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 – Coventry Preview: If Ever There Were A Time for Squad Rotation…

Now here’s a Cup-tie to get the AANP juices flowing, this particular fixture being the first that AANP can remember watching on the telly-box, as a wide-eyed nipper a couple of decades back. It ended then in tears, an own-goal and ultimately a side-line in wordsmithr’y, but one would expect a straightforward lilywhite victory this afternoon, particularly on our own patch.

Having shown quite the disinclination for squad rotation in his every waking moment in charge of our heroes to date, AVB might be tempted to break the habit of a lifetime and give starting berths to patient thumb-twiddlers Hudd, Parker, Livermore, Townsend, Sigurdsson, Dempsey and possibly even Falque. He can do as he pleases of course, but if I may gently clear my throat and offer one quiet recommendation it would be that one Aaron Lennon is given the afternoon off to increase his body-art collection, or study the First Meditations of Descartes, or do whatever he does when given some time to himself. The young scamp’s performances have been of consistently high quality this season, but one fears that his blurry little legs can only take so much scuttling before they ping. Get rotating, Mr AVB.

If complacency is firmly kept behind lock and key this ought to be a smooth progression next-roundwards, and our lot being amongst the top 4/5/6 in the country, depending on your tabloid of choice, this represents a mighty strong chance of silverware. Fingers crossed we surmount the first hurdle.

Bolton 1-4 Spurs, Plus A Timely Catch-Up On Recent Events…

Heavens above. AANP ought to have known better than to wave away the whisky for five minutes while real-life gubbins intervened, but since I last tapped at these keys there have been debacles against Chelski and Norwich, followed up by rather professional dismantlings of Blackburn and Bolton. What to make of it all? Charge your glasses and follow hither…

Spurs 1-5 Chelski

Cast your minds back to Wembley if you will. Lest ye need reminding, all sorts of indignation flowed around the streets of North London, and quite rightly so, given that Chelski seemed to be awarded a goal for the fairly innocuous achievement of having a shot charged down in the area; but such is life, and of more concern at AANP Towers was the ease with which Chelski took their other four goals.

Rarely have our heroes performed with such gusto as when racked with the injustice of life and the refereeing decisions it produces, but equally notable was the decision taken en masse to give up the whole bally thing as soon as we went 3-1 down. Naturally enough Scott Parker can be spared too much criticism, fighting the good fight all the way to the 90th minute and beyond, but to see the rest of them collectively slump shoulders and exhale with 10 minutes remaining and the situation by no means irretrievable was dashed bothersome.

QPR 1-0 SpursThe usual ills, with which we have become depressingly familiar in recent weeks, were paraded in all their glory against this rabble – plenty of possession but precious little invention; a complete and resolute absence of off-the-ball movement; the mind-boggling determination to stick Lennon on the left and Bale on the right – but when the ever-reliable Brad Friedel gets an attack of Gomes-itis it really is time to remove oneself quietly and go for a lie-down.

 

Spurs 2-0 BlackburnJolly well more like it, and not a moment too soon. A pedant – and they are hardly a dying breed here at AANP Towers – would continue the season-long grumble about our profligacy in front of goal, with a 2-0 scoreline hardly justifying near-100% possession and 19 shots on goal, but given the travails of recent weeks perhaps we should just quietly sacrifice a small rodent in gratitude to the gods of Champions League qualification, and be grateful for what we have.

 

Sandro generally comes across as a good egg. Perhaps bereft of a couple of well-tightened screws, and not necessarily a chap you would entrust to feed your goldfish, but certainly not lacking in enthusiasm and dedication. This has at times manifested itself in wildly mistimed tackles, but on Sunday he struck all the right notes – winning every tackle with a merry crunch, surging through half a dozen challenges and straight down the heart of the Blackburn defence and at one point almost snapping the crossbar. (On top of which he dealt with the potentially awkward scenario of on-field vomiting most adeptly, by simply taking a deep breath and continuing to stretch every sinew for the lilywhite cause.)

Yes, ‘twas only Blackburn, but mediocrity of opponent has hardly prevented some insipid performances from our lot in recent weeks. In the absence of Parker, Sandro’s was a most useful contribution, and a most professional performance from our heroes as a collective.

Bolton 1-4 Spurs

What a difference an Aaron Lennon makes, particularly when the Brains Trust stumbles across the most novel idea of parking him on the right, winding him up and releasing him. From the off he was a blur of little legs and jazz hands, which provided a handy cue for the rest of our heroes to pile forward on top of their hosts and provide a few nostalgic reminders of that glorious era, Ye First Halfe of This Season.

And how right it all looked, with Bale galloping down the left, Modders yanking strings hither and thither in the centre and VDV always on hand to roll possession along. Lennon may not have necessarily been the outstanding performer, but his very presence on the right seems to provide stability to the fabric of the universe, and as a serendipitous side-effect it also gives our Starting XI a useful balance. Oh that ‘Arry had invested in a reserve right-winger in the January sales (or simply retained Master Pienaar).

Admittedly there was a wobbly 15 minutes at the start of the second half, when the incessant bombardment from the skies threatened the general serenity of things, but unlike against QPR and Norwich, our superior class and technique was translated into net-bulging. Witness Modders’ goal, and the weight of his pass for our third. Such moments deserve to win games, and the best Bolton could offer in return were the elbows of Davies.

If there is a point of concern from our two recent wins it appears to be Danny Rose’s continued ignorance of the basic tenets of playing left-back, playing football and the very principles of physics that govern the behaviour of a moving ball. By the start of the second half even his own team-mates seemed to think twice when he availed himself for a pass.

However, with two games left it is to the credit of our heroes that they have recovered from those self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the feet, and hauled themselves back to within a whisker of that ‘orrible lot down the road. Good grief, this might even come down to goal difference.

Spurs – Chelsea Preview: Cometh the Creaking-Limbed Combo

The lucky blighters of mid-80s Los Angeles had the A-Team, the ungrateful denizens of Gotham City had a giant man-bat with a handy penchant for pugilism, but when we have a problem with which no-one else can help the slightly alarming solution being wheeled out onto the Wembley turf is the creaking-limbed combo of Nelsen and Gallas. In fairness, Gallas has yet to let us down, and has generally raised his performance level in direct proportion to the occasion; while Nelsen- well he made a good tackle against Bolton. And played in the World Cup. And looks, ahem, experienced.The concern however is that neither could be quite guaranteed to outsprint Vedran Corluka over 10 yards, so how they will fare against the resurgent Chelski forward line is a worrying prospect. Rarely has the absence of human behemoth Younes Kaboul been so keenly felt. However, cometh the hour, cometh Messieurs Gallas and Nelsen. Immortality beckons if they play their cards right. (Well maybe not immortality, but a trip to Wembley. Again.)

 

Aside from defensive deficiencies the concern is a little broader, in that the whole ruddy lot of lilywhite heroes have developed chronic impotence when it comes to the delicate matter of outperforming opponents and trundling back to N17 with victory ballads ringing through the air. The return of Parker ought to help, and having awaited his return as if he were some sort of body-arted second Messiah, I think ‘tis fair to suggest that we are due a performance of scintillating ilk from Aaron Lennon. Where there is Modric, Adebayor, VDV and Bale there is hope, and, perhaps most pertinently, a couple of weeks ago we jolly well outdid Chelski in all areas bar net-rippling.

Poor form or not, in a one-off at Wembley this could prove quite the ruckus. Victory would not only place us within touching distance of the glittering jug, but it might also prove something of a stimulant for our Champions League push. The alternative is frankly too ominous to contemplate.

Tardy Musings on Spurs vs Chelski, Bolton…

Chelski 0 – 0 Spurs

Awfully puzzling game this one, as you no doubt recall. The first half of dedicated non-aggression was followed by Chelski probably edging things, only for our lot to carve out enough clear-cut chances to hand out a right thrashing. Alas, the conclusion to draw was that our lot to a man need to spend a full week engaged in nothing but shooting practice (or they could just stick Defoe on the pitch, and watch as some of those chances miraculously cause the net to bulge). Still, ‘twas another fairly encouraging performance – and in truth the standard of performance has rarely been a problem during our recent slump (the game at l’Arse excepted).

One other point of note from last weekend was neatly made by Neville on the tellybox – namely that when we counter-attacked in the second half at Chelski, the only man making a charge upfield in support of Adebayor was young Kyle Walker, belting up the pitch like his latest piece of body-art depended on it. Contrast to just about any game in the first half of the season, when such counter-attacks would have just about every man and his dog in lilywhite pouring forward. We are, it appears, beginning to pay the price for a lack of squad-rotation.

Spurs 3-1 Bolton

A return to the good old days – which, curiously enough, turned out to be just as frustrating as the decidedly more average new days. As at the start of the season, we gave the opposition an absolute battering, but watching as shot after shot was repelled by the Bolton goalkeeper sent the blood pressure at AANP Towers soaring to levels not previously witnessed in a featherless biped.

A doff of the AANP cap was made towards young Master Livermore, who supplemented his usual output of energy and tackling with a couple of quite sumptuous passes. However, the need for both he and Parker in central midfield quickly became utterly redundant. Adebayor, Bale, Modders and VDV tore Bolton to shreds, but again there were too many occasions when Adebayor received precious little support when crosses were flung his way. All this while Parker did no more than spectate around the halfway line, and Defoe spectated from the substitutes’ bench.

Still, the job was eventually done, and with the aplomb of old. It bodes well.

Spurs – Bolton Preview: A Break From Our March Towards Doom

This, I am reliably informed is a desperate situation. Quite possibly the desperatest. Handily glossing over the fact that our three consecutive defeats have been to three teams who, for one reason or another, stumbled upon optimum form just as they took to the field against us, the people have spoken in their lilywhite hordes, and this run of form is now scientifically proven to be the most wretched thing in history. Still think we can finish third? A thousand sneering glances in your direction! Forget about our form over the entire season – look at our last three results! We lost them all! People are tweeting and everything! If you’re not bashing your head against a nearby wall and itching to dust off the “’Arry Out” placards from a couple of seasons ago, you have clearly become drunk on common sense. The season is heading irresistibly towards meltdown, and anyone who tells you otherwise has had their judgement clouded by a reprehensible fog of perspective.

“Owen Coyle For Spurs” – Yes, I Really Did…Mercifully somebody somewhere thought of the children, and as a result we handily now get to punctuate our inexorable march towards Premiership doom by trampling our way past Bolton in the Cup. Back at the start of the season yours truly demonstrated his sagacity on all subjects football-related by wisely opining that Owen Coyle should be lined up as an outside bet for the next Spurs manager, a sentiment that is now hurriedly dismissed with a loud clearing of the throat and murmuring of “I probably meant that Swansea chap.”

 

Once upon a time Bolton existed solely to acquaint the ball with the clouds; then they became rather trendy and pretty, stringing passes together and whatnot under the auspices of Coyle; but now it seems their raison d’être is to make a beeline for relegation. Quite the opportunity then, for our heroes to advance ever closer to faux glory at Wembley.

Injuries (That Matter Not)Poor form or not, our lot should make light work of this. The exhausting and fairly futile search for a solution to the absence of Aaron Lennon is set to continue, the little man still sore of hamstring. Adebayor is apparently also a doubt, and Ledley is unlikely to be risked, but even allowing for these absences and one or two others, elimination here would be an affront to decency.

Spurs 3-1 Stevenage: (Tardy) Ends, Not Means

Stumbling over the ball, chasing shadows and conceding possession with almost religious fervour while the scoreboard flashes the eye-watering message “Spurs 0-1 Stevenage” is not really a recommended means of achieving an aim as menial as making a cup of tea, letting alone winning some sparkly silverware, but more wizened sages than I have it that for such competitions as this the ends will justify the means. Hence, if our lilywhite heroes set about making the quarter-finals by the novel method of beginning a football match by abandoning football, then this is tickety-boo as long as they progress in fine.For the most part this season has been a rip-roaring blur of one/two-touch play and zippy off-the-ball movement. Exceptions have been rare – Liverpool away, Chelski at home, l’Arse away. To this list of luminaries can now be added Stevenage, bizarrely enough.

While the outcome was never really in doubt, and the chuntering amongst the masses was of the more frivolous ilk during that first 20 minutes, that a team comprising VDV, Lennon, Bale, Kranjcar and Defoe could find it quite so difficult to string three passes together certainly prompted the occasional scratch of the cranium. However, life became cheerier and the quality of football a tad silkier once lilywhite noses were in front. Should Ledley, Parker or A.N.Other hoist that great silver jug aloft in May, AANP will do its best to desist from interrupting the ticker-tape

fêting of our heroes in order to chide them for three messy halves of football against Stevenage.Standard Stuff From Defoe

Precious little of value can be gleaned from a formulaic victory against lower-league opposition, but AANP always cherishes those fleeting glimpses of young Master Defoe. Uncannily instinctive and gifted finishing? Check. Look of incredulity that there exists in the game the Offside Law? Check. Doing just about all that can reasonably be expected of him – and a tiny bit more – in his limited game time before being shunted back onto the bench at the weekend? Check. Eyeing up a move away from N17 this summer, simply so that he can gambol across a football pitch, anywhere, in anyone’s colours, just as long as it be on a regular basis? Oh golly…

Oh Danny Boy

Young Danny Rose, on t’other hand, is fast tumbling out of favour at AANP Towers. Physically incapable of delivering a decent cross with his left foot(where “decent” may be defined as “eluding the first blinking opponent in his way, for goodness sake”), and seemingly unable on pain of death to use his right, the vast oceans of goodwill earned by that goal are rapidly drying up in this neck of the interweb. He has time on his side I suppose – use it wisely, young man – but for the remainder of the season I would gladly see him confined to the shadow of BAE’s eccentricities.

If you’ve made it this far down I congratulate thee. In their entirety these musings could probably be summarised thus: We progressed; the minutiae matter little.

Stevenage 0-0 Spurs: A Cracking Draw (Boom Boom)

Entertaining and exciting, with a most satisfying finale – oh that the game had matched the quarter-final draw, but we can’t have everything I suppose. Should I ever cross paths with His Eminence The Lord of Time there are one or two queries I would throw his way – whether Superman’s little fly-ruddy-quickly-around-the-world jape really could turn back time, for a start – but high up there on the list would be a polite request to have my two hours back after the excruciating trudge through treacle that was our draw with Stevenage. Far better to have an off-day in this particular fixture i suppose, than against l’Arse or Man Utd in the coming weeks (or indeed against Newcastle last week), but nevertheless, ‘twas the very antithesis of one of those rip-roaring unforgettable classics, to which we have been treated so frequently.

My Eyes! My Eyes!

Irrespective of formation, had those eleven played with a tad more sense and desire they would have made short work of Stevenage. Alas, the early, simple one-touch method was jettisoned for one that could aptly, if rather lazily, be described as “certified nonsense”, and as a result our heroes failed to string three successive passes together, the ball more typically being launched into orbit or pinged inaccurately sideways, as Spurs fans around the globe reached for nearby stabbing implements and went to work on their own eyes.

Of positives there were but few – the prospect of Stevenage and then Bolton, both at home, barring our way to the semi-final proving the most obvious reason for cheer. Young Livermore seemed to keep his head when all about him were losing theirs, to his credit, but that aside there was precious little to blow up anyone’s skirt until Aaron Lennon was brought on for the death throes.

Lennonlessness And Its Associated Problems

Strange to note just a week after we beat Newcastle 5-0 sans Lennon, but without the jet-heeled swagger-meister we can be dreadfully lop-sided. A reserve with similar oodles of pace would be a useful option, for while Niko Kranjcar’s technique is as dreamy as his looks, to point out that he lacks somewhat in the pace department is hardly likely to set the interweb alight with incandescent twitterings and the like. At times Danny Rose showed the value of a turn of pace to reach the byline, but against better opposition he is typically stymied by his one-footedness. With both Bale and Lennon available to charge down both flanks we ooze menace and threat and other such dangerous-sounding nouns, but in the absence of Lennon it can all become a tad predictable. (The name Junior Hoilett was bandied around during the transfer window, but scoutery of others’ players is not at all my forte, so while reports suggest that he has pace and two good feet, I can, alas, offer zero corroboration.)

Swerving back on-topic – in truth a replay against this mob, at the Lane, is tickety-boo with me. If it can be sandwiched in between 4 points or more against l’Arse and United, all the merrier, and we can all set about diligently forgetting that this ever happened.

Fulham – Spurs Preview: Life Without Gareth Bale

Life without Gareth Bale? It began after 10 minutes last weekend, will continue today and, if scurrilous rumours are to be believed may even take on a more permanent edge, with Inter understandably keen to see “Year abroad” added to his already astonishing CV in the near future. Mercifully, this is one of the transfer window’s less likely rumours, but his absence nevertheless seems likely this afternoon. At one point last weekend we adapted to his absence by reverting to what looked like a 3-5-2, with Lennon wide left, Hutton wide right, and Pienaar, Modders and VDV central midfield, as ‘Arry crept ever closer to his goal of one day fielding a team of eleven outright attackers. The all-or-nothing nature of FA Cup fare gives him another chance to throw caution to the wind, and such is his all-action mentality that the day cannot be far off when he decides with 10 minutes remaining to haul off Gomes and replace him with Pav upfront.Initially however, a more familiar 4-4-1-1 is on the cards. The FA Cup is now our lowest priority, and although Fulham away hardly constitutes an easy afternoon’s work ‘Arry may be tempted to rest one or two of the key players, particularly with a league game in midweek. This may therefore be an opportunity for supporting cast members such as Kranjcar, Sandro and Pav to go scuttling around to no great effect for an hour or so, before Modders, VDV and Lennon are sent on to rescue the situation.

Once upon a time our heroes could not go five minutes without scoring from some angle or other, but the goals have dried up in recent weeks, and when they do arrive they tend to be from midfield. While a victory by any means would be welcomed, it would be encouraging to see the forwards click and goals flow, particularly against Premiership opposition. And then we up our bid, sign Andy Carroll and everyone lives happily ever after. Huzzah!

Spurs 3-0 Charlton: Boxes Ticked

That was just about as straightforward as could have been hoped, just about every box ticked by 3.30pm. Key personnel rested; squad members got 90 minutes; home-grown youngster made Danny Rose-esque impact on debut (fingers crossed the next few months are a bit brighter for him than for the boy Rose); clean sheet; no injuries; no suspensions; opportunity for Defoe to return to sharpness; etc. The fact that we were forced to field Luka Modric for 45 minutes, rather than give him a complete rest, mercifully turned out to be fairly inconsequential.Modders, VDV, Hudd: Unlikely to be Losing Sleep

Admittedly this nice, neat box of all-round satisfaction was looking anything but after 45 minutes, in which Sergeant Wilson and Sandro were enlisted with the job of deputising for Modders and VDV in central midfield. One can only imagine the looks of horror on their faces when this task was put to them by ‘Arry prior to kick-off, not to mention the groans of despair from Kranjcar, Townsend, Defoe and Pav, each of whom would have been hoping for a slightly more creative platform in central midfield.

Bless them, Palacios and Sandro manfully attempted to fit their square pegs of destruction into the round holes of silky technique vacated by our regular central midfielders, but it was doomed to failure, particularly with Charlton adopting an understandable game-plan of defending deep. More used to slick one-touch triangles, the Lane faithful had to make do with Palacios’ laboured, telegraphed, multiple-touch passes six yards sideways. I like the chap’s attitude, and consider that his aggression still adds an important edge to the squad, but against a defensive lower-league opponent, this was anything but the stage for his talents. Sandro for his part stuck to safer ground and contented himself with picking up what is already becoming his obligatory yellow card.

So ‘Arry took the hint, replaced Palacios with Modders, and within a blink of an eye we were cutting Charlton to ribbons.

The Next Big Young Thing

The nation’s media are never slow to wallow in hyperbole, and Andros Townsend’s debut has consequently been feted a little too affectedly in some quarters, but even when moored safely to the steady surface of perspective this was a creditable performance. He sounds intriguingly like he could be the love-child of a Greek god and a faux-Irish wonky-nosed ITV commentator, but vastly more relevantly he showed the requisite pace and enthusiasm, and also managed to marry it to a degree of common-sense when weighing up his on-ball options. Nice goal too. With Aaron Lennon flitting between sublime and anonymous young Master Townsend may yet receive further opportunities, albeit from the substitutes’ bench.

Defoe: Sprightly

Here at AANP Towers we were also quietly thrilled to see Defoe doing what he does best. His flaws have been dwelt upon long and hard in various quarters, but having someone loitering around the squad whose sole joy in life seems to be derived from scoring is jolly well handy. Treasure the following ten words as they will never, ever be spoken again about Jermain Defoe, but there was something curiously George Best-esque about his first. Both goals, and the defending that accompanied them, were reminiscent of playground football, but no matter. Defoe is firing, and in effect his return for the latter half of the season is equivalent to a new and extremely signing.

It is worth reiterating: key personnel rested, squad members getting 90 minutes, no injuries, clean sheet and so on – everything panned out just tickety-boo. A slight shame, perhaps, that we were drawn away to a Premiership side next up, but that is for another time: this was a good afternoon’s work.

Spurs – Charlton Preview: Squad Player Bingo at the Lane

And now for something completely different. At third (and, later fourth) round stage the FA Cup hardly constitutes fixture congestion, so the question of where it stands in our list of priorities can probably be deferred to another day.Bingo cards out then, as we look to cross off the names of various squad members last season posing merrily in the club photocall back in August. Participation from Bentley seems unlikely, as a loan to Birmingham looms, while the current status of Robbie Keane is best summed up by a big fat question mark, but Cudicini, Corluka, Bassong, Sandro, Kranjcar and Pav are amongst the candidates for promotion. Crikey – as reserves go that particular mob are a jolly competent bunch, representing probably the strongest substitutes’ bench in the country. In theory then making half a dozen changes ought not to be catastrophically detrimental to our quality, but be warned all ye purveyors of complacency, for the memory still lingers a little painfully of our much-changed line-up putting in a blisteringly ordinary display at home to l’Arse in the Carling Cup a few months back.

Modders, VDV, Bale (and Hudd) – Can We Manage Without The Lot of Them?

A strong case could be made for excusing from duty Messrs Modders, VDV and Bale this weekend. Admittedly they all had a break before Christmas, when they picked up their wages for hurling snowballs rather than chasing footballs. Nevertheless, this is shaping up to be a long old season, and as well four games in the last couple of weeks, Bale has played just about every League and European match this season. The whippersnapper does appear darned well indefatigable, but it would be a slightly pointless experiment to grind game after game out of him, just in order to see how long it would be before he breaks down completely and turns to dust. Moreover, his back problem in midweek suggests a further reason to give him a breather.

VDV is a fragile little lamb, bless, who rarely completes 90 minutes at the best of times, Modders is another from whom we like to wring every last drop of energy during the League and European campaigns. Conclusion? Drop the lot of them.

However, while the medical arguments probably point towards resting these leading lights, I do fret that a midfield shorn of VDV and Modders, as well as Hudd, would be a few cans short of a six-pack when it comes to bossing, creating and generally playing that slick brand of attacking football to which we have become so accustomed over the last couple of seasons. Jenas and Sergeant Wilson between them do a decent job of slotting in alongside the regulars, but the prospect of these two and Sandro taking charge of affairs hardly leaves my gasping fro breath in excitement.

The Niko Kranjcar Fan Club

This could also be a big day for Niko Kranjcar, who effortlessly earned himself status as a firm favourite at AANP Towers last season, but who has been limited to a couple of completely impotent substitute appearances this season. Noises have been made at various points about him pootling off to pastures new, but his career in lilywhite is not necessarily irretrievable, for the efforts of Bale and Hutton over the last 12 months have illustrated that it is quite possible for a couple of strong cameos to earn a player a regular berth at Spurs, such are the vagaries of circumstance and fickleness of our glorious leader.

All things considered, our mob, reserves and all, ought to be strong enough for any time featuring an aged Gary Doherty. After the disappointment of midweek let’s just have a nice, serene injury/suspension-free cruise into the fourth round.

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