1. Sanchez and Rum Justice
This dreariest of seasons ended with a selection switch entirely in keeping with the utter rot that been on show for the last nine months, as one wet sponge of a defender was replaced by another.
Presumably with an eye on the pace of Jamie Vardy, Our Glorious Leader cunningly scribbled out Eric Dier’s name and scrawled instead ‘Davinson Sanchez’, a move that was swiftly exposed as pretty pointless as Vardy gave Sanchez a couple of yards headstart and still sprinted past him, in earning the first penalty.
(On which point, I hope that Toby does not walk away from this saga without a slap on the wrist, because that backwards-dangled-leg approach that conceded the penalty was an atrocious dereliction of duty.)
Now admittedly a sentient brick would have had more pace than Dier, so one did see the logic of the selection. Alas, Sanchez is blessed with so many other shortcomings that it seemed inevitable that one way or another he would have a grim time of things, and Vardy was pretty merciless in targeting the poor bean.
By and large, here at AANP Towers if there is an opportunity to castigate young Sanchez we do not hang around and wait for the paperwork. Today, however, while it would be a stretch to say my heart bled for the chap, I did feel that he was rather hard done by.
In the first place, one can basically be excused for simply not being as fast in a flat sprint as the next man. One might argue that Sanchez could think about his positioning so as not to be exposed, and so on and so forth; but a pretty forgivable failing. (Certainly vastly more forgivable than Dier’s extensive repertoire of flaws, most notably that of picking a spot in the six yard box and digging in his heels, as opposition strikers dart hither and thither all around him.)
But more to the point, Sanchez was victim to a pretty appalling miscarriage of justice for the second penalty. One tries not to judge Vardy simply because he the Almighty has bestowed upon him the face of one up to no good, but the chap was an absolute blighter for the second penalty, grabbing Sanchez’s arm and yanking it around his own body, before waiting until he was inside the area and executing an arched-back swallow-dive, dash it all. It was stuff so ripe that pantomime villains across the country would have been taking notes.
One understands that at first glance the ref would have been conned; but for VAR to interrupt their snooze and wave the thing on was outrageous. The Sky commentators, wedded to their ‘Plucky Leicester’ narrative, were similarly happy to embrace this outrage, and poor old Sanchez was left with the rum end of the deal. The guy is hardly faultless, but to be chastised for that was a nonsense, and there was a pretty hefty dollop of karma in his challenge on Schmeichel for our second goal being (rightly) allowed. And the Kane handball claim being waved away for our third, come to think of it.
However, with all that said, forget the Kane and Bale chatter: if this is Sanchez’s last appearance in lilywhite I might just clear the immediate area and perform an awkward cartwheel of delight.
2. Kane’s Performance
Given the plotlines that swirl around him presumably much about Kane’s performance will be swept under the nearest carpet, and those paid to voice their opinions will simply point to his goal, maybe his assist and then start carping on about for whom he should play next season (casually ignoring the thee years left on the contract he signed of his own volition, dash it).
However, for those of us concerned to see our lot win the game itself, Kane’s performance until his goal was pretty ragged stuff. Looking for all the world like a chappie with other things on his mind, he seemed oddly intent on dwelling on the ball when he received it, which typically resulted in him being bundled out of the way. On top of which, when he did finally shove it along, he tended to do so in pretty slapdash fashion.
The whole routine had ‘Not One Of His Better Days’ plastered all over it; until, from nowhere, he produced a strike so sweet that it even managed to fly, clean as a whistle, through the legs of the goalkeeper.
Kane’s highlight reel also included him lashing one miles over the bar, the anthem ‘Golden Boot’ no doubt on his lips, when Sonny was better placed for that sort of operation; oddly fluffing his lines when clean through on goal at the end; and then getting away with use of the hand as he almost fluffed his lines again, in setting up Bale.
So a slightly mixed bag of a performance, but as so often it is difficult to look past the quality of his finish for the goal he did actually score.
3. Kane’s Future
The AANP tuppence worth on the fellow’s transfer situation is that in the first place I don’t think much of this business of him trying to engineer a move by way of unsubtle hints and choreographed interviews. If he wants to biff off then he ought to accept that one cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs, and say so in no uncertain terms; and if that eats into his seven years of goodwill in N17 then he’ll have to lug that over his shoulder and live with it.
More to the point, he signed a six-year contract, so there’s not too much sympathy for him in this neck of the interweb. (The secret yearning over here is that Levy folds his arms; we bring in a manager with enough between the ears to steer us into the Top Four next season; and thereafter, Kane or no Kane, good times start rolling again.)
And as a final point, albeit one to chew over rather than anything compelling, while one understands Kane’s howls of despair at not winning any trophies, he might do well to remember that he was front and centre of those second-place finishes, and lost finals and semi-finals. He, as much as – and in fact more than – most others, could have influenced whether or not he toddled off with a winner’s medal or two.
4. Bale’s Charmed Life
As has been his wont, Gareth Bale ambled on in the closing stages to mooch around without breaking sweat, before giving his late-season stats their customary shot in the arm.
The chap is quite the oddity. Were it anyone else sauntering about the place in such languid fashion I suspect we might shout ourselves hoarse in attempting to communicate every curse imaginable; but this being Bale, frankly he receives exemption.
And while Messrs Bergwijn, Lamela, Lucas et al might shoot some hurt glances and mutter about favouritism, the fact is that, even if he contributes little else in any other part of the pitch and during any other part of the game, Bale contributes more goals than one can wave a stick at. The aforementioned B., L. and L. can only dream about the sort of goals return being produced by Bale.
It’s a bizarre trade-off, and makes for pretty unenviable stuff for whichever manager happens to be overseeing things, because as we’ve seen in recent weeks, should the opposition pin us back then Bale joins Dier in the queue of players playing second fiddle to that sentient brick. But frankly, if he can produce a goal or two – call it 1.5 – per game, then some might say it rather seems worth the hassle.
Moreover, the chap has now discovered that the whole trick can be performed from the delayed entry point of substitute, meaning that he can spare himself the ignominy of working up a sweat in the opening seventy minutes or so.
5. Farewell, 20/21
I suppose if today has taught me anything it’s that I’d much rather play in the Europa Conference, whatever the heck it is, than finish below that lot from Woolwich. (And if today taught me a second thing it was that watching a game on Sky with commentary muted , as I did for the final twenty or so, is a surprisingly pleasing experience, but one man’s meat and all that I suppose.)
It’s been an absolute mess of a season, neatly typified, I thought, by the midweek Villa game (scoring early; calamitous defending; minimal effort), has brought about a regression of approximately four years and sent us dangerously close to the pre-Jol days of mid-table obscurity. (Still finished above Woolwich, mind.)
Many Spurs-supporting chums of minehave been moping about the place prophesying doom in a fashion that would have had some of those Old Testament sorts nodding in admiration, and one understands the mindset.
Nevertheless, the mood at AANP Towers is actually rather more upbeat. I remain convinced that, while admittedly some way behind the current Top Four, player for player we are a match for and should be bettering just about everyone else in the league (by which I mean Leicester, West Ham, Woolwich etc), should we hire a manager capable of dragging the current mob into some semblance of shape. No doubt there will be Ins and Outs over the summer, but even looking at the current squad, it hardly seems inconceivable that with some half-competent moulding and coaching they could be outdoing the likes of Leicester, West Ham and whatnot next season.
As ever, my gauge for these players is to ask who would buy them if they were up for sale – and by that metric, we have enough talent in the squad to match the aforementioned mobs outside the Top Four at least. Our squad is lop-sided, the performances are pretty aimless, every dashed one of them looks unfit – but a manager worth his salt ought to have enough to work with.
Not that such ramblings count towards anything, but fingers crossed and all that.