Spurs preview

Arsenal – Spurs Preview: The Gallas Conspiracy Continueth

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.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: Reasons To Be Cheerful?

Well ‘Arry reckons everything is tickety-boo in the Tottenham camp after the Sunday afternoon nightmare. No-one tired, no-one too depressed – just one big, happy, upbeat family. Marvellous. Here at AANP Towers we have been moping around with the air of those who have just had the will to live sucked from their being. Admittedly ‘Arry can hardly pitch up to the press and declare that the whole lot of them are weeping into their bovril and marching the corridors of White Hart Lane waving placards proclaiming “We’re Doomed”.Whatever their mental and physical conditions after Sunday, the players have no option but to dust themselves down and try again tonight. Pushing aside all the mindless fluff and clichés about this being the perfect game to play on the back of the Portsmouth defeat, what exactly are the reasons to be cheerful?

No Deep-Lying Opposition – Huzzah!

If l’Arse stuck nine men behind the ball, held a line just inside their own area and spent the evening crowding out our lot every time they approached, I would weep tears of blood. Praise to the heavens then, for opponents like l’Arse, who will instead attempt to scythe through us with lightning-quick one-touch football, thereby sparing us the anguish of a 90 minutes spent camped in the opposition area without rippling the onion bag.

Moreover, with l’Arse defending relatively high up the pitch, our Welsh Messiah will have plenty of space behind them into which to gallop. Could make for interesting viewing – the handsome young Welshman is odds-on to be our most creative outlet once again.

No Fabregas – Huzzah!

AANP is notoriously bad at scouting opponents. Whenever I watch Spurs I tend to lump every opponent together as They Who Must Be Vanquished, and if a chum should remark that the opposition number 16 (or whomever) had a good game, I will present a face the very picture of blankness. Amongst the few exceptions to this bizarre blinkeredness are Messrs Scholes, Gerrard, Cahill and Fabregas (although this selection may have something to do with the fact that they typically come up against Jenas).  The point of this slightly tangential ramble is that AANP fears Fabregas, and rejoices in his absence. (The absences of Song and Gallas are also bonuses.)

Floodlights – Huzzah!

White Hart Lane by night might be a little eerie most nights of the week, but come match-night, with the floodlights on, the place crackles with atmosphere. If you’ve read this far the chances are that you too love floodlit nights at the Lane, and with that ‘orrible lot from down the road ambling onto our patch tonight we in the stands have the chance to scare the bejeesus out of them before the game even begins. The packed train on the way to the stadium; the booing of Sol’s name when it’s announced over the tannoy; the Star Wars theme as the players march out; and the cacophony of noise as the game kicks off – money cannot buy that sort of atmosphere. Our lot would have to live on different planets not to receive an adrenaline shot from these evening kick-offs.

So this may yet be a night to rival 5-1, or indeed the original St Hotspur’s Day, 19 years ago today. However…

Midfield Worries

I recall feeling mightily peeved at the injustice of it all when, at the very end of Carlito’s Way, having steered clear of all manner of unsavoury types and approaching gunmen, in just about the last scene of the film and within spitting distance of freedom, Al Pacino is gunned down by Billy Blanco from the Bronx. Similarly unjust was the Sergeant Wilson saga – having gone a good eight or nine games knowing that one more yellow card would see him banned, to pick up a caution in the dying moments of the semi-final – and unjustly too – was cruel in the extreme.

Personal injustice aside, it leaves us with a distinctly less menacing look to the midfield. The Hudd was miles off the pace on Sunday, and rarely rises to the occasion against the big boys. Kaboul – or even Ledley – might yet be given the holding role in midfield. Sometimes we can get away with the absence of Palacios in midfield (the league game against Pompey a couple of weeks ago being a case in point). A league game against l’Arse is not one such occasion. The AANP prayer mat has been rolled out and dusted down.

Other Team News

The target of much vitriol following Sunday’s defeat, evidence continues to mount in favour of Crouch’s use as an impact substitute only, and it would be surprising if he were retained in tonight’s starting line-up. Niko Kranjcar is the latest to join the queue for a band-aid, while Lennon has suffered a mysterious “setback” in his rehabilitation.

For various reasons, this should be a completely different kettle of fish from Sunday’s game – but as on Sunday, defeat is unthinkable. As on Sunday it is time to stand up and be counted. The spirit of Gazza and Lineker ’91 would do nicely.


Gary Mabbutt will be signing copies of AANP book Spurs’ Cult Heroes for the masses on the following dates:
Waterstones Stevenage – Saturday 24 April, 12 noon;
Waterstones Walthamstow – Saturday 8 May, 1pm
Spurs’ Cult Heroes

, is now available in the Spurs shop, all good bookshops and online (at, 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