Foyth: No Obvious Signs of Improvement

One is generally reluctant to chide the honest young troops sent out each game to try their damnedest, because nobody drops a catch on purpose, to coin a cricketing phrase. However, there are inspirational mantras, and then there is Juan Foyth.

In time the earnest young bean might morph into the second coming of the blessed Ledley; but in the here and now the chap bears the hallmarks of one has been removed from the oven still decidedly uncooked in parts, and it showed, yet again, yesterday. Be it complacency, poor judgement, naivety or just plain ineptitude, Foyth seemed to blend equal measures of the satisfactory and the suicidal into his defending, and those proportions are pretty much doomed to failure in the unforgiving world of Premier League centre-backery.

Just about every Foyth appearance is characterised thus, risky Cruyff-turns mixed with egregious errors. Poch’s faith in his youthful charges is to be lauded, but Foyth’s propensity for the groan-inducing is becoming one heck of a cause for concern.

4. Kane: A Machine

On the bright side, Harry Kane returned, and without looking at his rapier-like best, was nevertheless, in occasional bursts, quite the handful. This being the occasion that merited it, he dropped deep to spread passes hither and thither, and his long-distance effort in the second half had the regulars going a little misty-eyed.

As for his goal, it was Kane of the very highest order – somehow running with the ball with pace and purpose without ever looking like a natural, and then finishing clinically before the watching masses had truly registered that a chance had officially been created.

The chap is an absolute machine. He recovers from injury as one would expect a machine to do; and once on the pitch he hares around and does that for which is he employed with pretty ruthless efficiency. It was all for naught yesterday, but with Chelsea and Arsenal looming a fit and goalscoring Kane is a most welcome addition.

Burnley 0-3 Spurs: Five Lilywhite Observations

1. Dele Alli

Better start at the beginning, what? First of all, the yellow card challenge, which seemed something of a non-event when one dons the white coat and rushes to the microscope. Our man appeared to be attempting to block the other chap, rather than crush his legs, and arrived late, making fairly minimal contact as far as I could see.

Whereas last week’s challenge on de Bruyne had all the hallmarks of Attila in a particularly bellicose mood, this
one was a little messy, and not a great deal more.

Of more concern from my vantage point was the fact that it all came about because young Dele insisted yet again upon taking approximately umpteen touches of the ball – leading to the inevitable attempted nutmeg and overrunning of the thing – rather than simply giving it early and setting in motion something exciting. But these young folk will insist on over-complicating things.

The penalty was similarly straightforward. The young bean in opposition made a fairly ill-advised foray into proceedings, Dele gratefully took a tumble, and the cause of universal chagrin appears to be that he went to ground under a challenge that was unlikely to maim him. Little sympathy for Burnley on that one. And credit to Kane for taking a penalty that bore all the hallmarks of the exquisite Euro 96 vintage between England and Germany, pre-sudden death.

2. Oddly in Praise of Sissoko

Poor old Moussa Sissoko. In a team so choc full of extravagant technicians that one cannot scratch one’s own nose without bumping into a master of the first-time-control-and-spin-all-in-a-single-movement, Sissoko is without doubt the slightly backward kid who requires extra tuition while the rest are at assembly.

As is traditional, he greeted his latest starting spot with a wild miskick, but thereafter I thought the chap actually made a decent enough fist of things. Admittedly, one judges him by far gentler criteria than his more illustrious chums, for whom pinged forty yard cross-field diagonals are key objectives, but Sissoko is evidently under strict instructions to keep things as simple as possible, and this he just about did.

Off the ball he harassed and pressurised, limbs a-flailing, bearing down upon his prey; and in possession he did as no doubt told, slowly manoeuvring himself into the perfect position to execute a simple side-footed pass, and doing so repeatedly, to effect several of the aforementioned, each of around three feet, towards those more accomplished.

Alas, when given time to think, in that glorious one-on-one chance in the first half, it was all too much for the chap to handle, and smoke came billowing out of his ears, preceding the inevitable miss. (In truth, he did actually send the ‘keeper the wrong way, and was only denied by an outstretched leg, but nevertheless – he should have scored).

All told however, he did what was required. An all-singing, all-dancing, creator extraordinaire he evidently is not, but as a muscular ball of energy, charging around so that others can play, he does adequately enough.

3. Sanchez

When historians gather round in decades to come and pore over the minutiae of this one, no doubt they will muse that the match was won in the more advanced plots of earth, but we at AANP Towers are nothing if not reasonable folk, and thus it is only right to pay due homage to the efforts of Davison Sanchez at the back.

Not for the first time this season it can fairly legitimately be remarked that the chap navigated his way through proceedings without putting a foot wrong the whole way through. Having checked the records – and for the matter watched the entire game – I can verify that opposition forwards were indeed on the pitch, but Sanchez simply cruised through like a young monarch being pampered to within an inch of his life, without a care in the world.

Any semblance of an attack was snuffled out with minimal fuss, on top of which the chap also took it upon himself every now and then to drop a shoulder and bring the ball out of defence. The absence of Toby had threatened to envelop every man, woman and child in a sense of foreboding, but Sanchez just seems to brush off these worries like a man without a care in the world.

4. Son and Eriksen

On a vaguely tactical note, whether enforced by the absence of Toby or not, the switch to choice of four at the back once again allowed for the use of Son in attack, as well as Eriksen and Alli, and when the whole lot of them were in full flow one rather wanted to alert a neighbour so that they too could sit back and marvel.

Unlike last week, our heroes were razor-sharp with their passing right from the off, with Son in particular providing plenty of movement, and in the first half hour the Burnley mob seemed to look around at each other as if to ask whether they would not be better off simply waving their white flags and planning for next week instead.

Mercifully it mattered not that our shooting was all over the place for much of the game, and frankly I am far happier that we were making clear cut chances and missing them, as opposed to the travails of recent weeks when we have barely mustered a decent opportunity all game.

All of which digresses a tad from the point that Son and Eriksen were bang on the money throughout.

5. Exactly What We Ought To Do

One or two around these parts had stiffly warned of all manner of frightful eventualities coming to pass under the banner of “Burnley Away”, and they are, I suppose, temporarily at least, Top Four rivals.
Nevertheless, the sentiment within these four walls was that if we are to be a side that makes a decent fist of things against the Champions League elite, than we dashed well should be putting Burnley to the side, red-hot form or not.

This therefore, was absolutely par. Absolutely what should be expected. We should beat every team, bar the Top Six, home and away, and that is pretty much while the eagle-eyed amongst you would have spotted the ever-so-slightly satisfied look in my eyes as matters rolled to their conclusion yesterday.

A merry and blessed Christmas to you all.

Burnley 0-0 Spurs: Searching The Dirge For Positives

The media and PR machine would no doubt insist otherwise, but following the defeat to Man Utd, and with the Top Four starting to edge away, there is now an unmistakeable whiff in the air of a troupe of lilywhites going through the motions as if their lives depend on thrill-free monotony, as the season winds down. Human nature, one might rather generously offer, dictates as much, but this particular cynic is of the opinion that to a man they ought to stretch every sinew they possess for the lilywhite cause, dash them.

Paulinho and Chiriches

Within this context of bedding down for an extended springtime snooze, the most eye-catching aspect of things was the choice of Paulinho behind the front man, and Chiriches as the bedrock of defence, which is the sort of statement so apocalyptic that I fear simply applying it to parchment will cause cracks to appear in the sky. Pochettino presumably babbled about tactics and whatnot in explaining these picks (in his defence, Vertonghen had a sniffle), but in keeping with the general air of lazily stretching one’s arms, yawning like a bear and waiting for summer hols to arrive, this was pretty clearly Our Glorious Leader parading his dusty unwanted items in the shop window, in the hope that someone will take them off his hands for a fiver in the sunny months.

Determined to give Paulinho a fair, objective once-over, I graciously ignored his uninspiring first touch (pivot-pivot-backwards pass), and opted to judge him via a more panoramic lens. The experiment was not one of history’s finest. He can hardly be blamed for failing to take the game by the scruff of its neck, as our lot were fighting hard amongst themselves to be the main culprit in this respect. Nevertheless, given the opportunity of a rare start, and in such a key position, the blighter could at least have had the dignity to register his presence in proceedings, at some point during the 90 minutes. Paulinho instead ensconced himself comfortably within a little den of anonymity, and dozed his way through from start to finish (albeit generously throwing in a comedy moment when bearing down on goal after an hour or so).

Chiriches to his credit resisted the usual urge to celebrate his selection by running non-stop through his medley of Pele impressions. In fact, there were glimpses of the ball-playing genius in some of what he did, notably with one gorgeous cross-field pass for Walker in the first half. By and large however, he stuck to defending, and some of its variations. The neat ball-protection moment in the first half when he shoved over an opponent by the by-line, the hugely wobbly but ultimately effective chest back to Vorm in the second – it may not have been the stuff of which defensive manuals are made, but it was solid enough, and having pilloried the chap often enough over here, ‘tis only right and proper to applaud him for his part in a clean sheet.

Elsewhere

There was precious little of note, as befits a goalless draw away to Burnley. ‘Tis a curious state of affairs indeed when the most reliable amongst our mob is Danny Rose, a situation that no doubt has the Ghost of 2013/14 turning in his grave, or whatever spectral physics allows, but such are the decadent times in which we live. The chap looks more solid a left-back with each passing week, and gave a fairly typical display, strong on hurtle and commitment. Admittedly he was lacking in any sprinkling of star quality to elevate proceedings beyond the general level of ‘Dirge’, but presumably he just wanted to fit in with his chums who were furiously doing likewise.

Young Master Walker did as we have come to expect. When all that is required of him is to run as fast as his little legs can carry him, he is without equal. Alas, whenever his gainful employment required the engagement of his brain, problems arose.

On days like this we all turn expectantly to Kane, but when all around him have simply given up on things with a shrug it is a mite harsh to expect him to channel his inner Neo and single-handedly rescue the universe. Behind him there was no movement, and nairy a one-touch move. One fervently hopes that our heroes do not simply give upon 14/15 and drift gently into the ether, but yesterday’s signs were far from encouraging.

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

Burnley 4-2 Spurs: The Nostalgic Return of Some Old Tottenham Favourites

Maybe it’s just as well. For all the joy and excitement, it was actually a bit disorientating to see us churn out displays of such professionalism and efficiency week in and week out. Just as in the final episode of an American soap opera, when popular former characters are wheeled back in for nostalgic cameo appearances, so in tear-jerking style Spurs made sure that in the season finale we were given a final glimpse of former weekly regulars, the Soft Underbelly and Barely Fathomable Implosion. Thus, as would happen with regularity bordering on inevitability in the not-too-distant past, we were once again treated to our heroes managing to throw away a game of which they had appeared in complete control. Two up against a relegated side? Not a problem for the Spurs teams of yore, and for old time’s sake, here it was again, in all it’s former glory. Old Folk: Wise

The old-timer next to me in the pub may have had the right idea when he suggested at half-time that, on finding out that l’Arse were 3-0 up – and third place therefore gone – the Spurs players would ease up in the second half. It would certainly explain why our lot simply melted away in the latter stages. The wizened gentleman’s analysis was also a darned sight more accurate than the AANP retort, that we would push on for the 10-goal win we needed that would improve our goal difference in the event of an Arsenal draw. Ahem.

If It Hadn’t Been For The Four Goals We Conceded… 

Around these parts we’re thoroughly chuffed for young Modders. As I watched his goal get better with every repeat viewing, I could not help thinking that he probably does that sort of thing every day in training. If there is a criticism of him it is that he does not score often enough, but by golly they are always well worth the wait.

Thoroughly perplexing to see Ledley in action and fully mobile yet again. Perhaps with the names Carragher and Sol Campbell now bizarrely being bandied around for the World Cup squad, Ledley thought it best to ease everyone’s nerves by demonstrating that he can in fact play three times in one week, and that there is therefore no need for Don Fabio to go mental and start scouting the 2002 squad list for options.

2009/10: Better Than We Had Dared Hope 

Top six, or a trophy. Or both. The bookies make us sixth favourites for the title, and sixth spot is an aim that straddles the divide between “ambitious” and “realistic”. In more private confines we may peer hopefully towards fourth spot, particularly given the sales made by Wenger this summer, but there will be tough competition for that…” 

Many, many sincere thanks to all have this season supported AANP in the writing and publication of Spurs’ Cult Heroes. This modest tome 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 5-0 Burnley: Keane Sticks Four Fingers Up At Doubters

Curiously, our most emphatic win in recent years was achieved without us ever really hitting top gear. There were some moments at the end of the first half when we played true champagne football, and Defoe might have finished off a couple of moves so pleasing on the eye they ought to have been put on canvass and stuck in a gallery. Aside from that however, it was generally a little sloppy and lacking in fluency. You know the sort of thing – mis-placed passes and lack of movement. It was most noticeable in the slightly lethargic start to the second half, which might have been punished by better teams.Ah, who else but a Spurs fan could find room for complaint after a second five-goal salvo in a week? We may not have hit top gear, but there was no real need. While Jenas’ goal had a touch of fortune about it, we scored four others and created plenty more chances besides. The third goal effectively ended the contest, but I suspect we would have raised our game if it had been necessary to do so. Winning 5-0 when playing within ourselves is quite an achievement.

Keane Silences The Bloke Behind Me Who Was Laying Into Him In The First Half

Robbie Keane’s doubters have been given some food for thought. Scepticism about his finishing ability – much of which has emanated from AANP Towers, I must confess – was fairly emphatically addressed today, albeit after he had had saved a first half one-on-one. Another concern since he rejoined us has been that he spends too much time dropping into midfield, where he mixes industry with incessant moaning at anyone in his line of vision, rather than operating as one of a pair in attack. Indeed, at times in the first half he was at it again, buzzing dementedly around midfield areas; but this seemed to change once Defoe went off. Thereafter we were treated to the welcome sight of the Irishman rolling back the years and scampering straight up the middle at the head of the attack whenever we broke forward.

Fear not however, all ye Keane critics – while I’m not sure of the extent of Defoe’s injury, it can be assumed that he will retain his place in the team when fit, meaning that Keane will presumably revert back to his slightly deeper role, and there will be opportunities anew to moan, grumble and raucously curse the man. Hopefully though, he’ll never be stuck out on the left again.

First Impressions of Kranjcar

Our first chance to cast beady eyes on the boy Kranjcar. First impressions are that he is decent enough, without threatening ever to blow up anyone’s skirt. More Corluka than Modric, notably in that lumbering running style of a man attempting to get around while a rope around his waist drags behind him a set of tyres. He certainly seems happy enough to get forward, but his phobia of the touchline might need to be addressed, and his right-footedness leaves the team still looking a little lop-sided sans Modric.

Elsewhere On The Pitch…

I was pleasantly surprised to see Bassong start at the back. When he was stretchered off last week he looked so badly beaten up he seemed for all the world a man about to be euthanized – yet he was full of beans today, and from my vantage-point did not appear to put a foot wrong. Nor did Assou-Ekotto, although it was disappointing to see there was no foundation to rumours that he was once again sporting the ‘fro.

The Hudd just about coped with the rigours of central defence. Although culpable for the disallowed Burnley goal in the first half, he rather appeared to enjoy himself in the latter stages, bringing the ball out of defence with aplomb. I hesitate to suggest that he would handle the likes of Drogba and Torres with any comfort, but for the next few weeks he ought to do the job.

Cudicini had a rather wobbly moment however, his loss of concentration almost gifting Burnley a goal. With Gomes back to fitness, Cudicini’s every move will be under the microscope now. That said, ‘tis pleasing to note our first clean-sheet of the season.

By the closing stages it had turned into something of an exhibition match. Hudd started rolling out his Beckenbauer impressions. Bale was brought on to break his non-winning Premiership hoodoo. Dawson was ushered back into the fold. (Bentley was nowhere to be seen). Chas’n’Dave were honoured in fittingly unmelodic fashion. News of the Chelski result prompted another celebratory cheer. It may not have been a bravura performance, but we natives departed contentedly enough.

How The Blazes Did Burnely Beat Man Utd A Few Weeks Back?

Finally, a word or two on our vanquished opponents. A couple of weeks ago Man Utd came to town and were sublime; Burnely were ruddy awful. Quite how they beat the champions last month is beyond me, because at times they displayed basic technique so bad they resembled a pub team. If there was an opportunity to mis-kick they mis-kicked; if a pass could be mis-placed they duly pinged it miles off target. Presumably they are a much better team than they showed today, and we can expect a much tougher test at Turf Moor later in the season, but their efforts did much today to lull us into a quite appropriate sense of security. Still, our players had to trot out there and beat them, and did so with plenty to spare. Top-six form, at least.

 

Your memories are still welcomed here on Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the latest to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes. Feel free to contribute your memories – or browse those of others – on Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here, Gary Mabbutt here or Graham Roberts here

Spurs – Burnley Preview: Will Keane Play Left Mid? Is Dawson A Jedi Yet?

Two consecutive defeats it may be, but even the most pessimistic amongst us have struggled to make a convincing case for this being a crisis. Man Utd and Chelski are the best two teams in the country, and amongst the best handful in Europe. Losing to them is not exactly to be welcomed, but neither is it a cause for alarm. That we have lost two games on the bounce says more about the quirks of the fixture-list than any catastrophe at N17.Losing at home to Burnley would be a slightly different kettle of fish however. For a team with aspirations of the top six and possibly more, home games against the newly-promoted ought to represent three points. A defeat here really would undo much of the good work of August, shunting us further towards mid-table and giving a signal to the doleful chap at the back to start ringing the alarm bells.

However, I do not really see this worst-case scenario transpiring. Any suggestion that the consecutive defeats had caused a crisis of confidence was quickly dispelled with the midweek mauling of Preston. In attack in particular, the impression is of a bunch of top-quality players chomping at the bit.

Square Building-Blocks, Triangle-Shaped Holes 

Time For Dawson To Prove Himself A True Jedi 

 

Your memories are still welcomed here on Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa, the latest to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes. Feel free to contribute your memories – or browse those of others – on Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here, Gary Mabbutt here Graham Roberts here

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