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…
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And now for something completely different. At third (and, later fourth) round stage the FA Cup hardly constitutes fixture congestion, so the question of where it stands in our list of priorities can probably be deferred to another day.Bingo cards out then, as we look to cross off the names of various squad members last season posing merrily in the club photocall back in August. Participation from Bentley seems unlikely, as a loan to Birmingham looms, while the current status of Robbie Keane is best summed up by a big fat question mark, but Cudicini, Corluka, Bassong, Sandro, Kranjcar and Pav are amongst the candidates for promotion. Crikey - as reserves go that particular mob are a jolly competent bunch, representing probably the strongest substitutes’ bench in the country. In theory then making half a dozen changes ought not to be catastrophically detrimental to our quality, but be warned all ye purveyors of complacency, for the memory still lingers a little painfully of our much-changed line-up putting in a blisteringly ordinary display at home to l’Arse in the Carling Cup a few months back.
Modders, VDV, Bale (and Hudd) – Can We Manage Without The Lot of Them?
A strong case could be made for excusing from duty Messrs Modders, VDV and Bale this weekend. Admittedly they all had a break before Christmas, when they picked up their wages for hurling snowballs rather than chasing footballs. Nevertheless, this is shaping up to be a long old season, and as well four games in the last couple of weeks, Bale has played just about every League and European match this season. The whippersnapper does appear darned well indefatigable, but it would be a slightly pointless experiment to grind game after game out of him, just in order to see how long it would be before he breaks down completely and turns to dust. Moreover, his back problem in midweek suggests a further reason to give him a breather.
VDV is a fragile little lamb, bless, who rarely completes 90 minutes at the best of times, Modders is another from whom we like to wring every last drop of energy during the League and European campaigns. Conclusion? Drop the lot of them.
However, while the medical arguments probably point towards resting these leading lights, I do fret that a midfield shorn of VDV and Modders, as well as Hudd, would be a few cans short of a six-pack when it comes to bossing, creating and generally playing that slick brand of attacking football to which we have become so accustomed over the last couple of seasons. Jenas and Sergeant Wilson between them do a decent job of slotting in alongside the regulars, but the prospect of these two and Sandro taking charge of affairs hardly leaves my gasping fro breath in excitement.
The Niko Kranjcar Fan Club
This could also be a big day for Niko Kranjcar, who effortlessly earned himself status as a firm favourite at AANP Towers last season, but who has been limited to a couple of completely impotent substitute appearances this season. Noises have been made at various points about him pootling off to pastures new, but his career in lilywhite is not necessarily irretrievable, for the efforts of Bale and Hutton over the last 12 months have illustrated that it is quite possible for a couple of strong cameos to earn a player a regular berth at Spurs, such are the vagaries of circumstance and fickleness of our glorious leader.
All things considered, our mob, reserves and all, ought to be strong enough for any time featuring an aged Gary Doherty. After the disappointment of midweek let’s just have a nice, serene injury/suspension-free cruise into the fourth round.
Hmmm. And flying forward in attack at every opportunity, in gung-ho and open manner, irrespective of who we were playing, where we playing and whether or not we were even in possession of the ball, had seemed like such a fool-proof plan. After all, if 2010 taught us anything it is surely that no matter how many we concede we will always score more? A plan of tactical genius, it could not possibly fail. Ever.Curses then upon those dastardly Everton rotters, who cunningly hit upon the idea of doing exactly the same thing to us, and making merry in the various yawning gaps we carelessly left strewn around Goodison Park.
Still, Spurs fans the world over seem to have spent the day pointedly barking the mantra “No need to panic. You hear me? DON’T PANIC!” at anyone within earshot. We all seem to be agreed that there is no need to make wholesale personnel changes or sack anyone. Actually, it appears that the instant reaction to defeat will be to sell Robbie Keane, but ‘unless ‘Arry is scarily impulsive I think it safe to assume that this is just circumstance. Perspective is being maintained. Give Gareth Bale a vigorous back-rub, maybe let a couple of them sit out the Cup game at the weekend and I suspect we will emerge from our 45-minute rut in tip-top form once more.
Nevertheless, having approached kick-off with the usual gleeful hand-rub of optimism this was mighty disappointing. The buoyancy of successive clean sheets was instantly destroyed as Gomes was caught staring in disbelief at Louis Saha’s quite astonishing hair, rather than focusing on the ball, during the opening exchanges. He can hardly be blamed, for everything about Saha’s mop defies the rules of normality, leaving him looking like someone has planted foliage atop his head, left it to wither and die and then produced some malevolent spell to turn it the most lurid orange.
However, there has not been any stage this season at which conceding a goal has been a cause for concern amongst our heroes, and sure enough we were level in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Part Two of the plan duly followed, when one of our lot went off injured, but Part Three (Winning Goal) bafflingly failed to materialise, as the steam just seemed to drain from their legs, with composure following swiftly from their heads.
Cause For Cheer: VDV
As ever, VDV gave us plenty about which to smile, but watching him attempt overhead volleys from 30 yards got me chewing over a chicken-and-egg style quandary of what came first: the Dutchman’s insistence that he will only score if it is spectacular, or Pav’s insistence that he will only score if it is spectacular. VDV spent much of the game seeking out new and ever more acrobatic means of peppering Everton’s goal, but alas when a fairly straightforward - if rather sharp – chance fell his way, from short range in the second half, he could do no better than stab it straight at Tim Howard. Oh that the chance had instead been presented to him at shoulder height, when he had his back to goal, somewhere near the halfway line. His disallowed goal was also eye-catching (naturally), but alas, being neither a Man Utd player nor Thierry Henry the benefit of the doubt was not forthcoming.
Perhaps Not Such A Great Cause For Cheer: Crouch
Meanwhile Crouch worked diligently to make our heads explode with another quandary, as we tried to decide whether he should have all his pointy limbs hacked off, dumped in a sack with a slab of concrete and thrown out to sea, as his punishment for plumbing new depths of ineptitude; or whether he should be cherished and adored for the rather specific but nevertheless valuable talent of setting up VDV with uncanny regularity. It ain’t pretty (a comment that could comfortably apply to Crouch’s every movement, ever, but which in this instance applies in particular to the thrashing of the orb heavenwards for Crouch to do his thing and VDV then to do his thing) but it is darned effective.
So cherish and adore him we did, briefly. And yet only moments earlier, towering buffon that he can be, he still managed to demonstrate that knack of aiming a fairly straightforward headed chance anywhere but the goal, before hurtling into an offside position for that late first-half chance. After which he tried to kick himself, but missed. And then grinned about it.
Elsewhere On (And Off) The Pitch
The selection of Jenas over Sergeant Wilson took me by surprise, particularly away from home, when a modicum of restraint might have been deemed reasonable, but it is easy to suggest these things in hindsight. In truth, alas, Jenas’ was one of several fairly anonymous performances, the roll of dishonour also including Lennon, BAE and Kranjcar.
The frustration of the evening was compounded by the opportunity missed, due to points dropped by our cursed rivals, as well as the realisation that the draw against Chelski a couple of weeks back probably constitutes two points lost, rather than one gained. Curses and rude words for sure, but it is hardly a season-destroying result, for who amongst you doubts that our heroes will return in a blaze of attacking glory?
Around ten days ago I mused that I would have settled for eight points from our four Christmas-New Year games. Three games in and we already have nine, which means that the riotously good fun continues into 2011 – still not yet out of the title race, most definitely still in the Top Four race and looking down upon the rotters from Stamford Bridge, languishing beneath us. Glorious fun.Squad Rotation: Not Welcome At The Lane
I do furrow my brow in contemplation of another possible side-effect, namely that playing the same blighters on a twice-weekly basis will imminently lead to the pinging of a hamstring, or some similarly vital body-part, of someone dashed important. I cannot remember the last time Bale was omitted, while Modders is another who seems to get 90 minutes every time. Admittedly it is not exactly a medical opinion, but I suspect that the practice of non-rotation might have been a contributory factor in Hutton’s injury last weekend, while there was a mild air of sluggishness about everyone in lilywhite during the Fulham win on Saturday.
However the rather compelling counter-argument to all this is that if the likes of Bale and Modric are fit we might as well reap the benefits. When key personnel do get injured/suspended (eg VDV, Hudd, Defoe, the massed ranks of centre-backs) the other chaps simply roll up their sleeves and cope, and moreover, there might be a mini-riot in the Park Lane if Bale were left out one week. ‘Arry seems to have stumbled upon the occasional right call during his time at the helm, so perhaps it would be best if I piped down at this point and left him to get on with things.
Flabbergastingly enough we have a jolly good chance to record a third consecutive clean-sheet. While one must never discount the possibility that Gomes will briefly and without any warning completely lose the plot and go rugby-tackling the nearest opponent in the penalty area, the return of the marvellous Daws has stiffened up things no end at the back. On top of this Everton’s strikers are currently being investigated under the Trade Descriptions Act, and my Fantasy League dealings have alerted me to the fact that their principal goalscoring threat, Tim Cahill, is so embarrassed about his countrymen’s surrender of the Ashes that he has scarpered the country under the spurious claim of playing in something called the Asian Cup.
Everton away is traditionally a tricky one, but they appear to be having a rough time of things this season so presumably we will adopt our usual cagey away mentality and go all guns blazing for another three points.
Blinking heck, that was dashed hard work – to which end our vanquished opponents deserve credit, while we can also direct sneers of ill-disguised derision at those fools who suggested beforehand that while there is no such thing as an easy game in the Premiership, if there were then Fulham at home would probably be it. Ahem.That Old Chestnut
In recent weeks I fear that I have begun sounding like a broken record, with tales of impeccable technique and pretty triangles, but this was a performance cut from different cloth, our heroes emerging with bruised shins and dirt beneath the fingernails. While we would all prefer a champagne football performance, such gritty wins as this, with players flinging themselves at full-length to block opposition shots as the clock ticks down, are a necessary evil as we trundle towards a Top Four berth. Observers across the nation have wasted little time in trotting out that predictable line about winning while playing poorly being the sign of a title-winning team, although we would probably be getting a little ahead of ourselves if we began indulging in such maxims just yet.
The medical boffins at AANP Towers are working around the clock to diagnose Alan Hutton’s untimely malady, but his departure signalled the return to the fold of Vedran Corluka. Hutton strikes me as the type who would react to bad news by smashing a whisky bottle over the head of the messenger, so I rather hope he is not perusing these pages, but history under ‘Arry suggests that once one man departs the starting XI his replacement wastes little time in leaping into the vacant spot and in the process just about removing from history any trace of the existence of his predecessor. It is a ruthlessness to which Messrs Bentley, Kranjcar, Keane and indeed Corluka himself can attest, so should Hutton’s injury prove lengthy he may struggle to return to the team. But I darned well won’t be the one to break the new to the Scot.
Admittedly I am not the biggest fan of the lumbering Croat (as previously expounded, my personal preference at right-back would be Younes Kaboul), but given the circumstances Corluka’s strength and positioning nous proved mightily useful in helping to stiffen up things at the back. Moreover, we were also treated to a couple of those sumptuous little diagonal passes inside the full-back for Lennon to run onto, passes so beautifully weighted they were worthy of Modders or VDV. A vastly different proposition from Hutton, but Corluka certainly has his uses.
Lennon’s Final Ball
There are few more exhilarating sights in Christendom than seeing Aaron Lennon go flying over halfway in a blur of legs, leading a Tottenham counter-attack, but when he had the chance to settle the nerves and score a second he chose the wrong option this afternoon. Indeed, in the first half too he picked the wrong option when free in the penalty area with time to pick out a lilywhite chum.
Beckham: The AANP Verdict
C’est la vie, but some have suggested that this distributory aspect of Lennon’s game might benefit from the wisdom that might be imparted by a certain D. Beckham Esquire. AANP is not in the habit of passing comment on speculation, but as this whisper is fast snowballing towards fact it probably merits half a moment’s thought. In a nutshell I like the idea, primarily for what might be termed the Eidur Gudjohnsen Effect.
Brought in on loan last January, Gudjohnsen made the occasional, pretty handy, contribution on the pitch, notably in retaining possession when leads needed protecting. Perhaps just as importantly however he also added experience to the side as we closed in on a first Top Four finish. If Beckham can add this, plus the fabled off-pitch contributions on the training ground and the like, he would be a worthy addition. Not sure about him as a like-for-like right-wing understudy for Lennon – it would make more sense to deploy him as a possession-cherishing centre-midfielder, in the Huddlestone mould – but whatever the minutiae, the idea appeals.
A slight shame that all the other title-chasers won, but three wins in a week is cracking stuff. Having ploughed through the previous two games with ten men it is understandable that our heroes were not at their slick best, and given these circumstances grinding out yet another win is most satisfactory.
Admittedly it was more school playground than Champions League, but never mind that – huzzah! We won the group! And as ever, we did it the Tottenham way! Lovers of the drab and dreary on Tuesday and Wednesday nights have been swooning in horror ever since we began this merry European jaunt with that kamikaze first half in the Wankdorf Stadium against Young Boys, but they can ruddy well buckle themselves in and hold their breath, because we’ll be marching back for more in 2011. Outstanding.Tuesday night was the usual Tottenham fare – goals, the obligatory penalty, the obligatory two injuries, and yet more goals.
Our heroes decided to mark the occasion by becoming almost a parody of themselves, delivering a performance of the usual quite absurd level of action, but this time with even less plot than normal, as the concept of trying to control the game in midfield was studiously ignored. The decimation of our midfield resources meant no VDV, Hudd or Modders, and with the ever-willing Jenas also hobbling off early, poor old Niko Kranjcar was hastily shunted into the centre, to watch the game whizz by him. Indeed, so desperate has the medical plight now become, that following the selection of two substitute ‘keepers last weekend, we finished the Twente game with quite possibly the least well-equipped central midfield in our recent history: Sergeant Wilson and Robbie Keane.
We Need A New Left Back
Benny may be an accident waiting to happen every time he sets foot on the pitch, but he was probably a tad unfortunate with the penalty, in that his options were a little limited as the slightly messy scenario of decapitation-by-ball beckoned. No complaints on the decision though - it would be hypocrisy of rather a high order to complain on this front given that we have benefited twice from similar scenarios in recent weeks.In just about everything else he did however, BAE made rather a pickle of things. His defending for the headed Twente goal consisted of simply watching on in typically unconcerned manner as his opponent rose right next to him, and I lost count of the number of times I roared my displeasure at the screen as he paused, looked up, set himself and fired the ball 40 yards to an opponent.
Elsewhere On The Pitch
The whole concept of keeping possession was generally ignored by just about every one of heroes last night, while not for the first time Gomes was a little erratic between the sticks.
More cheerily, Jermain Defoe looked sharp. The little fella seems to have a number of detractors, who are only too happy to chastise his greed or technique or whatnot, but for his sheer bloody-minded hunger for goals I am downright thrilled to see him back, particularly with the memory of Crouch’s inept finishing of recent weeks lingering so firmly in the memory.
t may not have been flawless but the ends justified the means, and once it become apparent that elsewhere on the continent Inter had taken the night off, and we would top the group, the tensions was eased a tad, and we were left to concentrate on avoiding further injuries. (A task, rather inevitably, in which we spectularly failed). With just about an entire team of players set to return in time for the knock-out stages, and a tough but by no means insurmountable list of potential opponents lined up, our Champions League future seems rather bright and beautiful.tenw
Curses. There has been some debate across various corners of the interweb, but here at AANP Towers we had rather been enjoying the exalted status of title dark-horses, and accordingly mark this down as two points lost. No catastrophe, but if we can win at the Emirates we should be able to win just about anywhere, especially after giving the opposition a one-goal first-half thrashing, if such a thing there be.Everything looked fairly tickety-boo in the first half. While Birmingham occasionally reminded us that they were taking part, flapping around in their own area and occasionally placing half a foot on the little round thing, we generally bossed proceedings. The usual suspects were summoned and duly earned their corn. Modders dictated matters in between nervous flicks of his mop; Lennon occasionally surfaced to race past his man, before racing just as quickly out of the limelight; and Bale continued his search for new and exciting ways to escape the ever-growing army of deviants sent to contain him.
One-way traffic, which ought to have been reflected by a half-time scoreline greater than one-nil, but such are the hazards of operating with Crouch in attack. He seemed hell-bent on getting all his limbs under control before attempting to shoot. Reasonable enough I suppose, but it made for typically infuriating viewing at times, when the ball itself seemed to beg him to be thumped into the net.
In our official capacity as Kings of the Second Half Comeback we really ought to have known better than to wither away and gently die after the break, but that we did. Irony abounded in fact, for not only were we this time on the receiving end of a late fightback, but Birmingham even used against us that very Plan B to which we assumed we had exclusive rights. On came their giant striker, the aerial bombardment began, the goal arrived. The introduction of Birmingham’s very own slightly inept beanpole as we defended a one-goal lead with ten minutes remaining might have been the cue for ‘Arry to reinforce things with the introduction of Michael Dawson, but such a call is easy to make after the event, and as caution is not exactly in the Tottenham DNA the only substitution ‘Arry plumped for was Princess Pav for Defoe.
Elsewhere On The Pitch…
Gallas continued to lead by example, and Sergeant Wilson’s ongoing malaise does not really show much sign of abating, but one of the most eye-catching aspect of proceedings was on the bench rather than the pitch. Egads – two substitute ‘keepers! This injury business really is veering wildly out of hand, and with those marvellous FA suits deciding that squads this season are limited to 25 we are only a couple more groin strains from the sight of Cudicini showing Palacios how it’s done in midfield, or even an appearance from Niko Kranjcar.
Elsewhere Off The Pitch…
Monsieur Bassong has also hinted at a move over the weekend, on the not unreasonable basis that he wants first-team football. He certainly does a handy job as sixth-choice centre-back, but presuming Daws and Kaboul return to fitness (Ledley and Woodgate represent a different kettle of fish) young Bassong’s chances will remain limited, and “adieu” it may well be.
Back to the game. An unfortunate weekend to drop points, with l’Arse and Man City both winning, but it hardly signals the end of our season, and there will be weeks when we profit and others slip up. Six points off top-spot - and on a four-game unbeaten run – represents fairly healthy going, particularly with a decimated squad, so I urge ye to pause before creating those “’Arry Out” placards. Victory against Chelski next week – and we can jolly well fancy our chances – would put us right back in the thick of things and banish the memory of the two points lost here. Silver lining? That our progress is such that we now consider a draw at Birmingham two points lost, while looking forward with confidence to the visit of Chelski.
“Spurs’ Cult Heroes”- A Christmas Stocking-Filler
As well as cheerily reminiscing over the Tottenham careers of 20 of the club’s most popular fans’ favourites (Greaves, Blanchflower, Hoddle, Gazza, Klinsmann and the like) the book also covers some of the most fabled traditions etched into Spurs’ history: big European nights, magic Wembley moments, exotic foreign arrivals, questionable musical offerings, dodgy mullets etc. Quite the stocking-filler for the fellow lilywhite in your life.
Heavens above, have you seen our injury list? What the blazes are they doing to the players in between match days - wrestling with tigers? Jumping through fiery hoops? Just standing in a big circle thrashing each other with great big iron bars? Whatever the training drills, something has gone horribly wrong, as Bentley, Hudd, Lennon, Keane, Giovani, Daws, Ledders and O’ Hara are all out, and whinging Princess Pav is a doubt (although I am willing to wager that he’ll be tickety-boo come Saturday afternoon).
No further injuries amongst the back-four, which I suppose is a good thing, although given the madness of recent games I’m not entirely sure how to greet the news that Gallas and Kaboul will be strolling out shoulder to shoulder on Saturday.
Scavenging amongst the bloodied limbs at the training ground, ‘Arry and chums have actually managed to rescue a midfield that retains a rather exciting look, which is a pleasant surprise. Bale, Modders and VDV have all been cocooned in cotton wool, and will be carefully unwrapped and delicately placed out on the pitch. They ought to be joined by Niko Kranjcar, who has been quietly shuffling towards the exit door in recent weeks. The chap’s grumblings of discontent are understandable, but it was unfortunate that he performed quite so anonymously when granted his neon-lit chance at Bolton last week. I fervently hope he excels tomorrow, because although it is difficult to accommodate him within the current starting XI he did enough last season to indicate that he is a quality player, and one very much carved in the Tottenham mould.
Three Points! Three Points!
One way or another we really ruddy well absolutely have to pick up three points tomorrow. Concerns about our striking deficiencies, the startling regression of Sergeant Wilson and the cracks in our back-four can probably wait for another day. The eleven who take to the pitch are likely to be the only ones not covered in bandages and supported by crutches, so we will jolly well have to accept and support them. The suspicion here at AANP Towers is that l’Arse and Man City will keep dropping points every now and then, but it won’t matter a jot if we grind to a halt at home to the likes of Blackburn each week. Three points, I beseech ye, three points.
Quite a week for Gareth Bale, now universally regarded as being up there alongside Pele, sliced bread, the wheel and opposable thumbs on the list of The Best Things Anyone Has Ever Seen Anywhere, Ever. Unfortunately, and I suppose inevitably, one publication has gone completely overboard in their praise of the chap, the Daily Telegraph going to the ludicrous extent of describing Bale as “photogenic”. Really, that’s what they call him. Here. Golly.
I jest. We who worship at the Altar of Bale don’t care a hang for his appearance, as he long as he stays free of injury and retains forevermore that enduring ability to go merrily a-shredding any defence that lays before him. Following the less-than-entirely-successful approach to stopping Bale adopted by Rafa Benitez in midweek, of granting him the freedom of White Hart Lane, it seems likelier that Bolton tomorrow – and every team thereafter - will take leaves out of the books of Everton and Man Utd by doubling up on the poor blighter at every opportunity.
As an aside, the boffins here at AANP Towers have mused whether a response to this approach might be to withdraw BAE, switch Bale left-back and move Kranjcar/Modders/AN Other to left midfield. Thus, Bale could begin his runs from inside his own half, reaching a full gallop by the time he is in the opposition half, and making it a tad more difficult for Bolton to latch onto him. Moreover, the presence of Kranjcar/Modders/Whomever already on the left would give the double-teamers something else about which to fret.
Admittedly it may not be as scientifically flawless as E=MC², but we will presumably need to adopt some sort of strategy to deal with the extra attention that now seems inevitable.
In fact, I would not be entirely surprised if ‘Arry opted to rest Bale tomorrow. Following the monumental efforts of Tuesday, one or two changes in personnel are probably to be expected amongst the starting XI, with Bassong, Corluka, Jenas, Sergeant Wilson, Sandro, Pav and Keane presumably all on standby (not entirely sure of the current status of Messrs Giovani and Bentley). While Bale has assumed the mantle of havoc-wreaker-in-chief, the heartbeat of the team on Tuesday was formed by Hudd, Modders and VDV, who between them pretty much controlled the game. Rest may be required for weary limbs, but I do jolly well hope that at least two of these three trot out for kick-off tomorrow afternoon.
Tuesday night’s heroics have done much to restore our reputation as a big domestic - and indeed European - name, a reputation that has been withering away over the last 20 years. However, more glorious European nights are required, and to this end top-four finishes are essential. A draw at Bolton would be a decent result; victory at Bolton would be a top-four result.