So, dearest reader, here we are. The end of another season and for the second year on the spin May 19th goes down as a miserable day in the diary for those connected with Tottenham Hotspur Football Club. In any other context, in any other footballing universe, apart- rather inconveniently- from the one we find ourselves a part of, this would be a time for triumphant celebration; having just recorded our best ever points total in the Premier League and highest number of wins. Instead we look back on an otherwise tremendous campaign with a modicum of regret that we couldn’t squeeze out another bloody point from somewhere, somehow. Everton away, Fulham at home, QPR away. Don’t even torture yourself.
In the end I was quite thankful the final day wasn’t cast in some dreadful Spurs-brand melodrama or that we weren’t socked by some heartbreaking thump of irony. Apart from the phantom goal at St James’ (seen only by Alan Sugar) things ran as you might have expected. Andre Marriner’s exotic interpretation of the rules of football was infuriating but not ultimately to our cost (although you could suggest it would’ve ratcheted up the pressure on Arsenal had they’d known we were winning). There was no ex-Spurs keeper throwing the ball into an empty net (Ben Alnwick’s brother stayed on the bench) and no Tottenham players bent double in the penalty area trying to hold in the contents of their bowels. We did everything that was asked of us: it’s just the team above did likewise and we came up short by the slenderest of margins.
I’m largely delighted with Andre Villas-Boas’ work as a coach. The injuries and summer departures have been well covered, but it shouldn’t be underestimated what the Immense Dimensioned One achieved in his first year at the club without seven- eight, you could argue- of the players who were so vital for Spurs last season. In one guise or another Kaboul, King, BAE, Parker, Sandro, Modric, Van der Vaart have either left or been sidelined for considerable stretches of the year. You could probably throw Adebayor into the group too, who, up until about a month ago, was either injured, in a different continent or just being straight-up appalling at football. And, while new players have been recruited and in some cases been improvements- Lloris, Vertonghen- that’s still a sizeable turnaround of clientele and not a lot of time to make it work. But work he has made it.
The summer we’ll be treated to another exhausting transfer odyssey, pertaining to the multi-award-winning Gareth Bale. Rumours of a new contract won’t do much to p*ss on the fires of speculation but in my loins, I’ve a feeling he’ll stay on for another year at least. While we might not be able to offer the platform of Champions League football to exhibit his astonishing talents, he does seem to enjoy himself at Tottenham and in Villas-Boas he has a coach who’ll get the very best out of him. If Wing Commander Levy can club together all his Nectar points in the warmer months and buy a word-beater or two, then the decision might be made even easier. Hey, things are looking up already. COYS.
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Welcome back, web-slingers. I hope the trauma of Please Don’t Get Broken week hasn’t withered your spirits too much. In the name of fun it might be handy for Tottenham if Swansea took the same casual, post-cup-winning attitude to the rest of the season as King, Jenas & Co. did back in 2008. That is: this football lark is all very well, chief, but it does rather get in the way of me tanking cava in an up-market discothèque while speculating whether flip-flips or sandals might be the way to go this summer. Not so much foot off the gas as parked up on the hard-shoulder and whipping out the egg sandwiches.
Indeed, Birmingham City took the whoopla a step further in 2011 and got themselves relegated- which is a bit over the top if you ask me.
Whether they’ve mentally signed off for the day or not- two losses out of three since Wembley- the Welsh have been magnificent this campaign. An imminently likeable bunch whose sharp-as-a-tack passing game has gained them many an admirer and steamrollered many an opponent. Heck, this blogger- perhaps hypnotized by the exotic Eurosexy charisma of Michael Laudrup- went as far as to suggest they could be regarded as Champions League contenders: before they inconveniently got pulverized by Liverpool and there the harebrained theory was taken out back and shot.
Good old fashioned winning is the name of the game for Tottenham and Andre Villas-Boas this weekend. Chelsea and Arsenal are treated to a decent but beatable Southampton and a flat-lining Nigel Adkins’ side respectively- so anything but maximum points could see us slip into 5th before the day is through. The trick to beating this lot- something we’ve managed twice in three games since their promotion- is squeezing the blighters like John Goodman squeezes frogs. Allowing the Mighty Swans time on the ball is an explicit negatron and, as such, the line-up should reflect a willingness to close down and hassle the home side’s ball-hogging stars. Plenty of energy and legs, then. Lewis Holtby, a fresh Scott Parker, Sigurdsson perhaps even Tom Carroll should be chewed over and considered for selection. Here’s how I’d line the chaps up. But what say you?
Cook a cat! It’s the final group stage matches of the Europa League proper. Spurs, god bless ‘em, are unbeaten so far and go into this eve’s game against Panathinaikos with a two point buffer betwixt themselves, 1st and 3rd. Which, when all the highly complex algorithms are processed, checked and checked again, means a draw will be enough for delightful progress into the knock-outs. And if we can’t manage at least a point against this rabble of Hellenistic Herberts, then perhaps this is the station we ought to get off at anyway.
We’ve fielded a pretty competitive line-up in each of the group games up until now, so the expectancy is that Villas-Boas isn’t about to change tact at the crucial moment this evening. From the start, at least, the team’s going to look reasonably fierce. Tom Carroll will likely start and what an ideal occasion for him to rock the Kasbah with an assertive midfield performance. European tie, pulling the strings in the centre, under the lights. This could be the making of the young man.
Meanwhile I’d fancy Adebayor to play on his lonesome up front. Injuries, suspension and the remarkable- admit it, surprising- form of J-Dizzly aside, it’s maybe time the smiling Togolese hitman stopped fannying about and got on with the business of doing professional kickball. When all’s said and done, you’d have to concede, it’s what he does best.
Anyway, here’s how I’d line the chaps up. But what says you?
A seven-goal North London derby it was, then. Regrettably five of those goals went to our fiendish neighbours and just two…well, I’m sure you can do the numbers. There’s much to be learned in defeat, of course, if you’re an open-minded sort: first, this kind of nonsense would’ve never happened under Harold James Redknapp’s stewardship and second, writing in a notebook is the hallmarks of a man with the last thread of sanity sprouting from his ear.
Making notes, according to The Mail, is an act of bibbling lunacy. Terry Connor makes notes. Certainly not a credible manager wishing to be taken seriously. You wouldn’t catch Mourinho making notes. Or even a good British manager like David Moyes.
Away from all the tabloid stink-palming of Villas-Boas, the game was a grim but perhaps avoidable catastrophe. That’s not to say Spurs wouldn’t have buckled under the weight of an Arsenal comeback had Adebayor not gone all Chopper O’ Braindead on Cazorla- we were pegged back by City the week before- but at least we’d have had a firmer base on which to defend our lead or even send out more invites to the goal party. They looked fairly whiffy at the back, it has to be said.
Villas-Boas’ second-half tactics were brave in that he didn’t just put blind faith in trying to contain Arsenal and keep the score from spiralling out of control and into I’m-not-going –outside-for-a-month territory. Switching to three-at-the-back was a courageous move in light of the home side already having put our defence under considerable pressure in the half’s final throes. The temptation to limit the damage must’ve been great so we must doff our caps for that. Clint Dempsey probably had his best game for us, too, so the only way is up.
And up we must go. The reality now is that we’ve lost four out of the last five in the League and we need to show some of this much fangled character to turn the tide. Mitigating circumstances aside- injuries, red cards, Presidential elections- Spurs and Villas-Boas have some work to do. Starting in Rome. Which, I hear, wasn’t built in a day.
We’ve got your back, Andre.
Morning, campers. The news we’ve no choice but to file under Definitely Not Helpful is that of Moussa Dembele’s impending and continued absence. Now, we’ve only seen Germinal Beerschot’s finest export on a handful of occasions this season; it’s perhaps a rather worrying indictment of our situation that for every game that passes in which he’s not on the team-sheet, I want to stand fully-clothed under a shower and weep. Spurs were given a gift at the end of August, and far too soon after unwrapping and seeing what cool stuff it could do, it’s been taken from us. Oh ye footballing gods. Deliver us from Tom Huddlestone and I’ll be sure to sacrifice as many goats as ye see fit.
Arsenal aren’t without their own problems. After the miracle of Steve Bould Defensive Guru™ turning out to be just some rather unpleasant gastric wind, the Gooners look as ropey and indecisive as ever. Worse than us at times. Like Spurs they’ve had injuries to key men (For BAE and Kaboul read Sagna and Szczesny) and like us they’re perhaps having teething problems with the exuberance of youth (for Walker and Caulker read Jenkinson). Where they might not have expected the backline frailty to stem, however, is at the calamitous feet of one Thomas Vermaelen, who’s been terrible for some time now.
It’s not all bad for Mr. Wenger. In Santi Cazorla he’s got quite literally a super footballer, and thanks to the catastrophic money-haemorrhaging of his former employers, came at a nice, Eurozone-friendly price. He’s going to look dashing in a Man City shirt I’m quite sure.
Moving away from the NLD for a minute. Ever one for the well-timed bellyache, Didier Deschamps has been stamping his feet this week, like the petulant man-child he is. I’ll not bother with the quotes; they read much like the ones he made last time…and the time before that. Hugo Lloris isn’t getting the minutes and there’re plenty who think he should be- myself included- but sacre-bleuing yourself silly every time the boy’s benched isn’t helping. If anything it’s making a delicate situation worse. In short, Monsieur Water-Carrier, you need to make quiet your noise-hole and get H2Over it.
Now, the trifling matter of besting those rotten neighbours. A great deal, you’d imagine, will rest on the burly shoulders of Emmanuel Adebayor, who ought to start after last weekend’s all-action masterclass in lone-strikerism- and AVB has suggested as much. For an hour against City, he held the ball up well, ran the channels and bought others into play to good effect; three boxes the modern solo frontman is obliged to tick these days. Scoring goals: nice also. Trolling Zabaleta: all part of the service.
With significant absentees, there’s no denying that our midfield has a bit of the Diet Cokes about it, rather than the robust, full-fat version a Parker or Dembele might elevate us toward for a tricky away game such as this. Being on the lighter side of lightweight, then, Sandro is utterly vital. Key also, will be the chaps jogging alongside him in matching shirts. The Brazilian will pull up trees until team-time but he sure as heck can’t do it without friends. Whether it’s Huddlestone, Carroll or Sigurdsson in there: they’ve got to share the burden of putting Arsenal’s midfield through the meat grinder evenly.
There Will Be Goals.
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