Seasoned visitors to these parts will now that on three occasions each year we simply cannot prophesy doom quickly enough. Away games at l’Arse, Chelski and Man Utd – absolutely positively guaranteed to find the famous “AANP Cheery Optimism Counter” stuck at zero for the duration of the weekend. It’s not just at AANP Towers either – I haven’t met a Spurs fan this week who gives us hope of any more than a draw. In fact, having watched the England match on Saturday I rather fancy I have glimpsed the future and already seen how Saturday’s game will pan out – lots of chaps in white shirts scurrying about with noses in air, trying desperately to get a sniff of the ball, as various French types exchange a few too many slick one-touch passes around our penalty area.The remaining 35 league games of the season I genuinely think we ought to win – all of them – but this is one of the unholy trinity, and I don’t see the pattern changing until I’m grey and old. One never knows though, and while as a fan of many years I have the prerogative to settle down into a grump ahead of this one, I expect nothing less that fire in the belly and passion stirring the souls of the eleven in lilywhite out on the pitch.
Opportunity Knocks In Absence of Hudd
Presumably Monsieur Wenger has hired a sniper, or my conspiracy-theorising, Spurs-supporting chum Ian is right, and William Gallas really is still on the l’Arse payroll with strict instructions to search and destroy, because the Hudd is now out of action too. Forever, from what I can glean.
If there is a silver lining to this, or indeed a straw at which to be groped with blind hope, it is the curious trait developing in ‘Arry’s reign for all manner of prodigal sons to come racing back into the fold, make themselves at home and transform into uber-beings of their former selves. This time last year Vedran Corluka was still waddling around the White Hart Lane turf, and Gareth Bale was about to shipped off to Nottingham Forest, while as recently as this summer just about 50% of Spurs fans had wiped Alan Hutton’s very existence from their memories. Since then Bale has become the white Pele and Hutton has established himself as the pick of our back-four, whilst possibly the last two chaps we ever thought would form our central defence have formed the bedrock of a win over Inter.
The point of this little warble is that Hudd’s absence will neatly open the door to some other lucky blighter, and history suggests that the next three months might therefore be the making of Jenas, Sergeant Wilson or Sandro. Indeed, whisper it, but Jamie O’Hara is still officially a Tottenham Hotspur employee. The mind boggles.
4-4-2 vs 4-5-1: The Defoe Edition
The merits and less meritorious facets of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 were given a slightly lop-sided airing on these very pages last weekend, but the question now has a cunning twist, as the messenger pigeons come bearing news that Jermain Defoe has been sighted with jaws locked in a chomp around what is widely known as the bit. Marvellous news I’m sure you will agree, but how does this fit with the head-hurting permutations of 4-4-2 and 4-5-1.
Earlier this season on England duty Defoe played atop the formation, with Rooney in a VDV-esque position in the hole, and the entire thing turned into a neon-lit success – yet it seems rather unlikely that such a vertically-challenged type as Defoe will be asked to lead the line as lone striker in a 4-5-1.
A more feasible scenario would be Defoe trotting out with a bona fide striker alongside him, which would suggest Princess Pav or the wretched Crouch in a 4-4-2 (with VDV adopting that suspiciously central “right flank” role once more). Not tomorrow perhaps – away to l’Arse it seems almost certain that we will go with 4-5-1, and quite probably shunt Sergeant Wilson or Sandro into the midfield, in a desperate effort to get close to Fabregas and his chums as they triangle themselves to death -, but longer-term the return of Defoe gives us a fresh option, and a forward who is a darned sight better than Crouch when it comes to thumping the ball goalward when presented with a chance.
Defoe or not, there is doleful morbid pessimism around these parts, but by jove I hope that this defeatist stance proves wildly wrong come tomorrow afternoon.