All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Idle Witterings on Bale, Caulker, Dempsey & Monaco

My goodness these have been busy times at N17. A striker has finally been brought into the fold, seemingly only two and a half years too late, and reportedly a bit more in the poacher mould than the brick outhouse we have craved, but this is not the time to pick nits. Young Chadli has also arrived, and although the assembly instructions that came with this lad suggest that he is for squad depth rather than tearing up the Premiership week in and week out, he being of the jolly handy coterie of Belgians currently invading our shores we can probably express some optimism.

Bale

These young folk and their peccadilloes. Rumour has it that young Master Bale is toying with the quite preposterous notion of plying his trade elsewhere, as if the prospect of weekly Europa League action is not enough for the hottest young property in British football. Someone talk some sense into the lad.

Still, heart-warming consolation has been offered in recent weeks by witnessing the fruits of that ‘special relationship’ of bonhomie and understanding with Madrid, which was struck up a year or two back as part of the Modric sale. Those fun-loving rogues have injected much-needed humour and amity into the summer’s proceedings with the decorum of their enquiries. On a frivolous note however, I do sometimes wonder if the prestige of Real slightly obscures the reality that they have not won the Champions League for over a decade. Something like a more glamorous version of Liverpool, over-dependent on reputation and history? Just an idle thought.

Back o the Bale nonsense, for here at AANP Towers we men of honour consider such parchment as Four-Year Contracts – of the ilk signed by Bale last summer – to be more than the mere fashion accessories, and as such I am all in favour of Messrs Levy and V-B politely clearing their throats and bluntly refusing to let the lad scarper. This coming season I want to see our heroes make the Champions League, and this seems a darned sight likelier with Bale than without.

On the subject of £80 mil, I can hardly see us using it to bring in a player worth £80 mil, or for that matter two worth £40 mil. In fact were we to sell Bale this very evening I would be amazed if we brought in two £25 mil players by the end of the transfer window. No matter how many bags of cash are flung in our direction, the players brought in will not be as good as Bale, because we have neither the lure of CL football nor of sky-high wages. The party line in this neck of the interweb is therefore to reject all offers, hang on to Bale and make the Top Four next season, which might at least then give us another bargaining chip when attempting to bring in top-notch purveyors of the trade.

Caulker

This was a rummy one. Admittedly Caulker trails Vertonghen, Kaboul and possibly Dawson in the centre-back pecking order, and at present he has the flaws in his game one would expect of an Under-21, but with Europa games flying at us from all angles and Caulker a work in progress there would have been a fairly solid case for his retention. Still, one presumes the Brains Trust have a something up their sleeve on the central defensive front.

Dempsey

My Spurs-supporting chum Ian was not presumably not alone in expressing a sentiment nearing full-on delight that we will no longer be treated to any more 20-yard volleys looping off the Dempsey shin and into the North Stand. A little unfair on the blighter I appreciate, for if nothing else he had the knack of poaching jolly important late goals against Manchester clubs.  However, his exit is vaguely akin to the demise of a minor supporting cast member within the first 30 minutes of a half-decent action film. And when we have Hudson, Vasquez, Hicks et al manning the barricades, who particularly cares about the various nameless marines who were dragged to their doom in that early carnage scene?

Tactically however one might raise an eyebrow at the Dempsey sale. Goodness knows who fits where within our attacking axis, what with Bale potentially thither rather than hither, and Adebayor potentially extending that languid stroll all the way to the exit, but between Lennon, Chadli, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend and potentially Dembele I suppose we ought to have enough bodies to fill those attacking spots, albeit not necessarily of the quality of title challengers.

The Monaco Defeat

Somebody somewhere is presumably banging on the door of the N17 ticket office and demanding a full refund for their season ticket following yesterday’s muddle in Monaco. Precious little can be read into a game that had the look of a Europa qualifier at kick-off, and went downhill from there, with one of the few seniors (Defoe) limping off early, and AVB seemingly plucking lads from the travelling lilywhite support to scurry around as subs by the time the clock ticked to 90.

Lloris, Walker, Lennon and Dembele played most of the game – but Daws and Vertonghen were injured,  as was Holtby; Sandro and Kaboul are not yet fit; Paulinho and Soldado are apparently still too sparkling new to be allowed to run around and get dirty; while all sorts of intrigue surrounds the non-appearances of Bale and Adebayor.

For what it was worth, Livermore and Zeki Fryers found themselves promoted to first-choice centre-back pairing, and looked suitably flummoxed, the poor lambs having to contend with £50m of that Falcao chap amongst others. Further up the pitch the new lad Chadli pottered around a little forlornly, and Harry Kane’s legions of admirers will have been thrilled to observe their hero for almost the entirety of proceedings, even nabbing himself one of those goal things. But ultimately the whole episode was fairly pointless. I’m rather impatient for the real thing to begin now, truth be told.

Spurs – Lyon Preview: The Pointy End Beginneth

This smells like the pointy end of things. Forthcoming opponents including l’Arse, Liverpool, City, Chelski and Everton, and what better whistle-whetter for such rumblings than a nifty-looking European tie? You can shove the mundane group games into a musky sack, and give them a furtive kick while you’re at it, because this one has a faint whiff of seriousness. Two legs, away goals, prime-time on ITV1 no less – the pointy end indeed.

Whether AVB is quite aware of the regal privilege of tonight’s scheduling arrangement is debatable, but with no game this weekend he might be tempted to send out a full-strength team. If one player might be given a breather it is Scott Parker, who likes increasingly as if he is about to die in the latter stages of every game he plays. Messrs Livermore, Hudd, Carroll and Sigurdsson chomp at the bit – or jolly well ought to.

Gallas is apparently being readied for action, and Friedel will presumably be unleashed for his monthly gambol, while this might be an opportune moment for Master Adebayor to start recovering some of that goodwill he has been haemorrhaging at a rate of knots. A clean sheet and lead to take to France is presumably the aim tonight. Rather looking forward to this.

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 1-2 Norwich: Tardy Musings on the Latest Debacle

(With apologies for the now customary tardiness – who knew saving the world and getting the girl would leave so little time for the finer things in life?)The implosion continues apace, which I suppose if nothing else provides a degree of comforting familiarity for us long-term lilywhite sufferers. After the anomalous blip that was the over-powering of Swansea, we are back on the more familiar territory of stutter and mishap, at least in terms of outcome. In truth I thought that while far from our best we did enough going forward to have outscored Norwich – a tad more composure, determination or just plain luck would have brought goals for Bale and BAE notably.

 

Mind you, if a little slipshod in attack, we were blinking well awful in defence. Ledley, Ledley, Ledley, what are we to do with you now? For years I would vehemently protest that even if only fit for 10 games a season, they were worth near enough 10 clean sheets. These days however, something has gone awry. Maybe it’s his age catching up on him – or indeed all those boozy nights on the town, the little scamp – or maybe it’s the cumulative effect of an awful lot of 90-minute appearances this season. Frankly, speaking as someone whose progressing years leaves me just wanting to don the slippers and stay in of a night, Ledley has my sympathy.

But then again, my job doesn’t involve propelling the mighty Hotspur back into the Champions League, and our esteemed club captain is displaying worrying fallibility when it comes to the old raison d’etre. Once the quickest of the back four he is now the slowest (at least until Nelsen comes waddling along), and that fabled ability to read the game and anticipate danger before it has begun to gestate is a little redundant when he is left hauling to the floor decidedly average opposing forwards. Moreover, last weekend his penchant for calamity seemed to have infected those around him. A sorry state of affairs.

The absence of Parker did not help Ledley and chums either. Young Livermore is a midfield enforcer in the making no doubt, but the heir apparent could still do with a few lessons in the noble art of Scott Parkery. The retreat that preceded Norwich’s winner provided the most glaring indication that the indefatigable gusto of Parker was sadly absent.

So it’s woe and gloom, alas and alack. By jove, somebody somewhere jolly well needs to do something, but until then we switch our despondent gazes Cupwards, for all the joys that will bring.
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Chelsea – Spurs Preview: No Lennon, No Balance, No Hope

“He’s not available,” declared our glorious leader of One Aaron Lennon and his jazz-hands. “Other than that we’re not too bad”. Which is laudably upbeat I suppose, but a bit like Sigourney Weaver concluding that although she has looked on as the alien wiped out two entire crews, tormented her waking and sleeping thoughts, indirectly forced her to shave her head and then ruddy well gestated inside her – other than that she’s not too bad.I do of course overstate the case a tad. An orthodox four-man midfield – with Bale sticking to the left touchline and Walker manfully galloping the gallop of two man up and down the right – would probably offer the balance that we lack when Lennon sits things out, but nevertheless you get the gist. In the little man’s absence we have lacked shape, balance and a clear plan of how to outscore the opposition from minute 1 to 90.

Tough enough against Everton and Stoke, but faced with the prospect of a trip to a now officially resurgent Chelski, the denizens of AANP Towers have taken the unanimous, executive decision to shudder to our very cores. While genuinely upbeat that our final eight games really could bring us eight wins, the current trend of woe, brought about by a combination of Lennonlessness and opposition teams hitting tip-top form, looks for all the world like it will continue at Stamford Bridge.

Team News

Adebayor is also a likely absentee, but other than that the usual suspects will take to the field, start brightly, take the lead, then sit back and ultimately cave in to two late Chelski goals, at least one of which will be highly dubious. I would advise ‘Arry stops his blasted tinkering with the midfield and desperate shunting of square pegs into round holes, but nevertheless envisage him selecting Bale right, Modders left, with Parker and Sandro/Livermore in the centre (and VDV off Saha/Adebayor up the top). Delighted though I would be to gobble down double helpings of humble-pie come the final whistle, I approach this game with the same gloomy air of foreboding that accompanied a Sven-selected England team trotting out in a major tournament quarter-final. Grab what you can chaps, and then scarper.

Spurs 1-3 Man Utd: Tardy Musings on Proximity Minus Cigars

Apologies for the tardiness…

Speculating about what might have happened had Parker, Bale and/or VDV been fit is the very living, breathing embodiment of pointlessness (although it has not stopped yours truly moping on a near-daily basis about what might have been had Gazza tapped in against the Germans in Euro 96), but for the purposes of perspective following our SECOND CONSECUTIVE DEFEAT (gasp) it might be salutary to note that with the aforementioned gentlemen on board our lot probably would have prevailed. Having effected a mighty convincing impression of being the superior team in general, the addition of any of those three might also have impacted upon some of the crucial specifics of proceedings. Par example, ‘tis hard to imagine Parker or even Bale switching off to fiddle with their hair as Modders did for the second goal, while Parker again might have made a difference when Kaboul backed off for the third. Moreover, all our possession and dominance could feasibly have translated into something infinitely more satisfying than swooshy Sky Sports graphics had Bale or VDV been gambolling across the turf. Desperately frustrating to have to play a game of this magnitude missing such key personnel, but with human cloning technology still liable to misfire we simply have to accept such absences.

The Reshuffled Pack

Such is Parker’s unadulterated magnificence that it literally takes two men to replace him, but Sandro and Livermore performed admirably. Alas, this reshuffling meant that Modric’s myriad talents were not fully exploited, as he struggled to make sense of a job description loosely pertaining to activity on the left, but we nevertheless displayed various shades of wholesome attacking brio. Lennon’s final ball, as ever, lacks a certain refinement, but all the preceding scuttling tends to prompt the ringing of alarm bells and panicked swinging of legs amongst opposition ranks. With Adebayor and Saha again doing plenty to keep United occupied, at the apex of an old-fashioned 4-4-2, we were jolly close to hammering home our advantage.

However, the rather cruel lesson from all of this was that against the elite there is precious little margin for error. By somehow hanging on through the use of assorted fingernails and teethskins, and then taking advantage of the slightest lilywhite lapses, United fairly pointedly illustrated to our heroes what needs to be done to take the next step, from majestic Top Four glory-blazers to actual ruddy champions. The very best teams tend to do eke out such outcomes, having spent all game scrambling to survive. As the resident agriculturalists of AANP Towers have pointed out, thus is the wheat separated from the chaff.

That Cursed Horrible Wench, Lady Luck

That said, the gentlest soupcon of luck would not go amiss just once in a while for our lot. He being Adebayor and they being United it was thoroughly unsurprising that our first half “goal” was disallowed, but in a more lenient mood the ref may have noted that there was precious little means of avoiding a handling of the ball at full speed. (That said, had it been the other way round the howls of protest from AANP Towers would have lingered long in the air). Further ill luck was the decision by United’s part-time clown and resident 8 year-old goalkeeper De Gea to punctuate his season of general amateurishness with an absolutely blinding save from Livermore’s deflected shot in the second half. And while I’m having a whinge, how the dickens did a standard, fairy harmless foul by Sandro earn him a yellow card?

General grumpiness therefore pervades the air around these parts, but this whole sequence of frustrations ought not to derail the third-place push. Our football remains perky, we have outstanding players due to return and our remaining fixtures appear thoroughly winnable each and every one.

Spurs – Man Utd Preview: Over-Reaction Overload

A brief perusal of the comments section beneath in the aftermath of the l’Arse defeat rather gave the impression that our heroes are about to nose-dive to the oblivion of the Championship and beyond. Excuse me while I take cover in the battered old AANP bomb shelter, in anticipation of the apocalyptic levels of anguish, vitriol and over-reaction that will rain down if we take a beating from the current Premiership champions on Sunday.

Ahead of Sunday’s game, the principal conundrum here at AANP Towers is where to wager my weekly tuppence. The current lilywhite vintage have looked mighty darned snappy against all and sundry at the Lane this season, with thrashings dutifully distributed to Liverpool and Newcastle, and a pleasing array of other scalps that includes the ‘orrible lot from down the road. However, our labours against the rotters of Chelski rather hurt my eyes, and in general our traditional swash-and-buckle approach has been stymied somewhat by the Champions League-chasers, albeit typically away from home. Excuse therefore the brief lapse into rocket-science, but this home game against Man Utd could potentially go either way…

Alas, we will all simply have to cherish the memory of Scott Parker getting crunched by two Dutchmen and landing groin-first on a camera tripod during the England game last night, for his woefully-timed one-game suspension means that we will have to do without his generous input of heart, soul, sinew and every last drop of blood. No pressure on Sandro/Livermore then.

The Saha-Adebayor partnership has so far wobbled rather dramatically between wondrous and appalling, having sparked the rout of Newcastle at home, and prompted an ugly descent into deep defending and long-ballery last week. Time for ‘Arry to show the world he really knows his 4-4-2s from his 4-2-3-1s, what? Parker aside our heroes ought to be well primed and ready for battle. A difficult one to call frankly, both sides looking notably fallible. Fingers crossed for a lilywhite outcome.

Stevenage 0-0 Spurs: A Cracking Draw (Boom Boom)

Entertaining and exciting, with a most satisfying finale – oh that the game had matched the quarter-final draw, but we can’t have everything I suppose. Should I ever cross paths with His Eminence The Lord of Time there are one or two queries I would throw his way – whether Superman’s little fly-ruddy-quickly-around-the-world jape really could turn back time, for a start – but high up there on the list would be a polite request to have my two hours back after the excruciating trudge through treacle that was our draw with Stevenage. Far better to have an off-day in this particular fixture i suppose, than against l’Arse or Man Utd in the coming weeks (or indeed against Newcastle last week), but nevertheless, ‘twas the very antithesis of one of those rip-roaring unforgettable classics, to which we have been treated so frequently.

My Eyes! My Eyes!

Irrespective of formation, had those eleven played with a tad more sense and desire they would have made short work of Stevenage. Alas, the early, simple one-touch method was jettisoned for one that could aptly, if rather lazily, be described as “certified nonsense”, and as a result our heroes failed to string three successive passes together, the ball more typically being launched into orbit or pinged inaccurately sideways, as Spurs fans around the globe reached for nearby stabbing implements and went to work on their own eyes.

Of positives there were but few – the prospect of Stevenage and then Bolton, both at home, barring our way to the semi-final proving the most obvious reason for cheer. Young Livermore seemed to keep his head when all about him were losing theirs, to his credit, but that aside there was precious little to blow up anyone’s skirt until Aaron Lennon was brought on for the death throes.

Lennonlessness And Its Associated Problems

Strange to note just a week after we beat Newcastle 5-0 sans Lennon, but without the jet-heeled swagger-meister we can be dreadfully lop-sided. A reserve with similar oodles of pace would be a useful option, for while Niko Kranjcar’s technique is as dreamy as his looks, to point out that he lacks somewhat in the pace department is hardly likely to set the interweb alight with incandescent twitterings and the like. At times Danny Rose showed the value of a turn of pace to reach the byline, but against better opposition he is typically stymied by his one-footedness. With both Bale and Lennon available to charge down both flanks we ooze menace and threat and other such dangerous-sounding nouns, but in the absence of Lennon it can all become a tad predictable. (The name Junior Hoilett was bandied around during the transfer window, but scoutery of others’ players is not at all my forte, so while reports suggest that he has pace and two good feet, I can, alas, offer zero corroboration.)

Swerving back on-topic – in truth a replay against this mob, at the Lane, is tickety-boo with me. If it can be sandwiched in between 4 points or more against l’Arse and United, all the merrier, and we can all set about diligently forgetting that this ever happened.

Spurs – Everton Preview: Fare Thee Well, Game In Hand

So finally this much-vaunted “Game in Hand” is upon us. Truth be told, I will be a little sad to see it go. It has practically become part of the family, like a scruffy, uncouth urchin discovered in the wreckage of the summer riots, and adopted by the cheery folk of White Hart Lane. And let’s face it, this Game in Hand has proved more useful than the Sword of Omens when it comes to pointless bickering with fans of l’Arse, Chelski, Liverpool and the like. Whatever they say, I have smugly bleated “Game in Hand! Game in Hand!”, occasionally pointing to a copy of the Premiership table, and repeated this process ad nauseum until they storm off in a fit of pique to count their injured full-backs.

But alas, today is the day. Fond though I am of Game in Hand, ‘tis time to lead it unwittingly to the altar of Three Valuable Points For Our Ongoing Top-Four Push (Or Even – Whisper It – Title Challenge). Tonight, Game in Hand, shall ye be sacrificed, never to be seen again; but be proud to note that ye shall not die in vain. Unless we lose, I suppose.

Boo, Hiss

Irritatingly, when Game in Hand does finally depart this mortal sphere for the great Premiership table in the sky, he shall be bade farewell by a midfield disturbingly lacking in bite. Sandro is out, and Parker is not far behind him, if ‘Arry’s gloomy murmurings are to be believed (although that is quite a sizeable conditional, I acknowledge). This may leave us with a central midfield combo of Modders and VDV, or possibly even Krancjar, chaps who might as well just form a guard of honour through which Everton can bear down on our goal whenever they pick up possession in the midfield. Should young Livermore be thrust into the fold, much would be expected.

Huzzah!

On a cheerier note One Aaron Lennon is primed to return, and it turns out that both Cameroon and Togo somehow failed to qualify for the African Cup of Nations, so Adebayor will continue to stick his derrière into opposing defenders, and BAE will continue to perform shoulder-drops and Cruyff-turns in thoroughly inappropriate areas.

Elsewhere Michael Dawson is set to ease himself into the Ledley-shaped hole alongside Kaboul, while our resident blond with no knowledge of the offside rule may begin glancing towards the transfer window, if demoted to the bench again.

And that ought to be that. We have waited half the season for this – for goodness’ sake let’s make it worthwhile.

Spurs 1-2 PAOK: Foul! Offside? Touchdown? Erm…

Well what a relief that that has been cleared up. Apparently the Defoe goal was disallowed because of a foul committed by Pavluychenko in the fixture played back in Greece in September. Or perhaps for a foul by Graham Roberts in our ’84 UEFA campaign. Or maybe it was Mackay back in ’61. Well, whatever the incident, it was definitely a foul. Or maybe offside. Or Leg Before Wicket.

Mind you, Defoe appeared almost to castrated the chap, so it would have been a bit much to have profited with a goal. Whatever the verdict, that second half was certainly more exciting than the usual Channel 5 fare from our lot, and not too many tears will be shed in this neck of the woods if our Europa campaign coughs politely and sidles off the premises in the coming weeks.

The First Half – Only Marginally Better Than Having A Foot Chopped Off

After the remarkable juggernaut of unstoppableness produced by our lot in recent weeks, our Europa lilywhites came over all misty-eyed and nostalgic, and sweetly reverted to the days of Gerry Francis and Christian Gross. Adopting a formation of sixes and sevens, the back-line in particular displayed quite spectacular ineptitude in that opening 45, viewed at AANP Towers with all the morbid fascination of that scene in the first Saw film when the chap looks at the saw, looks at his foot, looks at the saw, looks back at his foot, and finally decides that if David Beckham can carve out a career as an international superstar with just the one foot then it might be worth the risk.

Ah, that wretched first half. Bassong looked every inch a defender soon to be sold to QPR. Corluka looked every inch a footballer whose pained lumbering is no quicker than the steps of an inebriated rabbit. Rose looked every inch a promising schoolboy decathlete shoved onto a football pitch and told to be a left-back. Pienaar looked every inch the runt of the Predator pack, banished to earth by the cooler Predators on account of his heavy-legged first touch.

On the bright side, Defoe and Modders tore about like a pair of dogs on heat in that first half, while Livermore also earned an approving nod, with that Sandro-esque combo of technique and energy.

Second Half – An Improvement Of Sorts

In the second half, our wily old fox of a manager deduced that the best way to avoid further embarrassment would be at all costs to avoid letting the ball go anywhere near the defence. Thus we spent the entire 45 camped around the Greek area, which at least spared Gallas, Bassong et al any further Chuckle Brothers moments. Alas, PAOK reasonably enough stuck all ten of their remaining men in a neat formation around their own penalty spot, and just about every one of them cleared off the line at some point.

Defeat is never much fun, and the use of 90 minutes’ worth of Modders, Defoe and Lennon is regrettable – but if we make the Top Four this season, an early Europa exit will hardly be lamented.

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