Spurs preview

Wigan – Spurs preview: Selection Dilemma for ‘Arry

‘Arry Redknapp would moan about his squad size even if were able to choose from the entire population of China, so he’s not going to admit that he’s got a bit of a selection dilemma ahead of Wigan away on the morrow. Jermain Defoe will ditch the Dick Van Dyke cap, gawd bless ya, pull on the lilywhite once more and waltz straight back into the starting eleven, presumably alongside Pav upfront. After Sheringham and Klinsmann, and Keane and Berba, everyone bar Darren Bent will hope that this proves another top-notch striking combo.Defoe and Pav upfront will mean 4-4-2, rather than 4-5-1, which in turn means only two in central midfield rather than three. With Jenas back from suspension, ‘Arry has to choose whether Modric remains in the centre and Jenas on the bench, or Jenas in the centre and Modric out left.

A propos the left flank, will Bentley be retained, or will he have to preen himself on the bench rather than the pitch? His form has been woeful, but ‘Arry has persisted, and as we’re not at the Lane  – away from the increasingly loud and frequent groans (and worse) of dismay – Bentley and his tubs of hair gel may be offered another chance. Should that happen, young Three-Touch O’ Hara may well storm out of N17 never to return – his second-half left-midfield cameo on Monday night was inspired, and he will, with some justification, feel he’s merited a place in the starting XI., one of the great propaganda machines of the 21st century, has pointed out that we’ve won every game we’ve played this year, and with that line in irresistibility how could Wigan possibly cause us trouble? Alas, the Wigan of tomorrow will be vastly changed from the Wigan we beat in the cup a couple of weeks ago. They’re in form in the league, and their impressive striking pair of Heskey and Zaki are both fit to play.

Defoe to continue his penchant for debut goalscoring, but a draw at best, I fear.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 4-1 Burnely: Belated Four-Play

How must David Bentley feel this morning? Bless him, he can’t really be faulted for effort, but nothing he tried came off, whether a 5-yard pass, whipped in cross, fancy flick or long-range effort. Presumably when he got to the dressing-room at half-time for a swig of Lucozade he squirted it into his eye. He’s a right-winger playing on the left, and apparently he’s ill at the moment (begs the question of why he was played) but all the mitigating circumstances in the world can’t hide the fact that it’s just not happening for him at the moment, no matter what hairstyle he adopts.

While few at the Lane would agree with me, I see him coming good in the long-term. Dawson, Gomes and Lennon have each had their woeful spells in lilywhite, but all seem to be back on form (although Lennon’s perennial inability to deliver the final ball continues to frustrate), suggesting that these bad runs come and go. While Bentely’s not everyone’s particular brand of cognac, he has in previous seasons shown himself to be a very good performer at Premiership level. Poor form, yes; poor player, no.

However, he may be facing a spell on the subs bench after last night. After huffing and puffing to no avail for 45 mins, who knows what he said to his reflection as he gazed lovingly into a mirror at full-time, having witnessed his replacement, Three-Touch O’Hara, mastermind a four-goal salvo within just 20 minutes.
Seasoned all-action-no-plotters will know that young Three-Touch has never been a favourite of mine, due to the fact that he’s a bit heavy on graft and short on natural flair, but my goodness he injected exactly what was needed last night. Flair players won’t do much if they don’t have the ball, and at a time when no-one had the stomach for a fight, Three-Touch rose to the challenge of getting his hands dirty against the lower-league scrappers. His set-piece delivery was also spot on, and he even bagged himself a one-touch goal. Blinking heck.



So, as if by magic the soulless rabble, outfought and outpassed in the first 45 mins, banged in goals like they were going out of fashion in the second half. I’ll have whatever was in their half-time cuppa. To be honest, a foul-mouthed tirade from ‘Arry would not scare me anything like as much as one of those death stares from his assistant Joe Jordan, a man whose terrifying demeanour has “psycho-waiting-to-be-unleashed” etched all over it. The  performance won’t have Man Utd quaking in their boots, but it at least smoothes our passage to Wemberley. Job all but done.
More tactically… 

What the blazes has happened to Gareth Bale? The human-simian hybrid was our best player for the first few months of last season, but can’t defend to save his life at the moment. His distribution was woeful too. If the suspended Assou-Ekotto were capable of anything other than a blank stare of the undead, he would probably allow himself a smug smile in light of his replacement’s abysmal performances.

Merrily, the back-four looked nice and solid in the second half. Corluka deserves credit for ditching the alice-band, but needs to find a pace beyond lumbering and lumbering-more-animatedly if he he’s to be a genuine attacking option from right-back.The midfield certainly looked better for the presence and tenacity of Three-Touch in the second half. Much though I like 4-4-2 it remains to be seen whether a central midfield combo of Modric and Zokora can cut it at Premiership level – the pair were overrun in the first half.

Also notable was a much improved use of the ball in the second period. There were counteless aimless upfield punts in the first half, but the ball was treated far more lovingly in the second. Why they couldn’t play like that from the start I don’t know. 

And a word for Pav – that goal oozed class. They’re still glimpses, but every now and then he looks a £15 mil (or whatever it was) pound striker.

Spurs preview

Spurs – Burnely preview: What an Opportunity

What an opportunity this is. While pundits, players and ‘Arry will trot out one cliché after another about the risks of playing a rubbish team in a cup blah blah blah, there’s no escaping the fact that Burnley over two legs is a glorious opportunity for us to get to Wembley. Yes, they knocked out Chelski and l’Arse (kids) en route to this semi; and yes, we’re an underperforming outfit these days. Nevertheless, this is a team in the division below us. Moreover, should we have a bad day, or should they produce a particularly inspired performance, we have a safety net by virtue of the fact that this is a two-legged tie. Even at my most pessimistic I can’t see us messing this up, not over two legs.Defoe is to be paraded before kick-off, like some sort of circus attraction, which ought to whip the crowd into a frenzy. I’m also confident that this spirit of goodwill will give birth to a ripple of applause when the dastardly Hossam Ghaly’s name is read out, which ought to be sufficient to drown out the odd isolated boo. If we get a goal in the first 30 mins the roof will come off (I know, I know – there is no roof) and we’ll produce a breathtaking, all-action-no-plot display to give us a six-goal cushion for the second leg (or, more realistically, both crowd and players will settle back into a dangerous level of complacency which we’ll come to regret in the return leg in a fortnight’s time). Either way, I’m confident we can put the tie beyond doubt tonight, especially if Burnley commit men forward in search of an away goal.

Team news is that Assou-Ekotto and his blank stare and mentalist afro is suspended, as is Jenas. I can think of worse news in the build-up to a game. More worryingly, Ledley is stuck together with safety pins and sellotape again, but Dawson has rediscovered his form in recent weeks, and Woodgate completes a sturdy looking centre-back pair, while Gomes is in tip-top form in goal. The absence of Bent leaves us with limited striking options, but with Modric and Lennon looking dangerous we’ve got goals in us.

A little depressingly, this is the highlight of our season, and as such I expect a very strong performance – and hopefully something like a two-goal win. Or is that too optimistic?

Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Wigan: More jeers for Ghaly, Cheers for 4-4-2

Football fans are often accused of fickleness, but there is a rather unfortunate consistency about our treatment of Hossam Ghaly.

It is well over a year since he pulled off his Spurs shirt and flung it on the ground, incurring the wrath of fans throughout the stadium and beyond. Yesterday, as he readied himself for his first substitute appearance since, the N17 regulars began spitting feathers at the sight, and ‘Arry thought better of it. It appears that young Ghaly may have played his last game for Spurs. 


I’d imagine that there was nothing malicious in Ghaly’s act of throwing away the shirt. Bear in mind that he had just suffered the ignominy of being substituted having only himself entered the fray as a substitute. He must therefore have been most irked at life in general and his manager – Martin Jol (blessed be his name) – in particular. In front of 36,000 people, that’s pretty humiliating.Oh, that he had instead vented his displeasure by grinding his teeth, or kicking a water bottle, or burning a small annoying child. We’d have understood that, maybe even sympathised and surely moved on.
But pulling off the legendary lilywhite shirt and tossing it to the dirt, proud cockerel and all, could diplomatically be described as an ill-advised move. In an age in which fans pay astronomical prices for their 90 minutes of torture, and in which working-class supporters  feel increasingly distanced from the multi-millionaire prima donnas who take to the pitch, the lack of regard for the badge, the very identity of the club, was a pretty poorly-constructed plan of action from one of the players. 
Understandably, many will regard the booing of fans over a year later, as a childish over-reaction. Fair point. But offensive it ain’t. It’s an expression of disapproval, to which, I think, fans are entitled.

Having spent every spare minute of his press conferences over Christmas twitching and complaining about the size of his squad, ‘Arry will now presumably have to do without Ghaly. I can’t really say that my heart bleeds for the player – he presumably feels hard done-by, but the oodles of cash pouring in every week will soften the blow, my sympathy dwindling in direct proportion. If he wants a sympathetic ear, he should pop down to the south coast and have a nice warm cuppa with one Sulzeer Campbell esquire.

More tactically…

 Every time ‘Arry’s played 4-5-1 I’ve bemoaned the lack of support for the lone striker. Yesterday it was 4-4-2, and he entrusted holding duties to Zokora alone, with Modric the attacking half a central midfield pair. Now a slightly cumbersome win against a second-string Wigan team will have very few (outside All-Action-No-Plot Towers) singing from the rooftops, but I’m much encouraged.

Whether or not Zokora and Modric are a sufficiently strong central pairing to cut it in the Premiership is an entirely different kettle of fish, and frankly I suspect they’re not. Still, the tweaked formation, and its success, give ‘Arry food for thought.

Not too pleased about the emergence of yet another alice-band in the ranks though. Lose it, Luka.



Spurs match reports

West Brom 2-0 Spurs: I’ll get stick in the office for this…

Oh blinking heck. Defeat to the bottom team, one point from six over Christmas – this is just plain embarassing. I know this is supposed to be a politically correct age, but everyone knows that West Brom are rubbish, and vastly out of their depth in the Premiership. Losing to them today was humiliating. It’s like taking on a group of seven year-olds in a park, and losing. Oh, the shame.

Never mind our desperate plight at the lower end of the league (we’ll survive), I’m more concerned about the relentless stick I’ll get back in the office tomorrow. Having mouthed off pre-Christmas about how a string of wins would propel us towards the European places, we’ve taken one point from six, and lost to a bunch of seven year-olds. With Fulham at home and West Brom away, a six-points boast really wasn’t entirely ludicrous, but things have gone wildly awry over 180 mins of football. European football seems a distant dream now. Before we can think about that we’ve got to remember how to make mincemeat of the Premiership’s most unattractive and backward components.

This is not what the all-action-no-plot mentality is supposed to be about. All-action-no-plot is supposed to encapsulate the madcap nature of Spurs’ glory, glory attacking football, passing and movement, non-stop entertainment, and shots raining in. Not too much concern for defence, admittedly, but 4-4 is better than 0-0 (and if we ever sorted out the defence I’d have to call this all-action-neatly-rounded-plot, which really doesn’t have the same ring). No, the all-action-no-plot mentality ought really to have seen us beat West Brom 5-1, or thereabouts.

Instead we’ve forgotten how to score. We have no divine right to win these games, but we have the quality in attack to do so. Unfortunately, we’re not making chances, we’re not supporting the lone striker (abandon 4-5-1 ‘Arry, pretty please, with a cherry on top) and each time we pick two deep central midfielders (two from Jenas, Hudd and Zokora) we’re effectively lining up two men short. It’s nine vs eleven. No action, no plot.

The cause wasn’t helped today by the dismissal of Assou-Ekotto, but nevertheless – with Modric and Lennon both on form there is a basis for attacking potency. Somehow, with their misplaced passes and inability to tackle, Zokora, Jenas and Bentley are between them negating the good work of this pair.

The honeymoon is most certainly over for ‘Arry. Now it’s time for him to earn his corn as a manager, both tactically, with the under-performing and shorn of confidence rabble already at N17, and in the transfer market over January.

Alternatively of course, if we want a spate of good results, we could always sack ‘Arry, bring in someone new and watch the miraculous “new-manager-bounce” occur.

(I jest. )

Spurs news, rants

King reigns, Modric arrives: West Ham 0-2 Spurs

A bunch of positives from last night – a clean-sheet; cracking double-save from the much-maligned Gomes at 1-0, that was worth a goal (although a draw would have been harsh on us); little Lennon’s final ball matching the quality of his initial scampering; and the sight of the team generally bossing the game for much of the second-half. Personally though I was most chuffed with our little midfield fairy Lucy Modric.


Some context first – he was hardly Pele out there last night. In the first half in particular his tendency to drift wide and stay there left poor old Pavluychenko trudging around the penalty area with no white-shirts anywhere near him and only that nasty Lucas Neill for company. However, even in the first 45 Modric started to look like the flashy Hollywood midfielder we’d all heard about over the summer. A couple of neat step-overs, some twinkle-toed dribbles and the odd cheeky nutmeg – he suddenly appeared to fancy English football, and to believe that he really was a better player than Parker, Behrani et al. Then, for 20 or 30 mins in the second half, we began to dominate the game and Modric seemed to be at the hub of most things good. While maintaining a fairly central position he made himself available for a pass, and regularly took the opportunity to swagger towards goal and pull a few strings. It would be stretching it to say he bossed the game, but for the first time since arriving he seemed to enjoy conducting things, and occasionally he delivered the end product of a pleasingly incisive through-ball (we Lane regulars like that sort of thing). Finally it seems, Modric could be finding his feet in this Tottenham team.


Bless him, he still seems to be made of talcum powder and string. A gentle nudge doesn’t just knock him off balance, it sends him hurtling about ten feet across the pitch. At times it seemed he was sent tumbling by a gentle breeze in the East End night, or the blast of air carrying from the ref’s whistle. More cunning teams will work out not to give him too much time on the ball, and instead just kick, as he’s liable to snap, but cunning didn’t appear to be the West Ham way last night. Admittedly there was not much to which it can be compared, but I’d say Modric’s performance last night was possibly his best in a Tottenham shirt, which bodes rather well – I particularly look forward to seeing him dominate some Uefa cup games, where he has more time on the ball


Elsewhere on the Pitch…


Modric looked the sort of player that Bentley would love to become – ie a class above and he knows it. Bentley still doesn’t look entirely comfortable. It’s as if the whole business of getting stuck in on the pitch is a rather irritating distraction from living out his dream of living the celeb lifestyle in London.


Elsewhere, Assou-Ekotto continued to amble around in auto-pilot with that curious, expressionless stare of the undead, before doing his best to concede a penalty (relax Hammers fans – yes it was a pen, but we should have had a blatant one at the other end).


Corluka looked like a big lumbering bear, with little pace, and generally preferring to exercise pragmatism over guile whenever in possession.


Zokora did a decent job defensively, but conceded possession too often in the first half when going forward. Almost got his goal in the second half, mind.


And good old Ledley capped a solid display with a goal he can now drink to, stumble to and get in a fight at Faces to. His goal celebrations looked surprisingly sedate for a man whose celebrations were so heart-warmingly captured by the tabloids earlier this year.


First half we were as sloppy as I’d expected we’d be, second half we were much improved, a really impressive, controlled and inventive performance. Also nice to see us (generally) sensibly play the game out in the last few mins, just keeping possession, aside from the needless concession of a couple of free-kicks. But even those had a silver lining, as Gomes was able to enjoy his moment in the sun. Take a bow lads.