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Spurs – Everton Preview: Pav or Crouch, Bale or BAE – Who Would You Pick?

As I’m away for the weekend, thought I’d post the Spurs-Everton preview nice and early… 

Confusion hath made its masterpiece here at AANP Towers. Are we back on track, or is this just a fleeting break from the woes of 2010? Sunday’s game should help clarify a situation that has become rather confusing for legions of bandwagon-jumpers. It barely seems five minutes ago that we were struggling for goals, and grumbles were being raised about ‘Arry’s future. Since then however, convincing wins against Wigan and Bolton have, temporarily at least, silenced such mischievous chatter, and ought to put some swagger in our step; but Everton will be a rather different kettle of fish. Seasoned visitors to AANP Towers will be aware that I rarely like to dwell on our opponents, but with successive wins over Chelski and Man Utd recently added to their CV, this lot are, strictly speaking, one of the most in-form teams in Europe.As such the microscope falls on several in lilywhite. It will be a day for the Hudd to shed that pesky anonymity cloak of which he is far too fond; Lennon’s continued absence means Bentley will be pitted against a potential England left-back in Leighton Baines; while in the absence of Ledley I don’t think any of us have quite the same confidence in our centre-back pairing, but it’s nevertheless another chance for Daws and Bassong to prove their worth.

Pav or Crouch?

Rather excitingly, we also have a couple of genuine selection posers. Assuming that Crouch recovers from his knock, ‘Arry will presumably have to choose between him and Pav. The Russian certainly takes his goals with aplomb, but chins across N17 and beyond are being thoughtfully stroked as we ponder whether he does enough off-the-ball, or shows any signs of developing a partnership with Defoe. However, his classier touch, white-hot form and frankly the fact that he does not automatically induce the long-ball from his team-mates make him the preferred option around these parts.

Bale or BAE?

The return of Assou-Ekotto on Wednesday also provides some choice at left-back. Gareth Bale has been in blistering form, and in the absence of Lennon has often been our primary attacking outlet. With our left midfielders cutting infield, his overlapping from full-back has seen many an opposition’s right side cut merrily to shreds. Doubts remain over his defensive capabilities however – doubts which surfaced away to this same Everton side a couple of months back, when he was given the run-around at Goodison. In the long-term this does not strike me as a problem – Bale is still a whipper-snapper, and has plenty of time to improve his game – but in the short-term we cannot really afford a glaring defensive error at this stage of the season. BAE is a more solid defender, but offers nothing like the same attacking potency. The AANP verdict is Bale, particularly at home; ‘Arry’s opinion is as yet unknown.

Plenty for our glorious leader to ponder then. There are those – including yours truly – who suspect that our lot simply don’t quite have the desire to stand up and be counted at crucial junctures in the season; this represents a cracking chance to silence such criticism.

 

AANP’s first book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, will be in shops from 6 Marchwith Gary Mabbutt signing copies that day in the Enfield Waterstones – but is available to pre-order now from Tottenhamhotspur.com, as well as WHSmith,Amazon , TescoWaterstones and Play 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jürgen Klinsmann here, David Ginola here, Paul Gascoigne here

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Everton 2-2 Spurs: Doing It The Tottenham Way

How uniquely Tottenham. Could any other team in Christendom have managed to plough on with such determination towards ignominy, when offered quite so many opportunities for glory?The Tottenham Way

I’d like to think that when a player signs for Spurs, he is sat down and given a good thorough education on the club’s history. He is instructed in the tradition for playing football in a certain style – keeping the ball on the floor, moving it around slickly. The Blanchflower quote is drummed into him – “Glory… doing things in style… etc.” If the player in question is foreign, this quote is the first English he masters. He learns the names of every member of the ’51 Championship-winning push-and-run team, and dutifully sits through hours of black-and-white footage. He worships at the altar of the Bill Nick double-winners. He is sat down and forced to watch the one-touch extravagana that was Darren Anderton’s goal away to QPR in November 1993.

The reality? Probably money and nightclubs; but after games like today’s I wonder if the first thing they are taught on driving up through Bill Nicholson Way, with rigorous attention to every conceivable detail, is how to shoot themselves in the foot in any given situation. You are now a Tottenham player, and it is therefore your duty to explore every avenue for self-destruction, before ever proceeding to victory.

And for good measure, that kamikaze message is then presumably drummed home in the huddle before every game. If the FA were to decide retrospectively that the entire Everton squad took a bung for today’s game, and awarded the three points to us, some idiot in lilywhite would probably pipe up and suggest a rematch instead.

Ruthlessness: Not Welcome at White Hart Lane

A strange old game, because while enough to reduce grown men to tears of despair, it was by no means an awful performance. For so many of our lot, the laudable and the deplorable waltzed merrily hand-in-hand. If they were making lung-busting 20 yard runs to slide in and win a tackle one minute, you could blinking well guarantee that they’d be caught dawdling in possession the next. Adroit movement to create a clear goalscoring opportunity was duly matched by an inaccurate finish. It’s Tottenham in a microcosm. When we were good we were very good; when we were bad we were horrid. Ruthlessness had a look, but was firmly ushered away, and now seeks an abode elsewhere.

Sliver Lining. Honest.

Our heroes’ penchant for the mind-bogglingly infuriating has sunk to new depths, but I honestly believe that if we take time out from throttling the nearest small animal (I’m considering storing in my back garden a small pestilential rat, or rabid dog, or Thierry Henry, just so that I can come stomping back home after days like these and give the vile creature a damn good kicking) we can appreciate a few glass-half-full conclusions.

As mentioned, this was no awful performance. For the second away game in a week, we have done a jolly good impression of a home team. The notion of sitting back from kick-off, soaking up pressure and assessing the situation was given short shrift, as we dispensed with subtlety from the first whistle, and went at it hammer and tongs. Sure, Everton had their chances, and in the first half our defence conducted a couple of stringent examinations of precisely how the term “suicidal back-pass” ought to be defined, but we made one shooting chance after another. Against Wigan they all whistled just inside the post; this time, as with Villa last week, they all seemed to arrow a foot the other side.

Kranjcar’s cup continues to runneth over with new and ingenious ways of causing panic in opposition ranks, and Lennon really does seem to have mastered the art of the inviting cross. It’s not just a one-off, a hazy estimate suggest that four out of five were whipped into pleasingly dangerous areas.

I can think of games just this season (Stoke, first half vs Sunderland) in which we’ve had plenty of possession but struggled to create a genuine goalscoring chance. There has been a lack of movement off the ball, which has clotted our creative juices (notably of Hudd) and led to too much dependency upon the cursed long-ball game. By contrast, over the course of the last few games (and I even include the Man Utd match amongst these) there has been a distinctive buzz of movement in our ranks. Yes, we need to convert rather than rue our chances; and by golly we need to beg, steal or borrow the ability to wrap up a game when leading 2-0 going into the final 15 minutes; but on a broader front there is at least the sense that we have the capacity to create sackfuls of chances.

The counter-argument is that for all this approach-play loveliness WE STILL DIDN’T BLOODY WIN DID WE? Well, granted. When the time came to dig in and fight to the death, we were found wanting. And two points from what really ought to be six, will almost certainly come back to make rude gestures at us come mid-May. Fourth is still in our own hands, but if are to make it we seem determined to do so in the most excruciating manner possible. How uniquely Tottenham.

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or follow on Twitter here

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here

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Everton – Spurs Preview: ‘Arry’s Cunning Plan

The defeat to Man Utd prompted great ear-piercing shrieks of anguish from the faithful this week, much to the bemusement of AANP Towers, where the game had been filed philosophically under “Disappointing” rather than “Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth”.However, with our glorious leader and his trusty coiffeured lieutenant foremost amongst the critics, I have my suspicions that the slightly disproportionate backlash was all just a cunning ploy to keep the players on their toes. If this is indeed the case, I raise a glass to ‘Arry,, an evil genius in the making. Each of the players has presumably been politely asked to up their respective games or suffer a Pavluychenko-esque banishment into obscurity, which hopefully means that the wrath of N17 will now be unleashed upon Everton this afternoon. Admittedly wrath-unleashing has never exactly been a forte of Spurs teams over the years, but if ‘Arry did indeed give them a verbal lashing after the Man Utd game one would hope that they will bound out today with fire in their bellies and something approaching frenzy in their eyes. Resuming where they left off against Villa would go down nicely.

More Of The Same – But This Time With Three Points 

I suspect we would all welcome a similar performance today, but anything less than a win would be disappointing, at least in this corner of the interweb. While it is perhaps a mark of the progress we have made that failure to win away to Everton would be greeted with disappointment, it also reflects the fact that David Moyes’ side have hardly been blowing up any skirts so far this season. We for our part need to show that after the wins against Sunderland and Wigan, and draw at Villa, we can produce some consistency by continuing our unbeaten run. Like wrath, consistency has hardly been a trademark of modern Spurs sides, but Champions League qualification will require it to some extent.

Our rivals have picked up their points this weekend, which adds pressure, although this can hardly be a cause for complaint. If we are to make fourth it will have to be on merit; that our competitors will regularly collect wins is to be expected. The ball remains in our court.

Team News 

After another underwhelming performance in midweek, Robbie Keane can consider himself mighty fortunate if he starts today. White Hart Lane may reverberate each week to lusty choruses of “There’s Only One Keano”, but such refrains only seem to punctuate the grumblings amongst fans about his performances.

On a brighter note, Niko Kranjcar has been in sparkling form on the left in recent weeks, and with Lennon’s crossing from the other flank having noticeably improved there ought to be good reason to sit up and take note whenever we win possession.

I know I ought to let it go, but with each passing week I stare at the Premiership table and ruefully recall the three points dropped at home to Stoke. A win away to Everton would go some way to healing that particular wound.

 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or follow on Twitter here 

And as ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Danny Blanchflower here, Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Martin Chivers here, Alan Gilzean here, Pat Jennings here, Cyril Knowles here, Steve Perryman here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here

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Spurs 2-0 Everton: Squad Depth & The Benny Hill Penalty

We’re great when we’re winning. Opponents are forced to push forward, and we duly pick them off on the break, with the clinical precision of a trained sniper (until Keane starts stumbling over his own feet). We have the players, including those on the fringes of the squad, to counter with pace and inventiveness, on top of which it makes for a cracking spectacle.It doesn’t really solve the problem thrown up on Saturday, of what to do when the opposition sits deep and the opening goal is impossible to come by; but that’s for another day. Most neutrals would verify – when we score first, we’re a great team. It was honours even in the opening exchanges last night; but once we had our goal, Everton pushed forward and we look ever more potent on the break.

Personified By Hudd 

It all worked out swimmingly, with even Assou-Ekotto indulging in some party tricks by the end of the game. Although we were well worth a two-goal victory, Everton had their chances, but, pleasingly, Gomes was equal to all of them. Dawson, again was immense at the back, while Sergeant Wilson snarled and harried like any good guard dog should.

Plenty in Reserve 

Bentley: Imagine how good Bentley and his hair gel would be under a manager who loved him and in a team which made him their focal point. No-one doubts his technique and skill, but rarely has it been put to particularly good use in lilywhite. Yesterday however, while a little hit-and-miss in the early stages, he ended up turning a performance I am tempted to label “virtuoso”.

The control was immaculate, stepovers effective, crosses generally dangerous and work-rate exemplary. Different sort of player from Aaron Lennon, but with the ickle one unavailable for Saturday, it’s nice to know that we have ourselves a Bentley in good form. He may perhaps have got a little carried away with all the party tricks but the ability to beat a man is quite a weapon to have. On those frustrating occasions when a defence needs unlocking, he at least carries the potential to jink past a defender and make some space (a quality that could hardly be attributed to Hudd). On another day, as we are all well aware, those constant Maradonna impressions will come to nothing and he will be maddening to watch, but last night it worked.

Bale: Good to see Bale looking up to speed as well, particularly in a midfield position which I think suits him better than full-back. The memories of his first few matches in lilywhite, under Martin Jol (blessed be his name), linger long in the AANP memory, so it is with pleasure that I note he turned in a good performance. A genuine left-footer on the left of midfield gave us a nice shape, and it’s a handy alternative to Kranjcar.

Pav: Poor old Pav. Not his night, was it? Suspicion, bordering on certainty, remains that we’ll be bidding him “?? ????????” come January.

Hutton: When God made Corluka, it appears that he out of curiosity he took all the ingredients and reversed them, to see what the polar opposite would look like. The result was Alan Hutton – a quick, bald, attack-minded right-back who, one suspects, does not give an awful lot of thought to defending. He did well enough, and the combo with Bentley worked well.

Would Have Been So Much Simpler If Keane Had Blasted It Into A Corner

By golly, when Hudd gets them right his shots look likely to tear the net from its moorings, yesterday being a case in point. Couldn’t help but note that his expression on scoring was that of a man who felt he had been copping unfair flak from AANP the previous day…

As for the penalty – what a glorious throwback to the days of manic playground football, when the next-goal-wins rule comes into play and all hell breaks loose amidst a ruck of bodies and two jumpers. From spot-kick to net-bulger there were six efforts on goal. Crikey. All that was missing was the Benny Hill theme tune. Poor old Tim Howard is entitled to feel a little aggrieved, after making more saves in ten seconds than your average Premiership ‘keeper will make in two full games against Stoke, and credit is due to Keane for some nifty technique in finally scoring; but that does not excuse various other moments of profligacy on his part. For the love of God, sharpen up man, before the visit to l’Arse.

Happy days then – a convincing win, clean sheet, back-slaps all round. Chelski, l’Arse and Man Utd remain in the Carling Cup, but another trip to Wembley is conceivable.

 

As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here 

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or follow on Twitter here

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Spurs – Everton Preview: Premiership Points or Carling Cup?

If you enjoy those 15 half-time minutes when the subs come trotting out and half-heartedly ping the ball around, you’ll love tonight. Pav, Bentley, Hutton and Bale are all in line to start, as ‘Arry rings the changes with half an eye (in a manner of speaking) on Saturday’s game.

League or Cups? (Why Not Both?)

The absences of King, Woodgate, Lennon, Modric and Defoe force most of the changes upon us irrespective of the prioritising. The only optional changes ‘Arry is likely to make are in attack – where I suspect most of us would like to see Pav get his chance anyway – and in the full-back positions.

My tuppence worth is that I don’t particularly want to see Hutton and Bale in for Charlie and BAE at full-back. This has less to do with the quality of the personnel (I’m rather a fan of Bale as it happens) as the fact that our team is already mightily disrupted with all the injuries. Making unenforced changes on top of those is asking for trouble, particularly in defence, where in the absence of Ledley the players sometimes appear a little uncertain as to the names of the chaps alongside them. All members of our squad are capable Premiership-standard players, but make too many changes and the team’s performance could be as aimless as those half-time exercises.

I’ll be curious as to whether Sergeant Wilson starts. An injury or suspension to him really would give our squad for Saturday the look of a man who’s had his spine ripped from his body, something ‘Arry will presumably have taken into account. However, without him tonight we find ourselves looking towards the might of Jenas and Hudd to boss the game. Forgive me for feeling a little underwhelmed at the prospect, particularly as Tim Cahill in the opposition ranks will give us a glimpse of what we’re missing in central midfield. Still, after flattering to deceive against Stoke Jenas and Hudd owe us a good performance each.

So a rare opportunity for the squad players, and added responsibility on the shoulders of Dawson, Jenas, Hudd and Crouch. Not necessarily a line-up to have Everton quivering in their boots, but I’m pinning my hopes on home advantage seeing us through.

As

ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the players to be featured in forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes: Dave Mackay here, Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Chris Waddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here

You can become a Facebook fan of Spurs’ Cult Heroes and AANP here, or follow on Twitter here.