Spurs preview

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.

For Queen and Country - England matters

Ukraine 1-0 England: Silver Linings

Do excuse me while I momentarily don my England hat: this missive, from one of the souls frequently to be found loitering around AANP Towers, appeared on earlier today:

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Rio’s concentration lapse, the curious manner in which Green was sent off, the withdrawal of Lennon and the fact that we lost, it strikes me as far more useful than if we’d played with 11 and coasted to a comfy victory. We’ve had it all our own way so far in this campaign – and deservedly so by and large, we’ve earned it – so with qualification in the bag a more testing scenario ought to have been of much greater benefit in preparing for the World Cup. Playing almost the whole game with ten men, and chasing the game for a good hour, will hopefully have been vaguely educational for the players, who can expect far sterner tests throughout the World Cup Finals than they’ve received in the Qualifiers.

In particular, I was glad that the less proven and less experienced international players, like Johnson and Carrick, got to experience a tricky game away from home, in a testing atmosphere and against a team who desperately wanted a win. I would hope they’ll learn a lot more from that than they would have done in another 4-1 romp at Wembley. Knowing what strategy we adopt with ten men could also prove a handy lesson come South Africa.

For the same reason, I see a silver lining in Rooney’s withdrawal for the Belarus game. Admittedly they’re not the toughest opponents so we should be able to beat them even without our top players, but just in terms of preparation for the World Cup, playing a competitive game without Rooney is necessary for the team to know how to adapt. We struggled without him in crunch games in previous tournaments, and while he’s a dead cert to start when available, we need to have at least some semblance of a plan to cope without him. In both 2004 and 2006 we were knocked out when he exited, and there’s always a possibility he’ll be injured/suspended for a crucial game or two in 2010. Blessings in disguise, I tell ye.