All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs 0-3 West Ham: Dawson’s Final Destination Routine

That whole farce was so preposterous that for nigh on 20 hours since its conclusion I have been gently reclining in a darkened room with nothing but the dulcet tones of Julie London to nurse my hurting brain. If the sign of greatness is how one copes with adversity then our much-vaunted back-four ought to be wheeled out onto the High Road and pelted with rotten fruit and a selection of heavy, blunt metal objects, for their collective display of incompetence that ushered in the second and third goals. (Not that anyone should be particularly exonerated for the first goal either – a naughty push in Vertonghen’s back there may have been, but that West Ham were effectively able to play a one-two on our goal line smacks of somebody somewhere tripping over their own shoelaces.)

The Second Goal

Kyle Walker’s occasional moments of cerebral evacuation were never that entertaining in the first place, but now they are becoming a dashed nuisance make no mistake. I am generally loath to criticise the chap as he typically displays more fight than the rest of them combined, but on this occasion his pace was not enough to right the wrong of being caught near the halfway line when West Ham were bearing down on goal.

The Third Goal

Marvellous to see our brave young captain celebrate a new three-year contract with a typical moment of lumbering clumsiness, dangling a leg as the West Ham blighter skipped past him in a flash. He may exude lashings of gung and ho when winning headers, and think himself Hoddle incarnate as he pings those diagonal 70-yard passes, but Dawson’s bread and butter is to defend, and the chap has the turning speed of a dozy elephant and sprinting technique of one of the slower members of the Corluka clan. I am becoming rather fed up of seeing him discombobulated to within an inch of his life by a straightforward shoulder-dip and sprint routine. Watching a fleet-footed opponent dash towards him is akin to those prescient moments in the Final Destination films when some suspiciously good-looking young American lass envisages a cyclist crashing into a petrol tanker, being flattened by a falling piano and then having their head bitten off by a passing dinosaur. A useful squad member Dawson surely is, but the sooner Kaboul is fit and raring to go the better.

Not that young Vertonghen escapes blame either. To fail to catch a man running half the length of the pitch with the ball at his feet is unforgivable. Someone ought to tousle that immaculately-combed hair of his by way of punishment. That ought to elicit a few howls of anguish.

The First Hour

For all the idiocy that spread like a rash across the back-four in the latter stages it was still a rummy old thing to watch our lot dominate things for the first hour and then waddle off home three down to a team without a striker. In a sense it was fairly typical White Hart Lane fare, for many a time and oft have we hammered away at a defensive opponent and then been caught out at a set-piece. It seems a dashed shame though, because it felt like a goal was coming. Paulinho’s tendency to shoot from everywhere and aim at anything may incorporate as much wild missing as hitting, but his propensity to surge into the area to support the front man is a welcome one, and he seemed to push even further up the pitch after half-time, encapsulating a greater urgency amongst our troops.

Alas, Eriksen was denied much space, Lamela was fairly impotent when eventually introduced, and that whole left-flank business seemed to be quietly erased from our game plan. No particular need to panic, for I can hardly see Liverpool and Southampton challenging come May, but it is about bally time we put these meddling bottom half teams to the sword and tonked them with three or four early goals, rather than beavering away at nil-nil into the final half hour.

Hudd, Dawson & Adebayor – AANP Weeps, Shrugs & Rejoices

Hudd to StokeWEEP! Weep – and while you’re at it wail and gnash your teeth – for Hudd is a lilywhite no more! Admittedly the veracity of the above does depend on a technicality, as the blighter has departed only on loan for now, but apparently AVB deems him too slow for this post-Corluka era.

Whether or not he returns seems fairly questionable, for while the loaning of younglings is generally geared towards ripening them for First XI action, loans for more established 20-somethings are typically more akin to a commercial on the tellybox – designed in no uncertain terms to entice viewers to part with tuppence ha’penny.

So weep then, for possibly the silkiest stroker of a leather sphere witnessed on N17 turf since Hoddle has now seemingly munched on his last doughnut from the White Hart Lane canteen. Admittedly Moutinho may still be on the radar, but otherwise it seems jolly uncanny that AVB cannot find room for Hudd within a 3-man central midfield, particularly with Modric still persona non grata, Scott Parker injured and Jermaine blinking Jenas hovering in the background with evil grin on visage and custom-made sideways-and-backwards-passing boots slung over shoulder. Thus, however, does our esteemed leader roll. AVB likes his troops to scuttle around the ankles of opponents like a troupe of particularly sprightly monkeys caught up in the excitement of the mating season, and alas, such a description will never, ever befit Master Huddlestone.

To add to the pain of it all, the marriage of a technician extraordinaire such as Hudd, with an elbows and long-ball outfit like Stoke, seems the very paradigm of incongruity. Should he be travelling to the Britannia in the capacity of Champagne Football Evangelist one can only hope he fares better than our distant cousins who first attempted that preaching lark. Would be a dashed shame if he were mauled to death by lions.

Daws to QPR 

Big and brave and inspiring though he regularly is, our heroes are not peddling a production of Henry V  so there is a limited need for Dawson’s qualities. In particular, his penchant for roaring at the Paxton end and sticking his head where boots swing fails to mask the fact that in the act of Paxton-roaring and head-sticking he has wandered out of position, about-turned with the nimbleness of an embarrassed elephant and flicked his switch to Clumsy-Last-Ditch-Challenge mode – and at 28 the problem was hardly about to remedy itself. In Kaboul, Gallas and (admittedly the little I have seen of) Vertonghen we have three centre-backs who are better, or at least his equal, while Caulker is developing well and is young enough to improve.

A fine servant to the cause, and the goal vs Chelski circa 2006 remains one of my favourite lilywhite memories of recent years, but on this one AANP concurs with AVB, and a mooted sum of £9.5 million would be fairly health business.

Adebayor to the Lane

Glory be. It had got to the stage where Steven Fletcher was being mentioned in dispatches, so to have dotted t’s and crossed i’s on this is a blessed relief.

For added chortle-value it appears that in order to rid themselves of him, Man City have hit upon the novel idea of paying him the sizeable lump of wage that we poor and needy White Hart Laners could not afford. While it may furrow the brow of one J. Defoe Esquire, at £5 million this is a reason to doff the cap in the general direction of Master Levy.

Spurs’ Summer Doings Viewed From A Beady AANP Eye

What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale 

Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.

More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.

Formation 

Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.

Erm… a centre-forward? 

Other personnel 

Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Dovi?enja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.

Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.

 

 

Spurs – Wigan Preview: Enough of This Bad Luck Gubbins

Here at AANP Towers we are inclined to pay short shrift to those who shuffle our way with puppy-dog eyes and quivering lower lip, complaining of bad luck. “You makes yer own luck,” we have been known to roar, with such ferocity that the aforementioned puppy-eyed, lip-quivering urchins have literally exploded into a ball of flames before our eyes; or else we invoke the barely perceptible murmur of a true testosterone-fuelled hero like that chap Stallone, and instruct “Take it like a man”; or indeed we sagely impart the sporting wisdom of some aged American golfing chap, and intone with zen-like calm “The more I practise the luckier I get”.

Between me and you however, such declarations have rather died in my throat the last few weeks. Lady Luck has taken quite the dislike to the lilywhite heroes of N17 in recent weeks. If it’s not Adebayor having goals disallowed left, right and centre it’s everyone’s favourite Italian rogue merrily crushing the skull of poor old Scott Parker underfoot, and waltzing away scott-free (ahem), before no doubt placing a whoopee cushion under the seat of ‘Arry unbeknownst to the officials, and then hanging, drawing and quartering every unused sub on our bench whilst Howard Webb’s back is turned.

All of which has earned our lot plenty of sympathy, and, coupled with our Veuve Cliquot brand of one-touch football, made us just about everyone’s second favourite team. Marvellous, but if major decisions keep robbing us of points all the sympathy in the world won’t be of much use. So I hereby offer a personal plea to Billy Bowden, or whomever is in charge of the rub of the green these days – for the love of all things wondrous, dish all the good luck back our way, and pronto.

There’s A Game Tonight Apparently

Not that we ought necessarily to need too much luck tonight against Wigan, who, for those who care of such things, are apparently bottom of the table. I fancy that this could prove another of those tortuous, one-sided-yet-laboured narrow victories, but if that be the case then so be it – we might as well gather up all the points we can and bury them deep beneath the turf, because the upcoming glut of fixtures will most certainly require our heroes to polish their shoes and sharpen their muskets.

Fare Thee Well…

Following the width-less experiment in the Cup last week ‘Arry and chums will presumably revert to the same old same old tonight, although they will have to do so without Corluka, who has apparently been loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen or some similar (and who can therefore, given his current mobility levels, be expected to pitch up in Germany some time in 2014). Some are murmuring that Louis Saha of all people is to tip-toe his way down the High Road tonight, but for now all thoughts of transfer windows ought to be shelved, and the Wiganers despatched. One point from two games is practically relegation form, so what better time to host the worst time in the division? Strut thine funky stuff please chaps.

Spurs 1-2 PAOK: Foul! Offside? Touchdown? Erm…

Well what a relief that that has been cleared up. Apparently the Defoe goal was disallowed because of a foul committed by Pavluychenko in the fixture played back in Greece in September. Or perhaps for a foul by Graham Roberts in our ’84 UEFA campaign. Or maybe it was Mackay back in ’61. Well, whatever the incident, it was definitely a foul. Or maybe offside. Or Leg Before Wicket.

Mind you, Defoe appeared almost to castrated the chap, so it would have been a bit much to have profited with a goal. Whatever the verdict, that second half was certainly more exciting than the usual Channel 5 fare from our lot, and not too many tears will be shed in this neck of the woods if our Europa campaign coughs politely and sidles off the premises in the coming weeks.

The First Half – Only Marginally Better Than Having A Foot Chopped Off

After the remarkable juggernaut of unstoppableness produced by our lot in recent weeks, our Europa lilywhites came over all misty-eyed and nostalgic, and sweetly reverted to the days of Gerry Francis and Christian Gross. Adopting a formation of sixes and sevens, the back-line in particular displayed quite spectacular ineptitude in that opening 45, viewed at AANP Towers with all the morbid fascination of that scene in the first Saw film when the chap looks at the saw, looks at his foot, looks at the saw, looks back at his foot, and finally decides that if David Beckham can carve out a career as an international superstar with just the one foot then it might be worth the risk.

Ah, that wretched first half. Bassong looked every inch a defender soon to be sold to QPR. Corluka looked every inch a footballer whose pained lumbering is no quicker than the steps of an inebriated rabbit. Rose looked every inch a promising schoolboy decathlete shoved onto a football pitch and told to be a left-back. Pienaar looked every inch the runt of the Predator pack, banished to earth by the cooler Predators on account of his heavy-legged first touch.

On the bright side, Defoe and Modders tore about like a pair of dogs on heat in that first half, while Livermore also earned an approving nod, with that Sandro-esque combo of technique and energy.

Second Half – An Improvement Of Sorts

In the second half, our wily old fox of a manager deduced that the best way to avoid further embarrassment would be at all costs to avoid letting the ball go anywhere near the defence. Thus we spent the entire 45 camped around the Greek area, which at least spared Gallas, Bassong et al any further Chuckle Brothers moments. Alas, PAOK reasonably enough stuck all ten of their remaining men in a neat formation around their own penalty spot, and just about every one of them cleared off the line at some point.

Defeat is never much fun, and the use of 90 minutes’ worth of Modders, Defoe and Lennon is regrettable – but if we make the Top Four this season, an early Europa exit will hardly be lamented.

Spurs – PAOK Preview: Unleash The Muskehounds

Switching from the all-conquering, award-winning, glitz-laden superstars of our rollicking Premiership campaign to the prepubescent kids and want-away squad members on our midweek Europa jaunts is somewhat akin to putting down the Dumas novel in order to tune in to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds – nobody in their right mind would dispute that it remains quite magnificent entertainment, but the whole forum is perhaps a little more frivolous.Thus we march into battle tonight knowing that defeat will do all manner of nastiness to our European campaign, but victory would all but see us through. None of which can really be taken seriously when one considers the red-hot Saturday/Sunday frolics of our first-choice mob in the League.

Still. There is still a cockerel on the shirt, pride at stake and a trophy to be won, eventually. Kane, Carroll, Livermore and Townsend will get their usual opportunities to impress, while Cudicini, Corluka, Gallas, Pienaar and Pav (if fit – and if not, then presumably Defoe) will add sprinklings of élan about the place. The reverse fixture against this lot was jolly hard work, but thus far on our home nights in Europe we have muddled through, so another three points ought to be the target once again tonight. All for one, and all that continental gubbins.

Spurs – Aston Villa Preview: Preferably Not Another Scott Parker MoM Performance

What ho, and I trust you are in as fine fettle as AANP, for today’s basic algebra lesson is that a win today will take us third, and with a game in hand no less. Crivens! Let’s ruddy well get out there, dominate, take the lead, sit back, invite pressure, concede one and hang for dear life for those three points! Our current streak of fairly relentless goodness bodes well, as does Villa’s winless away record this season, but this being THFC there will inevitably be many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip.

Scott Parker’s inexorable march towards Fans’ Player of the Season has seen him just about Man of the Match his way through all eight of his games in lilywhite to date, games that have seen us record seven wins and a draw. Just this once however, I rather hope that Parker’s contribution is minimal, and that we can cruise through to victory without recourse to his indefatigable last-gasp heroics. It would be absolutely topping if the headlines tomorrow were all about Adebayor, VDV/Defoe, Modders, Bale and Lennon, with Friedel a spectator and Parker just occasionally required to play some of his gentle one-twos on halfway, before the forward line launch their next little blitzkrieg.

Corluka is apparently restored to full health, but it is unlikely that young Master Walker will be displaced. If there is a change at all it might be in attack, where, VDV has been recuperating from his latest hamstring mischief by shopping in the supermarket aisle next to the venerable AANP Senior. Defoe no doubt strains at the leash. Meanwhile, the terms of his loan mean that The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards will not pop up in midfield for Villa, to invite pressure upon his temporary employers, but one former lilywhite on show will be Alan Hutton, whose defensive frailties ought to be brutally exposed by Bale at full gallop. All things considered this should be three more points for the pot.

Spurs – Arsenal Preview: To VDV Or Not To VDV?

Strange times these – the first in my living memory that we’ve gone into a match against that ‘orrible lot from down the road with the bookies sidling over into the lilywhite camp. The noisy babblings of my l’Arse supporting chums ring a little hollow these days. Current form; playing personnel; summer transfer dabbling; inside out; upside down – any way you look at it we have the edge at the moment.Unfortunately, this does not necessarily count for a great deal – the standard North London ruckus tends to produce four goals in the first 20 minutes, at which point pre-game indicators are accordingly lobbed out of the nearest window. Nevertheless, it’s nice at least to go into this one using little more than a knowing smile in the traditional pre-match verbal jousting with fans of the other lot.

Selection Dilemma: VDV

A big moment for ‘Arry this one, as the conundrum that quietly brewed away throughout last season is now presenting itself in the form of a life-sized, VDV-shaped selection dilemma. Where best to begin with the Dutchman – right-wing, behind a lone striker or on the bench? The mildly controversial view here at AANP Towers is to mark a big cross in the box entitled “Impact Sub” today. Before you gather the rotten fruit and proceed to pelt, consider the reasons: Aaron Lennon is now back to fitness, providing an alternative on the right; while 4-4-2, with Adebayor-Defoe as bona fide strikers, seems a darned sight more positive (and threatening) for a home game than 4-5-1 with VDV chipping in occasionally in midfield. Moreover, VDV does not seem capable of lasting more than an hour or so, a fact presumably entirely unrelated to his occasional appearances in the kebab house down the road from AANP Towers. That said however, be we 4-5-1 with VDV or 4-4-2 without, the Wenger brow will be etched with worry lines. As selection posers go, it’s rather a topper.

Selection Dilemma Part Deux: Walker – Corluka

Another possible pencil-chewing matter for our glorious leader is at right-back. Young Master Walker appears to be the incumbent at present, and the lad certainly enjoys pelting towards the opposition by-line at a rate of knots – but can he defend? “Adequate, But Not Without Mistakes” might not be good enough this afternoon. I guess the Walker-Corluka choice might also depend on whether Lennon or VDV is picked on the right wing, at which point this all becomes terrifically complicated. As ever, my preference would be Kaboul.

Elsewhere, a collective sigh of relief would no doubt echo around the Lane once it is confirmed that Ledley is fit to start again, and Sandro may well drop to the bench, in the interests of glorious, pulsating, all-out attack. This being what it is I presume there will be at least five goals, of which van Persie will presumably score one and VDV another, while the laws of science dictate that Adebayor will score, get sent off or both. In a nutshell, it really does contain just about as much excitement as is legal on a Sunday afternoon. Home win.

Spurs – Shamrock Rovers Preview: Starting to Enjoy This

With fourth spot in the Premiership all but wrapped up it’s time for everyone to swing around and face this direction once again, just hither. I appreciate it can be jolly dashed mind-boggling these days trying to separate one competition from the next, but my spies tell me that tonight it’s Europa. Everyone got that?As it happens, I’m rather enjoying the deployment of the younglings in these midweek night-time gambols. In seasons of yore the only chance we’d get to see the likes of Livermore, Carroll and chums would be for 30 minutes at the end of an FA Cup demolition job on Peterborough, when the kids would be so concerned about making a good impression that I felt tense just watching them. Now, safe in the knowledge that there will always be a pointless European minnow pestering us again in a week or two, today’s youth can exhale, relax, play their natural games and give us a slightly better chance to assess how good they are, whilst secretly cursing the fact that kids half our age are already better than us.

In terms of personnel One Aaron Lennon will apparently be disappearing into the distance beyond some poor Irish full-back tonight, while Danny Rose and Steven Pienaar are also in line for returns. Presumably various youngsters have been given permission to leave school early in order to play tonight too, while such occasions also tend to mark the appearances of Pav, Bassong and Corluka before they are shoved away into the background once again as more pressing concerns arise at the weekend. Whatever the personnel one would expect our lot to be too strong for Shamrock tonight.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: The Least Important Game of Our Season?

Europa League or Carling Cup, which ought we to want less? It’s a tricky one. The Europa League trophy is a sizeable beast, and its lack of handles gives it a pleasingly Neanderthalic edge – one cannot help but handle it in rough, uncouth manner when raising it aloft, which is rather apt after 90 minutes of blood and thunder. The Carling Cup on the other hand has three handles, which is just plain weird, and ‘Arry will no doubt have taken this into account ahead of kick-off.However, we only need to win five games to make the Carling Cup Final, whereas five games in the Europa League won’t get us much further than half-time against Shamrock Rovers. Presumably the strategy in both tournaments will be to use the reserves, kids and those returning from injuries in the early rounds, before putting pedal to metal in the later stages. As such, everyone’s favourite gifted-yet-calamitous Brazilian gets to pop his cheekbones once more tonight, Gomes lining up between the sticks. With Gallas and Sandro returning, and Bassong, Corluka, Pav and presumably Giovani also involved, our lot ought to make a decent fist of it. The opposition won’t need too much introduction, it having been only five minutes since we were treated on a weekly basis to the sights of Crouch looping headers harmlessly into the stands, Sergeant Wilson mis-placing six yard passes and updates on the official club website about Jonathan Woodgate’s latest injury setback.

In all competitions we have five clean-sheets in seven games to date this season, and while it won’t matter a jot how we fare ce soir if we’re still pushing for fourth come next May, it would still be most satisfying if we could furtively eke our way into the quarter-finals of this thing, as has been our wont in recent years.

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