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Spurs match reports

Spurs 1-0 Wolves: Three Tottenham Talking Points

1. Perisic

The nomination of I. Perisic Esq. from the gun was welcomed pretty heartily here at AANP Towers, where we’ve taken every opportunity to pen admiring odes and poems and whatnot about the chap, and this week even went as far as to bring him into the fantasy team.

Alas, the distinct absence of fizz about the place in the first half extended to the Croat. Quite why our lot simply don’t bother spitting on their hands and getting down to business during minutes 1-45 is beyond me. Thrice in three games it’s happened this season, to say nothing of some similar guff last season, but there it is.

As well as the strange impotence in open play, the Brains Trust had also opted to pop Sonny on corners rather than Perisic, and while the whole thing worked a dream in the second half, during that opening 45 there was some prime chuntering emanating from these parts. As if to make the point that he considered this set-piece-taking hierarchy an oversight, Perisic proceeded to whip in a peach of a cross from absolutely nowhere right at the end of the half, when seemingly penned into a corner and facing the wrong way, resulting in a Kane header that but for the grace of God and extended goalkeeping limb would have hit the top corner.

Of course one decent cross doth not a wing-back masterclass make, and it was only in the second half that Perisic really put a wriggle on and started making hay down the left. It was impressive stuff. Evidently no slouch over fifteen yards, Perisic stacked the odds further in his favour in every going sprint by stationing himself as high up the pitch as decency allowed, meaning that when our lot hit the final third he had morphed into every inch the bona fide winger.

On top of which, the chap threw in stepovers and feints and all sorts, the type of jiggery-pokery that looks all the more impressive after a wing-back diet of Emerson, Doherty and Sessegnon for the last year, and it all tended to finish off with some devilish delivery.

The near-post flick for Kane’s goal was another tick in the box, but it was his output with ball at feet and engines revved that really caught the eye. I would not go as far as to say Perisic’s second half contribution changed the game, because levels were upped in just about all attacking spots after half-time, but it was cracking stuff to drink in.

2. Kulusevski

Dejan Kulusevski was another whose presence barely registered in the first half, only to whip off the mask and give the punters their money worth in the second. The chap had clearly been at the spinach during the half-time pause-for-thought, because the figure that re-emerged was the Kulusevski of old, all strangely unstoppable running and delicious delivery.

I am not and probably never will be the sort who advocates statues for players, but if anyone fancies plotting on a spreadsheet the prefect arc of Kulusevski’s curling crosses I’ll happily frame the thing, hang it on a wall and narrate its back-story to all who pass through the place. The cross that Kane headed against the bar was a thing of considerable beauty, the sort of pass I’d happily watch endlessly whistle through the air.

But as much as his delivery it was the general energy with which Kulusevski approached life in the second half that made itself felt. He took to the pitch seemingly intent on putting his head down and running, at every opportunity, and the attitude bore multiple fruits.

For a start it served to jolt into life those around him, so that it wasn’t too long before the pitch was abuzz with lilywhites haring off into attacking spaces.

And moreover, Kulusevki’s running seemed to cause Wolves a dickens of a problem every time. As a minimum their emergency panel evidently deemed it prudent to assign two men to him each time he went off on the charge, and on at least one occasion he earned a yellow card for one of them who had evidently had enough of chasing the chap’s shadow around the place.

With Sonny again oddly muted throughout, and Emerson’s attacking produce some way short of the standards set by Perisic, it was as well that Kulusevski bucked up his ideas in the second half.

3. Sanchez

I suppose you might say it’s not really cricket to spy a fellow’s name on the teamsheet and resolve from the off to subject him to the beady eye throughout, in search of any hint of error – but show me the name “Sanchez, D” in Arial 12 and the first thing I’ll do is train the monocle on the chap, pitchfork at the ready.

If one were in philosophical mood one might consider the absence of Romero for the next few games to be oddly just, given that he escaped a red card and three-match ban by what you might describe as a hair’s breadth last time out. So here we were, Romero-less, which meant that we were Sanchez-ful, and as befitting the occasion there was a sharp intake of breath every time the Colombian went near the ball.  

And I was not the only one showing my appreciation when the young prune’s first involvement proved to be as punchy as it was crucial, some Wolves laddie haring off towards the right-hand side of the area, with circumstances somehow dictating that Sanchez was the last line of defence between him and the whites of Lloris’ eyes.

Now if Sanchez has demonstrated one thing in his time at N17 it’s that he is not one for the subtle interception. Not for him a delicate toe stretched at just the optimum moment, to nick the ball from an opponent’s foot. When Davinson Sanchez intervenes he does so with meaning, pouring heart and soul into the act. In fact, to “heart” and “soul” in the above description you can generally add “body” too. There is no changing direction or arresting momentum. A Davinson Sanchez block is very much a one-way ticket.

And so it came to pass that in this particular incident Sanchez executed a block by flinging his entire self, feet first, in the way of the ball. It makes for a peculiar look, this giant of a man skidding along the turf on his rear, both legs sticking out in front of him like an oversized child on a water-slide. And if any attacker were to do their research they’d know that one straightforward drag-back would leave Sanchez sliding away into a different postcode, the path to goal no longer obscured.

However, the manoeuvre proved immensely effective, which is the point of the thing, and as with so many of Wolves’ attacks in and around the area, the whole episode was snuffed out before Lloris was summoned to action.

Having started his afternoon thusly, I had hoped that Sanchez might use his early success as a prompt for calmness of mind and further success, but for the remainder of the first half at least it was a slightly mixed bag. No crisis befell, but nor did I feel much assurance when play drifted into his orbit.

Whatever his attributes as a defender, when opportunity presents itself to act decisively he still seems instead gripped by nerves, as if weighing up the best and worst of all possible worlds and finding himself irresistibly drawn towards the latter. This was illustrated around halfway through the first half, when he engaged in some back-and-forth in the right-back neck of the woods, and ended the exchange on the floor and decidedly second best, requiring Emerson to tidy up the mess.

Still, no lasting damage was done, and in the second half activity in Sanchez Avenue was a lot quieter, largely due to the general dialling up of quality from out lot in other areas. With fewer mano-a-mano battles the honest fellow was largely tasked with holding his shape within the back three, and the time passed largely without incident.

His distribution was, understandably enough, some way short of the standards of Romero, but as eye-of-the-needle passing has never been the primary purpose of a Davinson Sanchez I am generally prepared to turn a blind eye as long as nothing too calamitous emanates from his size nines. And apart from a few aimless hoicks into the mid-distance he generally had the good sense to keep things simple, dabbing the ball off to Dier inside him or Emerson outside.

If one could pick a fixture into which to fling the chap, ‘Wolves (H)’ would be near the top of most lists, given that they consider winning to be beneath them, and tend to set about their business without a striker worthy of the name. A similarly kind fixture list in the coming weeks means that we should muddle through the absence of Romero – and consequent inclusion of Sanchez – without too much further incident. The chap cannot be faulted for effort and, as evidenced by that early block, he has a grasp of the basics, but the pulse will certainly ease down a tad when Romero returns.

Tweets hither

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 0-2 Wolves: Four Tottenham Talking Points

1. Lloris and Davies Setting the Tone

After the midweek debacle, what we all needed – apart from perhaps a bracing drink and a holiday in sunnier climes – was for the more experienced souls amongst our number to march to the centre of the stage and begin proceedings by announcing in no uncertain terms that this was an afternoon for clear thinking and sensible decision-making.

Unfortunately, as seems to happen around these parts, somewhere between the changing room and the pitch such wholesome principles were discarded as far too bland, replaced by motives far more eye-catching, if dubious. By the time the game kicked off our lot seemed convinced that this was the day for playing fast and loose with the finer points of the sport, and simply went about the place lobbing in whatever madcap scheme struck them, with zero consideration for consequences.

Monsieur Lloris, the sort of oeuf on whom one would normally bet a healthy chunk of the mortgage on doing the sensible thing, set the tone with their opener, by deciding that today was as good as any to dispense with the safety-first approach to goalkeeping.  

This is not to excuse from blame those around him of course, for just about everyone (bar perhaps Kane) lent their full support to the drive not only to usher Wolves in at their leisure, but to do so in the manner that gave best expression to visual comedy. So when the first Wolves chappie steadied himself to shoot goalwards in the build-up to their opener, rather than wave a deterring limb at him, those in lilywhite simply stood aside and urged him on.

To his credit Lloris at least had the decency to leap hither and thither repelling the initial attempts, safe in the knowledge that none of his teammates were inclined to interrupt with any preventative measures. But when the opportunity finally presented itself for him simply to catch the ball gently lobbed towards him, he unveiled the sort of needless mid-air flap that seemed better suited to interpretative dance than the rigours of penalty area necessaries.


Not content with gifting Wolves their opener thusly, Lloris then took it upon himself to set in train the slapstick sequence for their second. He picked the most unlikely method to do so too, as if to demonstrate that here within the confines of N17, no situation, no matter how harmless and child-proof, is exempt from buffoonery. His method of choice was to take the simple five-yard pass and turn it into a construction fraught with danger, utterly wrong-footing Ben Davies by thumping it towards the by-line, a radical alternative to the conventional approach of rolling gently it to his feet.

Davies, by this point, needed no further invitation to muscle in on the slapstick. He was, after all, fresh from losing a battle with his own feet against Southampton, which had resulted in him collapsing in a heap when the easier option was to effect a clearance, thereby allowing our midweek visitors their first goal.

Today therefore, for him simply to resume where he had left off was the work of a moment. As options abounded for quelling the danger – conceding a corner, finding row z, hoicking the thing towards the heavens – Davies cunningly whipped the ball back into play and straight at a Wolves sort.

And inspired by the lunacy of these esteemed figures, those all around them in our back-line scrambled to get in on the act, skidding on the surface and bungling their clearances until a Wolves bod almost apologetically put an end to the routine by dabbing the ball home.

That our visitors did not score a third was something of a curiosity, and not for lack of further cluelessness amongst the principals in lilywhite. While I thought Romero could again be excused from too much blame, alongside him young Sanchez continued to make a drama out of any of the most mundane situations imaginable; while the midfield pair seemed to make a joint, executive decision that they would keep their interference to a minimum and leave the defence to sort out their own troubles.

2. The Early Substitution

Having seen his plan for settling into the match in calm and sensible fashion merrily torn to shreds by his troops, Our Glorious Leader understandably enough went for the nuclear option, and after twenty-five minutes simply closed his eyes and stuck a finger blindly at a different formation on his iPad.

I must confess to emitting a sigh of some disappointment at this. Admittedly a sigh of disappointment was a pretty different response from the disbelieving curses that had been flowing freely in the preceding moments, but nevertheless, trusting sort that I am, at kick-off I had rather been looking forward to seeing this line-up.

For a start I had welcomed the opportunity to watch Doherty fill the size nines of Emerson Royal, but more on that below.

Bentancur for Hojbjerg was also a selection that met with approval. Bentancur had spent the first ten seconds or so of his league debut midweek convincing us that he was our best signing ever, when he followed one nifty drag-back with a mightily impressive forty-yard diagonal.

As such I was determined to greet his every touch with the sort of parental pride you find in a lioness gazing adoringly upon a cherished cub. And to his credit, he does have pretty slick technique, which he was quite happily to showcase as being superior to most of those around him. A handy sort of egg then, but a midfield enforcer – of the ilk we rather crave – he is not. Nor is he two people, and while he can hardly be blamed for this, it proved nevertheless a drawback in the early stages, as he and Winks were comfortably outnumbered in the centre.

Conte’s attempt to remedy this numerical conundrum was to hook poor old Sessegnon, shove Kulusevski into midfield and rearrange the deck-chairs into a 4-3-3.

Sessegnon has achieved impressive feat of having me feel both sympathy and exasperation in perfect concurrence. On the one hand, I get the impression that if a piano were to fall from the sky, the fates would conspire for Sessegnon to set off on a stroll in the exact spot it hit the earth, such is the sort of luck he attracts.

On the other hand, he currently tiptoes around the place looking like a lad who has never laced a pair of boots before, and is aware that he is about to be found out. He can hardly be singled out for blame for his twenty minutes today – Lloris and Davies were worse – but of the high-flying youngster signed a few moons back there is currently not a whiff.

As mentioned, Sessegnon’s removal brought Kulusevski bounding into frame. He seems a harmless sort of fellow, and adds some squad depth, which was evidently an itch that Conte wanted scratching. But if the question is whether we have brought in someone who can improve our First XI, Kulusevski seems at first glance not to be the answer. However, at that price, and in that window, I suspect we all already knew that.

3. Doherty

As mentioned, being the wide-eyed, gullible sort, I had greeted with enthusiasm the news that Doherty was to be entrusted with RWB duties. Admittedly this reaction was principally based upon the manner in which Emerson Royal’s performances in that position have sucked so much of my very being from my soul. Nevertheless, if pressed I could also point to Doherty’s second half against Leicester a few weeks back as a pointer that the chap might know his way about the right flank.

Alas, to say that Doherty did nor really cover himself in glory is to understate things. Remarkably, he managed to achieve the feat of looking like a poor version of Emerson (stay with me here). While Emerson does little more defensively than stand and wave as opponents waltz past him, and while history has yet to record him delivering a cross worthy of the name, he does at least have the decency to run into appropriate attacking positions when we are on the front-foot. Things may fall to pieces swiftly afterwards, but he gets that much right. Today, as well as being defensively average, Doherty could not even muster the courage to station himself in the final third.

There is a mitigating circumstance I suppose, for the switch to a back-four meant that Doherty’s wing-back slot faded out of existence, and he became a more conventional right-back. Charitably, one might suggest that we would need to see Doherty given a full 90 minutes at wing-back – and more than once – to get a sense of whether he has either the interest or grey cells for the role.

But today, even before the tactical switch neutered him, he seemed pretty reluctant to set foot over halfway, and oddly overwhelmed by events every time he touched the ball. This is not to cast him as the villain of the piece – most around him were similarly impotent. It was just rather a let-down. Conte-ball does, after all, depend rather heavily on a pair of wing-backs who bristle with life and brio.

4. Winks

Young Winks is a peculiar fish. One cannot fault his willing. Even the most casual and uninterested observer would be struck by his determination to do things right and, rather tellingly, make amends for the mistake he has just executed. He has much about him of the over-excited puppy, simply pleased to be there.

But by golly he makes a lot of mistakes. We should be grateful, I suppose, that in his present incarnation, under Conte, Winks v3.0 is pretty open to the notion of The Forward Pass, for so long a manoeuvre shrouded in mystery to him. And I ought therefore to cut him some slack when he gives away possession in the name of attempting something progressive – for I have not forgotten the days of yowling at him at least to try going forward, rather than forever spinning southwards.

But at the same time, for a chap who built his reputation upon passing of the neat-and-tidy variety he does seem to fudge a lot of that bread-and-butter stuff. On top of which, one can add “Caught In Possession” and “Failing To Close Down Shots” to his rap-sheet.

I do wonder whether a lot of the individual errors in midfield would be removed by adopting a midfield three, as vs Leicester and Liverpool in recent weeks, but that might be a debate for a different day. On the other hand, one might argue with some justification that we did indeed have a midfield three today, and a fat lot of good it did us. Either way, the suspicion lingers that that midfield area needs more than just cosmetic surgery.

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Spurs match reports

Wolves 0-1 Spurs: Five Tottenham Talking Points

1. Dele’s Dive

An oddity about the goal was that once the ref had given the incident the once-over, and this season’s new, incredibly laid-back VAR had waved the replays away so as to return to its afternoon snooze, the whole affair was stamped Perfectly Acceptable and we all went back to discussing Adama Traore’s baby-oiled biceps, or whatever else the topic de jour happened to be.

However, here at AANP Towers we are men of honour, and frankly it stuck in the throat to see one of our number gain a pretty decisive advantage in this way. I’d normally back our chaps to the death, but it didn’t take much more than one replay from the appropriate angle to indicate that Dele had executed something slightly dastardly, in essentially dangling a leg or two into the body of the ‘keeper.

This strategy was all the more peculiar when one considers that if he’d maintained a vertical posture he’d have scored anyway. Having successfully nudged the ball beyond the ‘keeper, the critical manoeuvre then appeared to be to run onto it, at which juncture all that would have remained would have been to tap the ball into what would have been, by then, an unguarded net. Where the ball had travelled, as it were, so Dele needed to follow. Why he then opted to deviate from the obvious route, and engineer a collision, was a pretty rummy one to me.

2. Dele’s Role in Midfield

Returning to the 9-to-5, Dele’s duties primarily involved posing as a member of that compact midfield three, assiduously shuffling from left to right and back again, as they sought to protect the souls behind them.

This he did well enough – I’m pretty sure that anyone gathering his perspiration would have had buckets of the stuff by the time the curtain came down – but, if there’s one thing I have in common with a Dickensian orphan it’s that I tend to want more, and so it was as I cast my beady eye over Dele’s contribution yesterday.

Essentially, the AANP thought process was that it’s all well and good our midfield three working non-stop off the ball to keep Wolves at arm’s length (although frankly even this had limited success, as their wingers – and Traore in particular – seemed to make mincemeat of us down the flanks whenever the whim arose) but we also needed to see some vague wisp of ingenuity when in possession and looking to advance. And here the onus surely fell upon Dele.

Skipp and Hojbjerg are the sorts more fashioned by Mother Nature to close down opponents and win possession (although Hojbjerg-watchers during Euro 2020 might argue he has a few more strings to his bow than that); whereas Dele is one whose DNA hints at greater creativity in his size 9s. So it was pretty disappointing that when he did get on the ball yesterday, Dele did little of note. He tended to dwell on it for too long, and then seemingly kept trying to thread nutmegged passes to chums, most of which failed to bypass the man.

And if Dele isn’t creating much when stationed in that midfield three, we might as well replace him with a workhorse who will sweat similarly copious amounts but take a bit more care in possession.

3. Skipp

While Dele spent his afternoon trying the AANP soul, whenever I felt that my mood required brightening I had only to look five yards to his right, and there I was able to feast my eyes upon the boy Skipp.

Which is ironic, because his dial is hardly that of a boyband member, but by golly his contribution as a central midfielder is rocketing in my estimation. As was put to me last week, Skipp seems to have the most charming personality trait of having the ball follow him, and this, on inspection, seems to be due to his combination of a workrate that’s through the roof, and some pretty cunning behaviour in the decision-making department. Skipp judges his moments well, seemingly knowing when to sit back and let plotlines unfold, and when to summon all his energies for a full-blooded challenge.

On top of which, I rather like the fact that when in possession he does not pause to consider the pros and cons of every available option and compose some sort of after-dinner speech about them all, but simply passes the ball, quickly and simply. It’s not defence-splitting stuff, but simply moving the ball immediately to a new location serves a purpose of moving the opposition around, and also prompts his teammates to shift it along with similar speed. Rarely does Skipp take more than two touches. I have a suspicion that on current form an England call will sound before too long.

4. Tanganga and Sanchez (vs Traore)

Where last week we were treated to the sight of young Tanganga evolving from boy to man before our very eyes in the space of eighty minutes, this week he looked more like a chap who just wanted to lie down and find his bearings.

No shame in that of course, as he was up against Traore, a bulldozer of a fellow who seems to take it upon himself twice a year to plough through our defence whenever and however the hell he chooses. If the rumours of a £40m bid are true I implore those who oversee such things to sign on the dotted line, just so that we never have to play against him again.

Having coped admirably with the combined might of Sterling and Grealish last week, Tanganga seemed to find Traore a bridge too far yesterday, and it was a blessed relief that in the second half the fellow eased up on the punishment.

It was pretty white of Sanchez to see trouble brewing and amble over with his offer of help to a friend in need, but I’m not sure he quite appreciated the gravity of the situation, and it was not long before Sanchez was finding himself in exactly the same sort of trouble – i.e. tied in knots and left groping at thin air – as Tanganga.

In fact, it seemed that half the team pitched in at various points, with Hojbjerg and Skipp also donning helmets and rushing over, but all to little avail. Mercifully, Traore’s many talents do not extend to shooting, so once he had bludgeoned his way through our right side the danger dissipated in pretty organic fashion, as he simply blasted the ball wide and everyone was able to reset.

So, as much by luck as by design we have two clean sheets, and Tanganga will rarely have more pressing concerns than those he has faced in these first two games, but I suspect my heart will beat a little more gently should Romero occupy one of those central spots.

5. Kane

At present one cannot swing a cat without hitting some commentary on Kane’s likely whereabouts, but in the matter of on-pitch contribution I thought his introduction was timely and rather useful.

Until then our lot had created precious little going forward. What few attacks we had seemed to be limited to a couple of counter-attacks, bar Reguilon’s pass from nothing that set up the penalty and a searching cross from Tanganga on the stroke of half-time. Both pretty worthy efforts in themselves I suppose, but when you consider that between them they amounted to about thirty seconds worth of threat in a first half that went on for fifty minutes, you start to realise that this was not one of those all-singing, all-dancing, attacking routs.

And while it would be a stretch to say that the introduction of Kane turned the thing on its head and had us pillaging the place, it did at least give the top of the tree a bit of a shake. For a start, Kane is blessed with the sort of hulking frame well designed for holding up the ball, so when it was gently lobbed clear of danger by those at the back, he was able to make it stick a lot better than any of Son, Lucas or Bergwijn had down until that point.

Moreover, those aforementioned three being all cut from similar cloth, they all tend to offer the same, pacy option – which I suppose makes sense when set up to counter-attack, but it did all become a tad predictable. Having Kane drop deep, and shuffle this way and that, lent a bit more unpredictability to our northbound adventures, bringing teammates into the game and giving the Wolves mob a few different patterns to consider. I rather fancy the chap might have a future in the game.

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 2-0 Wolves: Four Tottenham Talking Points

1. Low-Tempo Stuff

Given that even when the Top Four was realistic our lot hardly dashed about the place with any sense of frenzied urgency, it was perhaps unsurprising that today, with the only available carrot being the slightly wonky, shrivelled one of Europa football (or the even smaller, even more shrivelled one of the Europa Conference, whatever that is), the mood amongst those tasked with doing the necessaries in N17 was set to ‘Leisurely’.

Not that it mattered much, as Wolves had switched off their mood setting entirely, in order to sit on a beach and sip something punchy, but there was a curious gentleness to the way in which we gradually exerted our superiority.

Yes, Kane hit the post in the opening jabs, with the sort of shot out of thin air of which he seems to be the sole licence-holder; and yes, we twice had shots thwacked off the line with the ‘keeper seemingly distracted by the beach-side view; but there was none of that zip about our build-up play that makes the pulse quicken and arrests the attention.

The Sky cameras caught the spirit of the thing by doing their best to not show our opener when it did eventually come, preferring to dwell on their narrative de jour about a man from Sunday league football repeatedly heading away crosses (a plot-line with which they were so obsessed that they pretended it continued long after it had stopped, bizarrely awarding the bean in question the day’s rosette despite him being wildly out of position, and then comically parked on his rear for the first goal; and too slow to get to the rebound for the second: man of the match indeed).

It was not until early in the second half that our lot began showing any appetite for the thing, and we were treated to the first sights of free-flowing football coursing through the veins. Again, probably worth emphasising that nothing beyond third gear was really necessary, but given the talent on display, and the pliant nature of our guests, the first half in particular was oddly muted.

However, it was still comfortably sufficient, and should an eager student ever choose to write an essay on ebbs and flows of this particular match then “Two-Nil” would be a title that captured entirely appropriately the game’s dynamics as well as its scoreline.

2. Dele: Delightful and Exasperating

In terms of the specifics, Dele’s performance was an odd mix of the delightful and exasperating.

In the Debit column, the chap was guilty on a couple of occasions of the sort of carelessness that would have been excoriated by notable former managers who were sticklers for that sort of thing and who, it might be suggested, carried about themselves particularly needless vendettas.

In one instance he gave away a pretty needless free-kick in a dangerous area, via the medium of an unnecessary and pretty unsubtle shove to the back; on another occasion he tried to be rather too cute for his own good inside his own penalty area of all places, giving away possession, when anyone in the Sky commentary box could have advised that simply hacking the ball away to kingdom come would have had him lauded as the game’s standout performer.

One might point out that the nature of the chap’s play means that such errors are simply part and parcel of the whole Dele experience. Here, after all, is an egg who seems to take to heart the anthem “Go out there and express yourself”, generally treating the pitch as his playground and the match as an opportunity to roll out as many party tricks as possible (witness the glorious first half nutmeg).

Mercifully, the Wolves players were too busy admiring the bathing suits of their fellow holiday-makers to do anything with these gifts, but young Dele might do well to give some consideration to the time and the place, when next he dips into his box marked ‘Casual Possession Giveaway’.

More prominently, however, Dele’s attacking instincts came to the fore today. He seemed quite happy to take a prominent role in affairs, availing himself of a pass at every opportunity and stationing himself pretty centrally throughout. The man did not shirk the challenge.

And, without exactly dominating things (that accolade fell upon the Wolves chappie who occasionally cleared a cross, don’t you know) Dele made enough deft contributions to swing the thing.

His role in the odd sequence of post-hitting was impressively delivered. In the first place he won possession in the old-fashioned way, emerging victorious in the often-neglected tangle of legs known as ‘tackling’; and then picked precisely the right moment to play his killer pass. I don’t mind admitting it was a moment that deeply affected me, having spent many of my years of Dele-watching berating him for hanging onto the ball for too long. On this occasion, I bowed in the presence of his greatness. He hung onto the ball for precisely the appropriate amount of time, and then played a perfectly weighted pass – through the opponent’s legs, of course – into the path of Kane. The whole thing deserved a goal; what it got, instead, was two successive shots hitting the two different posts.

And then for our second goal, I was rather impressed by the manner in which Dele first sprayed the ball stage left, for Reguilon to run onto (albeit Reguilon made rather a production of things out there, sliding and scampering and all sorts); and secondly, on receiving the ball back from Reguilon, in picking out Bale. Bale’s shot was then parried, and Hojbjerg completed the routine; but Dele did enough to merit at least a nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

3. Lo Celso’s Deeper Role

Ryan Mason it appears, is not one of those fellows who thinks that the key to life is to dive in and change as many things about it as he can get his hands on. For Mason, the status quo seems to hold a certain charm, and as such, having deployed Lo Celso in a deep-ish role once, he has been happy to extend the experiment a little while longer.

Personally, I am rather enamoured of the role itself and its current occupier. Particularly in a game such as this, something of a free hit given the quality and mentality of the opponent, there is hardly need for multiple defensive types to prowl the midfield looking for fires to put out. The use of Lo Celso then, is primarily forward-thinking, tasked with picking up the ball from the back-line and transferring to the forward-line, with minimum fuss and maximum efficiency.

(It should be noted that, in addition to the forward-looking stuff, Lo Celso does not mind scampering around to win back possession either; he might not necessarily be the most gifted exponent of the more destructive arts, but he knows what’s expected.)

But it was going forward that I rather enjoyed Lo Celso’s mentality. Now, to be clear, I thought this week, as last, he could have done more of it – demanding the ball and making it clear to all in the vicinity that he was the go-to man for these sort of jobs. But nevertheless, his general mentality, of wanting to create whenever he received the ball, went down well at AANP Towers.

As if to illustrate the point, we were then treated to fifteen minutes or so of the slightly dreary alternative, when young Master Winks bounded on to replace Lo Celso, and promptly set about biffing the ball backwards every time it was given to him. Sometimes Lo Celso hit and sometimes he missed, but pretty much every time his first instinct was at least to go forward.

4. Hitting the Woodwork

At one point (at what I am tempted to call a lull in proceedings, but which description does not necessarily narrow down the timeframe), the TV bods flashed up a stat to the effect that our heroes have hit the woodwork more than any other team this season. 23, if my eyes did not deceive.

Pertinent stuff, given that we were treated to this very scenario thrice this afternoon. Now one might wail and lament our ill fortune at this, but the stat did remind me of a moment in my formative years, when on returning from a school football match and receiving an enquiry from my old man, AANP Senior, as to how I got on, I informed him that while I did not score I did at least hit the post. This earnest communique, as I recall, met with a pretty unforgiving eye and the brusque response from the esteemed relative that he would give me credit if I were aiming for the post; and that feedback rather ended the back-and-forth.

It’s a mantra I apply to this day. Hitting the post 23 times is deserving of little credit or sympathy given that the pretty unambiguous aim of the exercise is expressly not to hit the post, but the structure contained therein.

All that said, the little burst of activity that saw Kane and Dele hit the two posts with successive shots did make the head swim a bit and the curses flow. One can only imagine what the kindly folk who neighbour AANP Towers made of the assorted yips and yelps that doubtless emerged from within as the passage of play unfolded.

Mercifully, neither the woodwork nor VAR nor any other excuses needed to be wheeled out on this occasion. A curious game for sure, not least because of the odd passivity of our opponents, but a comfortable win is always a delight.

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Spurs match reports

Wolves 1-1 Spurs: Four Tottenham Talking Points

1. Jose’s Tactics

The natives, I think it is fair to suggest, are becoming restless.

Alan Smith comes across as one of the more tolerable followers of Other West Ham, being a cove not really given to the hyperbole of the majority of his colleagues on the telly-box, and a choice phrase of his yesterday neatly encapsulated the essence of Jose’s Tactical Mastery, trimmings and all. “The end justifies the means”, he opined, like an owl of the particularly thoughtful variety, and it was hard not to disagree.

No two ways about it, surrendering possession and defending for dear life, for an entire dashed game, saps the spirit and makes the eyes bleed. Watching a player as talented as Harry Kane receive the ball and promptly belt it into the atmosphere, falling to ground in the Wolves half a good fifty yards from anyone in lilywhite, felt like an act of treachery against the traditions of the club. But if it got us to near enough the summit of the table, then a good swathe of the lilywhite hordes would swallow it. Turning a blind eye, and all that. The end justifying the means.

Except that it’s now two defeats and two draws in the last four games. It would take a PR rep at the absolute peak of their powers to spin that rot as ends justifying means.

By the grace of God – and a few humdinging away days early in the season – we somehow remain fifth, and all is not lost. And despite the ghastliness of it all, I am quite open to accepting that against the likes of Man City, and Chelsea away, the tactic of defending at 18 yards and countering is a reasonable approach to life.

But when boasting two of the best strikers in the world, a fellow like Ndombele simply brimming with on-ball quality, some of the more progressive full-backs in the league, a raft of attacking options on the bench, and so on and so forth – to toddle up to a team slap-bang in the middle of the table and treat them with the defence of peak Barcelona is an absolute nonsense.

What the absolute devil would it have cost us to have tried to put together a couple of attacks between minutes 20 and 85 yesterday, in order to increase the lead and protect the three points thusly? I’m not talking about all-out attack with every man and his dog pouring forward and Hugo considering adding his presence in the area for corners; but simply trying to retain possession and work something around the edge of their area, something that might have allowed Kane and Son actually to receive the ball within shooting distance, rather than on or before the halfway line and without a soul ahead of them.

The percentages are stacked against us when trying to defend deep for an entire game, relying as it does not on not making a single mistake (or being on the wrong end of a ricochet or deflection) and being absolutely clinical, with zero room for error, when the one or two counter-attack chances do come our way.

And on a final side-note, for Jose then to face the cameras and declare that the fault lay with the players for not trying to score again was rot of the highest order.

2. Winks

In theory this ought to have been a good opportunity for Winks go peddle his wares. With a back-three behind him and a little less onus on him to spend his day putting out fires, it seemed there might be opportunity for him to dial into the ghost of deep-lying creative midfielders past and produce one or two Luka Modric impressions.

To his credit, Winks did have a stab at picking progressive passes. The criticism regularly bellowed at the lad from the AANP sofa is that he too often goes for backwards or sideways passes when a forward option is perfectly viable, but yesterday one could not fault his intent. He received the ball, he looked up, he passed forwards.

Alas, far too often, that was the extent of his success. Far too often those forward passes missed their mark, and possession was surrendered as a direct result of his input.

It must be a tough gig I suppose, suddenly starting and being under the spotlight after so long on the sidelines, and no doubt he was eager to please, but yesterday things just did not fall into place for him.

At this juncture I would normally be inclined to pat him sympathetically on the head and trot out something along the lines that there will be further opportunities – except that with a bizarrely vindictive man-child like Jose at the helm one never really knows if he will decide that he has had enough of Winks and cast him aside like an unwanted Christmas toy.

3. Ben Davies

The switch to a back-three featuring Ben Davies was an unsubtle nod to the talents of Adama Traore in opposition. Traore, a man whose muscles themselves have muscles, was tormentor-in-chief last time we faced this lot, so one understood Jose assigning to him his own private security detail.

When not pinging them in from long-distance in Carabao Cup Quarter Finals, Ben Davies earns his living by delivering 6 out of 10 performances with metronomic regularity, so I have to admit that his selection up against that Traore lad did have me shooting a nervous glance about me pre kick-off.

And in the first half, perhaps a little unfairly, I was a tad critical of his efforts. He held his position well enough, but it struck me that whenever Traore wished to breeze past him he did; whenever Traore wished to deliver a cross he did. Ben Davies did not neglect his post, but neither did he do much to prevent Traore that a life-size cardboard cut-out of Ben Davies would not also have done.

As mentioned, this was probably a harsh appraisal, particularly coming from one who has not walked a mile in the shoes of Ben Davies – or indeed the shoes of anyone up against Traore.

And in the second half, I have no hesitation in admitting that my cynicism was replaced by healthy admiration. Ben Davies warmed to the task and was not for wilting, no matter how much Traore twisted and turned and shoved and battled. It actually turned into quite the contest, and while he might have needed to have a sit-down and catch his breath afterwards, there can be no doubting that Ben Davies earned his weekly envelope.

Just a shame, then, that he did not quite keep track of his man sufficiently at the corner from which Wolves scored – but while that was a error on his part, I am not about to blame him for the two points lost. If anything, he was possibly our stand-out performer.

4. Ndomble

Another of the more eye-catching performers – a small band, ‘tis true – was Monsieur Ndombele.

As is his way, he rather faded after half-time, and was duly euthanised on the hour, but in the early stages what attacking spark we had originated at his size nines. The body swerves and balance remain things of delight, easy to spot but seemingly near-impossible to stop. But I suspect we were all pleasantly surprised to see that burst of his from well inside our own half to well inside theirs.

There is something about Ndombele’s gait that gives the impression of a man whose lungs are about to breathe their last, and who will at any moment collapse to the ground and commit his soul to his maker. Put bluntly, the chap never looks fit. But I do sometimes wonder if this is an optical illusion. Sometimes drooping shoulders and hangdog expressions will make a professional sportsman look like anything but. Followers of leather-on-willow who are of a certain vintage may remember one Angus Fraser looking similarly exhausted every time he bowled for England.

So it is with Ndombele, and for that reason that sixty-yard burst of his was as surprising as it was pleasing. Even with the ball at his feet, he managed to outpace the chasing pack. A shame (very much the phrase de jour) that he picked the wrong option at the end of it, Reguilon boasting a goalscoring record slightly inferior to that of the other spare man, Harry Kane, but it did provide further evidence to the notion that Ndombele might turn out to be Mousa Dembele with added attacking prowess.

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 2 – 3 Wolves: Four Tottenham Talking Points

1. 60 Vaguely Encouraging Minutes

A shame we lost this one – well, it always is a shame to lose – but a particular shame to lose this one, because I thought that, at least until we went behind, our lot played fairly well.

Some qualifying context is perhaps needed here. I heard a pretty nifty gag once, which went along the lines that in a land full to the rafters with blind folk, any chap who happened to be one-eyed would as likely as not be king. And that sprang to mind today, as I watched our lot hit the front-foot pretty much straight off the bat, for it struck me that in the land of the utterly dreadful performances at home to Leipzig and away to Chelsea, today’s fare was, by comparison, something of an unexpected improvement.

Such has been the rot peddled in recent weeks that I fully expected that a match at home to Wolves would see us stuck in 30% possession territory, allowing our visitors to roll the ball around amongst themselves unchallenged and perhaps launching a desperate salvage operation in the final 20. Because let’s face it, we now have a certain recent history in this woeful regard.

So instead to be greeted by the sight of Harry Winks collecting the ball, ambling forward ten yards and then bopping a pass forward another ten yards was pretty sensational stuff.

(I single out young Winks not for any particular reason, as to a man our lot seemed to have their dials switched if not exactly to ‘Attack’ then seemingly to ‘Let’s At Least Be A Little More Progressive In Our Approach Than In Recent Weeks’. I suppose seeing Winks embody this approach was just a little eye-catching, as he’s not always been one of nature’s born forward-passers.)

And for an hour or so we looked good value for a lead – but alas, Wolves are no mugs, and as befits the non-mug ilk they’re also pretty dashed clinical in front of goal. Thus having got their noses ahead they shut up shop and that, for a mob as limited as ours, was that. Not even the inspired decision to throw on the boy Parrott for the entirety of injury-time could effect the required rescue.

Still, having seen glimpses of quick passes from middle-to-top, and the sort of level of off-the-ball movement that suggests the collective torpor might have been shaken off, I at least trudged home a notch of two up from the Pit Of Despair that had taken hold post-Leipzig and -Chelsea.

2. Lucas

For that halcyon first hour or so when we made a decent fist of things, Lucas struck me as one amongst our number who had doubled down on his spinach pre-match.

Although employed as often as not in a deep-lying position that may or may not have been part of a strikerless formation, he seemed to be at the hub of things, evidently having adopted as his word of the day ‘Scamper’. For every time he touched the ball he scampered like a man who had amassed prizes for it in a former life.

There is something particularly compelling about watching a man get his head down and dribble mazily past the despairing, hacking legs of opponents, and when on song Lucas channels his inner playground footballer like few others.

Ultimately the effect of all this was not as devastating as one would have hoped, but with Messrs Aurier, Lo Celso, Alli and Bergwijn all happy to assist, there appeared to be potential for a most welcome rise in spirits about the place.

3. Aurier

The slightly unlikely source of the mid-game hoick in spirits was Serge Aurier, who continues to flit effortlessly between sublime and ridiculous.

His finish for two-one was taken with a huge dollop of aplomb, and in the second half, with a whole chorus of angels by now stationed on one shoulder and whispering sweet nothings at him, he delivered a couple of delicious crosses of the whipped variety, that deserved better than simply to have been watched and admired from afar by panting midfielders.

However, the pack of devils stationed on his other shoulder rarely go five minutes without making their presence known, as we well know. And so it was that misplaced simple pass followed misplaced simple pass, efforts to wriggle casually free off attention ended in ceding possession, and at one point he simply picked up the ball when under the illusion that it had left the field for a throw-in – a faux pas which would have been classified as Peak Aurier were it not for the countless red cards and penalties and own goals and whatnot that seem to be part of his very fabric.

4. The Back Three

The extent of Jose’s defensive masterplan currently appears to be write all names on paper, pick them out of a hat and roll with them for the following 90, and so it was that we began with a three-man core of Dier, Sanchez and the boy Tanganga.

My sentiments on these three at the end of proceedings were decidedly mixed. Plenty of scribbles in both the Credit and Debit columns, if you follow my drift.

Take Dier, a great big log of a fellow whose star has taken a bit of a plummet in the eyes of AANP over the last few years. I actually thought he acquitted himself relatively well yesterday, exceeding expectations that were, admittedly, not far off the floor pre-match.

As often as not finding himself up against the man-mountain that is Adama Traore, a fate one wouldn’t really wish upon a loathed enemy, Dier seemed at first to have his wits about him, timing his tackles well and then bouncing back to his feet with a most serious expression etched across his face, a sure sign of knowing that a job is being done well and that admiring comment is heading one’s way.

And yet when push came to shove, the Wolves forwards ended up skipping past Dier and chums as if none of them were there (or, more accurately, as if they were certainly there but fitted with roller skates and attempting to navigate an ice rink covered in marbles). Wolves forwards sashayed one way; Dier and co flew off the way, Wolves forwards drilled the ball home. Thrice.

As such, my sentiments on Tanganga were not a million miles away from those on Dier. Lots of solid tackles, initially giving the sense that here was a chap who had arrived at the office in a mood not to be trifled with – but then suddenly undone by a pretty basic error for their first goal, followed by that roller-skate-ice-rink routine for the next goals.

Obviously Tanganga still has plenty of credit in the bank, and there really does appear to be an excellent defender waiting to emerge, but each of the three crucial moments that our lot had to defend were ultimately turned into pigs ears – and if one wanted to make the case that these cost us the game, there would be a decent stash of evidence at which to poke.

(For what it’s worth I’ve been increasingly impressed with Sanchez week by week, albeit his inability to judge the flight of airborne missiles still rankles a tad.)

So we find ourselves simultaneously on the cusp of the Top Four, in a fairly literal sense, and approximately a million miles away, on observing the dross being peddled on the turf. A run of wins would improve matters, an obvious style and identify even more so, so I suppose there is little more to do than stiffen the upper lip and hope for the best.

Calling all Spurs fans – if you like to contribute to my latest book on Tottenham fans’ favourite players, then leave a comment below, or drop me a line at aanp1999@gmail.com, or tweet @aanp_spurs

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Spurs match reports

Wolves 0-2 Spurs: ‘Arry Gets It Right. Twice.

He may not exactly be renowned for his tactical acumen, but like a broken clock hitting the jackpot ‘Arry has stumbled upon something of a platitude in his assessment of that Adebayor chap, noting a few weeks back that if he scores goals he’ll eventually worm his way into our affections – and if he doesn’t he won’t. Adebayor is rather like an on-field, Togolese reincarnation of ‘Arry (stay with me) in that the majority of the long-suffering in the White Hart Lane stands recognise him as a mercenary, but will grudgingly applaud him as long as he delivers various things bright and beautiful for the lilywhite cause.Still, he can have six arms and be on loan from Mars as far as I’m concerned– ye gods be praised, we now have someone in our ranks bounding around with a nose for goal and a cockerel on his chest. The pleasingly retro feel of a Spurs team in which the strikers actually scored had the four walls of AANP Towers rocking like it was pre-January 2010 on Saturday night.

Superfreak

Back to that broken clock. Being correct twice a day, ‘Arry nailed another indisputable truth in his post-match summary, when he spake thus of our glorious King: “He’s a freak”. The minimal-training-and-copious-amounts-of-booze combo is an approach occasionally adopted by yours truly in the days preceding a crucial 5-a-side fixture, but there the similarities end, for Ledley remains so far beyond superlatives that the manager has now given up and started apportioning abusive epithets instead.

On-Pitch Leadership. Crikey.

The mind boggles at the prospect of accommodating Modders, Parker, Sandro and Hudd alongside one another, but ‘Arry probably need not worry, as suspicion mounts that our lot have signed a contract with the FA to ensure that at least half a dozen personnel are injured at any given time, and on Saturday the Modders-Parker combo had a pleasing balance. Moreover, with Ledley, Friedel and Parker all bounding around doing precisely those things for which they are paid, at times we almost looked like we had leadership out there, which frankly is a bit unnerving to behold as a Spurs fan.  The hope remains that the United and City results can be dismissed as relatively anomalous, but I suppose Liverpool at home next week will give a better idea. For now however, the post-match toast is to a job well done. Given the circumstances (injuries galore; shaky form; unbeaten opposition) a no-frills victory that ticked various boxes was precisely what was needed.

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Spurs preview

Wolves – Spurs Preview: The Season Starts Here

(An early preview, as I’m off on a fresh gallivant this weekend). An air of equanimity has pervaded AANP Towers these last few weeks, even as Wellbeck, Dzeko et al were rippling our net from all angles, for those openers were two games from which few if any points could be expected. The season starts now.Actually, Wolves are themselves a tiny speck in the distance that is the Premiership summit, but nevertheless, beaten they must be. Conventional wisdom suggests that, being away from home, this will be a tricky one, but the dimensions of the pitch are the same and the ball is still round, so no excuses from our lot. Three points please, and not a jot less.

Having bleated relentlessly for 18 months about our lack of a decent striker it is now finally time to reap the dividends. VDV is out for six weeks, but one would nevertheless expect that we have sufficient quality to outgun this mob, with Parker also added to a mix that still includes Modders, Bale, Lennon, Defoe etc. Quite what formation will be adopted is something for ‘Arry to ponder, but the absence of VDV might conveniently allow for a five-man midfield including Parker, Modders and Hudd.

Whatever the personnel or formation, this had ruddy well better bring three points, or we really will have some cause for concern.

 

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Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Wolves: Who Gets Your Full-Backing?

As if a flight across time-zones was not discombobulating enough, I found myself stepping off the plane to be greeted by the news that Alan Hutton had scored for us, while Jermaine Jenas had put in a decent performance and Robbie Keane had started -all of which left me wondering whether I had flown into a new space-time continuum rather than simply across continents.

 

No Match Report Around These Parts

 

No comment can be passed from AANP Towers on the specifics of our win over Wolves, as I was airborne at the time, but certain areas of the team selection certainly caught the eye in the aftermath. In particular, a penny for the thoughts of Messrs Assou-Ekotto and Corluka, once upon a time nailed-in as one quarter each, respectively, of the back four, but now looking like the weaker of the links in the Tottenham team.

 

Left-Back: Assou-Ekotto or Bale?

 

On reflection I’m not sure I would ever like an insight into the mind of BAE, given that few men in Christendom have ever been possessed of a gaze more suited to that of a cold-blooded murderer. That aside the chap is currently enduring something of a fall from grace. Season 2008-09 was rather the making of him, as he turned into a mighty dependable left-back in the wake of the Wendy Ramos debacle. Last season however saw Gareth Bale emerge from his cocoon like some infantile god hatching from a celestial egg – meaning that BAE’s selection now largely depends on how far up the pitch Bale will play.

 

BAE’s concerns have in this respect been exacerbated by the arrival of van der Vaart, as the inclusion of VDV, Modders and Bale is arguably best facilitated by switching Bale to left-back, even despite his defensive frailties.

 

BAE is nowhere near the equal of Bale when marauding forward, and it hardly helps that his defensive showings have been far from watertight this season. His erratic form so far this campaign seemed neatly encapsulated by the two legs against Young Boys: shoddy in the first leg he was hauled off after half an hour; but he followed up with an impeccable defensive display in the second.

 

In the final analysis therefore, in common with those undertaking the oldest profession in the world, much of BAE’s fortune depends on others, for if Modders and VDV are to be included in a 4-4-2 then Bale would get the nod at left-back.

 

But Isn’t Bale Rather Wasted At Left-Back?

 

This does of course beg the question of whether left-back bring the best out of Bale. Arriving from deep he has the advantage of a midfielder cutting infield ahead of him, creating room for him to overlap as, effectively, a fifth midfielder. Nevertheless there is always the nagging sense that Bale’s all-round attacking wondrousness is curtailed when he slots into his abode within the back-four.

 

Right-Back: Corluka?

 

On t’other flank, in his capacity as the complete antithesis of Usain Bolt, Corluka has generally expiated for the total absence of pace with his positioning and fairly sound reading of the game. Nevertheless, show me a Spurs supporter who does not panic whenever a winger knocks the ball beyond Corluka and scuttles, and I’ll show you someone who is blind or quite possibly an Arsenal fan.

 

Kaboul?

 

The stakes have been raised at right-back by the curious renaissance of Younes Kaboul. Having initially taken to the role like an elephant to ballet, he swiftly learned the ins and outs and while he is still not exactly a classic full-back, he does now combine purposeful defence with speed going forward.

 

Hutton?

 

And then there is Alan Hutton, who was evidently hauled out of his two-year stint in a cryogenic freezing chamber on Saturday, and responded by reminding us that deep down he would probably like to be a right-winger. He rode his luck in scoring – first in his cunning use of a one-two with himself, and secondly in the handy deflection off his knee – but I cannot remember Corluka making too many determined sprints into the heart of the opposition area. As with Bale on the left however, Hutton’s attacking instincts have generally gambolled hand-in-hand with concerns about his defensive ability.

 

As at left-back, much also depends on the selection in midfield, because the Corluka-Lennon combo has befuddled many an opposing left-back, with that weighted diagonal ball inside the full-back a particular favourite here at AANP Towers. Neverthless, in terms of hand-picking the best from both the attacking and defensive worlds, AANP currently plumps for Monsieur Kaboul.

 

All academic at the moment, with both Kaboul and Corluka currently injured, but something for ‘Arry to consider each morning as he chews on his Weetabix. Your own musings on these topics are very much welcomed below.

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Spurs match reports

Spurs – Wolves Preview: Five Things I Would Like To See From Tottenham Today…

Admittedly a wish-lit of things I would like to see this afternoon ought to include an end to world poverty and the like, but with the disclaimer that I focus the following thoughts on goings-on at N17, pray go ahead and dig in to things I would like to see around 3pm British Summer Time…

1. The Match. The AANP Towers merry little jape with its American cousins comes to a conclusion around kick-off time, so while our heroes are busy complicating the straightforward task of despatching Wolves at home, I will be several thousand feet in the air. I look forward with glee to news of glorious victory on my return to terra firma.

2. Fluid One-Touch Football. À la most of the first half against Werder Bremen, and indeed most of last season. Play like that and Wolves won’t be able to live with us.

3. A Clean Sheet. Can’t quite remember what they are like, but I have it on good information that they are awesome.

4. Aaron Lennon Circa Autumn 2009. The shaven eyebrowed one has failed to set the world alight so far this season, to the extent that he has suffered the indignity of being usurped within the England team by Theo blinking Walcott. Last autumn Gareth Bale was still a jinx on Tottenham, and Lennon was beginning to hit the form of his life. A return to such halcyon days on the right wing would be peachy, and might also have the pleasant side-effect of bucking up Corluka.

5. Three Points. This business of adjusting to life in the Champions League is all well and good, but at some point or other our heroes will be forced to get their hands dirty and rack up a string of Premiership wins. Frankly I think I would trade in all of the above and more for a win, just to re-rail a League campaign that has hinted at full-blown derailment.

By no means a definitive list, but as we at AANP Towers are dusting down our cravats and cummerbands, in preparation for nocturnal acquaintanceship with the charming young ladies of America, I’m sure you’ll excuse the brevity. You get the gist – three points; glorious performance; no injuries; return to form from those off colour. Make me proud, chaps.