So, like a pair of butcher’s sausages, the resplendent fortune-hunters of Hotspur have managed to string together two wins against teams who’ve spent a good portion of their season encamped in the bottom three. In Sunderland’s case, one so long stationed in the relegation zone, they might soon be required to pay rent.
While it’s doubtful beating Fulham and the League’s absolute worst will convince the cynics (or fans of Glenn Hoddle: Football Manager) that the ship is at least facing the right way; it does count as some kind of start. By the power of almighty greyskull, it’s a start.
The arse of Twitter came awfully close to falling through in the minutes before kick-off on Saturday, as many Tottenham fans looked upon AVB’s line-up and decided it was bad. He’s gone insane, was the cry. Throw him in the river, said others. This all before remembering that, as well as having to countenance one or two key injuries, the Spurs coach was in the helpful position of having seen his players in training all week and perhaps the savvier judge.
Hey, I’m not going to sit here and say that I glanced at that team selection and thought wow, we are looking sharp tonight, Matthew but I don’t get to choose. And that, demonstrably, is a good thing.
Elsewhere some shoestring outfit called Arsenal were drawn in the F.A Cup third round.
Thirty-five is more his territory. As if personally affronted by the idea that Spurs were incapable of scoring from open play, Sandro discharged the mother of all projectiles this weekend, rumbling a live one off his right-foot with enough force and precision that you’d be genuinely concerned for the wellbeing of David de Gea had he attempted to waft one of his delicate wrists at it.
If the young Spaniard has ever Googled the phrase ‘de-gloving’ (which he certainly shouldn’t) or heard the alarming tale of an airport engineer getting their hand caught in the mechanism of a luggage carousel (again, I wouldn’t advise doing any research) then he might feel the safest place for something travelling at that speed was nestled in the top-corner and out of harm’s way.
It was only the Brazilian’s third goal in Spurs colours and the third which started life way outside the box’s orbit. Mark Schwarzer was between the sticks for Sandro’s last monstrous effort, a year ago on Sunday, and he’s since ended up at Chelsea. Which is a lesson for all of us.
The Big News as far as Tottenham are concerned is that drawing two-each with the Champions is much better than getting pumped 6-0. Hey, it’s difficult to get your head around but those are just facts. What’s perhaps more encouraging, than being a single point better off than last week, is that Spurs looked like a team who hadn’t just met in reception. There was a cohesive look about the side, that, far from being missing all season, (keep this on the hush-hush but we’ve not been terrible in most of our games) was unquestionably absent in the mauling at Eastlands. Which, as a contest, was like watching a whole team of spooked goats waddle into the T-Rex enclosure at Jurassic Park.
Soldado at times, while still not blazing any great trails, linked well with the more advanced Paulinho. There was a moment in the first half which Professional Football Experts would label as a microcosm of his season when the former Valencia striker’s, quite frankly, indecent back-heeled lay-off was followed shortly by a skewed shot into the stands. Improvement and flurries of genius aside, he could run a bit more, no?
Fulham up next.
After some curious ventures into the pockets of Cold Europe- Moldova, the Saturn Stadium (near Moscow) and, finally, within the borders of the Arctic Circle- Spurs have now progressed into the knockout stages of the Continent’s secondary club competition. Take that, Europe!
Is wasn’t too long before last night’s game in Tromsø descended into meaningless farce as news filtered in on the old wireless that Anzi Michelangelodonatelloraphaelleonardo had failed to beat Sheriff, meaning winning Group K was a certainty for the glove-clad and frosty-breathed men of Hotspur and all soccer bets placed on them finishing in top spot would be prosperous. Very soon it became an exercise in admiring the retrograde air of playing with a high-vis orange ball and wondering which player who wouldn’t be able to remember Euro 96’ might make an appearance for Spurs.
As it turned out, not one of the four fledglings consigned to the bench by Villas-Boas made it on to the wintry turf. Even when the result was completely irrelevant.
Still, the experience alone- that of sitting on one’s behind in sub-zero temperatures, with a thick blanket covering the legs so they don’t fall off- is one to delight in for the McEvoy, Fredericks and Co.
Regardless of the news from Mother Russia, the outcome was never really in question for Tottenham, even with the residual weight of trauma from last weekend. If there were some reassurance to be harvested from the game then Dembélé’s finish was pleasingly neat- his first since the last-minute equaliser at Lyon in March- and Étienne Capoue looks a little closer to regaining full-fitness. Elsehwhere, Gylfi Sigurdsson created both goals, which may go some way to aid his cause in claiming the primary playmaker role for United at the weekend. A saner choice as any.
Moving on is never easy, as anyone who witnessed the axing of the original Krypton Factor series in 1995 will confirm. Dark, dark days. But what better way to recover from a 6-0 pumping than to travel to the Arctic Circle to take part in a more or less pointless Europa League group game against a side who’ve just been relegated from Norway’s top division?
That’s right, no better way.
Few things say ‘What Crisis?’ like outscoring a European heavyweight like Tromsø in their frozen, artificially turfed backyard, while they contemplate a season in which they finished a good few points behind Odd, Molde and cereal’s own Brann and Start.
Some of this lot might play:
Christian Eriksen was left behind in the boggy trenches of International Football last Friday, nursing what looks from a parishioner’s eye to be a severe case of ankle-flub. If you average out the conflicting reports blowing around the airwaves it sounds as if Tottenham will be without their miniature Dane in the region of four-and-a-bit weeks.
This, as you might well imagine, is not ideal for Spurs. With both Manchester clubs lurking in the shadows of late-November and creative inspiration already at a puzzling low, what didn’t need to happen was one of their most cunning operators to go down for a month.
So, what’s to be done? Well, there appears to be four options with which to fill the playmaker-void left by Eriksen and here, by golly, are your legitimate candidates
Many suspect the Belgian’s most effective position is in the wake of a main striker, as oppose to the deeper role he’s often been asked to play under AVB. Certainly any position might prove more useful than his current residence sur le banc, which was perhaps his argument when telling his Nation’s press recently, that he was ‘unsatisfied’ with how things were going at Spurs. I suppose he may have a point.
The only worry with the gifted Antwerpian, is that his decision making isn’t always so hot. Often we see him slither past opposition as if they were bollards in a Cycling Proficiency Test, only to run into a dead-end or hesitate when the time’s right to play a killer-pass. His itchy-trigger finger (foot?) is also prevalent in his shooting. Seriously, you’re allowed to score, Moussa. No-one will mind.
What he lacks in extreme cunning he makes up for in selflessness, enthusiasm and an agreeable row of teeth. That’s not to do the young German a disservice, he’s got oodles of natural talent- and the potential is there to be a wonderful player (exhibit A: his two assists against Villa in the Cup)- Holtby is just perhaps a little too raw to be burdened with the role of Chief Creator, particularly against the League’s spicier outfits. But his time will come.
You can’t argue with Sigurdsson’s goal return this season. Well, you could because it’s not exactly spectacular. Just in light of the fact that we’ve forgotten how to score, his reasonable haul of ‘4’ looks positively biblical. Does his relative goal-threat make him a more worthy applicant for the number 10 position? No, probably not. Does it mean he should start every game? Again, it’s hard to argue to the positive. Can we just say he’s a lovely little player and an important member of the squad? Yes. Yes we can.
Come on. What’s the worst that could happen? The fresh-faced Argentinean was plucked from the Eternal City with the charge of being au fait in a number of key attacking positions, including as a central playmaker. Perhaps the Etihad is a little too tempestuous a stage for a starting berth in that role; indeed, the decision to involve Lamela gradually since his arrival negates any chance that he’ll be thrust into the limelight for a game as high-profile as this. Which will no doubt prove a fairly astute bit of man-management in the long run. But, still, it would be nice to see the boy in action, no?
RELEASE THE COCO!
Team sheets for City on the way.