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Spurs Summer Musings – Baldini, Fixtures & Folk Released

Out yonder on the horizon there has been barely a flicker of action since the end of the season, not even a new kit over which to pore. Mercifully this sorry circumstance changed ever so slightly this week, as there has now been some semblance of news, so pour yourself a bourbon, make yourself comfortable and join me for a perusal.

The Fixture List

It’s official. Next season we play every team, both home and away.

In an effort to make things slightly more exciting I did scour the final six fixtures or so and note the absence of any of the likely Top Four challengers – but was unable to decide whether this should be categorised as blessing or curse. And re-scheduling gubbins probably means that there will be additional fixtures haphazardly sprinkled in anyway.

Baldini Arrives

If ever proof were needed that this has been a grey, barren wasteland of a Spurs summer it is in the fact that the biggest – nay, only transfer summer so far has been neither a player nor even a manager. After his fairly impercetible contribution as Assistant to Fabio Capello with England, Franco Baldini has joined the Lane as Technical Director or some such business. Quite what difference he will make to the 11 who trot out onto the pitch each week is questionable, but I suppose if he can see to it that deals are done a little earlier than 23.59 on August 31, or whenever the window closes, then he will have achieved some purpose.

Bale Trademarks His Finger-Heart Celebration

Oh the ignominy. Mind you, it looks a lot less awful when produced 5 seconds after one of his blinding last-minute winner wondergoals.

Released Players

Gallas and Bentley were amongst the slew of players inevitably released a week or two back. In the case of the former it is just as well – frankly he had become a liability, even in the gentlest of Europa League ambles, and with Kaboul to return we should be fairly well stocked in the centre-back department.

The case of Bentley is viewed with a little sadness here at AANP Towers. Full of potential, a willing tryer and capable of the occasional moment that prompted a murmur of approbation, things simply did not click for the lad, despite the fairly regular need for an able right wing deputy. Admittedly for that 40-yard moment against l’Arse if nothing else, he will be remembered with a certain curious fondness around these parts.

And amidst the flotsam and jetsam, it pained me to note that also amongst those released was one J. Bostock Esquire. Signed in something approaching a frenzied hype, he genuinely was touted as the next big thing in English football, but had even fewer moments of lilywhite glory than Bentley. One wonders to what extent that was our fault as well as his; but alas, ‘tis done, as if it barely even happened at all.

Until the next piece of action of the vaguest substance, toodle-pip.

Basel – Spurs Preview: Hero Wanted

In terms of a late-season wobble, this ought to separate the Mild-Swaying from the Pillars-Crashing-To-Earth-All-Around-Us. After the slipshod events of recent weeks, and given the meddlesome lather in which we now find ourselves, there has never been a more apt time for someone with a glint in his eye and young floozy on each arm to swagger up to the bar and pay for everyone’s drinks for the rest of the night.

Oh that life were so straightforward. Keener students of current affairs may be aware that the regular cape-wearer-in-residence is currently indisposed, which leaves a lot of head-scratching amongst us licence fee-payers as to precisely who tonight’s hero will be. Dembele? Adebayor? Vertonghen? Now does not really seem the time to be rotating Friedel back into the frame, but thus will personnel presumably be selected (although grateful prayers can be murmured if Gallas’ injury prevents him from adopting his usual Europa slot). In midfield and attack there does not seem to be a great deal of choice, unless AVB suddenly gets the urge to spring a Huddlestone/Carroll-shaped surprise upon us. By and large therefore, the match-winners tonight will have to be one of those who huffed and puffed away on Sunday. If ever there were a time for Dempsey to silence the ever-growing horde of critics at AANP Towers…

AVB has spent all season shoving eggs into his Europa League basket and not caring a jot who sees him do it. Admirable sentiments for sure, but to limp home at the quarter-final stage after all this palaver would be an awkward one to explain to the parents. At this stage, and with everything teetering so dashed precariously, I personally would take Top Four over Europa, but frankly our fortunes in both seem intertwined at the moment – one way or another we need to stop the rot, and start winning every blinking game we play.

Spurs – Everton Preview: Quite the Test for AVB

No Bale. No Lennon. And just in time for the most crucial multipack of fixtures of the season. Maybe Skynet did win after all.

‘Tis a test that ought to put some hair on the AVB chest. For all the huffing, puffing and neat technique, if our heroes are not scything teams open through nifty interplay and a killer pass of the VDV mould – and these days it tends to be the exception rather than the norm – the default setting does seem to be to look to Bale to magic up a goal from nothing, on his own. Time for AVB to stun the watching world, and Everton, with the mother of all Plan Bs.

On top of which, the absence of Lennon stirs some eminently forgettable memories of our lot taking to the field in lopsided manner and promptly turning a 12-game unbeaten run into a three-match losing streak. Presumably rather than the ill-advised solution of sticking Dembele onto the right wing again, the plan this time will be to muddle Messrs Sigurdsson, Dempsey and Holtby around the left, right and central positions, while letting Dembele run operations from the centre.

Elsewhere, Adebayor’s reign as Lilywhite Enemy Number One is reinforced by the game, with the usual array of mis-controls and air-kicks, but in truth I thought the blighter put the effort in on Thursday, his cause not helped by a lack of service. The defence at least ought to have a more solid look to it, with Lloris back and Gallas nowhere to be seen.

There really isno’t any margin for error now, especially with l’Arse churning out results, but Everton are themselves without a couple of key  players, and if our lot can rediscover the zippy passing groove that occasionally surfaces it will matter not that Bale or Lennon are not on hand. Fingers crossed.


Spurs 2-2 Basel: Ouch

I’m not sure anyone saw that coming, from AVB all the way down to AANP. Blinking heck, Basel were as slick as any opponent we have played all season, their attacking interplay as good as the Chelski front three who six-yard-passed us to oblivion back in the early autumn. They may masquerade as a Swiss club side, but Basel played like a team of Bond villains – laughing in our faces as they pretty effortlessly repelled most of our attacks, and then slicing us open at will with interplay so fizzy our heroes could barely see them, let alone keep pace with them. Presumably up in the posh boxes their bald chairman stroked a cat and laughed rather evilly as it unfolded.

In the first half hour our mob seemed to be going about business in a fairly honourable way – ‘sharp technique’ and ‘good ball retention’ amongst the boxes being dutifully ticked off, with Messrs Holtby, Parker and Dembele in particular earning their little gold stars. All of which would please the Ofsted inspectors, but the truth that dare not be mentioned was that we were hardly blowing up anybody’s skirts, with barely a well-crafted goalscoring opportunity on the horizon.

And frankly it went downhill from there. Half the team filled the full-back positions at one point or another, and were duly skinned alive, and Gallas looked suspiciously like a man closing his eyes and guessing, until he just gave up and wandered down the tunnel early.

In fairness, the two-goal salvo was a worthy effort, the goals being forced in through sheer willpower as much as any particular finesse, and our heroes deserve credit for not folding as lilywhite teams of yore have regularly done. But it did seem, particularly in that final 30 minutes once Holtby’s energy was removed, that we were on the end of a rather peculiar 2-2 hammering.

On top of which both Lennon and Bale made unscheduled exits, prompting a flurry of understandable pessimism to fill the North London air. (Although on a medical note, I would point out that many a time and oft has AANP rolled over one ankle or t’other in the manner of Master Bale last night – and although there typically tends to follow 24 hours of stiff upper lip-inducing pain, luridly coloured and over-sized ankle swelling, several hours of tedium in Chase Farm A&E and several futile attempts to engage the young nurses in playful conversation, I actually tend to be back up and peddling my limited footballing wares again within a week. The moral of the story is slap some ice on it, give him an ankle strap and he ought to be back for the Man City game right as rain.) (Unless he’s actually torn his ligaments to kingdom come, or broken the thing, in which case we are all in a rather a bothersome fix.)

Pardon the digression. A final word or forty-two on the Basel episode of last night – it would be jolly impressive if our opponents play quite as well again in the second leg, but a testing evening undoubtedly awaits. Our heroes might be advised simply to forget the notion of away goals and just concentrate on outscoring them.

Spurs – Inter Preview: Oozing Glamour From Every Pore

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

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

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

Spurs – Lyon Preview: The Pointy End Beginneth

This smells like the pointy end of things. Forthcoming opponents including l’Arse, Liverpool, City, Chelski and Everton, and what better whistle-whetter for such rumblings than a nifty-looking European tie? You can shove the mundane group games into a musky sack, and give them a furtive kick while you’re at it, because this one has a faint whiff of seriousness. Two legs, away goals, prime-time on ITV1 no less – the pointy end indeed.

Whether AVB is quite aware of the regal privilege of tonight’s scheduling arrangement is debatable, but with no game this weekend he might be tempted to send out a full-strength team. If one player might be given a breather it is Scott Parker, who likes increasingly as if he is about to die in the latter stages of every game he plays. Messrs Livermore, Hudd, Carroll and Sigurdsson chomp at the bit – or jolly well ought to.

Gallas is apparently being readied for action, and Friedel will presumably be unleashed for his monthly gambol, while this might be an opportune moment for Master Adebayor to start recovering some of that goodwill he has been haemorrhaging at a rate of knots. A clean sheet and lead to take to France is presumably the aim tonight. Rather looking forward to this.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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)

Chelsea 4-2 Spurs: Who Knew A Baby Could Cause So Much Trouble?

Some would possibly consider it poor form to wish a thousand violent and irreversible curses upon the new baby Bale, but new mewling, puking wretch will have a few things to answer for as it comes of age. (As luck would have it AANP’s latest newphew was born in Wales a couple of days earlier, so will be instructed to steal Bale Jr’s crayons by way of retribution, at the earliest opportunity). Every inch the modern man, our handsome young Welshman ignored the folk who churn out his millionaire’s salary each week, and instead prepared for kick-off by scarpering off to the homeland to witness the debut of the fruit of his loins. One can hardly prevent such lunacy I suppose (although as Ms AANP pointed out, come the birthing hour in her native land of Modric the menfolk are consigned to the waiting room anyway, while the fairer sex do the hard work).

So with Bale’s gallops directed elsewhere, and Moussa Dembele already out injured, the game was practically ceded before kick-off. Minus Bale and Dembele our heroes looked fairly bereft of attacking ideas in the first half in particular, particularly given the curious game-plan of carefully rationing Aaron Lennon’s involvement to an absolute minimum. Hudd retains possession well enough, but he does tend to do things rather slowly, and the breakneck counter-attacks on which we have been brought up consequently petered out prematurely, epitomised at one head-scratchingly baffling point when Dempsey opted to spin round and dribble back towards halfway.

Having struggled to put two passes together in the first half our lot did buck up a bit in the second, but AVB will have to earn his corn to solve this little tickler, because without our two leading lights the supporting cast do look decidedly less potent. Matters were exacerbated somewhat by our lot’s complete impotence in the face of Chelsea’s slick passing triangles. Be it their back-four or that jolly dangerous attacking triumvirate of Oscar, Mata and Hazard, there were far too many occasions when that horrible mob simply six-yarded their way out of trouble and right up into our area.

Elsewhere on the Pitch

The returns of either BAE or Kaboul cannot come quickly enough, as Gallas chipped in with his now customary sprinkling of lapses. A handy chap to have around the squad, days like yesterday suggested that the visit of the league-leaders is not really the time to be relying upon his creaking limbs. The sooner Kaboul or Vertongehn can replace him in the centre, the better.

Dempsey and Sigurdsson also still look a bit too much like squad players at the moment; and young Master Walker presented the world and his Twitter followers with the most bizarre brain meltdown in the closing stages to seal our fate; but at least Defoe remains in fine fettle, responding to his controversial axing from the AANP fantasy team with the sort of predatory strike that had AANP Senior murmuring something about Greaves. Seeing Torres fluff his lines at t’other end only made it sweeter.

Irritatingly, the nagging suspicion remains that at full strength we would have fared a darned sight better, but such is life, and by the time Match of the Day started we were still in fifth, which was an unexpected bonus. Already this season we have played worse and won, so one rather hopes that Southampton will feel the wrath – and joys of fatherhood – of the lilywhite heroes next week.

(Apologies again – comments box remains unco-operative)
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Spurs 2-1 QPR: The Portuguese For ‘Huzzah’

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

Partying Like It’s February 2010

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

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

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

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