All Action, No Plot

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

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.

Norwich 0-2 Spurs: Introducing Our Newest Centre-Forward…?

Many a time and oft my Spurs-supporting chum Ian has peddled the theory that Gareth Bale should be shoved right up the top, through the middle, and play as an out-and-out centre-forward. Outlandish it may be, but last night actually provided a glimpse of how the world would be run if Ian were King.

The Lennon Right-Wing Problem was solved by the novel solution of asking Kyle Walker to do the jobs of two men, and pretending it was not a problem at all – a solution that proved spookily effective, and left us at AANP Towers wondering how many more roles Walker could simultaneously adopt for the good of the team.

Meanwhile, VDV, Bale and Modders did whatever they jolly well pleased – which meant that Bale got to treat us to his Cristiano Ronaldo impression. He’s certainly got the attributes of a central attacking type – pace, power, control (if you pardon the lapse into Alan Hansenisms), as well as heading and shooting. For now it seems one best kept for special occasions, but a delightful little sub-plot may have been born.

Adebayor’s Phantom InjuryAdebayor’s quick feet in setting up Bale left me wondering how we ever tolerated all those interminable years of Crouch. There then followed a most curious medical phenomenon, as the hearts of just about every lilywhite in Christendom simultaneously skipped a beat at around 9pm GMT when Adebayor appeared to twang his hamstring and be out for the season. Oh how the walls of AANP Towers resounded with wails of despair. The denizens of this abode formed an orderly queue by the fifteenth floor window and prepared to hurl themselves out in despair, rather than face a second half the season minus the grinning Togolese – only for Adebayor mysteriously to un-twang himself and carry on just tickety-boo. Mighty queer.

 

Elsewhere On The PitchThe usual roll-call of excellence applies, with gold stars liberally distributed throughout the team. Sandro and Parker snuffed out every first hint of a Norwich attack, while Modders and VDV passed their midfield to death.

 

Kaboul

Bad-ass.

The Good Time Just Keep RollingThird place, and jolly well merited too. Keep playing this way and chances will continue to flow, wins will continue to accumulate. The occasional anomalous result will occur when the fates conspire against us, as at Stoke, but at the halfway stage a Top Four finish is ours to throw away.

Stoke 2-1 Spurs: Rugby Tactics and Mind-Boggling Refereeing

Sitting down to type when one’s lip is literally still quivering with rage must surely be ill-advised, but how else to express sheer, undiluted incandescence? Here at AANP Towers we are generally loath to criticise the officials, since their job is jolly difficult, their mistakes are always honest and frankly I imagine that to a man the players make many more errors per game. And yet so many, high-profile and egregious were the faux pas of the officials today that I have little choice but to clear my throat and ask in the sternest tones, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”?

Stoke – A Handy Rugby Side

My sentiments on our triumphant opponents are hardly more complimentary, although unlike their friends in black the Stoke players could not be labelled necessarily incompetent. Talentless, for sure, but at least skilled at the unique brand of non-football they purvey. Stoke’s tactics were not entirely dissimilar to those of our burly rugger-playing cousins, who exalt in blasting the ball towards the heavens and scuffling over the scraps as it falls to earth, their principal aim being to get the ball into touch. But goodness, didn’t they do it well?

Ill-Timed Narcolepsy

Our lot are hardly exempt from the quite terrifying wrath being meted out in this corner of the interweb. As AANP advances in years he holds ever greater regard for time spent sleeping, one of the most mysterious and wondrous gifts bestowed upon those with closable eyelids – but for goodness’ sake chaps, the first 25 minutes away to Stoke was hardly the time to indulge in a spot of shut-eye.

Alas, our heroes dozily trundled along in that opening quarter of the game, sleepily rubbing their eyes and adjusting their duvets as Crouch and his new chums watched the ball descending from the skies and duly sharpened their elbows. In truth the half-time deficit was deserved.

Second Half Improvement

Laudable proactivity from ‘Arry at half-time, and everyone (bar, perhaps, VDV) earned their weekly wage in that second period, with Modders notably contributing to the cause, and Bale and Walker adapting fairly comfortably to the mystical concept of “wing-back”, as the nature of the game gradually swung back from rugby to football.

‘Twas not to be however, such is life’s rich tapestry. The Adebayor disallowed goal, Shawcross handball, push on Kaboul and handball by Crouch were all fairly blatant; and on a particularly fortuitous day we might also have benefited from the push that floored Parker as we awaited a corner in the first half, and shot by Defoe that struck outstretched arms in the second.

A temporary blip then, one would imagine – but beware ye who tread the streets of North London tonight, for this particular irate fan will fix any passer-by with a glare of such vitriol that small children will howl in anguish and elderly women hurry to the other side of the road. Thoroughly, thoroughly exasperating stuff.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: Beauty, Beast, Etc

After a run of 10 wins in 11, and six in a row, the true connoisseur does not really want the record to grind to a halt against Stoke. Against Barcelona maybe, or the Harlem Globe Trotters – but not Stoke.

Stoke are actually a member of that elite and highly exclusive band of English teams that have indeed beaten us this season (cast thine mind back to our peculiar Carling Cup exit a few months back). Given our tendency to panic in the face of set-pieces, this lot could pose problems from their Delap uber-throws, while leading their line is a familiar-looking chap of elongated proportions, Peter Crouch now allowing the ball to bounce unpredictably off his angular cranium in the red and white of Stoke. It all points to a side at the very opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum. Beauty and Beast. He-Man and Skeletor. Tottenham and Stoke.

Still, the drill for our heroes does not differ from week to week – swarm all over them from the off, and take a few of the plethora of chances we’ll doubtless create. Empirical evidence suggests that it is a winning formula.

On the personnel front Gallas may again deputise for Ledley, while Defoe and Bale have chipped fingernails and tummy aches, but even so our lot ought blinking well to prevail. The VDV-Defoe question may once again be an issue; it should matter not. Defend well enough and up the other end the goals will flow.

Fulham 1-3 Spurs: Cardiac Concerns All Round

The adage has it that winning while playing poorly is a sign of a good time, but the sentiment in this corner of the interweb is that we win these games because our forward line between them just have more quality than most others in the division. Lennon’s, Defoe’s and even Bale’s ability in the way they took their goals were of the highest order; Fulham for all their pressure did not have that class and clinical touch to apply the coup de grace as necessary. ‘Twas a similar story last week against QPR, when for all the opponents’ huffing and puffing at 2-1 we still had the flair to conjure up a third; ditto, one might suggest, the wins against Blackburn and l’Arse.

So it was the usual stuff from our lot – leading at half-time (albeit far from our best this time); emerging in the second half with an infuriatingly negative approach of sitting deep and heartily encouraging the other lot to apply pressure as they saw fit; a chronic inability to defend set-pieces that saw unadulterated panic sweep throughout the ranks every time the ball was dropped into our area from the heavens (in fact, winning long-balls at either end proved completely beyond us today, Hangeland constantly beating Adebayor, ensuring precious little second half respite; while at the other end the ball frequently stuck with Zamora, despite Ledely’s attentions); but ultimately three more points for the N17 pot. ‘Arry is presumably not alone in suffering heart problems brought about by this sort of performance, for it cannot only have been at AANP Towers that pulse-rates soared and fingernails were gnawed to the bone, during that tortuous second half.

Vindication of Our Summer Signings

That said, the contribution of kindly old Brad Friedel also helped, ever so slightly. I have liked the chap so far this season because he just gets the basic stuff done with no alarms and no surprises, a wonderfully calming alternative to that mental Brazilian chap. While there were probably not any full-stretch acrobatic saves in there today, his reflexes and concentration were impeccable throughout, and each of the countless saves that needed to be made were duly made with no hint of error. Bravo sir, or whatever equivalent is preferred by our cousins over the pond.

Also worth noting that for our first goal Adebayor held up the ball in a manner that was generally beyond Crouch last season, and Kyle Walker showed a turn of pace that would have been completely alien to Vedran Corluka. Our summer signings have advanced us a level, be ye in no doubt. (Yes yes, I’m fully aware that Walker was already strictly speaking a lilywhite last season, but really, since when has a moot point like the truth been allowed to disturb the weekly gubbins around these parts?)

The usual stuff from another summer signing too. I rather hope that, like Ledley, Scott Parker is given the entire week off in between games, and packed off to Butlins, or Benidorm, or wherever he fancies, with a couple of energy drinks and a good book, while a crack team of surgeons re-attach the relevant body parts and generally do whatever they did to that Six Million Dollar Chap back in the 70s. Put yer feet up fella, you’ve earned a rest. (Incidentally, I asked the venerable AANP Senior today whether Parker really did compare to Dave Mackay – the latter having been a particular favourite of my old man – and the response was that the question was invalid, as Mackay would not have made it through a game in the modern era without getting sent off.)

I still rather hesitate to suggest that we are now a team capable of rolling up our sleeves and grinding out results on these away days, for this seemed to owe as much to luck as defensive ability. Nevertheless, away wins such as these – so gruesome to behold that they probably made the midwife shriek – are very much the stuff of which a Top Four finish is made.

Ahoy-Hoy & Toodle-Pip: Musings on Spurs’ Transfer Window

The dust may have settled, but it would be frightfully remiss to pootle along any further without casting a beady eye over the various to-ings and fro-ings of the transfer window. Step this way please…Welcome to the Lane… 

Curiouser and curiouser, we now somehow find ourselves bottom of the table yet with both of last season’s Players of the Year in the ranks. This one get a raucous slapping of the thigh, as in the absence of Sandro, and the now dearly departed Sergeant Wilson, our central midfield personnel have barely made a tackle between them. Like a cereal gone wrong Parker is all bustle, harry and snap. Moreover, for those of us still scarred by memories of Palacios misplacing six-yard passes, or ducking for cover as Steffen Freund shaped to shoot, Parker also has enough technical ability to look at home within a typical Tottenham midfield. Just as behind every good man is a woman, behind every Hudd and Modders we need a Parker.

A bonus point too to someone or other – probably Daniel Levy – for haggling for a price as low as £5 mil for Parker, on the grounds that his aged 30 year-old limbs merited no higher fee, while simultaneously purloining £10 mil (possibly to rise to £12 mil apparently) for 30 year-old Peter Crouch, a man who didn’t win Player of the Year last season…

Emmanuel Adebayor

As previously mentioned, AANP approves of this one too. Like or loathe the man we certainly need the player. A point of concern for the future is that come next summer we will presumably find ourselves without either Adebayor or Modders (and back in possession of Jenas once again), but many a slip ‘twixt cup and lip, so we’ll concern ourselves with that at a later date.

Brad Friedel 

Luka Modric

The swine. One jolly well hopes that after all the brouhaha he retains his undoubted ability to direct operations from deep, rather than transmitting his recently discovered dastardliness to on-pitch performances of apathy.

While I’m not sure I’d buy a used car from the man, I give credit again to Levy for sticking to his word on this, after being strung out by Berba in similarly unsavoury circumstances back in the days of yore. As well as raising a couple of choice fingers at players’ disregard for their contracts, £40 mil in the dying embers of the transfer window would have been of limited use, and even earlier there is only so much we could have done – our problem is wages rather than transfer fees. Rather than stock up with more Premiership standard players, we need world-class talent, and the £40 mil we would have gained would presumably have gone towards the former rather than the latter. A replacement of similar transfer fee and quality (eg Snjeider) simply would not have come. Far better that we retain Modders, at least for a year.

And Shunted Unceremoniously Toward The Exit Door… 

 

Robbie Keane 

Wilson Palacios

Having resembled a cross between Rambo and Robocop when he joined, poor old Sergeant Wilson seemed completely perplexed by the physics of the football by the end of last season, with the result that of every 50 attempted passes, 49 tended to find an opponent, all of which rather negated his tackling ability. The arrival of a new, improved model (in the shape of Sandro) has brought about his ruthless but entirely sensible culling from the fold. In the context of the £5 mil arrival of Scott Parker, the £8 mil sale of Palacios represents more frightfully good business from the N17 moneymen.

Peter Crouch

Ye gods be praised. No doubt he’ll loop a header into the Tottenham net later on this season, but for a chap of that structure to be quite so poor at heading was nigh on unforgiveable. The constant concession of free-kicks tended to be more the fault of the officials than Crouch, but nevertheless, aside from a purple patch in partnership with VDV, this chap contributes precious little of value as a striker. Poor in the air, possessed of a ludicrously weak shot and prone to grinning whenever he missed, frankly he riled us here at AANP Towers, a situation exacerbated by the dismissal against Real and own-goal against City last season.

Jermaine Jenas

Rejoice, rejoice and thrice I invite ye – rejoice. At least until the end of the season.

Once upon a time – about three years ago, Jenas threatened to make good on all that youthful promise. Alas, the rest rather besmirches the history of Tottenham Hotspur, AANP frequently shaking its head in wonder, and concluding that the lad must be magic in training, because his performances on the pitch hardly merited a regular starting berth. That unique brand of Sideways and Backwards will take the Midlands by storm this year.

In Conclusion

Some fine dabblings, in both directions. The grass is always greener, so we may well chunter away about the failure to nab young G. Cahill Esquire, but nevertheless, “Clear out the deadwood; bring in a midfielder with bite; and ruddy well stick a powerful striker upfront” were three fairly critical points on the summer to-do list at the Lane. AANP approves.

Scott Parker

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.

Man Utd – Spurs Preview: A Team of Younes Kabouls

Rejoice, all ye fellow lilywhites. Admittedly it is also with a degree of trepidation (Old Trafford will do that to a Spurs fan) but goodness me it is wonderful finally to be able to look forward to Spurs in Premiership action tonight. ‘Tis with delight therefore that I invite you to gather round and peruse with me the permutations of team selection for the evening’s festivities.Goalkeeper 

Right-Back? Kaboul?

BAE at left-back and Daws as half of the centre-back combo pick themselves; thereafter it becomes a bit tricky. Kaboul would be the obvious partner for Daws, given the absences of Gallas and Ledley, but what of right-back? Kyle Walker began against Hearts, but a Europa qualifier is a vastly different kettle of fish from a Premiership game away to the champions. Although I’m not quite sure where he was hiding last Thursday, I suspect that if fit Corluka will get the nod, so we can all enjoy the sight of him waddling along in the puff of smoke that Ashley Young leaves behind. Personally I’d go with Kaboul over any of the others at right-back.

Holding Midfielder? Kaboul?

No doubt ‘Arry, Joe Jordan and chums have been chuckling away to themselves at the irony of the fact that we possibly have more central midfielders in our squad than any other team in the Premiership, yet not a single one is fit for tonight. Ah, the hilarity! Livermore and Kranjcar then, I suppose. However, if ‘Arry wants someone with a bit of snap in central midfield the options are either sticking a jersey on Joe Jordan’s back and shoving him out there, or going with… Kaboul?

No Modders tonight, apparently “his head isn’t right”, which is an excuse I must try with my boss next time I just don’t fancy a day at the office. Still, where there is Bale and Lennon there is hope.

Attack? (Maybe Not Kaboul This Time) 

The Other Lot 

Moreover, United have thrown oodles of cash at a new goalkeeper who at best looks like he’d rather not be the chap hovering between the two big white sticks. De Gea will presumably prove his worth soon enough, but in his two appearances so far this season, as well as looking a few weeks shy of his 14th birthday and committing a crime against facial hair, he has displayed what appears to be a rather untimely allergy to ball. Apparently the lad also conceded a dozen or so goals from outside the area last season – and on a marvellously serendipitous note I read this morning that we scored more than any other team from outside the area last season…

It would be rather stretching the facts a mite to suggest that United are therefore there for the taking, but circumstances might be more favourable tonight than usual. Let the madness begin.

The All Action No Plot Ten-Point Wish-List for Spurs This Season

Old hat it may be for everyone else, but here at AANP Towers we bounce around the walls like toddlers on a strict diet of fizzy drinks and E-numbers as we await the start of our Premiership season. Still, rather than pacing the corridors, rubbing hands together in feverish anticipation until tomorrow night, it occurred to me that the time is rather ripe for making public the various musings that have echoed around the walls of AANP Towers all summer. By golly that’s right – in no particular order, it’s the All Action No Plot Ten-Point Wish-List for Spurs’ Coming Season!1. Solve The VDV Conundrum

This one moonlights under the crafty pseudonym “Get Our Strikers Scoring Again”. While he has more talent than the rest of our forwards put together, the uneasy truth may be that VDV’s presence has rather discombobulated our strikers. Like gravity and the temperature at which water boils, that Messrs Pav and Defoe prefer playing within a front two is a scientific truth. Indeed, given a weekly starting-berth and a 4-4-2 one imagines that both would be capable of hitting 20 goals a season (although maybe not alongside each other). However, playing as the lone striker supported by VDV suits neither.

The solution we’ve been screeching from the stands for over a year is the purchase of a striker capable of playing on his own, Adebayor now apparently having displaced Llorente and Rossi atop that particular list. Be it a new signing, or somehow shoving VDV into a 4-4-2 – or even as my Spurs-supporting chum Ian recommends, shoving Bale up top – we really need our strikers to hit 40+ goals between them this season.

(While there is the Crouch option, which does sporadically bear fruit for VDV, my fragile mental state is such that I may eat my own brain if I have to endure another season of his headers flying off a random angular point of his cranium and looping gently into the Paxton.) 

A moot point admittedly, because if he comes ambling towards us making a heart with his hands it means a you-know-what scored by you-know-who, and we would all gratefully accept one of those each week. Nevertheless, one can hardly imagine Bruce Willis skipping off with heart-shaped fingers after capping a bad guy, or Mike Tyson acting similarly after pummelling some poor blighter back in his hey-day. Tyson bit off people’s ears dagnabbit, and while that might be a tad extreme, I hope that this season Bale produces something a bit less akin to an eight year-old girl celebrating the creation of a daisy-chain.

3. Kyle Walker to Prove He Can Defend

Having existed on a right-back diet largely comprising Vedran “Usain” Corluka and Alan Hutton last season, hopes are high for young Master Walker, particularly after his loan at Villa somehow ended up with him being shoe-horned into Fabio’s England squad. I confess I barely watched Villa last season, but Walker’s U21 exploits this summer made interesting viewing: plenty of youthful brio when flying forward, but defending remains a crucial – if oft-overlooked – facet of being a defender, and on this topic the jury at AANP Towers wandered out and is yet to return. Harking back to his occasional Spurs appearances a year or two back (Bolton/Blackburn away?) he looked promising enough, but a hardly the finished article, a soft penalty numbering among a couple of mistakes.

He will get his chances, particularly in the Europa League, and looked impressive enough against Hearts, which might help answer the crucial question: can the lad defend? Until that one is answered I’d quite happily go with Kaboul at right-back.

4. Pav to Stop Whingeing

When the mood takes him he’s a mighty fine player, one who seems to delight in scoring spectacularly from 25 yards rather than anything more mundane, but goodness me, Pav acts like a big old baby at times. He was not built for a 4-5-1, nor has he had a consistent run in the team, so one sympathises, but every time a butterfly sneezes near him he squeals and goes down, and whenever a pass is placed a couple of yards beyond him that look of pained anguish is etched across his face, tears seemingly just around the corner, and arms inevitably a-flapping. For goodness sake sir, life is not fair, it’s the same for all of us – just roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

5. Hudd to Speed Up 

6. Fewer of Those Goalkeeping Clangers

Oh to have been a fly on the wall during transfer negotiations with Brad Friedel. Presumably he has not joined with the intention of warming those comfy-looking seats on the sidelines all season, yet Gomes appears the custodian as we chug along towards the belated season opener. Nevertheless, Friedel’s arrival can be interpreted as a shot of Jagerbomb at the Last Chance Saloon for Gomes: no more flapping. And that incorporates the fumbling of straightforward, straight-at-yer shots approaching with all the power generated by a sedated kitten, as well as general flailing at corners. Early signs, from the friendly vs that Spanish lot and the Europa game vs Hearts are not entirely encouraging – Gomes’ shot-stopping looked decent but one can almost hear the panic bells ringing in his head as a set-piece is delivered in his direction…

7. Don’t Sell Niko Kranjcar

A

dmittedly the opta stats would probably reflect that Pienaar covers about three times as much ground as Kranjcar, but while he may be a tad, ahem, languid, the Croat has undiluted magic in his boots, and given our struggles to break down rubbish teams last season he may have delivered that je ne sais quoi for which we searched in vain. On his rare opportunities last season he delivered a couple of belting strikes, and in midfield against the admittedly rubbish Hearts last week he looked imperious. Still, when Bale was absent ‘Arry seemed willing to try everyone but Kranjcar on the left, and the signing of Pienaar was about as unsubtle as it gets when it comes to ‘Arry’s plans.8. Joe Jordan to Eat Someone

Literally. Deep down he must be dying for a fight, and having restrained himself against Gattuso last season maybe, just maybe, Joey Barton or Arsene Wenger may push him just a bit too far on the touchline this season…

9. Finish in the Top Four 

10. Owen Coyle to Take Over When (“If”) ‘Arry Leaves Next Summer 

Controversial one this, not least because, as the pedants amongst you will have noted, an a wish-list for this season ought not to concern itself with next season. However, the chances are that when Fabio scrams in summer 2012 ‘Arry will cry God for England and St George. I admit immediately that my knowledge of up-and-coming European bosses is negligible, but of the British lot Coyle impresses me. All sorts of caveats here – not least that he’s unproven at a big club, with the cash, egos and whatnot – but he turned Bolton from a loathsome long-ball team to one that plays jolly decent passing football. Just a thought.

Hearts – Spurs Preview: VDV in a 4-4-2?

And so, finally, off we go, in the rather unorthodox settings of ITV4 and Edinburgh. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any Scottish team whose name does not rhyme with either “Beltic” or “Changers” is there for the taking, so first game of the season or not, this lot must be destroyed. ‘Arry has understandably  enough made noises about fielding kids and reserves in the Europa League, but while none of us want injuries ahead of the United trip on Mon, it would nevertheless make sense to field a full-strength side tonight. The players will hardly need a rest, a competitive game will probably do them good ahead of our Premiership bow and it would be nice to put this tie to bed tonight, and rest personnel for the second leg at the Lane.My spies inform me that Modders is amongst the absentees tonight. Whisper it, but this might be the last time the name of our tiny genius crops up amongst excited pre-match natterings, for alas ‘Arry’s latest musings suggest that he is willing to cash in if he can bring in various others (although our beady-eyed chairman is displaying admirable intransigency on the matter).

Not quite as devastating is the absence of Jenas, but the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards is joined on the list of absentees by the Hudd, Sergeant Wilson and Pienaar, while the official prognosis for Sandro reads “out for blinking ages”. Not quite sure who that leaves in central midfield – necessity being the mother of invention, we may even be treated to VDV within a 4-4-2, which would be greeted heartily at AANP Towers and, one suspects, Crouch Mansions and Chateau Defoe. Gallas, Hutton and, inevitably, Ledley, are also crocked, but I expect we’ll muddle through.

Ave Atque Vale 

But still. Let that not detract from some fine and noble contributions previously, notably in the 5-1 and Carling Cup wins, and the laudable feat of 100 goals for the club. Quite thrilled to see the back of him in truth, but good luck sir in the fulfilment of your latest boyhood dream.

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