All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs’ Summer Doings Viewed From A Beady AANP Eye

What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale 

Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.

More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.

Formation 

Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.

Erm… a centre-forward? 

Other personnel 

Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Dovi?enja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.

Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.

 

 

Spurs 1-1 Stoke: The Pointless Meandering of Bale, & Other Grumbles

Full-blown, undiluted apoplexy does not translate particularly smoothly into the written word, so ‘tis perhaps just as well that after a good night’s sleep and couple of early morning whiskies AANP is now in slightly more philosophical mood than at the final whistle last night, when the denizens of the South Stand took time out from making rude gestures at the Stoke fans to stare in horror and cover the ears of the nearest small child while I emitted an unmistakeable, loud tut. Accompanied, I’ll have you know, by a shake of the head that had been brewing from nigh on the first whistle of the evening.Mercifully, a degree of perspective has settled upon me in the alcohol-fuelled haze. I recall now that on perusing the fixture list a few weeks back, Stoke at home and Chelski away appeared the trickiest of the remaining engagements. With the ilk of Norwich, QPR et al to come thereafter, a slightly cheerier sequence of results beckons – to which end a point against Stoke might not be so bad in the final analysis.

By Golly Last Night’s Proceedings Did Make The Blood Boil Nevertheless

Still smarting from their ludicrous victory over us earlier in the season, my expectations for our esteemed guests were lower than the belly of a particularly depressed rattlesnake, and sure enough their goalkeeper began his time-wasting routine over goal-kicks in the very first minute. After which, they adopted an admittedly well-drilled 9-0-1 formation and bedded in, adding nothing of value to the lives of anyone in the stadium, and pausing only to catapult the ball Crouch-wards. Little wonder that their unfortunate fans include a rugby song in their repertoire.

As for our lot, the usual concerns wearily paraded themselves. Despite creating our last two goals from the left wing, and generally looking like he had the beating of their right-back whenever it took his fancy, Bale was again allowed to spend his time meandering fairly pointlessly wherever the dickens he liked, as long as it posed minimal attacking threat. The memory of his burst through the centre against Norwich several months back has faded; his urges to go central should now be the exception rather than the rule.

On t’other flank the absence of Lennon continues to have ‘Arry et al scratching their heads and staring blankly at the teamsheet. Niko Kranjcar was the beneficiary of the pre-game coin toss to decide who begins on the right, but appeared to be labouring under the burden of an invisible elephant strapped to his back throughout his 45 minutes. Slower and less interested by the game, he seems hell-bent on bidding us “Dovi?enja??” come the season’s end, and has now even slipped behind Ms AANP on my list of favourite Croats. The ignominy.

‘Arry’s England Credentials To The Fore Once Again 

Inspired by this cunning tactical nous, our lot invested oodles of huffing, puffing, corners that failed to clear the first man and ultimately a general mentality of frenzied panic, the combination of which at least rescued a point. However, with possession apparently in excess of 70%, and the usual two dozen attempts on goal, it ought to have been more. Most frustrating, and now that blasted lot from down the road are crowing once again. Time for another whisky methinks.

Spurs 3-1 Stevenage: (Tardy) Ends, Not Means

Stumbling over the ball, chasing shadows and conceding possession with almost religious fervour while the scoreboard flashes the eye-watering message “Spurs 0-1 Stevenage” is not really a recommended means of achieving an aim as menial as making a cup of tea, letting alone winning some sparkly silverware, but more wizened sages than I have it that for such competitions as this the ends will justify the means. Hence, if our lilywhite heroes set about making the quarter-finals by the novel method of beginning a football match by abandoning football, then this is tickety-boo as long as they progress in fine.For the most part this season has been a rip-roaring blur of one/two-touch play and zippy off-the-ball movement. Exceptions have been rare – Liverpool away, Chelski at home, l’Arse away. To this list of luminaries can now be added Stevenage, bizarrely enough.

While the outcome was never really in doubt, and the chuntering amongst the masses was of the more frivolous ilk during that first 20 minutes, that a team comprising VDV, Lennon, Bale, Kranjcar and Defoe could find it quite so difficult to string three passes together certainly prompted the occasional scratch of the cranium. However, life became cheerier and the quality of football a tad silkier once lilywhite noses were in front. Should Ledley, Parker or A.N.Other hoist that great silver jug aloft in May, AANP will do its best to desist from interrupting the ticker-tape

fêting of our heroes in order to chide them for three messy halves of football against Stevenage.Standard Stuff From Defoe

Precious little of value can be gleaned from a formulaic victory against lower-league opposition, but AANP always cherishes those fleeting glimpses of young Master Defoe. Uncannily instinctive and gifted finishing? Check. Look of incredulity that there exists in the game the Offside Law? Check. Doing just about all that can reasonably be expected of him – and a tiny bit more – in his limited game time before being shunted back onto the bench at the weekend? Check. Eyeing up a move away from N17 this summer, simply so that he can gambol across a football pitch, anywhere, in anyone’s colours, just as long as it be on a regular basis? Oh golly…

Oh Danny Boy

Young Danny Rose, on t’other hand, is fast tumbling out of favour at AANP Towers. Physically incapable of delivering a decent cross with his left foot(where “decent” may be defined as “eluding the first blinking opponent in his way, for goodness sake”), and seemingly unable on pain of death to use his right, the vast oceans of goodwill earned by that goal are rapidly drying up in this neck of the interweb. He has time on his side I suppose – use it wisely, young man – but for the remainder of the season I would gladly see him confined to the shadow of BAE’s eccentricities.

If you’ve made it this far down I congratulate thee. In their entirety these musings could probably be summarised thus: We progressed; the minutiae matter little.

L’Arse 5-2 Spurs: Sitting Deep and the Crouch Reboot

Awkward. Maybe we should begin at the beginning…

The Glorious First Five Minutes

Ah, ‘twas a pleasure to be a Tottenham fan. Our heroes produced some ovely stuff. Swift, slick passing; patient but pacey; sideways if necessary but probing forward whenever opportunity even threatened to knock. L’Arse struggled to focus upon the little leather orb, and the whole thing was crowned with a delightfully typical Tottenham goal, albeit aided by quite extraordinarily inept defending.

Alas, what followed was downright blasted awful.

The Crouch ApproachHaving spent all season passing the bejesus out of opponents, our heroes hit on the dubious tactic this afternoon of eschewing pretty passing for a slightly less refined approach of smacking the ball heavenwards towards Saha and Adebayor, and hoping that by hook, crook, chest or gangly limb the ball would somehow or other stick there. There was something eerily Crouch-esque about the whole thing, evoking painful memories of unpleasant hoicks that pybassed our midfield and ruled out any opportunity for us to play our natural passing game on the green stuff.

 

Further woe was to be had by the collective decision of the midfield to station themselves Alamo-style some 10-15 yards ahead of their own penalty area and wait for l’Arse to attack. The rationale was presumably to allow for counter-attack revelry, but the effect was instead to invite relentless pressure upon poor old Friedel and his worryingly popular net. Every time we cleared to halfway, l’Arse were able to amble forward at will into the final third, and catastrophe duly ensued.

More GrumblesCuriously, the sending-off of Parker in the dying embers was a darned sight harder to swallow here at AANP Towers than any of the unabated awfulness that had preceded it. United at home next week are beatable, but sans Parker it becomes a lot less likely. (On which note, Sandro looked every inch a man who hasn’t played in a month or two, all misplaced passes and niggly fouls.)

 

The “winning” of the penalty by Bale was also disappointing. If ultra slow-mo, zoomed in replays prove there was contact I’ll happily retract – but to this disgruntled viewer it appeared that Bale took a dive, which would be cheating, and not for the first time. Not at this club, please. Bale in particular is comfortably good enough to excel by fair means rather than foul. On a brighter note, the handsome young Welshman’s turn of pace in the first place was outstanding, matching the excellence of the pass from Modric.

Returning however to the grisly business of head-shaking and repeated tutting, the initial team selection seemed at the time a tad curious, and in hindsight fairly ill-judged. Saha upfront instead of VDV was a bold call, particularly away from home, but was understandable to a degree, in terms of giving the centre-backs all manner of complexities (and a goal within five minutes provided a degree of vindication). The selection of Kranjcar ahead of Lennon will require a little more explanation in order to placate the teeth-gnashers of AANP Towers, particularly if the plan really was to play swiftly on the counter-attack.

Punters Across The Nation Stare Quizzically At Their “’Arry for England” PlacardsSilver lining? A 0-0 against Stevenage followed by a thrashing in our local derby – from 2-0 up, and despite two significant half-time managerial changes – have probably done as much to slow down ‘Arry’s charge towards England management as anything else will all season. In truth however, this is no sort of positive at all (and nor is it likely to make the slightest difference to the summer’s managerial moves).

 

Despite all this, there is no particular need to panic. Play this way every week and I’ll happily send out the memo that the time is ripe for every man and his dog in the N17 area to scuttle around like headless chickens. However, resume normal service next week, and continue until the end of the season, and this whole episode could have attached to it a post-it note marked “Blip”. An unsightly mess for sure, but this lot can and do perform a whole lot better each week.

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

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

My Eyes! My Eyes!

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

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

Lennonlessness And Its Associated Problems

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

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

Spurs 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.

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

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

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

Boo, Hiss

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

Huzzah!

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

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

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

Spurs – Chelsea Preview: ‘Arry’s Conundrum On The Wings

Crunch time. This one could not be much bigger if it were written in size 72 font, stretched in a rack and then injected with muscle-steroid-type-things by that Russian giant of a chap David Haye beat a couple of years back. It’s not just the three points, which would give us a five-point platform from which to wave down at Chelski, with a game in hand. Winning this one would hint at a rather symbolic shifting of power within London and beyond, like the passing of the Olympic flame, but with a bit more blood and thunder and complaining from John Terry.

Beating that ‘orrible lot from down the road earlier this season hinted at a shift in power in Norf London, and while time will tell on that front, the panicky ramblings of l’Arse ‘keeper Szeszecnezcsnzy earlier this week, that their priority this season was to finish above our lot (ha!), signalled that times may indeed be a-changing. Send Chelski packing tonight, and we may be able to display a freshly bloodied scalp on the mantelpiece.

Bale and Lennon

Alas, the gods have amused themselves by flinging down injury bolts left, right and centre. Well certainly left and right at least. Lennon is definitely out, and Bale has chosen a curious time to impersonate AANP by spraining his ankle (wear a strap at all times lad, makes the world of difference). Good news for all those who pick inopportune moments to blink, and thereby miss a sprint of half the pitch by one of these two; but bad news for all lilywhite fans of the counter-attack. Or indeed attacks of a more generic sort. The pace and width of these chaps has been crucial in our merry march upwards. By the pricking of my thumbs a conundrum this way comes.

On Sunday ‘Arry responded to the absence of Bale by sticking Modders on the left; the withdrawal of Lennon then saw VDV switched to the right. Alas, for VDV in particular, “pace” sits well down the list of notable attributes, somewhere in between “magic tricks” and “intermediate Excel capabilities”. Whichever honest blighters are asked to deputise – and Kranjcar and Pienaar are also nominees – our style will undoubtedly alter tonight, and a lot more traffic will be diverted through the middle.

A Gentle “Keep Modders In The Centre” Petition

Here at AANP Towers we are pretty keen to see Modders deployed in the centre rather than the left. It may be harsh on Sandro, following his all-singing, all-dancing, all-conquering display alongside Parker, in centre-midfield on Sunday, but particularly in the absence of Bale-Lennon, Modders’ ingenuity is crucial for the orchestration of all things inventive. Whatever his choice, one hopes that ‘Arry has enlisted his finest team of monkeys to pore over the permutations and select wisely.

Other Injury Footnotes

Further selection frivolities are provided by Ledley’s knee, which presumably is the size of an unbraided Benny afro at present, after his 90-minute stint on Sunday. The return of Kaboul should at least help out there, whilst the official Spurs website has done little for the good of calm and order up and down the High Road by noting that Adebayor has hurt his foot.

In truth I suspect that Adebayor will be fine, nor would I be entirely surprised if Bale gambolled across the turf at some point tonight either. At full strength I would back our lot to the hilt, but given a few crucial absentees this looks less straightforward. Friedel, Gallas, Kaboul, Parker, Modders, Adebayor – this lot need to rise to the occasion tonight. Go get ‘em chaps.

Spurs – Sunderland Preview: Resumption of Normal Service Please Chaps

“The measure of greatness is not how many you win, but how you react to defeat”. Or something along those lines. In fact, AANP may have invented that just now.

Anyway, the point is that the epithet has been fairly redundant  for as far back as I can remember, as we would generally fail to win in the first place, and then react to defeat with another defeat, or a two-goal lead thrown away late on, or whatever. A changed beast these days however, to be sure. Win follows win, and all delivered with an élan unmatched by anyone else in the country.

Today however we need to react to defeat – simply by resuming normal service. In defeat at Stoke, at least in the second half, we did our usual thing and looked absolutely ruddy marvellous. Play our natural game, and even allowing for the New Manager Effect at Sunderland, we should dominate and overwhelm our opponents today.

Defoe Begins Chuntering

We are presumably without Kaboul today, following last week’s very deserved red card, so the return of Ledley would help; while the handy showings by Messrs Pienaar and Kranjcar in midweek won’t help them make the starting line-up, so they might as well give up on that dream now.

The inevitable murmurings of discontent have emanated from the frustrated mouth of Defoe, and one rather sympathises. When he has played this season he has scored – and then been dropped. Following the fairly ineffective showing of VDV last week, another omission at the expense of the Dutchman again today would not improve the mood at Casa Defoe. Over to you ‘Arry.

Spurs 1-5 Man City: Looking Forward With Optimism. No, Really.

Optimism to follow, but it would be remiss to begin proceedings with anything other than the nasty business of a post-mortem…The Arnie Approach

In the absence of our recognised midfield enforcers, our glorious leader adopted the cunning tactical ploy of leaving the back-four without any protection to handle a City front-line so shiny and expensive they had Tevez on the bench, while the rest of our team was crammed with attacking types . While it is easy to denigrate in hindsight, I must admit that ‘Arry’s decision to go for a tackle-lite but flair-heavy central midfield combo of Kranjcar and Modders earned him a whole-hearted and meaty up-raised thumb from the denizens of AANP Towers pre kick-off, on account of its stirring levels of equally measured gung and ho. In an excited flurry of mixed metaphors we settled down to watch our heroes either live by the sword or go down in a blaze of glory, unable to criticise the manager for weighing up the likes of Jake Livermore or Kaboul for defensive midfielder vs the Nasri-Silva-Dzeko-Aguero combo, and instead deciding it would be a dashed sight more fun to watch our own Lennon-Kranjcar-Modders-Bale-VDV-Crouch combo try to out-attack City instead, while poor old Friedel et al simply sighed wearily, closed their eyes and prayed for mercy.

Alas, simply outshooting the other lot, re-loading and doing it again, until they all drop down dead and you rescue Chenny is a ploy that may have worked in wholesome Arnold Schwarzenegger action films of the ‘80’s, but in the nascent days of the 2011/12 football season such a ploy does not cut it, particularly against a City team whose gazillion pound summer outlay enables them to produce vastly superior triangles to ours. The slick little diagonal passes around our area, positional interchanging and off-the-ball movement of their front four sliced our slightly ponderous defence to ribbons. By contrast, our front-line did not have quite the same ingenuity, or speed of thought or foot, to cause similar damage. Put bluntly, our triangles just were not as good.

Poor Form, All Round

Who knows how the game might have panned out had Bale not aimed for the moon in the first half when it seemed easier to score? Crouch too might have changed the game had his flying header pinged the right side of the post, about 30 seconds before Dzeko scored his second. (The elongated one is excused criticism for that miss, for it was a jolly difficult one to have directed better – but if I see him one more time react to a miss by grinning, my lip will positively quiver with rage I tell ye).

However, the performance, as much as the result, was rather soul-destroying. Substitutes Livermore and Defoe at least showed some passion when they arrived, but of the rest possibly only Friedel emerges with any credit (although the goalkeeping pedants in this corner of the interweb think he might have done a mite better with Aguero’s goal). Worryingly, Daws produced a rather convincing Corluka impression, all lumber and awkwardness; while Kranjcar seemed to model his central midfield performance on Jermaine Jenas, with plenty of backwards passing and scant defensive cover; and the sooner Modders is given a slap around the face with a wet fish and told to jolly well buck up his ideas, the better.

Onwards. With Optimism 

And in this area I still fancy us to fare relatively well. The arrival of Adebayor will offer us a darned sight more in attack, while either or both of Parker/Diarra will add some of the bite so desperately lacking in the absence of Sandro (Parker in and Palacios out is a fine trade). Royally thrashed we may have been, but in both games so far we have shown glimpses of attacking ability that suggest we will still outscore the majority in this division, and therefore challenge for the top four again.

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