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Spurs 4-1 Sunderland: 4 Lilywhite Points of Note

The Return of Dembele

Coincidence? Around these parts we certainly think not. For the last couple of weeks young Master Carroll has been hopscotching around the place, with pretty passes a-plenty and a very serious expression, which does not make him look any less like a 10 year-old but is noble enough. However, if a Dembele performance were to comprise pretty passes and hopscotch I think we could all legitimately worry that some deviant had stolen his very soul. The difference between a Spurs midfield powered (and I use the term in the loosest possible sense) by Carroll and one built on Dembele is pretty noticeable, and with the former traded for the latter we were back to winning ways. Yes he gave away free-kicks, and at times possession, but Dembele also shoved opponents aside and drove things forward. There will potentially be a time and a place for Carroll, and we all ought to get used to his waif-like frame as he is evidently one of the little brood of younglings that Pochettino is – creditably – trying to integrate into the big wide world. And N17 is after all the spiritual home of the pretty passer with lovely technique. However, the relief at seeing Dembele’s name back in the starting line-up was justified by his general air of belligerence throughout. Between him and Alli that notoriously soft and squishy Spurs underbelly is being given a few layers of reinforcement.

Eriksen-sen-sen

As the first half wore on, and Sunderland’s dogged 10-0-Defoe formation proved quite the immovable object, the AANP cogs started to whir out a point about Eriksen’s effectiveness – or lack thereof. Then he went and scored, and scored again, which rather showed me, but I will conveniently ignore the small matter of those two fairly critical goals, and hammer home the point anyway. The chap seems to have lost that alchemist’s touch in recent weeks, what? In games like this particularly, and in the opening exchanges vs Leicester (Cup) last week, when a sprinkle of subtlety was needed about the place as a matter of urgency, to thread a pass through the eye of a needle or some such jiggery-pokery, the chap’s creative juices seemed to run a little dry. In fact, he went down a notch further in the first half hour today, and started misplacing straightforward six-yard passes.

The goals, naturally were welcomed, and it would probably be the decent thing of me to let bygones be bygones and simply slap the chap’s back and ask about the health of his family, but where’s the fun in that? He does seem to have gone off the boil a tad in recent weeks. I don’t mind lobbing into the air the theory that this might be at least partially due to being nudged out of his spiritual home, slap bang in the centre. Dele Alli appears to have dibs on the Number 10 role, while Dembele, as mentioned, does a fine job prowling up and down either side of the centre circle. All of which seems to leave Eriksen forced to set up camp in an inside right or left position. It ought not to make a difference to the price of eggs for a player with his natural ability, but somehow things just aren’t quite right with his size nines. None of which would be too concerning, but there appears to be a sort of pattern to things at the moment, whereby we start a game like a team of wild horses unleashed, fail to get an early goal against a massed rank of defenders, and gradually allow the opposition more and more oxygen, damn their eyes. Someone somewhere needs to find a way to unlock a packed defence, lickety-split.

Full-Back Mix-and-Match

It would appear that the Brains Trust have not tired of their Christmas toy, a shiny new full-back mix-and-match kit. An interesting one this, as quite a few debates have been thrashed out amongst my chums this season weighing up the relative merits and concerns around our various right- and left-backs. It is not entirely clear to me whether Pochettino is selecting them on a suitability basis – horses-for-courses, if you will – or simply deciding that one-game-on, one-game-off is the decorous manner in which such things should be done, but  either way the four in question are being kept on their toes. And then elbowed back to the bench.

So was Walker’s omission today his purgatory for the sins of just about every game in which he has ever played, when he has had that brain fade and gifted an opportunity to an opponent? Is Rose seen as the better option against weaker opposition because of his willingness to hare forward? But isn’t Davies just about doing exactly that anyway? Does it count for anything that young Trippier looks ever so slightly like a young, squashed up Wayne Rooney? Whatever the deep-lying narrative, all four of them seem to be pretty happy to have been given licence to slap the words “Gung-Ho” on their family crest and go flying up the flanks to provide 90 minutes of width to proceedings. Frankly it is dashed difficult to call a winner on either flank at the moment, and maybe that’s exactly the point. As sub-plots go, it is perhaps not quite on a par with Karl looking to avenge the death of his brother in Nakatomi Plaza, but nevertheless a useful conundrum has been added to the lilywhite mix.

Squad Tiredness?

Not wanting to sound like a broken record, but at some point before man colonises Mars will we need to rotate some of these chaps? Vertonghen, Alderweireld in particular (apparently the only game he’s missed all season was Arsenal in the Capital One Cup, which feels I’m pretty sure was played in black and white, it was so long ago), Dier and Kane seem to be reeled out come hell or high water.

There are no doubt associated risks with rotating, not least the likely drop in quality that they entail, what with every point being so vital. It is a truth fairly universally acknowledged that we simply do not have an adequate substitute for Kane; and the fleeting glimpses of Wimmer have not exactly screamed that he is such a watertight deputy for Alderweireld or Vertonghen that the casual viewer would fail to notice the difference. Moreover, the eagle-eyed will have spotted that there is only one of him, so half of the centre-back combo will always be required (in common with the club management, I am assuming that Fazio is absolutely the last option conceivable).

Dier, one would have thought, could be allowed an afternoon off at some point with Bentaleb wrapped up on the bench each week, but this does not seem to be the way that Pochettino butters his bread. I would guess that one of the centre-backs plus Dier will start again against Leicester in midweek, which is all well and good, but we still have half a season to play, and sooner or later these chaps’ limbs are going to start dropping off.

There is, I suppose, a counter-argument that these chaps ought to be perfectly capable of playing twice a week. It is, after all, what a Champions League season would require. I nevertheless would like to see the aforementioned quartet occasionally yanked out of the spotlight every now and then, because if a tendon snaps or some similar fate befalls then we won’t look half as clever. And even if all tendons maintain fine working order, mistakes will presumably creep in (Alderweireld, for example, looked a little more fallible than usual last week in the Cup against Leicester, and while Kane has been blessed with a natural expression of exhaustion, his recent performances have not been quite polished).

In closing however, and dealing again with the present moment, it was another good day at the office. The response to defeat last week and to falling behind today was as positive as we could have hoped. 4-1 was a fair reflection of the way the cutlery was laid out, and the goal difference continues to prompt rubbed eyes and double-takes from seasoned Lane-goers across the land. The Top Four remains realistic.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Sunderland 2-2 Spurs: Reasons To Be Cheerful

Such is life I suppose, but AANP is remarkably sanguine about the Late Own-Goal Fiasco. Mellowing with age, no doubt.

Dembele > Bentaleb

Pre kick-off, hearty roars of approval could be heard to resonate from every corner of the globe, as news filtered through that Bentaleb had been jettisoned and Dembele selected in his stead. No doubt a startled and dismayed Bentaleb instinctively looked sideways and backwards and backwards and sideways for explanations when the news was broken to him, but Sunderland away was no time for such unproductive ambling. All the possession in the world is of little use if we get nowhere near the opposition net, and while Bentaleb would presumably react to such a sentiment by slamming his hands on his ears and howling in dismay, Dembele dithers not. Straight from kick-off the chest was puffed out, opponents bounced off him and every time he received possession he looked to drive forward, and a positive tone was duly struck.

The Attacking Triumverate

Matters were also helped no end by the attacking triumvirate of Chadli, Eriksen and Lamela. Where two weeks ago Chadli and Eriksen in particular flittered around with all the menace and intent of a pair of particularly absent-minded butterflies, yesterday the two of them and Lamela brought with them bucketloads of brio and gusto, and proceeded to slosh it all around the park with gay abaondon.

If there were a pocket of space in between Sunderland’s defence and midfield one or more of that lot were popping up in it, and if there were a cute, eye-of-the-needle pass in the vicinity you could bet every last penny plus a couple of stamps that the aforementioned would be trying their darnedest to deliver it.

Frankly, everything went swimmingly from start, through the middle, via a couple of sub-plots and just about all the way until finale. But dash it all, instead of running riot and popping away the six or so goals we more or less merited, things went vaguely awry each time at the final hurdle. The ball would ping off the woodwork, or splat against the chest of that gormless goalkeeper without him even realising. A last-ditch tackle here, a narrow miss there, and before you knew it we had conceded a bally own goal of all things, and were left wandering off at the final whistle scratching our heads in bewilderment.

The Exciting World Of Vlad Chiriches

Presumably Master Vertonghen had a stubbed toe or man-flu or some other such malady, to explain his absence from the entire squad. As a result, young Chiriches bounded up to the plate, and promptly convinced himself yet again that this was a school playground and his name was Pele. Paying scant attention to the basic principles of defending the lad simply could not prevent himself from trying to dribble past everyone in sight every time he touched the ball. Here is a bean who no doubt grew up watching and re-watching that Saudi lad from World Cup ’94 who picked up the ball in his own half and ran the length of the pitch before scoring. The law of averages suggests that one day Chiriches will do the same, and I rather hope we stick with him because in the medium-term a ball-playing centre-back is not to be sniffed at. But at present the chap ought to have the word ‘CALAMITY’ written across the back of his shirt, because his penchant for dribbling into trouble is as predictable as it is hilarious.

Chins Up, What?

Back to the grand scheme of things, and disappointment aside I that in the marathon that is The Pochettino Era this represented another vaguely successful outing. Two points dropped no doubt, but given that we will regularly face teams looking to sit back and stifle the dickens out of us, the performance was encouraging. Sideways passes and meaningless possession can go boil their own heads, for there was creativity by the sackful here.

Shameless Plug Alert – AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes, continues to retail at Amazon and Waterstones, hint hint.

Sunderland 1-2 Spurs: Post-Match Verdicts On Dawson & Defoe

Six points in four days – but perhaps more importantly, a performance that in parts had us clearing our throats and purring. For around 25 glorious minutes we were treated to a glimpse of how the world might look if the wolf really does lie down with the lamb, famine and disease are shoved under the carpet and Spurs get their act together. That spell after half-time bordered on the marvellous, with play concentrated around the edge of the Sunderland area and – glory be – one-touch passes indulged in like newly-opened Christmas presents that the players could not get enough of. It was slick and quick, left Sunderland chasing shadows and brought about a couple of actual, real-life, close-range chances.

Star Turns

Holtby in particular seemed to skip around the place with healthy quantities of joy and élan in his soul, with able support from Dembele and Lennon. I still do not quite follow the finer points of the Select Chadli masterplan, particularly when young Townsend is huddled in the shadows stage left, but this is not the time to quibble – several small steps have been taken in the right direction, and I intend to celebrate by heading off to the Galleria to play arcade games with a flame-haired chum.

Having given this particular drum a hefty thump in our preview, here at AANP Towers we also mightily pleased to see young Defoe unleashed again, and while he did rather deviate from the script by scuffing the best chance \we have created all season, there was still enough movement and enthusiasm to work the Sunderland back-four into a sweat and ping a few efforts netwards, which seemed a fairly generous improvement on the Soldadoings of the season to date.

The potentially critical absences of Messrs Vertonghen and Chiriches were minimised, with Capoue making a decent fist of things at centre-back and Naughton generally steering clear of any of those ill-advised moments of buffoonery that occasionally seem to inter themselves into the minds of any full-back named Kyle that we have ever employed. The last line of defence had another wobbly one however, Monsieur Lloris enthusiastically peddling the latest in his line of circus japes to riotous applause from the opposition fans but more furious chin-stroking from all of lilywhite persuasion. One hopes that this is but a passing fad, as seems to be so common with the young folk these days.

Dawson: A Tribute. Of Sorts.

Not for the first time, a nervous final 15 or so could have been avoided if our earlier domination had been seamlessly translated into goals, but our heroes tend not to roll thusly, and a couple of scrambles duly transpired (and let there be no doubt we rode our luck with Sandro handball – one to remember when the gods of luck scorn us in the months to come).

However, within that final 15 we found ourselves indebted on a couple of occasions to our intrepid captain. For all his failings – most of which are magnified within the high defensive line we deploy – Master Dawson does love a spot of full-blooded last ditchery, presumably because when charging down a shot six yards out there is limited scope for his lack of pace to be exposed. Credit where due, he led the defensive line with aplomb, and three snaffled points there were.

Sunderland-Spurs Preview: The Daws-Out-Defoe-In Campaign

It seems you can’t sneeze these days without another Spurs fixture hurtling towards you. This presumably gives Messrs Levy, Baldini and Villas-Boas a degree of smug satisfaction, because even if the XI on the pitch each game can do no more than trundle the ball sideways and backwards, on paper at least we do have a squad eminently capable of coping with two games per week.

Daws Out, Defoe In

That said, there appears to be minimal rhyme or reason to AVB’s tinkering – Lamela starting vs City and not in the squad vs United, Defoe ‘rested’ against Tromso and not selected vs United to name but two. Still, like my four year-old nephew with a new box of Lego, this gives the young bean something different with which to play each week, so good luck to him. However, if I may be so bold as to make a suggestion from the comfort of my sofa, and with the benefit of zero professional experience behind me, it would be to relegate Master Daws to his rightful position in the club shop, where he can perch on a ledge and revel in the glory of being club mascot, without ever having to worry about his lack of pace and turning-speed of a cruise-liner. Monsieur Kaboul may not exactly have covered himself in glory during the Etihad mauling, but he jolly well did cover himself in glory during the 2011-12 season, and it is difficult to imagine him doing any worse than the ill-judged, mistimed, lumberings of our esteemed captain.

In fact, while I have the floor I might as well take an almighty liberty and make a second suggestion, namely that the name ‘Defoe’ be scrawled in crayon across the teamsheet for the next three or four games. Just for sport you see, to see if he can do more in three or four games than Soldad’oh has done all season. I admittedly do wear Defoe-tinted spectacles most of my days, but it nevertheless struck me that he was more of a nuisance in his 90 minutes vs Sunderland than the Spaniard has been in the last month or two. And many is the claim that Defoe does not pass enough, but I spotted a couple of decent enough contributions vs Fulham (notably the one to set up Paulinho’s chance) – but more than that, I would rather a greedy blighter who troubles the ‘keeper a couple of times per game than a moody chunterer who registers nary a shot in anger.

Other Selection Bits and Bobs

Heaven help us, Vertonghen is out. This may mean Naughton thrust into that particular corner, but the preferable alternative at AANP Towers would be the discreet plopping into gainful employment of Kaboul. Dembele is a doubt as well apparently, a mild shame after his sterling performance against United, but we seem relatively well stocked in central areas, with Capoue back and Paulinho now apparently destined for a long and prosperous life in the hole.

Lovely though it has been to see four (four!) goals that were not penalties in the last seven days, none of them owed much to the fluidity and cunning of our build-up play, each of them having composed primarily of hearty thwacks from distance, so a problem still needs to be solved. Alas, Sunderland are stumbling through a pseudo-revival under Poyet, but the bottom team they remain, so this really has to be another three-point haul.

Spurs 1-0 Sunderland: Dash It All

A rummy thing, football. Up diddly up, down diddly down, whoops poop twiddly dee, to quote one particularly sagacious soul – after which Man Utd win the whole dashed thing and our lot get edged out by that other lot. And that, it appears, is how football works. But when 38 games end with us essentially taking pride of place at the head of a 16-strong cohort of no-man’s-land stragglers, I am rather inclined to think ‘Dash it all, what’s the point?’

The Game Itself

Still, a game of football was there to be win, and win it we did, which I suppose ticks a box somewhere, albeit one of the more pointless boxes in football history. The urgency shown from the off was commendable enough, a clean sheet rather furtively sneaked its way into the stadium, we jolly well peppered the Sunderland goal throughout – oh that it counted a jot.

The mystery surrounding penalties at White Hart Lane remains as mind-boggling as ever. We can now add ‘Ill-Disguised Rugby Tackle Complete With Unsubtle Thump In Back’ to the list of offences, already including relatively uninteresting items such as ‘Handball’ and ‘Blatant Trip On Galloping Forward’, for which Spurs will most definitely not be awarded a penalty, and for which Bale will probably be cautioned.

On a general note I remain a little miffed at the use of just one genuine striker plus Dempsey, while Defoe picks his nose on the bench, in one-sided must-win games such as this. Similarly, the selection of two holding midfielders seems a little daft once the match pattern is established – although in fairness Parker remains convinced that he is the man to scythe open an opposing defence with one surging run after another, and AVB did eventually introduce Dembele into a fairly progressive role. While the patience shown by our heroes was probably to be lauded, and they did not simply resort to the aimless pumping of long aerial balls, someone somewhere might want to address our lack of lock-pickery, given that it was just about 90 minutes before said lock was unpicked (and even then ‘twas not done by any particular act of subtle wizardry and slick passing interchanges but rather by a sledgehammer swung by Bale).

An End-of-Season Thought On The Main Man

There was nothing particularly new about events on Sunday, but I hope you don’t mind awfully if I bang a favourite drum one last time, for while there is quite astonishing match-winning goodness in those size nines of his, Bale probably has room for improvement in terms of being the man to dictate games. Last season all things good tended to begin with Modric, and often travelled via VDV; whereas now Bale can be fairly peripheral for long periods (admittedly before then slapping the ball in from 20+ yards). The next step for him might be to evolve to match-bosser. Since he clearly is not doing enough for us already.

Further reflections on the season will follow in due course, and the more masochistic among us have already had hours of fun poring over the season’s fixtures to pinpoint the exact moment at which we threw it all away (Everton away? Fulham at home? Those blasted first three fixtures of the season?), but in terms of Sunday’s affair it was all rather hollow. And that’s it. Consummatum est, and in such disappointing manner that the whole bally thing might as well not have taken place. Dash it all.

Spurs – Sunderland Preview: An Outrageous Stroke of Luck?

Despair – it has a reputation as a rather pejorative term, but as the definition is apparently simply ‘the absence of hope’ it fits in the whiskey cabinet quite snugly, what? For sure our lot will put Sunderland to the sword – or complicate things somewhat before stretching ahead in the final 10-20 – but even with a mooted million pound bonus being dangled in front of them, the chances of Newcastle doing the necessaries seem more Stuart Nethercott than Ledley King.

That said, our heroes would feel frightfully sheepish if they made a pickle of things today and then discovered that the ‘orrible lot from down the road had themselves dropped points, so AVB and chums have presumably given strict instructions to everybody to keep their heads down, sharpen their pencils and concentrate on their own exam papers.

‘Tis a big day for all amateur Freudians in the north London area, as the unhinged bag of acorns that is Emmanuel Adebayor lollops around the turf for possibly the final time as a lilywhite. By an act of complete randomness within the universe, his switch has been flicked this way rather than that in recent weeks, meaning that after months and months of Bad Adebayor we are now finally being treated to a few weeks of Good Adebayor. Another storming performance beckons.

A late charge is also being made by Dempsey to win over the unforgiving folk at AANP Towers, and while I would personally prefer to see Defoe deployed within a two-man attack when we play at home as overwhelming favourites, one would imagine that there will be enough incision to wrap things up today. AVB may also be tossing a coin today to decide which – if any – of Hudd and Parker should make way for Dembele. Given the impact he made last week, as being the only blighter willing to dribble past folk and straight into the heart of the opposition area, I jolly well hope he is indeed deployed from the off.

So once more unto the breach, for what is likely to be the latest in the never-ending stream of St Tottingham Days. But after the Chelski robbery of last season, and the lasagne thing, and moments like the Mendes goal – wouldn’t it be absolutely marvellous if an outrageous stroke of luck actually benefited us this time?

Sunderland – Spurs Preview: Harmless Fluff No More

Now this is not really cricket, is it? All season Sunderland have hummed around with such innocuous, harmless fluff that we all rather forgot they existed, and a gentle away point (or three) beckoned. Until now. Two days before they entertain our lot they go and beat the blinking champions, and what had not so long ago seemed about as harmless as a neutered kitten is now likely to require cunning and nous and graft and quite possibly He-Man’s Sword of Omens. Bother.Still, the laws of physics simply prevent any team for whom Danny Rose is a luminary from posing any greater threat than a particularly reticent snow-flake, so there is certainly hope for our heroes. After his exploits on Boxing Day our handsome young Welshman will presumably be afforded even tenderer tender loving care than usual, so someone else within our mob may be forced to don a thinking cap and provide a little ingenuity going forward.

AVB has shown little inclination to rotate so far this yuletide, beyond a little mixing and matching of Daws, Gallas and Naughton, but Parker, Hudd and Sigurdsson will presumably be primed for action, and Dempsey may be involved again. In theory, with Reading at home to follow, a point at Sunderland should be handy enough – but come now, how many planets would E.T. have conquered if he had adopted that meek and mild attitude? We’ve just won 4-0 away from home, let’s jolly well outscore this lot too.

(Don’t hold your breath for a match report on this one, AANP is absconding for a day or two)

Sunderland 0-0 Spurs: “Death to Football”, & Hitting the Byline

On an introductory note, I would first like to take the opportunity to shake my head and indeed cock a snook at M. O’Neill Esq., supposedly one of the brightest middle-aged things British football management, but who today lent his signature to the Petition for Death to Football. Defend, defend, defend and try to score from set-pieces – and all in front of their home fans? For shame, Mr O’Neill, for shame.

For their part, our lilywhite (or luridly purple pyjamaed) heroes tried the short passing game, but with barely an inch of room amongst the ten-man Sunderland defence it was all rather futile and frustrating. The situation might have been helped by more off-the-ball movement, as too often our lot rather dwelt in possession for want of options (although according to the Sky Sports commentators the grass was too long for a good wholesome passing game – not one for which I can vouch, but so be it).

In such circumstances as these, and the nights of a thousand relegation strugglers sitting deep at the Lane, an option that pops into the otherwise vacuous AANP cranium is for someone to sprint to the byline and pull back the ball. With Sunderland’s defence happy enough to face forwards and head clear, it would at least have been an interesting socio-demographic experiment to see how they fared when turned towards their own goal by someone bursting to the byline. Just a thought.

In the end Lennon appeared, we enjoyed a full 8 minutes (gasp!) of two upfront and the poor, deprived Sunderland fans worked themselves into a state of hysteria every time their lot passed the halfway line.

Other Points of Note

Not sure I’ve ever seen so many passes misplaced in a Premiership game (a product of the long grass?); Kaboul’s ongoing crusade to become the hardest man alive by sheer strength of heading continued apace; Sandro’s abundant enthusiasm just about expiated for a complete absence of finesse; and Brad Friedel will rarely have had less busy afternoons away from home.

Immensely frustrating then, but from now on the opponents become weaker – statistically at least – and while this may well herald more ten-man defences it ought also to bring about some three-point hauls. Have yourselves a good Easter, we meet clink glasses again on Monday.

Sunderland – Spurs Preview: How Many Aaron Lennons Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Just the one Aaron Lennon – he holds the bulb and the universe revolves around him, n’est ce pas? Not to cast aspersions on the young blighter’s character you understand, he seems a most charming young fish (now with added maturity – witness the disappearance of his go-faster diagonals in his eyebrows). The crux of the matter is of course the balance he adds to the progressive part of our team, not to mention the fact that he jolly well adds the final piece to a quite jaw-dropping six-part smorgasbord of attacking delights in lilywhite.

With two games in three days there is fairly slim chance of Lennon and his paper-thin hamstrings appearing – and then rapidly disappearing in a puff of dust and blur of heels – both today and on Monday, so there arises ‘Arry’s first conundrum, while the other usual decisions loom large – VDV or Saha, Ledley or Gallas (that this question even arises is reflective of these changing times), two or three in the centre et cetera. Whatever the options, the facts are that a lip-smacking, eminently winnable final eight games is now well upon us. Wins, wins and yet more wins will almost certainly propel us above that ‘orrible lot down the road (who this weekend are entertaining Man City). If ever there were a diem to be carped, this is it.

Spurs 1-0 Sunderland: No Thrashing Please, We’re Tottenham

Three more points, and all comfortable enough, but this being AANP Towers, and we being Spurs fans, I react to third place in the festive season not by praising our heroes, but by flagging up areas for improvement.

Specifically, I do beseech our heroes to make life a bit easier for all concerned by walloping opponents out of sight once in a while. Where Man Utd and Chelski in their pomp, and Man City in praesenti, methodically crown their dominance of any given 90 minute to-do by banging in fourth, fifth and six goals past opponents, our lot seem more concerned with running rings around our foes on the edge of the area, rather than actually scoring with such frequency that Church elders issue warnings about the ill effects of such thrashings upon society.

The party tricks and fancy flicks are dashed good entertainment, but at one-nil I hope you do not begrudge my temerity in suggesting they might be a mite premature. Not that ‘Arry ‘imself appeared concerned today, withdrawing Messrs VDV and Sandro in the closing stages with all the breezy confidence of a man lighting a cigar as his team rattle up double-figures, while Modders’ waywardness in front of a gaping net from a distance of around half a smidgeon was worthy of an official UEFA investigation into darn shady betting patterns.

It may seem indulgent as we toast our 11th win in 13, but aside from the 4-0 win over Liverpool, our lot have not really translated dominance and superiority into healthy score-lines – and the concern is that if we fail to kill off games, opponents may sneak ill-deserved late equalisers that ultimately cost us points in May.

BAE: Some Constructive Criticism

Aside from the issue of dedicated profligacy, a wary eyebrow is raised at AANP Towers over BAE’s mastery of the art of Delivering Left Wing Crosses So Wicked They Should Be Sentenced To Community Service. Particularly notable in the absence of Bale, BAE had numerous opportunities to slap the orb into the area and dance a merry jig of satisfaction as bedlam duly ensued, but if you can tear yourself away for one moment from the most curious mental image of BAE dancing a jig of any type you may recall that most of his crosses rather missed the target of assorted lilywhite types eagerly charging forward. Not a cataclysmic failing by any means, but in a team that motors from strength to strength in all areas, the left-back position still occasionally strikes me as one that may be improved upon slightly.

Job Well Done, And In Testing Circumstances

However, free drinks are nevertheless in order for our heroes, for this was a pretty important three points. ‘Twas most vital that we reacted to defeat last week with victory today, and to do so with such general verve (aside from the last 20 mins or so of the first half) was jolly reassuring.

Moreover, this was achieved minus the twin jet-heeled threats of Masters Bale and Lennon. The re-jigging was a curious one, with Pav’s entry, and the presence of VDV and Modders meaning that just about everyone out there had the urge to charge away from the wings and into the centre, but the quality of our play remained high, as evidenced by the charmingly inclusive build-up to our goal.

A particular mention of approbation is due to Sandro, whose general propensity for tearing about hither and thither reflected well upon a chap starved of first-team opportunities. One jolly well hopes that at least one of Bale and Lennon are fit for action come Thursday night, but with regard to today’s doings, pats on the various backs ought to convey the general sentiment.

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