All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Spurs – West Brom Preview: An Interruption of Transfer Scheming

At times this week AANP has been reminded of those halcyon days studying for a Philosophy degree through the medium of countless hours (days? weeks?) on Football Manager, when occasionally the inconvenience of a match would interrupt the hours (days? weeks?) spent on the fine art of transfer dealing. Thus have events in the real world transpired, for the respective sagas of Modders, Daws, Hudd, Bassong, Adebayor, VDV, Defoe, Willian, Leandro and various others must now be interrupted for 90-odd minutes, during which our will heroes struggle to break down a resolute nine-man West Brom defence before being suckered by a scrappy poke from a set-piece.A second debut awaits for Adebayor, and although AVB’s nose did appear to grow as he insisted in yesterday’s press conference that Defoe remains part of his plans, our glorious leader nevertheless hinted that he might one day play Defoe behind Adebayor. This would seem to turn his 4-2-3-1 into a straightforward 4-2-4, but let’s not worry about the minutiae for now.

One of the failings of the ‘Arry era was the inability to break down nine-man defensive units. While AVB’s glossy, new, up-tempo formation had some joy against a an attack-minded Newcastle on their own turf, it remains to be seen how penetrative it will be against a band of merry man content to play from first minute to last for a nil-nil. Given the context, a scrappy, single-goal home win would be fairly gratefully received in this quarter.

Norwich – Spurs Preview: Taking Advantage of Festive Gifts

Just when I had considered giving up on Father Christmas altogether, he fills my stocking with dropped points by all of Chelski, l’Arse, Liverpool and even Man City. And – and – he even un-twinges VDV’s hamstring. I’m not sure there has ever been a Christmas quite like it.

No reason not to expect another high-class performance, missed chances a-plenty and ultimately three more points tonight. Of course one can never really account for refereeing idiocy, opposition goalkeepers being possessed by the ghost of Lev Yashin past, or the general workings of Heurelho Gomes’ brain, but aside from such phenomena as wildly unpredictable and utterly impossible to prepare for, the Tottenham of the last dozen or so games ought to outscore Delia’s lot tonight.

Apart from VDV’s dainty upper legs, we may have  a central defence crisis on our hands, with Ledley surely unable to churn out another 90 minutes so soon, and Kaboul apparently also tight of the hammie. All of which points towards the Close-Your-Eyes-And-Clasp-Your-Hands option that is Bassong. Defoe is also out, and quite how we deal with the Lennon absence tonight is anyone’s guess, but otherwise it’s the usual mob. It should be enough, which means that daylight between us and the chasing pack tantalisingly beckons.

Spurs 1-2 PAOK: Foul! Offside? Touchdown? Erm…

Well what a relief that that has been cleared up. Apparently the Defoe goal was disallowed because of a foul committed by Pavluychenko in the fixture played back in Greece in September. Or perhaps for a foul by Graham Roberts in our ’84 UEFA campaign. Or maybe it was Mackay back in ’61. Well, whatever the incident, it was definitely a foul. Or maybe offside. Or Leg Before Wicket.

Mind you, Defoe appeared almost to castrated the chap, so it would have been a bit much to have profited with a goal. Whatever the verdict, that second half was certainly more exciting than the usual Channel 5 fare from our lot, and not too many tears will be shed in this neck of the woods if our Europa campaign coughs politely and sidles off the premises in the coming weeks.

The First Half – Only Marginally Better Than Having A Foot Chopped Off

After the remarkable juggernaut of unstoppableness produced by our lot in recent weeks, our Europa lilywhites came over all misty-eyed and nostalgic, and sweetly reverted to the days of Gerry Francis and Christian Gross. Adopting a formation of sixes and sevens, the back-line in particular displayed quite spectacular ineptitude in that opening 45, viewed at AANP Towers with all the morbid fascination of that scene in the first Saw film when the chap looks at the saw, looks at his foot, looks at the saw, looks back at his foot, and finally decides that if David Beckham can carve out a career as an international superstar with just the one foot then it might be worth the risk.

Ah, that wretched first half. Bassong looked every inch a defender soon to be sold to QPR. Corluka looked every inch a footballer whose pained lumbering is no quicker than the steps of an inebriated rabbit. Rose looked every inch a promising schoolboy decathlete shoved onto a football pitch and told to be a left-back. Pienaar looked every inch the runt of the Predator pack, banished to earth by the cooler Predators on account of his heavy-legged first touch.

On the bright side, Defoe and Modders tore about like a pair of dogs on heat in that first half, while Livermore also earned an approving nod, with that Sandro-esque combo of technique and energy.

Second Half – An Improvement Of Sorts

In the second half, our wily old fox of a manager deduced that the best way to avoid further embarrassment would be at all costs to avoid letting the ball go anywhere near the defence. Thus we spent the entire 45 camped around the Greek area, which at least spared Gallas, Bassong et al any further Chuckle Brothers moments. Alas, PAOK reasonably enough stuck all ten of their remaining men in a neat formation around their own penalty spot, and just about every one of them cleared off the line at some point.

Defeat is never much fun, and the use of 90 minutes’ worth of Modders, Defoe and Lennon is regrettable – but if we make the Top Four this season, an early Europa exit will hardly be lamented.

Rubin Kazan 1-0 Spurs: Bassong – Bad For Your Health

More dedicated followers of  AANP will be well aware that when I do eventually conclude fighting the good fight and prepare to meet my doom, ‘twill not be in a hail of bullets or blaze of glory, but coronary failure sustained while watching our heroes. While cheering the news that the various pokes and prods to ‘Arry ‘s cardiac area proved successful, I rather fear for him if he observed on the telly-box the inept tomfoolery of Monsieur Bassong in contributing to our downfall. On an evening when the more experienced, international types needed to lead by example, his ill-judged amble out of defence and straight into trouble inevitably led to a goal, as well as a booking, which may or may not have been officially awarded for jaw-dropping imbecility. I don’t mind admitting that when Gallas went off and the armband passed to the arm of Bassong, I could barely suppress a tut, so enraged was I. One rather hopes that someone averted ‘Arry’s eyes as the incompetence unfolded.

That Cudicini was in fine form says much about our performance, but this is hardly a slight upon the kids, whose brows were, as ever, furrowed with determination and effort. Of offensive threat there was none, Defoe and Pav given so little service and space that every time the ball did make its way to them they celebrated by charging into offside positions. In truth, the most notable developments of the night were the worrying sight of Gallas withdrawing injured, and the quite brilliant pun delivered by yours truly upon the arrival into the fray of young Parrett.

A win and defeat against this Russian lot, with no particular violation upon the equanimity of the goal difference between us, is probably what most of us expected. Progress remains likely, and the kids are learning, so there is therefore sanguinity in defeat, at least at AANP Towers.

Rubin Kazan – Spurs Preview: Dashing Back for Kick-Off

Rarely do I expect our heroes to lose – away to the Manchester clubs are about the only fixtures this season in which I would regrettably project nul points – but to that roll of dishonour let the epithet “Rubin Kazan. Away. And With Kids” be added. Those Russians can rightly feel a tad aggrieved at having to slop back off to Siberia with nothing but commemorative THFC thermal underwear, for they had the woolly mammoth’s share of possession and chances that night, and are likely to cause us a fair degree of bother on their own patch.Our midfield looks particularly light tonight, with Sandro and Parker spared the air-miles, understandably enough, a blessing similarly bestowed upon Modders, Bale, Lennon, VDV and Adebayor. However, Gallas and Pienaar will gingerly tiptoe onto the 90×120 for the first time in a while; Livermore will head up the usual troop of Boy Scouts; and Gomes/Cudicini, Bassong, Defoe and Pav are also involved. Much will rest on the young shoulders of Livermore to win the midfield battle, but all things considered a draw would represent a decent achievement, while the 5pm kick-off time finally lends some point to the existence of ITV4+1. The dash back to AANP Towers commences imminently…

Blackburn – Spurs Preview: Straightforward on Paper…

1. Collect Underpants
2. ?
3. Profit
As the South Park Underpant Gnomes so crucially failed to diagnose, some things are a dashed sight more difficult in practice than they appear on paper. Nota bene, ‘Arry and the assorted Hotspurs, for bottom of the table Blackburn may be, but alas it is unlikely that they will simply roll over and allow us to tickle their tummies before disappearing into the night with three points. Teams at the squalid end of the table certainly gave us problems last season, and after a generally below-par performance away from home last week complacency would be a grossly misjudged sentiment going into this one.‘Arry has to choose between VDV and Defoe in attack, the former generally preferred for away days, the latter looking frightfully bright and perky in recent weeks. The return of Sandro to the fold in midweek gives an extra option in midfield, but the unlikely chaps in the spotlight pre kick-off today will be the behemoth that is Kaboul and the not quite so imposing Bassong, without whom we may be forced to field life-size cardboard cut-outs of Ledley and Daws. Having said all that however, if we turn in a performance of the ilk of those in September, Messieurs Kaboul and Bassong ought to be spectators for much of this one. Three points please chaps.

Spurs – Rubin Kazan Preview: Pav’s Big Night

Few things in life scream “Pointless Money-Making Charade!” quite like a Europa group stage game, but this one actually has relevance, sub-plots and all other sorts of curious goodies the like of which have rarely been seen on a Thursday night on Channel 5.On a formal note, this game is actually laden with group-deciding significance no less. We and the good folk of Rubin Kazan appear to be trotting along towards the dizzy heights of group leadership, so the glorious crown of UEFA Europa League Group A Victor is likely to be decided over 90 minutes at the Lane tonight, followed by a similar stint in some sprit-crushingly chilly corner of far-flung Siberia two weeks hence. I must confess that I tend not to wile away my hours examining the whys, wherefores and qualification criteria of the Europa League, but I suspect that winning the group would grant us relatively gentle opponents in the next round, so there is an incentive of sorts for triumphing over this Russian mob ce soir.

Moreover – they’re Russian! And we have Pav in our ranks! It will be like when Spock fought against the Vulcans! That’s right, a headline-writer’s dream, if Pav can somehow be cajoled to stop whingeing and don his shooting boots for the night. Might also help him secure the move back to the motherland that he presumably craves. 

The usual phalanx of kids will presumably be shoved out there again, and it’s made for interesting viewing in previous weeks, so AANP graciously grants permission for the policy to continue. Defensively however we have something of a problem, as only Bassong and Kaboul have the requisite number of working limbs for this one, and with Premiership concerns on Sunday ‘Arry would probably prefer to rest the latter. As such, a case may be made for young Livermore to deputise at centre-back, because frankly I’m not sure if anyone else has the requisite bullet point on their CV. Rose, Townsend, Kane, Carroll and possibly Walker are also likely to feature, as well as Giovani, and anyone else returning from injury (Lennon? Pienaar? Kranjcar?)

Presumably it will be a much sterner test than Hearts, PAOK and the Irish lot; but the AANP fiver is still being slapped down on the side of “home win”.

Newcastle 2-2 Spurs: Foul Language and Misplaced Passes

Blast, and other unseemly vituperations. Apparently armed with a game-plan to avoid, at all costs, ever stringing together more than three passes, our heroes stuck to the drill fairly resolutely throughout, and it’s two points a-begging, faster than you can say “someone track that Ba fellow, he’s making a late run into the area”.Admittedly all t’s were crossed and i’s dotted in the first ten minutes or so, with pressure applied and short passes passed as standard; but thereafter the four walls of AANP Towers resounded repeatedly to the sounds of groans and curses, as far too many in lurid purple picked the wrong option, or just displayed a rather wild sense of geography with their passing. And dash it all (if you pardon my French) even despite this blistering second-ratedness we could – and probably should – nevertheless have still won the bally thing. Two-one up in the last ten minutes, with possession and rather tasty chances in tow – it was jolly winnable in the final furlong, and yet we unwon it.

First Gear (Or Lack Thereof)

For whatever reason, our heroes never really found first gear. The central core of Livermore-Parker understandably enough had their dials set to “Destroy” rather than “Create”, while out on the right in the first half, Bale generally had the doleful air of a man who had recently watched his national rugby side suffer an injustice or two, and consequently failed to deliver a performance that would blow up anyone’s skirt, even when dutifully taking up his natural left-hand abode. Modders showed sporadic flashes of invention, particularly in the second half, but when the media bigwigs put together a compilation for his Watch the Little Fella Bossing the Game With Footballing Alchemy In His Tiny Boots dvd, this particularly afternoon jaunt is unlikely to feature too prominently.

Polite Applause

Nevertheless, there are some certificates of merit to be dished out when the players next convene at school assembly. Young Livermore’s impression of Sandro was laudable, the tackle that helped create the penalty a notable highlight; and out yonder on the right Master Walker generally seemed to have understood the various dos and don’ts in defence. Mind you, if memory serves he might have done more to prevent the first goal (as might Livermore), and for all his spunk and brio on the charge, one suspects he is ill-served by the little grey cells when given time to think, around the opposition area.

Cracking finish from Defoe, although it will do little to settle the debate that occasionally surrounds him – the lovers will continue to point to his single-minded and darned effective approach to the game (blast the thing low and on target), while the haters will ask what he adds to the team when he fails to score. (AANP has pitched its tent, unfurled its sleeping bag and cracked open the Thermos flask in the former camp, since you ask).  A pat across the sturdy back of Kaboul too.

Not Looking Quite So Bionic

I suppose four games and 30 minutes was about as much as I was expecting from Ledley until Christmas, so to have been treated to all this (and the victories that inevitably accompany his presence) by mid-October has been something of a bonus. It is hardly most jaw-droppingly controversial statement of the millennium to suggest that Bassong is not quite a replacement of similar ilk – the lad chugged away earnestly enough, but if you can judge a man by the company he keeps, it is worth noting that Bassong was but one swish of a fountain pen away from calling the good folk of QPR his team-mates, at the end of the summer transfer window.

In a parallel universe Ledley played the full 90 and our lot hung on for three points, but having not been at our best an away point is probably acceptable, and on balance ‘twas a fair enough result. The next handful of games looks winnable. On y va.

Spurs – Shamrock Rovers Preview: Starting to Enjoy This

With fourth spot in the Premiership all but wrapped up it’s time for everyone to swing around and face this direction once again, just hither. I appreciate it can be jolly dashed mind-boggling these days trying to separate one competition from the next, but my spies tell me that tonight it’s Europa. Everyone got that?As it happens, I’m rather enjoying the deployment of the younglings in these midweek night-time gambols. In seasons of yore the only chance we’d get to see the likes of Livermore, Carroll and chums would be for 30 minutes at the end of an FA Cup demolition job on Peterborough, when the kids would be so concerned about making a good impression that I felt tense just watching them. Now, safe in the knowledge that there will always be a pointless European minnow pestering us again in a week or two, today’s youth can exhale, relax, play their natural games and give us a slightly better chance to assess how good they are, whilst secretly cursing the fact that kids half our age are already better than us.

In terms of personnel One Aaron Lennon will apparently be disappearing into the distance beyond some poor Irish full-back tonight, while Danny Rose and Steven Pienaar are also in line for returns. Presumably various youngsters have been given permission to leave school early in order to play tonight too, while such occasions also tend to mark the appearances of Pav, Bassong and Corluka before they are shoved away into the background once again as more pressing concerns arise at the weekend. Whatever the personnel one would expect our lot to be too strong for Shamrock tonight.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: The Least Important Game of Our Season?

Europa League or Carling Cup, which ought we to want less? It’s a tricky one. The Europa League trophy is a sizeable beast, and its lack of handles gives it a pleasingly Neanderthalic edge – one cannot help but handle it in rough, uncouth manner when raising it aloft, which is rather apt after 90 minutes of blood and thunder. The Carling Cup on the other hand has three handles, which is just plain weird, and ‘Arry will no doubt have taken this into account ahead of kick-off.However, we only need to win five games to make the Carling Cup Final, whereas five games in the Europa League won’t get us much further than half-time against Shamrock Rovers. Presumably the strategy in both tournaments will be to use the reserves, kids and those returning from injuries in the early rounds, before putting pedal to metal in the later stages. As such, everyone’s favourite gifted-yet-calamitous Brazilian gets to pop his cheekbones once more tonight, Gomes lining up between the sticks. With Gallas and Sandro returning, and Bassong, Corluka, Pav and presumably Giovani also involved, our lot ought to make a decent fist of it. The opposition won’t need too much introduction, it having been only five minutes since we were treated on a weekly basis to the sights of Crouch looping headers harmlessly into the stands, Sergeant Wilson mis-placing six yard passes and updates on the official club website about Jonathan Woodgate’s latest injury setback.

In all competitions we have five clean-sheets in seven games to date this season, and while it won’t matter a jot how we fare ce soir if we’re still pushing for fourth come next May, it would still be most satisfying if we could furtively eke our way into the quarter-finals of this thing, as has been our wont in recent years.

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