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Liverpool 2-0 Spurs: Five Lilywhite Observations

Having not strung consecutive passes together since around 2014, and suffered defeats in recent weeks to such behemoths as Swansea and Southampton, there was a fairly morbid inevitability about the fact that Liverpool would rediscover their joie de vivre against us. Of course they would.

1. Davies

Credit where due, our hosts set off like a pack of hyenas spurred into action by the dinner gong at a zoo. Every time one of our lot were in possession they were rather rudely biffed and barged by at least two or three of the blighters in red, and naturally enough the mistakes duly flowed like it was open season on the things.

Our heroes certainly did not help themselves. Au contraire, they seemed fairly intent on doing their utmost to help Liverpool out of their new year slump, going the extra mile as it were. Which was neighbourly I suppose, but, it struck me, seemed to fly in the face of the overall mission imperative. Wanyama started this rot, setting his radar to “Liverpool Shirt” and letting fly with a mind-boggling five-minute spell in which all he did was intercept the ball and ping it straight to the nearest opponent. The brow furrowed.

Or at least the AANP brow furrowed. By contrast, one could almost see the eyes of Ben Davies light up as he noted the errant Wanyama peddling this insanity. Against Middlesborough and Wycombe and the like, Davies is pretty much the man for the occasion - sometimes right, sometimes wrong, but by and large doing enough to force the deal through. However, one suspects that you or I might be the man for the occasion against that lot. Liverpool away represents a different kettle of fish, something far likelier to test the iron will and moral fibre. This was Davies’ opportunity to prove himself as one of those beasts of the jungle who growls “Jump” and has his fellow beasts hopping to it pronto.

Alas, the reality that transpired was bleak, second-rate and error-strewn. Liverpool rather cruelly opted to hone in on Davies, having identified him as the weaker of the sentry guards on duty, and by golly were they were rewarded. Davies resembled a man who did not quite know which sport he was playing. Helpfully abandoned by Son, and without the reassuring presence and pristine side-parting of Jan Vertonghen beside him, the young bean floundered out of his depth and had his head dunked beneath the surface time and again by Liverpool. One would sympathise, but there is not really much room for sentiment in this narrative.

2. Dier

In a touching show of solidarity with his Welsh chum, Eric Dier peddled a similar line in incompetence, from his vantage point at centre-back. Dwelling on the ball, and displaying a turn of pace that would give hope to passing tortoises, he represented another ill-disguised chink in the lilywhite armour, as Christmas came early for our hosts.

The alarming sentiment continues to gain momentum that Dier is a centre-back who is woefully ill-equipped to perform as one half of a centre-back pairing. Within a back-three his lack of pace matters less, and as midfield cover he is able to slot in for his full-backs and mop things up neatly enough. But plant him at the core of a back-four, with little more than a “How-To” guide and his own autonomy, and the chap flounders. And flounder he did with some majesty yesterday, being directly culpable for the second, and generally unable to cope with the red shirts buzzing all around him.

(To his credit he flew in with one glorious sliding tackle to spare various blushes as Liverpool ran rampant at two-nil, but all a bit late at that juncture, what?)

It made for fairly ghastly viewing, but stepping back from things and giving the chin a little stroke, one starts to ponder the broader, philosophical questions of life, existence and Eric Dier. Not good enough to play in a back-four, and displaced in midfield by Wanyama, where does the young fish fit in?

3. Resources

If you don’t mind me veering away from the minutiae of the match itself, and instead trotting a little further down this existential line, the nub of the thing seems to be that our squad is not quite the all-singing, all-dancing, multi-talented troupe needed for the rigours of this lark. The first-choice XI is a match for the very best in the land, make no mistake. But take out Rose and Vertonghen, and we are a dashed sight weaker. Take out Kane, and poor old Janssen lollops on to stumble over his own feet. Remove Eriksen and it’s the uncontrollable limbs of Cissoko. Young Winks has some dash about him for sure, but he’s no Dembele.

And so on. Not exactly a novel train of thought, but while we were able to gloss over things in previous weeks, the lack of squad depth was exposed in fairly pointed fashion yesterday, and it made for some pretty awkward viewing.

4. Dembele

Still, amidst this rather dank state of affairs there were nevertheless one or two moments to stir the soul, and they typically emanated from the sturdy frame of Dembele. Noting with razor-sharp judgement that he was not about to receive a jot of support from any of his chums in lilywhite, Dembele set about on three or four separate occasions trying to right all the wrongs of the day single-handedly. It was like one of those tragic war-films they show on Sunday afternoons, when our half-dozen heroes are pinned into some sort of bunker by hordes of the enemy, and one particularly selfless old bean decides that the only way in which anyone is going to make it to the end credits is if he makes a noble dash right into the heart of enemy heartland and takes down a few dozen opponents, sacrificing himself in the process.

Dembele had clearly had enough of the imbecilic frippery of Davies, Dier et al, and repeatedly tried to rescue the day be single-handedly weaving his way through massed ranks of red shirts. Alas, he generally made it past two or three before being crowded out and dragged to his doom, but it stirred the loins somewhat to see this will to win.

5. Discipline

Things improved a mite in the second half, to the extent that we were not overrun quite as much, but the game was long gone by then, and we were frankly lucky to be only two down.

There were echoes of Stamford Bridge last season as the game wore on and our lot struggled to make the slightest dent in proceedings, as they instead resorted to losing their heads and lashing out with all the subtlety of a team of raging bulls in the ceramics aisle. Led, naturally, by Dele Alli, half the team got themselves cautioned for a stream of fairly wild and unseemly hacks and stamps (although young Winks can feel hard done by on that count, poor lamb). One should probably tut and pontificate, but in truth they were only doing on the pitch what I rather felt like doing from the sidelines. The whole thing was bally frustrating, and not least because Liverpool have been so poor in recent weeks.

However, just over the mid-point of the season, and with only home games vs Arsenal and Man Utd remaining of the top six, we are fairly well set. A Top Four finish is eminently doable. Quite what fresh madness awaits when the Europa League returns is anyone’s guess, and a couple of injuries could blast our season out of the water, but as long as this defeat does not trigger a slump there should not be too much cause of concern.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint

Spurs 1-1 Liverpool: Five Lilywhite Musings

I suppose in theory one could quite rightly point to a win and two draws as a solid, meat-and-two-veg sort of return on the opening few weeks, the sort of thing upon which vast and dashed successful empires were built in the days of yore.

Nevertheless, at the final whistle yesterday it felt not so much like we had purred through the gears so much as just about got the thing back into the garage in one piece, and with some pretty dubious coughing and spluttering sounds emanating from the engine.

1. Vorm Earns His Corn

Repeatedly the bridesmaid since arriving at the Lane, Vorm’s contributions to date have pretty much been limited to waving a pretty slippery pair of gloves around in the occasional cup match. Confidence in the chap has therefore not really been full to bursting, but by golly he corrected that with some gusto yesterday by taking every drop of a hat as his cue to go haring from his area like a particularly buoyant whippet and belting the ball into orbit before any onrushing foe could make merry. It made for quite the spectacle, albeit one which had palpitations surging through the very core of every watching lilywhite.

However, never let it be said that AANP is a man who fails to dish out great dollops of credit where it is due, for the old bean seemed to time his little sprints with some aplomb. In fact, after the first couple I started to get the sneaky suspicion that he was just doing it for sport, but it certainly did the job.

Perhaps rather more importantly was the unlikely save he made in the opening exchanges, by virtue of an outstretched leg, when the Liverpool chappie seemed so certain to score that various bookmakers were already dishing out. It was not his only useful save either, so should a single point at the end of the season mean the difference between dancing in the streets and doleful despair, we ought not to forget to wheel out Vorm for a hearty hand and some good-natured wolf-whistles.

2. The Strangely Impotent Forward Line

As the first half wore in somewhat troubling manner, Liverpool forwards buzzed around in a way that had our lot not quite knowing where the next one was about to appear. On top of which, one would hardly say that at the business end of the pitch our heroes were parading around with all the verve and entertainment of some sort of irresistible, all-singing-all-dancing  theatre troupe. Au contraire. There was a distinct lack of whatsit about our occasional forward jabs.

Lamela has rather won me over in recent months, just by virtue of seeming to get the message that these eggs do not crack themselves, and consequently rolling up his sleeves and getting stuck in each week, but the chap looked strangely neutered yesterday. Alli stomped around like the angry young buck he is, but by and large got his feet in a tangle each the ball went anywhere near him; and Eriksen was so peripheral that at times I rather fancied he faded in and out of existence like Marty McFly when all was going awry at the Enchantment Under The Sea Dance.

And so it went on. Janssen is a man who applies himself well enough, but this never looked like being an occasion which would end with his name blazing out in neon lights across Broadway, and by full-time he had reddened his face but achieved very little. Kane had a rather awful time of things, but one expects that he will be back.

The moral of the story is that as tick followed tock it became pretty dashed difficult to identify which particular goose was going to lay a golden egg and get us back to parity.

3. Useful Input From Rose

Cometh the hour, cometh the flying chunkster. In truth, well before his goal, young Master Rose had popped up on the left with reassuring regularity, to add a little drive to proceedings when all around him seemed to be losing interest. I’m not sure if Liverpool thought it was against the rules or perhaps the spirit of the thing to try to stop him, but he seemed our most likely creative option in the first half.

And just when it seemed that we really would continue to bash our heads fruitlessly against a wall, he delivered one of the most exquisite mis-hits of the season. I would suggest that he rather earned his luck there, by displaying the willingness to lope forward in the first place.

This was not his most reassuring defensive display ever, but the chap does add a certain je ne sais quoi when he hurtles forward. On top of which, the sight of him flying horizontally through the air every time there is a clash of limbs absolutely never fails to entertain.

4. A Small Nod in the Direction of Wanyama

The attack might have resembled the soft, toothless gums of a newborn rather than the menacing gnashers of one of those great big wild cats of the Sahara; and the back four seemed to come replete with sizeable gaps in their very core; but Victor Wanyama at least turned up for work with the right idea.

As appropriate, the young egg chipped in with interceptions and tackles, and generally appeared impervious to the ghastly malady of pinging the thing straight to the nearest opponent whenever the cutting-edge concept of passing was required. On a day of precious few cockle-warming positives, Wanyama at least seemed to do the minimum.

5. Return of Dembele – What of Dier?

Whichever sage chirped that absence makes the heart grow fonder no doubt had in mind Moussa Dembele as he sits out half a dozen games for eye-gouging, because the whole thing is currently flatter than a warm beer left on a table the morning after one of those terrific all-night binges you have before kids enter your life. Going forward, our heroes had the same look as King Kong when atop the tower and being peppered by fighter planes, a look that rather suggests that all is not as much fun as was advertised.

As mentioned above, Wanyama is earning his corn well enough, and few would doubt the importance of Dier to the whole fandango – but both are essentially destructors, whose duty lies in snuffling out the opposition and then handing things over to the more handsome cast members. To date this season our midfield has been notable for a distinct absence of the sort of chap that has opponents gasping “Crumbs, here comes a human tank with an absolute barrel for a chest”, and diving for cover accordingly. Such a sequence of events is not just quite the spectator sport, but also creates all manner of fun opportunities for Kane et al further forward.

So there can be little doubt that Dembele will head straight back into the eleven at the earliest opportunity – but at whose expense? Dier may be the more established cog, but it was notable last week that he was hooked before the hour, and this week he has been shunted into defence to accommodate a change in formation.

And what would the connotations be if Dier did find himself demoted to first reserve? How would Dele Alli react? All in the realms of speculation for the time being, but it does rather make one think, what?

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint

Liverpool 1-1 Spurs: Five Lilywhite Oberservations

1. Non-Stop

I’m not sure I’ve ever witnessed a game played in such a rush throughout. Every man and his dog on show charged around like they were late for their own wedding, and as a result not one chappie on either team had time to draw breath, let alone pause in possession and take a second touch.

This must be how other mobs feel when they come up against Spurs, because to their credit Liverpool charged at whichever of our heroes were in possession, particularly in the first half. Our heroes pottered about their business with an odd sense of complacency in those opening exchanges, as if trying a little too hard not to appear disturbed by the constant harassment. Unforced errors duly flowed liberally – again, on both sides – and the whole drama played out with all the harum-scarum intensity of a classroom of 5 year-olds high on soft drinks and sweets. Cagey it most certainly was not.

Grudging credit again to Liverpool for a neat and tidy goal (although a rare finger of admonishment ought to be waggled at Eric Dier, for letting his man go walkies). Then as the second half pootled along the upper hand swung this way and that, and it really did seem we were as close to winning as losing, and vice versa, so that by the end of things I was in truth a little perplexed as to what the overriding sentiment ought to be.

2. Dembele

I had tried yesterday, in conversation with some of the regulars, to put across the point that in the grand scheme of such things I felt Dembele’s performance was a little off. Not quite primed, polished and up to usual standards. In my book he was biting off far more than he could chew, and regularly being dispossessed by some combination of two or three in red.

That at least was the intended gist of the thing when I cleared my throat and eyed up my listening public, but I had barely got across the opening ice-breakers when I was being unceremoniously ushered off stage by a stream of rotten tomatoes, that left fairly unmistakeable the general reaction to my notion. So that is pretty much that.

3. Eriksen

One would not really invest their millions into a campaign with the message that Christian Eriksen Bossed The Thing From Start To Finish. Such is not really his way, and nobody in their right mind would chide him for it.

However, in a game of stakes so high, and with time at such a premium (as whiffled on about above), Eriksen caught the AANP eye, particularly in the second half, for a generous handful of creative moments that attracted the attention like Venus emerging from some sort of mass of water in particularly dreamy fashion.

Lest you be slamming an angry fist on the nearest hard surface and demanding evidence, I decisively thrust in your direction the assist for Kane’s goal for a start - although admittedly this was more an act of desperation to keep the thing in play, rather than an example of semi-deific vision.

More impressive to my eye were the little chipped pass that Dele Alli took on the chest but could not quite bring under control; or the cross-field swipe on the counter-attack that so nearly laid on a chance for Chadli on a plate, with silver service and a respectfully bowing waiter; or the 20-yard effort that drew a full-length save from the ‘keeper. He does not – and perhaps never will – puff out his chest and bark out orders, but Eriksen does do a splendid line in wizardry.

4. Son

One cannot really fault the effort of Son, the chap certainly does a good line in scuttling hither and thither. There is nevertheless something about the old bean that does not quite sit right, and it has that ineffable quality of being difficult to pinpoint, which is dashed annoying (not least on a word-based forum such as this, but such is life).

He is certainly a tad lightweight for the bustle and nudge of a Premiership ding-dong, which may or may not be his fault. But as well as that, his little bits and bobs just did not seem to work, and have not really done so since those heady debut weeks of his. His performance was summed up rather by that volley in the second half that he executed well but not quite well enough. He strikes me as that sort of player.

In truth, I am not a fully paid-up member of the Lamela fan club either – an improved player, and hard worker, but glancing ahead to Season 16/17 I fancy we would benefit from an upgrade in that position.

5. The Sum Of Things

If Leicester win tomorrow I fancy that might well be that. Either way, I have often ventured to anyone within earshot that watching Spurs will be the death of me, and if this afternoon’s absolutely nerve-shredder is anything to go by, at some point in the remaining six games I genuinely will keel over and tiptoe my way off this mortal coil.

The disappointment at not closing the gap is unavoidable, but if, come mid-May, we miss out by two points, I’m not sure anyone can hold today’s performance against them. Every sinew was duly strained, and we might equally have lost the thing as won it. The Arsenal home game is that one that still bugs me, if we’re counting such things, but today’s was a race run well enough.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint

Spurs Holiday Musings - Liverpool Loss & Fond Farewells

AANP has just biffed off on holiday this last week (Malta, since you ask), and these sunny retreats to foreign climes would not be worthy of the name if they did not at some point involve tracking down an English-themed watering-hole to watch Spurs get thoroughly dismantled, to the mirth of the nearby pink-faced denizens.

Despite the uncontainable urge amongst some of particularly dramatic ilk to race to the nearest hasty conclusion and yelp “Crisis! False dawn! Just not good enough, dash it!” this strikes me as but a stumble along a fairly promising path. A jolly chastening stumble mind, complete with unceremonious landing and all the trimmings, but not yet the moment to be inciting unrest amongst the nearest angry mob.

Midfield Creativity: AWOL

Particularly infuriating was the fact that that smug lot beat us at our own game, blast them – harrying off the ball, counter-attacking in a blurry burst of heels and generally executing some slick, incisive stuff in the final third.

By contrast, Bentaleb and Capoue seemed resolute in their determination to avoid anything with the merest whiff of deep-lying creativity (which potentially gives the Brains Trust food for thought in The Great Capoue Vs Dembele Debate, given the Belgian’s uncontrollable urge to puff out a chest and trundle goalward). The dull hum of inactivity behind them meant quite the onus on Eriksen, Chadli and Lamela to run riot. Alas, the first two in particular seemed not to care for such frivolous duties, seemingly content instead to bask in the glory of the previous week’s efforts, and other than the occasional long ball hoicked over the top there was nary a sniff of goal all afternoon.

Adebayor showed a hint of spirit, as did Lamela in the second half, like a couple of puppies haring round after the ball, but for all their gusto there was precious little effect, and by and large ignominy was jolly well in her element and having an absolute whale of a time. This being Spurs such things happen, but the imperative for Pochettino and chums now is to ensure that this is most certifiably the exception rather than the rule.

Fond Farewells

And to round off a rather doleful few days we have now bid rather hasty farewells to a couple of the elder statesmen. Few could make a convincing case that Daws is still of top-rate Premiership quality (the highlights of his Hull debut appeared rather cruelly to corroborate this), but the blighter could not have been more committed to the lilywhite cause if he were hatched from a cockerel’s egg laid in the centre of the White Hart Lane turf. And by all accounts a thoroughly decent old bean too. Oh that a spot could have been found for him as a permanent mascot leading the players onto the pitch each week. Gone, but absolutely not forgotten, I suspect that it is not just at AANP Towers he will be welcome to a free bourbon any time he jolly well chooses.

Amidst the hullaballoo of it all, the bods at the top have sneakily shunted Sandro down the exit chute as well. Of quality and endearing commitment he had plenty, and the weekly axis of awesomeness that he formed alongside Dembele a couple of years back will live long in the memory, but the point has been made that the poor blighter was rarely in good health, so the rationale for selling him is understandable, if nevertheless regrettable.

Two long-serving troops is probably enough for one episode of this particular soap opera, but despite a few swirling murmurs Monsieur Kaboul remains in situ. Time is not in the habit of waiting for the good mortals of this sphere, but in Kaboul’s case Time seems to have legged it while the Frenchman’s back was turned and disappeared into the distance. No longer the colossus of two or three years back, the Liverpool game was the latest indication that the chap has lost several yards of pace, and is adding a distinct flavour of fallibility to proceedings at the back. Captain by default he may be, but he looks less and less the inspiring leader with every passing minute. One rather hopes that the new chap Fazio is fully-clad and limbered up, because his appears the next cab on the rank.

Spurs 0-5 Liverpool: Thoughts On This Month’s Thrashing

Heavens above. To ship six goals away at Man City could be explained away with some embarrassed looks, statistics and mumbled interviews – but five goals at home, to a Liverpool side who have some way to go to emulate the European champs of yesteryear, rather makes one pause for thought and sip the evening bourbon with a little more concern than normal.

Defence

One trying to shake a stick at the plethora of mishaps, mistakes and moments of buffoonery will need a jolly large stick, but using the infallible AVB method of shrugging, closing my eyes and randomly pointing my finger, I point ye gentlefolk firstly towards the high defensive line.

Or, more accurately, the yawning gap it creates in between back-four and goalkeeper, into which Liverpool and their merry band of runners tore with gay abandon. A couple of one-touch passes, some of them – shock horror – going backwards first in order to move forwards, and our befuddled heroes were ripped to shreds. To shove poor old Daws bang into the middle of a system that relies so heavily upon pace seems suspiciously to contravene the UN charter on Human Rights, and sure enough, in the midst of the bedlam our intrepid leader earned his yellow card for hurtling into a centre-circle challenge as a crafty forward slipped the ball beyond him.

It is a measure of quite how bad things were that the more obvious candidate for withdrawal was young Master Naughton, who was sent spinning this way and that, evoking memories of that afternoon last season when Walcott tormented him to within an inch of his life as we conceded five at the Emirates. A theme begins to emerge, what?

Midfield

The midfield deserve a jolly hefty couple of clips round the ears too. Paulinho generously found the time to squeeze in a couple of wild shanks into the upper tier and moments of halting our own speedy counter-attacks with that old ‘put-my-foot-on-the-ball-and-turn-backwards’ gambit, before getting sent off. Holtby buzzed around with some intent, to his credit, but as ever the whole thing was painfully pedestrian going forward (a term I use lightly), while the back-four, the goalkeeper and the seismic gap between them were afforded precious little protection.

Suspicion grows that locked away in the safe at Chadli Towers are some compromising photos of AVB, explaining the Belgian’s weekly selection, while the cunning plan to starve Lennon of the ball again failed to break down the Liverpool defence.

All things considered, quite the muddle, and with precious little in the way of game-plan or consistency of team selection, our glorious leader might be forgiven for shifting his feet uneasily and sporting the look of a toddler discovered with one hand in the biscuit tin. One rather hopes we won’t have to go through this nonsense every month.

Spurs - Liverpool Preview: Striking Dilemma Ahoy

They may only have been the dregs of the English and Russian leagues respectively, but three consecutive wins have done enough to secure nods of mild satisfaction where once there were howls of anguish, so we can go into this one with sentiments bordering on cautious optimism. Moreover, the gods of fate seem to have nonchalantly tossed us a couple of extra scraps, and thus we find that the red mob will toddle up to the front gates sans Messrs Gerrard and Sturridge. Admittedly seeing Dawson go toe-to-toe with Suarez will be a little like having a member of the undead spend 90 minutes pulling a single entrail from our gut, but beyond that particular mismatch we ought to have a decent chance.

AVB would presumably not have dreamed of this a couple of weeks ago, but he actually has a few positive selection dilemmas to chew over today. To claim that we have an embarrassment of riches in attack is perhaps stretching the point, but after Defoe applied himself with some rigour and effect vs Sunderland and Fulham, we then had Soldado stumbling upon the secret formula for alchemy in midweek, albeit against fairly dreadful opposition. There are some who would still love to see the two of them pitted alongside each other and told to go out there and make merry, but presumably it will be one or t’other this afternoon.

In defence there seems to be a fairly definite hierarchy, so selection will simply depend upon who is fit, but the five across the midfield/attack again pose a few positive problems. AVB seems in recent weeks to have settled upon a selection strategy that involves writing names on paper, throwing them in the air and picking the ones that land nearest to him, but Messrs Lennon, Townsend and Holtby have all done the footballing equivalent of jumping up and down in front of him yelling “Pick me! Pick me!” while Sigurdsson seems a reliable sort of egg, and Lamela’s pass for the second goal on Thursday was drop-dead gorgeous. Nice to see the lad Eriksen back on his feet as well, and ahead of all of these in the queue is Master Paulinho, who has been the furthest man forward in recent weeks.

In the grand scheme of things three points would naturally help chivvy us along to where we want to be, but to take them at the expense of one our rivals – and particularly one boasting quite such smug office colleagues as this lot – would be a most desirable conclusion of affairs.

Liverpool - Spurs Preview: Pilfering the Anfield Larder

Another day, another dickens of a lip-smacking fixture for the good ship Hotspur. Merrily enough, our heroes have spent the week positively sneering at the reputations dandily waved around by opponents who dare share the turf – in particular the reaction to the final whistle on Thursday, when a comprehensive battering of Inter elicited little more than a couple of back-slaps and a business-like march back to the changing rooms, suggests that standards have been raised in N17. Pilfering the Anfield larders is not necessarily high on the list of Traditionally Straightforward Premiership Jollies, but our heroes can certainly approach matters in a buoyant mood, for should they play anything like they did on Thursday the red mob will probably wander off in a huff at not being allowed even a touch of the ball. But alas, ‘tis a new day, and our foes are unlikely to roll over and request a playful tickle of their tummies, in the manner of Inter. A slippery prospect looms; such challenges have been met with several shades of aplomb in recent weeks.

Personnel

There is presumably a smidgeon of doubt around Aaron Lennon and his jazz-hands, so Sigurdsson-right and Holtby-left could be on the cards, which is far from being the worst amended line-up ever to traipse the greenery. Having oozed class as if afflicted by some puss-inducing malady in his last two outings at centre-back, Vertonghen would be well-advised to wring out every last drop of the stuff in preparation for an afternoon’s duelling with the multi-talented and renowned good egg Suarez. Dawson and Lloris will presumably return, and while Defoe attracted opprobrium in some quarters for the narrow-mindedness of his approach, his propensity for leathering the orb goalwards at every opportunity renders him the sort of foe to jolly well keep an opponent on his toes - and as such he seems a vastly preferable attacking option to Adebayor.

It seems safe to assume that a stern test awaits, but with our heroes now knee-deep in the tricky final slew of fixtures and faring well enough we can probably approach this one with cautious optimism.

Dreadfully Tardy Musings on Liverpool 0-0 Spurs

It was all slightly akin to a chess game, n’est ce pas? And not one of those awesome chess games either, in which one lad loses his rag somewhat, dashes the pieces across the board and clobbers his opponent with the clock, leading to a mass brawl involving spectators and allsorts. This was one of those chess games in which white thoughtfully strokes his chin for a good seven or eight minutes, before moving his bishop a few diagonals backwards whence he came, prompting black to ponder for four minutes himself, hover his hand over his queen, retract hand, ponder some more, and then move his knight back into its starting position.

It is a tad difficult to remember the last time our lilywhite heroes set out so determinedly to defend, but as the game wore on it became increasingly evident that the principal aim was not to wow the Merseyside mob with all manner of singing and dancing entertainment, but simply to grab that point, shove a chloroformed handkerchief in its mouth, wait for it to keel over and then lock it in a cage and drag it all the way home.

Pragmatic stuff, but something of a shame, as it evinced more than just a whiff of satisfaction with a Top-Four finish, rather than a straining of every sinew for the Title.

High-Fives and Celebratory Cigar Puffs

In terms of the ancient art of point-snaffling, few snaffled with more laudable prominence than Daws and (inevitably) Scott Parker. Such has been the rise of Kaboul’s star this season that I was a mite tremulous pre kick-off on learning that Daws was to deputise – for shame, AANP, for shame. Up against the far from accommodating hirsute hulk that is Andy Carroll, Dawson gave every bead of sweat, bless him, and really ought to be allowed to frame the clean sheet and hang it from his wall.

As for Parker, by the closing stages it appeared that he had been successfully cloned and scattered across the Anfield turf. The poor blighter is presumably still glugging lucozade, scoffing energy bars and gingerly applying TCP to the scrapes across his frame, but such is the price to be paid for giving every ounce of energy for the cause.

Less Favourably…

We be lucky folk, no doubt, for being treated weekly to the multi-faceted talents of Gareth Bale. However, the denizens of AANP Towers are old-fashioned purveyors of good, honest values, and the traditional distinction between right and wrong. On which note, I would implore someone with a degree of authority to have a pretty blunt word or ten with the handsome young Welshman, and tell him in no uncertain terms to cut out the histrionics. In general he goes down far too easily, and it sullies the good name of Tottenham Hotspur. When Scott Parker collapses with a wince I hold my breath. When Bale goes down and waves his arm for assistance I roll my eyes. For sure he does receive some pretty outrageous treatment – Agger (I think?) ought to have seen red for the shin-high challenge on Monday night – but generally Bale has begun to look for free-kicks when no foul has been remotely committed, and that is cheating. Not that he had much company, up there at the apex, but even that cat seemed to have a bit more spunk about him.

Alas, the distinction between “disinterested” and “uninterested” is not one I have ever truly mastered, but Adebayor was oozing one of them from many a pore.

All things considered (and by “all things” I principally mean the absences of VDV and Lennon) a point away from home to a loosely in-form team is eminently acceptable for a team looking to consolidate a Top Four finish, but that is rather the nub of the thing – I rather wish we had set our sights a little higher. Going 4-4-2 and pushing for victory may well have seen us become a little too open at the back, but having had a dashed good fist of attacking in almost every other game so far this season, we have positioned ourselves six inches from a title challenge. Could we not keep that pretence going a few weeks longer?

Spurs 4-0 Liverpool: 90 Minute Keep-Ball

Marvellous stuff. That certainly elbows its way into the handful of most emphatic performances I’ve seen from our lot, a 90-minute game of keep-ball. Even when 11 against 11 we seemed to have a one man advantage. Bravo chaps.Our Central Midfield: Awesome

Scott Parker will presumably have bad days in a Tottenham shirt, but in a potentially tricky encounter against Adam and Henderson he played like a man possessed (albeit, with shirt neatly tucked in and side parting, the most benign-looking possessed chap you’ll ever clap eyes upon. Superman disguised as Clark Kent). Every time a Liverpool player’s eye lit up at the mere smell of the ball, Parker was all over him like a particularly nasty rash, the speed at which he devoured loose balls helping to entice the foul from Charlie Adam that earned him a trip to the naughty step. Thanks largely to the protection he offered, Liverpool barely crept within shooting distance of Friedel’s goal. Moreover, whenever we were in possession – which admittedly was most of the time – Parker always seemed to be available, within six yards of the man on the ball.

Modders was the most obvious beneficiary of Parker’s noble work, and between the pair of them they tore Liverpool to shreds, which was jolly good fun to behold, and also had the useful side-effect of drawing yellow cards all over the place. I must confess that should Modders ever wander inadvertently into AANP Towers he will be still be met with a slightly frosty stare, sat down in a darkened, rat-infested room and asked to explain himself – but nevertheless, his on-pitch class remains indisputable. It was classic Modric, in terms of his pottering around the centre and doing whatever he pleased with the ball. In a curious chronological quirk he delivered his pièce de résistance in the opening exchanges of the game, but ignoring the linguistic and syntactical problems of that particular suggestion it was a rip-roaring finish, of which only a rare breed are capable.

Gareth Bale deserves a tip of the hat too, perhaps not quite delivering the masterful cutting edge of the last season and a half, but still causing general havoc down the left, including the engineering of Skrtel’s dismissal.

An Early Instalment In What Is Likely To Be The Long-Running Adebayor Debate

Smug looks all round from all those who have spent the last 18 months ranting about our need for a new centre-forward – which is just about every Tottenham fan around – as Adebayor delivered a mightily impressive home debut. Worth bearing in mind when he has us all tearing our hair out with lackadaisical folly a few months down the line. Whether holding up the ball, drifting into deeper positions or dinking little diagonals, he ticked boxes left, right and centre. Two cracking goals too – miles apart in style, but both meeting the requisite official criteria for “cracking”.

In this particular neck of the woods we were also thrilled to bits to see an old-fashioned two-man strike force. It might not necessarily work week in, week out, but after a season’s worth of crosses sailing over the head of one isolated striker, the 4-4-2 worked splendidly today (credit again to Parker, for putting in a shift that enabled us to work a two-man central midfield, and hence a two-man attack).

The only quibble with our first half performance was the inability to turn such a rampant performance into goals, but this wrong was eventually righted, four-nil a perfectly fair reflection of proceedings. So swimmingly did it all pan out that we were even afforded the luxury of chauffeuring off Ledley with five minutes to spare, and giving his creaking knees some early down-time. A grand afternoon’s work. Fourth place is as good as sown up now.

Spurs - Liverpool Preview (II): The Bubble Will Burst… But Not This Weekend

Having dried his tears and collected the assorted toys from outside his pram, a l’Arse-supporting chum earlier this week sent a message my way, the gist of which was that he was scratching his head in bewilderment trying for the life of him to remember the last time Spurs had enjoyed a week of quite so much good news. The man has a point. The derby win was followed by Champions League knock-out qualification, which was followed by an approving nod for a new Tottenham-based stadium, which has been followed by news that Michael Dawson is back in training, and even the rumour that Ledley is gingerly lifting himself from his wheelchair, sellotape and blu-tac duly applied to his balsawood limbs.There is talk in some quarters that our heroes really have turned the corner, and that those mentioning Spurs as potential Premiership or Champions League winners ought not necessarily to be thrown into a dusty spot of land and given a damn good thrashing for crimes against reason and common sense. A cautionary note echoes around the walls of AANP Towers for sure, as there remains a strong chance that we will finish the season not only empty-handed but also trapped in the arid and unforgiving wasteland that is the Europa League. As such, the policy around these parts is not to speculate too wildly about how the world might look come May 2011, but simply to wring every last drop of enjoyment from the present moment.

The abacus has been dusted down, and all manner of rigorous arithmetic drills undertaken, the upshot of which is that AANP can confirm that in all competitions it is now three wins and counting for our lot - and in a spirit of bonny, blithe and gay optimism I am rather inclined to think we will have our fourth come Sunday evening. The danger after a good Champions League win is that the next pre-match huddle actually consists of the players patting one another on the backs for a midweek job well done, rather than spitting, snarling and straining at the leash in preparation for the forthcoming 90 minutes. No such danger this Sunday I would hazard. The time for complacency was probably Wednesday night, with the memory of the Emirates still fresh, but Liverpool at home represents a bigger kettle of fish, the importance of which is unlikely to be underestimated.

Team News

VDV may again miss out, and the list of other absentees remains longer than a gangly limb of Peter Crouch, but there is positive news in both the return to fitness of young Master Defoe, and the sparkling efforts of Aaron Lennon on Wednesday night. If both he and Bale could hit top form simultaneously cracks would probably appear in the High Road N17 as Mother Earth struggles to cope with the thrill of it all. The bubble will burst eventually, but I have faith in our heroes to maintain the winning habit for at least one further week.

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