All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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(Back Catalogue) Spurs 2-1 Villa: Is VDV The New Berba or Asprilla?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, many of the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

 

3/10/2010: While all and sundry are blurting out every superlative going, do forgive me if I go for something verging on the sacrilegious, but Van der Vaart actually reminds me of Dimitar Berbatov. Not for his sulky, dastardly personality you realise, nor physical appearance nor playing position; but in terms of being an addition to the ranks who is so clearly head and shoulders above his peers. Not since the days of Berba have we had a player whose technique is simply a class above, a player who does the outrageously difficult and makes it seem like second-nature. The sort of things you or I occasionally tried (and failed) in the park with our mates, when no-one was watching. VDV, like Berba before him, instinctively does those things in the middle of a high-octance, competitive game, and makes them look easy. As with the goal midweek against Twente, there was plenty of room for error with his second this afternoon – awkward height, awkward angle; but not a problem for a blinking football genius.

 

Another Bizarre VDV Comparison

 

Recall ye that season when Kevin Keegan went mad in a live TV interview? I may be mistaken, but I think that was the season Newcastle went about a thousand points clear at the top of the table by Christmas, but then rather embarrassingly frittered away their lead and ended up being pipped to the title by Man Utd, the poor loves. The reason? Well there were plenty I suppose, but one notable factor was the addition to the squad of Faustino Asprilla at Christmas. Personally I adored the chap, thought he was awesome, and one of the much worthier foreign additions to the Premiership in an era of Lars Bohinen and Anders Limpar, but adding him to an already mightily attacking mix rather skewed Newcastle’s tactics, and games they used to win they ended up blowing.

 

Fast-forward to N17 in 2010, and VDV is now adorned in lilywhite, and almost certainly better than any of his chums in the dressing-room. The problem is how the deuces to accommodate him. 4-4-2 worked fantastically for us last season. The central midfield of Modders and Hudd outplayed l’Arse, Chelski and Man City. The 4-4-2 worked, home and away. However, accommodate VDV we must, for the awesomeness seepeth from his every pore, and his natural abode appears to be a free role behind the centre forward/s.

 

But a 4-5-1-playing beast we are not, and there’s the rub. As well as lacking a genuine forward to play this role, there is also the problem of how to accommodate Defoe when he returns (and I personally am saddened that all this nudges Kranjcar towards the exit door, but c’est la vie). Bale, Modders and VDV into a 4-4-2 will not really go, unless the handsome young Welshman is shunted to left-back, which is rather a waste. VDV is no right winger, but we can’t play him and Modders as a central pairing in a 4-4-2, and… Well you get the point. Not that I’m about to solve it. That’s ‘Arry’s job, and in fairness it’s a dilemma about which he has being banging on fairly regularly.

 

Elsewhere on the Pitch

 

Back to the game. Still not a fan of lobbing high balls up to Crouch, but in the last two games his lay-offs and knock-downs have brought about goals and penalties and all sorts, so I simply have to grumble in silence on that point. Nice to see Aaron Lennon looking more like his former self; Alan Hutton continues to look the polar opposite of Corluka at right-back; Hudd grew into his role as ad hoc centre-back, but in an ideal world would still be below Ledley/Dawson/Gallas/Kaboul/Woodgate in the pecking order.

 

Emile Heskey: Scourge of Lightweight Spurs Centre-Backs

 

For all the talk of Van der Vaart the turning-point in this one was arguably the disappearance of Heskey, injured, in the first half. The ease with he muscled past Bassong evoked a Hollywood-style montage in my head of all those instances over the years on which a Spurs centre-back has been sent flying by a big brusing striker. In fact Heskey himself started it about ten years ago, in his Leicester days, when he powered past Stuart Nethercott or someone and thumped the ball in. Anyway, off he went, back we came and the all-important three points were ours. Pre-match I had hoped for three points above performance, injuries or anything else, and a win against a decent Villa side is a jolly good result.

 

Spurs – Villa Preview

 

1/10/2010: This old conundrum again. Whether two games per week is simply too much for their precious limbs, or they really do believe the hype and only mentally attune themselves for Champions League Wednesdays I know not; but for whatever reason our heroes are not coping well with the rigours of a Saturday-Wednesday-and-Saturday-again schedule.

 

It has been hard enough to cope with Wigan and West Ham; now we face a resurgent Villa side, and I don’t mind admitting I approach this game with a fair degree of trepidation. Generally I like our home performances served up with a healthy dose of swash and buckle, but in the interests of keeping pace with the top-four runners and riders, I will happily settle for all manner of scrappiness if it guarantees us another three points heading into the international break.

         

West Ham 1-2 Spurs: Tottenham Forget How To Be A Soft-Touch

Good grief, what’s come over them? The stylish win at home to Liverpool was in keeping with the glory-glory Tottenham tradition, the demolition of Hull an all-action romp – but getting bogged down in a scrap and emerging victorious? I plan to catch this, pop it in a jar and charge a tenner for people to come marvel at it.While never abandoning the principle of playing football that’s pretty to watch whenever we broke into their half, we also did the necessary dirty work, matching our hosts crunch for crunch, and niggle for niggle.

Countless times in years gone by we have grumbled about – and indeed resigned ourselves to – the fact that for all our flair and élan we have traditionally shown as much fight as an anaesthetised kitten. As a wide-eyed nipper with a mildly sadistic streak, I would flick woodlice onto their backs and inflict needless pain upon them in the general vicinity of the soft underbelly. Back then those woodlice might as well have been wearing Spurs shirts, but the multi-legged critters will now need to dress themselves in something other than the puma number with yellow flashes, circa 2009-10. Whisper it, but the early indications are that we are a soft-touch no longer.

Ledley and Bassong 

The Midfield

I’ll half include Keane in this, as he did his usual thing of scuttling hither and thither around the centre-circle. And a decent enough job he did too, encouraging all round him to keep the round thing on the green stuff, while also adding strength in numbers, countering West Ham’s five-man midfield.

Sergeant Wilson did what sergeant Wilson does, and showed sufficient discipline to avoid the temptation to go flying forward too frequently. Against Hull he had rather enjoyed himself in the final third; today wise counsels prevailed and he kept it defensive.

The Hudd debate continues, but AANP gives the big fella a third consecutive nod of approval. Just a nod mind, rather than a thumping backslap, for he did not boss the game in the manner we all hope he eventually will. Nevertheless, it was a smart, positionally-aware performance, protecting the back-line. He also distributed the ball thoughtfully, rather than a prima donna after a Hollywood ball every time.

Elsewhere On The Pitch… 

And on the subject of the little moments, a toast to Carlton Cole for his defence-splitting assist. Telepathic understanding with the boy Defoe.  Awfully good of you, old bean.

No-nonsense from Assou-Ekotto. The occasional moment of nonsense from Corluka (although nothing too damaging). Defoe on fire. The whole lot of them digging in, rather than capitulating, at one-nil down. And what do you know – Tottenham Hotspur FC remain top of the table. Ruddy marvellous.

Spurs 1-0 Newcastle: Lamenting The Absence of Jenas (No, Really)

One of these days, watching Tottenham will be the death of me. They’ll score early and dominate, but then instead of scoring a second against submissive fatted calves bred specifically for the slaughter, they’ll spend the final hour earnestly faffing. I shall chew my nails, squirm and curse; and then swear and kick people; and finally become so wound up by the faffing that my heart will pop and I’ll keel over.It was another good win – some lovely, swift, counter-attacking, coupled with a solid defence, with the enforced reorganisation handled with minimum fuss. But my goodness it would have been so much more pleasant and sedate if we could have scored a second. That would have taken the game by the hand, dressed it in its pyjamas, read it a bedtime story and put it safely to bed. Instead it all became a tad nervy as the clock ticked down. Opposition more inspired than Newcastle might have made us pay.

Lack of Presence in Attack

I have a gnawing sense that we lack a real potent presence in attack. For all the possession, and some delicious one-touch build-up play, we regularly seemed to have only one man in the opposition area. It’s breeding a tendency to try to walk the ball into the net, and play increasingly intricate and precise short-passes around a crowded area. It’s good football, and against the largely impotent Geordies ‘twas sufficient – but a real beast of a man in attack might give a cutting-edge, and make life harder for defenders.

I’m starting to wonder whether Keane has developed a twinkle in his eye for one of our midfielders, as he’s been dropping deeper and deeper in recent games, doing most of his work in the area well behind the striker and generally spending more time than is healthy around the midfield. It’s usually good work – full of energy and awareness, but he rarely seems to be in the penalty area. To be honest I struggle to remember the last time he actually had a shot.

Bent just lacks the confidence – or maybe arrogance – in front of goal to lead the line, in a Shearer or Drogba-esque way. Bent has speed and strength, but rather than boss and bully defenders he seems inclined to keep them informed at all times of his whereabouts, and politely request permission to go running around their patch. This is lovely for any girl who wants to take him home to meet her parents, but rather less useful in the cut-throat trades of line-leading and net-bulging. Start shoving defenders out of the way man, and snarl and spit and demand their lunch-money.

Defoe does at least look willing to shoot when he gets the ball, but at three feet four does not exactly have the physical presence to scatter defenders and hold up the ball. Nice to see him back though.

A Truly Astonishing Admission

I can barely believe that I’m typing this, nor can the winged pig looking on, aghast, at my window, but in a way I missed Jenas today. Seasoned All-Action-No-Plotters will no doubt be scratching their heads and checking for naughty substances in my blood stream at reading this, for I’ve rarely disguised my exasperation at the man. However, a player’s stock often rises when he is absent, and with our midfielders seemingly waiting for parental permission before entering the opposition area, I did guiltily wonder if Jenas would have made a difference. It’s what he does (get into the oppo area), rather than how he does it (mis-hit his shot).

Palacios, understandably, and Hudd, less forgivably, preferred to loiter 5-10 yards outside the area and ping in the occasional long-range thunderbolts. Awesome technique, for sure. However, when we countered at break-neck speed it would have helped to have had someone arriving Jenas-like in the area to support Bent, especially with Keane ditching the day-job to give his top chat to Modric or whomever.

Obafemi Martins

I had been dreading the visit of Obafemi Martins all season. As I’ve previously noted, I remember Emile Heskey,

about 10-15 years ago, when at Leicester, just bulldozing straight through the middle of our defence and walloping the ball into the net. When Martins entered the fray I feared a similar performance, especially with no Ledley around to calm my fraying nerves. He may not be the most refined, but Martins duly set about bludgeoning defenders aside, in a manner that probably had Darren Bent running for the hills in horror. Mercifully, the bull-in-a-china-shop routine extended to his rather erratic shooting. When the transfer window re-opens, would Martins provide an answer to our lack of presence in attack? Not necessarily, but I wouldn’t mind buying him just so that he never plays against us again.Elsewhere on The Pitch

The Hudd was generously given the freedom of White Hart Lane by the Newcastle midfield. He duly enjoyed himself, with a range of passing so sumptuous that on listening  carefully I discerned that it was accompanied by the dulcet tones of angelic choruses, as if ordained by some celestial authority. This was all very wonderful, but I suspect we’ll barely notice him against Man Utd at Old Trafford next week. Still, right man for the occasion today.

It’s taken a while – the best part of a season in fact – but I have finally held up my hands, raided the AANP coffers and paid up for membership to the Assou-Ekotto fan club. I shall still eagerly monitor the Gabriel Henize rumours, but the Braided One is looking better and better each week.

Cruel luck for Dawson, having waited so long for a starting-place, but his injury opened the door for Hutton. He certainly impressed going forward, but sterner defensive tests probably await in the future. The Corluka-Hutton battle for right-back will make interesting viewing in future weeks. Personally I lean towards the Scot as a partner for Lennon on the right.

Modric – legend.

Palacios – legend.

Three more points, and well-deserved. Bravo lads, yet again. I maintain that if there is constructive criticism to be levelled it is that a second goal in such games will ensure a rather pleasanter finale, but all told this was a comfortable and well-deserved win.

Wigan – Spurs preview: Selection Dilemma for ‘Arry

‘Arry Redknapp would moan about his squad size even if were able to choose from the entire population of China, so he’s not going to admit that he’s got a bit of a selection dilemma ahead of Wigan away on the morrow. Jermain Defoe will ditch the Dick Van Dyke cap, gawd bless ya, pull on the lilywhite once more and waltz straight back into the starting eleven, presumably alongside Pav upfront. After Sheringham and Klinsmann, and Keane and Berba, everyone bar Darren Bent will hope that this proves another top-notch striking combo.Defoe and Pav upfront will mean 4-4-2, rather than 4-5-1, which in turn means only two in central midfield rather than three. With Jenas back from suspension, ‘Arry has to choose whether Modric remains in the centre and Jenas on the bench, or Jenas in the centre and Modric out left.

A propos the left flank, will Bentley be retained, or will he have to preen himself on the bench rather than the pitch? His form has been woeful, but ‘Arry has persisted, and as we’re not at the Lane  – away from the increasingly loud and frequent groans (and worse) of dismay – Bentley and his tubs of hair gel may be offered another chance. Should that happen, young Three-Touch O’ Hara may well storm out of N17 never to return – his second-half left-midfield cameo on Monday night was inspired, and he will, with some justification, feel he’s merited a place in the starting XI.

Tottenhamhotspur.com, one of the great propaganda machines of the 21st century, has pointed out that we’ve won every game we’ve played this year, and with that line in irresistibility how could Wigan possibly cause us trouble? Alas, the Wigan of tomorrow will be vastly changed from the Wigan we beat in the cup a couple of weeks ago. They’re in form in the league, and their impressive striking pair of Heskey and Zaki are both fit to play.

Defoe to continue his penchant for debut goalscoring, but a draw at best, I fear.

‘Arry at the January sales

With the honeymoon over, the side struggling and reinforcements seemingly needed in every position, all-action-no-plot casts a wary eye over a handful of ‘Arry’s (supposed) shopping list…

Stewart Downing (Left winger, ‘Boro, £8-£12 mil) – Yegads ‘Arry, don’t do it! I’ve only ever seen him play well once (Eng vs Germany). He’s naturally left-footed, and as such would balance our midfield, but so is our Welsh simian Gareth Bale. Save around £10 mil and give Bale a chance. And encourage the midfielders to get into the area before investing in another crosser…

Craig Bellamy (Striker, West Ham, £6 – £8 mill) – Wrote on this one yesterday, and my opinion hasn’t changed overnight. Good striker, but a walking asbo, who has never settled at a club due, presumably, to his penchant for attacking team-mates with golf clubs.

Shay Given (Goalkeeper, Newcastle, Maybe £3 mil?) – Tempting, but this is like heading to the supermarket when hungry, and consequently buying food you just don’t need. Gomes is doing fine at the moment.

Lassana Diarra (Defensive midfielder, Real Madrid, £20 mil) – Out of stock.

Jermaine Defoe (Striker, Pompey, £10 mil give or take) – Pompey may sell if the debt stories are true, and the lad certainly knows the route to goal, but ineligibility for Europe might be offputting. Can’t really see it happening, much as I’d love to.

Peter Crouch (Striker, Pompey, £10 mil give or take) – ‘Arry bought him at Pompey, and might be tempted by a goalscoring target-man. Again, ineligible for Europe.

Emile Heskey (Striker, Wigan, £3 mil or less, as his contract’s running down) – Hardly a proven goalscorer, but has, over the last 12 months shown an ability to hold up the ball and buy time for languid supporting midfielders to amble into the area. Exactly what we need then.

Matthew Upson (Centre-back, West Ham, £6 mil or so) Only likely if West Ham are forced into a Woollies-style closing-down sale. Their chairman is Icelandic, so this may indeed happen. With King and Woodgate falling apart, and Corluka ineligible in Europe, we could do with a reliable centre-back.

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