All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs Holiday Musings – Liverpool Loss & Fond Farewells

AANP has just biffed off on holiday this last week (Malta, since you ask), and these sunny retreats to foreign climes would not be worthy of the name if they did not at some point involve tracking down an English-themed watering-hole to watch Spurs get thoroughly dismantled, to the mirth of the nearby pink-faced denizens.

Despite the uncontainable urge amongst some of particularly dramatic ilk to race to the nearest hasty conclusion and yelp “Crisis! False dawn! Just not good enough, dash it!” this strikes me as but a stumble along a fairly promising path. A jolly chastening stumble mind, complete with unceremonious landing and all the trimmings, but not yet the moment to be inciting unrest amongst the nearest angry mob.

Midfield Creativity: AWOL

Particularly infuriating was the fact that that smug lot beat us at our own game, blast them – harrying off the ball, counter-attacking in a blurry burst of heels and generally executing some slick, incisive stuff in the final third.

By contrast, Bentaleb and Capoue seemed resolute in their determination to avoid anything with the merest whiff of deep-lying creativity (which potentially gives the Brains Trust food for thought in The Great Capoue Vs Dembele Debate, given the Belgian’s uncontrollable urge to puff out a chest and trundle goalward). The dull hum of inactivity behind them meant quite the onus on Eriksen, Chadli and Lamela to run riot. Alas, the first two in particular seemed not to care for such frivolous duties, seemingly content instead to bask in the glory of the previous week’s efforts, and other than the occasional long ball hoicked over the top there was nary a sniff of goal all afternoon.

Adebayor showed a hint of spirit, as did Lamela in the second half, like a couple of puppies haring round after the ball, but for all their gusto there was precious little effect, and by and large ignominy was jolly well in her element and having an absolute whale of a time. This being Spurs such things happen, but the imperative for Pochettino and chums now is to ensure that this is most certifiably the exception rather than the rule.

Fond Farewells

And to round off a rather doleful few days we have now bid rather hasty farewells to a couple of the elder statesmen. Few could make a convincing case that Daws is still of top-rate Premiership quality (the highlights of his Hull debut appeared rather cruelly to corroborate this), but the blighter could not have been more committed to the lilywhite cause if he were hatched from a cockerel’s egg laid in the centre of the White Hart Lane turf. And by all accounts a thoroughly decent old bean too. Oh that a spot could have been found for him as a permanent mascot leading the players onto the pitch each week. Gone, but absolutely not forgotten, I suspect that it is not just at AANP Towers he will be welcome to a free bourbon any time he jolly well chooses.

Amidst the hullaballoo of it all, the bods at the top have sneakily shunted Sandro down the exit chute as well. Of quality and endearing commitment he had plenty, and the weekly axis of awesomeness that he formed alongside Dembele a couple of years back will live long in the memory, but the point has been made that the poor blighter was rarely in good health, so the rationale for selling him is understandable, if nevertheless regrettable.

Two long-serving troops is probably enough for one episode of this particular soap opera, but despite a few swirling murmurs Monsieur Kaboul remains in situ. Time is not in the habit of waiting for the good mortals of this sphere, but in Kaboul’s case Time seems to have legged it while the Frenchman’s back was turned and disappeared into the distance. No longer the colossus of two or three years back, the Liverpool game was the latest indication that the chap has lost several yards of pace, and is adding a distinct flavour of fallibility to proceedings at the back. Captain by default he may be, but he looks less and less the inspiring leader with every passing minute. One rather hopes that the new chap Fazio is fully-clad and limbered up, because his appears the next cab on the rank.

Spurs 3-0 Villa: Final Thoughts on a Forgettable Season

Where was this lickety-split brand of football when we needed it earlier in the season? Throughout the first half, and even at 0-0, the one-touch interplay was slicker than a young bounder rolling into the office in braces and a shiny pair of cufflinks. Admittedly it was against a Villa side that looked suspiciously like it had been plucked from their mob of (rather mischievously entertaining) supporters, but nevertheless. Rollicking stuff. If ever there were an award for The Best 45 Minutes of Football At The Most Pointless Juncture of the Season, our heroes would be amongst the red-hot nominees.

Credit to Tactics Tim, in his valedictory charge, for spying that the opposition were but fan-based doppelgangers and accordingly going with two upfront plus a midfielder instructed to bomb forward and beyond. With Sandro holding fort, and Eriksen and Sig surreptitiously drifting infield towards that fun-filled centre, we had options a-plenty, leaving the various competition-winners entrusted with the Villa shirt for one day with little to do but step aside obligingly and let their ‘keeper face things single-handedly. And then as a particularly cruel additional prank they took a pop at him themselves, for our second. With friends like that, eh?

So tip-top was the build-up play in that first half that even our mishap-riddled full-back pair looked worthy of the epithet “Actual Professional Footballer”, Messrs Rose and Naughton taking time out from their season’s worth of misplaced passes to ping in a couple of wicked crosses and diagonals. Moreover, having spent all season resolutely knocking the ball sideways or backwards, Paulinho suddenly discovered the joys of actually progressing forward, in a manner vaguely akin to a blind man having the veil removed from his eyes, albeit with marginally less emotional impact. The opening goal was marvellously crafted, with the applause at AANP Towers ringing loudest for the cheeky, dinked lay-off provided by sideways merchant himself in the build-up. More was to come from Paulinho moments later, including a slide-rule pass for someone or other to blaze wide, proof indeed that after a full season the lad has finally begun watching and learning from Master Eriksen.

Naturally things tailed off in the second half, a gentlemen’s agreement having been brokered at the interval guaranteeing that all 22 of them they could all gently doze off – and that was that. The season that could not end soon enough has ended, the Sherwood era has (presumably) ground to an angry halt and the glorious Europa journey will be ours once more. Huzzah! If anything I rather suspect that the coming weeks will be a dashed sight more interesting around N17 than those just gone. Eyes peeled, as end of season awards will imminently this way come.

Shameless Plug Alert – Lest ye be feeling bereft of inane witterings and lilywhite marvels already, by all means browse the nearest bookstore for AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, which continues to decorate coffee tables and prop open doors the across the country.

Sunderland 1-2 Spurs: Post-Match Verdicts On Dawson & Defoe

Six points in four days – but perhaps more importantly, a performance that in parts had us clearing our throats and purring. For around 25 glorious minutes we were treated to a glimpse of how the world might look if the wolf really does lie down with the lamb, famine and disease are shoved under the carpet and Spurs get their act together. That spell after half-time bordered on the marvellous, with play concentrated around the edge of the Sunderland area and – glory be – one-touch passes indulged in like newly-opened Christmas presents that the players could not get enough of. It was slick and quick, left Sunderland chasing shadows and brought about a couple of actual, real-life, close-range chances.

Star Turns

Holtby in particular seemed to skip around the place with healthy quantities of joy and élan in his soul, with able support from Dembele and Lennon. I still do not quite follow the finer points of the Select Chadli masterplan, particularly when young Townsend is huddled in the shadows stage left, but this is not the time to quibble – several small steps have been taken in the right direction, and I intend to celebrate by heading off to the Galleria to play arcade games with a flame-haired chum.

Having given this particular drum a hefty thump in our preview, here at AANP Towers we also mightily pleased to see young Defoe unleashed again, and while he did rather deviate from the script by scuffing the best chance \we have created all season, there was still enough movement and enthusiasm to work the Sunderland back-four into a sweat and ping a few efforts netwards, which seemed a fairly generous improvement on the Soldadoings of the season to date.

The potentially critical absences of Messrs Vertonghen and Chiriches were minimised, with Capoue making a decent fist of things at centre-back and Naughton generally steering clear of any of those ill-advised moments of buffoonery that occasionally seem to inter themselves into the minds of any full-back named Kyle that we have ever employed. The last line of defence had another wobbly one however, Monsieur Lloris enthusiastically peddling the latest in his line of circus japes to riotous applause from the opposition fans but more furious chin-stroking from all of lilywhite persuasion. One hopes that this is but a passing fad, as seems to be so common with the young folk these days.

Dawson: A Tribute. Of Sorts.

Not for the first time, a nervous final 15 or so could have been avoided if our earlier domination had been seamlessly translated into goals, but our heroes tend not to roll thusly, and a couple of scrambles duly transpired (and let there be no doubt we rode our luck with Sandro handball – one to remember when the gods of luck scorn us in the months to come).

However, within that final 15 we found ourselves indebted on a couple of occasions to our intrepid captain. For all his failings – most of which are magnified within the high defensive line we deploy – Master Dawson does love a spot of full-blooded last ditchery, presumably because when charging down a shot six yards out there is limited scope for his lack of pace to be exposed. Credit where due, he led the defensive line with aplomb, and three snaffled points there were.

Man City 6-0 Spurs: Philosophical Musings

This ought to melt the internet for a day or two, what?

Aside from any individual mishaps that contributed to the goals themselves (and I think I might have spotted one or two) the thing that really left me wanting to voice a few choice words of opprobrium was the general mentality when our heroes were in possession. Even at three, four or five goals down, and with the outcome no longer mattering a jot, for the sake of my own sanity I needed to see this Spurs team sprinkle just a modicum of creative ingenuity into proceedings, because frankly, aside from the occasional penalty I cannot for the life of me see where the next dashed goal – or even shot on goal – is coming from. Mistakes will happen at the back, but by and large our defence has muddled through this season. However, for all the possession we have had – all season, not just today – you can count the number of slick chances created on the toes of one foot, and it really is becoming a trifle perturbing.

‘Tis a criticism that could liberally be sprinkled across the team, but the lucky chappie attracting the brunt of the AANP ire today is Master Paulinho, for the painfully leaden manner in which he shovels the ball from Point A to Point B. For the first 30 or 40 minutes the deficit was but one, and we had plenty of possession in midfield, but whereas Sandro can perhaps be exonerated for lacking a surplus of creative nous, given that his principal duty is to hunt and destroy, the onus was on Paulinho to make the initial prompts and prods. Alas, Luka Modric he seemingly is not.

Holtby and Lamela were similarly ineffective, the latter in particular bearing the deportment of a young man in desperate need of a few hearty steak sandwiches. The lad is probably best shunted into a box marked “One for the Future” and allowed to bed in accordingly over a period of months rather than years, for at present it seems that a mere puff of wind is enough to send him flying.  Dembele at least seemed motivated by the white sticks and netting at the far end whenever he picked up the ball, and given his willingness to take on a man I wonder whether, not for the first time, whether there might be a case for playing him in the hole.

And an AANP match report during season 2013/14 would only be a unconvincing doppelganger were it to omit the traditional diatribe against Soldado, who once again carried himself like a blighter not terrifically familiar with any of those around him, or the ball, or the net, or the most basic concept of the game, particularly when a couple of early opportunities fell his way in those halcyon minutes when the score was but 1-0.

One could go on. However, between this lot and the English cricket team it just seems that if it is not one ball-based sport engineering the mother of all debacles it is dashed well certain to be another, and rather than wax lyrical about the ghastly lumbering of our defensive troupe I would prefer to bang my head repeatedly against a wall until next season comes around.

Man City – Spurs Preview: Daws Against This Lot? Heaven Help Us

It’s a rummy thing, but having spent all season enviously eyeing the opposition net from around 20 yards, we now toddle off to the home of the Champions-elect, where they routinely run rings around all-comers, and I feel a darned sight more upbeat about our chances of finding the net. The primary reason being that old ‘Deep-Lying Opposition Defence’ chestnut, which has become rather a curse at the Lane, but tends to be less of an issue on our travels – and against this free-scoring, attack-minded mob and their glittering array of creative superstars it ought not to be a problem at all. Marvellous!

Furthermore, City will be without Kompany, who as well as (or perhaps because of) being possessed of a most peculiarly-shaped head is also quite the defensive lynchpin for this lot. Minus this chap they start to emanate the distinctive whiff of defensive fallibility. And on top of that, last time out against Newcastle, we actually managed to carve out some genuine, bona fide goalscoring opportunities. Not just the speculative 20 yarders, but actual chances from six yards out. Of course we would not have scored one of them if we had played all week, but baby steps, what?

There is, I suppose, a cloud to this silver lining, for while City’s attacking instincts might theoretically open things up for us at one end, this will be of limited value if we spend the afternoon chasing their shadows. In particular, the notion of Aguero and/or Negredo running rings around Daws rather makes one anxiously take a seat and reach for a splash of the old life-restorer. Regular visitors to these four interweb walls, as well as wading through great bally oceans of spam, will be well aware that our loveable captain is admired for many reasons here, just not for his defensive prowess. Should this turn into a backs-to-the-wall Alamo-style affair played on the edge of our area he will be jolly useful, but heaven help us if any of City’s millionaires decide to put their head down and run at him within the high defensive line. Kaboul, Kaboul and thrice I say Kaboul – get him back in the team.

Team News

Eriksen is out, having had a tap on the ankle, which presumably means a starting berth for Holtby, and the continued absence of Rose means that Vertonghen may again do the honourable thing at left-back. It seems rather a shame that we cannot field 15-20 players at once, as Monsieur Capoue is now fit again as well, which leaves AVB needing to select two from Sandro, Paulinho, Dembele and the aforementioned.

I cannot really imagine our esteemed leader suddenly deciding to live by the sword, so presumably Soldado will once again be the square peg at the apex, making runs that nobody feeds and lounging around by halfway when we need him to buck up and charge. Quite why we invested so much effort and money in obtaining the services of a blighter who, four months in, does not remotely fit the system, is beyond me, but ‘tis a grumble for another day. For now let us just close our eyes and hope for another clean sheet and late penalty.

Everton 0-0 Spurs: Will Someone Somewhere Please Solve The Wretched Soldado Problem?

A point at Goodison probably ought not to be sniffed at, even if we cannot help but wonder what might have been, in that heart-warming first half in particular.

First Half

Our heroes came out of the traps as if feral animals scenting blood, hunting down the blue mob in packs and shoving faces into armpits like it was nobody’s business. Foremost amongst the cast in this respect were Holtby and Vertonghen, both of whom were particularly prominent as we piled forward in the first half. In the opening 45 in particular Holtby enjoyed one of his finest jaunts in lilywhite, while Vertonghen had the bright idea to saunter through Everton’s fairly flimsy right-hand side at every opportunity, and with Walker’s willingness to overlap meaning Baines was forced to mope around inside his own half, young Townsend bore the look of a man thoroughly enjoying his playground-esque brand of take-on-all-comers football. On top of which Sandro doing what every good beast should do, his repertoire including occasionally shoving aside the man-mountain Lukaku as if he were one of the diddy guests at my niece’s fourth birthday party.

The only frustrations in that first half were that we were left to rue using up our quota of penalties for the week; that Lennon evidently eyes his left foot as something completely alien, planted there by mysterious forces while he slept last night; and that poor old Soldado presumably suffers from halitosis or some such similar affliction, which means that no-one dared wander within 15 yards of him. Understandable enough, for these are delicate moments amongst chums – but aside from the awkward social context it does create the dickens of a problem because not a soul appears able to offer any support to Soldado in attack – and should he himself peel out to the right then we might as well aim for the corner flags, because nobody will pop up in the area.

Second Half

Alas, albeit rather inevitably, life was not half as bright and breezy in the second half, as Everton upped their game and for significant periods we found ourselves penned further and further back. On the bright side, deep defending is grist to the Dawson mill, a world in which his lack of pace cannot be exposed, but his heart-on-sleeve penchant for last-ditch heroics come in handy.

To their credit our heroes continued fighting the good fight, and the intermittent second half attacks looked threatening, but as ever any shots of note were catapulted in from at least 20 yards.

Soldado

‘Tis an issue that segues neatly into the ongoing Soldado issue. The blighter simply does not fit our system. Or maybe our system does not fit him? Either way, there are two crucial components to this – Exhibits A and B if you will, with the former being Soldado and the latter Our System – and no matter how we try to sugar-coat the issue they still remain about as successful a combo as two chaps trying to negotiate a particularly intricate transaction over the telephone while hindered by the fact that neither speak the same language.

It’s a muddle of a thing at the moment, because when he wants the ball fed into the channels we are busy recycling it in midfield, and when we need him to hold the thing up with a bit of sweat and body-strength he seems to be running away from the ball as if allergic to the thing. The end-result of which is that I can only remember about one and a half chances falling his way from open play all season.

Over in this part of the interweb I am still inclined to think that if we are in the Top Four by 1 Jan we will be there come the season’s end. Still, this goalscoring issue gives our intrepid leader something to ponder over in the coming weeks, in case it has passed him by in the last few months.

Villa 0-2 Spurs: The Wonders of Off-The-Ball Movement & First-Time Passes

Ah, the first-time pass. Scourge of the ball-watching defender. Slicer of the well-drilled bank of four. And as conspicuously absent from our game-plan for the first half half or so as it was instrumental to operations thereafter.

The Opening Half-Hour: Ponderous

I spent most of those opening 30 minutes wanting to offer my kingdom for a first-time pass. Or some off-the-ball movement. Or any line of attack that was not based around Dawson, Chiriches and Vertonghen rolling square balls to each other (and occasionally back to Lloris to cede possession through the medium of a skyward punt). By goodness it was pedestrian stuff. And not necessarily the fault of the man in possession either, as the lilywhite cup could not have been accurately said to have overflowed with options. In fact, our heroes seemed content to adopt a Subbuteo routine of simply adopting a spot of turf and resolutely sticking to it for most of the first half, and with Villa content to soak up pressure and play for a counter-attack I found myself idly toying with nearby blunt objects with which to potentially bash in my own skull at the frustration of it all.

The goal itself may have been a tad fortuitous, but for a few minutes thereafter, and for most of the second half, life became decidedly more fun, as gaps opened up and we were able to get behind the Villa defence. AVB dashed well needs to refine re-examine that “Breaking the Deadlock” file, because having each man in turn ponderously take two/three/four touches before rolling the thing sideways neither strikes fear into bellies of the other lot, nor puts fire into bellies of our lot, nor has any humdinging effect on the bellies of anyone in the vicinity, which is really the whole point of the game.

The Bonny, Blithe and Gay Second Half

Marvellously however, as mentioned, things perked up after the goal, and moved on apace in the second half (bar the five-minute wobble when Benteke came on and seemed to bellow so loud that he made Daws and Chiriches curl into little balls and cry rather than try marking him). Glory be, our heroes began shifting the ball at pace, with first-time passes and movement and lots of little legs scurrying around, until the chances started to flow. The poor old full-back tasked with sitting on Townsend ran completely out of steam, allowing the young bounder to gallop to the line like it was going out of fashion, and to his credit he put his head down and sprinted for the line as often as he cut inside to let rip.

Amidst all this one ought not to forget to send a sizeable bouquet the way of young Sandro, who spent his afternoon harassing the dickens out of any Villa player who dared to think about starting an attack. Back in the days of yore, a youthful and rather wanton AANP would pass his summer mornings by catching ants and the like, and dropping them into spider webs, just to observe the manic reaction of the spider in galloping across and clambering all over the unfortunate young bean. And thus, like some human-sized two-legged spider, did Sandro snuffle the life out of Villa at every opportunity. Good to have the lad back.

And on to the latest installation of The Great Soldado Debate. The lad certainly knows what to do once inside the area, his goal today taken with aplomb – indeed several plombs. (And bonus points all round for the one-touchery that got him there in the first place.) But beyond that marvellous finish? Admittedly in the second half he put in some yards, making himself available down the right flank and holding up the ball (although it did not seem to occur to any of his chums to fill in the attacking void thereby created and bust a gut to get themselves into the area), but in the first half in particular one struggles to make the case for him having offered a plethora of options, and the Villa centre-backs seemed contented enough. ‘Room for improvement’ is probably the euphemism of choice.

Despite the slightly negative tone of these witterings it is a most contented AANP readying the nib for a spot of shut-eye tonight. All the necessary boxes have been duly ticked, and importantly so given the horrors of last time around. Concerns there be for sure, around that lack of incision as long as affairs remain goalless, but Rome was not built in a day, what?

Palace 0-1 Spurs: The Hole That Remains Unfilled

An opening day win is a small bundle of joy for which we should all be grateful, so while there are undoubtedly a few polite coughs and pointed looks when we reflect on the manner of the thing, ‘tis probably best to bow humbly, express our thanks and sidle off. Playing a newly-promoted mob on their own patch on the opening day carries a moderate health warning, given that their fledgling enthusiasm is as yet undimmed by an eight-game losing streak, so firm manly handshakes all round, but no celebration much beyond that.

Solid stuff from our new midfield mob, what? Paulino, and then Capoue, looked the sort of chaps who would sit down and order steaks without opening the menu, and for that the cuts of both respective jibs ought to be sincerely admired. One hopes that Dembele’s early withdrawal was not injury-related for he bounded around with pleasing gusto. There are few more pleasing sights in nature than Dembele on the charge, chest leaning forward, opponents bouncing off his burly frame. Between these three, and with Sandro to be sprinkled into the mix, the mental scarring inflicted by the nine-point turns and backward passing of Scott Parker, bless him, ought to be etched from the memory.

That VDV-Shaped Hole

For all the physique in central midfield however, further forward there was a lack of urgency that smelt suspiciously like complacency. The incessant to-ing and fro-ing up the flanks was understandable enough, but there was a conspicuous absence of neck-scruff grabbing amongst our heroes. Sigurdsson spent much of his time been unceremoniously dumped on his derriere, Lennon repeatedly raised hopes by dashing to the by-line before repeatedly incurring exasperation by hitting the first defender with his cross, and Chadli once again looked useful without necessarily terrorising the other mob.

All honest enough, and it was sufficient to despatch today’s opponents – ought to have been more, given the handful of clear second half opportunities – but the pulse only really raced due to nerves in the closing stages. Not for the first time in the past 12 months I found myself wistfully yearning for a chap with a sprinkle of creativity and vision to deliver that killer-ball. That VDV-shaped hole remains unfilled.

Elsewhere on the Pitch

Young Kyle Walker seems to become angrier by the week, which is no particularly bad thing. He more than anyone seemed to show a real urgency to get things done and will to win, and while it might ultimately lead to his on-pitch spontaneous combustion I would jolly well like to see some of his chums demonstrate similar passion.

Master Rose has never been the firmest favourite in this neck of the interweb, and the occasional simple pass did still go frustratingly awry, but by and large he took a leaf out of the Walker handbook and took every opportunity to express his anger, which was no particularly bad thing when it translated into the medium of winning 50-50s and the like.

Heart-warming also to see Kaboul make a gentle cameo, and Defoe running at the heart of the defence. All things considered there may be room for improvement hither and thither, but down the road that laughing-stock would kill for a three-point haul right now.

Palace – Spurs Preview: 8-Point Wishlist For Spurs This Season

What ho, and welcome to 2013/14. With our season now literally minutes away this seems as appropriate a juncture as any to push away the second helping of kippers, retire to the favoured reading chair, stuff a pipe and consider the (by no means exhaustive) AANP Towers Eight-Points Wishlist for the new season.

See Rose Bloom

Do you see what I did there? Do you get it? It’s a play on the lexical duplicity of the name… Anyway, we at AANP Towers have never been particularly enamoured of this particular chunkster, primarily because, one wonder-goal aside, he has generally resembled a Kabaddi player who has been tossed a pair of football boots and told to fit in. Previous appearances in lilywhite have seen him pound around the pitch constantly looking as if he is about to lose control of the ball, his balance and his very limbs, typically making skin-of-the-teeth interceptions by the force of accident and momentum rather than design.

Still, last year by all accounts he had a rollicking time of it at Sunderland, and while I found this dashed difficult to comprehend, it would be no bad thing if some vaguely robust competition were offered to the present incumbent, given that Benny is hardly the very paragon of defensive solidity.

Kaboul On Fire Once More

In truth he is neither poor nor old, but it nevertheless seems jolly rotten luck for the poor old blighter to have missed the entire season through no fault of his own. By a most curious quirk of nature however, the steaming behemoth of two seasons back seems to have been forgotten by just about everyone everywhere, with common discourse now marvelling at how lucky we were not to have sold Daws to QPR after all last season. Such garbled musings baffle me no end, for whole-hearted though he is Daws has failings aplenty. Kaboul is faster, stronger, has better technique and is generally the Six Million Dollar Man to Dawson’s mere mortal who got bashed up in the pilot episode. Whether instead of or alongside Daws, Kaboul should be immense this season – providing he stays fit.

Set pieces

I am not sure what diabolical dark arts are involved in this ‘Zonal Marking’ sorcery, but at AANP Towers we nervously drain our whisky tumblers and gasp for more every time the whistle blows around our area. There presumably are iterations of the Zonal Marking system that work absolutely tickety-boo, but already in pre-season there have been groans from all sides as our heroes have diligently stuck to their allocated zones, allowing cunning opponents to saunter unopposed into the gaps in-between, rending poor old Lloris (again, neither poor nor old) and his ear-piercing shriek of “Awaaaay” little-to-no chance.

There seems to be a fairly basic flaw of physics around the concept of allowing opponents a running leap, while our lot try to defend from standing starts, but while never again conceding a corner or free-kick in our own half would be one solution, a potentially simpler and more feasible approach would be to find a better way to defend these set-pieces.

Lennon’s final ball

Time, it would appear, waits for no man, and hot on the heels of the jettisoning of Hudd, the awkward realisation is beginning to dawn that neither is young Master Lennon the spring-chick he once was, and that the time for fulfilling his youthful potential has now begun to slip by. Where once he shaved go-faster lines into his eyebrows – an emblem of the carefree insouciance of youth if ever there were one – now the speedy imp is cultivating a hirsute visage, a more traditional badge of advanced years. Where once it was easy enough to assume that Lennon would eventually learn to deliver his final ball once he matured, the uncomfortable truth is that the bounder simply has not mastered that particular art, despite season after season in which that particular failing slapped him repeatedly in the face with a wet fish. Skinning the opposing full-back is manageable enough, but whether his cross makes it to the danger-zone seems to be largely a matter of chance. Get that final ball right and he will be a world-beater – as we have all been murmuring for years.

Hang on to Bale

He might have his uses, and as the laughing-stock down the road have illustrated all summer, oodles of cash is no substitute for having a chap actually kitted up and scuttling around on the greenery.

The Delivery of Defence-Splitting Passes Around the Edge of the Area

No arguing with the spine of our team, which now consists entirely of genetically-engineered monster-beasts, but here at AANP Towers a drum we’ve been banging throughout the ages has been around the merits of that most cherished of footballing gifts, the Defence-Splitting Pass Around the Edge of the Area. Often – though not necessarily – delivered via the medium of diagonality, ‘tis the sort of tool that can unlock any defence, and prove particularly useful against those infernal weaker teams who arrive at the Lane to set up camp on the edge of the area. Behind Soldado our creative trio will be formed of three from Lennon, Dembele, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend or Chadli – each of whom are blessed in their own particular way, but none of whom are necessarily cut of the Mata/David Silva cloth. While the sideways-and-sideways-again approach does reflect admirable patience on the part of the players, all too often it ends with a cross from wide or reversion to the Bale gambit. The occasional, devastatingly cunning defence-splitter would most certainly not go amiss.

Tom Carroll to Establish Himself

Sackcloth and ashes are being worn, and a flag and flagpole have been hastily created in order that aforementioned flag can be flown at half-mast –all in doleful commemoration of the passing of Hudd and his dreamy brand of passing. Discreetly glossing over the subjects of his weight, immobility and speed (or lack thereof) the AANP bottom lip has positively quivered at the thought of that impeccable technique no longer being the lawful property of THFC. However, a pint-sized phoenix might yet rise from the Huddlestone flames, for in his brief cameos young Tom Carroll has done enough to suggest that he has the vision and technique when pinging a pass that elevates him above the mere mortals of the Premiership. He is highly unlikely to dislodge the man-machines of Paulinho, Sandro and Dembele, but with Cup games of various sorts coming out of the goddam walls in the coming weeks this might yet prove to be Carroll’s season-long moment.

Hit The Ground Running

The start of last season appeared to take all concerned in N17 somewhat by surprise, featuring as it did a renegade Modric and unwanted VDV, and a paltry point was gleaned from the opening three fixtures (I think) as a result, as our heroes a little too gradually awoke from their summer slumbers. Alas, that wretched start had cost us dear come mid-May, when we missed out on the Top Four by a single point. It may not be rocket-science, but a marginally more sprightly start this time round could make a world of difference later on in proceedings. Player-for-player newly-promoted Palace represents the sort of three points we need to wrap up to make the Top Four, so opportunity rather bangs on the door today for a fast start to 2013/14.

Spurs 1-1 Espanyol: Musings on the Newbies

Admittedly there is a vague whiff of pointlessness about musings on a pre-season friendly, but what else to do while swinging from the AANP hammock?

Soldado

Starting at the top, the lad Soldado seems to know his right from left and other requisite basics. The upper-body strength he showed in shielding the thing from opposition defenders met with a decisive nod of approval from this corner of the interweb, and his movement was also suitably nifty. He will presumably face penalties under greater pressure than yesterday, but nevertheless it was good to see the lad adopt the Shearer approach of blasting the thing into a corner, as opposed to, for example, the Adebayor jig-and-spoon.

The AANP Verdict: Jigging merrily on the threshold of striking eminence.

Paulinho

The cut of Paulinho’s jib is also to be tentatively admired. The imp had the air of a Rottweiler that had actually gorged itself on raw human flesh but three hours previously, and was therefore content to lurk and snap with menace, without ever fully committing to the unspeakable acts of clinical savagery of which he is no doubt capable. He also displayed enough technique and attacking intent to elicit excited murmurs of “a complete midfielder” from the sages of N17.

The AANP Verdict: Looks entirely capable of holding his own when the club’s midfield contingent engage in high-stakes Scissors-Paper-Stone

Chadli

Of young Master Chadli the prognostications are a little less ecstatic. The excitable bounder did seem decidedly happier with life cutting in from the left, as opposed to his more central role in the Monaco debacle last week, although the trick of cutting onto his right foot did wear a little thin after its umpteenth production. It may not therefore be the worst idea in the long and illustrious history of the club to bend the young whippersnapper over the knee of Brad Friedel and give him half a dozen hearty lashings, as a means of conveying in a friendly and constructive manner that gazing around and occasionally flicking the ball towards a fellow lilywhite is a viable alternative to keeping his head down and trying to take on everyone.

The AANP Verdict: Not yet the irrepressible dandy one would hope is being primed for a full season in one of the triumvirate of attacking roles, but that glint in his eye is encouraging.

Beyond the new arrivals there were also frequent opportunities to charge glasses and toast the returns of a veritable gaggle of highly-esteemed luminaries.

Monsieur Kaboul was released from his year in captivity looking older and wiser, but every inch as capable of cracking open skulls by the mere puff of his chest as he ever was pre-injury. So giddy am I at the prospect of Kaboul and Vertonghen undertaking central defensive matrimony this season that another dram of bourbon is absolutely in order tout de suite.

Spirits also soared, and no doubt unborn infants leapt for joy in their mothers’ wombs, when Sandro bounded back onto the turf and looked around for an unsuspecting Spaniard to crunch. The winning combination of boyish enthusiasm and gladiatorial aggression remains undimmed, and he earns a bonus point for that engaging Beard-Bald combo.

Young Master Rose has never ingratiated himself into the inner circle of AANP favourites, and considering that said inner circle is now populated by several dozen bodies it says much of the askance eye with which I view him. All momentum and dubious ball-control, rumours of his improvement last season at Sunderland do not wash with this particular Park Laner.

The Townsend cameo, for a second successive week, had the juices flowing. As with Chadli he does not necessarily always pick the Distribute option when Dribble ‘Til The End Of Time remains on the table, but the lad has sparkle-dust in his boots, mistake ye not, and I rather hope that his contribution in 13/14 extends to more than just a flurry of fleeting substitute appearances.

The rarely-vaunted AANP Pre-Season Wishlist will follow in the coming days, but until then a hearty adieu.

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