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All Action No Plot's Michael Lacquiere's Take On Things..
2 years ago
Spurs - Basel Preview: The Welfare of Key Personnel
The Top Four vs Europa debate has become increasingly academic over the course of this season, because whatever the rights and wrongs AVB is clearly intent to keep hurling at kitchen sinks and first-team players at his Thursday nights, until that ineffably-shaped pot is in our mitts. As has been pointed out by various scribes, for all the potential hazards around fatigue this whole European campaign has, in general, been a rather edifying process for the mighty lilywhites, allowing the players time to dashed well understand the gravel-voiced murmurings of the grand fromage in the early part of the season, and also providing the occasional night of merriment and good cheer for the shuffling throngs on the White Hart Lane train platform. We might as well go on and win the whole dashed thing now, no? After all there barely seems another team qualified to do it.
A man with an unpronounceable surname is always worth a tip of the hat, so an entire football club possessed of what may – or may not – be a silent ‘s’ ought to be treated with a certain degree of deference. That said, we be the mighty Hotspur, and as such ought really to grind this lot into submission over two legs. Of greater concern at AANP Towers is the welfare of key personnel, for any sort of injuries to Bale or Dembele (or indeed, for the sake of our shape, Master Lennon) would be frightfully unwelcome at this stage of proceedings.
The usual selection larks and japes will ensue no doubt, with Friedel retained at the back, a soupcon of jiggery-pokery in defence and the usual midfield. Defoe is out and Master Dempsey is reportedly back, but Adebayor will presumably be unleashed once again to wreak his usual devastating brand of havoc across the Swiss back-line.
Traditional wisdom had it that a clean sheet and solid lead would be the order of the day, but this being N17, and the last round’s 3-0 home advantage having been transformed so effortlessly into a monumental pickle, it is difficult to know quite what the target tonight should be. Perhaps, in the finest tradition of a stag-weekend, we should just aim to make it through proceedings with no broken bones and no arrests, and then re-assess
2 years ago
Swansea 1-2 Spurs: Vertonghen’s Pipe & The Blessed Return of Lennon
On a scale of Bothersome to Tickety-Boo this result is Quite the Cheeky Restorative, what? All rather frantic and wince-inducing by 16. 50 GMT for sure, but ‘twas ever thus in the land of Mighty Hotspurs Seeing Things Through to The Closing Credits, and whichever way you dilute, swill, gargle and spit it out a 2-1 away win is a 2-1 away win, and for that we can dashed well click our heels.
Goodness only knows quite what stuffing is going into the Vertonghen pipe these days, but by jove it is putting more than just a spring in his step. Headed goals are one thing, and the controlled volley against Liverpool was particularly adept for someone who is ostensibly a centre-back – but the control and finish for his latest masterpiece did not have me leaping from the seat so much as examining him suspiciously for signs that this was in fact Master Bale donning a remarkably convincing all-in-one, full-size Central Defender costume for a happy chum’s stag weekend. Apparently not however; this is indeed Vertonghen, and he really does show more composure and élan in front of goal than most English centre-forwards in a tournament squad. On top of which, he continues to carry out the day-job, of defensive elbow-grease, with the sort of class not seen in the less savoury aspects of life since Alan Rickman informed an awestruck public that he must have missed 60 Minutes. Dawson has his fans, and rightly so, but at AANP Towers we are donning party hats and pouring Twiglets into a bowl in preparation for the day when Vertonghen is paired with Monsier Kaboul, and the very definition of “Central Defensive Thunderblitz” is written anew.
Elsewhere on the Pitch
Naturally enough, Bale had his cape securely fastened too, another absurdly high-quality strike accompanied by the usual bevy of stirring gallops from the halfway line. And this on what was somehow one of his quieter days.
One suspects we will be one heck of a team once supplemented with a striker who cares two hoots, but until then we must solider on with Adebayor. By contrast Dembele had a good irrepressible air about him, particularly in the first half, and pretty much all of them showed commendable eagerness to beaver away when not in possession in the opening half hour, but probably the most notable difference from the flounderings of recent weeks is that everyone seems simply to know what they are supposed to be doing when Lennon is back on the right, even if he goes 30 minutes without touching the thing.
(And if you pardon me dusting off the AANP anorak, at one point in proceedings I was struck by the observation that for all the left-footers in the team – and there are quite a few now – neither our left-back nor left midfielder/winger were that way inclined. Just an idle musing, neither here nor there.)
For around 30 glorious first half minutes our heroes were jolly well imperious, and two goals was a quite appropriate reward. Thereafter, as with the win against l’Arse a few weeks back, we dropped deeper and cut things a little too fine for the liking of those with an urge to go a few more years before worrying about coronary grumblings, but it is nevertheless vaguely encouraging that by and large these days we hold out until the end.
All of Which Means…
Just a few weeks ago the Top Four appeared to be ours for the taking, but one dodgy Anfield back-pass later and our heroes had wobbled rather drastically off the yellow-brick road. This good race still has a few yards to run, but some degree of order appears to have been restored (again, I humbly direct thee towards Exhibit A in the form of Lennon and his jazz-hands), so I think we all breathe a little easier for now. Happy Easter
2 years ago
Liverpool 3-2 Spurs: Buffoons Bearing Gifts
Presumably there will have been some of lilywhite hue whose instant reaction to this catastrophe was to overturn the nearest car, set fire to their own hair and demand the instant sacking of two from Messrs Walker, BAE and Defoe. The mood at AANP Towers is rather more sanguine – for as defeats go, this one was not of the ilk to have me tying oversized weights to the ankles and flinging myself into the nearest river.
“Oh for the love of…”
True, the catalogue of individual idiocy was so bewildering it melted a small part of my brain, but it hardly makes us a bad team, and until the Walker-Lloris routine we were looking good value for another hard-earned win. While it does not make for a very sensational headline, there is little to suggest that we will fail to register more hard-earned wins in the coming weeks.
Nevertheless, the miscreants de jour deserve to be pelted with a tomato each, or at least made to don cone-shaped headwear bearing the letter “d” for the remainder of the week. Walker and Defoe can expect to be led into a quiet room where first of all their heads are banged together - presumably to the resounding echo of hollowness – after which the most basic basics of football can be laid out to them, with the aid of monosyllabic words, pictures and dolls. Lloris deserves a single lash of a whip across his back, not only for the World’s Worst Clearance of a Backpass Ever, but also for making veritable hordes of Spurs fans across the time-zones look rather silly for all those times we have waxed lyrical about how rip-roaring his sweeping is. Sigurdsson could usefully be made to practise shooting until the soles of his feet bleed, while Benny… sometimes I wonder if there is a cure for whatever brain disengagement thing it is that Benny has.
Still, aside from those individual acts of dunderheadedness this made for a chin-strokingly absorbing display. A sluggish start boded ill, but thereafter our heroes separated their well-timed tackles from their scything through-balls, and by the hour-mark we looked every inch a team swaggering its way to Three-Point City.
Lennonlessness; and Dembele the Renegade Master
This despite the dubious attempt to cope with life without Lennon. Heaven knows why we croon that there is only one diminutive jazz-handed speed-merchant, because the absence of an exact body double caused a problem yesterday. Rather than deploy Holtby on the right, AVB threw Livermore into the centre, with the principal jobs of flexing his biceps and delivering eight-yard sideways passes, while the overwhelmingly left-footed Dembele was square-pegged out onto the right wing. Understandably enough, the Belgian’s right-wing forays tended to abort fairly swiftly with a turn infield. However, macho renegade 80s action movie star that he is, Dembele seemed not to care two hoots about the intricate pre-game tactics, and wandered off into the centre whenever he jolly well pleased – doing a mighty effective job of it too. Blessed with the instinct to move forward at every opportunity, like some sort of genetically-engineered antithesis of Jermaine Jenas, he mozeyed past opponents as if they were not there, and for good measure had them bouncing off his monstrous frame every time they did get close enough to give him a furtive shove.
‘Tis a sign of the times that when the current Tottenham vintage score they no longer default to a less urgent approach of sitting deeper, moving the ball slower and passing sideways, but instead go galloping off in search of more. The mentality has changed from those Jenas-Huddlestone days, to a more energetic Dembele-Bale approach. Even Scott Parker seems to have discovered a latent urge to set off on a 40 yard trundle into a cul-de-sac around the opposition area. They could probably all benefit from releasing the ball a little earlier, but it is a heart-warming sentiment nevertheless. Alas, ‘twas undone yesterday by individual moments of startling mentalism. For sure it may yet transpire that we again spend the final couple of months of the season resolutely undoing all the good work of the previous seven, but we really do seem to be playing too well for that to happen
2 years ago
Spurs 3-0 Inter: Oozing Marvellousness From Every Pore
He already has a few on the CV, but this ranks amongst AVB’s finest moments for sure, and was most certainly the finest performance. To date it has been effective and disciplined, but with off-the-ball movement, slick passing and Inter carved open at will, this was as marvellous as a fruity sorbet drizzled in champagne and served by that sultry young thing who appears at the very end of the Golddigger video.
You can jolly well stick into a hat, shake around, say a magic word and pick out at random the name of any one of a half-dozen lilywhites who purred their way through proceedings with the aplomb of a man twirling his cane with every step – Dembele, Parker, Sigurdsson, Walker, Lennon and Vertonghen all oozed lickety-split.
It started off perkily and progressed into a 90-minute highlights reel. The serenading of Lee Dixon; the manic second half 80-yard sprint between Bale, Lennon and Walker; Lennon’s cheeky nutmeg; the presence of a striker who dashed well wanted to score every time he even sniffed the ball within a 10-yard radius (for sure he might pick a pass from time to time, but he can reasonably be excused on the grounds that he is around a thousand times better than the Adebayor of recent weeks); and quite simply the fact that our heroes won every darned tackle going and passed so many triangles around Inter that they wanted to eat their own heads in frustration.
Of blots on the escutcheon there were but few. The caution for Bale - regrettably deserved (if rendered pleasantly redundant); the worrying disappearance of Lennon with sock rolled down; the egregious Vertonghen song. The resident pedant of AANP Towers is murmuring in the background that we might have had more than three, but this result, clean sheet and all, ought to be plenty, even without Bale. The tie should be safe, there is sufficient swagger to whisper about silverware in a couple of months - and a 3-0 floodlit win over Inter is the sort of result that could be polished, framed and hung rather splendidly amidst the family portraits.
2 years ago
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 won't.
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).
2 years ago
Spurs 2-1 Arsenal: Still Smug
Whereas the pre-match optimism in this corner of the interweb had been based on the fact that our forward line knows a few more trade secrets than that other lot, and were therefore likelier to get the best of the half-dozen goals that seemed likely, winning a game of this magnitude on the strength of a superior defence did have me sipping the celebratory late-night bourbon in a rather thoughtful manner.
Truth be told, that first half may have been a triumph for scrumptiously-weighted passes into the path of onrushing lilywhite midfield types, but it was something of a disaster for the dubious art of high-line defending. Vertonghen stuck out a limb in timely manner on a couple of occasions in that first half, but the high line hardly looked watertight, for willing though they are, neither the Belgian nor Dawson are really blessed with the most searing bursts of pace. Still, l’Arse did not have the sense to play the right pass when opportunity presented itself in the first half, and in the second the whole business of high defensive lines was largely negated by our lot dropping deeper (albeit presumably by accident rather than design), the aforementioned centre-backs repelling everything with all the gusto of a couple of heroes from a big-budget Hollywood battle epic. Nerve-wracking it most certainly was, but barely a clear chance was actually fashioned at our goal.
One ought not to muse on proceedings without pausing to toast the two goals, for hilariously inept though the defending was, the passes from Sigurdsson and (oddly enough) Parker were enough to merit that a small gold star be ironed onto the sleeve of their shirts next time they take to the pitch. Amidst all the hullaballoo there has also been a tendency to overlook the quality of the two finishes, which is really just not cricket. Identical chances, taken in very different but equally expert styles – someone in a smartly-fitting suit ought to tap his glass and say a few words of tribute amidst a cloud of cigar smoke.
Elsewhere on the pitch it was hard-earned and mighty satisfying fare all round. (Almost all round, on reflection, for if you will excuse the slightly awkward clearing of throat it is difficult to ignore the fact that things perked up in the second half once Adebayor had been scraped from the turf and hauled away, with Defoe seemingly far more interested in applying himself to the day-job.) Our heroes may have segued seamlessly from perspiring elbow-greasers to care-free spring gambollers had one of those straightforward second half chances been popped in (quite what masterplan popped into the Sigurdsson cranium at the vital juncture is a poser), but in a curious way it was somehow more fun to see l’Arse toil so feverishly to no avail. So near, yet seven points afar. The heart bleeds for them.
Tedious points will presumably be made at this juncture about the remaining fixtures and last season and whatnot – for another time, please. Smug grins remain the order of the day
2 years ago
Spurs - Arsenal Preview: Come Hither for Sunny Optimism
Regular imbibers of the AANP chalice may be wearily readying themselves for the latest pessimistic warbling, but truth be told I feel pleasantly optimistic about this one.
Physcial Combat – Conspicuously Absent
For a start, that ‘orrible lot from down the road possess not in their ranks any sort of attacking man-beast of the ilk of Andy Carroll, or indeed a Holt, Lukaku or Drogba type, who can shield the ball, win every aerial battle, say naughty words and generally make our lot cry. The only certainties in life seem to be death, taxes and Spurs defenders failing to cope with bullying centre-forwards, so huzzah thrice over for the absence of one today.
On a note entirely dissimilar note, l’Arse are not typically known for peddling that sort of agricultural, feisty approach that, for example, Norwich and Leeds deployed to good effect against us. History – and indeed personnel – suggests that rather than a fist-fight this will be another absurd end-to-end attack-fest, with tactics ultimately reducing to ‘Outscore the other lot and we’ll be fine’. And should this be the case, AANP just about throws its hat in with the lilywhites, on the eminently scientific basis that our lot are, all things considered, better.
The horn-locking of Messrs Dembele and Wilshire threatens to be awfully good fun, but in the absence of Sandro, that midfield area is where alarm bells start making the most frightful racket. A willingness to beaver away may be a Scott Parker trademark, but he will have to clear his throat and sing the notes with particular gusto if Wilshire, Cazorla and their devious troupe are to be kept in check.
I rather expect this to be the one performance of the year for which Adebayor bothers to exert himself, as he does seem to loathe his former employers. Fingers crossed that a modicum of sense manifests itself in a brain cell or two this time.
Young Master Bale is unlikely to slip onto the pitch entirely unnoticed, but whether or not he delivers his usual two-goal salvo one can expect a quivering swarm of opponents to buzz around him at all times. Marvellously however, there seems no stopping the chap these days – defend deep and he will thrash one netwards from distance; attempt to close down the space and he will skip merrily by, or earn a free-kick in so-doing. Lip-smacking stuff indeed.
While it can probably be expected that Walcott will score (it does tend to happen against our lot, alas), ultimately I do expect that when it is all totted up, our lot will have more in the bank. Exciting times
2 years ago
West Ham 2-3 Spurs: To Unsung Heroes (And One Of More Heralded Ilk)
Stirring stuff. Not quite a game of two halves, but most certainly a game of a slightly moribund lilywhite first hour followed by an unashamedly spiffing comeback in the last half hour or so.
No doubt it was yet again wrapped up by the young maestro doing that thing he does, but I implore ye, stun your loved ones by donning headwear even though sitting indoors, just so that you can doff it in the direction of the various unsung – or at least sung in a more piano style – lilywhite supporting cast members. (A troupe that most pointedly does not include Master Adebayor – for him I recommend you reserve your coldest, most contemptible stare.)
Monsieur Lloris is unlikely ever to garner the headlines of Bale, poor lamb, but the save he made at 2-1 down was worth a goal - and the speed at which he zipped from between the sticks to the feet of the onrushing attacker was indicative of a man who obediently ate his greens as a child.
Mind-bogglingly enough, Scott Parker rolled back the years to transform himself into some sort of all-action, galloping, swashbuckler of a midfielder. Well not quite, but I do rather fancy that the Brains Trust may have finally had a word in his ear these past few days, about taking half a dozen touches before popping the ball 10 yards backwards, for when the chips were down at 2-1 he seemed the first to grab the initiative and trundle forward 40 yards with it. Admittedly there was not necessarily always a useful end-product, this intriguing Dembele impression did shift our heroes from back- to front-foot, and once they hit their stride the chances came whizzing in from all angles.
A couple of useful contributions too from Sigurdsson, both in terms of whipping in crosses and generally offering sufficient assistance to Bale to distract the West Ham ruffians, while young Lennon looked threatening, once his team-mates remembered that he was on the pitch.
The Goldest Star of All
But by golly, bravo Bale. The line of frightened rabbits in the West Ham defence did not know whether to sit back and let him belt one in from range, or charge at him and watch him skip merrily away. Is there anything the young blighter cannot do? Tap-ins, I suppose. These are privileged times.
Momentous Stuff, What?
Hindsight will confirm I suppose, but this did rather strike me as a potentially momentous notch on the lilywhite bedpost. Another last-minute winner, away from home, coming from behind and against a team whose physical approach made us feel jolly uncomfortable throughout – ‘twas not the sort of thing we used to do. The celebrations suggested that our heroes, both on the pitch and on the coaching staff knew it
2 years ago
Lyon 1-1 Spurs: Discombobulation Rules
Discombobulating stuff. Once upon a time our heroes would have folded like an origami swan being trampled underfoot by Rambo as he ripped open the throat of a nameless foe with his bare hands. However, the days of Vega and Nethercott, under the watchful eye of Gerry Francis, appear to be long gone. Yesterday, eschewing the Limp Capitulation technique honed so professionally in years gone by, they beavered away, flinging on attacking substitutes and ending up with just about everyone piling forward to occupy every vacant spot of greenery in and around the Lyon area – and before you could say “Well dash it all, if we can’t rely on Bale to save the day we jolly well need somebody else to dip his shoulder, beat his man and thump the dickens out of the ball, leaving the opposition goalkeeper to adopt a mildly comical pose while prostrate on the ground”, we were treated to a marvellous last-minute about-turn. Huzzah!
On top of all of which – and this, the eagle-eyed (and awake) of you will note, is the discombobulating bit – this Skin-of-Our-Teeth late goal spectacular has happened before. Last week, this week, against Man Utd a couple of weeks ago – whisper it surreptitiously, but it is on the verge of becoming a habit. Make of it what you will, but this certainly is not the wretched Tottenham with which I spent many a miserable afternoon in my formative years. Heavens above, before long this new breed will be winning trophies and all sorts. Discombobulation hath made its masterpiece alright.
That said, one or two of the chaps out there adopted a pretty rummy approach to business earlier on. Young Master Walker may have included passport and foreign currency but he forgot to pack his brain cell, and a variety of ill-advised decision resulted, principally around kicking opponents rather than the ball. Out on t’other flank Benny’s zany solo routines veered swiftly from entertaining to mighty irritating as we chased the game, while there was also rather a mixed bag from Friedel, and although the bawdy howls of exasperation hurled in his direction are a might unfair, the presence of Lloris stage-right does rather highlight the elder statesman’s failings. I would certainly feel a lot more confident fastening the cuff-links when Inter come to town if I knew Monsieur Lloris were limbering up between the sticks.
Till, the second half in particular was a hearty effort, particularly as breaking down a ten-man defence has never exactly been a forte around N17. On top of which, qualifying through a last-minute goal may take a few years of our totals on this mortal sphere, but it is still a mighty satisfying way to finish a game and usher in the following day’s hangover.
2 years ago
Lyon - Spurs Preview: Twelve vs Eleven
In theory the drill for this one should be simple enough - nice and tight at the back, then step aside to let Bale and Lennon blaze merrily away on the counter-attack, and before you can say “Sur ma tête”, mon fils, ” we’ll be home for a late-night bourbon.
Or not. Footballers are renowned for many things, but cerebral robustness probably is not one, and it is easy enough to imagine our heroes straying from the script, and that 2-1 cushion going the way of all flesh within minutes. Still, even if they do take the complicated route, the AANP tuppence is firmly placed on qualification, for our lot simply tend not to lose these days.
The Bale Factor
Quite what the devil we will do once young Master Bale has scarpered for pastures more lucrative is too frightful to contemplate at the moment, but to the pleasure of porcrastinators the world over this is a problem for another day. The One-Man Astonishingness Machine is very much a lilywhite tonight, and as such we line up virtually twelve vs eleven. Stick him on the left, stick him through the middle or just leave him on free-kick detail – his garish size nines are sprinkled with magic dust at the moment, and the Lyon brains-trust are presumably scratching their heads in bewilderment at the task awaiting them.
Elsewhere Messrs Dempsey and Adebayor are each purveying their own unique – but rather different – brand of bally infuriating nonsense, as I believe it is known. Dempsey is certainly a willing trier, so God presumably loves him, but AANP is becoming increasingly irritated at the manner in which his laboured multiple-touch technique sucks the lively juices from any useful-looking attack. Adebayor on the other hand, seems to have made a deep and fervent commitment to doing absolutely anything other than straining every sinew for the lilywhite cause. Nothing that cannot be rectified by a breezy Bale-Lennon-Holtby combo, but still enough to drive one to such despair that there is no option but to emit a sincere - and loaded - tut.
More chopping and changing can presumably be expected in defence, and if he is feeling particularly emotional AVB might use Lloris rather than Friedel. Whatever the minutiae, and whether or not I and my lilywhite office-chums eventually locate a drinking-hole in the Vauxhall area showing itv4, one would expect our heroes to muddle through. Bon chance, gents
2 years ago
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.
2 years ago
Spurs 2-1 Newcastle: Brief & Tardy Musings
Seasoned visitors to the AANP abode will be well aware that in these parts we tend not to commend the team on a jolly well-earned and impressive win against one of the country’s form teams if we can have a grumble instead.
For all the quite stunning bravado of our resident half-man half-deity, our heroes did again lack some of the whoops-poop-twiddly-dee that had been the hallmark of recent years, if you excuse the over-technical jargon. The AVB mission will need time, and our heroes have become bizarrely consistent team these days, but until Bale (or, to give him his dues, Lennon) clears his throat, spits on his hands and takes off on a gallop there is little of that fizzing one-touch stuff to get the pulse racing – or the opposition quivering.
All rather harsh however, for this was one of our finer moments. In years (or even weeks) gone by, a meaty to-do against opponents of this nature would have brought us no more than a point. Look closely at the platform from which Bale burst forth and you will note that it is constructed from the finest mix of lilywhite blood, sweat and tears.
And on a valedictory note – the boy Bale might just have a future in this football malarkey, what?
2 years ago
Spurs - Newcastle Preview: The Latest Big Selection Dilemma
It’s that time of the week once more - AVB’s latest Big Selection Dilemma is upon us. The gravel-voiced one has shown with Lloris and Benny that he is something of a tease when it comes to awarding regular starting berths, but Holtby-time presumably now beckons. It may have only been two substitute appearances against middling opposition, but the lad has already proved himself as good as Pele, Mandela and that Matrix chap combined, so one hopes he manages to oust Dempsey from the starting XI.
The only certainty is that Defoe is out, so AVB will be donning a blindfold and sticking pins upon one or two from Holtby, Adebayor, Dempsey and possibly even Bale. A similar approach will presumably be used at the back, but marvellous news reaches these parts that Monsieur Kaboul is about to resume training.
As for the opposition, a fiendishly deceiving basket of wriggly elks if ever I beheld one. Be not fooled, ye lilywhites, by Newcastle’s laughably low rung on the ladder, this lot just trumped the European Champions no less. A whiff of garlic and fromage now emanates from the black and white corner, and Newcastle’s newly-acquired French clan appear to know their way around a pitch, so a challenge et un demi is to be expected. Still, our lot tend always to snatch at least a point these days, and on home turf, against a team not resolutely set on defending for their lives, we ought to have enough about us for all three
2 years ago
West Brom 0-1 Spurs: Man-Love For Holtby
Has the good ship Hotspur ever enjoyed such a serene voyage? From the moment that angry lad spat and walked this eased into an absolute stroll – one-way traffic throughout the second half, and even though the lead was but one goal there was none of the usual frenzied panic that accompanies the final five minutes. Most odd. Topping, but odd.
He Plays On The Left…
Aanp will graciously leave the superlatives to others for now, but chin-stroking a-plenty in these parts after seeing the impact of our handsome young Welshman over the last week, when unleashed and allowed to gallop wherever he jolly well pleased. I suspect there is nary a lilywhite in the land who has not at some point grumbled that Bale plays on the left and on the left he should stay – but by golly when the urge grabs him he certainly knows how to leave a trail of destruction down the centre, what?
The young blighter is capable of spontaneously laying match-winning eggs from any position, but 90-minute match-bossing is a dish best served from the centre, and frankly just about anything at which it was worth tipping one’s cap on Sunday emanated from Bale’s careering frame. On top of which, this whole can of worms rather gets inverted and painted an odd shade of green when one considers our general paucity of strikers. The mind boggles.
A New Man-Crush
But never mind Bale – old news, and the lad will be off in a year or two. The future is Herr Holtby. Those boy-band looks are actually quite irritating to one growing old as grumpily as AANP, but the work-rate of Parker, coupled with the delightful attacking awareness and defence-bisecting first-time passes of some sort of VDV-Sheringham hybrid, most certainly strike the right note. With Dempsey putting every ounce of effort into assuming the Jenas position of Most Infuriating Lilywhite On The Payroll, the arrival of Holtby goes a long way to putting the ‘ahoy-hoy’ in ‘geronimo’, if you know what I mean. A Bale-Holtby-Lennon triumvirate merrily interchanging the night away behind Defoe/Adebayor suddenly turns the evening drink from one of fretful concern to blithe inebriation. And huzzah to that.
Elsewhere On The Pitch
Other points of note were distracting rather than particularly important. The first half West Brom aerial bombardment may have contained about as much subtlety as a spade to the back of the head, but it still had me yearning for Kaboul (and also prompted a bit of wondering around these parts as to what the future might hold for the overly-vowelled Lukaku).
Back in that era when our back-four were still being posed problems – an era referred to in the annals as ‘The First Half’ – there was a suspicion that Messrs Walker and Assou-Ekotto had but one brain cell between them, and were not using it particularly wisely, as they repeatedly made a mess of the offside trap and short passes and basic goal-side marking. No real harm done however.
Naturally enough, the Defoe injury was greeted by the sound of about a million exasperated Spurs fans slapping palms to foreheads and muttering in no particular order the phrases “Transfer window… strikers… injuries… Levy… Bother”. Mercifully, the all-singing, all-dancing virtuoso display from Bale, coupled with the charming start offered by Holtby and Togo’s ANC elimination, suggests that this may be a bullet dodged. All a tad precarious though.
However, all things considered (two away games, striker shortage, Sandro injury) this could reasonably go down as the footballing equivalent of a chap jauntily going about his business, with his lips emitting a cheery whistle no less. Toodle-pip for now.
2 years ago
West Brom - Spurs Preview: A Useful Mantra Ignored
Here at AANP Towers we love a good mantra, as many an unimpressed would-be paramour can presumably confirm. “Never turn down a free drink, ” has often been trumpeted, and then slurred, and then sobbed, and then snored in a cab on the shoulder of a long-suffering and impressively loyal chum. “They mostly come out at night… mostly, ” is well worth remembering, lest ye ever find yourself sans one working spaceship on a foreign planet whilst being emphatically blitzed by hordes of less benign salivating types; but back in early January the official AANP line of choice was, loosely, “Bag ourselves a top striker and the Top Four is surely ours”. The sort of line that really deserved to be appended by a scarily evil laugh, it may have been impossible to verify but it made a solid enough point. With the big lad on a different continent, the wee man nursing a sore pelvis and Dempsey and Sigurdsson being - now, how can one put this delicately - NOT actual forwards, it seemed straightforward enough. All areas could in theory be strengthened, but from 1 Jan there seemed to be an element of urgency about the forward line. In case, for example, just plucking a random scenario from the air, one striker toddled off to a different continent and another had a sore pelvis.
But alas, after the last-minute attempt to lure Leandro Damaio went the way of all flesh AVB sagaciously noted that the deal would probably have been secured if only we had had more time. Would a month have sufficed, Andre?
Still, not all doom and gloom. Far from it. Jenas is no more for goodness sake - someone slaughter a fattened calf! On top of which, despite the recent stutters in Cup and League we remain handily placed, the boy Holtby showed a few touches of panache during his cameo, and up in third spot the rotters from Chelski continued their ongoing implosion. Opportunity knocks for sure. West Brom have hit some high notes this season, but Top Four qualifications were built upon wins in games such as this.
In terms of personnel, the usual card-shuffle can be expected at the back, but the more interesting conundrum is in attack, where AVB may be tempted to start with Holtby and give Dempsey a furtive elbow in the ribs as he takes his seat on the bench, for Services to Ineffective Half-Midfield-Half-Attack Meandering. Fingers crossed that Defoe is match-fit
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