By the time the single-term Champions arrive at The Lane tomorrow it’ll have been a whole ten days since our semi-tragic parp-parp-whoops exit from the Europa League. In that period, Arsenal and Everton will have played thrice and Chelsea and City on two occasions. These things rarely boil down to the machinations of a diary, of course, but with just five points betwixt 6th and 3rd even the smallest scheduling advantage could be crucial for the teams involved. It’s all about the little things, as I’m often told by the good lady- with no regard for my self-esteem whatsoever.
As well as giving a rest to the world-weary lambs who were put through the extra-time ringer in Switzerland last week, the enforced sabbatical has allowed a sizable hunk of downtime for the recuperating trio of Defoe, Lennon and multi-award nominee, Gareth Bale. While risking all three from the start would be a dick move in the extreme, the noise from the camps is that all are in contention. Here’s some of that noise now, in the form of words:
“All of them are in with a chance of making selection.”
“Gazza has been training for the last two days with the team and on his own since the beginning of the week.”
“He has made good progress from the beginning of the week to training with the team, so definitely will be up for selection.”
“We recognise the impact he has had for us. With the run that he is on it can have that factor.
“It is good having key players around and players who have been decisive, especially in this last part of the season is always inspirational for everyone. It’s good to have him back”
Phew! Well this team picks itself:
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?
Not for the first time in recent memory this weekend’s North London Derby is being heralded as the Most Important North London Derby For Literally Ages. To be honest, most of them feel pretty significant these days. Ever since the Footballing Gods hauled Spurs out of their mid-nineties/early-naughties funk and brain-fiddled the Wenger Drone into thinking Fourth Place was something you could polish and put in your trophy cabinet, the games have become exciting, goal-mental and above all, competitive. The equilibrium in the Capital has been tweaked and the Derby has flourished as a result.
Indeed, in each of the last three seasons there’s been at least one NLD you could hang your hat on and say: Holy Mackeral, that’s a spicy meatball! Confusing your culinary-themed exclamations while you were at it.
In 09/10 it was Gomes, Bale and Danny SH*T DID YOU SEE THAT?! Rose who baked Arsenal at White Lane Lane, in a crucial end-of-season encounter; the result of which (hilariously) ended any title hopes the Gunners may’ve entertained while going a great way to helping Spurs toward Big Euro Sexy Cup qualification.
The following year a six-goal even-spread in the identical fixture was damaging for both clubs, as it gave the Sky Blue EuroMillions winners a chance to get a throttlehold on 3rd and pushed us further down the cack heap. And, just last season, at the Emirates, what should’ve been a procession in tying up the loose-ends of a top-three finish, turned into a mummy, will I ever feel happy again 5-2 defeat and the beginning of the end for us and Harold James Redknapp. All pivotal games, all season-defining.
How Do You Solve a Problem Like Gareth? Just Ignore Him
And just what will this latest epochal meeting bring? Well, if you’ve listened to Arséne Wenger this week, what shan’t be brought to the party is any semblance of a plan for sojourning the flight of one Gareth Bale:
‘We don’t plan for anybody. It is always the same – focus on our strengths and forget about your opponent.’
Yep, solid advice there. Might I also suggest that you give him loads of room? In fact, whenever he’s in possession, just run as far away from the ball as possible. He hates that.
Agent Parker, Come In- Your Time Is Now!
I’ve talked about the renewed importance of Scott Parker elsewhere, but for Spurs what might be useful is if the Brother From Another Decade had something close to the game of his life- if it’s not too much trouble. Failing that, a performance with some degree of tactical discipline would be just dandy.
If Arsenal’s midfield trio of Arteta, Cazorla and Wilshere are treated to vast avenues of space as a by-product of the England man trying to put out fires in every corner of the pitch, there may be trouble ahead. Scott Parker has remarkable strengths as a player but sadly one of those isn’t the awareness of his own limitations. And if that’s not straight from the Little Red Book of Brendan Rodgers, I don’t know what is. To the teams:
West Ham at the Boleyn Ground later and after last night’s annual Luvvies Gong Show what better way to mark the occasion than by taking a look at Hammers’ fan Danny Dyer’s latest celluloid release, Run For Your Wife. Taking no less than several pounds in its opening weekend, this gripping tale of a loveably monogamous cab driver who doesn’t much care for society’s rules, has been cruelly overlooked by The Academy this year; despite managing to nail at least six of the ten most relevant themes of our time; including what happens when you step on a garden rake and whether Christopher Biggins plus Lionel Blair (to the power of Neil Morrisey) really does equal box office gold.
(Hint: it does)
Once you’ve thanked the appropriate higher powers that you weren’t involved in that motorway pile-up, we move on to the soccerball. Tottenham are in the increasingly familiar position of being able to leap-frog Chelsea this evening, should three points land in their possession at the expense of Big Sam’s Hammers.
It’s been a somewhat confusing season for the disciples of West Ham, one in which the only constant is the unpredictably of the performances. Sitting in the relative comfort of 13th (level with La Resurgent Néwcastle) they’ve picked up points in the most improbable of places since breaking free of the Championship, but countered this with several disappointing malfunctions against League dross.
Only last week did they follow their impressive win against Europe’s Swansea City with a horrible performance at Villa Park; a fixture for the most part that football historians will remember as The Game That Was Worse Than Almost Everything. They’ve drawn with City, thumped Chelsea; but also lost to Reading and been schooled by Sunderland. To misquote Milhouse, you never know which way this crazy team’s going to go!
Statistic-hater, Andre Villas-Boas, has one or two selection dilemmas ahead of tonight’s trip across town. At centre-back there’s the choice to involve Michael Dawson, whom might be best suited to negate the aerial and physical prowess of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan. Although Caulker and Vertonghen is the technically superior combination, they were a certified mess against the bigger boys of Leeds in the Cup and you’d imagine AVB would like to avoid a repeat of that.
Despair! Like the lilywhite dove flattened in a spring-loaded cage by the plotting Alfred Borden, Spurs fell quarry to some old-fashioned magic this weekend- and they were not alone. With some of the biggest names from the Planet’s Bestest League (and Liverpool) all labouring to overcome significantly modest opponents, you’ll be happy to learn that the F.A Cup is not a complete stiff yet. Huzzah!
Leeds deserved their win. Yes, the pitch might’ve looked as if Time Team had been in residence for the afternoon, but a few divots here and there doesn’t excuse defending like prats. Colin’s United took the chances when they fell and were only a curmudgeonly premature whistle away from scoring a third. Europa League it is, then?
Talking of all things premature (steady) Lewis Holtby was handed over from Schalke this week- and a whole three days before the window closes, too. I was beginning to think Levy was rather pushing his luck with the parsimonious low-balling of the German club. But, as it was pitched by the esteemed Longwell last week:
“Either they take what Levy’s willing to offer in the next week or so, or Holtby comes in the summer and they get nothing and like it.
The question is how much is fourth months’ of Holtby’s services worth to Schalke?”
About £1.5 million it would appear. Anyway, here he is with AVB and the shirt- he’s been given the number 23. And, if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s Alan Hutton being unveiled at Mallorca. How odd.
Canaries away tomorrow.
This is that unique time of season where us Spurs bloggers can just put our feet up and get the pool boy to fix us another Martini espresso. United at Old Trafford. You could bash any hokum and fipsy into this match preview and we might as well be reading someone’s particularly fine recipe for a béchamel sauce, for all the feelings of optimism it could hope to arouse.
We know the stats. Not since the terracotta-hued crisp peddler scored the winning goal have we taken anything from the red half of Manchester. The year was 1654 and Oliver Cromwell had just launched an English expedition to the Caribbean. A golden age, for sure.
Here by way of alternative, then, is a transcript of the brilliant exchange between André Villas-Boas and a mischief-making press grunt yesterday. This was looted unashamedly from Off the Post and it also appeared on Football365. Do your best to enjoy the weekend.
Journalist: “Andre, do you understand Hugo Lloris’ frustration about the situation, because you did pay a lot of money for him?”
AVB: “What is the frustration?”
Journalist: “Well, the frustration at not being in the team.”
AVB: “How do you know?”
Journalist: “Well, he didn’t play last night, did he?”
AVB: “How do you know he’s frustrated?”
Journalist: “No, I’m asking you, do you find him frustrated?”
Also found on Twitter.
Attempting to measure the significance of beating a fairly shambolic newly-promoted side who hadn’t played for nearly a month is an imprecise science at best. As much as one wouldn’t necessarily need to drink a litre of undiluted bleach after a stalemate with Norwich, these things are all about perspective.
Have we won the Champions League as a result of swatting aside the Royals with relative straightforwardness? No, no we have not. Would the Earth have been plunged into thirty years of impenetrable darkness had Villas-Boas only delivered a draw, or, worst still, a defeat? Again, no. It’s unlikely. Almost zero times has this happened.
Should we be optimistic about the season ahead on the back of the weekend’s football? Why, I’d almost encourage it.
The facts, then. Straight as a biro.
Sandro, Dembele and Sigurdsson is a thrilling midfield triumvirate. While the Icelander has had a somewhat ponderous start to life in Lilywhite- quite often he takes entirely too many touches before deciding his next move- it’s clear the boy has oodles of technical ability (the ball to Lennon for the first goal was teetering on the boundaries of sexually explicit) and provides excellent foil for the directness of Dembélé and our two electric-heeled wingers. As soon as he settles into his role and overcomes his timidity in possession, he’ll be one of our key men this year.
No need for such patience with Sandro. A monstrous presence he is in the centre of midfield. And whisper it quietly, he looks fit, too.
Jan Vertonghen. The Library Full of Leather-Bound Books of defenders. I heard on Twitter the other day that Peter Beagrie said of the Belgian: ‘he plays like he’s got champagne in one hand and a cigar in the other’. It’s a great quote and one that’s certainly fitting. There’s so much class vomiting from his very being, it makes me feel about as refined as a Victorian chimney sweep in comparison.
Jermain Dizzly. The one-man goal-machine. Still, for me, question marks over whether he can consistently fulfil the role of being a lone frontman, but you cannot argue with his form at the moment. Honestly, you can’t. I’ve tried. And the way he bought the ball out of the air from the long, sweeping punt from Sandro, well, that was a ridiculous carry-on. If only he’d trusted his left foot as much as he did with his second goal. If only I had some money I could stop the brakes on my car sounding like whale song.
And finally, to our glorious leader. It was genuinely heart-warming to see Villas-Boas celebrate the goals with such enthusiasm. However ludicrous it might be, the building swirl of media nonsense had created a sizeable weight for the shoulders of AVB in the days leading up to kick-off; and with each goal and each elated fist-pump you could see the pounds just shedding off him. You could see the relief. You could feel the joy. Tie removed and all smiles at final whistle, he deserved his moment in the late-afternoon sun.
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I think it was Robert Smith who said it best: balls to the rest of the week, Friday’s where it’s really at. Or words to that end. I for one agree with the magnolia-hued songstress. Friday is very much among us and its co-piloted by the end of the international sabbatical and the resumption of bonafide League soccer. Whallop!
I won’t knock the interlude; as is often and rightly fashionable. For starters it had the good grace not to break any of our stars and for main-course/pudding it gave us some barnstorming Spurs-themed action. That free-kick from the Boy Bale against the Serbs was a certified ‘mad-banger’. Also, by the medium of a fairly ropey highlights package and a stream in which the action looked to have been filmed on an oven chip, it was nice to catch a double-viewing of our Belgian brothers, Jan and Dembele. It’s the new Croatian, don’t you know.
Elsewhere this week, the ridiculous sh*t-storm over Hugo Lloris appears to have died down a little. As the media oiks got their breeches in an almighty twist in the days after the transfer deadline, at the revelatory suggestion that Bradley Friedel might’ve earned his number one berth after a ripping good display against Norwich, the only news to report now is that Hugo is, get this, willing to fight for his place. A shocking turn of events.
To Reading, then. My lasting memory of this lot is Berbatov, at the height of his sexual prowess, twonking four past them at The Lane in a post-Christmas slugfest. A daft game in which we perhaps first realised Pascal Chimbonda was going to be *cough* ‘a problem’. Seriously guys?, lovely Dimitar’s face cried.
In these current winds of change, I’m sure most of us would gladly settle for a plodding 1-0 victory on Sunday. Who knows, we’re probably capable of dismantling McDermott’s men with holes on the belt to spare. But this seems to be one of those occasions where the performance is largely immaterial. AVB needs a break- from the alarmist media, from the small section of boo-turds hogging up all the living space- and one feels only three points will allow him such a luxury. Then, perhaps, he can go about his business of exacting Spurs’ World Domination uninterrupted. Again, we’re right behind you, Andre. Good luck.
“With a nap,the day is not enought long…i make a dream!As we signe a BIG STRIKER. Very good! who score many goal!!!but it was. A dream LOL”
Disco Benny, there. Dreamweaver.
Hello. I shan’t mention the astonishingly obvious fact that there isn’t a 6ft 2” crate marked ‘Sh*tting Fabulous New Centre Forward’ parked in Daniel Levy’s office right now. Let’s face it, if that were the case, this isn’t the first place such oven fresh news would be served from. The last scoop I had was raspberry ripple. I’m just going to assume Spurs haven’t done any business today, and we can all just get on with our lives. Not a word from this dark corner of the internet until the happening is, you know, actually happening.
Something which does appear to morphing into some kind of bipedal news story- and it’s bloody running- is the buzz regarding Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila. Allegedly a one time target for Arséne Wenger, my thoughts are two-fold. Firstly is that he looks to be a terrifically talented and dynamic midfielder, from what I’ve seen of him (and amazingly that’s at least three whole games). He’s a smart biscuit with the ball at his feet and, despite being roughly categorized as a ‘defensive’ midfielder, isn’t unfamiliar with the concept of the ball moving in other directions as well as sideways. The second thing to notice is that he appears to occupy a position we have relatively well covered. Begging the question, do we need him?
I’m won over by the fact that the chap has an apostrophe in his name but I’m sure Liverpool fans felt the same about Big Dave N’Gog.
**Last reminder for Fantasy Football…** Click this way to join the WFRF Fantasy League. It would be lovely to have you on board. The League name is Fantasy Mr. Fox and the code is 494918-128606. Winner gets a copy of FIFA13. Also, by popular request, there will be prizes for teams finishing in 2nd and 3rd position. Best of luck!**
The hour draws close, then. Spurs’ season curtain raiser at the ground formerly known as St. James’ Park is but a week away. Seven days is a long time in football, of course. That’s what they say. All that our virtuosic leader need discover now is, whether it’s enough time to persuade Wing Commander Levy to part with some of his delicious lolly and reel in the illusive Fernando Anyberk, to add to our depleted assemblage of fit and willing centre-forwards.
Providing he’s not just the latest YouTube flavour du jour, I say we offer £500 and the all-weather barbeque that’s sitting in my shed. But not a spot more.
Elsewhere, Steven Caulker and Jake Livermore have been called up to the England squad that faces Italy next week. With these two bright sparks on board, and the joyous absence of Cole, Rooney, Gerrard and Weapon-in-Chief, John Terry, you know, I can feel a heave of patriotism creaking in my loins. Gerrron,’ England!
News which’ll have to be filed under ‘less good’ is word of Scott Parker’s impeding absence from the team. Although we can assume the surgeon used all the right jabbers and cutters when working on the midfielder’s delicate Achilles, it will mean he’s out until mid-September. Fiddlesticks.
If only we had someone who could fill in?
Fantasy Football- Chance to Win FIFA13 + Prizes For 2nd and 3rd
** Click this way to join the WFRF Fantasy League. It would be lovely to have you on board. The League name is Fantasy Mr. Fox and the code is 494918-128606. Which ever team rises to the top like a wilful stool on the third or fourth flush, will get a copy of FIFA13. Also, by popular request, there will be prizes for teams finishing in 2nd and 3rd position. Best of luck!**
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