My goodness it’s an arid, barren football landscape at this time of year. Admittedly there is the Confederations Cup (what the devil is that strange buzzing noise at all the South African stadia?), and the Under-21s are doing a sterling job for Queen and country, but once again at White Hart Lane the week has been characterised by the ethereal presence of rumours rather than any concrete developments.The Fixture List – So no action, no plot, and instead the highlight of the week has been the release of the fixture-list. It’s vaguely akin to getting excited about a weather forecast, but beggars can’t be choosers, so before the TV companies had a chance to stamp their filthy lucre all over it we at AANP Towers had a perusal. Liverpool first up elicited a rather fatalistic eye-roll, and April looks a tad tricky, but the fixture-gods have been strangely benevolent in their choice of final fixtures for us, with Bolton and Burnley standing in our way should we be mounting an end-of-season charge for Europe or better.
The most striking feature of the list is probably what is not included – namely European fixtures. I was a dedicated champion of the drive towards European qualification last season, but there is without doubt a silver lining to our failure to qualify, in terms of fewer games this time round. As well as the general benefit to players of reducing the likelihood of fatigue-induced injuries, this also gives us Ledley for the best part of the season, and ought generally to be conducive to a settled starting line-up, as we were able to produce to such good effect in the final months of last season.
Huntelaar, Robben, Heinze – Still nothing concrete in terms of transfers, but it is little secret that Daniel Levy was heading a delegation in Spain during the week, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is reportedly topping the list. Following the debacle that was Ramon Vega, we at AANP Towers are aware that a cracking name counts for nothing in the Premiership, but his parents still deserve a pat on the back for naming their son “Klaas”. Although I’m a little too apathetic to offer serious comment until this is upgraded from rumour to fact, I would be happy to see Huntelaar brought in before the season starts, rather than, say, Cisse.
Arjen Robben is another name on the list. I recall with bemusement the hullabaloo that surrounded his first few games in a Chelski shirt, when he was lauded by some as the best player on the planet, a commendation which probably said more about the introspective nature of the Premiership and its commentators than the player himself. There is undoubtedly good trickery in his feet, but admiration for his talent is largely negated by my disdain for his histrionics. Admittedly just about every top-flight player has a dive and a roll around the floor these days, but Robben really is one of the most odious offenders.
Gabriel Heinze was the other name supposedly on the list. A top-notch left-back in his pomp at Man Utd, frankly I’m not sure if he’s still got it now in his early-thirties. Nothing wrong with a little competition in the squad I suppose, but I’ll be mightily disgruntled if his appearance at the club prompts Gareth Bale’s departure.
Ashley Young for David Bently plus Jenas/Hudd/cash – As left-wingers go, on a scale of one to ten (or Downing to Joe Cole) I guess Young would get a seven. Very good player, with the pace, trickery and youth to do on the left what Aaron Lennon does on the right, but after a blistering start to last season he rather tailed off towards the end, in common with his Villa team-mates. Still, we need a left-winger (assuming Modric goes central), and frankly if this puts to bed the Downing rumours I’ll stump up some cash for it myself.
Roman Pavluchenko Pav – or more accurately, Pav’s agent – has been making noises about a departure from the Lane. No-one would claim that he has been an unqualified success as yet, but the lad has shown glimpses of class, and I’d be pretty peeved if he were sold off after just one season, particularly if the likes of Cisse or Jones are brought in to replace him. Not reading too much into it at the moment, as it’s probably just his agent whipping up some mischief to pass the time. The devil making work for idle hands and all that.
And that’s all for this week really (which is actually a mild relief at AANP Towers, given that the real world is proving so darned busy – those estate agents can be a smarmy breed…). With the best part of two months to go until the season starts, it seems that the new kit launch will follow the fixture-list publication as the next non-event of the summer. I can barely wait.