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WBA 1-1 Spurs: 3 Lilywhite Observations

1. Lloris Worth A Goal A Game

Once upon a time, in the big, cuddly teddy bear days of Martin Jol (blessed be his name), there ran a theory in AANP Towers that between them, Paul Robinson and Ledley King (even blesseder be his good name) were worth a goal to us every game, by virtue of their last-ditch heroics. Not a particularly watertight theory, you understand, no randomized control trial or pivot tables or anything like that, but certainly one spouted with the greatest seriousness in the watering-holes of North London by yours truly.

Fast forward a decade or so, and a similarly evidence-lite theory is beginning to surface around Monsieur Lloris. We come to take these things for granted now, in this halcyon era of unbeaten runs and all-action pressing and whatnot, but last week against Chelski and yesterday, quite remarkably, against West Brom, he pulled off saves of the absolute highest order. Both of which seem to have drifted a little past the public consciousness, ensconced as they were in the midst of a couple of draws that ranked slightly higher on the huff-and-puff scale than on the corresponding blow-your-skirt-up-with-non-stop-pulsating-action axis. But the point remains – Lloris has done the preventative equivalent of scoring a sensational goal, in both of the last couple of games.

2. Absence Makes The Heart Grow A Mite Fonder

Those of you cursed to have been within muttering distance of yours truly last weekend would have had to put up with assorted grumbles along the general line of young Mason’s energy and enthusiasm are all well and good for general Premiership fare, but the blighter has always seemed to lack that dose of je ne sais quoi that elevates a man to the higher echelons of these things in the crunch fixtures. He certainly puts in a shift – last week being a case in point – but in the biggest games of the season simply tearing around the place is not sufficient. As a replacement for Dele Alli, in a game against the champions, the decisive spark he failed to provide. Hardly a damning criticism, more just the genera way of things.

Yesterday however, with Mason trussed up in swathes of bandages somewhere off-stage, it dawned on me as the second half wore on that by golly we could use some of that energy, bite and young incandescence with life, with which he typically bounds in either headless or head-bearing fashion.  West Brom were beginning to win every loose ball, and when even Eric Dier’s trademark trundle was failing to win us the 50-50s, the thought occurred that maybe we might have benefited from removing one of the front four, who deal more in sparkle and fancy trickery, and bringing on a man like Mason, who has somewhat more about him of the canine straining at the leash. Just to wrest back control of the thing.

All academic of course, but funny how absence makes the heart grow stronger in these situations.

3. The Centre-Backs – Only Human

In a train of thought that veered rather dramatically off the rails, I ended up last night wondering what the opposite of ‘invincible’ might be. Just plain ‘vincible’ seemed to tick the boxes, except that it’s not really a word, which seemed a fairly critical stumbling block. All of which came about as I observed Messrs Vertonghen and Toby going about their gainful employment yesterday.

No doubt about it, this pair are as solid and reliable a centre-back combo as we have trotted out in many a long year, but this is not to suggest that they are entirely without flaws. Witness the moment when Vertonghen was outpaced and then rather easily barged aside by a thundering opponent in the first half yesterday, after the pair of them failed to deal with a fairly unceremonious punt down the middle. Exhibit B was Toby’s decision to leave to the gods of the six-yard box a ball he could easily have cleared in the closing stages, presenting a chance for a West Brom winner that had Kyle Walker scrambling to hack the thing clear.

‘Only human’, as the chap said to Keanu Reeves towards the end of The Matrix, when holding a gun to his head, and it captures the gist of the thing about Vertonghen and Aldeweireld. A fine pair they are, but such has been our solidity at the back this season that it has been easy to forget that their little Flemish axis will occasionally be breached.

And maybe that’s the nub of the thing – few sides are pootling along in quite such fine fettle as our lot this season, but they are only human, and jolly young humans at that, so mistakes will be made. Back in August few of us dared to hope for much more than a top-five finish, so it would be remiss to chide them for failing to meet heightened expectations. They’re getting there. It remains ill-defined precisely where ‘there’ is, but they most certainly are getting there.

Need a Christmas present for the Spurs fan in your life? AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Spurs – Sunderland Preview: An Outrageous Stroke of Luck?

Despair – it has a reputation as a rather pejorative term, but as the definition is apparently simply ‘the absence of hope’ it fits in the whiskey cabinet quite snugly, what? For sure our lot will put Sunderland to the sword – or complicate things somewhat before stretching ahead in the final 10-20 – but even with a mooted million pound bonus being dangled in front of them, the chances of Newcastle doing the necessaries seem more Stuart Nethercott than Ledley King.

That said, our heroes would feel frightfully sheepish if they made a pickle of things today and then discovered that the ‘orrible lot from down the road had themselves dropped points, so AVB and chums have presumably given strict instructions to everybody to keep their heads down, sharpen their pencils and concentrate on their own exam papers.

‘Tis a big day for all amateur Freudians in the north London area, as the unhinged bag of acorns that is Emmanuel Adebayor lollops around the turf for possibly the final time as a lilywhite. By an act of complete randomness within the universe, his switch has been flicked this way rather than that in recent weeks, meaning that after months and months of Bad Adebayor we are now finally being treated to a few weeks of Good Adebayor. Another storming performance beckons.

A late charge is also being made by Dempsey to win over the unforgiving folk at AANP Towers, and while I would personally prefer to see Defoe deployed within a two-man attack when we play at home as overwhelming favourites, one would imagine that there will be enough incision to wrap things up today. AVB may also be tossing a coin today to decide which – if any – of Hudd and Parker should make way for Dembele. Given the impact he made last week, as being the only blighter willing to dribble past folk and straight into the heart of the opposition area, I jolly well hope he is indeed deployed from the off.

So once more unto the breach, for what is likely to be the latest in the never-ending stream of St Tottingham Days. But after the Chelski robbery of last season, and the lasagne thing, and moments like the Mendes goal – wouldn’t it be absolutely marvellous if an outrageous stroke of luck actually benefited us this time?

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 – Fulham Preview: One Final Hurrah

So it all comes down to a rather rummy type of Cup Final in which victory might not necessarily suffice. No need to remind anyone of all the permutations, with England managers and Bayern Munich and the alignment of the planets and so forth. Our heroes might be advised simply to concentrate on the glorious stretch of greenery that is White Hart Lane, and the 90-odd minutes that lie ahead. One suspects that at some point this evening the other necessary morsels of information will be made known.

Excitingly enough we have a bona fide selection dilemma to serve as a sub-plot. And not the usual “Adebayor-plus-who?” question that isn’t really a question at all. Danny Rose is nowhere to be seen (huzzah!). ‘Arry therefore has a choice to make at left-back, and the quiet option would be to slide Ledley back into defence and moving Gallas/Kaboul to the left (my preference would be Kaboul at left-back, due to the fact that the very sight of him striding forward does get the blood pumping somewhat). However, ‘Arry has not exactly ground out a reputation as being one to take the simple option if a square peg can be hammered relentlessly at a round hole in a manner that would make the toddling AANP nephews and nieces blush, so do not be wholly surprised to see Bale at left-back, Lennon moved left, VDV right and Gomes up top.

The personnel and formation ought not to matter too greatly – at home this ought to be three points, and the rest is beyond our control. As ever, it’s the hope that kills me.

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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Sunderland – Spurs Preview: How Many Aaron Lennons Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Just the one Aaron Lennon – he holds the bulb and the universe revolves around him, n’est ce pas? Not to cast aspersions on the young blighter’s character you understand, he seems a most charming young fish (now with added maturity – witness the disappearance of his go-faster diagonals in his eyebrows). The crux of the matter is of course the balance he adds to the progressive part of our team, not to mention the fact that he jolly well adds the final piece to a quite jaw-dropping six-part smorgasbord of attacking delights in lilywhite.

With two games in three days there is fairly slim chance of Lennon and his paper-thin hamstrings appearing – and then rapidly disappearing in a puff of dust and blur of heels – both today and on Monday, so there arises ‘Arry’s first conundrum, while the other usual decisions loom large – VDV or Saha, Ledley or Gallas (that this question even arises is reflective of these changing times), two or three in the centre et cetera. Whatever the options, the facts are that a lip-smacking, eminently winnable final eight games is now well upon us. Wins, wins and yet more wins will almost certainly propel us above that ‘orrible lot down the road (who this weekend are entertaining Man City). If ever there were a diem to be carped, this is it.

Spurs – Bolton Preview: A Break From Our March Towards Doom

This, I am reliably informed is a desperate situation. Quite possibly the desperatest. Handily glossing over the fact that our three consecutive defeats have been to three teams who, for one reason or another, stumbled upon optimum form just as they took to the field against us, the people have spoken in their lilywhite hordes, and this run of form is now scientifically proven to be the most wretched thing in history. Still think we can finish third? A thousand sneering glances in your direction! Forget about our form over the entire season – look at our last three results! We lost them all! People are tweeting and everything! If you’re not bashing your head against a nearby wall and itching to dust off the “’Arry Out” placards from a couple of seasons ago, you have clearly become drunk on common sense. The season is heading irresistibly towards meltdown, and anyone who tells you otherwise has had their judgement clouded by a reprehensible fog of perspective.

“Owen Coyle For Spurs” – Yes, I Really Did…Mercifully somebody somewhere thought of the children, and as a result we handily now get to punctuate our inexorable march towards Premiership doom by trampling our way past Bolton in the Cup. Back at the start of the season yours truly demonstrated his sagacity on all subjects football-related by wisely opining that Owen Coyle should be lined up as an outside bet for the next Spurs manager, a sentiment that is now hurriedly dismissed with a loud clearing of the throat and murmuring of “I probably meant that Swansea chap.”

 

Once upon a time Bolton existed solely to acquaint the ball with the clouds; then they became rather trendy and pretty, stringing passes together and whatnot under the auspices of Coyle; but now it seems their raison d’être is to make a beeline for relegation. Quite the opportunity then, for our heroes to advance ever closer to faux glory at Wembley.

Injuries (That Matter Not)Poor form or not, our lot should make light work of this. The exhausting and fairly futile search for a solution to the absence of Aaron Lennon is set to continue, the little man still sore of hamstring. Adebayor is apparently also a doubt, and Ledley is unlikely to be risked, but even allowing for these absences and one or two others, elimination here would be an affront to decency.

Spurs 5-0 Newcastle: Disco Benny, & The Return of the VDV Conundrum

Casual lobotomy is one of my less typical weekend pursuits, but I’m willing to hazard that were one to pluck out the respective brains of BAE and Scott Parker, the two would be as dissimilar as medically possible. At one point in the second half yesterday I’m fairly sure Benny executed a scorpion kick, seemingly just to pass the time. Thus does he roll. Mercifully, the little patch of cerebral matter that enables a man to ping a football at a designated mark was fully functional yesterday, and I give BAE more credit than has generally been ushered his way for his finish. An open goal it may officially have been, but at that angle and pace, and with defenders scrambling back, it would have been dashed easy to have missed the target. Moreover, victory yesterday was achieved by that first half blitz – had we not taken those early chances a very good team might have given us a very tough game. Credit to Benny for taking his chance and starting the disco.Do pardon me while I plug a service from a Spurs-supporting chum – LessonHighway.com is a free tuition and learning website to bring together private tutors and students. Teachers can advertise their services for free on the site; students can browse the lessons offered and click on a link to send an automated email to the teacher

Credit too, humungous lashings of the stuff, to Adebayor, for playing like his life depended on it. Goodness knows what inspired the chap, but he tore around like a man possessed, barely recognisable from the lackadaisical figure who half-heartedly ambled around Anfield a week ago. One suspects it is not simply coincidence that Adebayor’s new-found frivolity occurred with Louis Saha elevated to the status of chief support act, the Togolese smile machine tripping over himself to interact at every opportunity with his new best chum. Thought-provoking stuff, given that the usual contribution of VDV occurs a good 15-20 yards deeper. Within a more traditional 4-4-2 (as opposed to the VDV-driven 4-4-1-1) Adebayor’s was arguably his best performance of the season. Moreover, few would suggest that VDV would have eaten up the yards to score our second (Saha’s first) – ‘twas the goal of an out-and-out striker. Whisper it, but the VDV conundrum may be edging back into view. Commons sense dictates the Dutchman waltzes straight back in, but nevertheless it’s rather a cheery dilemma upon which ‘Arry can chew in the coming days.

While Ade and Saha set out to become best friends forever, and every man in lilywhite looked to get in on the act in that rampant first half, as ever I felt a tug of sympathy for poor old Jermain Defoe. He trotted on with half an hour to go, evidently straining at the leash to partake in the goalscoring fun and torment the Newcastle defence further, only to find that everybody else in lilywhite had had enough and was content to indulge in lengthy bouts of keep-ball around halfway.

Elsewhere On The Pitch

Top marks all round. Friedel had little to do, but did it splendidly nonetheless. Niko Kranjcar is unlikely to keep Lennon out of the team any longer than is necessary, but he still took time out from looking dreamy to top off a decent contribution with a rare goal. We were even afforded the luxury of giving letting Bale and Ledley have an early finish.

A minor gripe is that with more urgency in the second half we could definitely have made more chances and probably, therefore, have scored a few more – but it is the most incidental of observations. Royally thrashing one of the best teams in the country – and whilst still missing several key faces (Kaboul, Hudd, VDV, Lennon) – is a testament to just how blinking marvellous our lot have become. On nights like yesterday one wonders why ‘Arry (or indeed Modders, or Bale etc) would ever want to leave the Lane.

This particular run of fixtures remains imposing, but our heroes have done a sterling job so far. Grit last Monday, aplomb last night – l’Arse and United, one imagines, will be shifiting a little uneasily in their seats at the prospect of facing our lot in the coming weeks. Not for the first time gents, it’s bravo from AANP Towers.

Man City – SpursPreview: Adebayor´s Philosophical Quandary

So here we go, without doubt the biggest game since our last eye-catching fixture for which three points were at stake. While the win over a pretty inept Everton had all and sundry proclaiming this lilywhite vintage the greatest thing since Danny Blanchflower sliced a loaf, the draw with uber-negative Wolves had Hansen imploring all Spurs-supporting MoTD viewers to find their nearest cliff-top and hurl themselves in anguish – so whatever the outcome against table-topping City the reaction will presumably border on the apocalyptic. Win, lose or draw, somebody somewhere will explode in a cloud of uncontainable hyperbole.

In truth however, “phlegmatic” is the word of choice at AANP Towers ahead of this one. Winning the title would be quite a bonus (never, ever in my wildest dreams did I anticipate writing those eight words), but we are third favourites for a reason, and defeat on Sunday would make that whole jamboree far less likely. What seems absolutely paramount is that we finish in the Top Four (preferably the Top Three), and this is ours to throw away. For that reason my uncontrollable shivers break out at the prospect of the impending games with l’Arse, Chelski, Liverpool and Newcastle. “Six-pointers”, as the sages knowingly intone, and if they speak thus then it must be so.

That said, if the closing rounds of the Rocky Balboa – Ivan Drago clash taught me anything it was that the best time to play a well-financed foreign giant is when he is sweating buckets and he’s taken such a hammering that his eye is beginning to swell. City are without the gloriously named Yaya chap, which should make Modders’ life a tad easier, and my spies tell me that they’re also missing a handy centre-back. Time to charge into battle with a cry of “Adriaaaan” methinks.

Being owned by one team whilst playing for another could potentially lead to quite the philosophical quandary on the halfway line when the two outfits meet, but alas we will be spared the sight of Adebayor slowly degenerating into madness on the centre-spot as he ponders his obligations and liberty, for he is ineligible. This may mean ‘Arry takes a punt on Pav producing his standard 1 minute of magic amidst 89 of standing about whingeing, or, as is the AANP preference, he lets Defoe off the leash to shoot from all angles and then look in disbelief as he is flagged offside.

Otherwise, for better or worse, our lot pick themselves. Dawson, Kaboul, Ledley, Sandro, Parker – jumble them up, name a few injuries and you get the gist. We are underdogs for this one, but in a season in which we just keep doing the unexpected by golly this would be some feather in the lilywhite cap. Fingers crossed

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.

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