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Stoke 1-2 Spurs: Four Tottenham Observations

1. Another Lovely Dembele Day

A bad day for fans of the black and white portrayals of teams as either World-Beaters or Abject Failures, as we pretty neatly straddled the middle ground between those two throughout. It would be a defamation of character to suggest that our heroes were bereft of ideas, but neither was this the electric, pacey, one-touch stuff that makes hearts race and impressionable types swoon.

Not enough of the first-time passing and little dinks around the corner from my vantage point, which I suppose was partly due to the pressing game Stoke employed, but the front four still sprinkled in a enough neat and tidy combos to keep our hosts honest.

Naturally enough, much of what was good came from the deific feet of Mousa Dembele, who these days seems to play a completely different game to the average mortal. While everyone else in the stadium had to negotiate the movement from Point A to Point B through the traditional medium of getting their little legs working like the clappers, Dembele glided across the turf looking for all the world like he was rolling along on a set of wheels.

Watching Stoke players lunging at him in uncouth manner brought to mind a simple-headed hound trying to catch its own tail, as our man neatly swerved this way and pirouetted that.

In a first half in which we dominated possession but created only the one clear chance (Sonny really ought to have scored, but he did at least hit the target) Dembele’s silky movement was a pleasant distraction. Given his rotten luck with injuries historically we should probably all count ourselves lucky that we’re being treated to his masterclasses on a weekly basis at the moment – who knows how often this will happen again?

2. Eriksen’s Eye For Goal

Christian Eriksen is another whose tail has most definitely been up in recent weeks. While full-backs may come and go, Dier and Wanyama seem to be slugging it out for a single spot, and any two from three could be picked in the roving attacking roles, Eriksen, like Dembele, is a pretty vital cog in the machinery.

Stoke are evidently fans of the young nib, as they couldn’t go five minutes without conceding a free-kick just to see him peddle his wares once again. One imagines that the manner in which he whips in those deliveries will give the young folk nightmares, because as an opposing defender there is not a lot that can be done beyond closing one’s eyes, sticking out one’s neck and muttering a Hail Mary or two.

Where Dembele slinks past folk, Eriksen is more the sort to pick a pass, but no doubt about it, his recent successes have given him a taste for goal. Once upon a time Eriksen might have modestly deferred saying “Boo” or any other sort of introductory salutation to a passing goose, but the recent goal glut has given him the confidence now to ping in shots from anywhere south of 25 yards.

Oddly enough, neither of his goals yesterday actually came from that sort of approach to life, but his ability to strike gold from distance adds a pretty useful string to our attacking bow.

3. Dele’s Decision-Making

After seven years – or near enough – of famine, Dele seems to be enjoying something of a purple patch. His goals last week were triumphs for technique and presence of mind, and he was at it again yesterday.

Naturally enough, being the armchair genius that I am, when the young imp was through yesterday and opted against feeding Harry Kane, I took the opportunity to launch into a fairly fruity tirade against his choice of action, the gist of which was that he was a wretch of the highest order, who was spurning opportunities like nobody’s business.

No doubt should our paths ever cross Dele will gleefully recount exactly how events transpired, and who could blame him if he were to snigger at AANP’s expense, because the chap had a pretty nifty plan in his head, which involved pausing proceedings, using Kane by not using him (to borrow from Barry Davies) and languidly rolling the path into the nearest onrushing Dane as if it were a move they had been rehearsing for weeks.

It’s the sort of stuff those Mensa bods would lap up, and can be filed next to his drag-back for the second goal vs Chelsea last week in the compendium of Dele’s Cerebral Moments From Recent Times.

Contrast that with the Stoke forward in possession when they had a 4 vs 1 counter-attack in the dying seconds, who opted to tamely slip the ball to one of our defenders, and one starts to see the value in a chappie who can pick the right option when push comes to shove

4. Hugo’s Wobblies

Another day, another rather glaring error from Monsieur Lloris. A few more of these, and the neighbours might start to murmur.

On the bright side, these misguided flaps and clearances straight to opponents are the sort of basic errors that can, in theory, be ironed out via a stern talking to and a few hours practise in the back garden. That is to say, it’s not like we require Lloris to learn the art of leg-spin or speaking Mandarin or some such taxing task. Nope. Just the basics. Put another way, nobody really thinks that the chap is out of depth, or is some sort of mal-coordinated incompetent, merely that he has started to lose concentration.

The prosecution, however, might reasonably point out that it’s a bit like shrugging off as merely a lazy lapse of concentration an aeroplane pilot who is occasionally prone to gazing off into the mid-distance just as the landing gear is lowered and touchdown looms. In some jobs simply switching off for a few moments and doing something almightily fat-headed is not really an option. Not to be too hard on the honest fellow, but being a goalkeeper he really should know better.

When all is said and done, however, there are relatively few complaints from this quarter. At this stage of the season the mission priority is pretty much to make sure that we emerge from whichever hellhole with all limbs attached and the precious cargo of three points safely stowed away. In that sense this was an absolute roaring success, especially with Liverpool rather furtively dropping a couple of points elsewhere.

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Stoke 0-4 Spurs: Five Lilywhite Musings

A curious sport seems to have broken out amongst our heroes, whereby they amuse one another by replicating exactly all results from last season. I must confess I have come across more entertaining gags in my time, but if it means meeting Stoke away and treating that impostor with a disdainful 0-4 then I am all for it.

1. Strength in Reserve

AANP is not really one of those chappies who spots a single, lone swallow on the horizon and drops what he is doing to give the gong a good thrashing and announce that summer is here and in rude health. As such, when Erik Lamela is deemed not quite ripe and ready, and the next cab is duly hauled off the rank and produces a nifty two-goal salvo, I am not about to pop the nearest champagne cork and proclaim that our strength in depth is such as to make us nailed-on Title favourites.

For a start, as swallows go, Son is the type of young sport who will perform all manner of eye-catching party tricks when he first hits town, but then rather slink out of view as matters progress. Be that as it may later on in the season, his input yesterday, as Lamela’s replacement, was jolly handy yesterday.

One knows what one is getting with Son. Eagerness to impress, some fancy footwork and rather a talent for neat finishing, but all packaged within a frustratingly lightweight frame that is liable to see him picked up and deposited elsewhere by a particularly fruity gust of wind. He carefully paraded all facets of his character yesterday, but in this instance being routinely bumped off the ball was eminently excusable because his goals – and the second in particular – were a delight to behold.

2. Good Fortune

This being Tottenham, at 1-0 up things could certainly go either way. Granted, the Pochettino vintage is made from much sterner stuff than many of the variations that have gone before, but one never really gets the impression that things are bobbing along with the serene majesty of a Greek goddess in one of her more idyllic moments when the score is but 1-0.

And there but for the grace of the Almighty would we have tip-toed, if the day’s arbiter of proceedings had decided that the fairly obvious second yellow card offence committed by Master Wanyama – the body-check of an opponent in full counter-attacking flow – ought to have merited the flourishing of a second yellow card. For reasons that nestle firmly in the unfathomable, the long arm of the law awarded a foul but opted against a second yellow. We continued with eleven vs eleven, our glorious leader sneakily took the opportunity to remove Wanyama before he could destroy anything else in this particular chinashop, and our heroes promptly ran riot.

3. Fine Young Things In Midfield

To date this season young Master Eriksen has loafed about with the moody air of a teenager being forced to wear a suit, flitting in and out of things and occasionally waving a talented leg, but generally wishing he were elsewhere.

Mercifully however – and by sheer coincidence just a matter of days after his weekly corn has been doubled – the young bean was back to something approaching the peak of his powers yesterday. His touch was once more that of a man with more a hint of the footballing deity coursing within his veins, his vision and execution were up several notches on previous weeks, and the occasional snap-shot hinted at something of the ice-cold marksman. The net result of all this was that when the whim grabbed him he led Stoke a merry dance, transformed from whining schoolboy to bearded solider quicker than one could say, “But how are Stoke letting in goals left, right and centre when they have literally six bodies – plus the goalkeeper – back in their own area at any given time?”

Heart-warming also to note that Dele Alli also seemed a dashed sight happier with his lot yesterday. His rather natty diagonal set Eriksen on his merry way to assisting the opening goal, but more than that, his movement and inclination to introduce himself to all and sundry within the confines of the Stoke penalty area helped to cement the impression that this was our binge and we were going to do as we pleased.

4. Kyle Walker and His Three Lungs

Pre kick-off I don’t mind admitting that I had chewed a nervous fingernail at the prospect of young boyo Ben Davies stepping into the Danny Rose-shaped whole at left-back. Davies is now proud owner of a hat bearing the inscription “Bona fide Euros Semi-Finalist”, but I am not yet convinced that he is possessed of quite the same level of verve as Rose, particularly when it comes to the forward gallop.

Frankly though, as Minute 1 ticked into Minute 2 and so forth, I gradually forgot about Davies, Rose and whatnot, my attention arrested by Kyle Walker out on the opposite flank. Whether it was recovering to block a shot with his face, or steaming forward to make merry in the opposition area, the blighter put on a bravura performance.

The pièce de résistance was his assist for the Dele Alli goal, an assist which began with him guarding his own post at a Stoke corner, of all things. From there he absolutely hurtled forward, literally from his own post, over halfway and into the opposition area at full pelt, to deliver on a plate for Dele Alli.

5. Kane Breaks His Duck

If Pochettino could have hand-crafted his own fairytale ending to a dreary afternoon in Stoke, it would presumably have involved a goal from approximately one yard for Harry Kane. This being that sort of day, the gods duly obliged, and Kane pored over the opportunity in forensic detail before doing the honourable thing. Cheeks were duly puffed all around, and that was that.

Given that our performances to date this season have resembled those of a new-born foal desperately trying to fathom the purpose of its long spindly underlimbs, to stroll up to Stoke and swat them away with quite such ease is frightfully cheery stuff. To limber up thusly for a CL return renders it all the cheerier. And to nudge and nurdle back into form a couple of key personnel in the process is just about as tickety-boo as these things get.

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Spurs 3-0 Stoke: Minus Two! Minus Two!

AVB having curiously opted against inviting me into his inner sanctum (despite that halcyon era playing Football Manager in my second year at Uni when I masterminded three consecutive wins to help Spurs avoid relegation on the final day of the campaign, admittedly having steered them to the foot of the table in the first place), I will never know whether, in that world of gravelly beards and even gravellier voices, our erstwhile supremo really did send our heroes out to battle with the order ringing in their ears to pass sideways and sideways again, ad infinitum, until their own brains, the brains of their opponents and the brains of all witnessing the dirge literally melted, forming a puddle of cerebral matter over which he could stand and wax lyrical about his project. Maybe he did, maybe not, but in the brave new world the drill seems to be to point the compass goalwards when plotting one’s next move, and the saints be praised for such a blessing.

One change that can most definitely be attributed to Sherwood and chums is the switch to two upfront, which once again paid dividends. In a general sense there seemed to be bodies in the box whenever we galloped forwards, and on a more particular note the combo once again brought about a goal, Soldado finding Adebayor in the build-up to the penalty. Whether this two up-front gambit will work away from home and against mightier opposition than today’s rabble remains to be seen – and will be seen jolly imminently as it happens – but today things panned out swimmingly.

Shooting Practice

If nothing else, the boy Soldado can take a mean penalty. (If you pardon the wild digression, watching Soldado step up with such confidence again has me wanting to eat my own elbow whenever I hear our national heroes bemoaning a penalty shoot-out as a ‘lottery’, as if the thing were entirely in the lap of the gods. Practise the bally things like Soldado evidently does and every penalty becomes a gift-wrapped opportunity to wed Mr Ball to young Ms Net.) Soldado might want to indulge in a little extra shooting practice from other angles, but at least the chances are now being created, and sooner or later they will presumably start flying in.

That said, one would probably caution him to steer clear of Paulinho when they toddle off for said shooting practice, because the Brazilian still appears to be aiming for a spot about 15 yards high and to the right of the net. Elsewhere, Adebayor is still beavering away like a man sniffing a new contract, or transfer, or whatever it is that perks the chap up every now and then, and while it sometimes does appear that the messages simply do not transit from brain to foot in time, his inclination to poke a first-time pass rather befuddles the opponent and endears him to me. Lovely also to see Lennon making hay, neatly topped off with a goal that had us all purring.

The Annual Rant Against Stoke.

While we might have been fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty or two in the first half, when limbs seemed to entangle in all manner of ways in our area, one of the most pleasing aspects of the whole afternoon was that, for a change, we gave Stoke an absolute roasting. London-based sentiment aside, I do not think there is a team I have abhorred more over the years than this lot. While dissent is good for any democracy, and therefore Stoke’s traditional anti-football is probably in some way healthy for the beautiful game, watching them push, pull, niggle and shove their way to countless one-nils at the Lane had me fearing the worst as we dominated without scoring for the first half hour. This being the new era however our heroes took the most impertinent step of sowing the thing up with twenty minutes to play, securing a three goal lead of all things. Most perplexing, but undoubtedly lashings of fun. Moreover, by breaking from tradition and taking the liberty of winning by more than just a single goal our lot have now moved on the exalted perch of a minus two goal difference. Minus two! Whatever next?

Stoke – Spurs Preview: Lessons From Last Time Out

Stoke away is traditionally the cue for an AANP diatribe against the merits or otherwise of the long-ball game, and assorted elbows, long throw-ins and whatnot. This time however there are bigger fish to fry, and by golly our heroes need to be at the ready with chef’s hats tipped just so.

The curious goings-on of Wednesday night leave some food for thought. In defence there was the tale of two full-backs, with Benny again believing his own hype, repeatedly attempting moments of trickery closer to ridiculous than sublime and consequently getting himself and the team into pickle after pickle, a performance that had AANP murmuring that he needed to be taken out the back and shot (the common means of dealing with transgressions here at AANP Towers). On t’other flank by contrast, young Master Walker looked suspiciously like a whippersnapper who had stumped scientist types the world over by growing a third lung. The lad looked unstoppable whenever he bombed forward, and if Lennon is below par again today his interventions will be jolly useful.

Glory be, Dembele is reportedly back to fitness for today’s encounter, for the Parker-Hudd combo was painfully lacking in verve. Understandably so, for they are third and fourth choice, but no less galling for that. Hudd’s passing range swung bizarrely between scrumptious and plain awful, while Parker simply no longer looks good enough for games against the country’s finest. He might fare well enough against Stoke however.

And as for attack, head-scratching all round. Bale did his best to shake off the ‘One-Man Team’ tag on behalf of his team-mates (credit to Chelski for the shackling job, but AVB might hav countered this by moving him into the centre). Meanwhile, the suspicion grew that Adebayor is a 5 year-old trapped in a set of limbs too long for his control. As with AANP’s pre-school nephews, when things went well for him his spirits rose and he became amazing; when things go less well he dons the invisibility cloak. Fingers crossed then that he scores or assists approximately every 15 minutes today, as that would probably be enough to maintain an unplayable performance level throughout (as well as providing us with six goals).

Traditionally a point away to Stoke would be acceptable enough for our heroes, but anything less than victory today would almost certainly blow things for the season. No pressure then chaps.

Spurs 0-0 Stoke: The Annual Bleeding-Eyes Experience

‘Twas ever thus, against that particular bunch, and AVB can hardly be lambasted for drawing a blank where countless others have done similarly. If anything this was further frustrating proof that this particular Levy-endorsed project is a long-term one, and still at its nascent stages. Teams will set out to defend with their lives at the Lane, Stoke will set out to DESTROY FOOTBALL everywhere, and ‘tis hardly revelatory to note that our heroes rather lack the necessary je ne sais quoi to slice open a defence with a 10-yard diagonal pass so cunning it can conjure up in its right hand the very cravat that surely sat around your neck just a bally second ago.

Stubbly, gravelly of voice and still disgustingly young he may be, but alas, ‘alchemy’ is notably lacking from the AVB CV. The poor blighter did what he could at the outset, for there was sense in the selections of Daws at the back, and both bona fide strikers in attack. That said, Sigurdsson might have been given a bit longer to set off on his customary dash hither and thither (although the poor lamb does seem destined to become master of the near-miss) and young Master Townsend might have been employed to have a fresh-legged scuttle at the Stoke back-eight.

Instead, we were treated to nothing more novel than the swapping of Lennon and Bale for a fruitless half hour, which seems to have become the mid-game masterstroke of choice amongst the Brains Trust. The move always elicits a rather bemused shrug around these parts. Harmless enough I suppose, but there’s the rub – it is indeed generally quite harmless. I suppose it gives the opposing full-backs something new to ponder, and changes the scenery, and maybe benefits an unscrupulous spot-fixing syndicate in some unholy outreach of the globe, but in terms of genuinely blowing up our skirts and leaving bewildered opponents clawing out their own eyes, I struggle to remember it ever having truly noted it in awestruck tones as a game-changer par excellence. But ‘tis just an idle musing, and it might as well be attempted when a game threatens to peter out to 0-0 as early as the opening five minutes. The point remains that the VDV- and Modric-shaped holes have yet to be filled, and creativity lacketh accordingly.

Elsewhere, Vertonghen again had the air of a man with whom you would want to share a tumbler of whiskey to soothe the nerves on a particularly fraught festive afternoon, and Monsieur Lloris has himself another clean sheet, but Dembele and Sandro increasingly looked like they would rather be playing football than Stoke. Understandably enough. However, in the ‘Small Mercies’ column we did at least avoid concession of some criminally undeserved, scrappy set-piece goal, which at various stages of the second half appeared to be all that was missing from the whole, sorry, eye-bleedingly frustrating experience. Still, if we can erase the episode from our collective memories, it turns out that our heroes are in action again in just a day or two, when happier times – or at least grumbles of a different ilk – await.

Merry Christmas one and all, do allow yourselves a moderate celebration.

Spurs – Stoke Preview: Elbows Ahoy!

What ho! AVB has clearly been a good boy this year, with all manner of presents to snatch from the tree and wave excitedly at the parents. Parker, BAE and Kaboul are all at various stages of restored health, and Daws and Bale are apparently fit to go this very afternoon. Our brief bout of Balelessness was not as bad might have been feared, featuring the late debacle against Everton and slow grind against Swansea last week, but our heroes certainly look a lot more mortal without the handsome young Welshman galloping hither and thither, so hearty cheers have been cheered in this corner of the interweb at the news of his return.

Our heroes – and indeed our glorious leader, from whom the order presumably emanated – are to be lauded for the ankle-biting approach adopted last week, that had us pilfering possession in dangerous areas with some frequency. We may not be the same free-flowing purists of recent seasons but there is much to be said for the effectiveness of the kids-on-sweets-and-E-numbers approach of buzzing around opponents with manic enthusiasm. The principle attacking threat will presumably come from Bale, but the return of Parker also raises the intriguing question of whether Dembele might take a more attacking role, at some point over the festive period.

Pantomime Villains

Who can possibly fail to love a visit from those lovable rogues from Stoke? Well AANP, for a start. Season after season that uncouth mob make the blood boil in a manner beyond even l’Arse or Chelski, with their negative, guileless, anti-football approach that borders on ABH. A recall for Daws may be in order today, as their last three or four visits to the Lane have seen them exhibit a principal tactic of lobbing the ball skywards and sharpening their elbows for its re-entry. My goodness I hope we stuff them something rotten today.

Spurs 1-1 Stoke: The Pointless Meandering of Bale, & Other Grumbles

Full-blown, undiluted apoplexy does not translate particularly smoothly into the written word, so ‘tis perhaps just as well that after a good night’s sleep and couple of early morning whiskies AANP is now in slightly more philosophical mood than at the final whistle last night, when the denizens of the South Stand took time out from making rude gestures at the Stoke fans to stare in horror and cover the ears of the nearest small child while I emitted an unmistakeable, loud tut. Accompanied, I’ll have you know, by a shake of the head that had been brewing from nigh on the first whistle of the evening.Mercifully, a degree of perspective has settled upon me in the alcohol-fuelled haze. I recall now that on perusing the fixture list a few weeks back, Stoke at home and Chelski away appeared the trickiest of the remaining engagements. With the ilk of Norwich, QPR et al to come thereafter, a slightly cheerier sequence of results beckons – to which end a point against Stoke might not be so bad in the final analysis.

By Golly Last Night’s Proceedings Did Make The Blood Boil Nevertheless

Still smarting from their ludicrous victory over us earlier in the season, my expectations for our esteemed guests were lower than the belly of a particularly depressed rattlesnake, and sure enough their goalkeeper began his time-wasting routine over goal-kicks in the very first minute. After which, they adopted an admittedly well-drilled 9-0-1 formation and bedded in, adding nothing of value to the lives of anyone in the stadium, and pausing only to catapult the ball Crouch-wards. Little wonder that their unfortunate fans include a rugby song in their repertoire.

As for our lot, the usual concerns wearily paraded themselves. Despite creating our last two goals from the left wing, and generally looking like he had the beating of their right-back whenever it took his fancy, Bale was again allowed to spend his time meandering fairly pointlessly wherever the dickens he liked, as long as it posed minimal attacking threat. The memory of his burst through the centre against Norwich several months back has faded; his urges to go central should now be the exception rather than the rule.

On t’other flank the absence of Lennon continues to have ‘Arry et al scratching their heads and staring blankly at the teamsheet. Niko Kranjcar was the beneficiary of the pre-game coin toss to decide who begins on the right, but appeared to be labouring under the burden of an invisible elephant strapped to his back throughout his 45 minutes. Slower and less interested by the game, he seems hell-bent on bidding us “Dovi?enja??” come the season’s end, and has now even slipped behind Ms AANP on my list of favourite Croats. The ignominy.

‘Arry’s England Credentials To The Fore Once Again 

Inspired by this cunning tactical nous, our lot invested oodles of huffing, puffing, corners that failed to clear the first man and ultimately a general mentality of frenzied panic, the combination of which at least rescued a point. However, with possession apparently in excess of 70%, and the usual two dozen attempts on goal, it ought to have been more. Most frustrating, and now that blasted lot from down the road are crowing once again. Time for another whisky methinks.

Spurs – Stoke Preview

So the football resumes tonight, and it may be, for the players in particular, that having another game so swiftly will be the best way of dealing with Saturday’s events. It would certainly be understandable if the atmosphere at the Lane tonight were a little subdued, but the news of Muamba’s ongoing recovery is positive. One imagines that it is not only in this small corner of the interweb that prayer continues for him, his family, friends and those caring for him.Team News

Adebayor and Ledley are reported doubts, and with Chelski looming in a few days one imagines that the latter in particular is not worth risking tonight. One Aaron Lennon will presumably miss out again, causing all manner of upheaval across the midfield, as standard.

A curious innovation during the brief playing time on Saturday saw Gareth Bale occasionally adopting the novel position of a left winger, even producing a devil of a cross to create a goal. The boy may just have a future on the wing.

It is not the most important thing in the world, far from it, but a win tonight would do our lot the world of good, for various reasons.

Stoke 2-1 Spurs: Rugby Tactics and Mind-Boggling Refereeing

Sitting down to type when one’s lip is literally still quivering with rage must surely be ill-advised, but how else to express sheer, undiluted incandescence? Here at AANP Towers we are generally loath to criticise the officials, since their job is jolly difficult, their mistakes are always honest and frankly I imagine that to a man the players make many more errors per game. And yet so many, high-profile and egregious were the faux pas of the officials today that I have little choice but to clear my throat and ask in the sternest tones, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes”?

Stoke – A Handy Rugby Side

My sentiments on our triumphant opponents are hardly more complimentary, although unlike their friends in black the Stoke players could not be labelled necessarily incompetent. Talentless, for sure, but at least skilled at the unique brand of non-football they purvey. Stoke’s tactics were not entirely dissimilar to those of our burly rugger-playing cousins, who exalt in blasting the ball towards the heavens and scuffling over the scraps as it falls to earth, their principal aim being to get the ball into touch. But goodness, didn’t they do it well?

Ill-Timed Narcolepsy

Our lot are hardly exempt from the quite terrifying wrath being meted out in this corner of the interweb. As AANP advances in years he holds ever greater regard for time spent sleeping, one of the most mysterious and wondrous gifts bestowed upon those with closable eyelids – but for goodness’ sake chaps, the first 25 minutes away to Stoke was hardly the time to indulge in a spot of shut-eye.

Alas, our heroes dozily trundled along in that opening quarter of the game, sleepily rubbing their eyes and adjusting their duvets as Crouch and his new chums watched the ball descending from the skies and duly sharpened their elbows. In truth the half-time deficit was deserved.

Second Half Improvement

Laudable proactivity from ‘Arry at half-time, and everyone (bar, perhaps, VDV) earned their weekly wage in that second period, with Modders notably contributing to the cause, and Bale and Walker adapting fairly comfortably to the mystical concept of “wing-back”, as the nature of the game gradually swung back from rugby to football.

‘Twas not to be however, such is life’s rich tapestry. The Adebayor disallowed goal, Shawcross handball, push on Kaboul and handball by Crouch were all fairly blatant; and on a particularly fortuitous day we might also have benefited from the push that floored Parker as we awaited a corner in the first half, and shot by Defoe that struck outstretched arms in the second.

A temporary blip then, one would imagine – but beware ye who tread the streets of North London tonight, for this particular irate fan will fix any passer-by with a glare of such vitriol that small children will howl in anguish and elderly women hurry to the other side of the road. Thoroughly, thoroughly exasperating stuff.

Stoke – Spurs Preview: Beauty, Beast, Etc

After a run of 10 wins in 11, and six in a row, the true connoisseur does not really want the record to grind to a halt against Stoke. Against Barcelona maybe, or the Harlem Globe Trotters – but not Stoke.

Stoke are actually a member of that elite and highly exclusive band of English teams that have indeed beaten us this season (cast thine mind back to our peculiar Carling Cup exit a few months back). Given our tendency to panic in the face of set-pieces, this lot could pose problems from their Delap uber-throws, while leading their line is a familiar-looking chap of elongated proportions, Peter Crouch now allowing the ball to bounce unpredictably off his angular cranium in the red and white of Stoke. It all points to a side at the very opposite end of the aesthetic spectrum. Beauty and Beast. He-Man and Skeletor. Tottenham and Stoke.

Still, the drill for our heroes does not differ from week to week – swarm all over them from the off, and take a few of the plethora of chances we’ll doubtless create. Empirical evidence suggests that it is a winning formula.

On the personnel front Gallas may again deputise for Ledley, while Defoe and Bale have chipped fingernails and tummy aches, but even so our lot ought blinking well to prevail. The VDV-Defoe question may once again be an issue; it should matter not. Defend well enough and up the other end the goals will flow.

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