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Spurs 3-1 Chelsea: Five Tottenham Observations

1. Pochettino’s Tactical Triumph

Here at AANP Towers we have always looked kindly upon Our Glorious Leader, but more for his cherubic features, endearing humility and general good way with the youth of today. ‘Tactical Nous’ has always ranked a fair few rungs down the ladder, so to speak, when it comes to dishing out the gold stars.

Well not any more. I won’t pretend to be an expert in the dark arts of tactics, but by anyone’s rope Pochettino delivered a masterclass last night.

The whole delicately-planned jamboree reminded me of that scene in 80s rom-com Predator, in which Arnold Schwarzenegger and his sunny chums rig a whole array of nets and trip-wires and booby traps for the eponymous predator, the only difference being that whereas in the film the predator promptly escaped and killed them all, yesterday Pochettino’s traps left the Chelsea mob trussed up and at our mercy.

Right from kick-off, Poch’s tactics had Chelsea feathers ruffled, with glances exchanged amongst their number as if to say “What’s going on here then chaps?”

In a glorious throwback to around two seasons ago, Poch hit upon the nifty idea of pressing the life out of every Chelsea player who looked remotely dangerous. No sooner had one of them received possession and begun clearing their throat to voice their grand plans than lilywhite shirts were swarming around them and snapping at every available ankle.

2. Dele on Jorginho

Principal amongst ankle-snappees was Jorginho. I hadn’t been keeping up with current events myself, so was not aware that this chap was actually the second coming of something pretty special, but apparently he starts attacks, stops attacks, cures cancer and unmuddles Brexit, so he was evidently what is known in circles as A Big Deal.

Muzzling this blight upon society was therefore top of the agenda, and Our Glorious Leader hit on the unlikely plan of using Dele as a loose approximation of a man-marker.

On paper this might reasonably have been described as lunacy of the highest order, but as it happened, on grass the reinvigorated 2018/19 version of Dele was absolutely the perfect man for the job, loitering closer than the man’s own shadow.

Pochettino’s tactical masterclass wasn’t just limited to the deployment of Dele as one of history’s less likely man-markers. The use of Son as pretty much an out-and-out striker, always available as a blurry, whizzing outlet in the top right quadrant of the pitch, was another on his list of masterstrokes. The midfield diamond in general, and use of Sissoko in particular, pretty much kept Hazard kept securely under lock and key. Even Aurier, whose name I pretty sure translates into English as “Liability” kept Alonso on the back foot, and was pretty much faultless in defence throughout.

The whole set-up was a triumph, nabbing our rotten opponents hook, line and sinker. It was 2-0 after 15 minutes or so, 3-1 at full-time, but could, peculiarly, have legitimately been 6, 7 or more.

3. Glorious Goals

As our goals flew in yesterday, the thought occurred that despite being as different as these things can be, each was a thing of beauty in its own way.

Eriksen scattered the game with flashes of his impish best, and never more so than in the absolutely vicious delivery that set up our opener. It would have been an affront to decency for Dele to do anything else but glance home a cross like that.

Much comedy ensued for the second, with Chelsea defenders waggling their limbs and leaping out of the way of the ball, but a long-range shot has a unique and glorious quality, and although every man, woman and child who saw it took a brief moment to register that it had gone in, aesthetically it was a smashing effort.

(As an aside, I do rather wonder at the wisdom of the Chelsea bods for that one. Kane is hardly a new face on the scene, and has basically spent the last four years picking up the ball from distance and immediately belting it towards goal. Did none of them anticipate that this was going to happen? Really? The mind absolutely boggles.)

As for Son’s goal, it was the stuff of Hollywood scribes. My Spurs-supporting chum Ian casually opined that “He did not have to do much,” a sentiment with which I immediately took exception and delivered a lengthy rant, strong on emotion and light on fact, as seems to be required in this internet-based age.

The pedants amongst us will have noticed that Son actually collected the ball in his own half – therefore having a heck of a lot to do, Ian – before scuttling exactly half the length of the pitch, producing a slick two-step dance move that befuddled Jorginho (who by this stage was looking anything but the saviour of humanity) and then outsprinting the chap despite having to do so with the ball at his feet.

He then sprinted exactly half the width of the pitch, from touchline to near enough penalty spot. Admittedly he was not required to do much to beat David Luiz, who was busily haring away towards the corner flag, but as a grand finale Sonny then had to pick the right finish. And this, as he had proved repeatedly in the first half, was not something that had been coming particularly easily to him during the preceding hour.

4. Many, Many Misses

I don’t mind admitting that the inner Spurs fan who resides deep within my soul – sullying every fun moment with the ominous warning that this is Spurs, and it might therefore all come crashing down within five minutes of expertly-executed kamikaze – was at it again yesterday. At 2-0 I was adamant that the next goal was crucial, and that if we conceded we might as well wave a white flag at 2018/19 and tear down the new stadium while we were at it.

Mercifully, the next goal was handed on a plate to Sonny, who did not have to do much, but for all the joyous yelping and back-slapping, we were still outrageously guilty of missing an entire sackful of dashed presentable chances.

It may seem jolly ripe to complain about profligacy having put 3 past a previously unbeaten team, but you all saw the thing play out, and can therefore corroborate – we had enough straightforward chances to have scored six by half-time, and nine by full-time. Son missed three straightforward first half chances, and one of Toby or Foyth (I think) ought to have scored from a corner; while in the second half Kane and Dele forgot to factor in gravity when applying their finishing touches.

Still, might as well miss them on a day when we don’t need them, what?

5. Sissoko

As ever on these glorious nights, I feel I ought to prefix any personal praise with apologies for a whole raft of others who will go unmentioned despite doing sterling work – but yet again Moussa Sissoko delivered a performance that was as brilliantly effective as it was utterly baffling.

In a team full of technical geniuses and silky attackers, Sissoko’s uncontrollable limbs and unstoppable power ought not to fit, yet increasingly seems he like the crucial cog in the machinery.

As he has been doing for weeks now, he ran rampant in the defensive midfield area, blitzing everything in his path when not in possession, and somehow gliding away from challenges when he was, like a weird, malfunctioning Dembele.
Should the day arrive when he gets things wrong it will be absolutely ghastly to behold, but for now he gets most things right, and we have somehow stumbled – and never was there a more appropriate term – upon something utterly marvellous.

Need a Christmas present for the Spurs fan in your life? AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes is available on Amazon…

Spurs 1-2 Chelsea: Four Lilywhite Points

A mathematically-minded chum rather threw me this week when he told me there are 10 types of folk in this world – those who understand binary numbers and those who don’t, apparently – but I presume that 2 more of those types will include those who thought our heroes controlled this particular joust, and those who thought Chelski bossed the thing like a team of evil puppetmasters.

Maybe it is the three decades of bias, but I fall into the former camp (that is to say, backing our heroes, rather than dabbling in binary numbers). Dashed travesty this one, if you ask me. Admittedly there was a slightly odd opening salvo, in which everyone bar Dembele looked like they’d just landed at a foreign airport and didn’t quite know what to do next. Thereafter, however, a switch was flicked, and our lot increased the pressure biff by biff.

For five minutes either side of half-time we gave our esteemed guests a most thorough going over, prodding and poking like there was no tomorrow, lobbing in corners, hammering away and shooting whenever the nearest defender paused for breath. To no avail, naturally, but it seemed to cause a commotion. And generally from then until the Dier-Son swapsie (more on that later), the central thread of the game seemed to adhere to a highly intricate pattern of:

a) Spurs attack
b) Chelski clear
c) Repeat.

But, as mentioned, there is a sizeable element of the population who have quite pointedly made clear they consider this sentiment to be drivel of the highest order, which I suppose means that this one can be marked down as a triumph for democracy.

(If a preamble is longer than the meat of the thing, is it still a preamble?)

1. DEMBELE

If it is incisive and highly original insight you seek I can only really apologise and suggest you amuse yourself in other ways for the next paragraph or two, because this point is not exactly a shock to anyone: Dembele is quite something.

I know it; you know it; just about every team-mate interviewed seems to name him as the most talented chap in the troupe; and I’m pretty sure that if you read any piece of prose ever committed to paper you will find a subtle reference to the same effect – so safe to say it is common knowledge.

But by golly, it is nevertheless still a sight to behold, that astonishing hybrid of ox-like strength and balletic driftiness. All around him took a good half hour to adjust their radars and practise the whole right-leg-followed-by-left-leg routine a few times, but not Dembele. Straight into the action from the off. Marvellous stuff. And whenever spirits flagged thereafter too he seemed happy enough to drop a shoulder and charge into the melee, in that languorous style of his, oppo defenders bouncing off the forcefield that surrounds him like small children off a playground bully. Frankly there are times when I want to abandon the notion of keeping score, and just watch the chap cut a swathe wherever he pleases.

2. WANYAMA

By contrast, this was not one that will go down in Wanyama family folklore. Absent from the starting eleven last week, Wanyama definitely tootled around the place with the air of a chap couple of gins short of his traditional morning snifter.

The usual, violent dispossessing of foes was generally rattled off straightforwardly enough, but when it came to pinging the ball to someone – anyone – in lilywhite, the blighter came across like a man intent upon massively over-complicating the basic principles of binary code. Umpteen touches were taken when he really only needed one – to roll the dashed thing square to a chum. All easy enough to say from the AANP vantage point, admittedly, but thusly do cookies crumble.

Anyway, to top the thing off he then dithered once more, crucially, at the death, allowing our guests to pinch the ball from him once again, fire straight at Lloris’ feet and still score, curse them all.

3. THE DIER-SON SUBSTITUTION

Nothing wrong with it on paper, really, was there? Boxes were ticked, votes counted, experts consulted – and the verdict was pretty uncontroversial: Son for Dier. We were one down, had been hammering away, without making too many entries in the column marked “Clear-Cut and Glorious Chances”, and with Chelski failing to hold up the ball an axis of Dembele, Wanayam and Dier seemed rather to miss the point of the exercise- namely that we needed a sprinkle of je ne sais pas in the final third. Son for Dier (already on a yellow card) made sense.

But oddly enough, things did not quite pan out as planned. Now it would be a little dramatic to suggest that an absolute meltdown occurred, once this change was made, and that women and children ran for the hills as our visitors ran riot across Wembley.

Yet nevertheless, for the 10 minutes or so following the change, the lilywhite grip on things (as much as grips can grip a 0-1 deficit) seemed to loosen. When Chelski repelled our attacks, they starting turning them into counter-attacks of their own, the impudent rotters, and the possibility of 0-2 started to make its presence known, whereas since half-time the case for 1-1 had started to seem near-irresistible. It was pretty disturbing stuff.

4. SILVER LININGS AND WHATNOT

Ultimately, the Son-Dier change became one of the least relevant footnotes of our time. There was an element of risk attached – and we scored anyway. And then conceded. So, ultimately, what the dickens does it matter?

This, however, was one of those defeats that left me genuinely quite pleased with the manner in which we went about things. Actually, that’s an untruth. More than anything it left me incredibly bitter and twisted and snapping at anyone within earshot that the whole blasted thing was JUST NOT FAIR.

But additionally, as I poured the evening whisky, I did muse that we had had a jolly good stab at the thing, so somebody somewhere probably deserved a toast. In the context of a new season, and 20-odd games at Wembley, it was something of a relief to see us boss possession against the champions and generally play much the same way we had done last season. Frankly, I had feared much worse, particularly given the absolute whale of a summer being had by the prophets of doom, who were warning about the larger Wembley dimensions as if they signalled an impending apocalypse.

So 1-2 was not the desired outcome at all, and the manner of the thing was absolutely blinking galling – with the joy, and then the despair, damn their eyes – but there was enough to suggest that this could be another half-decent campaign.

(Apart from the squad depth issue, but that’s a tale for a different day).

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

Chelsea 4-0 Spurs: Punch-Drunk Defending & Tactical Experiments

Poor old Tactics Tim has had a negative press at times, for papering over the nuances with buzzwords about passion and character and the like, but pre kick-off yesterday our glorious young leader emerged absolutely dripping in tactics. Nothing screams ‘I do tactics’ like sticking Walker in midfield and Lennon off the main striker, and by the time the first whistle blew we could barely move for the permutations. As things panned out, but for that ominous opening couple of minutes, things were fairly even in the first half, with everything very tight and compact and nairy a sniff of a half-chance. All of which is well and good, but it again leaves us wondering what the devil is the grand plan? As was the case under AVB, Sherwood seems to have a different idea every week, so as a result the personnel and formation changes each match and we start from scratch every time. In my idle moments of an evening I do occasionally ponder how our heroes would have fared this season if we had deployed the same XI (as far as injuries etc would allow) on a weekly basis.

The experiments involving Walker and Lennon made interesting viewing. Young Master Walker has long established himself as the Angriest Soul in North London, and his mood was hardly improved by the consequences of that bizarre backpass header, a moment which seemed to sum up the chap’s career as one of commitment and aggression laced with fairly frequent moments of mind-boggling mental negligence. Glossing over that particular error, the deployment of Walker in midfield was not a bad call. Hazard was indeed relatively well shackled, and there can be no doubting Walker’s body-strength, frequently showcased as an assortment of Chelski players simply bounced off him at various points. One suspects however that he will continue to be eyed askance by the White Hart Lane faithful as long as he keeps contributing to the opposition cause with those ‘special’ moments of his.

Lennon has previous in the hole, against these very same opponents if memory serves, Martin Jol having popped him there many moons ago. Alas, the blue mob were so well organised at the back that he barely had a sniff. Given his pace, and a willingness to amble forward that on occasion had him further advanced than Adebayor, it could in theory work – but the scattergun approach to formations amongst our lot may well mean that this particular experiment is shoved at the back of the cabinet and never seen again.

The Punch-Drunk Second Half

Back to the game, and what a dashed shame that the defence celebrated their first half shut-out by pouring themselves a few liberal half-time restorers and toasting one another non-stop for the duration of the interval. Those 15 minutes in the sanctity of the changing-rooms must have been an absolute riot – it is just a slight shame that as a consequence half the team wobbled out for the second half stinking of alcohol and barely able to tell one end of the pitch from the other. Thus did the bedlam ensue. Like teenagers let loose in Magaluf after their A-Levels, our lot began tripping over themselves and landing on their heads and forgetting which team they were playing for – heavens above there must have been some sore heads in the morning.

While we at AANP Towers are the last people to begrudge anyone an early-afternoon whiskey or two, it did seem quite a shame that having done all the hard work in the first half of keeping Hazard and Schurrle relatively quiet, they proceeded simply to present our hosts with goal after goal like that. In mitigation, one might suggest that the penalty and sending off put an end to the contest, and rather harshly so. However, while it seemed mighty rotten luck for Monsieur Kaboul to be chastised twice over simply for blowing his nose out of turn, or whatever the apparent misdeed was, he had got himself into a dubious position for carrying out the basics of his job in the first place.

Presumably few were expecting too much from this fixture in the first place, so there is little point in scratching this one until it bleeds. And yet, as if the circus act of a second half were not enough, we had Daws limping off, Kaboul facing a ban, Vertonghen looking suspiciously like he no longer cares, and a fixture list that is not about to ease up. It does rather hollow out one’s will to live, no?

Spurs 1-1 Chelski: Pros and Cons

A curious affair that, neither hither nor thither. Or, more accurately I suppose, both hither and thither, for while some of the attacking interplay was eye-wateringly good (in particular that leading up to our goal and the two Paulinho chances), there was also a full second half’s worth of dross from our heroes. It has been a particular bête noire over the decades of my old man, the venerable AANP Senior, that just about every Spurs team he was watched will react to taking a lead by sitting deeper and deeper until said lead is relinquished, and right on cue yesterday, the second half saw us cede possession and initiative until the goal was duly conceded.

Various media-based sages have opined in recent days that our lot brim with as much quality as any other team in the division, but that what we probably lack is a bit of nous, and so it proved yesterday. When level heads and ball-retention were needed to weather the second half storm we were instead treated to attempts by Townsend, Paulinho and Dembele to dribble past just about everyone in sight. ‘Tis the sort of thing that comes with big-game experience I suppose.

Paulinho – The New Jenas (In A Manner of Speaking)

Still, there was plenty to keep us purring, in the first half in particular. As was noted by more Spurs-supporting chum Ian, Paulinho gallops up and back in a manner reminiscent of Jenas (sharp intake of breath) during that curious period in 2008 when the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards flicked his amazing switch for a few weeks, helping us beat l’Arse 5-1 and win the Carling Cup. Box-to-box, with plenty of neat touches in between, the lad eats his fair share of greens, make no mistake. Dembele also looked sprightly and enterprising, and while, as noted previously, both these two were guilty of over-elaboration at times, it is generally encouraging to observe them seizing bull by horns and exploring the upper reaches of the pitch.

Creative juices also spilled pleasingly from the cups of the attacking sorts, with Sigurdsson again showing willingness to join the penalty area queue, and young Master Eriksen again looking like the awesome new kid in the playground who gets picked first every lunchtime.

Points to Ponder

On the debit side, days like these suggest that Soldado’s overall contribution might be a tad limited, and bless him Michael Dawson’s cruise liner-esque turning speed was exposed once or twice more. Presumably the medium-term plan is for Kaboul to return to the centre at some juncture, but against sharper attacking tools Master Dawson continues to look a tad fallible, while one of he and Vertonghen dropped an awful clanger in allowing Terry an unmarked header for the goal.

There are times when our heroes resemble a highly talented collection of strangers, but presumably in time the whole troupe will become a darned sight more cohesive – for example learning how best to play to the strengths of Soldado. The omens however remain fairly cheery (if cheery omens there can be) for season 13/14 in general. Nothing on the horizon at present to suggest that Top Four is beyond us.

Spurs – Chelski Preview: Opportunity Batters at the N17 Door

Nothing says “What ho, welcome back to the country old bean” after a few weeks in sunny climes surreptitiously eyeing the bikini-clad locals better than a ding-dong with that ‘orrible blue-clad lot from yonder.

Marvellous – if slightly discombobulating – times at the Lane these days, with a record of 8 wins from 9 this season, just the one nut conceded and a veritable wad of clean-sheeted victories with which to impress the lady-folk. However, the devil, as ever, is slinking around in the detail, for the one truly truly spunk-filled sparring partner to date were the wretched l’Arse, who duly biffed us one and scarpered. This second significant test of our season therefore ought to tell us a thing or two about our credentials, as victory against Chelski would not just nudge us topwards for an hour or two, but would also prompt can-cans, fandangos and fancy pirouettes in the streets of N17. In short, win this game and all moderation would be hurled out of the window and told not to return until the tinsel is up.

AANP Towers has been vacant for several weeks, so news of our heroes’ glories have generally been received via the dubious medium of bbc text commentary, but if MoTD snippets tell a man anything these days it is that the lad Eriksen tucks away for breakfast those cute, diagonal, defence-splitting passes that have been dreamily sought after for years. Someone lock that man away and have his babies, for he is a precious commodity indeed.

On top of which, the whole troupe seem to be emerging from their cocoons like the face-huggers in Aliens, with Holtby squirting glory-passes in midweek, Paulinho charging up and back, Sigurdsson finding his range and Defoe politely clearing his throat at every opportunity, not to mention Townsend, Lamela, Lennon et al moodily queuing up for their respective 15 minutes of glory.

Against l’Arse we rather paid the price for a lack of creativity and service to Soldado, but the lesson one would hope has been learned, and by essentially trading in Eriksen for Capoue from that line-up the whole bally thing ought to be vastly better balanced. Time will time. Opportunity has rarely knocked louder for our heroes.

Chelsea-Spurs Preview: A Dull Sense of Foreboding

If it’s sunny optimism you want you are dashed well in the wrong part of the interweb. Get out while you can. A dull sense of foreboding has donned its slippers and smoking jacket, put its feet up and is idly flicking through the Raymond Chandler novels, having made itself quite at home at AANP Towers over the last month or so. While the lilywhite machine has gradually run out of steam, those rump-fed runyons at l’Arse and Chelski have ground out win after blasted win, and from this pessimistic viewpoint it is nigh-on dashed impossible to envisage the much-needed away win tonight. The combination of the Chelski attack-dogs misfiring and our heroes suddenly revisiting 90s dance and discovering both the key and the secret to ripping up an opposition defence just seems a little too unlikely. Fingers crossed AVB and the Brains Trust have a slightly cheerier outlook, what?

Having beaten Man Utd (away) as well as Man City and l’Arse, it is of course eminently feasible that we will run amok tonight and leave this particular ‘orrible lot rueing the day. And then of course there is the Bale factor – 15 seconds unsupervised would probably suffice.

The pessimism, however, emanates from the occasional fallibility of our high defensive line (neither Daws nor the magnificent Vertonghen could really, truthfully, hand-on-heart, claim that spinning around, scampering back and making crucial tackles in the blink of an eye are really their respective fortes), which means that one cunning diagonal pass and it’s Hugo time. And damn their eyes, Mata, Hazard and Oscar have been slipping in cunning diagonal passes since the womb.

On top of which, our heroes do not quite have the perfect balance of earnest toil and mind-blowing ingenuity. Things do still tend to tick impotently sideways and out to the wings. The van der Vaart-shaped hole remains, the cunning diagonal womb-bred passes conspicuously absence. And on Saturday by golly there were an awful lot of passengers in lilywhite.

Woe, woe, woe. And we haven’t even kicked off yet. If you have got this far down the page you will probably have inferred that AANP is going to be awful company this evening, so spare a thought for my old man AANP Senior, and pray fervently that the A-game that briefly surfaced for 15 glorious minutes against Man City is rekindled tonight. Our season just about hangs on it.

Chelsea 4-2 Spurs: Who Knew A Baby Could Cause So Much Trouble?

Some would possibly consider it poor form to wish a thousand violent and irreversible curses upon the new baby Bale, but new mewling, puking wretch will have a few things to answer for as it comes of age. (As luck would have it AANP’s latest newphew was born in Wales a couple of days earlier, so will be instructed to steal Bale Jr’s crayons by way of retribution, at the earliest opportunity). Every inch the modern man, our handsome young Welshman ignored the folk who churn out his millionaire’s salary each week, and instead prepared for kick-off by scarpering off to the homeland to witness the debut of the fruit of his loins. One can hardly prevent such lunacy I suppose (although as Ms AANP pointed out, come the birthing hour in her native land of Modric the menfolk are consigned to the waiting room anyway, while the fairer sex do the hard work).

So with Bale’s gallops directed elsewhere, and Moussa Dembele already out injured, the game was practically ceded before kick-off. Minus Bale and Dembele our heroes looked fairly bereft of attacking ideas in the first half in particular, particularly given the curious game-plan of carefully rationing Aaron Lennon’s involvement to an absolute minimum. Hudd retains possession well enough, but he does tend to do things rather slowly, and the breakneck counter-attacks on which we have been brought up consequently petered out prematurely, epitomised at one head-scratchingly baffling point when Dempsey opted to spin round and dribble back towards halfway.

Having struggled to put two passes together in the first half our lot did buck up a bit in the second, but AVB will have to earn his corn to solve this little tickler, because without our two leading lights the supporting cast do look decidedly less potent. Matters were exacerbated somewhat by our lot’s complete impotence in the face of Chelsea’s slick passing triangles. Be it their back-four or that jolly dangerous attacking triumvirate of Oscar, Mata and Hazard, there were far too many occasions when that horrible mob simply six-yarded their way out of trouble and right up into our area.

Elsewhere on the Pitch

The returns of either BAE or Kaboul cannot come quickly enough, as Gallas chipped in with his now customary sprinkling of lapses. A handy chap to have around the squad, days like yesterday suggested that the visit of the league-leaders is not really the time to be relying upon his creaking limbs. The sooner Kaboul or Vertongehn can replace him in the centre, the better.

Dempsey and Sigurdsson also still look a bit too much like squad players at the moment; and young Master Walker presented the world and his Twitter followers with the most bizarre brain meltdown in the closing stages to seal our fate; but at least Defoe remains in fine fettle, responding to his controversial axing from the AANP fantasy team with the sort of predatory strike that had AANP Senior murmuring something about Greaves. Seeing Torres fluff his lines at t’other end only made it sweeter.

Irritatingly, the nagging suspicion remains that at full strength we would have fared a darned sight better, but such is life, and by the time Match of the Day started we were still in fifth, which was an unexpected bonus. Already this season we have played worse and won, so one rather hopes that Southampton will feel the wrath – and joys of fatherhood – of the lilywhite heroes next week.

(Apologies again – comments box remains unco-operative)
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Spurs – Chelsea Preview: Little Concern For The Chap On The Touchline

This horrible lot again. Revulsion levels for Chelski were upped to a shuddering maximum over the summer, when they scandalously denied us our CL spot by somehow flouncing off with the shiny European pot last summer (the moment of their winning penalty – and our CL elimination – as seen through AANP eyes, was thoughtfully captured hither by a chum while on stag in Portugal).

Just about every article printed over the last 24 hours has lathered on interminably about AVB, his former mob, his current mob, the clash of his former against his current mob, and every other AVB connotation at which one can wave a jolly large stick. But really, for the faithful who troop along to the Lane at lunchtime the nub of the thing is whether our lot outscore t’other lot, with relatively little concern for whichever chap wears the suit on the sidelines.

While four consecutive wins is, statistically, about as fine fettle as we could wish for, the on-pitch stuff has not quite been the very model of fluency. A Terry-less Chelsea provides opportunity, particularly with our handsome young Welshman approaching top form at a gallop, but Messrs Sandro and Dembele will jolly well need to have their defensive hats well secured, as the opponents will have all manner of shiny, expensive foreign types charging at our high defensive line.

Aside from the media frenzy about his former employers, AVB will have to focus on the day job and make one or two sizeable calls regarding personnel. The choice of goalkeeper for a game of this magnitude likely to resonate along the N17 corridors (and while ‘tis neither here nor there admittedly, saving a Cesc Fabregas penalty midweek was a smart move from Lloris, a couple of weeks into his Tottenham career). The other point of interest will be in attack, where Adebayor is by all accounts now back to fitness, and may be deemed a more suitable option as pressure-release in a game like this, despite Defoe’s barely containable gusto of recent weeks. If AANP were in charge the two of them would start, but alas being in charge is a make-believe world in which Gazza’s career would have been saved, 2unlimited would still rule the airwaves and drastic re-writes would have been ordered of the scripts of both Alien 3 and Terminator 3.

Having already bettered Man Utd, through that curious mix of brio and last-ditch defending, our heroes already have one sizeable scalp displayed proudly on the mantelpiece, and that same combo will presumably be required again today. A fifth consecutive win would make this one of the cheeriest crises of the modern era.

(Apologies – blasted comments box still not fixed)

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.

Spurs – Chelsea Preview: Cometh the Creaking-Limbed Combo

The lucky blighters of mid-80s Los Angeles had the A-Team, the ungrateful denizens of Gotham City had a giant man-bat with a handy penchant for pugilism, but when we have a problem with which no-one else can help the slightly alarming solution being wheeled out onto the Wembley turf is the creaking-limbed combo of Nelsen and Gallas. In fairness, Gallas has yet to let us down, and has generally raised his performance level in direct proportion to the occasion; while Nelsen- well he made a good tackle against Bolton. And played in the World Cup. And looks, ahem, experienced.The concern however is that neither could be quite guaranteed to outsprint Vedran Corluka over 10 yards, so how they will fare against the resurgent Chelski forward line is a worrying prospect. Rarely has the absence of human behemoth Younes Kaboul been so keenly felt. However, cometh the hour, cometh Messieurs Gallas and Nelsen. Immortality beckons if they play their cards right. (Well maybe not immortality, but a trip to Wembley. Again.)

 

Aside from defensive deficiencies the concern is a little broader, in that the whole ruddy lot of lilywhite heroes have developed chronic impotence when it comes to the delicate matter of outperforming opponents and trundling back to N17 with victory ballads ringing through the air. The return of Parker ought to help, and having awaited his return as if he were some sort of body-arted second Messiah, I think ‘tis fair to suggest that we are due a performance of scintillating ilk from Aaron Lennon. Where there is Modric, Adebayor, VDV and Bale there is hope, and, perhaps most pertinently, a couple of weeks ago we jolly well outdid Chelski in all areas bar net-rippling.

Poor form or not, in a one-off at Wembley this could prove quite the ruckus. Victory would not only place us within touching distance of the glittering jug, but it might also prove something of a stimulant for our Champions League push. The alternative is frankly too ominous to contemplate.

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