Spurs match reports

Wigan 1-0 Spurs: Lack of Vortex Leaves Jenas Red-Faced

To whom could ‘Arry possibly have been referring when he talked of the need for “men” in the squad, and fighters for the relegation scrap. Actually, you don’t need to be Einstein, or even Murder She Wrote’s Jessica Fletcher, to piece this one together (side note – what was it with that woman? Wherever she went, someone dropped dead within 24 hours. If she turned up at my place I’d run a mile…).Ledley, Woodgate, Dawson, Three-Touch O’Hara and Zokora were singled out for praise by ‘Arry, as those you’d stick your life on to win a header. Fair enough, by that criterion. By implication therefore, the rest need to thump a clenched fist to their chests a bit more regularly in order for ‘Arry to stop twitching. 

Who better to pick on than everyone’s favourite fall-guy? Jermaine Jenas, take a bow son. As Wigan’s last minute corner looped into the area, rather than stick to his man, jump and challenge for the round white thing, Jenas rather optimistically banked on a vortex into another dimension spontaneously opening up a yard behind him and swallowing up both the ball and

Maynor Figueroa. Surprisingly enough, the space-time continuum trundled along in that same, predictable fashion of the last several million years, and Figueroa used the freedom of the six yard box well, sending a bullet header into the net.

I realise it’s unfair to knock a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, so I can’t possibly testify to the rigours of marking someone at a set-piece at Premiership level. However, my basic experience of a million cold Saturdays at amateur level has taught me that marking someone offering no movement, from a set-piece, ain’t the hardest part of the game. Get in-between him and the goal, get yourself close enough to smell his ear-wax and at least let him know he’s got a very special friend as he tries to get his head on it. If you do this and he still scores, at least you’ve done your best. Don’t, however, lost sight of him, wander a couple of yards in front of him and let the ball sail over your head (before heading back home and collecting your thirty-grand-a-week wages). If Jenas ever again wonders why he has no song at the Lane, I’ll add yesterday’s shocker to the three-part dvd of Jenas Being Useless (The Highlights) and shove said dvd box set down his throat.

More tactically…

I was unable to catch the game yesterday, due to a family engagement, and it was no doubt in retribution for this act of betrayal that the players lost the game in the last minute. My viewing was therefore limited to MOTD 2 in the evening, which hardly places me to comment.  However, ‘Arry’s team selection was puzzling to say the least, a sentiment I’d have expressed even without the benefit of my impeccable 20-20 hinsdight. King in the midfield holding role was surprising but just about comprehensible – but Zokora wide right? We’re not exactly short of qualified right midfielders, so this one certainly had me arching a quizzical eyebrow. Presumably the deployment of Zokora, King and O’ Hara across the middle was aimed at providing a platform of gritty ball-winners upon which Modric would be allowed a bit of freedom to pull strings, particularly within a 4-4-2 rather than 4-5-1. Can’t say it’s the sort of line-up which has me leaping off my seat and dancing atop my desk in joy, and evidently it didn’t have us thumping down on the Wigan door either. Wendy Ramos, one suspects, would have been pilloried for such a team selection…

Spurs match reports

Spurs 4-1 Burnely: Belated Four-Play

How must David Bentley feel this morning? Bless him, he can’t really be faulted for effort, but nothing he tried came off, whether a 5-yard pass, whipped in cross, fancy flick or long-range effort. Presumably when he got to the dressing-room at half-time for a swig of Lucozade he squirted it into his eye. He’s a right-winger playing on the left, and apparently he’s ill at the moment (begs the question of why he was played) but all the mitigating circumstances in the world can’t hide the fact that it’s just not happening for him at the moment, no matter what hairstyle he adopts.

While few at the Lane would agree with me, I see him coming good in the long-term. Dawson, Gomes and Lennon have each had their woeful spells in lilywhite, but all seem to be back on form (although Lennon’s perennial inability to deliver the final ball continues to frustrate), suggesting that these bad runs come and go. While Bentely’s not everyone’s particular brand of cognac, he has in previous seasons shown himself to be a very good performer at Premiership level. Poor form, yes; poor player, no.

However, he may be facing a spell on the subs bench after last night. After huffing and puffing to no avail for 45 mins, who knows what he said to his reflection as he gazed lovingly into a mirror at full-time, having witnessed his replacement, Three-Touch O’Hara, mastermind a four-goal salvo within just 20 minutes.
Seasoned all-action-no-plotters will know that young Three-Touch has never been a favourite of mine, due to the fact that he’s a bit heavy on graft and short on natural flair, but my goodness he injected exactly what was needed last night. Flair players won’t do much if they don’t have the ball, and at a time when no-one had the stomach for a fight, Three-Touch rose to the challenge of getting his hands dirty against the lower-league scrappers. His set-piece delivery was also spot on, and he even bagged himself a one-touch goal. Blinking heck.



So, as if by magic the soulless rabble, outfought and outpassed in the first 45 mins, banged in goals like they were going out of fashion in the second half. I’ll have whatever was in their half-time cuppa. To be honest, a foul-mouthed tirade from ‘Arry would not scare me anything like as much as one of those death stares from his assistant Joe Jordan, a man whose terrifying demeanour has “psycho-waiting-to-be-unleashed” etched all over it. The  performance won’t have Man Utd quaking in their boots, but it at least smoothes our passage to Wemberley. Job all but done.
More tactically… 

What the blazes has happened to Gareth Bale? The human-simian hybrid was our best player for the first few months of last season, but can’t defend to save his life at the moment. His distribution was woeful too. If the suspended Assou-Ekotto were capable of anything other than a blank stare of the undead, he would probably allow himself a smug smile in light of his replacement’s abysmal performances.

Merrily, the back-four looked nice and solid in the second half. Corluka deserves credit for ditching the alice-band, but needs to find a pace beyond lumbering and lumbering-more-animatedly if he he’s to be a genuine attacking option from right-back.The midfield certainly looked better for the presence and tenacity of Three-Touch in the second half. Much though I like 4-4-2 it remains to be seen whether a central midfield combo of Modric and Zokora can cut it at Premiership level – the pair were overrun in the first half.

Also notable was a much improved use of the ball in the second period. There were counteless aimless upfield punts in the first half, but the ball was treated far more lovingly in the second. Why they couldn’t play like that from the start I don’t know. 

And a word for Pav – that goal oozed class. They’re still glimpses, but every now and then he looks a £15 mil (or whatever it was) pound striker.

Spurs news, rants

Hossam Ghaly – Burying the Hatchet

Forgive and forget – that’s the new motto at Spurs as injuries and suspensions leave ‘Arry with little choice but to draft the dastardly Hossam Ghaly back into the squad.


I have to confess that I didn’t actually boo Ghaly when he prepared to come on vs Wigan. This is primarily because I wasn’t even at the ground. However, as I listened to the jeers on the radio, I nodded my head in agreement, and as such I’m guilty by all-action-no-plot association. Mea culpa, folks.I’ve never really been one to boo my own player. I’m happy enough to dish it out to an opponent, in panto-villain style (Berba, take a bow son), and I guess I’ll boo the entire team off the pitch if they’ve been useless. I’ve sure as hell flung up my hands in exasperation and turned the air purple as the likes of Jenas and Doherty have repeatedly conceded possession and missed from inside the six-yard box. This however, merely confirms that I am a Spurs fan and I have a pulse.

If I were a player myself I’d be chuffed to hear the fans sing my name, a little nonplussed to hear the fans sing their hatred of a different team and pretty darn annoyed to hear a team-mate getting booed by his own. With a big cup game tonight, and whole-hearted support needed a la Seville 2007, the moral of the story, kids, is clear: let’s not boo Ghaly any more.

That said, I’m hardly about to roll out the red carpet for the lad. Aright, the whole episode was 18 months ago or more, and nobody died. However, in these days of minimal loyalty and over-paid players, I don’t think it’s asking too much for 90 minutes worth of effort and respect towards the fans. Ghaly certainly forgot about the latter during his strop, in front of thousands of people who shell out a hefty amount each week for the club. He’s made the right noises with his apologies, and hopefully he’ll put in some good performances for us – but does anyone really think he cares about Spurs?

I’ll politely applaud his name tonight, I won’t give him stick – or nod approvingly if others do so – but if he expects a hearty pat on the back and songs in his honour he can go buy a hat and eat it. No chance, sonny-jimbo. I’m just doing this for the good of the team. (No doubt the lad will be mortified to read this. That’ll learn him).

Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Wigan: More jeers for Ghaly, Cheers for 4-4-2

Football fans are often accused of fickleness, but there is a rather unfortunate consistency about our treatment of Hossam Ghaly.

It is well over a year since he pulled off his Spurs shirt and flung it on the ground, incurring the wrath of fans throughout the stadium and beyond. Yesterday, as he readied himself for his first substitute appearance since, the N17 regulars began spitting feathers at the sight, and ‘Arry thought better of it. It appears that young Ghaly may have played his last game for Spurs. 


I’d imagine that there was nothing malicious in Ghaly’s act of throwing away the shirt. Bear in mind that he had just suffered the ignominy of being substituted having only himself entered the fray as a substitute. He must therefore have been most irked at life in general and his manager – Martin Jol (blessed be his name) – in particular. In front of 36,000 people, that’s pretty humiliating.Oh, that he had instead vented his displeasure by grinding his teeth, or kicking a water bottle, or burning a small annoying child. We’d have understood that, maybe even sympathised and surely moved on.
But pulling off the legendary lilywhite shirt and tossing it to the dirt, proud cockerel and all, could diplomatically be described as an ill-advised move. In an age in which fans pay astronomical prices for their 90 minutes of torture, and in which working-class supporters  feel increasingly distanced from the multi-millionaire prima donnas who take to the pitch, the lack of regard for the badge, the very identity of the club, was a pretty poorly-constructed plan of action from one of the players. 
Understandably, many will regard the booing of fans over a year later, as a childish over-reaction. Fair point. But offensive it ain’t. It’s an expression of disapproval, to which, I think, fans are entitled.

Having spent every spare minute of his press conferences over Christmas twitching and complaining about the size of his squad, ‘Arry will now presumably have to do without Ghaly. I can’t really say that my heart bleeds for the player – he presumably feels hard done-by, but the oodles of cash pouring in every week will soften the blow, my sympathy dwindling in direct proportion. If he wants a sympathetic ear, he should pop down to the south coast and have a nice warm cuppa with one Sulzeer Campbell esquire.

More tactically…

 Every time ‘Arry’s played 4-5-1 I’ve bemoaned the lack of support for the lone striker. Yesterday it was 4-4-2, and he entrusted holding duties to Zokora alone, with Modric the attacking half a central midfield pair. Now a slightly cumbersome win against a second-string Wigan team will have very few (outside All-Action-No-Plot Towers) singing from the rooftops, but I’m much encouraged.

Whether or not Zokora and Modric are a sufficiently strong central pairing to cut it in the Premiership is an entirely different kettle of fish, and frankly I suspect they’re not. Still, the tweaked formation, and its success, give ‘Arry food for thought.

Not too pleased about the emergence of yet another alice-band in the ranks though. Lose it, Luka.



Spurs preview

West Brom – Spurs preview: We’re doomed

Away to the team at the bottom of the league – exactly the sort of game in which Spurs will meekly surrender and die. The personnel changes, the kit changes – even the stadium is about to change, but Spurs remain the same, and I’ll be flabbergasted if we comfortably wrap up the three points as we ought to.

As we’re away from home it’s likely we’ll start with the wretched 4-5-1 again, and Bent/Pav will be starved of service, leaving ‘Arry bleating about the need for another striker. Au contraire, Mr Redknapp. My many, many years as a dedicated armchair football fan tell me that the problem is quite clearly the holding role. Bring in a midfielder with bite, who can win the ball and hold fort, and others will be freed to support the lone striker. Or better yet, if the holding midfielder is good enough, he alone can do the job and we can revert to 4-4-2. At the moment, two players (from Zokora, Hudd and Jenas) are being deployed to sit deep, and we’re suffering from a paucity of numbers in attack.

Here’s your Spurs bingo card for the traditional defeat to the bottom club tomorrow: “toothless”, “spineless”, “no confidence”, “tired”, “lacking urgency”, “outmuscled”, “no service”.

Spurs match reports

Spurs 0-0 Fulham: Dreariness to the strains of Vivaldi

The existence of a football fan can be a pathetic one – trudging around an empty room, pinning my hopes on a radio, staring pleadingly at it and willing it to deliver good news. The reception on it was so poor that match commentary was delivered with early afternoon orchestral performances on Radio 3 in the background. The commentator sounded like a gobby 15 year-old dragged out of his classroom, whose unique brand of humour amuses only the other hoodied teenagers who congregate at train stations on a Friday night to scowl, smoke and spit. This inanimate object, delivering to me first movements and teenage witticisms was the object of my undivided attention and longing for two hours on Boxing Day.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, this 15 year-old’s blow-by-blow account informed me, to the strains of Mozart’s Horn Concerto, that Spurs served up a woeful performance today . I need not really elaborate on the match details – all the usual boxes can be ticked: under-achievement from Bentley; lack of service and creativity from midfield; Bent swapped with Pav after 70. The usual suspects. Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons could not assuage my annoyance.

I regularly wonder if there’s anything more frustrating in life than being a Spurs fan. This marriage to 11 men in white frequently leaves me ruing that fateful day, back in 1987. Only minutes before kick-off this afternoon I wrote, full of optimism, about how Fulham at home could be the springboard to a run of wins which would fire us up the table. Looking back, with the benefit of just a few hours’ hindsight, I sneer at myself. How could I have been so naive? Why will I again be churlish in my predictions, in just 48 hours’ time? Nil-nil at home to Fulham is about as uninspiring and dreary-sounding a result as I can imagine, even if at half-time I caught random snatches of the rousing Superman theme tune on Radio 3. No result can be further from the all-action-no-plot team to which I signed my life away, two decades ago.

Spurs preview

This time next month, we’ll be pushing for Europe…

Make no mistake, the games coming up over the Christmas period and into January represent a great opportunity to push up the table, away from the drop-zone and into the chasing pack fro Europe.

In the league, Fulham at home, West Brom away, Wigan away, Pompey at home, Stoke away and Bolton at home on 31 Jan – all games which, individually, we could realistically envisage winning. There’s a Manager of the Month award in there for ‘Arry, particularly if he bolsters the squad shrewdly over January.

The table remains tight, with universal inconsistency seeing teams throughout the division picking up just four or five points from nine. As such, three or four consecutive wins will propel us up the table.

I realise that this is the sort of claim which will incur the wrath and/or mockery of non-Spurs fans across the land, exactly the sort of blind optimism which breeds pre-season mockery outside fo N17, as we babble on about this being “our season”. Indeed, I admit to making such gung-ho claims fro the ’08-’09 campaign, not least on 15 August, the day before the season began. Back then, carried away with the prospect of an all-action-no-plot line-up so attacking it forced Modric back into the holding role, I saw us beating every team in the Premiership at home, bar the top four. Instead, we promptly lost to Boro, Sunderland, Villa, Pompey, Hull and Stoke, and were bottom after a couple of months. There is therefore, a possibility that this festive fixture-list could prove disastrous for us.

However, results (and performances) such as the 0-0 at home to Man Utd, minus King and Woodgate, and the win away to West Ham, have left hope springing eternal of a points blitz over the next few weeks. It all begins today at home to Fulham. ‘Arry will continue to insist that we’re in a relegation scrap, but I see neon lights, dollar signs and all-action-no-plot, glory glory football – we’re on our way to an unbeaten run! I’m sure of it!

Spurs match reports

Gilberto – so bad he got sacked… Spurs 2- 2 Spartak Moscow

Imagine playing so badly that immedidately after the game you get sacked by the manager. It’s got to be the game’s biggest indignity, even worse than being a substitute who gets substituted. Gilberto, take a bow. I think it happened to Dave Beasant once, back in the late 80s/early 90s, but last night in his first start under ‘Arry, Gilberto was hauled off at half-time and shown the door at full-time. How badly must he have played?

Not only that, it was the third time in his brief Spurs career that he’s started and been withdrawn at half-time, for performance rather than injury reasons. Now we’re not exactly a club famed for its amazing defenders, so to be taken off at half-time, and then told he’ll never play again – the guy must have been truly rubbish last night.

Bizarrely, Gilberto is Brazilian, which ought, according to the laws of physics, to make him one of the most talented footballers around. No doubt once we get rid of him he’ll be snapped up by some European team and end up with a Champions League winners medal. However, it’s saying something that at a time when ‘Arry is moaning about the size of our squad he’s willing to jettison a player after just 45 minutes…

Bless him, Gilberto’s debacle last night occurred about a year after his debut for Spurs, when he picked up the ball just outside his own area and decided to try and dribble past the entire opposition. He got tackled by the first guy, who promptly scored. At the time I figured that after such a nightmare start things could not get any worse for him. In a sense this was true – strictly speaking they haven’t got worse – but the assumption was that things would actually improve. They haven’t. They’ve remained at a cringe-worthy inept level and Gilberto is still rubbish. He’s only played a handful of times for us, but remains about eighteenth down the pecking order of full-backs, behind the likes of Assou-Ekotto, Gunter and the good ladies of the under-12s.

To be fair to the guy, playing in defence obviously means that bad form results in goals conceded; whereas a striker in bad form doesn’t actually cause a negative goal difference. So while Postiga scored about two goals in 20 or 30, and the clumsy beanpole Razsiak didn’t score once, neither actually caused us to concede goals. Gilberto, on the other hand, and indeed Gomes, can have solid games for 89 mins and still be remembered for making one howler, with little chance of redemption up the other end.

I can’t remember how much he cost, but we seem to have made a bit of a habit of paying well over the odds for defenders who are mediocre at best. Richards for £8 mil a few years back, a good £3 or £4 mil for Rocha, now £8 mil for Corluka – even in the modern age of inflated prices these are all ridiculous. I’d be quite content if Platini, Blatter and all the other crack-pots who run the game insititued a two-tiered payment system for defenders – £20 mil for the best ones, and £1 mil for all the rest. Rio? £20 mil. Cannavaro? £20 mil. Ledley? £20 mil. Assou–Ekotto? £1 mil, tops. Lescott, Carragher, Tal Ben Haim and Gilberto – £1 mil. This would avoid any confusion brought about, and remove the need to sack some foreign defender with a few international caps for whom we’ve paid a shedload but who is actually rubbish. It will never happen, but then once upon a time we thought the same about the back-pass rule…

I can’t make much informed comment about Gilberto’s performance as I had to be content with the radio last night. Even though there are about 200 hundred tv channels available in the UK at the moment, including half a dozen dedicated sports channels, not one was showing the game. Clearly there’s not enough football on telly at the moment. There’s a niche in the market there…

So I don’t really know how Gilberto played, other than that he messed up royally for Spartak’s opener, and got sacked as a result. It’s a form of management that would strike few into a few million of Britain’s laziest in other spheres of employment. Elsewhere on the pitch – well, I don’t know. I couldn’t watch it. Apparently though, the first half was awful, but in the second half the full-backs pushed up and we were much improved. Good to see (ie hear) that Modric has broken his duck for us. Generally relieved to hear that the patched up reserves made it through, particularly from a two-goal deficit. Bring on Shaktar Donetsk in the next round, minus the wretched Gilberto.

Spurs news, rants

Woodgate does his Anderton impression: Spurs 0 – 0 Man Utd

Good grief, what a productive week. West Ham away and Man Utd at home could quite conceivably have ended in nul points (and would almost certainly have done so under Wendy Ramos). Admittedly the second half vs Man Utd increasingly became a backs-to-the-wall effort, but we did create some chances, and a clean sheet against the European champions, with an attack of Berba, Ronaldo and Tevez, is no mean feat.


That feat becomes even less mean when it is remembered that we began without King, and lost Woodgate to the most innocuous looking injury early on. We’ve been rather spoiled by an injury-free year for Woodgate, but the manner in which he picked up his “knock” – with no-one around him – was rather worrying, and memories of the original, definitive “Sicknote” came flooding back. Whereas Sir Les would get injured every week because he’d get concussion from nutting someone’s right boot, Anderton just didn’t seem to be built for football, and his weedy little legs rarely took the strain. His sinewy frame and gaunt face gave the impression of a man built of elastic bands tied around twigs – with the result that if he strained too hard he would snap. It had slipped my mind until Saturday, but Woodgate’s history suggests that he is similarly constructed. Hence, in the finest tradition of Anderton he incurred an injury seemingly just by landing, after jumping a foot in the air, and off he went, clutching his back and grimacing, like a grandfather who’d overdone it a wedding disco.


The resulting ad hoc back-four of Zokora, Assou-Ekotto, Corluka and Dawson hardly instilled me with confidence at first glance, but my goodness they did well. A lot of Dawson’s recovery tackles may come about because he erred in the first place, but he still made those recovery tackles in fine style. Zokora I single out for particular place, not only because he was thrust into unknown territory at left-back, but also because he was up against the newly-crowned Ballon D’Or winner, Little Miss Ronaldo. Perhaps, with his pace and penchant for an occasional 80-yard run, right-back could become a more regular spot for Zokora, in the absence of so many other options. Assou-Ekotto had his usual perfunctory, unspectacular game, although rather more eye-catching this time on account of his new hairstyle, which looked a bit like the grid from that board game “Battleships”. Gomes was quality. I’ve been one of his biggest critics, but the lad had a blinder – the spectacular leaping saves obviously catch the eye, but I was most relieved/impressed by the fact that he didn’t fail to connect when coming for corners. Bravo, sir.


Elsewhere on the pitch… Modric continues to look like he’s adapting to the English game with every passing match. Thudd performed an impromptu castration upon poor old Pavluychenko, which prevented what might have been a cracking goal (has Thudd ever scored any other sort of goal?) Bentley still looks like a flashy boyband member who has yet to prove he can walk the walk. However, his early long-range volley was a further indication of the renewed confidence that ‘Arry seems to have instilled in the team.


So positives aplenty, but all the jolliness is rather tempered by a glance at the league table, which shows that we’re still only a point above the relegation zone. This despite an unbeaten record against the top four this season* which makes all the more infuriating our losses to Stoke, Boro, Sunderland etc. The top half of the table remains tantalisingly close, but we will require a string of wins, rather than the win one, draw one, lose one cycle we seem to have adopted. The Prem takes a back seat for a few days as Spartak Moscow are next up, which at this rate is likely to see me make my debut in defence. Point needed to progress, I feel confident.


* = Pedantry alert – I’m aware that Villa are actually fourth at the moment, but for all intents and purposes I’m shoving l’arse into that little group.

Spurs preview

Berba the pantomime villain: Spurs – Man Utd preview

So it looks like Berba is chickening out of a return to the Lane tomorrow, the big girl’s blouse. There is also some talk of Carrick possibly missing out through injury, although I suspect he’d be due less vitriol than the Bulgarian swine. Loyalty means nothing to players, nothing new there, but everyone loves a pantomime villain, especially at Christmas, and should Berba play he can expect to be roundly booed for the manner in which he upped and left. Of sulky demeanour at the best of times, his departure was conducted in such a surly manner he didn’t even bother to make the usual polite utterances about how grateful he was for the opportunity and support at Spurs etc. There’s probably a sense in which his honesty is refreshing, but I missed it in the midst of my indignation that anyone would dare to leave the amphitheatre of N17, or that, contrary to the song, there is actually another team around which is by far the greatest the world has ever seen.


Some players will always be warmly received at the Lane – Waddler, Ginola, Klinsmann et al. Guys, mi casa su casa. The criteria are pretty straightforward – play the sort of champagne football that the Lane regulars love, show that you care for the badge and, possibly above all else, don’t leave acrimoniously. Getting shunted out by an unscrupulous chairman/manager tends to assist the returning player in the popularity stakes.


By contrast, declaring that you’d rather leave Spurs and join some other lot, who have handily become the club you supported as a boy, will grant you the sort of treatment that even Emmanuel Eboue would consider a tad harsh. And leaving to join l’arse on a free, after you’ve been club captain for years – well, suffice it say that ten years on and that’s now become a matter for the polizei to investigate.


With Rooney and possibly Evra also missing from the Man Utd line-up tomorrow, and our bizarrely impressive record against the top-four so far this season, there may even be grounds for optimism ahead of the game. I think we’ll get stuff myself, but personally I’d rather lose this one and win the Carling Cup final against them.