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Spurs preview

Norwich – Spurs Preview: Have We Turned A Corner?

It’s rather a sign of the times that our once Cup-specialised bunch of ragtag disco-lovers now shrug scornfully at the prospect of this knock-out fare, and instead focus their energies on maintaining consistent League form. Quite the reverse of those spirit-crushing 90s, when our heroes resolutely avoided finishing in either the top or bottom 6, season after season, and pinned everything on Chas’n’Dave’n’Sinton. Now the very antithesis of a ‘Cup-side’, the lilywhite mob exude nous, professionalism and knowing winks as they grind out away victories and get their paws dirty in scavenging last-minute equalisers against Man Utd. A corner, it would appear, has been turned.

Mind you, this theory will fall apart somewhat if we make a mess of things tonight. Meekly folding in a Cup tie at Leeds is all well and good as long as they bally well slam down on the throttle once more when Premiership matters restart tonight, and thrash the whatnot out of Norwich.

AVB: Doing His Damnedest To Get Us A New Striker

While he may present himself as coolly gravel-voiced and demure in his press conferences, nonchalantly dismissing the kooky concept of employing strikers when we have midfielders and full-backs and goalkeepers who can effortlessly adapt to life as a forward, I fervently hope that behind closed doors AVB assumes a maniacal grin and chases Daniel Levy across the south-east, flecks of spittle flying from his mouth and wielded axe swinging violently as he shrilly demands that the money-man buy us another all-singing, all-dancing, top-rate striker before the blasted window closes tomorrow night.

Team News

One can only hope. Before his nocturnal alter ego is unleashed AVB will have to make do with the ludicrous square-pegging of Dempsey/Sig again tonight, if Defoe is still unfit. Heaven help us. Still, the Dembele juices will presumably flow again tonight, following the near-scandalous admission that he could not really be bothered in the Cup, and our handsome young Welshman has good history against this lot.

Aside from Defoe’s health there is a concern in this corner of the interweb that all the Lucozade in the world won’t have replenished Scott Parker, after he had to be scraped off the Elland Road turf at full-time on Sunday, having given every ounce of energy he has ever possessed. All of which means that an appearance of some sort from sprightly young Herr Holtby might be on the cards.

If we really are now a top(ish) league team, rather than sporadic Cup mercenary, now might be the time to show it. Just a thought chaps (and that includes you, Dembele).

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Spurs transfers

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.

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Spurs match reports

Newcastle 2-1 Spurs: That Familiar Gloomy Hue

Ah, gloomy hue of disappointment, how I’ve missed thee. After the dashed unfairness that was Chelski pilfering our Champions League spot with the final act of last season, a couple of months on and our heroes were straight back in the groove, slinking off home with nothing but empty hands and slightly hurt expressions, when they deserved to hold aloft the carcass of a freshly captured point. Merrily, smatterings of cautious optimism can still be detected if one squints a little and tilts the head sideways. The 4-2-3-1 rather forces our heroes to trot hither and thither, and the end result seems to be a healthy degree of off-the-ball movement and various options for the man in possession. The midfield five (for want of a better collective noun) seemed pretty happy with life in their respective roles, and galling though both conceded goals were, we were hardly scythed to pieces by the Geordie mob. Indeed, a couple of minor adjustments of the radar might have had us wandering in a half-time with a two goal lead to throw away – although as my old man the venerable AANP senior is always quick to point out, they only deserve credit for hitting the woodwork if they were aiming for it (and that would betray a slightly rummy approach to the game, what?)

 

That said, there was of course plenty to satiate the doom-mongers in our party. Defoe fought the good fight jolly well, but six foot three and fourteen stone he most decidedly isn’t, which leaves Daniel Levy 11 days to thumb through his wallet or start intravenously injecting Defoe with spinach and oily fish to turn him into some sort of Drogba reboot.

Messrs Lennon and VDV made a solid joint effort for this season’s prestigious Softest, Most-Ill-Advised, Worst-Timed, Never-Going-To-Get-The-Ball tackle, although my Spurs supporting chum Ian later opined that their clumsy clanking had begun outside the area. All rather moot now, one might sniff.

AVB’s Choices of PersonnelYoung AVB will presumably spit out his dummy and bawl for a lollipop unless AANP affords him some column inches, so I oblige by questioning a couple of selections – notably the choice of Gallas ahead of Vertonghen. His prerogative, and Gallas performed steadily enough – I would just be interested to hear the rationale.

 

Elsewhere, the omission from the entire matchday squad of Hudd bodes ill and leaves me awfully concerned. AVB has some history of ostracising folk, and given that our new formation allows for a ball-playing central midfielder or two it would be a dashed shame if a rope were tied around the significant frame of Hudd and three burly chaps from the nearest building site were tasked with slowly hauling him out of the doors and along the High Road before slapping a note on him that read “FAO Martin Jol”.

Neither was Daws anywhere to be found. Injured, does anyone know? In truth, loveable and huggable though he may be, Daws has never quite been the very embodiment of reliability, but this was again, nevertheless, an eyebrow-raising call.

The Long GameRumour has it that Season 2012/13 will be, in common with every single one of its predecessors, a marathon rather than a sprint. This accords rather neatly with the AVB era, which does appear to be something of a long-term project. As such, issues such as supplementing the forward line and bundling Modders out of the exit will eventually be resolved, and the Top 4 may or may not be on the agenda this season, but in the longer term one can begin to see the blurry outline of a plan.

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Spurs rants

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.

 

 

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Spurs transfers

Zokora, Gunter, Dogtanian and the Scary Crouch Rumour

Ahoy-hoy. You may have noticed an eerie silence descending over AANP Towers in the last fortnight. Apologies – ‘twas initially intended as no more than a short break for an All-Action Stag Weekend (the impressive casualty list including A&E for the stag, a broken limb, a black eye, two lost phones, one lost wallet and a lost passport). It then morphed seamlessly into a full-blown two-week period of plain bone idleness on my part, at least in the world of Tottenham ruminations. All revved up now though, and with plenty about which to report, which makes a pleasant change this summer.Do-Do-Do Didier 

Plenty has already been said about Zokora’s departure on other corners of the interweb, and the consensus – that he was a headless chicken – is one with which I agree. His time in lilywhite was epitomised, for me, by his moment at the end of the 2008 Carling Cup Final – the adventurous dash forward, crowned by wild flailing shots when he sighted goal. His energetic style ought to make him a success in La Liga, where the game is typically a mite slower. A likeable enough chap, but the good folk of AANP Towers are not particularly bothered to see him go.

That is not meant to sound harsh, for Zokora was certainly committed to the Tottenham cause – which we all appreciated. It is more that the departure of players, even those for whom I feel great affinity, no longer bothers me, for such is the nature of the game. As a crestfallen whippersnapper, I desperately tried to maintain a stiff upper lip when Dogtanian waved goodbye to his parents and set off to seek his fame and fortune. The incident taught me a valuable lesson: that people in all walks of life – be they colleagues, animated Muskehounds or favoured footballers – inevitably move on, no matter how much they are cherished. Zokora was never a player I cherished particularly, and I therefore greet his departure with little more than a blasé shrug. Zokora was Premiership standard and Palacios is Champions League, so the business done in 2009 represents progress for Spurs.

Gunter to Forest 

Still, unlike Zokora, Gunter is young enough to improve. As such it would have made some sense to loan him out for another year, or at least collect a fee which reflected his potential for improvement.

This is hardly a cause that will instil in me the urge to make a placard, yell into a megaphone and upturn parked cars, but it certainly had me raising a surprised eyebrow.

Downing to Villa – Huzzah! 

Football is Back – Huzzah! 

Cheers too for the inclusion in the starting line-up vs Exeter of Danny Rose. While I accept that one Under-21 starlet does not a Busby Babes team make, we are nevertheless verging on notoriety for our reluctance to blood home-grown youth, so Rose’s presence in the first starting XI of the pre-season rather warmed the AANP cockles. He’s an exciting prospect, and I sincerely hope that one or two from Rose, Bostock, Obika, Livermore et al at least become regulars on our bench this season. Polite applause also for the disco feet shown from Livermore in setting up Defoe’s goal from Bournemouth.

Jeers, however, for the pairing of Keane and Defoe as our front-two for the Exeter game. Really? Is that the best strike pairing ‘Arry could muster of after a whole summer’s thought?

Crouch? Ye Gads No! 

(Interestingly, I last season heard either Graham Taylor or David Pleat mention on the radio that Crouch’s general uselessness in the air is due to the fact that, as an elongated teen, he rarely had to jump to win headers, and therefore never really worked his lower back, to develop a Les Ferdinand-esque leaping ability.)

AANP’s famous Who Would Buy Him? technique for gauging a player’s quality is already being implemented, with Sunderland and Fulham trying to lasso him. Champions League he ain’t, yet he is one of the few players in whom ‘Arry has gone on record to report interest this summer. I would rather persist with Pav, and have Obika on hand as our fourth striker.

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Spurs transfers

Luke-Warm Transfer Gossip – Palacios In, Jenas Out?

Since picking up a troublesome back injury last year, I seem to have lost a yard of pace, and as a result I’ve rather struggled to keep up with the transfer gossip this window. However, it takes more than the imminent onset of paralysis to stop me from moaning about Spurs, so here for your visual delectation is the most comprehensive guide to transfer rumours at N17 on any site called All Action, No Plot:Kenwyne Jones (Sunderland): Levy’s transfer policy seems pretty simple: pick a half-decent player, double his realistic value, add £5 million – by this time you’re likely to be waving a cheque for £15 million at the chairman of an occasional Premiership club – and hey presto! After 16 mil for Bent, 15 mil for Pav, 15 mil for Bentley and 15 mil for Defoe we’ve now had a 10 mil bid for Jones turned down, with eavesdroppers reckoning that 15 mil should be enough. Sigh. I don’t spend every spare minute studying the form of random Premiership players, but if Jones were really so special he’d be setting the goalscoring charts alight/a household name/sought after by the big four/all of the above.

 

Wilson Palacios (Wigan): Another one in the magic £15 mil bracket, but merrily this guy has been eyed by Man Utd and Real Madrid – which makes him a darn sight better than Bent or Bentley. Rumour has it that he might be the holding midfielder we’ve been crying out for since the dawn of man, but I know better than to get my hopes up, and fully expect him to materialise as a worse version of Didier Zokora, should he sign. The guy’s autobiography is truly all-action-no-plot, with his 15 year-old brother having been kidnapped and held up for ransom in his native Honduras, poor blighter. Might well be a Spurs player by the time you read this.Stephen Appiah (free agent): Earlier this week I read that Appiah had completed his medical… and returned home. What the blazes? What the hell sort of denoument is that? That’s like watching two hours of Terminator 2, getting to the bit when the evil Terminator corners Sarah Connor in the steelworks factory… and then she wakes up. It would have been a rubbish ending. However, it turned out not to be the ending at all, as Appiah has reportedly reappeared at the Lane to partake in more training sessions and practice matches. Free transfer, which will disappoint Levy, who won’t be able to dish out a further £15 mil.

Craig Bellamy (West Ham): With Man City dithering over whether to go for Bellamy or Kaka, it appears Spurs might yet swoop in for the loveable golf-club-wielding cherub, leaving the red-faced northerners with no option but to splash out on the best Brazilian since Pele. Hahaha, that’ll learn ’em.

Stewart Downing (Middlesborough): Mediocre? Worth not much more than £5 mil? Then Spurs will bid £15 mil for him. I celebrated like we’d won the Carling Cup when I heard that Boro were refusing to let him go. Be warned however – the transfer window still has two weeks to run, so with a dip of his right shoulder and dart out to the left young Downing could yet be heading to the High Road. Would rather stick Three-Touch O’Hara or even Gareth Bale out left for the rest of the season, and then pursue Joe Cole in the summer.

Antonio Valencia: Hmmm, yes, another right winger. Exactly what we need. Smart thinking chaps.

And possibly going the other way…

Jermaine Jenas: Huzzah! How wonderful it is to wake of a morning and, for a change, be greeted by news headlines bearing glad tidings. The report of the successful plane landing on the Hudson River was indeed such positive news, but barely compares to the best rumour of the millenium – that Jermaine Jenas could be on his way out of Spurs. Could it be true? Well, let’s not kill the fattened calf just yet – it seems efforts to add him as a makeweight in any of the above deals have stalled, as none of the clubs in question want him. If only these clubs were managed by any of the Spurs and England managers of the past five years, he’d be an automatic starter… Maybe I do Jenas an injustice here – his effort and attitude has always been admirable, and he was a key component of the team that dismantled l’Arse and Chelski in winning the Carling Cup. He’s still gut-wrenchingly awful though, and his departure from the Lane would make the all-action-no-plot universe a better place.

Darren Bent: Bless him, he can earnestly bleat on all he likes about getting his head down and making the most of his chances, but he’ll never cut it at the Lane. More likely to be mentioned in the same breath as Postiga and Raziak than Greaves and Lineker, it seems that Levy will pretend the whole £16 mil thing never happened, and just chuck him in as a sweetener for Jones or Bellamy, or someone. Worth sticking a fiver on to score against us at some point in 2009.

 

This article also appears on the cracking Spurs blog The Proud Cockerel: http://www.clubfanzine.com/tottenham_hotspur/index.php