All Action, No Plot

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Spurs 1-0 Southampton: On We Limp

It would seem after that particular nerve-wracker to swerve rather wildly from reality by suggesting that the Spurs go marching on. Limping on, perhaps, or maybe sputtering to a halt and having our constituent parts stuffed unceremoniously into a sack and dragged towards the finish line by Bale. A less catchy ditty though, what?

One Man

Glorious relief though that finale provided, it was rather a poke in the eye for the massed ranks of us who have been insisting all season that we are more than just a one-man team. The problem with this specific one man is that he is not the sort to pull strings and dictate proceedings like some boot-clad revolutionary. The game passed Bale by as much as it did any of the other lilywhite heroes, the only difference being that while the rest of them could have huffed and puffed away until next season without producing anything different, Bale can conjure match-winners from rather innocuous-looking starting positions way out on the right, or wherever else he may be. Our mob is still bereft of a conductor, through whom all business passes – but that is one to be addressed in the summer months. For now, the good fight continues to be fought.

Anaemia

Curiously, for a match on which so much was riding, our heroes opted to a man to produce one of the most anaemic displays in recent memory. Hudd occasionally stroked an impeccably-weighted pass, and Kyle Walker beavered away, but that rather unpleasant sound in the distance is that of the AANP barrel being scraped in search of match highlights, for there was precious little of note from anyone, and after 80 minutes the dream appeared to be dying. The only chances I can recall were the early Defoe snapshot, and the little move involving a Hudd pass, Adebayor back-heel and inevitable Dempsey waft into the stands. The better chances were Southampton’s, in the first half at least, and once again Lloris saved our jambon. On the debit side, Benny had one of those days, producing all manner of suicidal buffoonery that but for the grace of God might have cost us our season, and Daws showed, not for the first time in his career, that it does not really require complex equations from Mensa’s finest to leave him floundering.

Probably best not to dwell on such things. To play badly and eke out a win is vaguely cockle-warming, and ‘tis difficult to imagine our mob being quite so toothless once again for Wednesday night’s cup final. A job needed doing and was done, albeit ultimately by our one man again. Three more points, and the dream remains alive.

Arsenal 5-2 Spurs: AVB Emerges With Some Credit, Oddly Enough

Life just seems jolly unfair sometimes. We might I suppose have lost 6-2 if Adebayor had stayed on the pitch, but the first 15 minutes at least suggested that our heroes had bounced out on the right side of bed this morning and sneakily indulged in an extra Weetabix at the breakfast table to boot.

A thousand violent curses then upon the devil on Adebayor’s shoulder. No complaint at all about the red card, but it is nothing short of maddening that the game swung so completely (and so early) at that moment, something l’Arse did not earn at all but had gifted to them entirely by us. Pardon me while I wince at the sourness of the grapes in the AANP fruit bowl, but I cannot help grumble that this ages-old affair between l’Arse and Lady Luck continues. Still, ‘twas a mistake by a Tottenham player, so ‘twas only right that we reaped accordingly.

A 5-2 defeat in this game of all games would not ordinarily endear the glorious leader to fickle armchair followers such as yours truly, but I rather fancy that AVB earned himself a few points today. The selection of both Adebayor and Defoe away from home was a most unexpected gamble from one who has been peddling conservatism quite so sedulously, but by golly for those 15-odd glorious opening minutes things seemed to pootle along swimmingly.

Similarly, the half-time switch to a vaguely 3-5-1-looking formation seemed to put a little fire into bellies, at a time when I suspect I was not alone in fearing we would submit like resigned lambs philosophically accepting slaughter as just part of life. 5-2 was hardly the desired scoreline, but the manner of the second half performance and AVB’s second half tactical adjustment gave grounds for optimism. To live by the sword and die trying to claw back a two/three-goal deficit is infinitely preferable around these parts to simply limiting damage and accepting defeat with a whimper.

Elsewhere on the pitch

Hudd and Sandro fought the good fight well enough, and until his dismissal Adebayor looked to be making a sterling contribution, while this is unlikely to be a day that will be talked of fondly in the Naughton household for years to come – although the poor lad might have benefited from a tad more assistance from Bale. The handsome young Welshman had a strange sort of day, having seemingly made an early executive decision that team-mates are overrated, and consequently decided to take on the entire Arsenal team, solve the economic crisis and cure AIDS all single-handedly. Not a particularly bad call, for there was further net-rippling evidence today that a Bale on the charge takes some stopping, but the second half chance to pass for Defoe, at 4-2, rather than shoot, would have made life a lot cheerier (a sentiment that is admittedly remarkably easy to express with the benefit of hindsight).

Defeat it is then, but vastly less painful than the Wigan capitulation. AVB remains a curious fish (the goalkeeping selections continue to appear entirely arbitrary) but today it did at least feel like he earned his corn. There are flashes in there, that this season might yet bear fruit.

Spurs 1-3 Man Utd: Why This Was All Modric’s Fault

Before beginning the gruesome business of the post-mortem I think it’s worth doffing my cap towards Man Utd – they were a quality act yesterday. I demonstrated in my preview that mathematics is hardly the academic subject of choice at AANP Towers, but nevertheless it really did seem that being reduced to 10 men made them play as if they had 12.The Luka-Shaped Hole

If absence makes the heart grow fonder my feelings for Luka Modric had turned into a complete man-crush by the end of yesterday’s game. The problems caused by his absence were two-fold. For a start – and admittedly it’s not rocket-science – we massively missed his contribution on the left. Robbie Keane was a square peg in a Luka-shaped hole, and came nowhere near replicating the class of the Modmeister, for which he can hardly be blamed I suppose. Curiously, by the second half it seemed that ‘Arry simply dispensed altogether with the whacky idea of deploying someone on left midfield, and left BAE to attack, defend, bat, bowl and keep wicket all on his own up and down the left-hand patch. Keane took up permanent residence in the centre, and even his replacement Kranjcar seemed only to station himself towards the left with reluctance.

The other problem caused by Luka’s absence was the very fact that Keane was removed from attack in order to play on the left. To date this season, Keane as a striker has been able to drop back as necessary to create a temporary five-man midfield. We could have done with that at times yesterday, as the Man Utd midfield bossed things. In fact they themselves made use of an attacker dropping deep, with the dastardly Berba occasionally sticking out a languid leg here and there in midfield. Our own attacking pair, of Crouch and Defoe, did not really offer that flexibility. Conclusion? This was all Modric’s fault.

The Second-Best Midfield

Anti-climactic stuff from Lennon, who could not have been more thoroughly shackled if he had been trussed up in a straitjacket with a ball-and-chain on his ankle for good measure.

The Hudd started fairly anonymously, and his influence waned thereafter. If the big lad wants to know the sort of standard he should be striving to emulate he need only look at the man whose shadow he chased for an hour yesterday. Scholes gave a masterclass in how to keep things ticking over in midfield. Tackling aside, mind.

I actually thought that Sergeant Wilson began the game in encouragingly bright and breezy fashion – as typified by the tackle that led to our goal – but once he received his yellow card his options were rather limited, and his half-time withdrawal was understandable.

And so, for the first time this season, to your hero and mine, Jermaine “Sideways! Backwards!” Jenas. Believe it or not I was rather impressed by the entrance he made, taking the fight to United as soon as he entered the fray and very nearly scoring a peach of an equaliser. However, that was about as good as it got. We’ve waited about four months to lay into Jenas, and had to wait another 20 minutes or so after his introduction yesterday, but once the poor blighter made a mistake by golly White Hart Lane let him know about it.

Discrimination at White Hart Lane. Despicable, In This Day And Age.

There was one curious incident in the second half when Crouch and his marker (I forget who) prepared to challenge for a header inside the penalty area, and the marker did his level best to yank the shirt off Crouch’s back in a most sordid manner. In hope rather than expectation I glanced towards the ref – and saw him put the whistle to his lips. Scarcely able to believe it I let out a celebratory yelp, only to see the ref award the free-kick to Man Utd. It’s a phenomenon that unfortunately follows Crouch wherever he goes, and one to which we will all have to become accustomed in future weeks and months.

That aside Crouch did what he is paid to do, and can hardly be blamed for his team-mates’ propensity to belt the ball at his head and yell “Go fetch”. I prefer him coming off the bench as an impact sub, and yestrerday’s evidence did not alter that opinion, despite the first-minute assist.

Elsewhere on the Pitch…

Nicely taken goal from Defoe, on just about the only occasion he touched the ball. Another good shift from BAE. Unfortunately the best player in lilywhite was possibly the one in green, Cudicini making two or three very good saves.

We had our chances, notably in that little 20-minute second half spell, and were only a couple of inches away from equalising through Jenas or Crouch. In the final analysis however, the scoreline did not flatter United. The sending-off of Scholes presented the perfect platform for us, but rather than relentlessly batter down the United door we knocked a couple of times and politely waited for them to open up. We have certainly not become a bad team overnight, but there was proof, lest it were needed, that we remain a work in progress. And a poorer one for the loss of Modric.

 

Graham Roberts is one of the players featuring in Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. Feel free to share your favourite memories of the man – or browse those of others – right here, while memories are warmly welcomed on players already featured in Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here

West Brom 2-0 Spurs: I’ll get stick in the office for this…

Oh blinking heck. Defeat to the bottom team, one point from six over Christmas – this is just plain embarassing. I know this is supposed to be a politically correct age, but everyone knows that West Brom are rubbish, and vastly out of their depth in the Premiership. Losing to them today was humiliating. It’s like taking on a group of seven year-olds in a park, and losing. Oh, the shame.

Never mind our desperate plight at the lower end of the league (we’ll survive), I’m more concerned about the relentless stick I’ll get back in the office tomorrow. Having mouthed off pre-Christmas about how a string of wins would propel us towards the European places, we’ve taken one point from six, and lost to a bunch of seven year-olds. With Fulham at home and West Brom away, a six-points boast really wasn’t entirely ludicrous, but things have gone wildly awry over 180 mins of football. European football seems a distant dream now. Before we can think about that we’ve got to remember how to make mincemeat of the Premiership’s most unattractive and backward components.

This is not what the all-action-no-plot mentality is supposed to be about. All-action-no-plot is supposed to encapsulate the madcap nature of Spurs’ glory, glory attacking football, passing and movement, non-stop entertainment, and shots raining in. Not too much concern for defence, admittedly, but 4-4 is better than 0-0 (and if we ever sorted out the defence I’d have to call this all-action-neatly-rounded-plot, which really doesn’t have the same ring). No, the all-action-no-plot mentality ought really to have seen us beat West Brom 5-1, or thereabouts.

Instead we’ve forgotten how to score. We have no divine right to win these games, but we have the quality in attack to do so. Unfortunately, we’re not making chances, we’re not supporting the lone striker (abandon 4-5-1 ‘Arry, pretty please, with a cherry on top) and each time we pick two deep central midfielders (two from Jenas, Hudd and Zokora) we’re effectively lining up two men short. It’s nine vs eleven. No action, no plot.

The cause wasn’t helped today by the dismissal of Assou-Ekotto, but nevertheless – with Modric and Lennon both on form there is a basis for attacking potency. Somehow, with their misplaced passes and inability to tackle, Zokora, Jenas and Bentley are between them negating the good work of this pair.

The honeymoon is most certainly over for ‘Arry. Now it’s time for him to earn his corn as a manager, both tactically, with the under-performing and shorn of confidence rabble already at N17, and in the transfer market over January.

Alternatively of course, if we want a spate of good results, we could always sack ‘Arry, bring in someone new and watch the miraculous “new-manager-bounce” occur.

(I jest. )

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