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All Action No Plot's Michael Lacquiere's Take On Things..
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
2 years ago
Norwich - Spurs Preview: Have We Turned A Corner?
It’s rather a sign of the times that our once Cup-specialised bunch of ragtag disco-lovers now shrug scornfully at the prospect of this knock-out fare, and instead focus their energies on maintaining consistent League form. Quite the reverse of those spirit-crushing 90s, when our heroes resolutely avoided finishing in either the top or bottom 6, season after season, and pinned everything on Chas’n’Dave’n’Sinton. Now the very antithesis of a ‘Cup-side’, the lilywhite mob exude nous, professionalism and knowing winks as they grind out away victories and get their paws dirty in scavenging last-minute equalisers against Man Utd. A corner, it would appear, has been turned.
Mind you, this theory will fall apart somewhat if we make a mess of things tonight. Meekly folding in a Cup tie at Leeds is all well and good as long as they bally well slam down on the throttle once more when Premiership matters restart tonight, and thrash the whatnot out of Norwich.
Avb: Doing His Damnedest To Get Us A New Striker
While he may present himself as coolly gravel-voiced and demure in his press conferences, nonchalantly dismissing the kooky concept of employing strikers when we have midfielders and full-backs and goalkeepers who can effortlessly adapt to life as a forward, I fervently hope that behind closed doors AVB assumes a maniacal grin and chases Daniel Levy across the south-east, flecks of spittle flying from his mouth and wielded axe swinging violently as he shrilly demands that the money-man buy us another all-singing, all-dancing, top-rate striker before the blasted window closes tomorrow night.
One can only hope. Before his nocturnal alter ego is unleashed AVB will have to make do with the ludicrous square-pegging of Dempsey/Sig again tonight, if Defoe is still unfit. Heaven help us. Still, the Dembele juices will presumably flow again tonight, following the near-scandalous admission that he could not really be bothered in the Cup, and our handsome young Welshman has good history against this lot.
Aside from Defoe’s health there is a concern in this corner of the interweb that all the Lucozade in the world won’t have replenished Scott Parker, after he had to be scraped off the Elland Road turf at full-time on Sunday, having given every ounce of energy he has ever possessed. All of which means that an appearance of some sort from sprightly young Herr Holtby might be on the cards.
If we really are now a top(ish) league team, rather than sporadic Cup mercenary, now might be the time to show it. Just a thought chaps (and that includes you, Dembele)
2 years ago
Spurs 1-1 Man Utd: The Joys of Fergie-Time, & A Thought On Dembele…
I suspect glasses were raised and chortles sounded across the country at that particular moment of karma, the dying seconds of Fergie time creating quite the poetic moment. By all means do pause a moment, and indulge in another snigger.
Aside from the general national moment of Schadenfreude, and observing through spectacles of a lilywhite hue, it was jolly encouraging to see our heroes plug away in the second half with a bit more cunning and purpose than in previous matches (and the first half) against massed ranks of deep-lying defenders. Where last week we were soporific and desperately short of ideas, this time we did at least fashion some chances, and show a little variety in our attempts to wriggle our way netwards. Glory be, there was movement around the edge of the area, and sneaky diagonal passes, and Lennon as likely to cut infield as go wide – but most eye-catchingly of all from this vantage point was the sight of Dembele jinking his way through a couple of challenges before feeding Dempsey in the area (for that second half chance saved by De Gea). There followed much chin-stroking at AANP Towers, for there in a microcosm was the idea, occasionally mooted but quickly suppressed like some dissident voice in a totalitarian state, that maybe Dembele could play… whisper it… further forward…?
Back in the real world ‘tis unlikely ever to happen, for the AVBmeister appears not to roll thus, but having rolled my eyes so forcefully that the dashed things flew from their sockets and landed in the snow as Dempsey dribbled in the wrong direction for the umpteenth time, before turning back the way he came, running into more traffic, circling a single blade of grass and eventually imploding while United emerged with the ball to counter-attack, I did rather wish that Dembele could be shunted upfield to orchestrate matters in the hole. Instead, the onus on tearing forward from midfield fell upon Scott Parker in the first half, and various cul-de-sacs were duly entered.
Still, the thing ended cheerily enough, and richly deserved it was too. As noted, a tip of the cap to Lennon, the font of most things good today, and the late introduction of the left-footed Benny at left-back had me wondering why he was not selected from the off, but in general our heroes deserve credit for hammering away so insistently in the second half. Just a single point to add to the pile it may be, but in the grand scheme of things this was quite a noteworthy step.
2 years ago
Spurs - Man Utd Preview: Can Parker Still Cut It Against The Best?
Ah, ‘tis the unmistakeable scent of le grand fromage wafting into town. Oddly enough we find ourselves in the exalted position of being able to do the seasonal double over this lot, for possibly the first time since a wide-eyed and youthful AANP would stare transfixed at the shoulder-feints and mullet Chris Waddle and his mullet feinting this way and that. To this casual observer the champions-elect have this season hardly been the all-conquering, unstoppable juggernaut of recent times, with notable deficiencies in goal, defence and midfield for sure, but that blasted RVP seems to know a thing or two about the old net-ripple business, and there is only one of the Vertonghen-Daws-Gallas-Caulker quartet of options that I fancy to have any joy against him today. (Clue: His name rhymes with ‘Bertonghen’)
As for our lot, a doleful minute’s silence has presumably been held across lilywhite abodes across the land for the repose of the knee of Sandro. The slightly unhinged Brazilian is out for the season, and one can only feel sorry for Mrs Sandro and any nursing staff involved in his recuperation, for a hyperactive young soul such as he strikes me as the worst possible nominee for sitting still with his leg up.
All of which leaves our central midfield in a pickle of sorts. Sandro may not necessarily be the most important cog in this machine, but the combo with Dembele has that same menacing air of Danny Trejo wandering the area with an Uzi on each arm – not necessarily the most effective, as Predators aficionados will testify, but a jolly imposing sight nonetheless.
In Sandro’s absence Scott Parker will step once more into the breach, and presumably run himself into the ground, like the good honest blighter he is. A most useful reserve no doubt on most weekends of the season, but if Euro 2012 delivered one rather sad truth it was that against the very best teams in Europe Parker’s indefatigable spirit only gets him so far. One crosses fingers on his behalf this afternoon.
Master Dempsey will presumably supplement the midfield today, and there is something a might worrying about the complete silence over attacking reinforcements this January, with Adebayor now sunning himself on his African jolly. One hopes to heavens that Master Defoe does not chip a fingernail this afternoon, because a new big-name forward there be not, neither hither nor in the offing.
A difficult basket of figs to call, this one. Our heroes have already shown this season that they can beat this lot, particularly if the handsome young Welshman is in the mood, but emphatic defeats to City, Chelski and l’Arse pointed to shortcomings on these big occasions. Weather permitting, we’ll find out soon enough
2 years ago
"Still, AVB presumably does not just wile away his hours mixing cigarettes and alcohol in the wee small hours in order to make his voice disappear beneath the realms of human detection, but does actually give some thought to such things. "
2 years ago
AVB to do a duet with Tom Waits.... Why else would he be training his gravelly voice.... Lol
2 years ago
QPR 0 - 0 Spurs: The Disappearance of First-Time Passing & Off-The-Ball Movement
We probably ought to pour ourselves a stiff drink and get used to this. Those of us who like a dash of rip-snort with our morning Weetabix and Brahms took to banging our heads against the nearest wall yesterday, as not for the first time this season there were embarrassed coughs all round as our heroes raided the ideas cabinet and finding it bare. (Before all hell breaks loose on keyboards throughout the land this would probably be a good juncture at which to ring a loud bell with some gusto and hire Brian Blessed to holler “Context good folk, what? ” Our brave lilywhites are pootling along at a healthy rate of knots, ripple the net just about every week and are even quietly doing a healthy trade in clean sheets these days. Top Four seems likelier than not, and in the grand scheme of things, AVB and chums are fulfilling their side of their bargain.)
However… the one-touch, pulse-racing stuff of yesteryear ‘tis not, and it bothers the dickens out of me to see them labour so against these defensive opponents. Anyone who has scuttled to their White Hart Lane seat pre kick-off on matchday will have seen that just before they disappear down the tunnel to don their kits our heroes bound around like particularly exuberant lambs playing 5/6-a-side, one-touch stuff – how dashed maddening then that come the game itself they played as if their lives depended upon taking at least two touches, giving opponents time to reorganise and avoiding off-the-ball movement at all costs. Curiously enough, the only moment of first-time ingenuity I can really recall was from Scott Parker of all people, prodding a second half pass into the path of Bale in the area.
Qpr understandably enough stuck just about everyone in the west London area behind the ball and inside their area, and also took the depressingly effective step of dropping their full-backs so deep that neither Bale nor Lennon had a bally inch of space into which to run down the flanks. Alas, faced with a hoopy wall as far as the eye could see, our heroes simply did not have the zip or ingenuity to carve out an opening. Oh for a cunning diagonal ten-yard pass in the final third (dare I mention VDV?) or a mischievous scally with dribble-dust in his boots (dare I mention even Taaraabt, or someone of his ilk, to be hauled from the bench for bothersome afternoons such as these?)
And breathe… There ends the rant.
(Actually that’s a lie, for one further target of AANP ire is presumably boarding a plane for the African Cup of Nations. He may not have been overwhelmed by quality service, but Adebayor did not have the air of a man dashing hither and thither as if the need to score for his employers bordered upon obsession.)
The good fight for fourth is being fought pretty well, but the lack of off-the-ball movement and first-time passing will remain a bête noire in this corner of the interweb for many an inebriated evening. Still, AVB presumably does not just wile away his hours mixing cigarettes and alcohol in the wee small hours in order to makes his voice disappear beneath the realms of human detection, but does actually give some thought to such things. It will probably look a jolly sight more attractive next week against United, such are the quirks of the game
2 years ago
That was me posting that, not the little monkey (who had logged in using my iPad)...
2 years ago
LOL! I was wondering if Aidan actually got one up on you and posted it before you could. Also, North, would you prefer this ordered by newest first?
2 years ago
Newest first would be good, Mags
2 years ago
QPR - Spurs Preview: Any Personal Motivation For ‘Arry?
The keener students of history amongst us no doubt recall that it was around this time last year that our whole bally season began to unravel faster than you can say “Not entirely convinced by these January transfer signings – and a spot of squad rotation hither and thither might not go amiss either, what? ” An important time off the pitch then for the AVBmeister (particularly with Adebayor giving his latest display of that rock-solid commitment and dependency we have all come to know and love), but rejoice all ye of lilywhite persuasion, for on-pitch matters have panned out in rather topping manner in recent weeks. Indeed, word reaches this corner of the interweb that our glorious leader was even awarded December’s Manager of the Month gong, presumably by a team of genii who succeeded where AANP failed by erasing from memory the blasted late capitulation against Everton on 9/12/12.
Onward we gambol then, ensconced in third, but many a slip ‘twixt cup, lip and May 19th. There may not be an ‘i’ in ‘team’, nor indeed in ‘qpr’, but there are a handful in ‘Arry Redknapp’, and one imagines that for all manner of personal reasons our erstwhile leader will have been burning the midnight oil in his attempts to mastermind a final rude hand gesture in the direction of Levy and chums. This lot are therefore not to be taken lightly – although one nevertheless fancies that if we can get our noses in front at Loftus Road only complacency will let our hosts back into it (which is a rather ironic sort of statement, if you think about it).
The usual suspects will presumably line up to hand me the keys, supplemented now by fit-again Benny and Scott Parker. Some sort of valedictory gift from Adebayor would be nice, but as ever the eye-catching performances are likely to emanate from the size nines of Vertonghen, Bale and Dembele, in their own respective ways. Get this right – as they jolly well ought – and a little extra pressure will sit upon the shoulders of the other mobs by the time AANP’s Soccer Saturday Imbibing Spectacular kicks off at 3.
2 years ago
Spurs 3-0 Coventry: A Phantom Victory, Plus New Arrivals
In common with more than of you I blinked and thereby missed most of the ITV highlights of this one, so the AANP analysis will this week consist of no more than verbose but ultimately vacuous generalisations, and the occasional laboured piece of wordplay. Not that different from normal then.
From the point of view of one whose observations were so minimal as to radically redefine the term ‘objective’, this appears a job satisfactorily done, with ticked boxes as far as the eye can see. Such fixtures can prove tricky (admittedly less so at home), and given this we ought probably to be grateful for being reduced to the 30-second highlights slot, it representing a distinct lack of tabloid-friendly shock-and-awe fodder. Credit then to our heroes for doing the honourable thing and ending the thing as a context before the floodlights were lit, and a nod of approval also for breaking with tradition both in scoring a couple from set-pieces and in turning early dominance into more than just the solitary goal.
Elsewhere Scott Parker was unleashed to scuttle manically from the off, Benny had a first opportunity to rediscover his groove and the handsome young Welshman at one point apparently skinned five opponents before shooting wide (although, regrettably, I have since been reliably informed that the term was but metaphorical. Shame that.)
Marvellous. Elsewhere however, the giant, unavoidable engine of January transfer doings is gently creaking into action, with the news that Herr Lewis Holtby has rather charmingly cocked a snook at that ‘orrible lot down the road and pledged his future to the lilywhites of N17, from Summer ’13 onwards. Smart chap. Now AANP is not about to pretend that it is any sort of expert on footballers plying their wares on foreign fields – or indeed domestic ones, or any other topics really, other than mindless action films and a good whisky – but the resident l’Arse supporter around these parts has somewhat dolefully informed me that the boy Holtby impressed for Schalke against his lot in the Champions League. As such, someone somewhere in the corridors of power at the Lane probably ought to pat themselves on the back and flash a knowing wink in the direction of Daniel Levy.
And for those who like their lamb skewered even more excitement awaits in Transfer Land, for it emerges that the implausibly-named whippersnapper Zeki Fryers is pootling in a lilywhite direction with a spring in his step and tearful adieus ringing in his ears from chums at Standard Liege. (And also apoplectic warbling from Sir Alex Ferguson apparently, but that particular kettle of fish is one for the FA to huddle over). Legend has it that Fryers defends and Holtby tries his luck further up the greenery, so hearty welcomes to both - but hopeful murmurings will no doubt continue that some brain-meltingly good, established, attacking types will be unveiled imminently. Toodle-pip for now.
2 years ago
Spurs - Coventry Preview: If Ever There Were A Time for Squad Rotation…
Now here’s a Cup-tie to get the AANP juices flowing, this particular fixture being the first that AANP can remember watching on the telly-box, as a wide-eyed nipper a couple of decades back. It ended then in tears, an own-goal and ultimately a side-line in wordsmithr’y, but one would expect a straightforward lilywhite victory this afternoon, particularly on our own patch.
Having shown quite the disinclination for squad rotation in his every waking moment in charge of our heroes to date, AVB might be tempted to break the habit of a lifetime and give starting berths to patient thumb-twiddlers Hudd, Parker, Livermore, Townsend, Sigurdsson, Dempsey and possibly even Falque. He can do as he pleases of course, but if I may gently clear my throat and offer one quiet recommendation it would be that one Aaron Lennon is given the afternoon off to increase his body-art collection, or study the First Meditations of Descartes, or do whatever he does when given some time to himself. The young scamp’s performances have been of consistently high quality this season, but one fears that his blurry little legs can only take so much scuttling before they ping. Get rotating, Mr AVB.
If complacency is firmly kept behind lock and key this ought to be a smooth progression next-roundwards, and our lot being amongst the top 4/5/6 in the country, depending on your tabloid of choice, this represents a mighty strong chance of silverware. Fingers crossed we surmount the first hurdle.
2 years ago
Spurs 3-1 Reading: How All New Years Should Begin
All in all that amounts to a jolly productive spot of yuletide pilfering. One may certainly clear the throat and reel off the usual quibbles – 30-plus shots ought to translate into more than 3 goals; we could conceivably have been pegged back to 2-2, or worse – but all things considered we can safely say that our heroes crushed Reading, saw them driven before us, and heard the lamentation of their women. Precisely the manner in which all new years should begin.
Good Times on the Right Flank
Balelessness was duly countered with aplomb, courtesy of the ingenious tactical masterstroke of making the most of what we have on the right wing. Aaron Lennon, having supplemented his jazz-hands routine with sparkling tap-dancing shoes and a delightful range of chipped passes into the six-yard box, generally looked like he would have the beating of his man, on the outside or inside, all the way into 2014.
Out on t’other flank Master Sigurdsson fought the good fight well enough, and poor old Naughton can hardly be chastised for being right-footed. With Walker still determined to play the whole season without once engaging his grey matter (a might harsh, but one gets the gist), Naughton may be given an opportunity to show what he can do at right-back before too long, particularly once Benny returns to the fold.
Elsewhere things went swimmingly enough. The Sandro-Dembele axis continues to function as all respectable axes ought, albeit with scales still tipped more toward brute-force than mind-boggling guile. The curious fascination with long-range shooting provided entertainment throughout (oh how Hudd must have itched to partake), and so much fun was had by all and sundry that even Scott Parker took time out from the 1920s to go sniffing for his first lilywhite goal.
The aforementioned quibbles around shot-to-goal-conversion and final-third guile might provide food for transfer-window thought, but 10 points from 12 over crimbo merits a doffed cap and a cheeky splash of red with the evening meal.
2 years ago
Spurs - Reading Preview: The Looming Spectre of Balelessness
Curl into a ball and stick your heads in the sand, fellow believers, for yet another bout of Balelessness looms large. When previously this curse has struck us we did at least manage to eke out victory against Swansea, but the soulless display sans Bale against Everon was rather hard to stomach - no doubt about it, our heroes look a darned sight more mortal without the handsome young Welshman on the gallop.
That said, while the capacity to take on half the opposition single-handedly is very much the sole preserve of Bale, consistent selections have now given our midfield a rather imposing look, with the two-pronged juggernaut that is Sandro and Dembele doing a pretty handy job of bulldozing everything in their path in recent weeks. Guile is still rather lacking, ‘tis true (oh for some truth in the Snjeider rumours this January) but the general record of Reading to date this season suggests that a half-decent showing from our lot will suffice.
AVB’s aversion to tinkering, beyond the back-four, will presumably continue, with Dempsey/Sigurdsson for Bale the only likely change amongst the goal-getting clan, but pleasant murmurings have been made in recent hours about a return to the squad of BAE, which is heartening stuff. One probably also ought to take this opportunity to chime ‘Toodles, and much obliged’, to Cudicini as he makes his way off to Hollywood, best of luck to him.
We have been outfought and outfoxed a number of times at home already this season, on top of which Reading appear to have got their act together in recent weeks – but nevertheless, one would expect the usual second half onslaught to send us home happy today
2 years ago
Villa 0-4 Spurs: Blessed Relief, Following the World Record First Half
I suspect few other teams could labour quite so much en route to a 4-0 win as our lot did in what will go down in history as The First Half of A Thousand Corners, but by the end it was a certified cakewalk, and for eventually carpeing the diem with such aplomb our heroes deserve all sorts of credit and an extra yuletide tipple.
Men Against Boys
Last time I checked Villa had plenty chaps old enough to know how to handle a razor – the likes of Dunne and Melberg (admittedly the latter was not one with too great a penchant for the razor – and jolly impressive he looked for it too) but it seems the current Villa policy is to raid the nearest primary school nativity play cast-list and hope for the best. Consequently some sort of world record was set, as for the first 43 minutes the ball did not cross halfway, only three Villa players actually touched the ball and at one point Lloris leaned up against a goal post and fell asleep. A tough lesson for the assorted eight year-olds in claret and blue, yet they survived to half-time unscathed. Indeed, the first half was one we have viewed aghast a thousand times at the Lane, as unscrupulous visitors arrange an eight-man defence and open their Alamo Do-It-Yourself handbook.
Handily enough, the much-needed Christmas miracle turned out to be Villa hoisting themselves by their own petard, their gamble of actually trying to come out and attack in the second half neatly backfiring as they consequently sacrificed the eight-man defence that had done such a sterling job in the opening 45.
No doubt about it, life become a jolly sight easier once Villa left gaps at the back and our heroes duly cut them to ribbons, with Bale rather conspicuously abandoning his flank and bludgeoning his way straight down the centre.
Subtlety in the Centre (or Lack Thereof)
Back to that first half though, if I may, and the lack of lock-picking ingenuity down the centre. I certainly would not utter a word of dissent to the faces of either Sandro or Dembele, for the pair of them are like genetically-engineered man-beasts, ripped into shape thorugh the regimented approach undertaken by Dolph Lundgren in Rocky i've. Which is all well and good for snapping back the neck of an Italian stallion with a single punch under the imposing gaze of Brigitte Nielsen, but perhaps lacking the requisite subtlety for the dissection of an eight-man defence. Instead, naturally enough, the first half drill was to set Bale off on a left-wing gallop. ‘Tis a problem that has bedevilled us for several years now, and I’ll be darned if I see a solution in the offing.
Pardon the digression. The second half, by contrast, was oodles of fun, as the schoolboys abandoned the very notion of ‘formation’ and instead ran around in little circles and bumped into each other, while our heroes fizzed neat little one-twos forward and backward until we were four up and away over the hills. Particular credit is due to young Master Naughton for an absolute dream of a first-time weighted pass into Defoe for the opener (who knew the boy had that in him?). Elsewhere on the pitch Monsieur Lloris enjoyed one of the more straightforward clean sheets of his career, Vertonghen gave a glimpse of what a beautiful future might look like when he steps forward to intercept from centre-back, and somebody somewhere deserves a rasping thump on the back in recognition of the masterstroke that was kitting out our heroes in navy blue shorts.
Fours points represents an adequate haul so far for the yuletide foursome, and fourth place satisfactory at the halfway stage of the season. Downhill all the way now.
2 years ago
Villa - Spurs Preview: The Only Thing Worse than Losing 8-0?
A rather queer bucket of nuts, the Christmas fixture list. Umpteen fixtures crammed into about a week, and before you’ve separated your gin-based aperitif from your post-dessert port you find yourself rubbing shoulders with Swansea and West Brom in a mediocre scrambling for Europa places, while Chelski disappear into the distance ensconced in third, with l’Arse hot on their heels. Heavens above, don’t we know that particular feeling a little too well? The run of four winnable festive fixtures got off to an inevitably underwhelming start, and we really need at least two wins from the next three. (Well, not strictly true – I suppose we could lose all of these festive fixtures and then win every ruddy game remaining, and there were would be few complaints – but you get the gist: these three Christmas games are made for winning.)
If there is anything worse than losing 8-0 it is presumably losing to a team that has itself just lost 8-0, and the pessimists amongst us would wager that this game has ‘Villa bounce back’ etched all over it. Never mind the three points – imagine the ignominy. Villa took just about every opportunity to let Chelski score the other day, but while they will presumably have had the basics of ‘For’ and ‘Against’ drummed into them by the great and the good of Brummie-land, but one would expect Bale, Defoe et al be capable of leading them a sufficiently merry dance, particularly if they show any hint of ambition on their own turf, and thereby provide our lot with that most gratefully-received yuletide gift: space into which to gallop on the counter.
‘Tis the season for a strained hamstring or two (with Aaron Lennon the AANP hot tip to start feeling the back of his leggings around the half mark), and I confess to being rather curious about the extent to which AVB believes in squad rotation at this juncture, particularly given his insistence in going all guns blazing at the Europa League. Parker, Sigurdsson and Hudd are presumably fronting the list of rotational candidates, should such a list exist within the Villas-Boas cranium, and one wonders whether young Master Defoe might be told to put his feet up this evening, for one reason and another. Whatever the team selections however, this really ought to be a straightforward three points. (Because that always happens with our lot.)
2 years ago
Spurs 0-0 Stoke: The Annual Bleeding-Eyes Experience
‘Twas ever thus, against that particular bunch, and AVB can hardly be lambasted for drawing a blank where countless others have done similarly. If anything this was further frustrating proof that this particular Levy-endorsed project is a long-term one, and still at its nascent stages. Teams will set out to defend with their lives at the Lane, Stoke will set out to destroy football everywhere, and ‘tis hardly revelatory to note that our heroes rather lack the necessary je any sais quoi to slice open a defence with a 10-yard diagonal pass so cunning it can conjure up in its right hand the very cravat that surely sat around your neck just a bally second ago.
Stubbly, gravelly of voice and still disgustingly young he may be, but alas, ‘alchemy’ is notably lacking from the AVB CV. The poor blighter did what he could at the outset, for there was sense in the selections of Daws at the back, and both bona fide strikers in attack. That said, Sigurdsson might have been given a bit longer to set off on his customary dash hither and thither (although the poor lamb does seem destined to become master of the near-miss) and young Master Townsend might have been employed to have a fresh-legged scuttle at the Stoke back-eight.
Instead, we were treated to nothing more novel than the swapping of Lennon and Bale for a fruitless half hour, which seems to have become the mid-game masterstroke of choice amongst the Brains Trust. The move always elicits a rather bemused shrug around these parts. Harmless enough I suppose, but there’s the rub – it is indeed generally quite harmless. I suppose it gives the opposing full-backs something new to ponder, and changes the scenery, and maybe benefits an unscrupulous spot-fixing syndicate in some unholy outreach of the globe, but in terms of genuinely blowing up our skirts and leaving bewildered opponents clawing out their own eyes, I struggle to remember it ever having truly noted it in awestruck tones as a game-changer par excellence. But ‘tis just an idle musing, and it might as well be attempted when a game threatens to peter out to 0-0 as early as the opening five minutes. The point remains that the VDV- and Modric-shaped holes have yet to be filled, and creativity lacketh accordingly.
Elsewhere, Vertonghen again had the air of a man with whom you would want to share a tumbler of whiskey to soothe the nerves on a particularly fraught festive afternoon, and Monsieur Lloris has himself another clean sheet, but Dembele and Sandro increasingly looked like they would rather be playing football than Stoke. Understandably enough. However, in the ‘Small Mercies’ column we did at least avoid concession of some criminally undeserved, scrappy set-piece goal, which at various stages of the second half appeared to be all that was missing from the whole, sorry, eye-bleedingly frustrating experience. Still, if we can erase the episode from our collective memories, it turns out that our heroes are in action again in just a day or two, when happier times – or at least grumbles of a different ilk – await.
Merry Christmas one and all, do allow yourselves a moderate celebration.
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