Last season, Spurs finally discovered the antidote for defensively resilient outfits like Cardiff City: it was called Give the Ball to Gareth Bale and Wait For the Fireworks. A high-risk, perhaps one-dimensional strategy at times, but by golly, more often than not, it worked.
Before the Welshman’s propulsion into the realms of Last Action Superherodom, Tottenham had a fine tradition in dominating the lower-rung sides with no end result; gluttonous amounts possession, shots raining in from all angles and ranges- usually to be met betwixt the posts by a reincarnated Lev Yashin, in no mood to be undone. Stoke, Wolves, Hull. You name them, we’ve made a bungled job of beating them.
Without a Gareth Bale even in the same time-zone on Sunday, then, Tottenham eventually managed to breakdown a dogged Cardiff side with keeper, David Marshall, in the form of his life. Twenty-nine shots we attempted, including those blocked or hammered out of the stadium by Andros Townsend, who continues to impress and frustrate in equal quantities.
For most of the afternoon, Mackay’s men were pegged back and dragged apart by Spurs’ velvet-brand passing machine- Dembélé, Eriksen and Sigurdsson at the heart of everything good. Crucially, though, despite the Icelander thumping one against the crossbar and Soldado going close on a number of occasions, Marshall’s net remained unruffled and that way you could imagine it staying. Just one of those days, you’d reason with a lukewarm despondency.
Until that is, glory be, the 93rd minute. Reminiscent of Del Piero’s consolation goal in the ’97 Champions League Final, Paulinho tears into the box to back-heel the winner and save the day. Impacting substitutes Lamela and Holtby combined well down the right and the Brazilian showed great resolve to meet the cutback. Cue elation, relief and an A Grade bundle. Three deserved points.
Here’re some more arbitrary player ratings, this time as represented by varying forms of cheese.
Hugo Lloris: Camembert de Normandie. With added crackers. IN the box.
Kyle Walker: Maturing Cheddar.
Kyle Naughton: Dairylea Dunkers.
Jan Vertonghen: Boursin.
Michael Dawson: Pineapple and Cheese on a Stick. Hard to beat.
Gylfi Sigurdsson: Cheese Flavoured Moments. Popular with (cross)bars.
Moussa Dembélé: Very Gouda. Sorry. Again.
Paulinho: Stinking Bishop. Overpowering.
Andros Townsend: Emmental. Holes.
Christian Eriksen: Danish (in) Blue.
Roberto Soldado: Parmigiano-Reggiano. Hard cheese.
If Tottenham fans are indeed having to brace themselves for the inevitable hammer-blow of Gareth Bale scuttling off to Madrid this summer, then Levy and Baldini’s antics in the transfer window have made sure the final strike will arrive padded in cotton wool and served with exotic, rum-based cocktails to deaden the sting.
Here’s the latest…
Willian the Brazilian is a fun thing to say and even more enjoyable is the idea that Spurs might be close to signing the former Shakhtar attacker, as beneficiaries in the in-no-way-hilarious financial apocalypse at Anzhi Makhachkala. Clearly aware that the Afro-quota was running dangerously thin after the loss of Tom Huddlestone’s powerful mane, Tottenham appear to have agreed a deal worth around £30million. Here’s the man himself at Heathrow yesterday. Pretty sure it’s legit.
If that wasn’t enough potential joy to process in your cold, hard-wired hearts, then what about the rumours that Erik Lamela might also be on his way to White Hart Lane this week. I wasn’t in London yesterday, was the claim from the Argentine’s representative, Pablo Sabbag, obviously playing hard-to-get after reports broke online that he was in the capital to thrash out a deal (Arsenal might be involved, too). He also went on to say that his man was relaxed and they would both wait to see what happened. I guess you could say it was…in Sabbag?
Still got it.
In news of a different kind, the chaps of Hotspur were back in kickball action on Sunday, managing to narrowly oust Crystal Palace in the season opener. Stand-up comedian Ian Holloway blamed the ref for his team’s defeat, but I’d like to think having better players, having more possession and scoring more goals were the deciding factors in a game which should’ve been dead and buried after the hour. Newly promoted Palace were far from terrible, they just flitted half-heartedly between adventurous and conservative but never quite had the conviction to decide which was working best. Jedinak was excellent.
Elsewhere we saw impressive debuts for all four of our summer signings; in particular the cameo of Étienne Capoue. Tidy in possession, interceptor extraordinaire and generally derived great pleasure from steam-rollering through Palace’s number when the mood struck.
Call the internet police if you want but I won’t be mentioning the ‘B’ word in this parish today as there’s been enough comment on him in the brief time I’ve been offline to feed a moderately-sized army. If, of course, said army had found the secret of transforming pure conjecture into some kind of light pastry. How many calories do you think are in the words ‘MAN IS DRIVEN TO WORK AND PEFORMS WORK AT PLACE OF WORK!’?
Enough not to need pudding, I’d wager.
Just as we’re gawking into the shadowy abyss of one transfer saga, then, the resolution of another appears to be in sight. Reports from Spain (trust them selectively, is my advice) are suggesting that Roberto Soldado is on his way to Spurs for a club record £26million. Some even proposing that the Spaniard is due in London today for the mandatory once-over from the club doctor and his stethoscope. Presumably to make sure that his surname isn’t literal and there’s not a piece of shell-casing wedged deep in his derrière. Oh, look at that, it’s now all official.
Meanwhile Gigi Becali has been uncharacteristically impulsive in this whole botched Vlad Ciriches transfer. Just as the talented Romanian was set for a move to White Hart Lane- a deal far enough down the line for AVB and Levy to believe Caulker could be sold to Cardiff- the liberal, open-minded Bucharest owner decided to pull the plug and there the dream died and spun into the gutter. Wonder what the back-up plan is? Toby Alderweireld? Convert Huddlestone into a deep-lying libero?
More as I get it.
While those suspicious Paulinho quotes might have to be sent off to the lab for further assessment, it was left to our very own Mr. André to provide the most reassuring sound-bites of the close season so far, as he bid a polite non, merci to the Parisian Energy Barons and consigned his immediate future to Spurs:
“My commitment is with Tottenham.
It was the club that allowed me to return to the Premier League and I feel good there”
And, yesterday, Laurent Blanc was officially given the keys to PSG vault and it’s there the story ends.
Good show from Villas-Boas, I would say. Even for the most optimistic of fan, there’s always the slight feeling of discomfort when New Money rolls into town and make their intentions known. You can talk all day about loyalty and Doing The Right Thing but when someone’s offering to swamp your bank account with enough money to reanimate the corpse of Walt Disney (plus a fast-track route into the Champions League) it’s a brave man who can turn it down flat. Not that we’re paying him in WH Smith vouchers or anything.
Far from being content to just sit back and admire his own brilliant decision, the Portuguese coach has also been talking this week about the future of Gareth Bale; again providing quotes which you’d be hard pressed not to file under ‘positive’:
The chairman said that we are not open to offers, whatever they are, and that the player will stay,” he told Portuguese newspaper O Jogo on Monday.
“In football anything can happen, but these are the guarantees given to me.
Presumably the only thing he can’t guarantee is that Zinedine Zidane won’t throw a hessian sack over the Welshman and smuggle him down into his wine cellar until he agrees to sign for Madrid. And the odds on that happening are shortening by the day.
Hullo. Right, enough small-talk let’s get straight to it. Reports are emerging from the underworld that Gallic nouveau riche outfit, PSG, have made contact with the ‘people’ of fellow shorthand favourite, André Villas-Boas. The thinking is that after Carlo Ancelotti is eventually called to Madrid to snuff out the public relations tyre fire left by José Mourinho, an alluring managerial position will be left in his wake- and the Parisians want it filled by AVB.
Although I think Villas-Boas would loath to walk out on Spurs after one season- he genuinely looks like a man content and is being afforded plenty of love from the greater part of Tottenham fans- it does worry me that the French club wouldn’t baulk an inch in the face of the no-doubt colossal buy-out clause Daniel Levy will have attached to AVB’s contract. If they make Levy (and Villas-Boas) a head-spinning offer, then it’s possible we’ll be looking for a new manager in the coming months. Which would be totally sh*t.
There’s a good chance, of course, that the story is complete piffle in a ‘Press Make Up News’ shocker. PSG AVB S.O.S makes a neat headline (Hi, Antony!) but never before has a deal been settled on its acronym potential.
Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s pursuit of Gareth Bale continues afoot. I wasn’t initially aware that the ‘Special Relationship’ we’d formed last summer with the Spanish giants was a go-ahead for any bipedal life-form associated with the club to declare their uninhibited fondness for Welshman. He’s the best player in Europe, said Zidane. He was born to play for Madrid, blurted Florentino Perez. Terrible opinions, offered Steve McManaman, most of the time.