Merry everyone! I trust the festive period has handled you well? Upon hearing the rumours on Christmas Day that contract rebel Wesley Sneijder was about to join Spurs, the thought occurred to me that someone may have spiked the bread sauce with anti-freeze. Then the sobering but inevitable quotes from Camp Wesley immerged yesterday and the dream cough, spluttered and finally met its maker. There is nothing, absolutely nothing true about that, said one of his representatives, with what sounded like genuine contempt for the very idea. Ho-hum.
It was with flawless timing, then, that Gareth Bale and chums made us forget about Rivaldo/Kaka/Moutinho MK2/3/4 and be thankful for that which we already have- as is customary this time of year. A walloping fine win on Boxing Day was both the ticket and just what the doctor ordered.
The first half at Villa Park was an exercise in sterile domination; gluttonous amounts of possession and corners- lots and lots of corners- but very little in the way of actual chances fashioned. The set-pieces and minutes racked up and still Brad Guzan looked reasonably comfortable with what we were hurling at him. Defoe had a decent one-on-one scuppered, Bale pop-shotted on occasion but the breakthrough didnae come and every man, woman and child could see where this might be headed. As long as it remains 0-0, the dangerous watchwords of the hopeless.
And the Midlanders were hopeless for the most part. A spirited flurry just after the break was the best it got for them before JD and Gareth began sending out invites to the goal banquet. Naughton’s lip-smacking assist started things off; when Spurs were yelling out for a bit of final-ball smarts from the midfield, it was from a rather unexpected source that the lock was finally jimmied. It’s a bloody Christmas miracle!
Then it was all about Bale. His second hat-trick for Tottenham, first in the League. Pace, power, composure and precise finishing. The boy is no more a one-trick winger than I am an astronaut. So numerous are the components to his game that it would be no surprise to learn that he can do a nine dart check-out on demand and has a formidable badminton serve. Multi-talented, multi-layered and genuinely world class. Let’s not take him for granted, shall we?
Sunderland up next.
This fixture from last season will be most fondly remembered for Alex McLeish’s quite spellbinding teamsheet; riding fast and loose with Emile Heskey and Alan Hutton on the wings and four whole centre backs. It was the kind of morbid tactical blunderbussery that had become synonymous with the Scotsman’s reign in the Midlands. Adebayor knocked in two and appeared genuinely troubled that he didn’t get more. The possession stats were more lop-sided than pair of trousers hand-stitched by Mr. Magoo. Glorious times.
With Big ‘Eck long gone, it’s unlikely we’ll be afforded such a pre-emptive surrender from Villa today, which is a shame. Though the football is far from, well, good (Lambert’s a bright coach, yet have I seen any evidence he’s a miracle worker) they at least play with a degree of positivity- ie; endeavour to pass the thing- and the young chaps he’s drafted in appear committed, fearless and a darn sight easier to love. Banishing Alan Hutton to the nether worlds would’ve helped in this regard, also.
Adebayor might well get a chance to continue his Villa-themed scoring bluster this afternoon, having netted three in his last two against them. According to the vigilant folk at PhysioRoom.com, he’s a late fitness test away from being de-hamstrung, which will take some of the pressure off the boy Defoe should things not go swimmingly early doors. Even from the bench and half-fit, it’ll be nice to have options.
Anyone care to make a prediction? A prize for the closest guess. I think we should have too much for ‘em.
Follow WFRF on Twitter.
Keep it under your hats but Spurs can go third tonight. Yes. Exactly. Ruddy heck. In a season where the City of Manchester is shaking off the ghastly idea of having to actually compete with the rest of the league and instead branching off and starting their own SUPER AWESOME MEGA league where non-local types aren’t even allowed past reception, there’s a feeling that anything’s possible in the race for, well, everything else. The mighty Tottenham sit fifth as we speak but fourth and third are by no means out of reach. Needless to say, it’s all gone a bit mental.
It’s Aston Villa who’re looking to put the brakes on our grand ascent this evening. A team who’ve overcome the handicap of a having cheerless ranga in the hot-seat by possessing a strike-force that’s turning out to be rather tasty. Gabby Abonglohor is playing some of the most intelligent football of his career and Sharron Bent could score goals on Mars. You get the impression that if they had better service from the chaps behind them- a midfield that’s all-too-reliant on the form and fitness of Sylvian Petrov- Villa would be pushing that quintet of teams on twenty-odd points teams a bit harder. Charles N’Zogbia has been utterly woeful. To think we were interested in him a few years back. From big fish in a little pond to a half-frozen crab stick lying on the bottom of a swimming pool. Or something.
For Tottenham good news arrived via the medium of Twitter today (where else?) as Rafael Van der Vaart declared himself hamstring-trouble free and ready for action. This, the man who singlehandedly beat the Midlanders last season; in both home and away outings his goals were ultimately decisive. And when I say decisive I mean he got all of them. Right, here we go, then. Anyone care to offer a prediction? I’ll stump for a 4-2er to keep it lively. COYS!
Follow me on Twitter. Go on. I’ll be your friend.
While most of us spent Boxing Day incapacitated on the sofa; happily quaffing sloe gin and picking meat off of a turkey carcass which looked remarkably as if a hand-grenade had gone off inside it, the merry folk of Hotspur were up in the Midlands harvesting three points from an out-of-sorts Villa side. Far from being afforded an easy time of it, this was a performance where the visitors in Lilywhite were required to grab their shovels and hardhats and ruddy well dig deep.
A numerical disadvantage for the best part of an hour certainly didn’t help matters much. Nor the largely curious approach to refereeing by one Martin Atkinson. If you were playing dubious call bingo on Sunday evening, you’d have been on your feet waving a card about the place within half an hour of arriving. Which, oddly, is exactly what Atkinson did as Jermain Defoe saw red for the heinous crime of jumping.
If digging deep was required as the odds swung in Villa’s favour, then Van der Vaart was chief miner. Handed the thankless task of heading a revised 4-5-0 formation- with the Dutchman plonked halfway between a five man midfield and the acres of green space ahead of him where Defoe used to be- he held up the ball like a seasoned target man. It’s a testament to his versatility that Crouch remained benched for as long as he was. His goals were a joy. His touches, his passion and bullish determination, frankly, a bloody Christmas miracle. Notice him hurling his jacket to the floor just before Robert Pires made the foolhardy decision to get within arm’s reach of Joe Jordan. The cause of his outrage? Spurs weren’t awarded a throw-in.
Modric’s ball to Hutton was so exquisite that I thought about writing a strongly worded letter to MOTD and asking them to include it in their Goal of the Month competition. Not the goal itself. Just the pass. Just the two seconds of Croatian magic where the Villa defence was splinched in half like a machete through a coconut. I’d vote for it. If I didn’t think the BBC were going to steal my money and give it to Somali pirates. The bast*rds.
BAE and Palacios were both terrific. Our resident Cameroonian might as well wear aviator sunglasses and chew on a tooth pick- such is the coolness in which he conducts business. Maybe even a cigarette. While still prone to the odd lapse, they’re becoming fewer and farther between and I don’t think it’ll be long before we’re wondering how we ever did without him. Vastly improving, vastly talented.
Newcastle up next. Win and we’ll overtake Chelsea. The race for fourth place and beyond is still wide open.