All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs 3-1 Man City: The Incredible Hudd (& Other Superheroes)

Quite the 80th birthday present for AANP Senior. Is there a more joyous sight to behold in nature than a tide of adrenalin-pumped lilywhites pouring forward in wave after wave of irresistible attack at a sun-baked White Hart Lane?  A spritely cheetah catching a young upstart of a gazelle and tearing it to pieces perhaps? That scene in Terminator 2 when Arnie shoots the padlock while riding his bike, then reloads seamlessly by twirling the shotgun around in his hand, and shooting another padlock? All worthy of a moment’s silent admiration, and reason if ever it existed to top up the tumbler with a fresh splash of bourbon in a gesture of unadulterated admiration – but by golly the sight of our heroes simply overwhelming the current champions in that mesmerising final 20 minutes, to the soundtrack of the most remarkable White Hart Lane din, was enough to make me smash a bottle of champagne against the side of the nearest ship, so rip-roaring were the events unfolding.

All of which came about, incredibly enough, after a dispiriting hour in which the dream looked set to die. The willingness of our heroes could not be faulted, but in the early stages ‘twas eerily reminiscent of many a Saturday evening in the nightspots of London, when AANP has attempted to woo the good womenfolk of London by delivering a ten-minute stream of unfunny bluster, before a rival cad strolls by to instantly sweep the young maiden off her feet with little more than an arched eyebrow. Thus was our valiant but slightly desperate gameplan of headless chickenry swiftly punctuated by one effortless flash of genius from Tevez, and lo – we trailed.

The pattern changed little thereafter, our attacking trio of Dempsey, Bale and Sigurdsson conspicuously lacking the nous of a Tevez, while ahead of them Adebayor gave a glimpse of a dystopian future in which teams play without a striker.

AVB’s Moment of Glory

But enter stage left the sort of managerial jiggery-pokery so barnstorming it can shoot pterodactyls out of the sky whilst blindfolded. While here at AANP Towers the suggested solution was nothing more progressive than a plaintive whinge about swapping strikers, AVB turned the universe on its head by switching from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3, and unleashing the Hudd. Memories of the introduction of Jamie Redknapp at half-time in the Euro 96 England-Scotland match no doubt came flooding back to the lot of us, as Hudd instantly brought with him the perfect polygamous marriage of calmness, vision, technique and hair, giving us complete control and a nifty selection of dreamy, defence-splitting passes. The lad looked like he owned the ruddy pitch, and with Holtby buzzing around like a demented wasp ahead of him, Bale flicking the ‘Magic ’ switch on his left boot and Defoe showing the sort of bloody-minded eye for goal that Adebayor would not know if it slapped him in the face with a wet fish, all pretty swiftly became right with the world.

This does create a wonderful few conundra for AVB, around whether to select Defoe or Adebayor next up (relatively straightforward methinks); and whether to go with the brand of sorcery that Hudd delivers a little too effortlessly, within a 4-3-3, or the tireless but slightly directionless pirouetting of Parker, in a 4-2-3-1 (perchance more of a poser). These are queries for another day; now is without doubt still the time for making merry and, frankly, rubbing our eyes in disbelief. Where on earth it came from is slightly mystifying, but our heroes have got their groove back, and it was rollicking stuff.

Spurs 3-0 Man City: Blip Over?

Not quite vintage Spurs, but a hugely creditable performance nonetheless. The 3-0 scoreline makes it easy to forget quite how hard our lot had to work after a testing opening, first in soaking up the early pressure, and then in moving from back-foot to front.Kick-off had heralded what looked like an ominous 10-minute trailer for the Carlos Tevez Show, but to our credit, while City were allowed a little too much time in midfield they were resolutely kept at arm’s length – an arm in this instance being approximately 18 yards long – with the only notable first half save from Gomes coming from a long-range effort.

The last 15 minutes or so were also a little nervier than was entirely necessary, as we dropped mighty deep, the ghost of weeks past seeming to haunt the team. A two-nil lead as the clock ticks over to 80 ought not in theory to be any cause for alarm, but having recently turned implosion in such situations into an art-form, our lot seemed a little confused as to whether they ought just to allow City to score, as a standard procedure. Daws could well have been pulled up for a penalty, which would have made for a horrendous final five minutes, while Adebayor was rather generously granted the freedom of the Tottenham six-yard box. Despite all this, having shown more creativity throughout, and sufficient ruthlessness to convert periods of dominance into goals, I think it’s fair to assert that we ticked enough boxes, and were quite justified in toddling off home in good cheer.

Bargain 

Lennon was something of a coiled spring for the first half hour, itching to have a run at the left-back. And once the penny dropped amongst his team-mates he was off, tearing Silvinho apart, creating a goal and drawing the obligatory booking from the hapless opponent. Would have been nice to see him go for the jugular thereafter, and work a second booking out of the lad, but hey-ho.

’Twas a good job that Lennon and Kranjcar were on form, because Hudd had an off-day. If he can show on Saturday that this was the exception rather than the norm I think we’ll excuse him, but in the first half hour in particular he did little more than puff and pant in the background.

He won’t get many headlines, and indeed his possible handball is likelier to be thrust under the microscope, but Daws was generally outstanding at the back, particularly during the rocky moments in the first half of the first half. If the rest of them showed his attitude by golly we’d have one hell of a team. Such was his Midas touch that as well as countless well-judged tackles and interceptions, even that moment in the second half, when he arrived approximately an hour late for a tackle and sent a City forward flying into touch, was greeted by little more than a shrug from the ref and a goal-kick.

Defoe and Crouch 

As for Crouch, towards the end of the game he suddenly appeared to throw a bit of a strop, bless, and refused to pass to anyone, opting instead to shoot from miles out or try dribbling past the entire City team. The sight of Crouch running with the ball leaves me aghast but unable to tear myself away. It’s a gangly awkward mess, which is destined inevitably to end in a giant ball of limbs, and yet holds a morbid fascination. (As do Corluka’s occasional, painfully slow step-overs.)

Generally however, the attacking duo were sound but unspectacular, combining in uncomplicated fashion for our second (the fact that the move ended in a goal diverting attention from the world’s most mal-coordinated attempt at defending in the history of the game, by Kolo Toure). No reason to change the forward line, Robbie Keane can stay where he is.

While I hesitate to suggest that our blip is over, or can even be correctly labelled a “blip” rather than something more long-term, some winnable games loom, and if we play our cards right we could still be rather handily-placed come that drunken chorus of Auld Lang Syne.

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or 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 forthcoming book 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, Jurgen Klinsmann here

Barca – Man Utd Champions League Final Preview: All Action, Please

Ah The Champions League. That inescapable anthem. The meaningless group games. The same teams each year – some of whom actually are indeed national champions. And money, everywhere. Advertising money. TV money. Salaries. Transfer fees.The All-Action Way

With this thick layer of cynicism building up around the Champions League I find it genuinely refreshing to look forward to tonight’s game. Two teams who generally play the right way. The all-action way, full of movement, interchanging and technique that has grown men drooling.

It’s all action for sure, but, at least in Man Utd’s case, there is a darned good idea of plot too, in the form of Rio and the Serbian psycho, protected by the beaverish midfield three. The excellent Radio 5 Live preview last night made an interesting point, namely that in the absence of their suspended, ridiculously over-attacking full-backs – Abidal and Alves – Barca will be forced to field a couple of understudies at right and left-back, and therefore might be more cautious, and consequently a darned sight tighter at the back than they usually are. Interesting point.

Other sub-plots of note: Van der Saar has gone all Obi Wan Kenobi – an old man, whose powers are waning. His flaps and fumbles are increasing in frequency. I’m not convinced that Giggs is an adequate understudy to Fletcher in the role of midfield hustler-and-harrier. Barca’s insistence on passing to death outside the area rather than have a pop from distance (an affliction which curiously hampered Spurs in the spring months) has generally proved detrimental to their cause against English opposition. Pretty to watch though.

Early Goal, Please

Naturally, there is the worry that after all the anticipation, this game degenerates into a dour, disappointing affair. However, an early goal ought to do the trick, and really open up the game. Although last year’s final was watched through an increasingly hazy cloud of alcohol, I do recall it being a generally entertaining affair – thanks, in no small part, to the early-ish opening goal. A pleasant contrast to the FA Cup Final between the same two teams the previous year.

Rooting For Man Utd. Sort Of.

I won’t particularly mind who wins, as it doesn’t concern Spurs, but I suppose I’ll be edging towards Man Utd. As with many of the greatest arguments of mankind, my reasons are threefold:

1) The patriot in me always likes to see English teams win European trophies. (Unless it’s l’Arse. Or Chelski).

2) Rooney. The man’s a genius, and I’d love to see him boss the game of games.

3) Generally a fan of the Man Utd style of play. Liquid football. In last year’s Champs League Final they produced one of my favourite pieces of football ever – Rooney picked up the ball at right-back (!), motored forward 40 yards, then pinged a diagonal cross-field peach of a ball to Ronaldo, who pulled it back for Tevez (I think) to diving head, saved by Cech, before Carrick blasted the rebound goalwards, where it was headed clear by a defender. Or something like that (alcoholic haze, remember). Absolutely awesome football. I just stood there ogling, as if it were a svelte brunette tying knots in a cherry stalk with her tongue.

Then in the semi vs l’Arse there was something similarly mesmeric in Ronaldo’s second goal – the backheel, Park’s burst, Rooney’s perfect pass, and Ronaldo again, sixty yards from his starting-point, finishing it.

More of the same tonight please.

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