All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
"AANP - nobody knows what it means, but it's provocative."

Portsmouth 1-2 Spurs: Complicating the Uncomplicated

Not so much a game of two halves as a game of two thirds and a third third. We seemed to be cruising serenely after an hour or so – but then that wouldn’t be the Tottenham way, would it? Cue a wild thump of the self-destruct button, the halving of our lead and a daft sending off. The three points were eventually achieved in slightly nerve-jangling, harum-scarum style. Not for the first time I mused at the final whistle that Tottenham Hotspur ought to come with a health warning.Comedy Gold

The game could have been wrapped up within the first ten minutes, as Defoe might have a had a hat-trick. It rather set the tone, as we were the better team in the first half, and not for the first time the presence of Ledley at the back made a world of difference. A couple of weeks ago away to Bolton, in the absence of Ledley the back-four resembled a bunch of strangers – all of whom were mightily suspicious of the round white thing – but yesterday, particularly in the first half, he had things well under control. There was one scare, when a Corluka mistake left our back-four badly out of position, but let that not distract from the resulting moment of pure comedy gold from the Portsmouth forward Dindane, blasting over an open goal from a yard out, the sort of chance even Sandra Redknapp would have snaffled up.

Other than that, Pompey were reduced to long-range shots in the first half, mainly from Boateng, who seemed determined to have a crack every time he touched the ball, no matter the angle, distance or scientific impossibility. Ledley looked typically regal in rising to head home the opener, and as mentioned, we sailed through the first half pretty serenely.

Hudd and Jenas 

Jenas did not run the show as he might have done, but ‘twas notable that on the one occasion on which he burst forward he set up Defoe’s goal. There’s a salutary lesson in there – I would like to see Jenas gamble like that more often. Just take a chance man, break into the opposition area and see what happens.

Complicating The Uncomplicated

Two-nil, and cruising. In a parallel universe there’s a Tottenham team who achieve such positions and proceed to see out the game with minimal fuss and flawless professionalism. Their fortunes are charted on the Spurs blog Generous Amount of Action, Strong Understanding of Plot. Back on planet earth, with half an hour to go we did a fine job of complicating the uncomplicated. Portsmouth scored through Boateng, inevitably (seems a shame to criticise Gomes after he made some awesome saves, but he might have done better with the goal), and where once Defoe might have bitten an opponent’s arm, this time he trod on his leg, and saw red. No real complaints about the sending-off – not the most vicious challenge ever, but daft and petulant, leaving the ref with little option – and ruling Defoe out of the North London derby in a fortnight.

For five minutes thereafter we actually upped a gear, but it soon turned into a bit of an Alamo, with Dawson and Palacios thrown on for security, and the cheery sight of five added minutes of injury time. Gomes produced three top-drawer saves, the first in particular, from Kaboul’s deflected free-kick, looks better on every viewing, while we could also be thankful for another piece of truly comical finishing from the boy Dindane.

In the final analysis it is a strange game to summarise – on balance, when it was eleven against eleven we looked good value for a win, and yet we had to rely on three brilliant saves and two missed open-goals from Portsmouth. Having had the game in the bag at half-time, we almost let it slip through sloppiness and lack of self-discipline. However, despite going down to ten men away from home we didn’t capitulate, and a quarter of the way through the season we remain comfortably ensconced in the top four. Whisper it, but the 2009/10 Tottenham vintage is really rather tasty.

 

Chris Waddle is the latest player to be featured in the forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes, and you are invited to share your memories of him here. As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the other featured players: Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here
(If you fancy following the progress of Spurs’ Cult Heroes you can do so on the Facebook fan group just about here)

Portsmouth – Spurs Preview: The Worst-Case Scenario Unfolds

Well first the bad news. Sergeant Wilson is a likely absentee today after helping Honduras qualify for the World Cup Finals on Thursday. However, he carries possibly the best no-show excuse in the history of the game, as he is returning late on account of having been ordered to stay behind and party, by the country’s ruling military junta. Apparently this cheery lot are also responsible for kicking the President out of the country while he was still in his pyjamas, so when they you tell you to party you ruddy well crack open a beer and fondle a stripper.Apparently Palacios was only due to make it back to England this morning. When he turned up jet-lagged for the Man Utd game last month he ambled around in auto-pilot, picked up an early booking and was taken off at half-time, so he’s unlikely to feature today.

The Worst-Case Scenario Materialises. But It Should Be Ok This Time. 

Jenas has generally received positive reviews for his performances so far this season, notably against Burnley. Now as seasoned followers of this corner of the interweb will know, there is more chance of Hell freezing over than of AANP merrily awarding him gold stars, but certainly by his standards he’s started well this campaign. (There’s the rub, mind – he’s playing well by his standards, and Jermaine Jenas’ standards are Premiership-level, rather than Champions League or international quality… Sorry – I won’t get bogged down in this one again.) He’s generally kept things ticking over in midfield and retained possession sensibly enough, although his safety-first approach of backwards/sideways still grates, and I maintain that he still does not show the energy one would expect from a quality central midfielder. However, at the moment he is playing at a level good enough to see us through most regular Premiership fixtures, and while it may be insufficient against the top four, if he maintains that form he should help see us through today’s game.

Woodgate won’t return today, despite his recovery from injury, but blessed relief we have our Ledley back. For this alone I back us to win. His return carries the added bonus of allowing the Hudd to move back into midfield, in timely fashion too given Sergeant Wilson’s likely absence.

Friends Reunited 

Mercifully, somebody somewhere made sure that young Three-Touch O’Hara is ineligible for this one, so no need to worry there, and apparently the curiously-shaped ex-Spur Michael Brown is also in Pompey’s ranks these days. However, if anyone should worry about the return of former employees it ought to be the Pompey back-line, faced by a red-hot Defoe and Crouch, even if the latter is by no means guaranteed to start.

Pompey are propping up the table, although by all accounts they are playing far better than their position suggests. Nevertheless, excuses won’t be tolerated today dagnabbit – if we are serious about a top-six finish (and a quick, albeit unscientific poll reveals that we are) then nothing less than three points is acceptable today, particularly as AANP has global bragging rights at stake with its New Zealand-dwelling Pompey supporting chum. Scoring goals is no problem, and with Ledley back I fancy us to be fairly secure at the back.

 

Chris Waddle is the latest player to be featured in the forthcoming book Spurs’ Cult Heroes, and you are invited to share your memories of him here. As ever, all are most welcome to leave memories – and browse those of others – regarding some of the other featured players: Cliff Jones here, Glenn Hoddle here, Ossie and Ricky here, Gary Mabbutt here, Graham Roberts here, Jimmy Greaves here, Clive Allen here, Jurgen Klinsmann here

Modric, O’ Hara & A Last-Minute Winner – The Long Weekend at Spurs

Well that’s why it’s called All Action, No Plot.Away for one little weekend break, in the land of Erik Edman (note to eligible bachelors the world over – do Stockholm. No ifs, no buts – do Stockholm) and 48 hours later I return to find that all hell seems to have broken loose at White Hart Lane.

Luka 

Luka has broken a bone. Cancel everything. This is serious. No surgery needed – apparently he will be fixed by wearing a magic boot for the next six weeks – but anguished weeping and gnashing of teeth nevertheless echo around the walls of AANP Towers.

Only a couple of weeks ago I hastily cobbled together a ten-point wish-list for the season, and while most of the issues included were streams of consciousness rather than absolute ruddy imperatives, one point rather leapt from the page:

 

Look After Modric And Palacios Like Our Lives Depend On It
Our squad is looking impressive this season, with a couple of players competing in every position. However, Modric and Palacios are simply a class above, and as such are irreplaceable.,,, great lengths must be taken to avoid so much as a bee sting befalling them.

Not exactly rocket-science I admit, but I still wish extreme measures had been taken to preserve his fitness. Instead, rather than setting up an orb-shaped force-field around our Luka, some bright spark let him go near Lee Bowyer of all people.There is still plenty of creativity in the side – Lennon, Keane and the Hudd all contribute in their own special little ways – and we will still pick up points in his absence. There are also plenty of possible replacements out on the left – Keane, Giovani and Bentley spring to mind, and it’s possible that by the time you read this we might have yanked in Man City’s Petrov as an ad hoc replacement. So we will definitely take to the field with eleven players next time out, which is nice to know – but that’s not really the point.

Modric is that bit better than the alternatives and understudies, and most other players in the Premierhship. While he can still be slightly peripheral in that left-sided position, even though given carte blanche to wander infield, he is nevertheless always capable of sparking something every time he gets the ball. To be without him for the Man Utd and Chelski games is particularly galling. If something were now to happen to Palacios as well, I think those passing by AANP Towers will be treated to the undignified sight of a grown man openly weeping.

O’ Hara to Pompey 

The move to Portsmouth was announced at just about the same moment as the lad penned a new contract keeping him at the Lane until 2013, so he evidently remains part of the longish-term set-up. I am inclined to think that he might therefore have instigated the loan move himself, just to keep the blood circulating until the new year.

It appears that the Hudd has won the fight for the central midfield spot alongside Sergeant Wilson, at least until Jenas returns to fitness. O’ Hara would therefore have spent most weeks at Spurs twiddling his thumbs on the bench, with only the odd ten-minute cameo here and there. And so on; to repeat, it makes sense for him. In theory quite like the idea.

However, in practice it now leaves us suddenly a touch light in midfield. With Modric now joining Jenas in sick-bay, and Zokora long-gone, one more injury and somebody somewhere will have to thump the red alert button. As the transfer window ticks down, I suspect the issue may have been pointed out to management at the Lane.

Kevin Prince-Boateng Also to Pompey 

Spurs 2-1 Birmingham: Not A Match Report, I Didn’t See It

So amidst all the madness, there was also a football match. By all accounts the win was just about deserved on balance – apparently we made and missed more chances than they. I’m rather chuffed to hear that Birmingham set out to counter us with a nullify-and-frustrate 4-5-1. That’s the sort of treatment reserved for the big kids in the playground.

News of a ninety-fifth minute winner also prompted a cackle of satisfaction. Every game this season I have found myself harking back to the not-too-distant past, and remembering how Spurs teams of yore would have done so much worse than the current lot in an identical situation.

This week: Spurs teams of yore would have indeed undone the hard work of over an hour, by conceding an equalizer just minutes after taking the lead. However, previous Spurs sides would then probably have conceded a scrappy second in stoppage time. (Which we nearly did, admittedly). For us instead to go gamboling up the other end and pilfer the winnings ourselves suggests, yet again, that we’re getting the hang of this football lark.

It’s still early, but if at the end of the season we find ourselves challenging the top six or more, this is the sort of game at which we will all earnestly point as an example of how much steelier we are this year.

Plan B 

’Arry rarely needs an excuse to bang the Peter Crouch drum, and since Saturday he’s been making the quite valid point to Don Fabio Capello that the gangly one is a great option from the bench. Very fair point. He does indeed add something different, and one can well imagine how his arrival as a second half substitute must be greeted by tiring defenders who have spent all afternoon chasing the shadows of Keane and Defoe. As I noted when we signed him, his value as an impact-sub was perfectly illustrated in the fantastic England-Argentina friendly of late-2005:

 

With England trailing 2-1 Crouch was slung on for the last few minutes, and managed to make a sufficient nuisance of himself at crosses for Michael Owen to steal in with a couple of late goals.

Crouch as Plan B – no problem with that. However, there is a rumour gathering momentum that he is about to become Plan A. Not so sure about that.With Modric out, it may actually be forced upon us – Keane switching to left midfield would naturally open a door for Crouch. However, if it means we starting pinging long-balls into orbit from the off, I’d rather not.

 

The invitation is still open to share your memories of White Hart Lane legends, in anticipation of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book that rather does what it says on the tin. Feel free to add your memories of Jimmy Greaves here, of Jurgen Klinsmann here and Clive Allen here

So long, suckers… Who might ‘Arry offload in January?

A dog is for life, not just for Christmas – but thankfully a rubbish foreign left-back can be offloaded in the January sales. Having already cast a beady, all-action-no-plot eye over the possible arrivals at N17 next month, here’s a cursory glance at those who might have pulled on the famous lilywhite for the last time…

 

Gilberto – This Brazilian international (I jest ye not) was publicly sacked by ‘Arry after the egregiously bad error vs Spartak. Seemingly the latest in a growing line of mediocre foreign full-backs jettisoned by Spurs, he’ll no doubt be picked up by a half-decent European team (a la Lee Young Pyo, Erik Edman, Timothee Atouba, Paul Stalteri…). Woudln’t be surprised to see him end up in the Champions League next season, because football’s a funny old game. 

 

Jamie O’ Hara – Controversial one this. Young “Three Touch” O’Hara’s work-rate is appreciated down the Lane, but lack of first-team opportunities have prompted grumblings of discontent. While he’d be worth retaining for his fight (we’ll need it in the coming months) and just to keep squad numbers healthy as we compete on several fronts, I personally wouldn’t shed too many tears, if we sell him. Let’s face it, Three-Touch would attract the likes of Hull, Boro and Fulham, rather than Villa or the top four, so is he really good enough for us?

 

Kevin Prince-Boateng – Hard to believe this lad won German young player of the year a couple of seasons back. Given squad number 23 by ‘Arry, which is probably more than the minutes he’s played this season. It therefore seems certain he and his intriguing Mohawk and well-illustrated arms will be on show on someone else’s sub bench by February.

 

Ricardo Rocha – Is he injured? Is he in the reserves? Is he still alive? Will be sold to the first club that remembers he still exists. Unbelievably, he’s been capped by Portugal. Ricardo Carvalho he ain’t.

 

Adel Taarabt – Will be a shame to see young Tarbuck go, his cameos were always entertaining, and occasionally effective (eg West Ham away last year). Still only about 8 years old, it might pay to send him out on loan rather than sell him off. If he could cut out the excessive step-overs and work on the end-product, he’d step up from being the skilful kid in the playground to being an effective Premiership-level impact sub.

 

Hossam Ghaly – Not sure too many people have forgiven him for throwing away his shirt, the scoundrel. I certainly haven’t. How dare he. Good riddance in advance. (And more to the point, he didn’t set the world alight when on loan at Derby last year, so he can’t be that good).

 

Darren Bent – A Bentley-esque long-shot this, but there have been whispers that he’s on his way out. It wasn’t so long ago that he was knocking them in for fun at Charlton and other hopeless teams – personally I think that with some decent service and a strike partner to help him out he’d be more than adequate at Premiership level. However, he’s English which means that Aston Villa want him. Seven million is the number being bandied around, which wouldn’t be terrible business if we could bring in Defoe.

 

 

And some less likely movers and shakers…

Dider Zokora: Wanted by Real Madrid. Honest. I know this because a message announcing it was delivered to me by a flying pig.

 

Aaron Lennon: Another Real Madrid target according to some drunk, stoned tabloid writers with too much time on their hands. A few months ago he probably would have been on his way out, but several dips of the left shoulder and bursts towards the by-line later and he’s very much part of our plans. Not going anywhere in January.

 

 

 

Jermaine Jenas: Oh that someone would take him off our hands. I’d pay other teams to take him off our hands. Bless him he tries – he’s certainly trying – but the odd decent game in a dozen isn’t enough. Had a brief spell last year when he grew his hair and became amazing; but alas, like Samson, a haircut deprived him of his wondrous power, and he became rubbish again. Bizarrely rated by successive England and Spurs managers, surely there’s someone out there willing to stump up, say, £7 million for him?

 

Heurelho Gomes – A couple of months ago we couldn’t have bundled him out of the door fast enough, but since then he’s upped his game and been one of our most consistent performers – the team’s poor recent form has been despite rather than because of Gomes. They say form is temporary and class is permanent – and it’s still a bit early to discern the category under which Gomes’ good performances fall. However, he’s doing a sterling job at the moment, let’s not make him cry again.

 

Roman Pavluychenko and David Bentley – Alright, I’m being silly now, but neither of these guys have justified the inflated fees we shelled out last summer. We won’t sell them because we’ll make nowhere near the amount we paid for them, so like it or not, we’re stuck with both. Still, unlike Jenas, both have at least previously shown flashes of genuine quality – let’s hope 2009 sees them both rediscover such form.

Auf Wiedersehen Paul Stalteri, another useless Spurs full-back

An early Christmas present from ‘Arry Redknapp and Daniel Levy has seen Paul Stalteri’s contract terminated, by mutual consent. That angelic melody you hear emanating from north London isn’t some choir putting in last-minute preparations for a festive performance of Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, oh no – ’tis the sound of an exuberant all-action-no-plotter toasting the demise (not literally) of another one of our seemingly infinite line of inept full-backs.
 

Paul Stalteri appeared to be a thoroughly decent chap – not prone to diving, whingeing or fussing generally. He scored three goals, each of which, strangely, I remember well – a blinder in the FA Cup, a tap-in vs Man City and, most memorably, the late winner at West Ham, to cap a hugely satisfying comeback win last year. He hasn’t moped or mouthed off this season about being on the fringes and beyond – as such I wish him well, at his delightfully-named new German club, Borussia Monchengladbach.

 

And with the formalities out of the way, can I reiterate how glad I am to see the back of the latest in a long line of, at best, distinctly average full-backs. While showing sufficient co-ordination to be a sportsman, and being full of willing, the guy was of limited ability going forward, and made far too many mistakes to be a defender. Off the top of my head I remember him faffing around in the last minute v Sunderland a few years ago, getting caught in possession in his own box and conceding a goal that saw us lose 1-0. Then, when we were winning 1-0 at l’arse with five mins to go I recall him being shrugged off possession by Henry who galloped away and scored, while Stalteri pleaded for a free-kick. Those are just the first two which spring to mind, but there were several more – indeed I recall that season looking back over my fixture list and racking up the number of points he alone cost us. No plot, for sure, but not much action to compensate either. And why on earth was he wearing the number 7 shirt? The shirt of Best, Dalglish, Beckham and Paul Walsh – which idiot thought it would make sense to give it to a mediocre Canadian right-back?

 

Using the flawless, scientifically proven “who-would-buy-him” gauge of a player’s quality, it was telling that last season he went on loan to a relegation-battling Fulham, and this season is as likely to end up in the Championship as in the Prem. I reiterate, he seems a nice chap, but as we’re trying to win football matches, not host garden fêtes, I don’t think his niceness is too relevant. The sooner ‘Arry can get rid of the other sub-standard players in our squad, the better. Half-decent players may be sufficient for the likes of Middlesborough or Bolton, or any other team aiming to avoid relegation, play depressing football and occasionally scrap a win against one of the top-four. At Spurs however we want to be pushing towards Europe and winning silverware. As such we ought to signal our ambition by bringing in players who will be tempted to head off to Old Trafford in a couple of years.

 

There have been some encouraging signs in the last few days, with Gilberto already on his way out (huzzah!). Personally I’d like to see Ricky Rocha, Hossam Ghaly and Assou-Ekotto follow suit. Jamie “Three-Touch” O’Hara gets a reprieve, as he’s young enough to push on, as, perhaps does Kevin Prince-Boateng, although neither have ever really blown up my skirt over the last two years. Stalteri certainly meets all relevant criteria for ejection. He may be Canada’s national captain – and quite possibly their greatest ever player – but at full-back, being an established international is hardly a guarantee of supreme quality (Erik Edman and even Vedran Corluka spring to mind).

 

Over the last week I’ve written in celebration of the fact that Gilberto will never play for us again, and bemoaning the fact that in physics-defying fashion Assou-Ekotto has managed to cement his place in the team as a regular. What is it with Spurs and rubbish full-backs? As far back as I can remember – that’s around late-80s – we’ve always had useless full-backs. A seminal period of my youth was Brian Moore commentating – badly – on the Big Match on ITV on a Sunday, with its funky electric guitar theme tune, and  Mitchell Thomas, back-pedalling as an opponent advanced, clumsily conceding possession and tripping over his own bootlaces. Fast forward twenty years, and where Mitchell once stumbled now we have Stalteri, Gilberto and BAE. We’ve always had flair midfielders, and we’ve always had sub-standard full-backs. It just seems to be a Tottenham thing. The likes of Carr were the exception rather than the rule. The rule was Austin and Edinburgh, Gilberto and Stalteri.

 

Some may argue that full-back is hardly the most important position, and there is something in that. If a good team is going to carry any mediocre player, full-back is probably the one (I should know, I was that mediocre full-back for a few years at school…). A full-back’s mistakes can be rectified in last-ditch fashion by the centre-backs and ‘keeper. However, a top-notch, defensively-sound, attackingly potent full-back can dictate the entire dynamic of the team. Whereas BAE does the bare minimum – and occasionally less – by paroling his touchline and not getting much further than the halfway line, the likes of Bosingwa and Cole bomb on, nullifying the oppo’s winger, creating width for his team-mates, whipping in inviting crosses and generally shoving the entire passage of play a good 20 yards up the pitch.

 

Such descriptions have rarely if ever been levelled at Stalteri, so I shed no tears as he wanders out of N17 for the final time. Frankly, I hope that we be the first of a number of departees, over the coming weeks.

All Action, No Plot © 2009. Theme Squared created by Rodrigo Ghedin.