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All Action No Plot's Michael Lacquiere's Take On Things..
3 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.
3 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
3 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.
3 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.)
3 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.
3 years ago
Spurs - Stoke Preview: Elbows Ahoy!
What ho! AVB has clearly been a good boy this year, with all manner of presents to snatch from the tree and wave excitedly at the parents. Parker, BAE and Kaboul are all at various stages of restored health, and Daws and Bale are apparently fit to go this very afternoon. Our brief bout of Balelessness was not as bad might have been feared, featuring the late debacle against Everton and slow grind against Swansea last week, but our heroes certainly look a lot more mortal without the handsome young Welshman galloping hither and thither, so hearty cheers have been cheered in this corner of the interweb at the news of his return.
Our heroes – and indeed our glorious leader, from whom the order presumably emanated – are to be lauded for the ankle-biting approach adopted last week, that had us pilfering possession in dangerous areas with some frequency. We may not be the same free-flowing purists of recent seasons but there is much to be said for the effectiveness of the kids-on-sweets-and-E-numbers approach of buzzing around opponents with manic enthusiasm. The principle attacking threat will presumably come from Bale, but the return of Parker also raises the intriguing question of whether Dembele might take a more attacking role, at some point over the festive period.
Who can possibly fail to love a visit from those lovable rogues from Stoke? Well AANP, for a start. Season after season that uncouth mob make the blood boil in a manner beyond even l’Arse or Chelski, with their negative, guileless, anti-football approach that borders on ABH. A recall for Daws may be in order today, as their last three or four visits to the Lane have seen them exhibit a principal tactic of lobbing the ball skywards and sharpening their elbows for its re-entry. My goodness I hope we stuff them something rotten today.
3 years ago
Arsenal 5-2 Spurs: AVB Emerges With Some Credit, Oddly Enough
Life just seems jolly unfair sometimes. We might I suppose have lost 6-2 if Adebayor had stayed on the pitch, but the first 15 minutes at least suggested that our heroes had bounced out on the right side of bed this morning and sneakily indulged in an extra Weetabix at the breakfast table to boot.
A thousand violent curses then upon the devil on Adebayor’s shoulder. No complaint at all about the red card, but it is nothing short of maddening that the game swung so completely (and so early) at that moment, something l’Arse did not earn at all but had gifted to them entirely by us. Pardon me while I wince at the sourness of the grapes in the AANP fruit bowl, but I cannot help grumble that this ages-old affair between l’Arse and Lady Luck continues. Still, ‘twas a mistake by a Tottenham player, so ‘twas only right that we reaped accordingly.
A 5-2 defeat in this game of all games would not ordinarily endear the glorious leader to fickle armchair followers such as yours truly, but I rather fancy that AVB earned himself a few points today. The selection of both Adebayor and Defoe away from home was a most unexpected gamble from one who has been peddling conservatism quite so sedulously, but by golly for those 15-odd glorious opening minutes things seemed to pootle along swimmingly.
Similarly, the half-time switch to a vaguely 3-5-1-looking formation seemed to put a little fire into bellies, at a time when I suspect I was not alone in fearing we would submit like resigned lambs philosophically accepting slaughter as just part of life. 5-2 was hardly the desired scoreline, but the manner of the second half performance and AVB’s second half tactical adjustment gave grounds for optimism. To live by the sword and die trying to claw back a two/three-goal deficit is infinitely preferable around these parts to simply limiting damage and accepting defeat with a whimper.
Elsewhere on the pitch
Hudd and Sandro fought the good fight well enough, and until his dismissal Adebayor looked to be making a sterling contribution, while this is unlikely to be a day that will be talked of fondly in the Naughton household for years to come - although the poor lad might have benefited from a tad more assistance from Bale. The handsome young Welshman had a strange sort of day, having seemingly made an early executive decision that team-mates are overrated, and consequently decided to take on the entire Arsenal team, solve the economic crisis and cure AIDS all single-handedly. Not a particularly bad call, for there was further net-rippling evidence today that a Bale on the charge takes some stopping, but the second half chance to pass for Defoe, at 4-2, rather than shoot, would have made life a lot cheerier (a sentiment that is admittedly remarkably easy to express with the benefit of hindsight).
Defeat it is then, but vastly less painful than the Wigan capitulation. AVB remains a curious fish (the goalkeeping selections continue to appear entirely arbitrary) but today it did at least feel like he earned his corn. There are flashes in there, that this season might yet bear fruit.
3 years ago
Arsenal - Spurs Preview: The Art of Mutual Pessimism
Pessimistic times at AANP Towers, as yours truly reflects morosely upon the unholy concoction of unconvincing wins and limp defeats. Curiously enough, our resident l’Arse-supporting chum, Hawthy, is in similarly sombre mood going into this one, as apparently that horrible lot from down the road are doing just as topping a job as we are of creating needless problems from thin air. As you can imagine, recent drinking sessions have been real bundles of fun, as we regale each other with prognostications of gloom. The result of this general coterie of despondency is an insistence on both sides that defeat is inevitable. The sharp-eyed amongst you early Saturday morning robins will notice that logic prevents the transpiring of such mutual ignominies – which leads to the inevitable conclusion that this match must end in a 7-7 draw. (Although I’m still willing to wager that we will throw away a winning position as the clock ticks beyond 89).
The general inability of our heroes to bed in this season has of course been hindered no end by injuries to key personnel, and the absences of Dembele and Kaboul in particular will again be keenly felt today of all days, while Parker and BAE also remain out, and the Friday news was that Defoe and Lennon were amongst those having fitness tests. Crivens. AVB may mischievously fire the occasional curve-ball, but it seems safe to assume that the usual suspects will line up to demand the keys, which means that Messieurs Lloris and Defoe will moodily take their places on the bench today. Young Caulker faces the latest in a series of rather sizeable tests of ability and nerve, and Messrs Vertonghen and Walker could jolly well do with bucking up their ideas from last week, but possibly the greatest onus lies on the rather broad shoulders of Sandro and Hudd, to control matters in the middle. I must confess, the AANP heart is hardly indulging in cheery leaps and whoops at the prospect.
Having beaten United away our heroes ought to have grounds for optimism, but on these occasions there really is no knowing what the dickens will transpire. The AANP prediction is simply that there will be goals.
3 years ago
Spurs 0-1 Wigan: AVB Protects the Fabric of the Universe
In truth, AANP speaks very little of any language beyond the mother-tongue – some impeccably-chosen Latin once the bourbon flows, the odd bon mot in French and bits and pieces of Modric-speak for the benefit of Ms AANP and her kin – so I am hardly an authority on what goes on in the AVB household, but the sneaking suspicion is that there simply is no Portuguese equivalent of the phrase ‘all action no plot’. Certainly the eye-gougingly mental replacement of Defoe with Adebayor as we chased the game yesterday seemed to betray a fervent subscription to meekandmildtinkeringtoprotectthealreadyvastlyovercomplicatedplot.com rather than anything in this neck of the interweb.
That said, tempting though it always is to grumble at the glorious leader, our heroes on the pitch seemed pretty determined to do anything that might be construed as competitive. The two ‘holding midfielders’ would at times be better defined as merely ‘subsisting midfielders’, given that they neither create nor destroy with any particular distinction, nor do anything of note beyond the bare minimum required for existence’ while poor old Dempsey still looks like a man who needs a few jolly good steak-and-chips dinners to bulk up a tad before he will add any particular lustre to the lilywhite cause. Frightfully gaunt, that lad. But carrying considerably less threat than the Walking Dead extras he resembles. Still, with AVB evidently convinced that the simultaneous fielding of two bona fide strikers will destroy the very fabric of the universe it seems that the One-Striker-Plus-A-Dempsey masterplan is here to stay, so we may as well settle down and enjoy it.
As it happens however, by virtue of this lucre-fuelled division and its top-three subset, the realistic goal - of fourth - remains eminently manageable, and is likely to remain so until May ’13, no matter how relentlessly the lilywhite horde peddle their impotence in displays such as these. In the nearer-term, the prospect of redundant, snail-paced sideways passing against Man City and l’Arse ought to keep us all entertained in the coming weeks.
3 years ago
Lilywhite Grumblings Post-Norwich & Pre-Wigan
The table continues to suggest that life is actually tickety-boo, but the brow furroweth with fresh earnestness around these parts, because hanging on for a narrow victory/draw, in games that ought to have been stopped after an hour for sheer cruelty to the opposition, now sits alongside inane twitterings and naughty-business-with-good-looking-but-vacuous-reality-TV-models on the list of favoured past-times of our heroes, with Maribor, Southampton and now Norwich providing recent evidence of this dubious trend.
This recurring business of taking the lead and then embarrassedly retreating and practically rolling out a red carpet for the opposition to wander back into the game, whether they want to or not, is frightfully sporting, but does have the dubious side-effect of leaving the army of lilywhite support wrenching out their hair and boiling their own heads in sheer, unabated frustration.
What the dickens goes in their empty heads when they finally take the lead is quite beyond my ken, but for those perusing the interweb pre kick-off today – and I’m sure most of them do indulge in a spot of AANP while they go about their pre-match rituals - for goodness sake chaps, next time you have a mediocre bunch of rag-tag overweights and amateurs down on the ground, kindly whip out your medical encyclopaedia app, locate the blasted jugular, grab hold of the nearest weapon or stabbing implement and thrust repeatedly until blood spurts all over your garish green boots and the opposition are nothing but a twitching, bloodied, defeated mess.
And Don’t Think You’re Escaping Without Blame Young Man
Our glorious leader hardly covers himself in glory either, for his enterprising tactical approach of bringing on extra defenders when our opponents are ready to crumble, just to make sure that everyone realises the official party line is ‘We’re-One-Goal-Ahead-Of-A-Weak-Team-So-Rather-Than-Take-The-Game-By-Its-Neck-Scruff-And-Deliver-A-Thrashing-Let’s-Barricade-Ourselves-In-And-DEFEND-FOR-OUR-LIVES’. Which is not really the Butch and Sundance modus operandi. Just telling the troops to keep going and score again would probably do the trick, instead of this bizarre reversion to skin-of-the-teeth mode every time.
‘Twas noted by an onlooker after my last witterings that a hidden agenda lurks within the corridors of AANP, to unroot AVB, hurl him from the top floor and reinstall ‘Arry. To reiterate my response, the assorted denizens of AANP Towers tend not to roll thusly. ‘Give AVB a few years’ is very much the mantra being hummed morning, noon and night around these parts, after which we can assess if his range of party tricks extends beyond looking uncannily like a stubbly Vertonghen.
A troubling observation of the early days of his reign is undoubtedly that the fare peddled by our heroes these days has all the gung-ho action-packed content of a dreary black and white arty French film with subtitles, which strays somewhat from the blitz of attacking excitement to which we have been treated in recent years – but one imagines that this will be righted soon enough, particularly when Dembele returns and Adebayor is available again. The trade-off of VDV for Dempsey/Sigurdsson continues to look like shoddy business however, and I will take some convincing otherwise.
So Wigan roll into town today, and top of the wish-list at AANP Towers is that once our lot finally take the lead, they jolly well knuckle down and look for more. The frantic final 10 minutes plus injury time is not big and not clever.
3 years ago
Southampton 1-2 Spurs: As Straightforward As It Gets With Out Lot
Top four after a quarter of the season - and in a team sans Dembele, Kaboul, Adebayor, Parker, BAE and Lloris - there ought really to be few grounds for grumbling. And yet… Asking any Spurs fan not to grumble is like asking a 1920s dandy to stay in for the afternoon and peruse some Descartes – it rather flies in the face of that whole raison d’etre jamboree. Thus it transpires that top four though we may be, one jolly well hopes that AVB’s tactical genius extends to more than these slightly desperate attempts to cling on against teams skipping around the relegation zone. Our glorious leader can hardly be judged on 10 or so games, but performances to date have hardly been of the ilk of the majority under ‘Arry.
First Half Fun
In that joyous first half of course things were so entertainingly one-sided it seemed almost cruel, and the two-goal lead was the half-time minimum. Recent mumblings about lack of fluidity were merrily shoved back down the AANP gullet as Hudd had a whale of a time in those midfield acres, Bale did his usual thing and Lennon’s form continued to be as sparkly as many can remember in his lilywhite career.
The use of Lennon in particular in that inside right channel also has the merry side-effect of unleashing the increasingly angry young Master Walker to gallop up the flank, and while his form this season has not quite been what it was, one imagines that opposing left-backs would rather he just stayed in his own half and picked his nose.
Second Half Regression
So all tickety-boo by the break, prompting ill-advised musings in the AANP cranium as to whether this might be the day on which we racked up four, five or more. Wrist-slappings have been duly administered for such churlish optimism about our heroes’ capacity to get from A to be in the simplest manner possible.
Naturally enough, what followed was not the hiding of Southampton lives, but the gradual regression of our lilywhite lot (or black and grey quarters, or whatever the blinking heck that pyjama outfit is supposed to be. Quite what relevance those colours have to anything in our history is beyond me. Honestly, young people these days.).
Presumably the AVB order was not to drop back ten yards en masse and be a distant second to every other loose ball (at least one jolly well hopes that that was not the AVB order) but in the finest White Hart Lane tradition they certainly contrived to make dashed hard work of it.
Whatever the problem was, poor old Livermore did not seem to be the solution, but in calmer moments of reflection one expects he will improve in time. The overall contribution of Dempsey also remains a little mysterious, and Sandro has some way to go before he can be classified as Dembele-esque (although that close-range, near-decapitating head-block certainly go the juices flowing – good lad).
Plenty of room for improvement then, but one way or another we are picking up these wins, which is the nub of the thing I suppose. Not exactly comfortable though, is it?
3 years ago
Southampton - Spurs Preview: Do Buck Up Now, Chaps
Sniffing around the Top Four is probably just about where we would have wanted to be when the clocks changed, so bravo to our troops, but if focus is switched from the numbers to the pittering and pattering of multi-coloured boots on lush greenery then the outlook is not quite as rosy. Wins have been won, but by and large in slightly unconvincing fashion, with sparks of fluid attacking genius all a bit too rare.
A fixture against second-bottom Southampton, whose shipping of goals left, right and centre is turning into a trademark feature, ought to give our heroes a chance to find some fluidity. Dembele-lessness continues, which means the slightly less energetic frame of Hudd will be lumbering around the centre, but he has it in his armoury to boss the game, particularly against one of the division’s weaker outfits. Elsewhere Adebayor’s injury means that Defoe will again be the lone man in attack, but Bale is back and that alone ought to be enough. For all the adages and pre-match comments for the press, anything less than victory would represent shoddy work. Over to you, chaps.
3 years ago
Maribor 1-1 Spurs: The Half-Hearted Amble to Glory Continueth
Still not really clicking, which is just about grumpily bearable against the European champions, but a darned sight more irritating against Slovenia’s finest. The lack of cutting edge in attack had me thumping my head repeatedly against the nearest wall from around midway through the first half. Injury to Adebayor was a shame, for this game had ‘Two-Man Attack’ scrawled across it in the sort of chunky font normally reserved for unintelligible graffiti. Elsewhere a couple of campaigns were given more scarcely-needed impetus, as the ‘Without-Bale-And-Dembele-We’re-Worryingly-Impotent’ brigade were given a second boost within a week, while the ‘VDV-And-Modders-For-Sigurdsson-And-Dempsey-Is-A-Slightly-Rubbish-Trade-Off-When-You-Think-About-It’ movement, which first stirred into life in August, is gaining credibility by the game.
‘Twas a night on which, given our lack of personnel to play two up front, our deeper midfielders Hudd and Sandro might have shown more attacking urgency. Lennon too just seemed too dashed nice as he went about his business, seemingly reluctant to embarrass his hosts by tearing them to pieces and instead settling for that pause-and-limply-pass-infield routine that is inevitably met with sighs of relief all round amongst the opponents.
Here were a few moments - the lad Falque shook things up a tad on his introduction, and young Masters Caulker and Naughton put in decent performances, but ‘tis rather depressing to clutch at such straws after a bland draw against this lot. Having banged on about what a glitzy, glam competition this Europa thing is, AVB needs to inject some ingenuity and ruthlessness into the training ground protein shakes, and jolly well destroy this lot when they visit the Lane for the return fixture.
3 years ago
Chelsea 4-2 Spurs: Who Knew A Baby Could Cause So Much Trouble?
Some would possibly consider it poor form to wish a thousand violent and irreversible curses upon the new baby Bale, but new mewling, puking wretch will have a few things to answer for as it comes of age. (As luck would have it AANP’s latest newphew was born in Wales a couple of days earlier, so will be instructed to steal Bale Jr’s crayons by way of retribution, at the earliest opportunity). Every inch the modern man, our handsome young Welshman ignored the folk who churn out his millionaire’s salary each week, and instead prepared for kick-off by scarpering off to the homeland to witness the debut of the fruit of his loins. One can hardly prevent such lunacy I suppose (although as Ms AANP pointed out, come the birthing hour in her native land of Modric the menfolk are consigned to the waiting room anyway, while the fairer sex do the hard work).
So with Bale’s gallops directed elsewhere, and Moussa Dembele already out injured, the game was practically ceded before kick-off. Minus Bale and Dembele our heroes looked fairly bereft of attacking ideas in the first half in particular, particularly given the curious game-plan of carefully rationing Aaron Lennon’s involvement to an absolute minimum. Hudd retains possession well enough, but he does tend to do things rather slowly, and the breakneck counter-attacks on which we have been brought up consequently petered out prematurely, epitomised at one head-scratchingly baffling point when Dempsey opted to spin round and dribble back towards halfway.
Having struggled to put two passes together in the first half our lot did buck up a bit in the second, but AVB will have to earn his corn to solve this little tickler, because without our two leading lights the supporting cast do look decidedly less potent. Matters were exacerbated somewhat by our lot’s complete impotence in the face of Chelsea’s slick passing triangles. Be it their back-four or that jolly dangerous attacking triumvirate of Oscar, Mata and Hazard, there were far too many occasions when that horrible mob simply six-yarded their way out of trouble and right up into our area.
Elsewhere on the Pitch
The returns of either BAE or Kaboul cannot come quickly enough, as Gallas chipped in with his now customary sprinkling of lapses. A handy chap to have around the squad, days like yesterday suggested that the visit of the league-leaders is not really the time to be relying upon his creaking limbs. The sooner Kaboul or Vertongehn can replace him in the centre, the better.
Dempsey and Sigurdsson also still look a bit too much like squad players at the moment; and young Master Walker presented the world and his Twitter followers with the most bizarre brain meltdown in the closing stages to seal our fate; but at least Defoe remains in fine fettle, responding to his controversial axing from the AANP fantasy team with the sort of predatory strike that had AANP Senior murmuring something about Greaves. Seeing Torres fluff his lines at t’other end only made it sweeter.
Irritatingly, the nagging suspicion remains that at full strength we would have fared a darned sight better, but such is life, and by the time Match of the Day started we were still in fifth, which was an unexpected bonus. Already this season we have played worse and won, so one rather hopes that Southampton will feel the wrath – and joys of fatherhood – of the lilywhite heroes next week.
3 years ago
Spurs - Chelsea Preview: Little Concern For The Chap On The Touchline
This horrible lot again. Revulsion levels for Chelski were upped to a shuddering maximum over the summer, when they scandalously denied us our champions league spot by somehow flouncing off with the shiny European pot last summer (the moment of their winning penalty – and our champions league elimination – as seen through AANP eyes, was thoughtfully captured hither by a chum while on stag in Portugal).
Just about every article printed over the last 24 hours has lathered on interminably about AVB, his former mob, his current mob, the clash of his former against his current mob, and every other AVB connotation at which one can wave a jolly large stick. But really, for the faithful who troop along to the Lane at lunchtime the nub of the thing is whether our lot outscore t’other lot, with relatively little concern for whichever chap wears the suit on the sidelines.
While four consecutive wins is, statistically, about as fine fettle as we could wish for, the on-pitch stuff has not quite been the very model of fluency. A Terry-less Chelsea provides opportunity, particularly with our handsome young Welshman approaching top form at a gallop, but Messrs Sandro and Dembele will jolly well need to have their defensive hats well secured, as the opponents will have all manner of shiny, expensive foreign types charging at our high defensive line.
Aside from the media frenzy about his former employers, AVB will have to focus on the day job and make one or two sizeable calls regarding personnel. The choice of goalkeeper for a game of this magnitude likely to resonate along the N17 corridors (and while ‘tis neither here nor there admittedly, saving a Cesc Fabregas penalty midweek was a smart move from Lloris, a couple of weeks into his Tottenham career). The other point of interest will be in attack, where Adebayor is by all accounts now back to fitness, and may be deemed a more suitable option as pressure-release in a game like this, despite Defoe’s barely containable gusto of recent weeks. If AANP were in charge the two of them would start, but alas being in charge is a make-believe world in which Gazza’s career would have been saved, 2unlimited would still rule the airwaves and drastic re-writes would have been ordered of the scripts of both Alien 3 and Terminator 3.
Having already bettered Man Utd, through that curious mix of brio and last-ditch defending, our heroes already have one sizeable scalp displayed proudly on the mantelpiece, and that same combo will presumably be required again today. A fifth consecutive win would make this one of the cheeriest crises of the modern era.
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