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CL Final Preview: 6 Players Who Took Tottenham To The Final

1. Hugo Lloris

Heaven knows I’ve been at the front of the queue when it’s come to sticking the knife into our skipper – and giving it a vigorous twist for good measure too – because the absurd, unforced errors have come thick and fast in the last season or two. However, when push met shove in the business end of this season’s Champions League, Lloris thrust out limbs like nobody’s business.

The Dortmund away leg springs to mind, a game into which we took a three-goal lead but looked for all the money in the world like we wouldn’t make it to half-time without being pegged back.

Dortmund brought their A-game, slicing us apart with the sort of blurry whizz of motion that Ajax were to replicate in the semi-final. Time and again they skipped past each of our massed ranks until finding themselves staring into the whites of Lloris’ eyes; but time and again our captain did the necessary, no matter how unlikely the laws of physics suggested this would be. Re-watch the highlights of that first half in particular, and one needs to dust off the abacus to rack up the precise number of point-blank saves made.

Fast-forward a couple of months, and within ten minutes of the quarter-final first leg at home to Man City, VAR had awarded a penalty against Danny Rose, and the customary uphill slog looked set to kick in.

Enter, yet again, Monsieur Lloris, to repel Aguero’s spot-kick and breathe fresh life into this unlikeliest of campaigns. Had Aguero scored, the away goals advantage would have gone up in smoke there and then, and more pertinently City might well have racked up a hatful.

2. Moussa Sissoko

AANP’s player of the season, Sissoko seems to have improved with every game, transforming before our goggling eyes from figure of fun to critical cog in the machinery. One moment that summed up this metamorphosis was his gallop forward in the closing stages at home to Inter.

By that stage of the campaign it was win or bust, thrice in a row. A sloppy start had left our heroes with one point from three games, and any thoughts of winning the whole dashed thing had been tied up in a sack, weighed down with bricks and dropped overboard. Needing a win to avoid elimination in each of Matchdays 4, 5 and 6, this seemed rather unlikely against Inter, until the final 10 minutes, when Sissoko took it upon himself to put his head down and charge into enemy territory.

One is reluctant to blame the Inter mob for backing off, for it would be a brave man to try to impede a Sissoko gathering a head of steam. The chap drove from Point A, around 10 yards inside his own half, to Point B well inside the Inter penalty area, with the sort of steely determination that one dares not interrupt, and with each step began imprinting himself into Tottenham folklore.

He found Dele, who swivelled and found Eriksen, and his finish kept our heads above water. Just.

Further approving nods to Sissoko for setting up Kane away to Dortmund, and filling in at auxiliary right-back away to Barcelona, after KWP was hooked and we went in desperate search of an equaliser.

And of course, his introduction against Ajax in the semi-final first leg did just about enough to wrest the game away from them.

3. Jan Vertonghen

One of several who made pretty vital, last-ditch stretches away to Dortmund, to keep our hosts at bay and our 3-0 lead in tact when it seemed that calamity might befall, my best mate’s true value was demonstrated in the first leg of that same tie.

Playing at left wing-back Vertonghen first went toe-to-toe with Jadon Sancho, by the skin of his teeth keeping the young pup contained in a first half in which we were decidedly second best.

In the second half, however, Vertonghen emerged as an irresistible creative force from left-back, flying down the flank with unsullied abandon, whipping in a series of crosses that sent the Dortmund central defence into a frightful tizz and capping things off with a striker’s finish to put us two goals ahead and take something of a knife to Dortmund’s spirits.

That Vertonghen-inspired win gave us enough breathing space to survive the second leg onslaught – and just like that, we were in the quarter-finals.

4. Harry Kane

An enforced absentee for various critical stages of the campaign, Kane still popped up with a number of pretty vital finishes hither and thither. Hardly a surprise, as 14 goals in 18 Champions League appearances does point to a chap who bounds around the place ticking boxes at this level like it’s going out of fashion, but it’s still rather easy to forget his contribution to this season’s effort.

Most notably this occurred at home to PSV in the group stage. Again, it was a game in which nothing less than victory would suffice – so obviously we went behind in the first minute.

And there we remained until the final 10, when Kane’s relentless focus on hitting the target paid off, albeit in slightly more nerve-jangly fashion than would have been ideal.

First a pot-shot in a crowded area found the bottom corner; and then in the final moments a header towards the right-hand corner took a hefty deflection of one PSV torso to send it towards the middle of the goal, and then for good measure detoured again, of another PSV limb, to trickle apologetically into the bottom left.

They all count – as Kane, more than most, will testify – and on we stumbled marched.

5. Fernando Llorente

Another of those chaps who puts the “fickle” into “AANP”, I can quite easily wile away a spare half hour by simply lambasting Fernando Llorente – and yet few have been more critical to what might be the most brilliant success in our history.

As aforementioned, when needing a win at home to PSV, we did it the Spurs way and entered the final 10 minutes a goal down. By this point Llorente had been unceremoniously deposited into the PSV area, and duly earned his keep. Give him a chance two yards in front of goal and the ball might end up anywhere in the solar system, but tell him to hold up the ball, hold off a central defender and lay the ball delicately into the path of Harry Kane, and he’s in business. He did just that, Kane scored and we went on to scrape a win.

Fast forward to the quarter-final away leg at Man City, and Llorente produced the sort of finish that only a man of his questionable finishing ability can produce. Closing his eyes and hoping to win a header from a waist-height cross, he did enough to bundle his way in front of his man, and use a questionable combination of hip and possibly-or-possibly-not wrist to force the ball in. And then celebrated like we fans were celebrating.

Fast forward even further, and with nothing left to lose in the semi-final second leg against Ajax, Llorente’s very presence, introduced at half-time, did enough to sow seeds amongst the Ajax defence. Daly Blind in particular spent most of that half casting a perturbed hand across a distinctly fevered brow, as Llorente simply bullied him.

Aside from any contributions to goals, this helped changed the pattern of play, and momentum of the game. And then, ultimately, his ungainly, angular poke of the ball, in the final minute of added time, was enough to give Dele a yard, and then Lucas Moura… [goosebumps]

6. Lucas Moura

Not just a man for a semi-final hat-trick, Lucas also scored in the dying minutes against Barcelona, in yet another of those group stage games in which we desperately needed a win and therefore conceded early.

Lucas charged in to slap the ball home from close range, and with a little help from PSV we went from one point after three games, to qualification for the knockouts.

And what a knockout it was shaping up to be in the semi-final. In truth, until he scored I was rather despairing of Lucas’ contribution. Frenetic and a little wasteful when on the gallop; unable to link with midfield when dropping deep with back to goal; and without a shot in anger in the whole first half, he seemed just another one of those waving forlornly as the game passed him by.

But then, by golly what an impact. The surge of pace to latch on to Dele’s touch for the first goal was worthy of an Olympic sprinter.

The footwork to dance around the Ajax 6-yard box before scoring the second was worthy of any head-down 9 year-old in the playground.

And then the winner, placed into the only available spot in the net, at the last possible moment before two Ajax defenders could and would have blocked it, and as the clock ticked from 94:59 to 95:00…

I’m not sure there will ever be a Tottenham Hotspur moment quite like it. The bedlam, the en masse Ajax faceplant, the repeated viewings and the full 24 hours it took to register the enormity. On top of which, it’s rather pleasing that the hero of the hour was one of the more unlikely sorts, as it does hammer home that the whole thing was quite the collective effort (which makes a mockery of a list of 6 individuals, but over that we quietly gloss). Heroes, predictable and otherwise, at every turn – one wonders if there is room for one more name to be heralded on Saturday…

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Spurs 1-0 Inter: Five Tottenham Observations

1. All Hail Sissoko. Again.

Nowhere else to begin, of course. The chap’s stock continues to soar, greeted from all sides with a peculiar mixture of bewilderment and delight. The all-action defensive style, which sees him gallop like a thoroughbred before using a vast array of limbs to wipe out opponents, has been of great value in our two most recent jaunts, in patrolling the right-and-central defensive areas, providing some friendly companionship to Serge Aurier.

But his occasional forays up the pitch, rarely in anything more than a straight line, have been weirdly mesmeric, and yesterday they struck oil when oil was the one thing we jolly well needed to strike most.

To begin at the beginning, once it became clear that Inter were not about to do as Chelsea did, and simply roll over to have their tummies tickled, we became embroiled in one of those tense, suspenseful larks, like the twisty spy thrillers one occasionally reads, in which everyone is actually double-crossing their dearest chum and one never quite knows what is coming on the next page, other than a heck more tension.

Patiently we prodded and poked, and introduced our starry subs, and admirably did not panic – but the problem remained. We needed a spark.

Enter Sissoko, simultaneously the least and most likely hero. His run was, again, little more than a gallop in a straight line – but what a gallop! Inter folk bore the look of a mob who had never quite seen this sort of thing before, torn between being drawn towards him and backing off him.

Mercifully, he ended his little dash by following the instructions that appear to have been hammered home to him by the entire coaching stuff, namely to keep it simple. Keep it simple he duly did, slipping the ball to Dele, and the rest was marvellous, fabulous history.

2. Nagging Concerns About Sissoko

After the rotten start to his N17 career the young fish deserves every plaudit going. He also deserves quite the formally-worded letter of apology, from AANP Towers amongst others, which I am quite happy to pen myself.
In my quiet moments, however, I do still stroke the chin and scratch the head and murmur to myself, “Really? I mean, dash it, really?”

There can be no doubting the empirical evidence: Sissoko is now a crucial component of this team, providing a defensive barrier, of strength and pace, as well as an attacking outlet – also of strength and pace, as it happens.

And as noted above, he is well aware of the need to keep things simple, and that he does, with his awkward, very telegraphed, but successful six-yard passes to the nearest lilywhite.

My concern remains that the bubble looks at any and every given moment like it is about to burst. I would be deceiving my public to say I wake up in cold sweats thinking about it, but I cannot shake off the worry that at any given point his control will utterly desert him, and he will once again become a liability. And by “control” I refer both to his control of the ball, when in possession, and his control of his limbs when moving up the gears. Put bluntly, it always seems as if his control of ball and limbs is as much a matter of luck as design. I sense he is about to overrun the ball, or trip over his own feet, every time.

This may well be thoroughly unfair; it may well just be the inherent pessimistic Spurs fan inside me; but I suspect I will need a few more months of this new, magic Sissoko before I am truly converted.

Still, the chap’s cult hero status is already pretty much secured, what?

3. Irreplaceable Eriksen

I suspect anyone with their ear pinned to the walls of the Away Dressing Room would report back that there were few grumbles from the Italian quarter about the outcome. A tight old joust it might have been, but our lot were superior, and 1-0 seemed about right.

1-0 it almost wasn’t however, because for all our superiority, and the generally more forward-thinking attitude, we did lack that little sprinkle of ingenuity in the final third. In short, we lacked Eriksen.

This is not to quibble with the team selection – more on that below – but just to note that the one, crucial position in which lack a quality reserve seems to be Eriksen’s. Even Kane, if removed, can be handily deputised for by Sonny’s scampering – a different kettle of fish, admittedly, but one that proves effective.

But remove Eriksen, and the wit and devilry of the whole troupe seems to dial down a notch. The nifty one-twos on the edge of the area fall a tad short, attempts to dribble past countless opponents are thwarted at the last, crosses are swung in, shots are fired from outside the area. Sissoko’s burst did the trick yesterday, but the moments of true guile come from Eriksen.

It presents a two-fold problem, of how to cope without the honest chap, and whether we can hang on to him beyond his current contract.

4. Squad Rotation

The pre-match natter was all about Eriksen and Sonny mooching on from the sidelines, with plenty of scribbles in both the Credit and Debit columns on this one.

Hindsight, surprisingly enough, has just about come down in favour of Our Glorious Leader’s position – we won, just, and kept the two imps fresh for Sunday.

The Case for the Prosecution, at kick-off and throughout the first hour or so, was that the front four of Eriksen, Son, Dele and Kane had absolutely shredded Chelsea at the weekend, so why the devil weren’t they being unleashed again here, when victory was essential?

A compelling point, actually. Poch’s Sustitution Gambit was risky, even if ultimately successful, but the philosophical AANP view at kick-off was that simply picking Son and Eriksen was no guarantee that they would replicate their success of Saturday. It is not impossible to imagine that they, like Lucas and Lamela, might have huffed and puffed from a distance of twenty-plus yards and to little effect, if played from the start.

As it happened, Sonny’s impact was immediate. He may well have been as effective if he’d started, or he may simply have benefited from being introduced against wearying limbs. Who knows?

It’s all a little moot now, and it ended well enough. On an uplifting sidenote, the lad appears to have rediscovered that joie de vivre that appeared to be absent in the opening weeks of the season, when he was shuttling across the globe.

5. Maturing

And so this most taxing of weeks is beginning to assume a surprisingly sunny hue. A romp against Chelsea, a tough old points-victory against Inter, and just the wretched Woolwich lot left to come. (And then another hundred or so games between now and 2019.)

One thing that strikes me in the final analysis is that our current vintage seem finally to be playing with a generous splash of maturity. The late PSV win, from one-down after a minute, was a triumph for persistence, skill and discipline, when it would have been easy to have neglected any or all of those three.

And here again, to keep ticking along patiently until the 80th minute, without panicking or losing their discipline, and against pretty high-quality opponents, was another little marker.

(On the discipline point – I didn’t really spot what happened with Winks, but Erik Lamela needs to be on the receiving end of a damn good thrashing, because his challenge was appalling. Could have injured the opponent, could have had us down to ten men with a lot of the game to play. But that aside, I thought our heroes kept their heads fairly well.)

Our ability to hang on to a lead for any length of time against top opposition still remains questionable, I suppose, but when we’ve needed goals we’ve found a way. It’s almost the sort of thing that is enough to win a trophy.

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Inter 2-1 Spurs: Five Tottenham Observations

1. Absolute Gut-Wrenching Frustration, Dash It

Back in the mid-90s, if you had suggested that there is no shame in losing away to Inter, I’d have yelled “Gollazo”, thrust my false ID in your general direction and agreed vigorously. However, things – as sometimes happens – have changed. Inter’s stripey ensemble might retain a certain appeal, but their 2018 on-pitch vintage is pretty crushingly average.

Accordingly, most of the trouble we faced was overwhelmingly of our own doing – and more grumbles on that particular topic below – while our hosts did little more than huff, puff and complain about this and that.
In fact, by around the 70-minute mark Inter had fairly unashamedly thrown in the towel, and simply mooched around the place, killing time until the post-match snifters at the nearest Milanese watering-hole. Our heroes were required to do little more than light cigars and apologetically keep possession as the game and all around it drifted towards a happy conclusion.

In a group like this, three points away from home would have swung the odds pretty handily in our favour. Even one point would have been accepted, albeit sniffily in the cirucmstances. But to have the larder so completely raided, barely ten minutes after having been in complete control, was about as rotten a conclusion as one can imagine.

2. The Morbidly Fascinating Tactic of Repeatedly Trying to Pass Out From The Back

Mind you, it was a good 30 or 40 minutes before one cottoned on to the fact that Inter were not quite the prowling behemoth of yore. In the opening thrusts, we seemed to have our work cut out to keep them at bay, and it is no exaggeration to say that one pursed the lips with concern.

On closer inspection however, it became pretty evident that the nub of all these problems were our own dashed heroes – and in particular the ludicrous tactic of repeatedly trying to pass the ball out from the area at goal kicks.

To say that the plan had a mild flaw or two in its mechanics is to make a pretty fruity bid for Understatement of the Year. Time and again the ball was passed to one or other of the centre-backs, who promptly staggered around it like men who had been drinking in the city centre since mid-morning.

On the rare occasions that they managed to dispense with the thing, it only bobbed around ten yards further up the field, where either Davies or Aurier were on hand to pass it straight to an opponent or trip over themselves while the ball gently rolled out of play. Precious little assistance came from midfield either, where every lilywhite in sight was determined to add their own glaring miscontrol or errant pass to the collection, and the whole thing made football look like the most complex operation imaginable.

It was mind-boggling to behold. Our heroes peddled a solid demonstration of the definition of madness, wondering why a different outcome was not materialising, and seemingly oblivious to the presence of alternatives – the concept of simply blasting the ball into the half being pretty firmly off the agenda. I’m not sure we managed serene progress to the halfway line from a single one of around a dozen first half attempts to pass our way out from the back.

These persistent, determined attempts to stuff the same square pegs into round holes, and the consequent bother they caused us in conceding possession on the edge of our own area, rather distracted from the fact that going forward our front four or so were quietly burrowing their way into the Inter ranks.

Nothing too blistering, heaven forbid, but the little dink from Eriksen to Kane; the occasional over-elaboration from Lamela; the odd dribble from Dembele over halfway – one started to get the impression that Inter were actually there for the taking, if we just applied ourselves. And cleared the lines from goal-kicks, of course.

3. Moura The Impact Sub

Lucas Moura seems not to have received the club-wide memo that all in lilywhite must trudge about the premises looking like they have been flogged half to death all summer. Sprightly whenever he has started a game so far this season, he hit upon the terrific idea of displaying precisely the same degree of spright when introduced as a substitute, and it produced exceptional results.

Credit to the manager were due – and he has a sizeable portion of blame heading his way soon enough – it was a decision that could not have been better timed if he had been rehearsing it for weeks. We led by a goal, Inter were beginning to over-commit and their general energy levels were sapping away like nobody’s business.

Enter Moura, and every Inter defender in sight began queuing up to have the dickens twisted out of them. The only shame was that it did not bring about the second goal that it merited.

4. Aurier Turns In A Half-Decent Display

Frequent visitors to this parish – and indeed, any man, woman or child alive, who has ever cast the merest glance in our direction over the past season – will be well aware that Serge Aurier is a man of questionable defensive prowess.

“Liability” has generally been the mot juste, as the blighter has conceded penalties, earned red cards, sliced clearances and misplaced passes in a pretty determined attempt to establish himself as a dashed nuisance, and raise the blood pressure of approximately half the population of North London.

He started proceedings in typical fashion yesterday – albeit in common with most of his defensive chums. A miscontrol to concede a throw, a wayward header to concede a corner – so far, so Aurier.

Come the second half however, the chap got his act together like a man possessed. Filling in behind the centre-backs like a seasoned sweeper, he cleared up the occasional mess at the back, whilst also channelling his inner Kyle Walker by bombing up the back as if wing-backing were his specialist subject.

All in vain ultimately, and a genuine shame that he was the AWOL marker for the winning goal, but having taken every opportunity to hammer the chap over the past year, it is only fair to applaud him when he remembers his p’s and q’s, so to speak.

5. Poch Decisions

If one were to spot a gentleman going about his business with an umbrella tucked underneath his arm, and then cast a glance skywards and spot cloud formations of the murky variety – well, while one would hardly burst into spontaneous applause, one would nevertheless understand the chap’s rationale, and accept that decision as acceptable enough.

Thus did the replacement of Lamela with Winks strike me. I don’t mind admitting that I eyed the progress of Messrs Son, Eriksen and Lamela with an enthusiastic eye every time they broke over halfway to sniff out glory, and when Lamela was hooked a gentle sadness struck me. Not one of those deep, sighing sadnesses; more of a mildly disappointed shrug. Nevertheless, like the gentleman preparing for rain, one followed the thought process – we led away from home, and Winks, on paper at least, was the sort of egg who could offer a little more protection as the clock ticked down.

However, one can only judge these things in hindsight, and on results. We did lose a sliver of that attacking thrust of the previous twenty minutes, and – while neither goal had much to do with young Winks – we did concede twice. As if Our Glorious Leader did not have enough on his plate, he now has AANP raising a disapproving eyebrow at his mid-game switches.

To say nothing of his pre-game choices. The omissions of both Toby and Trippier rank amongst the most deeply suspicious of our time. Rather like one of those young brides one reads about who convinces her new octogenarian spouse to alter his will and leave her the whole dashed inheritance mere days before his death, this was a fishy move. And once again, hindsight and the result ultimately points to Poch making the wrong calls. Heaven help him if he engages in a game of Scissors-Paper-Stone, for every choice he makes this week, while honest and well-intentioned, ultimately brings about a soggy ending.

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Inter-Spurs Preview: Who Knows?

Unfamiliar territory, and I half expect that come kick-off players from both sides will simply stand around scratching their heads and gawping, because the game-plan here is a little tricky to establish. It may well depend on how Inter approach this, for should they show the sort of lack of interest displayed quite so vehemently in the first leg this could turn into one of the great tedious nights in our history, with both sides wiling away the time until the final whistle. Alternatively, should Inter score early our heroes will trip over themselves to reach the Panic Button. I suppose a third scenario is that our lot crunch down on the accelerator from the off and blitz Inter away again. C’est possible, one and all, but it really is a dickens of a task to predict beforehand how this one might transpire.

No Rest For The Wicked

AVB has suggested that young master Bale will be the only absentee, of the regulars, and while Dembele and Parker might benefit from a rest it is probably just as well to start with the usual troupe, and withdraw them in the second half if everyone is sticking obediently to the script. Having already had an enforced week off Aaron Lennon is apparently back in the squad, and as the principal speed-merchant in our ranks he has the opportunity to play quite a starring role, assuming we look for counter-attack opportunities (do excuse us at AANP Towers as we drift off to dreamily recall the magnificent breakaway goal that sunk AC Milan a couple of years back…)

“No alarms and no surprises,” warbled musical oddballs Radiohead a few years back, and if that were to be the gist of things tonight we could all light our pipes with subtle smugness this evening. History contains enough reminders of our capacity to complicate the uncomplicated, but the current vintage appear to have their heads screwed on reasonably tightly. One way or t’other we should prevail.

Spurs 3-0 Inter: Oozing Marvellousness From Every Pore

He already has a few on the CV, but this ranks amongst AVB’s finest moments for sure, and was most certainly the finest performance. To date it has been effective and disciplined, but with off-the-ball movement, slick passing and Inter carved open at will, this was as marvellous as a fruity sorbet drizzled in champagne and served by that sultry young thing who appears at the very end of the Golddigger video.

You can jolly well stick into a hat, shake around, say a magic word and pick out at random the name of any one of a half-dozen lilywhites who purred their way through proceedings with the aplomb of a man twirling his cane with every step – Dembele, Parker, Sigurdsson, Walker, Lennon and Vertonghen all oozed lickety-split.

It started off perkily and progressed into a 90-minute highlights reel. The serenading of Lee Dixon; the manic second half 80-yard sprint between Bale, Lennon and Walker; Lennon’s cheeky nutmeg; the presence of a striker who dashed well wanted to score every time he even sniffed the ball within a 10-yard radius (for sure he might pick a pass from time to time, but he can reasonably be excused on the grounds that he is around a thousand times better than the Adebayor of recent weeks); and quite simply the fact that our heroes won every darned tackle going and passed so many triangles around Inter that they wanted to eat their own heads in frustration.

Of blots on the escutcheon there were but few. The caution for Bale – regrettably deserved (if rendered pleasantly redundant); the worrying disappearance of Lennon with sock rolled down; the egregious Vertonghen song. The resident pedant of AANP Towers is murmuring in the background that we might have had more than three, but this result, clean sheet and all, ought to be plenty, even without Bale. The tie should be safe, there is sufficient swagger to whisper about silverware in a couple of months – and a 3-0 floodlit win over Inter is the sort of result that could be polished, framed and hung rather splendidly amidst the family portraits.

Spurs – Inter Preview: Oozing Glamour From Every Pore

‘Tis a sign of the lucre-riddled times that a home fixture against Inter is only the third most important match of our week, but thus it fairly well transpires, if you give a nudge here and take a hop there. Finishing in the top four (three? Two?) still feels like the priority – but as distractions go this is right up there with kittens, cats, sacks and wives. Spurs vs Inter – truly a fixture to make a grown man stand up straight, puff out his chest and cream with misty eyes of killing wild beasts with his bear hands.

On an arguably more relevant note, it can be assumed that Friedel will take the reins tonight, which is rather a shame in a way, for Lloris’ tendency to burst off his line like a coiled spring recently force-fed E-numbers has proved most useful, in acting as the thinking man’s last line of defence. Gallas, Caulker and Naughton all stand reasonably good chances of being rotated in, and Defoe blinking well ought to start if there is but an ounce of sanity in the world, but I would be a little surprised if AVB chopped and changed in midfield – this tends not to be his wont.

Playing the home leg first is not ideal, but one way or t’other this ought to be a rollicking good yarn (and – whisper it – a useful precursor to fixtures of similarly glamorous ilk in season 2013-14).

Spurs 3-1 Inter: Practically Perfect In Every Way

Well this Champions League business is turning out to be cracking fun. Never mind the tube strike, I think most of us floated home aboard Cloud 9 last night.

 

White Hart Lane’s finest hour? Those who watched Danny Blanchflower lift the League title back in the spring of ‘61 might beg to differ, and by all accounts the UEFA Cup Final win of ’84 was one heck of a night, but the denizens of AANP Towers have been up all night carefully weaving a blow-by-blow account of last night’s fun into the tapestry of The Most Blinking Marvellous Tottenham Moments of All Time.

 

If Spurs were the Predator, White Hart Lane would be our home planet, Gareth Bale would probably be that three-red-dot missile thing on the left shoulder, and our collection of skinned victims hanging upside-down with their skulls ripped out would now look mightily impressive. Having accounted for Liverpool, Man City, Chelski and l’Arse last season, we have now raised the bar just about as far as it can go, with arguably the biggest skull of them all – the European Champions. No two ways about it – we must now fancy our chances against just about anyone at the Lane. Heaven knows where it will all end.

 

ATTACK!!!

 

Eschewing traditional Champions League caginess for an approach based primarily on copious amounts of swash and buckle, our lot went at it hammer and tongs from the off. ‘Arry could have been forgiven for exercising a modicum of caution at the prospect of a visit from our illustrious opponents, given the contents of their trophy cabinet and the memory of that four-goal blitz in the San Siro. Instead, our glorious leader reasoned that soaking up the pressure is just too dull and boring, and squashed as much attacking talent as was physically possible into an eleven man outfit. Inter, one suspects, did not quite believe our temerity in adopting a formation that at times resembled 2-1-7, as Hudd stayed within shouting distance of the centre-backs, and everyone else bombed forward as often as they could.

 

Taxi For Maicon

 

Frankly there is not much I can add about Gareth Bale’s performance that has not already been spluttered in awe by someone else. (Other than to wonder what the deuces are those black tape things he sticks to his thighs.) His pace has been showcased many a time and oft; but wasn’t it heart-warming to see him whip in crosses so vicious they would make small children cry?

 

Elsewhere On The Pitch…

 

Naturally enough the handsome young Welshman takes the plaudits, but to a man those in lilywhite played to the peak of their powers. Even pre kick-off the sight of BAE finally having sorted out his hair gave a signal of quite how seriously our heroes were treating this. The philosophy of throwing absolutely everything we had at Inter from the very first whistle may have lacked a little subtlety, but it was a masterstroke from ‘Arry, and impeccably executed the players.

 

Curiously underestimating our attacking threat, Inter were ravaged from all angles. There were puffs of smoke on the flanks, where our two wingers merrily zipped back and forth, aided and abetted by the wonderfully enthusiastic two full-backs. In addition, the central midfield triumvirate gave an absolute masterclass in control, technique and creativity – all gloriously crystallised in that utterly sumptuous first goal. If VDV, Modders and Hudd can play any better as a collective unit I fear the universe will simply give up and collapse under the weight of footballing magnificence.

…And Off The Ball

Moreover, when not in possession our lot beavered away like men demented – the forwards pressing and harrying, and everyone else diligently scampering back to protect Cudicini like their lives depended on it. Inter had their moments, but with every Tottenham man and his dog working their socks off, by and large our esteemed guests could do little better than peer wishfully at our penalty area from afar

 

Even when Jenas replaced VDV – all things considered quite probably the worst substitution it is possible to make in any sport, not just football – it did not disrupt our mentality, the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards at least working hard to help retain the initiative. ‘Twas that sort of performance, practically perfect in every way.

 

So huzzah, huzzah and thrice I say huzzah. Goodness knows where we go from here, but rather than concern myself with the future I resolve to enjoy the present, for this quite simply was the greatest result of my Spurs-supporting life.

 

 

 

Spurs – Inter Preview: Five Reasons Why This Will Be A Glory Glory Night

As the great man said, it’s a funny old game. Prior to a trip to a slightly below-par Man Utd I could not for the life of me envisage a three-point haul; and yet ahead of the visit of European Champs Inter I bound around AANP Towers all bonny, blithe and gaily optimistic that this will be one of the most famous nights in our history. Never mind a DVD, this will be turned into a surround-sound, home cinema, 3-D, HD, blu-ray. Pourquoi, you ask? Come hither, and discover the five reasons why…

 

1. The Lane Under Floodlights

 

To suggest that in these evening kick-offs White Hart Lane becomes a fortress would be to stretch the truth fairly outrageously, but nevertheless the stadium does have absolutely crackle on nights such as these. And the current crop of players have shown that they duly rise to these occasions – note just last season the floodlit wins at home to Man City and l’Arse, and the rip-roaring start against Young Boys this season. The wins over Chelski (admittedly by natural rather than artificial light) and l’Arse last season have convinced me that when everything clicks at home we can beat the best in Europe. Produce our best tonight and we’ll be nattering away about it when we’re grey and old.

 

2. The San Siro Comeback

 

Another five minutes and goodness how things would have panned out back in Milan. The Bale hat-trick certainly papered over a few defensive cracks and general all-round timidity, but we at least have conclusive proof that Inter are vulnerable. As Arnold Schwarzenegger so sagely opined in Predator, “If it bleeds, we can kill it.” So let’s go for the jugular, and make Arnie proud.

 

3. Hudd and VDV – Fully Fit and Raring To Go

 

This is crucial. I was not so much crestfallen as crestplummeting when VDV hobbled off at the weekend, and the prospect loomed of taking on Inter with a midfield bereft of both him and the Hudd – a midfield which would therefore presumably comprise Jenas and Palacios, with Modric in the hole. Joy upon joy then, that VDV is actually a bit of a drama queen when it comes to niggles and strains. It seems that the suspected hamstrung twang was no such thing, and with Hudd back in training too we will be able to field a midfield high on technique and vision. Bale-Modders-VDV-Hudd-Lennon might not exactly offer the back-four much protection, but if we are going to beat this lot we will have to play to our strengths, which means high-tempo madcap attacking from the off.

 

4. The Ref

 

I don’t know who he is, but as he is almost certainly not Mark Clattenberg in a mask, the chances are that if he decides to play advantage at any point he will signal that he is doing so by stretching out both arm ahead of him, in ye olde recognized fashion of a robot newly-freed from a straitjacket, thereby making quite clear to all the good folk watching and partaking exactly what the deuces is going on. Marvellous.

 

5. “Sammways Ahead… And Lineker Uses Him By Not Using Him…”

 

Naturally enough we’ll all be looking impatiently at Gareth Bale to go motoring past the Inter team every time he touches the ball, but the chances are that Rafa will have instructed all eleven of his mob to swarm all over Bale every time he even sniffs in the direction of the ball. Given the treatment meted out by Everton and Man Utd since his San Siro hat-trick, in pointedly directing him infield onto his right foot, it is just possible that his impact may be a little muted tonight.

 

So be it, but this need not be to our detriment. Harking back to the glory of St Hotspur’s Day, in the Wembley sunshine of April 1991, Gary Lineker gave an unlikely masterclass in the virtues of exploiting the space created by a team-mate whose presence was distracting bewildered opponents. Should Inter decide to focus on Bale, opportunity will knock for Modders, VDV and even Benny Assou-Ekotto to make merry in the space vacated.

 

By golly this is exciting stuff. White Hart Lane will rock tonight, and if things go well they’ll hear us all over the country. Inter Milan at White Hart Lane – bring it on.

Inter-Spurs Preview. That’s Right – Inter Ruddy Milan vs Spurs!

This is it. I was recently texted the pearl of wisdom that being a football fan is like sitting next to Jessica Alba, with her alternately kissing you and punching you in the face. Well, following punch after punch the good times are now rolling. It’s been years in the making – ye older folk have been waiting five decades for this – while more recently we wept over dodgy lasagne, but when Crouchy nodded in against City last season, it set us up for nights like this. Tottenham against Inter in the San Siro. Crikey. What a night.

 

Scary

 

Yes, lovely and exciting – but instead of lapping it up I’m actually dreading the possibility that we might take a right thrashing tonight. My spies inform me that Inter have one or two chaps in attack who are pretty handy, and rumour has it that they actually won the entire competition last season. Slightly scary stuff, no?

 

As it happens I fancy us to beat Inter at the Lane, given the way in which we beat Chelski and l’Arse last season, but tonight, away from home, I do rather fear the worst. The drill tonight will presumably be 4-5-1 with the emphasis on a defensive, risk-free game – and I cringe at the prospect. It is eminently sensible and appropriate in theory, but our lot might as well be asked to go out there and play ice-hockey. The defensive, containing game just is not in our nature, and goodness knows how it will pan out. I suspect we will end up going at Inter hammer and tongs anyway, and come out the wrong side of nine-goal thriller.

 

The absence of Ledley is a particular cause for concern up against Eto’o, Snjeider and whatnot. We have coped without Ledley many times before in the past, but tonight of all nights his absence is a blow. Gallas, Bassong and Kaboul are all decent players, but this isn’t Fulham, this is Inter Milan, and one suspects their forwards will be a darned sight more clinical than that Kamara chap was against us on Saturday.

 

On a personal level too I feel sorry for Ledley – the poor blighter has been at the club for years, and if anyone deserved a chance to lollop around the San Siro with the Champions League logo on his sleeve, it his him.

 

Grounds For Optimism

 

But enough of the negativity. Hudd is maturing, has a passing range to die for, and will be licking his chops at the prospect of mixing it on the European stage. Bale was born for such nights as this, while Lennon looks to be inching back to form, and those two on the counter-attack ought to give Rafa Benitez good reason to stroke his goatee. I am also intrigued to know what Inter fans will make of Jermaine Jenas, now they finally get to clap eyes upon the man they have coveted for the last couple of seasons.

 

The absence of VDV is also a crying shame make no mistake, but we did a darned good job of things without him last season, and if anything his arrival seems to have gently nudged Modders into his shell a little. Fingers crossed then that he crawls back out again tonight.

 

Selection Posers

 

The 4-5-1 formation means that ‘Arry must pick a different face for the VDV role, in the hole behind the striker. Modders himself, as well as Jenas, Kranjcar, Lennon and Keane could all in theory be selected for the role, while our glorious leader also has to choose between Pav and the gangly one in attack. While I have never been a massive fan of Crouch, I am convinced that his rack-stretched frame counts for an awful lot in European/international football, where opposition defenders still seem a tad bewildered as to whether they ought to challenge him or just stand back and gawp.

 

And so on. Tonight’s the night. Crack open a few beers, settle down and enjoy.

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