All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs 1-0 Watford: Five Lilywhite Observations

1. Davies

Amongst they many sunny innovations introduced by our glorious leader into N17 is the fact that when it comes to attacking, just about every man and his dog is heartily encouraged to fasten his bayonet, clear his throat and charge straight in. Admittedly Monsieur Lloris is excluded from all the fun, but at any given time we have at least seven men sniffing blood and yowling at the moon. That Kane and the three behind him will be primed to attack is a given, and Dembele is never particularly averse to puffing out his chest and bulldozing forward; but with Eric Dier obediently filling in as a third centre-back whenever we are in possession, licence is also duly granted to the full-backs to go hurtling forward at the merest whiff of an attack. (The casual reader ought to be made aware at this point that the strategy of employing a defensive midfielder to act as a locum third centre-back was first introduced by AANP on Championship Manager in the late ‘90s – albeit to slightly less devastating effect than the current Spurs vintage, as relegation was only avoided on the final day of the season as I recall.)

Back in the realms of the real world, young Messrs Davies and Trippier duly got stuck in like a pair of kids granted the bonus of opening a present on Christmas Eve of all things, as neither could be restrained from tearing forward into the final third. Davies in particular scurried forward like a man possessed, channelling is his inner Bale to set up camp in a position about twenty yards from the Leicester by-line, and the afternoon quickly became notable for the sight of him haring off into the area at approximately every thirty seconds.

Not that this gung-ho spirit alone was sufficient to win the game, cure cancer and end global poverty, for Davies’ final ball still tends to miss as well as hit – but no doubt about it, the mere presence of a left-back galloping at them in fifth gear undeniably had the Watford back-line exchanging worried looks, as if to say to one another “What ho!”

2. Trippier

A dashed shame that Davies’ forays brought little more than wistful groans from the crowd, for he deserved more. Merrily however, out on t’other flank, Trippier similarly took the hint and, having waved a cheery ‘Adieu’ to his chums in the lilywhite back-four, he spent the afternoon making himself at home in the role of de facto winger, flying forward as the right-sided member of our attacking septet. Clearly such things have an addictive edge, for not content with the role of flying winger he then went the whole hog and turned himself into a Number 9, poaching from inside the six-yard box. Young people will do such things. All a far cry from my days as an eminently forgettable schoolboy right-back when any journey north of the halfway line required a brief lie-down to cope with the drama of it all, but Pochettino knows his apples from his pears, and this season every outfield player is buying into the notion that ‘Someone has to score, dash it, so why not get involved?’

3. Profligacy

Mind you, it’s a good job that young Trippier did indeed take time out from the day-job to treat us to his Gary Lineker (circa 80s-90s) impression, because nobody else seemed to have solved the riddle of putting ball in net. Apparently we pinged in 26 shots during the course of yesterday’s binge – 26! – which really begs the question of what on earth is wrong with our heroes’ radars. Admittedly Gomes in the Watford goal was in elastic mood, but nevertheless. One goal from twenty-six shots is the sort of thing that ought to have the whole lot of them queueing up at the confessional. It is more of a side-note than a grumble, but it occurred to me as Watford won their first corner, with about ten minutes remaining, that by that stage the thing really ought to have been tucked up in bed with a soothing lullaby, rather than still hanging in the balance.

4. Lamela – Chadli

Pochettino comes across as far too good an egg to do anything as naughty as make rude gestures or anything similarly dastardly, but I do wonder whether he might have aimed a meaningful look at one or two observers, as he handed in his teamsheet. A fair amount of hot air and ink has been invested in questioning the depth of our squad this season (not least in these quarters, I should probably admit), but having made a habit of swapping his full-backs around like ping-pong balls under paper cups in some sort of magic trick, our glorious leader took his squad rotation to a new level yesterday by fiddling with the knobs and dials further up the pitch. Out went Dele Alli and Sonny Jimbo, and in came Lamela, the furry rodent that sits permanently atop Lamela’s head and Nacer Chadli.

Lamela and Chadli both did adequately enough without exactly leaving grown men quivering in speechless delight, but the proof of the pudding was in the scoreboard at around 16.52 GMT, and as such we can laud a selection well tinkered. Dele Alli was given some extra time to catch his breath and post on social media, or whatever it is the young folk do these days, and the world was reminded that there are plenty of ensemble members willing and able to slot into the spots behind the front man. And that, in as many words, is just about the point of squad rotation, no?

With Dembele having already had an enforced break this season, and young Wimmer having marked his replacement of Vertonghen with consecutive clean sheets, it appears that squad depth is not necessarily quite the headache that one had anticipated when the clocks went back a few months ago. Indeed, the only chaps whose services seem to be required come hell or high water are Dier (either in midfield or, in the Cups, at centre-back) and Kane. One does not really want to contemplate the consequences of a long-ish term absence of the latter, so we just won’t. The point is, changes can be made but our spine remains strong and the incoming personnel seem capable enough.

5. Second In The League!

And by golly, just look where we are now! Some may suggest that we have been here before, and there would be a modicum of truth in the claim – but not in mid-February, what? At the time of writing we are still at least five points clear of fifth, and still, bizarrely, in with a sniff of the title. Which is simply not a thing I ever thought would happen in my lifetime. My head currently says third, the minimum now must be fourth, and, absurdly, we have an outside shot at the title. A head-scratcher for sure. But given that at the start of the season I had realistically suggested fifth, there already seems reason enough to start sharpening the knives and throwing pointed glances in the direction of the fattened calf. Just about every Spurs fan I know has that sentiment of part-gloom, part-realism deep within their core, and consequently we are all fairly adamant that there something will go wrong between now and mid-May – but I am quite happy to worry about that at the appropriate time. For now, second in the league is a splendid way to end the weekend.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Spurs’ Summer Doings Viewed From A Beady AANP Eye

What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale 

Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.

More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.

Formation 

Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.

Erm… a centre-forward? 

Other personnel 

Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Dovi?enja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.

Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.

 

 

Spurs – Fulham Preview: One Final Hurrah

So it all comes down to a rather rummy type of Cup Final in which victory might not necessarily suffice. No need to remind anyone of all the permutations, with England managers and Bayern Munich and the alignment of the planets and so forth. Our heroes might be advised simply to concentrate on the glorious stretch of greenery that is White Hart Lane, and the 90-odd minutes that lie ahead. One suspects that at some point this evening the other necessary morsels of information will be made known.

Excitingly enough we have a bona fide selection dilemma to serve as a sub-plot. And not the usual “Adebayor-plus-who?” question that isn’t really a question at all. Danny Rose is nowhere to be seen (huzzah!). ‘Arry therefore has a choice to make at left-back, and the quiet option would be to slide Ledley back into defence and moving Gallas/Kaboul to the left (my preference would be Kaboul at left-back, due to the fact that the very sight of him striding forward does get the blood pumping somewhat). However, ‘Arry has not exactly ground out a reputation as being one to take the simple option if a square peg can be hammered relentlessly at a round hole in a manner that would make the toddling AANP nephews and nieces blush, so do not be wholly surprised to see Bale at left-back, Lennon moved left, VDV right and Gomes up top.

The personnel and formation ought not to matter too greatly – at home this ought to be three points, and the rest is beyond our control. As ever, it’s the hope that kills me.

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…

Spurs 1-0 Rubin Kazan: Somehow…

Me neither. In fact, I’m not sure there is a soul alive who understands quite how we managed to toddle off from that with a win, but bearing in mind the perils that lurk within the mouths of gift-horses I suggest we stuff the three points under our jumpers and sneak off before anyone notices.It might be an idea for Jake Livermore and Sebastien Bassong to bond over a Jason Statham DVD night or some other such bromantic activity, because last night neither seemed to be aware that the other was of the same species, let alone the same centre-back pairing. The Russians had a fair amount of joy poking and prodding at this soft and squidgy underbelly of ours, and frankly had enough possession and chances to wrap this up well before the last person left and the lights were switched off. Not for the first time AANP is left to muse that the difference between our mob and esteemed opponents is a sprinkling of class in attack.

While here I may as well cast an eye over the various performers of last night, before they are stuffed back in their packaging to warm the bench during Premiership games.

Older Heads

Make no mistake there were good saves from crazy, crazy Gomes, saves that secured our win, but he managed in 90 minutes to deliver more completely unnecessary scares than Friedel has done in seven full games to date. A line of thought is beginning to develop around these parts that the better the ‘keeper the less AANP notices him.

Meanwhile AANP continues to scratch its head in bafflement at Giovani. Admittedly the Spurs website runs a line propaganda that would have made that Comical Ali chap blush, but every time Giovani returns from international duty it is to tales of wondrous success and match-winning heroics emblazoned across tottenhamhotspur.com. Presumably ‘tis his evil and slightly more mundane twin turning out for Spurs in the Europa League, because the name aside there has been little about him to suggest any particular Latin panache.

Da Yoof

Young Carroll had a cracking game in the centre, so neat, tidy, skilful and sensible that he might have had the letters M-O-D-R-I-C emblazoned across his back. Kyle Walker also excelled, whatever his limitations as a natural defender he expiated with oodles of bona fide jet-heeled pace. Out on t’other flank young Rose, for all his earnestness, was less wondrous in his doings – although a high-five is waved at him for fine and noble feet jinkery to win the crucial free-kick. BAE can sleep untroubled in the short-term at least, safe in the knowledge that his left-back spot is under minimal threat (not that there is likely to be much that causes the His Royal Unflappableness to lose his nightly shut-eye).

La Donna e Mobile 

AANP’s various fun-filled escapades in the world of courting have introduced him to a range of female types, amongst the most incomprehensible of whom are those whose moods and behaviour swing wildly from one extreme to another at far less than the drop of a hat. Thus is Pav afflicted, for when good, as yesterday, he can be very good; and when bad, he is a whiny exasperating pest. Like one of AANP’s more temperamental would-be paramours, Pav was in buoyant spirits from the off yesterday, keen to fox Russia’s watching millions into believing that he is the main

??????? in Premiership circles. Cue a performance of threat, a cracking goal and a general level of interestedness of which I had rather forgotten him capable.Add to all that a fair degree of luck, and Younes Kaboul producing the best cameo since Ben Stiller popped up with a ‘tache in Anchorman, and ultimately it turned into the three points that probably ought to see us through to the next stage of this interminably long saga. Lovely stuff.

Stoke 0-0 Spurs (7-6 pens, dammit): One Heck Of A Ride

Fare thee well Carling Cup 2011/12, it’s been one rip-roaring, lip-quivering heck of a ride, with highlights including the mesmeric second round bye, and the frantic googling of the name Massimo Luongo. However, when we turn back the yellowed, sepia-tinged parchment that records these travails, the outstanding memory will undoubtedly be one man and his quite astonishing inability to get anywhere near saving penalties. In a feat barely permitted by the laws of the space-time continuum, Gomes managed to dive the wrong way for all eight penalties. The poor blighter does not seem to do low-key and inconspicuous, and while the shoot-out episode can probably be excused as unfortunate, with each passing week it seems likelier that he will offer equal measures of the sublime and ridiculous between someone else’s goal-posts come the January transfer window.Gomes’ bizarre directional misjudgements handily distract attention from a pretty woeful performance by the boy Pav. Unless he’s belting in 25-yard screamers he tends to spend his time ambling around the pitch, weighed down by a giant chip on his shoulder. The awful penalty was in keeping with a typically lethargic performance. Time to call in Mr and Mrs Pav for a few choice words on their son’s attitude, methinks.

On a brighter note, there was a return for Sandro, and another clean sheet. Moreover, as we in the stands become more familiar with Masters Livermore, Carroll et al, it is reasonable to assume that they are similarly becoming more comfortable in the environs of the big wide world.

In closing, permit me if I may, to take you back to our last Carling Cup penalty shoot-out failure, way back in 2009. After hearing ‘Arry trot out the obligatory line about penalties being a lottery, I managed to prevent my blood from boiling just long enough to dig out these thoughts from yesteryear:

 

Tossing a coin is a lottery. Russian roulette is a lottery. The National Lottery is a blinking lottery. A penalty shoot-out is not a lottery, you hear me?Get a penalty during 90 minutes (or indeed extra-time) and hands are slapped and little jigs danced. Admittedly such joy is promptly replaced with unbearable tension and biting of nails in the build-up to the kick itself, but the point remains that during the course of a game, a penalty is seen as a cracking opportunity to score. There ought not to be any reason why the same twelve-yard pot-shot suddenly becomes a moment of doom-laden hopelessness during a shoot-out, prompting managers to concede defeat and reducing arrogant bling-toting players to spineless, mal-coordinated naysayers.

Nor is the actual taking of a penalty a complete lottery. Admittedly, the nervous tension of a 90,000-bodied stadium, and millions upon millions of TV spectators cannot possibly be replicated on a training ground. However, practise 50 spot-kicks in the week leading up to a Wembley final, and if called upon you would at least be comfortable with the technique, run-up, spot you’re aiming for etc. Heaven forbid however that the players actually dedicate themselves thus.

This isn’t a complaint about the outcome on Sunday. I actually thought that with Gomes in goal we stood a pretty good chance in the shoot-out. And I give credit to Bentley and O’ Hara for having the

cojones to step up. I’m just disappointed still. Actually, make that gut-wrenchingly devastated, and absolutely livid, but with what I know not. Dagnabbit that should have been our cup. And now on top of it all I have to listen to every man and his dog tut sympathetically and tell me that it’s ok because it was all a lottery anyway? SOD OFF AND LET ME STEW IN MY OWN MISERY.It’s a futile, and mildly pathetic rant, but I either slam it down here in literary form, or burn with red-hot pokers the eyes of the next person to inform me sagely that penalties are a lottery.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: The Least Important Game of Our Season?

Europa League or Carling Cup, which ought we to want less? It’s a tricky one. The Europa League trophy is a sizeable beast, and its lack of handles gives it a pleasingly Neanderthalic edge – one cannot help but handle it in rough, uncouth manner when raising it aloft, which is rather apt after 90 minutes of blood and thunder. The Carling Cup on the other hand has three handles, which is just plain weird, and ‘Arry will no doubt have taken this into account ahead of kick-off.However, we only need to win five games to make the Carling Cup Final, whereas five games in the Europa League won’t get us much further than half-time against Shamrock Rovers. Presumably the strategy in both tournaments will be to use the reserves, kids and those returning from injuries in the early rounds, before putting pedal to metal in the later stages. As such, everyone’s favourite gifted-yet-calamitous Brazilian gets to pop his cheekbones once more tonight, Gomes lining up between the sticks. With Gallas and Sandro returning, and Bassong, Corluka, Pav and presumably Giovani also involved, our lot ought to make a decent fist of it. The opposition won’t need too much introduction, it having been only five minutes since we were treated on a weekly basis to the sights of Crouch looping headers harmlessly into the stands, Sergeant Wilson mis-placing six yard passes and updates on the official club website about Jonathan Woodgate’s latest injury setback.

In all competitions we have five clean-sheets in seven games to date this season, and while it won’t matter a jot how we fare ce soir if we’re still pushing for fourth come next May, it would still be most satisfying if we could furtively eke our way into the quarter-finals of this thing, as has been our wont in recent years.

PAOK – Spurs Preview: Babysitting Duties

‘Tis held in some quarters that as a whippersnapper the schoolboy ‘Arry would wile away his hours yelping “Wolf!” with tedious regularity, but on Saturday even the cynics amongst us realised that his “bare bones” mantra could be objectively verified. The adage has it that actions speak louder than words, so when young Giovani was shoved out onto the pitch for a few minutes it became evident that ‘Arry spoke sooth, and our lot really were struggling for personnel. (I’m rather a fan of Giovani as it happens, but that particular can of worms sits aside from the point at hand).While Modders, Bale, Parker and Adebayor are firmly ensconced within great big blankets of cotton wool, back at North London HQ –  and VDV has been excluded altogether from the personnel list for the entire group stage of the Europa League – señor Giovani will join forces with Masters Kane, Carroll, Livermore and chums, to unleash the sort of youthful assault on the senses not seen since unkempt, pre-pubescent beat combo Hanson stormed to the top of the charts. It won’t all be acne and high-pitched voices though, as Pav, Bassong and Corluka will have to suffer the ignominy of babysitting duties tonight, while poor old Gomes has precious little to gain from a one-off appearance like this – play well and it will matter not, Friedel will return on Sunday; but drop a clanger and the pace at which he is chivvied towards the exit door will increase.

While the name is familiar enough, from various European competitions of yesteryear, I confess my knowledge of PAOK Salonika is minimal, and frankly, without wanting to irk the UEFA suits unduly, there is little to suggest that that tonight’s fixture will imprint itself indelibly in the minds of all those who scramble out of the office in time. With a further 15 games (I think) to go in order to win this trophy ‘Arry’s attitude of plain irritation towards it is understandable, and given that the kids are out in force an away draw – with no further injuries – would probably constitute a decent result.

Ahoy-Hoy & Toodle-Pip: Musings on Spurs’ Transfer Window

The dust may have settled, but it would be frightfully remiss to pootle along any further without casting a beady eye over the various to-ings and fro-ings of the transfer window. Step this way please…Welcome to the Lane… 

Curiouser and curiouser, we now somehow find ourselves bottom of the table yet with both of last season’s Players of the Year in the ranks. This one get a raucous slapping of the thigh, as in the absence of Sandro, and the now dearly departed Sergeant Wilson, our central midfield personnel have barely made a tackle between them. Like a cereal gone wrong Parker is all bustle, harry and snap. Moreover, for those of us still scarred by memories of Palacios misplacing six-yard passes, or ducking for cover as Steffen Freund shaped to shoot, Parker also has enough technical ability to look at home within a typical Tottenham midfield. Just as behind every good man is a woman, behind every Hudd and Modders we need a Parker.

A bonus point too to someone or other – probably Daniel Levy – for haggling for a price as low as £5 mil for Parker, on the grounds that his aged 30 year-old limbs merited no higher fee, while simultaneously purloining £10 mil (possibly to rise to £12 mil apparently) for 30 year-old Peter Crouch, a man who didn’t win Player of the Year last season…

Emmanuel Adebayor

As previously mentioned, AANP approves of this one too. Like or loathe the man we certainly need the player. A point of concern for the future is that come next summer we will presumably find ourselves without either Adebayor or Modders (and back in possession of Jenas once again), but many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, so we’ll concern ourselves with that at a later date.

Brad Friedel 

Luka Modric

The swine. One jolly well hopes that after all the brouhaha he retains his undoubted ability to direct operations from deep, rather than transmitting his recently discovered dastardliness to on-pitch performances of apathy.

While I’m not sure I’d buy a used car from the man, I give credit again to Levy for sticking to his word on this, after being strung out by Berba in similarly unsavoury circumstances back in the days of yore. As well as raising a couple of choice fingers at players’ disregard for their contracts, £40 mil in the dying embers of the transfer window would have been of limited use, and even earlier there is only so much we could have done – our problem is wages rather than transfer fees. Rather than stock up with more Premiership standard players, we need world-class talent, and the £40 mil we would have gained would presumably have gone towards the former rather than the latter. A replacement of similar transfer fee and quality (eg Snjeider) simply would not have come. Far better that we retain Modders, at least for a year.

And Shunted Unceremoniously Toward The Exit Door… 

 

Robbie Keane 

Wilson Palacios

Having resembled a cross between Rambo and Robocop when he joined, poor old Sergeant Wilson seemed completely perplexed by the physics of the football by the end of last season, with the result that of every 50 attempted passes, 49 tended to find an opponent, all of which rather negated his tackling ability. The arrival of a new, improved model (in the shape of Sandro) has brought about his ruthless but entirely sensible culling from the fold. In the context of the £5 mil arrival of Scott Parker, the £8 mil sale of Palacios represents more frightfully good business from the N17 moneymen.

Peter Crouch

Ye gods be praised. No doubt he’ll loop a header into the Tottenham net later on this season, but for a chap of that structure to be quite so poor at heading was nigh on unforgiveable. The constant concession of free-kicks tended to be more the fault of the officials than Crouch, but nevertheless, aside from a purple patch in partnership with VDV, this chap contributes precious little of value as a striker. Poor in the air, possessed of a ludicrously weak shot and prone to grinning whenever he missed, frankly he riled us here at AANP Towers, a situation exacerbated by the dismissal against Real and own-goal against City last season.

Jermaine Jenas

Rejoice, rejoice and thrice I invite ye – rejoice. At least until the end of the season.

Once upon a time – about three years ago, Jenas threatened to make good on all that youthful promise. Alas, the rest rather besmirches the history of Tottenham Hotspur, AANP frequently shaking its head in wonder, and concluding that the lad must be magic in training, because his performances on the pitch hardly merited a regular starting berth. That unique brand of Sideways and Backwards will take the Midlands by storm this year.

In Conclusion

Some fine dabblings, in both directions. The grass is always greener, so we may well chunter away about the failure to nab young G. Cahill Esquire, but nevertheless, “Clear out the deadwood; bring in a midfielder with bite; and ruddy well stick a powerful striker upfront” were three fairly critical points on the summer to-do list at the Lane. AANP approves.

Scott Parker

Man Utd 3-0 Spurs: Well Worth The Wait

My, this is embarrassing. We wait three months – plus those tortuous extra 9 days – for our season to begin, then promptly find ourselves nestled amongst the bottom one teams in the table after being torn apart by a bunch of blasted kids. Thank heavens for the fixture-list and its remaining 37 entries.After studying numerous repeats of last night’s game in infra-red and from all manner of camera angles the crack team of football connoisseurs at AANP Towers have concluded that Man Utd are a bit better than Hearts. This was particularly evident in central midfield, rather inevitably.  Poor old Livermore fought the good fight pretty well, but could hardly be said to have grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and given it a ruddy good talking to. Once United stepped up a gear, midway through the second half, they blew us away, those damn red-clad whippersnappers haring all over the place – around us, over us, beneath us, through our legs and from all angles until it was left to Friedel to do his damnedest while they queued up and peppered his goal. “They’re coming out of the walls man, they’re coming out of the goddamn walls”, Friedel would have been forgiven for musing.

Alas, instead of Sigourney Weaver with a double flame-thrower, our midfield was patrolled by Niko Kranjcar. In recent weeks here at AANP Towers I have been doing my best to ignore the Modric tommyrot and instead been bleating on about the virtues of our other Croatian midfielder. Cue a Kranjcar performance that began modestly, with a healthy percentage of misplaced passes, and gradually saw him descend into anonymity. One esteemed Croatian acquaintance of mine today opined that Kranjcar will one day fall asleep on the pitch; a little cruel perhaps, but well as some jolly lazy distribution (he was not alone in committing this particular misdemeanour) he became slower and slower in the chasing of United shadows, eventually running out of steam completely and spending 10 minutes just standing in the centre-circle panting, alongside the similarly wheezy VDV, before being withdrawn by ‘Arry and placed on a ventilator. Two players of dashed good technique, but if we ever consider sticking the pair of them together again in such close proximity in the centre, it might be worth injecting into their blood-streams some Lucozade, or Coke, or whichever Class A drugs the kids are using these days for their afternoon energy boost.

Elsewhere On The Pitch 

A cracking performance too from Brad Friedel, despite conceding three. The stats may say he is 40 but one glance at his kindly, wizened visage betrays the fact that he is clearly somewhere closer to 70, and like any good grandfather he has a rather comforting presence. His shot-stopping was excellent, and he seemed to gather the odd corner with none of the fuss and bluster of a Gomes.

Lennon’s exasperatingly poor decision-making (you know the one I mean) and Defoe’s rattling of the woodwork could be rued, but we can hardly complain about the outcome. Our heroes need to get their act together sharpish, but there were first half moments – the odd one-touch passing move, the occasional dart from Bale – to suggest that things will improve soon enough.

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