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Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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Idle Witterings on Bale, Caulker, Dempsey & Monaco

My goodness these have been busy times at N17. A striker has finally been brought into the fold, seemingly only two and a half years too late, and reportedly a bit more in the poacher mould than the brick outhouse we have craved, but this is not the time to pick nits. Young Chadli has also arrived, and although the assembly instructions that came with this lad suggest that he is for squad depth rather than tearing up the Premiership week in and week out, he being of the jolly handy coterie of Belgians currently invading our shores we can probably express some optimism.

Bale

These young folk and their peccadilloes. Rumour has it that young Master Bale is toying with the quite preposterous notion of plying his trade elsewhere, as if the prospect of weekly Europa League action is not enough for the hottest young property in British football. Someone talk some sense into the lad.

Still, heart-warming consolation has been offered in recent weeks by witnessing the fruits of that ‘special relationship’ of bonhomie and understanding with Madrid, which was struck up a year or two back as part of the Modric sale. Those fun-loving rogues have injected much-needed humour and amity into the summer’s proceedings with the decorum of their enquiries. On a frivolous note however, I do sometimes wonder if the prestige of Real slightly obscures the reality that they have not won the Champions League for over a decade. Something like a more glamorous version of Liverpool, over-dependent on reputation and history? Just an idle thought.

Back o the Bale nonsense, for here at AANP Towers we men of honour consider such parchment as Four-Year Contracts – of the ilk signed by Bale last summer – to be more than the mere fashion accessories, and as such I am all in favour of Messrs Levy and V-B politely clearing their throats and bluntly refusing to let the lad scarper. This coming season I want to see our heroes make the Champions League, and this seems a darned sight likelier with Bale than without.

On the subject of £80 mil, I can hardly see us using it to bring in a player worth £80 mil, or for that matter two worth £40 mil. In fact were we to sell Bale this very evening I would be amazed if we brought in two £25 mil players by the end of the transfer window. No matter how many bags of cash are flung in our direction, the players brought in will not be as good as Bale, because we have neither the lure of CL football nor of sky-high wages. The party line in this neck of the interweb is therefore to reject all offers, hang on to Bale and make the Top Four next season, which might at least then give us another bargaining chip when attempting to bring in top-notch purveyors of the trade.

Caulker

This was a rummy one. Admittedly Caulker trails Vertonghen, Kaboul and possibly Dawson in the centre-back pecking order, and at present he has the flaws in his game one would expect of an Under-21, but with Europa games flying at us from all angles and Caulker a work in progress there would have been a fairly solid case for his retention. Still, one presumes the Brains Trust have a something up their sleeve on the central defensive front.

Dempsey

My Spurs-supporting chum Ian was not presumably not alone in expressing a sentiment nearing full-on delight that we will no longer be treated to any more 20-yard volleys looping off the Dempsey shin and into the North Stand. A little unfair on the blighter I appreciate, for if nothing else he had the knack of poaching jolly important late goals against Manchester clubs.  However, his exit is vaguely akin to the demise of a minor supporting cast member within the first 30 minutes of a half-decent action film. And when we have Hudson, Vasquez, Hicks et al manning the barricades, who particularly cares about the various nameless marines who were dragged to their doom in that early carnage scene?

Tactically however one might raise an eyebrow at the Dempsey sale. Goodness knows who fits where within our attacking axis, what with Bale potentially thither rather than hither, and Adebayor potentially extending that languid stroll all the way to the exit, but between Lennon, Chadli, Sigurdsson, Holtby, Townsend and potentially Dembele I suppose we ought to have enough bodies to fill those attacking spots, albeit not necessarily of the quality of title challengers.

The Monaco Defeat

Somebody somewhere is presumably banging on the door of the N17 ticket office and demanding a full refund for their season ticket following yesterday’s muddle in Monaco. Precious little can be read into a game that had the look of a Europa qualifier at kick-off, and went downhill from there, with one of the few seniors (Defoe) limping off early, and AVB seemingly plucking lads from the travelling lilywhite support to scurry around as subs by the time the clock ticked to 90.

Lloris, Walker, Lennon and Dembele played most of the game – but Daws and Vertonghen were injured,  as was Holtby; Sandro and Kaboul are not yet fit; Paulinho and Soldado are apparently still too sparkling new to be allowed to run around and get dirty; while all sorts of intrigue surrounds the non-appearances of Bale and Adebayor.

For what it was worth, Livermore and Zeki Fryers found themselves promoted to first-choice centre-back pairing, and looked suitably flummoxed, the poor lambs having to contend with £50m of that Falcao chap amongst others. Further up the pitch the new lad Chadli pottered around a little forlornly, and Harry Kane’s legions of admirers will have been thrilled to observe their hero for almost the entirety of proceedings, even nabbing himself one of those goal things. But ultimately the whole episode was fairly pointless. I’m rather impatient for the real thing to begin now, truth be told.

Spurs – Inter Preview: Oozing Glamour From Every Pore

‘Tis a sign of the lucre-riddled times that a home fixture against Inter is only the third most important match of our week, but thus it fairly well transpires, if you give a nudge here and take a hop there. Finishing in the top four (three? Two?) still feels like the priority – but as distractions go this is right up there with kittens, cats, sacks and wives. Spurs vs Inter – truly a fixture to make a grown man stand up straight, puff out his chest and cream with misty eyes of killing wild beasts with his bear hands.

On an arguably more relevant note, it can be assumed that Friedel will take the reins tonight, which is rather a shame in a way, for Lloris’ tendency to burst off his line like a coiled spring recently force-fed E-numbers has proved most useful, in acting as the thinking man’s last line of defence. Gallas, Caulker and Naughton all stand reasonably good chances of being rotated in, and Defoe blinking well ought to start if there is but an ounce of sanity in the world, but I would be a little surprised if AVB chopped and changed in midfield – this tends not to be his wont.

Playing the home leg first is not ideal, but one way or t’other this ought to be a rollicking good yarn (and – whisper it – a useful precursor to fixtures of similarly glamorous ilk in season 2013-14).

Spurs – Man Utd Preview: Can Parker Still Cut It Against The Best?

Ah, ‘tis the unmistakeable scent of le grand fromage wafting into town. Oddly enough we find ourselves in the exalted position of being able to do the seasonal double over this lot, for possibly the first time since a wide-eyed and youthful AANP would stare transfixed at the shoulder-feints and mullet Chris Waddle and his mullet feinting this way and that. To this casual observer the champions-elect have this season hardly been the all-conquering, unstoppable juggernaut of recent times, with notable deficiencies in goal, defence and midfield for sure, but that blasted RVP seems to know a thing or two about the old net-ripple business, and there is only one of the Vertonghen-Daws-Gallas-Caulker quartet of options that I fancy to have any joy against him today. (Clue: His name rhymes with ‘Bertonghen’)As for our lot, a doleful minute’s silence has presumably been held across lilywhite abodes across the land for the repose of the knee of Sandro. The slightly unhinged Brazilian is out for the season, and one can only feel sorry for Mrs Sandro and any nursing staff involved in his recuperation, for a hyperactive young soul such as he strikes me as the worst possible nominee for sitting still with his leg up.

 

All of which leaves our central midfield in a pickle of sorts. Sandro may not necessarily be the most important cog in this machine, but the combo with Dembele has that same menacing air of Danny Trejo wandering the area with an Uzi on each arm – not necessarily the most effective, as Predators aficionados will testify, but a jolly imposing sight nonetheless.

In Sandro’s absence Scott Parker will step once more into the breach, and presumably run himself into the ground, like the good honest blighter he is. A most useful reserve no doubt on most weekends of the season, but if Euro 2012 delivered one rather sad truth it was that against the very best teams in Europe Parker’s indefatigable spirit only gets him so far. One crosses fingers on his behalf this afternoon.

Master Dempsey will presumably supplement the midfield today, and there is something a mite worrying about the complete silence over attacking reinforcements this January, with Adebayor now sunning himself on his African jolly. One hopes to heavens that Master Defoe does not chip a fingernail this afternoon, because a new big-name forward there be not, neither hither nor in the offing.

A difficult basket of figs to call, this one. Our heroes have already shown this season that they can beat this lot, particularly if the handsome young Welshman is in the mood, but emphatic defeats to City, Chelski and l’Arse pointed to shortcomings on these big occasions. Weather permitting, we’ll find out soon enough.

Maribor 1-1 Spurs: The Half-Hearted Amble to Glory Continueth

Still not really clicking, which is just about grumpily bearable against the European champions, but a darned sight more irritating against Slovenia’s finest. The lack of cutting edge in attack had me thumping my head repeatedly against the nearest wall from around midway through the first half. Injury to Adebayor was a shame, for this game had ‘Two-Man Attack’ scrawled across it in the sort of chunky font normally reserved for unintelligible graffiti. Elsewhere a couple of campaigns were given more scarcely-needed impetus, as the ‘Without-Bale-And-Dembele-We’re-Worryingly-Impotent’ brigade were given a second boost within a week, while the ‘VDV-And-Modders-For-Sigurdsson-And-Dempsey-Is-A-Slightly-Rubbish-Trade-Off-When-You-Think-About-It’ movement, which first stirred into life in August, is gaining credibility by the game.

‘Twas a night on which, given our lack of personnel to play two up front, our deeper midfielders Hudd and Sandro might have shown more attacking urgency. Lennon too just seemed too dashed nice as he went about his business, seemingly reluctant to embarrass his hosts by tearing them to pieces and instead settling for that pause-and-limply-pass-infield routine that is inevitably met with sighs of relief all round amongst the opponents.

here were a few moments – the lad Falque shook things up a tad on his introduction, and young Masters Caulker and Naughton put in decent performances, but ‘tis rather depressing to clutch at such straws after a bland draw against this lot. Having banged on about what a glitzy, glam competition this Europa thing is, AVB needs to inject some ingenuity and ruthlessness into the training ground protein shakes, and jolly well destroy this lot when they visit the Lane for the return fixture.

Spurs 2-1 QPR: The Portuguese For ‘Huzzah’

Not quite as we would have scripted admittedly, but only the most pedantic of lilywhite persuasion will grumble about the manner in which we stumbled our way over the finishing line today. To date this season, the four walls of White Hart Lane have witnessed vastly inferior attempts to wrap up the points and cavort our way down the High Road with the sounds of chortles ringing the air and three points slung over the shoulder – hence we might be well advised to thank the mid-September deities and shuffle off into the gloaming.

Partying Like It’s February 2010

Bale at left-back was the eyebrow-raiser de jour, and while not exactly an unparalleled success, the pre-match verdict at AANP Towers was a slightly sheepish nod of approval. Way back in the sepia-tinged days of February 2010, when young Master Bale was a few shades greener behind the ears,  his deployment at left-back worked a treat, as the left midfielder in residence (Bentley I think, bizarrely) tucked inside creating yawning great big acres of greenery into which the handsome young Welshman duly charged, having been granted the bonus of a flying start from 15 yards inside his own half. Alas, the bally thing just did not quite click today, and with lustre distinctly lacking in most other areas there was a most conspicuous forlornness to the manner in which our heroes trooped off at half-time.

To his credit young AVB took time out from his uncanny Vertonghen impressions to rearrange the pawns at half-time, with Master Caulker introduced, Bale shunted forward into more natural habitat and Dempsey adopting something that looked suspiciously like a striking role, and our heroes muddled their way into the lead accordingly.

All of which laid the foundations for that most feared of beasts, The One-Goal Lead At Home In The Last Ten Minutes. ‘Tis a creature that has the same effect upon the current lilywhite troupe as crying women have upon yours truly – but to their credit, rather than spinning around in panicked circles and gibbering unintelligibly, they made a few creditable attempts at bundling a third into the QPR net and putting the whole dashed issue to bed. Admittedly Friedel had to hurl himself full length a few times, and Gallas made one or two of his customary last-ditch blocks, but doing things the jolly complicated way has been turned into an art form by this lot over the years, so we ought not to complain too vociferously. Three points at home, and “Huzzah, huzzah and thrice I say huzzah” (or the Portuguese equivalent) is no doubt the expostulation ringing out within the four walls of the AVB abode tonight. Hear hear.

Spurs – Lazio Preview: The New Dawn Continueth

Ah Lazio, adopted Italian team of many a lilywhite who grew up imitating P. Gascoigne Esq., in the playground, and spent their Sunday afternoons settling into the sofa on to hear that chap yell “GoooLLLAAAZZZZZooooo”, before seeing Gazza turn four players inside out and then merrily burp into the camera.Happy days indeed, and more such joyous occasions are to follow as of this very evening apparently, because the glorious lilywhites of N17 are quite sincere about pilfering the Europa trophy come May 2013, if AVB is to be believed. The new dawn really doth continueth apace.

Champions League qualification is presumably still the priority, but silverware of any sort is most welcome, and the daring combo of AVB’s commitment and our status as one of a handful of favourites suggests that actually winning this whole dashed thing is not beyond the realms of possibility.

With Lazio cheerily waving down from (jointly) atop the Serie A pile, this has assumed the status of rather a heavyweight European clash, and as such one suspects that AVB won’t go a-tinkering with too much gay abandon. Lloris can be expected to bid us all a sunny bonjour from between the sticks; injury to Adebayor means Defoe could be replaced by Dempsey, if our glorious leader is feeling particularly inventive; and the likes of Daws, Hudd and Caulker might also be glimpsed; but a team of scrawny teens last seen practising for a recorder concert this almost certainly won’t be. As Thursday night, ITV4 fare goes, this is shaping up to be quite the lip-smacker.

Hudd, Dawson & Adebayor – AANP Weeps, Shrugs & Rejoices

Hudd to StokeWEEP! Weep – and while you’re at it wail and gnash your teeth – for Hudd is a lilywhite no more! Admittedly the veracity of the above does depend on a technicality, as the blighter has departed only on loan for now, but apparently AVB deems him too slow for this post-Corluka era.

Whether or not he returns seems fairly questionable, for while the loaning of younglings is generally geared towards ripening them for First XI action, loans for more established 20-somethings are typically more akin to a commercial on the tellybox – designed in no uncertain terms to entice viewers to part with tuppence ha’penny.

So weep then, for possibly the silkiest stroker of a leather sphere witnessed on N17 turf since Hoddle has now seemingly munched on his last doughnut from the White Hart Lane canteen. Admittedly Moutinho may still be on the radar, but otherwise it seems jolly uncanny that AVB cannot find room for Hudd within a 3-man central midfield, particularly with Modric still persona non grata, Scott Parker injured and Jermaine blinking Jenas hovering in the background with evil grin on visage and custom-made sideways-and-backwards-passing boots slung over shoulder. Thus, however, does our esteemed leader roll. AVB likes his troops to scuttle around the ankles of opponents like a troupe of particularly sprightly monkeys caught up in the excitement of the mating season, and alas, such a description will never, ever befit Master Huddlestone.

To add to the pain of it all, the marriage of a technician extraordinaire such as Hudd, with an elbows and long-ball outfit like Stoke, seems the very paradigm of incongruity. Should he be travelling to the Britannia in the capacity of Champagne Football Evangelist one can only hope he fares better than our distant cousins who first attempted that preaching lark. Would be a dashed shame if he were mauled to death by lions.

Daws to QPR 

Big and brave and inspiring though he regularly is, our heroes are not peddling a production of Henry V  so there is a limited need for Dawson’s qualities. In particular, his penchant for roaring at the Paxton end and sticking his head where boots swing fails to mask the fact that in the act of Paxton-roaring and head-sticking he has wandered out of position, about-turned with the nimbleness of an embarrassed elephant and flicked his switch to Clumsy-Last-Ditch-Challenge mode – and at 28 the problem was hardly about to remedy itself. In Kaboul, Gallas and (admittedly the little I have seen of) Vertonghen we have three centre-backs who are better, or at least his equal, while Caulker is developing well and is young enough to improve.

A fine servant to the cause, and the goal vs Chelski circa 2006 remains one of my favourite lilywhite memories of recent years, but on this one AANP concurs with AVB, and a mooted sum of £9.5 million would be fairly health business.

Adebayor to the Lane

Glory be. It had got to the stage where Steven Fletcher was being mentioned in dispatches, so to have dotted t’s and crossed i’s on this is a blessed relief.

For added chortle-value it appears that in order to rid themselves of him, Man City have hit upon the novel idea of paying him the sizeable lump of wage that we poor and needy White Hart Laners could not afford. While it may furrow the brow of one J. Defoe Esquire, at £5 million this is a reason to doff the cap in the general direction of Master Levy.

Spurs’ Summer Doings Viewed From A Beady AANP Eye

What ho! That all happened in rather a flash of Euro gubbins and fuzzy Olympic bonhomie, no? For those still drawing breath at the madness of it all I advise a jolly swift inhalation, for that clattering of hooves without is Season 2012/13, entering stage right at a gallop.Ave atque vale 

Changes elsewhere as well, if the rumours are to be believed. A new kit has been launched, to a collective shrug across the land from those who only ever really cared about the Umbro ’91 effort. Truth be told I can barely muster the enthusiasm to comment on the switch to white shorts, for they are welcome to play in bin-liners if it helps them outscore all and sundry.

More interestingly, in a cunning bid to bring to the dressing room that sultry female physio from Chelski, Daniel Levy elbowed ‘Arry down the High Road and into the sunset, replacing him with the alarmingly young acronym AVB. Few at AANP Towers sniff at ‘Arry’s achievements at the Lane, but a suspicious eyebrow was raised at his shimmying and hip-swinging over the England job, as well as the Pontius Pilate-esque washing of hands at our tired limp along the final furlongs of last season. While there is a degree of apprehension around the appointment of the new chap it seems only right to bid him welcome and let him crack on with life, and as such he has an AANP hand placed quite firmly underneath his posterior for support.

Formation 

Central midfield ought to be a forte, as between Parker, Sandro, Livermore, Hudd, Sigurdsson and VDV we seem fairly well-stocked in ball-caressing possession hogs, and the back four are sprightly enough to adapt to AVB’s high defensive line. Indeed, the prospect of a Kaboul-Vertonghen pairing, with Daws and Caulker (plus Gallas, if retained) feverishly twiddling thumbs in anticipation from the bench, helps to assuage the pain of Ledleylessness.

Erm… a centre-forward? 

Other personnel 

Out the exit door marches Master Pienaar, upon whom we have somehow made a profit. Elsewhere, Ms AANP has hurtled up the list of AANP’s Favourite Croats, by virtue of the rather rummy conduct of Modders (now edging perilously close to a stern talking-to from AANP), as well as the exits of his turbo-charged compatriots Kranjcar and Corluka. Dovi?enja chaps. One suspects that fond farewells may also be sobbed by Gomes, Bentley, Gallas, Giovani and, if the footballing gods are feeling particularly benevolent, The Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards.

Further signings will presumably be signed, and mercifully the injury-list is currently limited to Parker, but nevertheless it appears that once again our heroes will trundle out for the first act a few 80s action heroes short of a Hollywood blockbuster. So be it. The time for daring and doing approacheth.

 

 

(Back Catalogue) Spurs 1-4 Arsenal: Never Mind The Kids, What About The Grown-Ups?

Due to the horrors of the real world (new flat! new flat!), a near-lethal bout of man-flu and, most pertinently, a mightily ropey wi-fi connection, the AANP ramblings of recent weeks have been trapped, like the three evil types inside the glass prison in Superman 2, on a usb stick, unable to make it to the interweb. However, to ease the pain of the international break, this back-catalogue of previews and match reports will now finally see the light of day – which means that you lucky things will be able to relive all the hundred-miles-an-hour excitement of the past three weeks or so! Huzzah!

 

22/9/2010: I guess this is what it would be like if the A-Team were locked in a shed, constructed their usual tank and burst out of said shed – only for it to break down immediately and for all four of them to be dragged out and shot to death. Having rather hung on for 90 minutes, extra-time promised some sort of rousing finale, so there was an unfortunately anti-climactic feel to the manner in which the game so swiftly became a lost cause, with the best part of half an hour left to play. (That said, pats on backs to all those who hung around to sing their hearts out in the dying minutes – oh that those on the pitch might have shown the same passion…)

 

The Kids

 

Rare starts for Livermore and Naughton, and a debut at centre-back for Caulker. Each of them did just about what you would expect: some slick technique, plenty of youthful enthusiasm, some false bravado and a few moments of panic when hairy situations arose. None had me salivating in frenzied anticipation, nor cursing the day they signed up as lilywhites. Good luck to all three.

 

The grown-ups however ought to have known better. In the first half in particular there was a lack of leadership, with Sergeant Wilson – now resembling a poor man’s Zokora, of all things – Giovani, Bentley and Pav a little too willing to let the buck be passed, rather than leading by example.

 

Aside from the personnel, the first half formation was a mite curious. ‘Arry seemed to go for three deep midfielders, in Sandro, Livermore and Palacios, and they spent much of the first 45 getting in each other’s way; while Bentley was stationed out on the left, and Pav moped around waiting in vain for some service or some company up top. All generalisations you understand, but in general the tactical approach of the first half seemed rather a muddle, and we also spent rather a long time learning that precious little damage can be done if we don’t have the ball.

 

However, the second half brought more purpose, most obviously through the introduction of Keane, who bounded around with an enthusiasm that put several of his team-mates to shame, and the reversion to a more orthodox 4-4-2. Given l’Arse’s curious penchant for trying to win through looking pretty rather than outscoring the opposition, we actually created the better chances over 90 minutes. For all their possession, including that three or four-minute spell in the first half where we simply could not get a touch of the ball, we actually defended in sufficiently organised fashion to prevent them making many clear chances.

 

Kranjcar?

 

Thrown on when we went 3-1 down and the game was officially being stamped with the big red sign that reads “Cause: Lost”, I did rather scratch my head and wonder why ‘Arry opted against his inclusion from the start, particularly having made all sorts of noises beforehand about giving him some game time. True, he hardly covered himself in glory during his 20 minute shift, but the chap is still a mighty useful player, and I would purse my lips in frustration if he were shunted out of the door come January.

 

Silver Lining

 

A damn shame to get knocked out like that, and the baiting from my Arse-supporting chums was an unwelcome throwback to the days of yore, but it is fairly undoubtedly a measure of how far we have come that the Carling Cup, the trophy that was the pinnacle of our season just two and a half years ago, is now this far down our list of priorities. Having taken a hammering at home to that ‘orrible lot from up the road, the sentiment on the train back up to Enfield was one of only mild annoyance, for this was very much a match played with the bigger picture in mind.

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