All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Spurs – Inter Preview: Oozing Glamour From Every Pore

‘Tis a sign of the lucre-riddled times that a home fixture against Inter is only the third most important match of our week, but thus it fairly well transpires, if you give a nudge here and take a hop there. Finishing in the top four (three? Two?) still feels like the priority – but as distractions go this is right up there with kittens, cats, sacks and wives. Spurs vs Inter – truly a fixture to make a grown man stand up straight, puff out his chest and cream with misty eyes of killing wild beasts with his bear hands.

On an arguably more relevant note, it can be assumed that Friedel will take the reins tonight, which is rather a shame in a way, for Lloris’ tendency to burst off his line like a coiled spring recently force-fed E-numbers has proved most useful, in acting as the thinking man’s last line of defence. Gallas, Caulker and Naughton all stand reasonably good chances of being rotated in, and Defoe blinking well ought to start if there is but an ounce of sanity in the world, but I would be a little surprised if AVB chopped and changed in midfield – this tends not to be his wont.

Playing the home leg first is not ideal, but one way or t’other this ought to be a rollicking good yarn (and – whisper it – a useful precursor to fixtures of similarly glamorous ilk in season 2013-14).

Lyon 1-1 Spurs: Discombobulation Rules

Discombobulating stuff. Once upon a time our heroes would have folded like an origami swan being trampled underfoot by Rambo as he ripped open the throat of a nameless foe with his bare hands. However, the days of Vega and Nethercott, under the watchful eye of Gerry Francis, appear to be long gone. Yesterday, eschewing the Limp Capitulation technique honed so professionally in years gone by, they beavered away, flinging on attacking substitutes and ending up with just about everyone piling forward to occupy every vacant spot of greenery in and around the Lyon area – and before you could say “Well dash it all, if we can’t rely on Bale to save the day we jolly well need somebody else to dip his shoulder, beat his man and thump the dickens out of the ball, leaving the opposition goalkeeper to adopt a mildly comical pose while prostrate on the ground”, we were treated to a marvellous last-minute about-turn. Huzzah!

On top of all of which – and this, the eagle-eyed (and awake) of you will note, is the discombobulating bit – this Skin-of-Our-Teeth late goal spectacular has happened before. Last week, this week, against Man Utd a couple of weeks ago – whisper it surreptitiously, but it is on the verge of becoming a habit. Make of it what you will, but this certainly is not the wretched Tottenham with which I spent many a miserable afternoon in my formative years. Heavens above, before long this new breed will be winning trophies and all sorts. Discombobulation hath made its masterpiece alright.

That said, one or two of the chaps out there adopted a pretty rummy approach to business earlier on. Young Master Walker may have included passport and foreign currency but he forgot to pack his brain cell, and a variety of ill-advised decision resulted, principally around kicking opponents rather than the ball. Out on t’other flank Benny’s zany solo routines veered swiftly from entertaining to mighty irritating as we chased the game, while there was also rather a mixed bag from Friedel, and although the bawdy howls of exasperation hurled in his direction are a mite unfair, the presence of Lloris stage-right does rather highlight the elder statesman’s failings. I would certainly feel a lot more confident fastening the cuff-links when Inter come to town if I knew Monsieur Lloris were limbering up between the sticks.

till, the second half in particular was a hearty effort, particularly as breaking down a ten-man defence has never exactly been a forte around N17. On top of which, qualifying through a last-minute goal may take a few years of our totals on this mortal sphere, but it is still a mighty satisfying way to finish a game and usher in the following day’s hangover.

Lyon – Spurs Preview: Twelve vs Eleven

In theory the drill for this one should be simple enough – nice and tight at the back, then step aside to let Bale and Lennon blaze merrily away on the counter-attack, and before you can say “Sur ma tête”, mon fils,” we’ll be home for a late-night bourbon.

Or not. Footballers are renowned for many things, but cerebral robustness probably is not one, and it is easy enough to imagine our heroes straying from the script, and that 2-1 cushion going the way of all flesh within minutes. Still, even if they do take the complicated route, the AANP tuppence is firmly placed on qualification, for our lot simply tend not to lose these days.

The Bale Factor

Quite what the devil we will do once young Master Bale has scarpered for pastures more lucrative is too frightful to contemplate at the moment, but to the pleasure of porcrastinators the world over this is a problem for another day. The One-Man Astonishingness Machine is very much a lilywhite tonight, and as such we line up virtually twelve vs eleven. Stick him on the left, stick him through the middle or just leave him on free-kick detail – his garish size nines are sprinkled with magic dust at the moment, and the Lyon brains-trust are presumably scratching their heads in bewilderment at the task awaiting them.

Grumble Fodder

Elsewhere Messrs Dempsey and Adebayor are each purveying their own unique – but rather different – brand of bally infuriating nonsense, as I believe it is known. Dempsey is certainly a willing trier, so God presumably loves him, but AANP is becoming increasingly irritated at the manner in which his laboured multiple-touch technique sucks the lively juices from any useful-looking attack. Adebayor on the other hand, seems to have made a deep and fervent commitment to doing absolutely anything other than straining every sinew for the lilywhite cause. Nothing that cannot be rectified by a breezy Bale-Lennon-Holtby combo, but still enough to drive one to such despair that there is no option but to emit a sincere – and loaded – tut.

More chopping and changing can presumably be expected in defence, and if he is feeling particularly emotional AVB might use Lloris rather than Friedel. Whatever the minutiae, and whether or not I and my lilywhite office-chums eventually locate a drinking-hole in the Vauxhall area showing itv4, one would expect our heroes to muddle through. Bon chance, gents.

Spurs – Lyon Preview: The Pointy End Beginneth

This smells like the pointy end of things. Forthcoming opponents including l’Arse, Liverpool, City, Chelski and Everton, and what better whistle-whetter for such rumblings than a nifty-looking European tie? You can shove the mundane group games into a musky sack, and give them a furtive kick while you’re at it, because this one has a faint whiff of seriousness. Two legs, away goals, prime-time on ITV1 no less – the pointy end indeed.

Whether AVB is quite aware of the regal privilege of tonight’s scheduling arrangement is debatable, but with no game this weekend he might be tempted to send out a full-strength team. If one player might be given a breather it is Scott Parker, who likes increasingly as if he is about to die in the latter stages of every game he plays. Messrs Livermore, Hudd, Carroll and Sigurdsson chomp at the bit – or jolly well ought to.

Gallas is apparently being readied for action, and Friedel will presumably be unleashed for his monthly gambol, while this might be an opportune moment for Master Adebayor to start recovering some of that goodwill he has been haemorrhaging at a rate of knots. A clean sheet and lead to take to France is presumably the aim tonight. Rather looking forward to this.

Maribor 1-1 Spurs: The Half-Hearted Amble to Glory Continueth

Still not really clicking, which is just about grumpily bearable against the European champions, but a darned sight more irritating against Slovenia’s finest. The lack of cutting edge in attack had me thumping my head repeatedly against the nearest wall from around midway through the first half. Injury to Adebayor was a shame, for this game had ‘Two-Man Attack’ scrawled across it in the sort of chunky font normally reserved for unintelligible graffiti. Elsewhere a couple of campaigns were given more scarcely-needed impetus, as the ‘Without-Bale-And-Dembele-We’re-Worryingly-Impotent’ brigade were given a second boost within a week, while the ‘VDV-And-Modders-For-Sigurdsson-And-Dempsey-Is-A-Slightly-Rubbish-Trade-Off-When-You-Think-About-It’ movement, which first stirred into life in August, is gaining credibility by the game.

‘Twas a night on which, given our lack of personnel to play two up front, our deeper midfielders Hudd and Sandro might have shown more attacking urgency. Lennon too just seemed too dashed nice as he went about his business, seemingly reluctant to embarrass his hosts by tearing them to pieces and instead settling for that pause-and-limply-pass-infield routine that is inevitably met with sighs of relief all round amongst the opponents.

here were a few moments – the lad Falque shook things up a tad on his introduction, and young Masters Caulker and Naughton put in decent performances, but ‘tis rather depressing to clutch at such straws after a bland draw against this lot. Having banged on about what a glitzy, glam competition this Europa thing is, AVB needs to inject some ingenuity and ruthlessness into the training ground protein shakes, and jolly well destroy this lot when they visit the Lane for the return fixture.

Idle Musings on Spurs vs Greeks and Villains

Panathanaikos 1 – 1 Spurs

A curious one, that Greek escapade, to the casual observer at least, as our heroes seemed determined to sleepwalk through the entire episode. Possibly considering the whole Europa evening school beneath them following the vanquishing of more illustrious foes in Manchester days earlier, or maybe distracted en masse by that curious ‘Adebayor Power Horse’ advertising hoarding that kept flashing up, our heroes determinedly flicked the dial to ‘General Apathy’ and half-heartedly ambled their way through the motions – into the lead, back to parity and ultimately rather clinging on somewhat, all the while giving the impression that unless the nearest chum gave a sharp prod they might just curl up into a ball and nap for a few minutes on Greek soil.

Viewed with particular interest from the AANP armchair were the performances of Hudd and Daws, neither of whom are exactly the rocks upon which the kingdom of AVB are to be built. Alas, much though I wanted Hudd in particular to outshine all around him and produce a performance to be immortalised on youtube under the title ‘Ruddy Hudd Masterclass in Dreamy Technique’, it was a rather hit-and-miss affair, with some inch-perfect, raking diagonals interspersed with the odd misplaced pass, against a backdrop of slightly tubby huff and puff.

As for Daws, ‘twas his pros and cons all neatly packaged into one handy ninety-minute demo. A towering, heart-and-soul header for our goal, followed by leaden-footed sluggishiness as the opposing striker disappeared into the distance and equalised, the unfortunate truth was that it justified AVB’s decision to shunt him well down the queue of Premiership starters. In this era of indecently young mangers, high defensive lines and manic work-rates, it is easy to see why Messrs Hudd and Daws are putting in some mighty serious thumb-twiddling time on the fringes.

Spurs 2-0 Villa

Merrily woken from their slumbers by last Sunday, this was still not quite the vintage Hotspur. Once the two-goal lead was established it all became simple enough, and by the time Villa were reduced to ten it was  but a merry little training ground exercise (which, the pedants amongst us grumbled, ought to have seen our goal difference upped) but for the best part of an hour there was a conspicuous lack of fluency.

The wisdom of Dempsey/Gylfi playing off the front-man remains debatable, particularly at the Lane against teams we expect to dominate, but if we can ease our way to victory while not at the peak of our powers then this ‘crisis’ remains most welcome.

At the other end poor old Friedel can feel a mite piqued at his omission (although he may want to use the spare time to work on gathering crosses) but there is no particular grumble in this quarter over the use of Lloris. Solid enough from le Frenchman – indeed, a first clean-sheet of the league season – but it will probably require the best part of a season before we can judge the chap. No idea why ‘keepers these days punch everything though, what the devil has happened to the good old-fashioned art of just catching the bally thing?

So as we drum our fingers, teach ourselves new skills (darning, at AANP Towers, since you ask – and very handy it’s proving too) and wait for the international to-and-fro to wind down it’s four Premiership wins in a row, and a Europa campaign that has been a little unnecessarily complicated. And who amongst us would not have settled for such fare when the troops were jeered off against Norwich a few weeks back?

(Frightfully sorry about the invisible comments section by the way – the world’s most over-zealous spam-catcher has taken to the black arts to prevent anyone from posting below. Fret not, the village plumber has been summoned. Should be fixed in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.)

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.

Rubin Kazan 1-0 Spurs: Bassong – Bad For Your Health

More dedicated followers of  AANP will be well aware that when I do eventually conclude fighting the good fight and prepare to meet my doom, ‘twill not be in a hail of bullets or blaze of glory, but coronary failure sustained while watching our heroes. While cheering the news that the various pokes and prods to ‘Arry ‘s cardiac area proved successful, I rather fear for him if he observed on the telly-box the inept tomfoolery of Monsieur Bassong in contributing to our downfall. On an evening when the more experienced, international types needed to lead by example, his ill-judged amble out of defence and straight into trouble inevitably led to a goal, as well as a booking, which may or may not have been officially awarded for jaw-dropping imbecility. I don’t mind admitting that when Gallas went off and the armband passed to the arm of Bassong, I could barely suppress a tut, so enraged was I. One rather hopes that someone averted ‘Arry’s eyes as the incompetence unfolded.

That Cudicini was in fine form says much about our performance, but this is hardly a slight upon the kids, whose brows were, as ever, furrowed with determination and effort. Of offensive threat there was none, Defoe and Pav given so little service and space that every time the ball did make its way to them they celebrated by charging into offside positions. In truth, the most notable developments of the night were the worrying sight of Gallas withdrawing injured, and the quite brilliant pun delivered by yours truly upon the arrival into the fray of young Parrett.

A win and defeat against this Russian lot, with no particular violation upon the equanimity of the goal difference between us, is probably what most of us expected. Progress remains likely, and the kids are learning, so there is therefore sanguinity in defeat, at least at AANP Towers.

Rubin Kazan – Spurs Preview: Dashing Back for Kick-Off

Rarely do I expect our heroes to lose – away to the Manchester clubs are about the only fixtures this season in which I would regrettably project nul points – but to that roll of dishonour let the epithet “Rubin Kazan. Away. And With Kids” be added. Those Russians can rightly feel a tad aggrieved at having to slop back off to Siberia with nothing but commemorative THFC thermal underwear, for they had the woolly mammoth’s share of possession and chances that night, and are likely to cause us a fair degree of bother on their own patch.Our midfield looks particularly light tonight, with Sandro and Parker spared the air-miles, understandably enough, a blessing similarly bestowed upon Modders, Bale, Lennon, VDV and Adebayor. However, Gallas and Pienaar will gingerly tiptoe onto the 90×120 for the first time in a while; Livermore will head up the usual troop of Boy Scouts; and Gomes/Cudicini, Bassong, Defoe and Pav are also involved. Much will rest on the young shoulders of Livermore to win the midfield battle, but all things considered a draw would represent a decent achievement, while the 5pm kick-off time finally lends some point to the existence of ITV4+1. The dash back to AANP Towers commences imminently…

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