All Action, No Plot

Tottenham Hotspur – latest news, opinion, reports, previews, transfers, gossip, rants… from one bewildered fan
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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.

 

 

Spurs – Chelsea Preview: ‘Arry’s Conundrum On The Wings

Crunch time. This one could not be much bigger if it were written in size 72 font, stretched in a rack and then injected with muscle-steroid-type-things by that Russian giant of a chap David Haye beat a couple of years back. It’s not just the three points, which would give us a five-point platform from which to wave down at Chelski, with a game in hand. Winning this one would hint at a rather symbolic shifting of power within London and beyond, like the passing of the Olympic flame, but with a bit more blood and thunder and complaining from John Terry.

Beating that ‘orrible lot from down the road earlier this season hinted at a shift in power in Norf London, and while time will tell on that front, the panicky ramblings of l’Arse ‘keeper Szeszecnezcsnzy earlier this week, that their priority this season was to finish above our lot (ha!), signalled that times may indeed be a-changing. Send Chelski packing tonight, and we may be able to display a freshly bloodied scalp on the mantelpiece.

Bale and Lennon

Alas, the gods have amused themselves by flinging down injury bolts left, right and centre. Well certainly left and right at least. Lennon is definitely out, and Bale has chosen a curious time to impersonate AANP by spraining his ankle (wear a strap at all times lad, makes the world of difference). Good news for all those who pick inopportune moments to blink, and thereby miss a sprint of half the pitch by one of these two; but bad news for all lilywhite fans of the counter-attack. Or indeed attacks of a more generic sort. The pace and width of these chaps has been crucial in our merry march upwards. By the pricking of my thumbs a conundrum this way comes.

On Sunday ‘Arry responded to the absence of Bale by sticking Modders on the left; the withdrawal of Lennon then saw VDV switched to the right. Alas, for VDV in particular, “pace” sits well down the list of notable attributes, somewhere in between “magic tricks” and “intermediate Excel capabilities”. Whichever honest blighters are asked to deputise – and Kranjcar and Pienaar are also nominees – our style will undoubtedly alter tonight, and a lot more traffic will be diverted through the middle.

A Gentle “Keep Modders In The Centre” Petition

Here at AANP Towers we are pretty keen to see Modders deployed in the centre rather than the left. It may be harsh on Sandro, following his all-singing, all-dancing, all-conquering display alongside Parker, in centre-midfield on Sunday, but particularly in the absence of Bale-Lennon, Modders’ ingenuity is crucial for the orchestration of all things inventive. Whatever his choice, one hopes that ‘Arry has enlisted his finest team of monkeys to pore over the permutations and select wisely.

Other Injury Footnotes

Further selection frivolities are provided by Ledley’s knee, which presumably is the size of an unbraided Benny afro at present, after his 90-minute stint on Sunday. The return of Kaboul should at least help out there, whilst the official Spurs website has done little for the good of calm and order up and down the High Road by noting that Adebayor has hurt his foot.

In truth I suspect that Adebayor will be fine, nor would I be entirely surprised if Bale gambolled across the turf at some point tonight either. At full strength I would back our lot to the hilt, but given a few crucial absentees this looks less straightforward. Friedel, Gallas, Kaboul, Parker, Modders, Adebayor – this lot need to rise to the occasion tonight. Go get ‘em chaps.

Spurs – Sunderland Preview: Resumption of Normal Service Please Chaps

“The measure of greatness is not how many you win, but how you react to defeat”. Or something along those lines. In fact, AANP may have invented that just now.

Anyway, the point is that the epithet has been fairly redundant  for as far back as I can remember, as we would generally fail to win in the first place, and then react to defeat with another defeat, or a two-goal lead thrown away late on, or whatever. A changed beast these days however, to be sure. Win follows win, and all delivered with an élan unmatched by anyone else in the country.

Today however we need to react to defeat – simply by resuming normal service. In defeat at Stoke, at least in the second half, we did our usual thing and looked absolutely ruddy marvellous. Play our natural game, and even allowing for the New Manager Effect at Sunderland, we should dominate and overwhelm our opponents today.

Defoe Begins Chuntering

We are presumably without Kaboul today, following last week’s very deserved red card, so the return of Ledley would help; while the handy showings by Messrs Pienaar and Kranjcar in midweek won’t help them make the starting line-up, so they might as well give up on that dream now.

The inevitable murmurings of discontent have emanated from the frustrated mouth of Defoe, and one rather sympathises. When he has played this season he has scored – and then been dropped. Following the fairly ineffective showing of VDV last week, another omission at the expense of the Dutchman again today would not improve the mood at Casa Defoe. Over to you ‘Arry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Half – An Improvement Of Sorts

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

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

Spurs – PAOK Preview: Unleash The Muskehounds

Switching from the all-conquering, award-winning, glitz-laden superstars of our rollicking Premiership campaign to the prepubescent kids and want-away squad members on our midweek Europa jaunts is somewhat akin to putting down the Dumas novel in order to tune in to Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds – nobody in their right mind would dispute that it remains quite magnificent entertainment, but the whole forum is perhaps a little more frivolous.Thus we march into battle tonight knowing that defeat will do all manner of nastiness to our European campaign, but victory would all but see us through. None of which can really be taken seriously when one considers the red-hot Saturday/Sunday frolics of our first-choice mob in the League.

Still. There is still a cockerel on the shirt, pride at stake and a trophy to be won, eventually. Kane, Carroll, Livermore and Townsend will get their usual opportunities to impress, while Cudicini, Corluka, Gallas, Pienaar and Pav (if fit – and if not, then presumably Defoe) will add sprinklings of élan about the place. The reverse fixture against this lot was jolly hard work, but thus far on our home nights in Europe we have muddled through, so another three points ought to be the target once again tonight. All for one, and all that continental gubbins.

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

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

Spurs – Shamrock Rovers Preview: Starting to Enjoy This

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

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

The All Action No Plot Ten-Point Wish-List for Spurs This Season

Old hat it may be for everyone else, but here at AANP Towers we bounce around the walls like toddlers on a strict diet of fizzy drinks and E-numbers as we await the start of our Premiership season. Still, rather than pacing the corridors, rubbing hands together in feverish anticipation until tomorrow night, it occurred to me that the time is rather ripe for making public the various musings that have echoed around the walls of AANP Towers all summer. By golly that’s right – in no particular order, it’s the All Action No Plot Ten-Point Wish-List for Spurs’ Coming Season!1. Solve The VDV Conundrum

This one moonlights under the crafty pseudonym “Get Our Strikers Scoring Again”. While he has more talent than the rest of our forwards put together, the uneasy truth may be that VDV’s presence has rather discombobulated our strikers. Like gravity and the temperature at which water boils, that Messrs Pav and Defoe prefer playing within a front two is a scientific truth. Indeed, given a weekly starting-berth and a 4-4-2 one imagines that both would be capable of hitting 20 goals a season (although maybe not alongside each other). However, playing as the lone striker supported by VDV suits neither.

The solution we’ve been screeching from the stands for over a year is the purchase of a striker capable of playing on his own, Adebayor now apparently having displaced Llorente and Rossi atop that particular list. Be it a new signing, or somehow shoving VDV into a 4-4-2 – or even as my Spurs-supporting chum Ian recommends, shoving Bale up top – we really need our strikers to hit 40+ goals between them this season.

(While there is the Crouch option, which does sporadically bear fruit for VDV, my fragile mental state is such that I may eat my own brain if I have to endure another season of his headers flying off a random angular point of his cranium and looping gently into the Paxton.) 

A moot point admittedly, because if he comes ambling towards us making a heart with his hands it means a you-know-what scored by you-know-who, and we would all gratefully accept one of those each week. Nevertheless, one can hardly imagine Bruce Willis skipping off with heart-shaped fingers after capping a bad guy, or Mike Tyson acting similarly after pummelling some poor blighter back in his hey-day. Tyson bit off people’s ears dagnabbit, and while that might be a tad extreme, I hope that this season Bale produces something a bit less akin to an eight year-old girl celebrating the creation of a daisy-chain.

3. Kyle Walker to Prove He Can Defend

Having existed on a right-back diet largely comprising Vedran “Usain” Corluka and Alan Hutton last season, hopes are high for young Master Walker, particularly after his loan at Villa somehow ended up with him being shoe-horned into Fabio’s England squad. I confess I barely watched Villa last season, but Walker’s U21 exploits this summer made interesting viewing: plenty of youthful brio when flying forward, but defending remains a crucial – if oft-overlooked – facet of being a defender, and on this topic the jury at AANP Towers wandered out and is yet to return. Harking back to his occasional Spurs appearances a year or two back (Bolton/Blackburn away?) he looked promising enough, but a hardly the finished article, a soft penalty numbering among a couple of mistakes.

He will get his chances, particularly in the Europa League, and looked impressive enough against Hearts, which might help answer the crucial question: can the lad defend? Until that one is answered I’d quite happily go with Kaboul at right-back.

4. Pav to Stop Whingeing

When the mood takes him he’s a mighty fine player, one who seems to delight in scoring spectacularly from 25 yards rather than anything more mundane, but goodness me, Pav acts like a big old baby at times. He was not built for a 4-5-1, nor has he had a consistent run in the team, so one sympathises, but every time a butterfly sneezes near him he squeals and goes down, and whenever a pass is placed a couple of yards beyond him that look of pained anguish is etched across his face, tears seemingly just around the corner, and arms inevitably a-flapping. For goodness sake sir, life is not fair, it’s the same for all of us – just roll up your sleeves and get on with it.

5. Hudd to Speed Up 

6. Fewer of Those Goalkeeping Clangers

Oh to have been a fly on the wall during transfer negotiations with Brad Friedel. Presumably he has not joined with the intention of warming those comfy-looking seats on the sidelines all season, yet Gomes appears the custodian as we chug along towards the belated season opener. Nevertheless, Friedel’s arrival can be interpreted as a shot of Jagerbomb at the Last Chance Saloon for Gomes: no more flapping. And that incorporates the fumbling of straightforward, straight-at-yer shots approaching with all the power generated by a sedated kitten, as well as general flailing at corners. Early signs, from the friendly vs that Spanish lot and the Europa game vs Hearts are not entirely encouraging – Gomes’ shot-stopping looked decent but one can almost hear the panic bells ringing in his head as a set-piece is delivered in his direction…

7. Don’t Sell Niko Kranjcar

A

dmittedly the opta stats would probably reflect that Pienaar covers about three times as much ground as Kranjcar, but while he may be a tad, ahem, languid, the Croat has undiluted magic in his boots, and given our struggles to break down rubbish teams last season he may have delivered that je ne sais quoi for which we searched in vain. On his rare opportunities last season he delivered a couple of belting strikes, and in midfield against the admittedly rubbish Hearts last week he looked imperious. Still, when Bale was absent ‘Arry seemed willing to try everyone but Kranjcar on the left, and the signing of Pienaar was about as unsubtle as it gets when it comes to ‘Arry’s plans.8. Joe Jordan to Eat Someone

Literally. Deep down he must be dying for a fight, and having restrained himself against Gattuso last season maybe, just maybe, Joey Barton or Arsene Wenger may push him just a bit too far on the touchline this season…

9. Finish in the Top Four 

10. Owen Coyle to Take Over When (“If”) ‘Arry Leaves Next Summer 

Controversial one this, not least because, as the pedants amongst you will have noted, an a wish-list for this season ought not to concern itself with next season. However, the chances are that when Fabio scrams in summer 2012 ‘Arry will cry God for England and St George. I admit immediately that my knowledge of up-and-coming European bosses is negligible, but of the British lot Coyle impresses me. All sorts of caveats here – not least that he’s unproven at a big club, with the cash, egos and whatnot – but he turned Bolton from a loathsome long-ball team to one that plays jolly decent passing football. Just a thought.

Hearts – Spurs Preview: VDV in a 4-4-2?

And so, finally, off we go, in the rather unorthodox settings of ITV4 and Edinburgh. It is a truth universally acknowledged that any Scottish team whose name does not rhyme with either “Beltic” or “Changers” is there for the taking, so first game of the season or not, this lot must be destroyed. ‘Arry has understandably  enough made noises about fielding kids and reserves in the Europa League, but while none of us want injuries ahead of the United trip on Mon, it would nevertheless make sense to field a full-strength side tonight. The players will hardly need a rest, a competitive game will probably do them good ahead of our Premiership bow and it would be nice to put this tie to bed tonight, and rest personnel for the second leg at the Lane.My spies inform me that Modders is amongst the absentees tonight. Whisper it, but this might be the last time the name of our tiny genius crops up amongst excited pre-match natterings, for alas ‘Arry’s latest musings suggest that he is willing to cash in if he can bring in various others (although our beady-eyed chairman is displaying admirable intransigency on the matter).

Not quite as devastating is the absence of Jenas, but the Lord of All Things Sideways and Backwards is joined on the list of absentees by the Hudd, Sergeant Wilson and Pienaar, while the official prognosis for Sandro reads “out for blinking ages”. Not quite sure who that leaves in central midfield – necessity being the mother of invention, we may even be treated to VDV within a 4-4-2, which would be greeted heartily at AANP Towers and, one suspects, Crouch Mansions and Chateau Defoe. Gallas, Hutton and, inevitably, Ledley, are also crocked, but I expect we’ll muddle through.

Ave Atque Vale 

But still. Let that not detract from some fine and noble contributions previously, notably in the 5-1 and Carling Cup wins, and the laudable feat of 100 goals for the club. Quite thrilled to see the back of him in truth, but good luck sir in the fulfilment of your latest boyhood dream.

Blackpool – Spurs Preview: Nail-Biting Victory Would Suffice Tonight

Spurs fans born yesterday – or at least since around 2009 – may disagree, but following up victory at the San Siro with defeat at Blackpool would not be the most unlikely turn of events at for the heroes of N17. Mercifully the current vintage seem just as capable of digging out tricky away wins to lower-table scrappers as they are of churning out a never-to-be-forgotten glory night in one of Europe’s premier arenas – which ought to prove jolly handy tonight, as our walking wounded leave a blood-stained trail from N17 to Blackpool pier.It’s three consecutive league wins for our mob, wins that are strangely all the more gratifying for being so unglamorous and low-profile. A fourth tonight would have Man City spluttering into their corn flakes tomorrow morning at the realisation that third spot has been sneakily half-inched from their grubby mitts, at least on a temporary basis. Fingers crossed it all works out swimmingly tonight then, or if not swimmingly than at least according to our fairly well-established routine of nail-gnawingly tense late winners.

Team News

“Don’t you forget about me,” warbled eighties Scottish beat combo Simple Minds, a couple of years before we all forgot about them. Anyone loitering outside the Spurs training ground would be familiar with the song, it being plaintively repeated ad infinitum by Niko Kranjcar as he stays behind each day to hone further his already darned-near immaculate shooting technique. Tonight however, he may yet have good reason to whoop “woo-ha” or the nearest Croatian equivalent. Gareth Bale remains out of action, and while Pienaar was preferred on the left last week at Milan, on account of his defensive qualities, Kranjcar’s recent form could well earn him the nod tonight.

Elsewhere in midfield ‘Arry is unlikely to opt for the safety-first option of Sergeant Wilson and Sandro, given that Jenas and Modders are available once more. VDV, Corluka and are the principal casualties from last week, while Woodgate is also back in his natural habitat of the treatment room.

Some tinkering will therefore be necessary – Gallas at right-back, a rare start for Bassong, two in attack – but nevertheless, the remaining personnel capable of walking unaided ought to have sufficient quality to garner three more points. Any fewer would frankly be a massive disappointment.

 

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