All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Modric, O’ Hara & A Last-Minute Winner – The Long Weekend at Spurs

Well that’s why it’s called All Action, No Plot.Away for one little weekend break, in the land of Erik Edman (note to eligible bachelors the world over – do Stockholm. No ifs, no buts – do Stockholm) and 48 hours later I return to find that all hell seems to have broken loose at White Hart Lane.

Luka 

Luka has broken a bone. Cancel everything. This is serious. No surgery needed – apparently he will be fixed by wearing a magic boot for the next six weeks – but anguished weeping and gnashing of teeth nevertheless echo around the walls of AANP Towers.

Only a couple of weeks ago I hastily cobbled together a ten-point wish-list for the season, and while most of the issues included were streams of consciousness rather than absolute ruddy imperatives, one point rather leapt from the page:

 

Look After Modric And Palacios Like Our Lives Depend On It
Our squad is looking impressive this season, with a couple of players competing in every position. However, Modric and Palacios are simply a class above, and as such are irreplaceable.,,, great lengths must be taken to avoid so much as a bee sting befalling them.

Not exactly rocket-science I admit, but I still wish extreme measures had been taken to preserve his fitness. Instead, rather than setting up an orb-shaped force-field around our Luka, some bright spark let him go near Lee Bowyer of all people.There is still plenty of creativity in the side – Lennon, Keane and the Hudd all contribute in their own special little ways – and we will still pick up points in his absence. There are also plenty of possible replacements out on the left – Keane, Giovani and Bentley spring to mind, and it’s possible that by the time you read this we might have yanked in Man City’s Petrov as an ad hoc replacement. So we will definitely take to the field with eleven players next time out, which is nice to know – but that’s not really the point.

Modric is that bit better than the alternatives and understudies, and most other players in the Premierhship. While he can still be slightly peripheral in that left-sided position, even though given carte blanche to wander infield, he is nevertheless always capable of sparking something every time he gets the ball. To be without him for the Man Utd and Chelski games is particularly galling. If something were now to happen to Palacios as well, I think those passing by AANP Towers will be treated to the undignified sight of a grown man openly weeping.

O’ Hara to Pompey 

The move to Portsmouth was announced at just about the same moment as the lad penned a new contract keeping him at the Lane until 2013, so he evidently remains part of the longish-term set-up. I am inclined to think that he might therefore have instigated the loan move himself, just to keep the blood circulating until the new year.

It appears that the Hudd has won the fight for the central midfield spot alongside Sergeant Wilson, at least until Jenas returns to fitness. O’ Hara would therefore have spent most weeks at Spurs twiddling his thumbs on the bench, with only the odd ten-minute cameo here and there. And so on; to repeat, it makes sense for him. In theory quite like the idea.

However, in practice it now leaves us suddenly a touch light in midfield. With Modric now joining Jenas in sick-bay, and Zokora long-gone, one more injury and somebody somewhere will have to thump the red alert button. As the transfer window ticks down, I suspect the issue may have been pointed out to management at the Lane.

Kevin Prince-Boateng Also to Pompey 

Spurs 2-1 Birmingham: Not A Match Report, I Didn’t See It

So amidst all the madness, there was also a football match. By all accounts the win was just about deserved on balance – apparently we made and missed more chances than they. I’m rather chuffed to hear that Birmingham set out to counter us with a nullify-and-frustrate 4-5-1. That’s the sort of treatment reserved for the big kids in the playground.

News of a ninety-fifth minute winner also prompted a cackle of satisfaction. Every game this season I have found myself harking back to the not-too-distant past, and remembering how Spurs teams of yore would have done so much worse than the current lot in an identical situation.

This week: Spurs teams of yore would have indeed undone the hard work of over an hour, by conceding an equalizer just minutes after taking the lead. However, previous Spurs sides would then probably have conceded a scrappy second in stoppage time. (Which we nearly did, admittedly). For us instead to go gamboling up the other end and pilfer the winnings ourselves suggests, yet again, that we’re getting the hang of this football lark.

It’s still early, but if at the end of the season we find ourselves challenging the top six or more, this is the sort of game at which we will all earnestly point as an example of how much steelier we are this year.

Plan B 

’Arry rarely needs an excuse to bang the Peter Crouch drum, and since Saturday he’s been making the quite valid point to Don Fabio Capello that the gangly one is a great option from the bench. Very fair point. He does indeed add something different, and one can well imagine how his arrival as a second half substitute must be greeted by tiring defenders who have spent all afternoon chasing the shadows of Keane and Defoe. As I noted when we signed him, his value as an impact-sub was perfectly illustrated in the fantastic England-Argentina friendly of late-2005:

 

With England trailing 2-1 Crouch was slung on for the last few minutes, and managed to make a sufficient nuisance of himself at crosses for Michael Owen to steal in with a couple of late goals.

Crouch as Plan B – no problem with that. However, there is a rumour gathering momentum that he is about to become Plan A. Not so sure about that.With Modric out, it may actually be forced upon us – Keane switching to left midfield would naturally open a door for Crouch. However, if it means we starting pinging long-balls into orbit from the off, I’d rather not.

 

The invitation is still open to share your memories of White Hart Lane legends, in anticipation of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book that rather does what it says on the tin. Feel free to add your memories of Jimmy Greaves here, of Jurgen Klinsmann here and Clive Allen here

Doncaster – Spurs Preview; Plus Some Tottenham Transfer Musings

Well truth be told I’ve found this all a little unsettling so far. Top of the league, three wins in three – and looking good value for it too. This is not the Tottenham I grew up with. The Tottenham I know and love would consistently let me down. Capitulate from positions of seeming invulnerability. Turn calamity into an art-form. Naturally then I’m unsettled by our new approach – destroying all challengers, that sort of thing. Been anxiously peering out of the windows of AANP Towers checking for cracks in the sky and the rumblings of four horsemen.Blessings upon the gods therefore, for bestowing upon us the Carling Cup second round, and an opportunity to return to the far more familiar and comfortable surroundings of humiliation. Top of the league; finalists in the last two seasons; team stuffed full of internationals; and Doncaster away on a Wednesday night. Perfect ingredients for a cup upset.

Our glorious leader is almost certain to play our second-string eleven, and quite rightly too, given the rigours of the opening week of the season. However, I hope that any sense of indifference conveyed by this decision does not permeate down to the players. After the blistering start to our league campaign the game against Doncaster is being viewed as a breather from the rigours of the Premiership. I just hope the players, and indeed management, don’t let our Premiership start obscure the fact that the Carling Cup represents a great chance of silverware, particularly as we have no European campaign this year. I’ll only whisper it, but sooner or later we’ll probably be toppled from our perch atop the table. A trophy this season is realistic – but it won’t be that one we saw Rio waving around last May. Therefore, maximum effort in the Carling Cup please chaps, starting tonight.

The chaps in question might well include Hutton, Naughton; Rose, O’ Hara, Bentley, Giovani; Crouch and Pav. Our squad is unusually solid this season, with two decent players competing for just about every position, and this lot ought to be too strong for Doncaster – but then player quality has never really been the problem at Spurs

Transfer Gubbins

Curious transfer talk doing the rounds at the moment, although nothing concrete (’twas ever thus, I suppose).

Modric – Carrick Swap 

Pav Back to Russia

I would rather like to see him given a run of games, but the Keane-Defoe thing is working at the moment, and Crouch is evidently ‘Arry’s first reserve. Listen to him field any questions about our strikers, and he’ll lavish praise upon the diddy-men, tell everyone how triffic Crouch is… and then almost as an afterthought add “…and we’ve also got Roman Pavluychenko, so that’s four top quality strikers…”. He doesn’t seem to rate him, and with a World Cup at the end of the season, I’ll stick a rouble  or two on Pav taking offski in the search for first-team football. Shame.

Honduran Chap On Trial 

Pardon my cynicism. I know nothing about the lad. He’s on trial, he’s a centre-back, ‘Arry’s having a look at him – such are the facts, but I have nothing to offer in terms of opinion. Also eyeing up Sandro Ranieri apparently, a £14 mil defensive midfielder. Seems a lot for a probable Palacios understudy (or maybe occasional partner) but I like the idea of having a ready-made Palacios replacement in our ranks. However, as with all these rumours, official judgements in these parts will have to be suspended until something actually happens.

Chimbonda to Blackburn 

 

The invitation is still open to share your memories of Spurs’ Cult Heroes, for a forthcoming book. This week we’re looking at Clive Allen, so please do share your thoughts– first impressions, favourite goals, crowd chants – as well as any meetings you may have had with the man off the pitch, right here. Memories of Jimmy Greaves here and of Jurgen Klinsmann here

Spurs – Liverpool Preview: TOP FOUR! TOP FOUR!

The deluded pre-season optimism of Spurs fans is a quintessential part of the British summer, up there alongside heroic failure at Wimbledon and an English batting collapse. Like moths to a flame we just can’t seem to help ourselves banging on each summer about making the top four.

Typically the wafer-thin bases for this argument are a fairly unnecessary spending spree; rampant (but entirely irrelevant) pre-season form; and the rather unscientific assumption, more commonly found in six year-olds, that if you repeat a lie often enough you can start to believe that it’s actually true!!! The backdrop to all of this wretched, blind insistence of imminent glory is the sound of breathless snuffling, as fans of all other English clubs – plus that French lot from Woolwich – roll around the aisles doubled up with laughter, and waiting for the inevitable.

Smart Thinking From ‘Arry

All a bit different this time round, however.

I have generally been a touch reluctant to lavish praise upon our heroic leader, but am quietly impressed with the way ‘Arry has gone about methodically dampening pre-season expectations at every opportunity. For a start, talk of breaking the top four has been pretty taboo. The company line has generally been that that the top six is possible, albeit tricky. Admittedly one or two of the players have deviated slightly from this (Peter Crouch being a case in point – but as his interviews are so full of bland, soulless clichés I doubt that he believes – or is even aware of – a word he says in front of the cameras). Generally, expectations are being kept tightly in check, and it makes a pleasant change. In public at least, top six is the goal (even if, by virtue simply of being Spurs fans, we all secretly believe at this time of the year that we will hit the top four).

The summer’s transfer policy has also been curiously sensible. Naughton, Crouch, Bassong – none are particularly glamorous, or even necessarily improvements upon what we already have. However, these signings suggest that there is an obvious policy in place, of strengthening the squad and improving competition for places. These buys are a far cry from the eye-catching but slightly unfathomable big-money buys of recent years (Bent and Bentley, I’m looking at you two). Moreover, unlike in recent years, we have managed to retain the services of our key players. Where we failed to hang on to Carrick, Berba and Keane, this time it seems certain that we will have another full season of Modders and Palacios. The sale of Zokora ought not to be mourned, for this is a squad evolving in a positive, progressive manner.

Even our pre-season form, usually so misleadingly irresistible, has had a few blips. Out-played by Barca, and beaten by Celtic and South China – not results which will have the slightest bearing on our Premiership form, but again handy in putting a lid on expectations, at a time when we will normally use any excuse to yelp “Top Four” in the middle of conversation.

The Official AANP Line

So where does this leave us? Aiming for the top six seems fair. It’s not a given, as Everton, Villa and Man City are probably all wittering away similar sentiments in scouse, brum and manc. However, failure to finish higher than two of these three would be pretty disappointing, and could well signal a cheery “adios” from Modders and/or Palacios. Best not contemplate that just yet.

Fourth, for the sake of argument? Having lost a key centre-back and striker there’s a case to be made for l’Arse struggling to hold on to fourth, but frankly I don’t want to put myself through the trauma of trumpeting about how this will be our season, and then watching in horror as Two Points Eight Games, or something similar, unfolds. Sixth, if not better. It’s ‘Arry’s line, and, until the new year at least, it’s the AANP line.

A Tricky One First Up

Liverpool is a tricky one first up. Until they sold Xabi Alonso they were actually the AANP tip for the title, and even without him will still be strong challengers. That scouse lad in the middle. The Spanish chap upfront. Still, they are probably furrowing their brows even as I type, and musing “Tottenham away is a tricky one first up…”

There are reasons for a sensible, cautious optimism at the Lane. We have retained the nucleus of the side which finished last season fairly strongly, Bassong is not actually suspended after all and Defoe has looked absolutely razor-sharp in recent weeks. Plus, you’d expect Modric to make mincemeat of their new £17 million (!) right-back, one Glen Johnson.

However it pans out though, I’m just delighted to have proper football back again, and a massive clash at the Lane to kick things off. Mouth-watering stuff.

Spurs’ Cult Heroes – Your Memories of Jurgen Klinsmann
Jurgen Klinsmann is one of the players featuring in
Spurs’ Cult Heroes, a forthcoming book looking at players who achieved legendary status amongst us fans for what they did at the club. As well as looking at the players’ Tottenham careers it will feature anecdotes and reminiscences – and this week we at AANP want to hear your memories of Klinsmann, from both on and off the pitch. Get involved here

 

Bent Flips, Defoe Arrested – Musings On An All-Action Week At Spurs

So, after several weeks in which dust has gathered and tumbleweed idly rolled around White Hart Lane, the last seven days have seen a welcome return to complete all-action-no-plot madness at Spurs, with Darren Bent’s glorious rant, a spell behind bars for Jermain Defoe, a big-money signing and even a trophy.It’s Always The Quiet Ones…

Seriously getting p***** off now. Why can’t anything be simple. It’s so frustrating hanging round doing jack s***. Do I wanna go Hull City NO. Do I wanna go stoke NO do I wanna go sunderland YES so stop f****** around, Levy.

However, the excruciating apology that went up on the club website a few hours later indicated that Bent had indeed turned green and burst out of his clothes. Crikey.

The incident reminded me of an occasion at school way back in the day, when a quiet, nerdy bespectacled kid suddenly losing the plot completely and out of the blue went mental at one of the teachers. It prompted a moment of complete shock amongst the staff (before they regained their senses and crucified the poor kid), and delight amongst us pupils, who thereafter viewed him in a new, vaguely awe-struck light.

Accordingly, I now have a new admiration for Bent and his gloriously ill-chosen unleashing of text-speak rage. I would also be intrigued to know what Hull and Stoke make of it all, given Bent’s pithy and unsubtle rejection of them as potential employers. In this politically-correct age of “no easy games” and other mind-numbing soundbites it’s been jolly entertaining to see a footballer dispense with the niceties.

And all this after he was yanked off a plane about to take off for China, which is itself rather exciting in an A-Team sort of way. Elsewhere, the bizarre soap-opera feel to the week at Spurs had Jermain Defoe stuck behind bars for a few hours (completely wrongfully I hasten to add). I half expect the coming week to bring a drugs-bust and gun-battle at Spurs Lodge.

(nb I should probably mention that AANP’s own rants at its employers can also be found on twitter, right about here.)

Transfers Bits And Pieces 

 

So, rather glad over here at AANP Towers that he’s likelier to end up at the ‘orrible lot down the road, but the whole issue does raise the point that we would probably benefit from an experienced, older head in the squad. Our squad could do with some leadership that goes beyond Robbie Keane’s frantic pointing and shouting.

With centre-backs dropping like flies there has been speculation a-plenty that we’ve waved a bag of ten million shiny nuggets at Newcastle for the boy Bassong, but ‘Arry, normally rather forthright about his transfer targets, has himself has denied this. One man who will most definitely be wearing lilywhite next season is ickle Peter Crouch. I have already opined on the subject this week – the nutshell version being that it’s unspectacular, but ought to benefit Defoe and is a fair enough price in the current market.

ASIA TROPHY CHAMPIONS – HUZZAH!!!! 

 

 

ooking for players who achieved legendary status amongst the fans for what they did at the club. Thinking caps on…

Reminiscing About Former Kits – Another Quiet Week At Spurs

So it’s official. The new Tottenham kits have been unveiled, the home shirt being white with urine-like streaks of yellow across the chest. The away shirts are relatively inoffensive, but if the home kit were a player it would be David Bentley – trying too hard to look flash, when keeping it simple would do the trick.As is fairly universally acknowledged, we won’t care too much what the kit looks like if the players wearing it can deliver the goods next season. Nevertheless, in the absence of anything more interesting about which to pass opinion this week, the new home shirt is something of a disappointment, the yellow bits and pieces a rather curious and certainly unnecessary addition.

I no longer buy these kits – if anything I’ll purchase a retro number, a sure sign that I’m getting on a bit. Once upon a time however, as a whippersnapper in a classroom literally across the road from White Hart Lane, I and various peers would spend hours designing Spurs kits, presumably to the bewilderment of our teachers. Even then it was pretty obvious that every flash and streak added would make the thing look proportionally worse.If I could pick a favourite Spurs kit it would probably be from those halcyon schoolboy days – the Umbro number in which we won the ’91 Cup Final. Relatively plain, smart collar, and an entertainingly old-school baggy feel – with the solid Holsten logo providing the p

 

ièce de résistance. (Rather embarrassed to admit that at that time I also quite liked the away kit that complemented it – a yellow number with what, at the time, seemed achingly cool jagged blue diamonds on one shoulder.) In the final analysis however, it’s only a matter of opinion – feel free to have a browse here.Robbie Keane and Ray Liotta

Good grief, did I really manage to write that many words about clothes? It’s indicative of another week in which precious little has happened at the Lane. The rumour of choice over the last seven days has been the one linking Robbie Keane to Sunderland. As happens in many a classic gangster film, what ought to have been the zenith of Keane’s career appears instead to have prompted his downfall. Recall Ray Liotta and chums in Goodfellas considering the Lufthansa heist to be the big one, that would have crowned their careers and made them millionaires. Indeed, they pulled it off, but the immediate aftermath unravelled everything they had built up, and saw them all end up dead or in jail.

While Keane’s from grace has not been quite so bullet-riddled, it was also sparked by the move that ought to have been the pinnacle of his career. Having been half of one of the most potent strike partnerships in the country, he moved to a Liverpool side that were regulars in the Champs League and itching for a title challenge – and his career has gone steadily downhill since. Now he’s allegedly on the brink of a move to a club that only just avoided relegation.

Elsewhere there has been talk of Bassong in, and Hudd out, but while the lack of concrete action makes for dull reading, it actually rather pleases me. Our team only needs tweaking in order to challenge for Europe and possibly even fourth, so wholesale changes would be unwelcome. We don’t need another season of transition, in which a host of new names take time to bed in. The squad as it stands is not bad. Therefore, every day that passes without anything happening suggests that our spine will be kept, and only minimal changes will be made.

The Week’s Non-Events at Spurs

My goodness it’s an arid, barren football landscape at this time of year. Admittedly there is the Confederations Cup (what the devil is that strange buzzing noise at all the South African stadia?), and the Under-21s are doing a sterling job for Queen and country, but once again at White Hart Lane the week has been characterised by the ethereal presence of rumours rather than any concrete developments.The Fixture List – So no action, no plot, and instead the highlight of the week has been the release of the fixture-list. It’s vaguely akin to getting excited about a weather forecast, but beggars can’t be choosers, so before the TV companies had a chance to stamp their filthy lucre all over it we at AANP Towers had a perusal. Liverpool first up elicited a rather fatalistic eye-roll, and April looks a tad tricky, but the fixture-gods have been strangely benevolent in their choice of final fixtures for us, with Bolton and Burnley standing in our way should we be mounting an end-of-season charge for Europe or better.

The most striking feature of the list is probably what is not included – namely European fixtures. I was a dedicated champion of the drive towards European qualification last season, but there is without doubt a silver lining to our failure to qualify, in terms of fewer games this time round. As well as the general benefit to players of reducing the likelihood of fatigue-induced injuries, this also gives us Ledley for the best part of the season, and ought generally to be conducive to a settled starting line-up, as we were able to produce to such good effect in the final months of last season.

Huntelaar, Robben, Heinze – Still nothing concrete in terms of transfers, but it is little secret that Daniel Levy was heading a delegation in Spain during the week, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar is reportedly topping the list. Following the debacle that was Ramon Vega, we at AANP Towers are aware that a cracking name counts for nothing in the Premiership, but his parents still deserve a pat on the back for naming their son “Klaas”. Although I’m a little too apathetic to offer serious comment until this is upgraded from rumour to fact, I would be happy to see Huntelaar brought in before the season starts, rather than, say, Cisse.

Arjen Robben is another name on the list. I recall with bemusement the hullabaloo that surrounded his first few games in a Chelski shirt, when he was lauded by some as the best player on the planet, a commendation which probably said more about the introspective nature of the Premiership and its commentators than the player himself. There is undoubtedly good trickery in his feet, but admiration for his talent is largely negated by my disdain for his histrionics. Admittedly just about every top-flight player has a dive and a roll around the floor these days, but Robben really is one of the most odious offenders.

Gabriel Heinze was the other name supposedly on the list. A top-notch left-back in his pomp at Man Utd, frankly I’m not sure if he’s still got it now in his early-thirties. Nothing wrong with a little competition in the squad I suppose, but I’ll be mightily disgruntled if his appearance at the club prompts Gareth Bale’s departure.

Ashley Young for David Bently plus Jenas/Hudd/cash – As left-wingers go, on a scale of one to ten (or Downing to Joe Cole) I guess Young would get a seven. Very good player, with the pace, trickery and youth to do on the left what Aaron Lennon does on the right, but after a blistering start to last season he rather tailed off towards the end, in common with his Villa team-mates. Still, we need a left-winger (assuming Modric goes central), and frankly if this puts to bed the Downing rumours I’ll stump up some cash for it myself.

Roman Pavluchenko Pav – or more accurately, Pav’s agent – has been making noises about a departure from the Lane. No-one would claim that he has been an unqualified success as yet, but the lad has shown glimpses of class, and I’d be pretty peeved if he were sold off after just one season, particularly if the likes of Cisse or Jones are brought in to replace him. Not reading too much into it at the moment, as it’s probably just his agent whipping up some mischief to pass the time. The devil making work for idle hands and all that.

And that’s all for this week really (which is actually a mild relief at AANP Towers, given that the real world is proving so darned busy – those estate agents can be a smarmy breed…). With the best part of two months to go until the season starts, it seems that the new kit launch will follow the fixture-list publication as the next non-event of the summer. I can barely wait.

The Week’s Tottenham Transfer Murmurings

Ruud van Nistelrooy – While I’ve always been keen to hurl down some funky shapes on the boogie floors of London’s finer night-spots on a booze-fuelled Saturday night, I’ve been honest enough to admit that I’m not a natural on the dance-floor. No, really. But by golly if I were, I would have danced an impromptu jig of delight at the news that we’re sniffing at Ruud van Nistelrooy. And I would have added a most inappropriate Michael Jackson-esque whoop at the news that this thoroughbred could be acquired for the thrifty sum of £1.25 million.£1.25 milion! No footballer can be bought for that amount these days. It’s like the football equivalent of 10p. Once upon a time 10p would at least buy a packet of chewing-gum, and £1.25 million would pick up a young but decidedly average English centre-back. Now, however, both sums are worthless in isolation and Anton Ferdinand costs £8 million. We could probably fund the RvN purchase by selling Gilberto. (Although RvN’s wages would presumably be astronomical.)

After the lamentable, waking nightmares that have been the Cisse and Kenwyne Jones rumours, the van Nistelrooy whispers are sounds as sweet as a Julie London solo. It may only be a short-term solution, but that’s fine with me – long-term contracts mean precious little these days anyway, and besides, who amongst us mere mortals can predict who will still be at the Lane 12 months hence? No, short-term is fine. We certainly need a physical presence to coax the best out of Keane/Defoe, and someone who is a proven goalscorer at Premiership level is all the better. I would quite happily see RvN, Keane, Defoe and young Obika as our four of choice in attack next season.

Sulley Muntari – Inter have rejected an ‘Arry bid for him, so sayeth his agent. Should this be true, the custodians of AANP Towers would nod in approval at ‘Arry’s wise judgement, but Jermaine Jenas may well furrow his brow, while T. Huddlestone Esquire would probably choke on his burger and chips, and nuggets, and sausages and beans, and onion rings, and dessert, in disgust. ‘Arry has said he’s targeting probably three key players this summer, and if one is a central midfielder it spells curtains for the likes of JJ and the Hudd.

Incidentally, there was also an extremely enthusiastic response chez AANP to the rumours of Mikael Arteta being snooped after; but alas, this is probably my fabled naivety coming to the fore once more – for, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a rumour is probably the work of a dastardly agent angling for his client to get a pay-rise. There’s little chance of Everton selling the blighter. Would love to see him alongside Palacios though, would be like an improved version of JJ.

Didier Zokora – The futures of Jenas and Hudd may be uncertain, but that of do-do-do Didier appears to be gaining clarity, with the phrases “Sevilla” and “£5 million” being bandied around with care-free liberality. This seems mutually beneficial. He’s done a decent job for us, but with Palacios doing the business there is little scope for Zokora at the Lane, and he’s thinking about his international career, with the World Cup less than a year away (less than a year – huzzah!). It’s a decent sum for us to pick up too. (Apologies, I ought to have sprinkled in there somewhere the phrase “loyal servant”. Most remiss of me.)

David Bentley – Elsewhere, the brain-hurting sum being used to take Little Miss Ronaldo to Madrid has livened up what has, in truth, been a rather moribund football week, and given everyone a chance to demonstrate their knowledge – or lack thereof – of European footballers, by trying to name possible Man Utd targets to replace the little princess. I won’t bother explosing my own ignorance, but it did occur to me that, had this happened last summer, one David Bentley might well have been a name on a few lips. It’s a long time in football, is a year.

Sayonara Suckers – Who’s Leaving Spurs This Summer?

Like the Ferrerro Rocher Ambassador, we at AANP Towers are rather spoiling you today. Not only are we providing a hastily cobbled-together list of potential Lane departees, but we’re also implementing the flawless, scientifically-proven Who-Would-Buy-Them guide to the standard of team they would attract, thereby ascertaining whether they’re worth keeping.The Hudd
Primarily on this list because he’s yapped a few times about needing regular first-team football. Opinion may be split about quite how good he is, but I don’t think anyone in lilywhite would want to see him leave. Problem is, he needs more strings to his bow in order to command that regular starting-berth. He needs to boss games against the Premiership’s bigger teams. A bit of energy wouldn’t go amiss either. I suspect ‘Arry will stick with Jenas or bring in a new, first-choice midfielder, and such straws would break this well-fed camel’s back. Rather a shame.
Exit Potential: 6.5
Who Would Buy Him? Fulham, West Ham.

David Bentley
Don’t pelt me with rotten tomatoes, but I rather like the lad. He’s obviously got oodles of talent beneath all that hair gel, but from day one it just hasn’t worked. A regular (ie 10 consecutive games) on the right-wing may well have seen him crack it, but instead he’s had to sit on the bench and mutter curses to his reflection in his pocket mirror, as Aaron Lennon has gone from strength to strength on the right. Whenever he has had the chance he’s tried far too hard, the Pele impressions rather unnecessary when he just needed to keep it simple. We’ll rue his absence if Lennon gets injured next season, especially if we do bring in the sort of big centre-froward who would thrive upon Bentley’s crossing ability. However, ‘Arry himself has said

‘David is obviously going to think, “hang on, I’m not in the team even when Aaron Lennon’s not fit, and maybe it’s time I moved on”. Which rather spells things out.
Exit Potential: 9.5
Who Would Buy Him? Villa, Man City, EvertonDarren Bent
Poor sod. 17 goals in 42 appearances – precious few of which were 90 minutes in length – is a healthy record, yet we’ll probably remember him more for that miss against Pompey, and Mrs Redknapp comparisons it drew. He’s really not a bad striker, but neither is he the perfect foil for either Keane or Defoe, so it appears that another forward is on the shopping list this summer. Worth sticking a tenner on him to score against us next season.
Exit Potential: 8.5
Who Would Buy Him: Sunderland, Blackburn

Roman Pavluychenko
We’d all like to see him start at the Lane next season, refreshed and with a command of the vernacular that rivals Stephen Fry’s, but the straight-down-the-tunnel hissy-fit that accompanied his substitution vs Man City, at the tail-end of last season, left ‘Arry decidedly unimpressed. Whether or not he would be first-choice remains to be seen, but every now and then there have been flashes of class (Burnely at home, for example), and offloading him so soon would be a bizarrely impatient move.
Exit Potential: 6
Who Would Buy Him? Ooh, shiny foreign teams in the Champions League, that’s who.

Didier Zokora
The defensive midfielder’s position is now very firmly moulded into the barrel-chested shape of Wilson Palacios, and the Scott Brown rumours suggest that ‘Arry is looking elsewhere for an understudy. Do-do-do Didier is unlikely to want to stick around as fourth-choice right-back either, so it appears that the elusive goal will, like the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction, remain tantalisingly unseen.
Exit Potential: 7
Who Would Buy Him? Monaco, Nancy. Or Wigan.

Jamie O’ Hara
Full-blooded, bulldog-spirit, never-say-die, heart-on-his-sleeve and other such tedious clichés are all well and good, but the scales tip rather heavily towards graft over natural skill with young Three-Touch O’ Hara. Not that I’d like to see the back of him – far from it. His energy, bite and left-footedness are valuable commodities in the Tottenham midfield, and his introduction vs Burnely in the Carling Cup, and goal vs West Ham, were indications of what he brings to the team. However, he is on this list because the Lennon-Palacios- Modric-A.N.Other midfield will leave little scope for regular starts, and this young man’s feet may soon start to itch.
Exit Potential: 5
Who Would Buy Him? Sunderland, Wolves

Giovani dos Santos
Would love to have seen him given a chance – Giovani left, and Modders in the centre would have been interesting – but ‘Arry doesn’t seen to fancy him, and he was apparently one fax away from joining Pompey in the January transfer window. Having all drooled over the Barca way in midweek, it seems a shame to let a Nou Camp alumnus wander merrily out the exit door, but such is the Tottenham way.
Exit Potential: 9
Who Would Buy Him? Villarreal, Deportivo. Or Ipswich.

 

Shameless Plugs: The AANP 2008-09 awards are here, and if you’re really suffering you can join the AANP Facebook group or follow the lifestyle on Twitter.

Issues For Next Season: The Keane-Defoe Problem

Things We Need To Sort Out, Preferably Before The Start Of Next Season

is likely to be a slightly intermittent series, for, as I’ve mentioned previously, we’re only in need of some gentle tweaking here and there, rather than a full-blown overhaul. However, near the top of the agenda is a problem that is both white and black, English and Irish, has four legs, and can be seen sometimes waving and shouting around the halfway line, and other times shooting on sight around the area.Defoe and Keane. Keane and Defoe.

With Pav last seen disappearing down the tunnel in a stropski and Darren Bent spending more time practising his hands-half-raised-to-head-can’t-believe-I-missed-that look, rather than his goal celebration, there are likely to be changes in attack over the summer – and the problem is compounded by the fact that one of Keane and Defoe will need to make himself at home on the bench next season.

We’ve been rather trying to ignore this, but there’s no doubt it’s a full-on, certified, official problem. It’s been gestating, and by the start of next season could well burst from ‘Arry Redknapp’s chest and go on the rampage, destroying the rest of the team.

Entertaining though it undoubtedly is to see over-paid and over-privileged grown men throwing a good old-fashioned toddler’s tantrum because life is so unfair, it won’t be particularly helpful to us. Discord from within we can do without.

Somehow, both these chaps need to be kept happy. Ordinarily, the gift of the entire DVD box-set of all five series of The A-Team would be more than enough to keep a grown man content, but these two fussy chaps need more. It’s not rocket-science to us at the Lane – each needs a bigger man alongside them. Only then will they feel loved and deliver their best, but such a solution obviously precludes a partnership between the two themselves. It’s one or t’other.

(The issue of who should partner Defoe/Keane is a completely different kettle of fish. I’ll sink confusedly into that one on another occasion.)

Tantrums

 

More recently, the fling with Liverpool turned sour hilariously quickly once he realised that his place in the first XI wasn’t sacrosanct. More strops are a-coming if Keane isn’t in the starting line-up.

Defoe does not have the pedigree of Keane when it comes to whingeing, but we hardly need reminding that failure to start regularly saw him amble off to pastures new 18 months back.

It’s not just that these two need to appear regularly, or even make 25 starts next season – they each need to know that they’re first choice, and will start game after game after game. Neither will be content with regular 60th minute introductions, or starting berths once every three games. We would undoubtedly regret selling one of Keane or Defoe (we need at least three – preferably four – decent strikers at the club) but whichever is not playing regularly is likely to get itchy feet.

The Curious World of Robbie Keane

 

The plot thickens and mystery deepens given ‘Arry’s intransigent refusal to drop or substitute him. This might be because he wears the captain’s armband – a move which did make sense when he arrived, but slightly complicates matters now. There are more rational explanations – ‘Arry may simply have reasoned it made more sense to withdraw a rusty-looking Pav, against West Brom and Man City. Nevertheless, the selection of Keane on left midfield last week was a strange one, and not for the first time had me wondering if there is some sort of “I’m Precious” clause in Keane’s contract, which simply states “Don’t even think about dropping me, Pedro.”

All Rise For The AANP Verdict:

On present form I’d have Defoe. In recent weeks we’ve looked most threatening when Defoe’s been on the pitch. The build-up play might not necessarily be any better (in fact, if Defoe played instead of Keane the build-up would probably be worse), but Defoe has a single-minded and fairly selfish determination to shoot whenever there’s a sniff. I love that about him. In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is King, and in the land of the shot-shy Spurs of recent weeks Defoe’s willingness to shoot earns him the place on the throne.

Curiously, although it’s fairly commonly acknowledged that they as partnerships go they’re no Stan and Ollie, we’ve probably had our greatest cutting-edge in recent weeks when they have been paired up. Such a combo, lacking a target man, has seen Keane push further forward, whilst Defoe has looked far sharper than any of the other strikers. However, this is more of an indictment upon the Bent-Keane and Pav-Keane partnerships than a recommendation of Defoe-Keane.

So this is one for ‘Arry to sort. Injury to Defoe since the January re-signing of both has meant we’ve been conveniently able to sidestep the problem so far in 2009, but there is no point ignoring it any further. The club badge features a cockerel standing on some sort of basketball, not an ostrich with its head in the sand. Two quality strikers fighting for one position is probably a good problem to have as a manager, but a problem nevertheless.

 

 

 

 

By the by – AANP has now got its own Facebook group and Twitter, um, thing. Amazing what these new-fangled computer boxes can do.

Joe Cole – An Unlikely Tribute

Headgear readjustments this week, as I donned my England hat, carefully placing it alongside the Tottenham version. Although the defeat to Spain didn’t feature any Spurs players, the naming of One-Trick Downing on the left had me sharpening knives, practising my most caustic put-downs, and preparing once again to do battle with those who claim that he’d be a worthy addition to the lilywhite ranks.However, a couple of spanners appeared in the works. For a start, this is hardly new ground. Whether they agree or not, seasoned all-action-no-plotters can virtually lip-synch with me as I trot out my usual lines of argument (decent player but not £14 mil of special; and not exactly a little bundle of unpredictability either), and the responses are themselves fairly predictable too (a natural left-footer provides balance to the midfield; and early crosses for our often ball-starved forwards).

The other problem with revisiting the Downing debate was more practical in nature. If watching “soccer” while holidaying in Oz was pretty darned tricky, then catching a game in New Zealand was nigh on impossible. Just the goals for me then, and the case against One-Trick can be adjourned with no further questions from this particular prosecution.

However, the debate will rage on, particularly in the summer. Rather than just moan about what I consider to be the problem, I shall take the novel and proactive step of suggesting a solution. One other name very briefly linked with Spurs, probably by a gossip-mongerer with a penchant for the particularly tenuous, was that of Joe Cole.

Until around 2004 – 05 the left-wing had been a major headache for the national team, with the list of earnest but inappropriate players shunted into the round hole including Heskey, Gerrard, Barmby, Bridge, Scholes, McManaman and Alan Thompson. Enter Joe Cole, stage left, and the problem ceased to be. Despite being right-footed he seemed to balance the midfield by maintaining positional discipline; he crossed well with both feet; was willing to cut infield (admittedly perhaps a little too willing at times); chipped in with goals; and was (is) pretty much the only player in the national squad with the natural ability to dribble past opponents. He is also one of the few flair players I can think of who is willing to devote as much energy to the hard work of scrapping and harrying as to his dribbling.

And the counter arguments? He can frustrate by failing to impact upon games as much as he ought to; he sometimes dribbles when a pass is on; and he regularly exhibits that most obnoxious of traits – the dive. An undoubted further source of irritation is that he has a voice so high that wild dogs run for cover when a microphone is thrust towards his visage, but the impact of this upon his performances appears minimal.

Not perfect then, but if being compared with One-Trick Downing, “perfection” is a criterion that can be safely tucked away in a drawer and forgotten about until we reach a completely different topic of discussion.

So I’m firmly in the tongue-twisting pro-Joe-Cole camp. Although now out for the season with an injury, there were murmurs to the effect that Cole was not entirely enamoured with life at Stamford Bridge this season. Apparently he was substituted in a dozen consecutive games by Scolari, up until his injury a few weeks ago. With bids of £14 mil bewilderingly being faxed off to Middlesborough there would have been a strong case for redirecting those funds towards Stamford Bridge. It’s all a little academic now, for numerous reasons (transfer window closed, Cole out until the summer, managerial shenanigans at Chelski). However, with our left wing unlikely to solve itself before May, and presuming we don’t continue our buy-back policy and re-sign Steed, I’ll happily design, print out and publicise the bring Joe-Cole-to-the-Lane petition.

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