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Talk amongst yourselves

I'm a bit busy. Having to sacrifice a bit of blogging at the minute to complete the final transition of this website across to a more improved platform. Regular readers will know I've recently left the traditional blue and gold behind for a more minimal all white. It's just cosmetics. The final transition includes one or two differences (for users and for myself behind the scenes). Got to do it at some point, been working on it all week. There's that and also the fact I've been travelling and there's been the potential for this site to 'disappear' thanks to superstorm Sandy practically drowning Squarespace (who are based in New York and have been working at astonishing pace to make sure there is no overtime thanks to the flooding and risk of power outage).

It's not like there's much going on anyway. What with Caulker. The Norwich game. The weekend almost upon us.

So yeah, talk amongst yourselves, please be patient. Will be back soon.


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It's on the way

So'ton 1 Spurs 2

Feels like I'm writing up the same match report and analysis for every game at the moment. Comfortable, slick first half followed by an uncomfortable ugly second. Or vice versa. Or bit of both mixed in.

We destroyed them in the first half, yet we were not comparable in the second. That's Tottenham, making you work for it on and off the pitch. Whether it was thanks to tired legs that we spent the second half sitting back and inviting Southampton on - this remains to be seen how often it's repeated post-Europa League. Full pelt pressing followed by unavoidable downtime is a good tactic, only if we take our chances. A two goal lead is not quite enough. Leadership not always evident on the pitch to ease up on the tempo and claim some composure. There are methods of pacing ones self that does not always follow with the 'survival' tactic of just dropping back and hoping we don't concede. There's an instinctive missing ingredient, something in there to balance things out. Then again maybe it's as simple as having Dembele back in the thick of it. Bolster the midfield. Still, there has to be some admittance that in some games you'll surrender possession because the home side finally decide to wake up.

For want of better finishing (JD and one of those days or is that any given day?) we might have gone in at half time so far ahead that it would not have mattered what level of performance was displayed second half. Instead, we wasted chances and Southampton we're able to find a way back into the game. This led to all sorts of last ditch defensive heroics including yet another ridiculous slice of action from Sandro that saw him rise to block-deflect a torpedo off his head. You'd imagine if the world was ever in perilous danger from a monster meteorite, they'd send Sandro up into space to stop it.

Much like the WBA game from earlier this season (and patches and pockets of other matches) we've not buried the opposition and instead find ourselves time and again having to fight them off with the shovel. We have to boss games with complete conviction and leave our opponents eating dirt in a shallow grave. Easier said than done. I'd worry about our prospects for the season if we don't have a solid style by the 20th game mark. For the moment, you can't dispute the points accumulated and the manner in which they're being won. It's that second level of performance we're waiting for, that 90 minutes of pulling a side apart and blowing them away.

Instead we go from fluidity to the frenzy, with heavy reliance (this past weekend) on old man Gallas to steady the ship. No mistakes from him this week. Sandro an equal colossus, with his feet as well as his head. It's that same format of reactive football we have to endure thanks to, I'm not sure what. Why is there such a monumental difference in the two halves? Is it mental or tactical? Or simply down to that aforementioned opening blistering forty-five and those weary shattered legs thanks to the Euro hangover? Southampton upped the tempo, they were more urgent with their pressing. We just sat back and soaked it up. Perhaps because that's all that remained in the tank.

Goal one. Tom Huddlestone sends the ball in with a delightful dink for Bale who curls his header into the corner. Doesn't celebrate by celebrating subtly. Is there actually a difference? Next memorable moment was him taking his shirt off post-match. Goal two, Dempsey there to make sure it goes in after another superb Lennon run and a far too delicate finish by Defoe (trickled towards goal) which was cleared off the line. Rodriguez with the So'ton goal after a brilliant save and then cometh the second half of torment. Positives? That first half of wonderful overlapping and pace, ooh, we'd be salivating at the scoreline if we kept it up.

Couple of nice touches; Villas-Boas dedicating the win to football administrator Alex Carroll (following the death of his mother), the players throwing their shirts into the crowd at the end (AVB covering the cost) and for comic relief two Spurs fans tugging at Brad Friedel's shirt, waiting for the other to let go first. Laughed when the 'winner' offered the loser money. Classy.

Post-match musings?

The one thing that stands out for me when I stare at the Premier League table is the number nine. That's the amount of games played so far this season. Muscles being flexed, gentle jogs with the odd sprint. Still feels so early in the season yet give or take another five to ten games and the table will truly begin to take shape. We still can't report conclusively on Andre Villas-Boas as this Spurs team remains a team in progress. We've yet to dazzle White Hart Lane and aside from perhaps one game, we've yet to boss a match convincingly. We remain better away from home where we find exploitation of space so much easier to embrace. That missing creative craft in the games in N17 is an area that will be imperative for us to find to remain anchored to a top four position. That foot on ball away from home also essential to take the sting out of the hosts.

We're having to dig deep at times and make do without the likes of Dembele, BAE, Adebayor, Kaboul and Parker. VB citing lack of depth 'for all the competitions we want to do well in'. Because that's what we want. We want to challenge. It's the best way to build momentum. We'll have to hope some of those players are back as we look towards November as the fixtures creeping up could prove to be the impetus to see those sprints turn into a forceful run as we gear up for a marathon.

Wigan at home next, much like our gaffer has stated, it's a must win in terms of preparing for what follows. NK Maribor at the Lane and some squad rotation but almost certainly a must win if we wish to see ourselves progress to the next stage. Then it gets real. It's on the way. The month of heart in mouth.

City away.
Woolwich away.
Lazio away (Europa rest-bite).
West Ham home.
Liverpool home.

A defining part of the season as we head towards the festive period. One that will require an uplift of intensity especially at Eastlands and the Emirates. At the moment (famous last words) there still appears to be no change to the past couple of seasons in that nobody at this stage looks to be a class apart. Although granted, the money of City and the experience of Utd always allows them to pull away when it matters. Chelsea offensively remain a massive threat and the more games played the better Hazard, Mata and Oscar get. Arsenal have a variety of questions marks littered over them, much like we do.

For the moment, we continue to look at the return of Dembele. Try to work out what when exactly Adebayor will be ready to play football before he's lost to the Africa Cup of Nations. And look towards to our coach for clarity on the goalkeeping situation. A situation that for many doesn't actually exist and for some remains mystery. Before you know it, the January transfer window will be open and the same tired story arcs will be talked to death.

The season doesn't quite feel it's truly started, but it's about to.


Like being punched in the face by God

Latest episode available, innit.

Season 2, Episode 12 - Bareback

Danny Blanchflower's grandson. Chelsea autopsy and positives. Some Crouch loving. Left-back conundrums. Sig and Demps. Rickipedia and Ricky's misadventure. Twitter, Kyle Walker and scapegoating. Bale's baby. Keeper sweeper. A couple of laughable match previews followed by the return of Pr*ck of the Week. Windy and his delicious youth update. Quote of the week. Running order chaos. Footballers sleeping with our girlfriends. Quantifying loving the shirt. Missing games. Being punched in the face by God. And we've got a welder update. We sincerely apologise for all of it. Jousting: Flav, Spooky, Thelonious, Ricky and engineer Al. Ross Blanchflower guesting.

Click on download to listen.


Previous eps: 

Season 2, Episode 11 - Fight the power

This week consists of seriousness, anger and controversy:

Safe standing and EDM, Gareth '3rd best player in the world' Bale, Andre and Chelsea, Rickipedia, racism in football (apparently there's a fair bit but don't shout about it), Windy yoof update, a variety of random questions and not so random, including 'why do some Spurs fans hate Chelsea more than Woolwich'?

Wyclef Jean approves of all of the above.

Panthers: Flav, Spooky, Thelonious, Ricky with guests Lustdoctor and Dave covering for our missing engineer.

Click on download to listen.


Season 2, Episode 10 - Married to Tottenham

Flav had a meeting with Tottenham at the Lane about 1882. If you're attending the Maribor home game and sitting in block J, you're going to want to hear the update on this. Aside from the serious real talk, we look back on our 2-0 win against Villa and the variety of story arcs that encompass our current momentum. We playa hate Noel Gallagher. We playa hate diving but also try to rationalise it. We've got the curious case of Kyle Walker and then to be honest, I'm not sure what happens after that point. Something in the air. Our collective minds wandered into the abyss, all very very confusing. Husband and wife role-play. Beastly midfielders. Cannibalism I think, not literally, that would be hideous. And trikes. I remember trikes. Rickipedia, Meat Men and Windy provide our features this week. Tripping: Flav, Spooky, Thelonious, Ricky and engineer Al.

Click on download to listen.


Season 2, Episode 9 - An audience with Micky Hazard

The lads meet up with Micky Hazard, watch the Panathinaikos game, have a few beers, get to the 'studio' (lol) and record. Organic stuff. Practically orgasmic.

We've got a show jammed and buttered up with news on the next 1882 event (get your singing voices ready) plus a brand new project in the making, the historic OTT win at OT, AVB versus the media part seven hundred and a bunch of other stuff including questions from us and from you for our guest, London's finest black cab driver and not the father of Eden Hazard. Starting line-up: Flav, Thelonious, Ricky with Micky Hazard and Greg.

Click on download to listen.



For the full archive click here.

Or subscribe via itunes.


Soton, away


LLLLWLDL, 3rd from bottom.

They've conceded more goals than anyone in Premier League history at this point in the season.

They can't handle being attacked down the flanks.

Gareth Bale returning to his former club.

They're newly promoted otherwise refereed to as 'ominous'.

Tottenham have lost and failed to score in all of their previous four Premier League games against Soton at St Mary's (1-0 each time). Also got dicked 4-0 in the Cup there.

It's just stats, right? None of the above is applicable. Aside from the obvious deficiencies the hosts have festering in their top flight misadventure.

Spurs to dominate game and win easily?


Dare to predict?


If it was the 1980s, he'd be a superstar

Huddlestone did alright last night. We all know he's not on top form, nowhere near it. But then would you be if you spent a season sidelined? We also know he's hardly the most aggressive player which means the midfield battle can sometimes pass him by. Maribor got in our faces, hassled and pressured, Hudd tried to make things happen but he had little to aim for. Don't want to be seen as scapegoating and my comments in the after match musings was a reference to that one single incident when he casually watched a player float past him. If you were stuck on social media at the time, you'd understand the dart board mentality. Let's remember, he almost went out on loan (to regain fitness elsewhere).

Once he's fit, we'll move onwards with that never shifting conundrum as to whether a player of his style can settle and dominate in the fast paced modern game that expects offensive players to partake in box to box action. Hudd next to Sandro with perhaps Dembele pushed into a more offensive position? That won't work as Dembele is not a marauding attacking midfielder, he's one that runs from deeper positions and gets his boots dirty with his beastly work ethic. Hudd isn't a Sandro or a Parker. If you want to compare him to player-makers of old, he's also not a Modric who would recycle possession magnificently, working the ball forward, passing and moving and then looking to unlock the defence with an acute touch. That latter one is something Tommy can do. A smart piece of jigsaw he is but will he ever fit into our puzzle?

All this conjecture reminds me of something I wrote back in March, 2009. We didn't have the answers back then either.


From March, 2009.


Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part III


Incredible or just plain ordinary?

The supervolcano under the Yellowstone Park has been fairly consistent, erupting on schedule every 600,000 years or so. Considering the caldera is the size of the park itself, when it’s erupted in the past, to say that it bestowed apocalyptic disaster upon Gods green earth is putting it mildly. It's been 640,000 years since the last time it coughed up lava, so we are due another one pretty soon if you go on its timetable from the past three million years. Although geologists don't actually know with any certainty if it will happen again because apparently the molten below is cooling off and the reoccurring eruptions might have reached the end of their schedule. If so, it might be a million years or more before Mother Nature wakes it up. It might never erupt again.

Tom Huddlestone is a supervolcano.

He's big, doesn't move much but when he does he melts the oppositions defence with devastating consequences. But it doesn't happen often. You might be lucky to witness this marvel once every 10 games or so. When the next one is due, I couldn't say.

Actually, scrap this particular analogy. I've no idea where it's going, and I'd rather limit the amount of Partridge-isms I'm guilty of from one week to the next. So let's try this again.

Tom Huddlestone is a fat Glenn Hoddle.


Tom Huddlestone is like a lighthouse. Stationary, but manages to light up all before him.

No, no.

Tom Huddlestone is our Dr Manhattan. Big and powerful, but understated and misunderstood.

No, no, no!

Ok. Analogies scrapped. Stick to facts.

Tom Huddlestone is not the most mobile of players.
Tom Huddlestone is a very decent passer of the ball.
Tom Huddlestone has a cracking shot.
Tom Huddlestone is technically good.
Tom Huddlestone is versatile.

But is Tommy too slow, cumbersome and defensively a liability? Or is that an unfair description for the player, where his strengths are of a more offensive nature? If you stick him in the middle of the park and the Spurs midfield are under pressure, can he step up and get stuck in, much like the maligned Jenas is capable of doing (when he's on song) by running up and down the pitch and hassling opposition players?

It's the job of Palacios or Zokora (shudder) to bite the ankles of the opposing players and break down their attack or reclaim possession. But that doesn't mean other players shouldn't pull their weight (ouch). Lennon is superb at times, in nicking the ball back for us. It's not so much a case of getting stuck in though, is it? He's played centre-back in the past and he's got involved turning defence into attack, with a touch here and a 30 yard pass there. You can defend brilliantly by sending the ball across one side of the pitch to the other with the outside of the foot, releasing your winger or forward and giving the defence time to re-organise.

But what happens before the ball is back in our possession and we are on the backfoot? And there are questions around consistency. There is an argument that Tom does put in a shift, it's just that compared to others, it doesn't resemble one.

The problem with Tom is that he is far less dynamic than many players of similar ilk (creative/playmaking midfielders). Which means he is far weaker in less offensive areas than any other midfielder we have. Carrick could defend well, wasn't exactly fast, but was mobile. Pace, or more so mobility, is important. He doesn't have any. Or more to the point, to quote about a thousand websites, he turns slower than the QE2.

Tom is quite similar to Jermaine Jenas in the way of potential. Both highly rated as youngsters, both possessing qualities that are admirable. But are both over-hyped? Or do they excel in some areas, but not enough in others to be considered complete?

Tom is a regular for the U-21’s and performs well, chipping in with a goal every now and again. But he’s not a regular for Spurs. But does chip in with plenty of assists and a few goals when he does turn out in Lilywhite. Why? Just because he can deliver clever balls and Hoddlesque passes, does this warrant an inclusion in our starting line-up? And if it does, what would it mean to the structure and balance of the team? Well, for starters, the team would have to be built around him. Or at least compensate for his deficiencies. So Palacios responsibility would be to clear the area allowing Tom to play Quarterback.

Now, this might work if, let’s say, Tom was as talented as Hoddle. To make a player the main creative outlet of the team he has to be something a bit special, and I’m not sure he’s that good, potentially or otherwise. Comparing anyone to Hoddle is blatantly unfair, so to re-word the above, I'd say that to build the team around one player they have to be, unquestionable, class - if not 'world class'.

Not to say I would not like to see him given a chance. But it’s asking a little too much for someone like Tom to 'carry the team'. It’s a bit like asking us to build the team around Bent by playing football like Charlton Athletic did in the days they resided in the Premiership - just because we all know he can score goals when on the break. Bent has a knack of doing so, but doesn’t offer enough to slot into a variety of forward roles which is required depending on the opposition. He’s a bit one dimensional. But what of Huddlestone? (not one dimensional, I'd go with a beefy 3D figure, tbh).

Even little Modric (did take his time to adjust which is understandable) gets involved with some of the dirty work – but he’s no defensive midfielder. So unless Huddlestone actually has an overwhelming negative influence on the team, there is no reason why he can’t play centre-midfield in a role that takes full advantage of his vision and skills.

Yes? Or no?

It’s a conundrum this one for the simple fact that he doesn’t play often enough. Let’s say Jermaine Jenas did not exist (I’ll give you a moment to climb down off your desk and pull your pants up and compose yourself........). Huddlestone would possibly get a more sustained opportunity to impress. The more games, the bigger the confidence, the better the communication on the pitch is with team mates. Coming off the bench, he’ll always be a decent impact player simply because of his sharp passing. But from his personal perspective, he’d want more than that. I want more than that. We all do.

Imagine if you will (I'm in fantasy mode today), Tom Huddlestone in Claret and Blue. Easy now. It's just a fantasy. He’d probably play every single week. That’s just an opinion, and West Ham fans might accuse me of over-rating him and that he’d never get into their team. Maybe. Possibly. But I guess that’s the point. He’s good enough, but good enough for whom? He is definitely good enough for someone. At some point in the next year or two, he'll need to be far more involved otherwise his progression will stagnate. Unless of course, what you see is what you get. Maybe there is no improvement coming. So, would you argue that his passing is that good, we can't afford to lose him? Or that the only thing he has is his passing ability and it isn't enough to claim a centre-midfield pairing - arguably one of the most important positions in the team.

Tactically, a manager will want his strongest 11 starting every week. Let’s say that includes Palacios and Jenas in the centre. If Jenas was unavailable, would Huddlestone slot in and give us the same type of thing, or more to the point, would he give us something that amounts to the same positive for the flow of the side?

Much like Jenas, he is good at some things, and not so good at others. Much like, well, most players. The trick is to maximise his abilities, getting the best out of him which will benefit the team. Harry has managed to do this with Lennon, a player who had an outstanding season, followed by a low-key one, and his now back to the type of form his potential has been screaming out for.

So how do we maximise Tommy boy?

Huddlestone - the quarterback? Sat in the middle laying off balls to both wings or dinking them forwards, with Wilson in the role of fullback, protecting him. Sounds immense on paper. And we've seen it in patches. I remember, when he first really started to push for a place at Spurs I considered him and Cesc Fabregas as the brightest midfield talents in the UK. Compare the two now. Ok, so Fabregas is a horrible arrogant piece of classless muck, but his ability as a footballer is unquestionable. But sadly the difference is fairly astronomical. The mucks influence is superior as is his general mobility. But one plays every week (when fit) the other is not first choice and excels (much like Jenas) against lesser opposition. But has done epically against the bigger teams too. Just not as often as, let's say, the scum that is Cesc.

Our midfield has always lacked spin. Palacios has brought us that. Lennon outstanding on one wing, Modric covering the other. So does Huddlestone - passing abilities aside - give us enough strength and assurance down the middle? Can he adapt to the pace of the game and the quality of the opposition? When he dictates, he is superb. And its those moments that have us asking the questions about his worth to the team. When the emphasis is with the opposition, that's when the concerns creep in.

If Huddlestone is around 60% of what we need from a player and Jenas is about 68% , then possibly both are nothing more than squad players and that we need to look at bringing in a more complete player, someone who is around the 80% mark and above. Someone like Carrick who gave us more than enough of everything. Or someone better. That’s no easy task. So an option would be to stick him in the team and run with it and just see where it takes us. If the talent is there and needs developing then first team appearances will answer the questions.

There’s also the option of playing Modric in the middle. But if we did, how would this improve on a Palacios-Jenas combination or a Palacios-Huddlestone pairing?

In conclusion, Hudd does offer us something but if a player doesn't scream out 'FIRST TEAM REGULAR' just by looking at him, and you have to pose questions, then it's likely that he isn't quite what's required - simply because of the doubts. To counter that, if a player isn't given a chance, then he won't be any nearer to proving he can do the job. Sometimes players do not fit into certain teams because of the way the team plays. Which is why Tommy is as a luxury.

If Jenas and Zokora can play so often for us and be considered first team regulars - with all the doubts and concerns around their abilities (or lack of) then maybe it is only fair to give Tom a chance.

If it was the 1980s, he'd be a superstar.


Could be worse. £13.90 for fish 'n chips

Maribor 1 Tottenham 1

Turns out it wasn't a must win game. Just a standard stutter our way through and gain a point type of game. Unbeaten in Europe and thanks to Lazio conceding a late goal, the group remains wide open. I don't have the energy or the inclination to read enough into our current performances in the Europa League as some form of progression gauge. We just don't have it going on in this comp currently. That sense of being underwhelmed plays heavy on the mind for most. I guess it's reflective from supporters to players.

Our 'lads' (official Tottenham Hotspur label for the players) don't look comfortable. The system has no identifiable swag and for the most part it's all untidy and complacent. Off the pace. I guess I should stop expecting the world and settle for a very small comet instead. A meteor. A hailstone. A melting snowflake. Okay, fine, a sweat bead from a flea.

Even though our line-up retains strength and experience on paper, a healthy mix allowing for key players (and some of the old men) to rest, not much happens out there.

Sure, we could have so easily beaten Lazio. And away in Athens, had we held on. But we drew both and we drew this one simply because we can't muster up enough urgency to boss the game. No disrespect to Maribor but I'm sure they really gave it a go. We just turned up, set ourselves to autopilot and came out the other end with enough shots over the bar to win us twenty rugby world cups.

But it's just a game. Best for me to remember it's also just the group stages. The two home games now are the ones that will define if the players truly want to see their way through to the knock-out stage. Hopefully we'll have players back for selection that we're unavailable this evening meaning a little more of that much required shape in the middle. Still no necessity to go full FULL strength, but something that little bit more direct and creative is desirable.

The only shape we had was Tommy Huddlestone that casted a shadow that resembled the titanic strapped onto the back of a ketmaine induced Godzilla. The only difference being that Godzilla would turn over in his sleep faster than Hudd moves. Easy there, it's just banter. Huddlestone is nowhere near being head fit let alone match fit. His defending for the goal conceded was akin to me forgetting to ask for chilli sauce on my kebab and turning back towards the counter to ask for some. No rush, it's going to happen no matter how slow I move.

Bang! 1-0. Bang! Chilli sauce over my doner.

Is it worth talking tactics? I'd love to know what Villas-Boas is telling the players in prep for these games and then before and at half time in the dressing room. I know there's no conspiracy (i.e. AVB not really that bothered with this competition) and it's also obvious that VB is aware of quality of opposition and is confident the players selected can 'do a job'. Have we ever really been in a position where we feared we would lose? Don't answer that.

As cited, Lazio could so easily have been three points and that performance was very controlled. But the two games after that have been lacklustre - or have they been calculated? Are the games just a lot more tricky than we perceive them from our lofty position of instant hindsight? By calculated what I'm referring to is, explicit instructions not to perhaps over exert ourselves (any less exertion and we'd be asleep - players and fans). Just that the execution is clumsy and without any sustained intent.

No argument, you could pull apart one or two performances from the games. Players isolated, ineffectual. Fluidity and passing erratic. Is it worth doing that? Are these games in isolation to the domestic bread and butter of the league? Are these perhaps missed opportunities by some to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and stand out from the rest? What am I doing? I'm trying to rationalise again when in the most simplistic terms the game can be summed up with:

Didn't play with enough conviction to boss midfield and game and failed to create enough chances to win. Poor first half. Better second half. Never in danger of losing but could have lost and never in danger of winning.

Nice movement for our equaliser. Nice until the scramble splat itself all over the penalty area for Sigurdsson to score. Not quite as comical as that first goal the home side gleefully accepted.

Sandro and Falque played well (I'm using the barometer here that I remember them more than any other players on the pitch, thus, they must have been quite involved). As for Maribor, they do love their dramatics. Ref more bothered with Naughton daring to fall after being fouled in the penalty area. Their home support more alter boys than ultras.

In conclusion, it's like having a beautiful woman in your bed only for her to ruin the moment by wearing red lingerie. You fancy her but you know your performance wouldn't be up to scratch. Red is simply not sexy on a woman, it's a massive turn off. Should always be black lingerie. Or something. That's all I've got people. Good night.


Turn up, turn on, turn them over

Maribor away. Must win. You would hardly have expected this game to be so important before our Europa League campaign kicked off. Something has been lost in translation. Last season this competition was practically dismissed and treated with little respect. This season, all the right words have been spouted in the lead up to it and the games played but the performances have been lacking the will and desire (aside from perhaps the Lazio match). Can't blame selection, the sides have always been strong if not quite full strength. Have these European fixtures simply fallen victim to our early season learning curve? We'll find out this evening thanks to the fact that even though it's a group match, it should really play out as a knock out cup game.

Our hosts are up for it. They want everyone to know who they are. Whether they have the quality to upset us is something that will be answered in a few short hours. Their ultras will bring intensity to the atmosphere, we'll have to match it on the field. It's that simple. Turn up, turn on, turn them over.

Villas-Boas seems to be aware of the games importance. We've got no Dembele, Bale or Adebayor. Livermore, Huddlestone and Sigurdsson to (possibly) all feature with Falque, Townsend and Dempsey as other potential selections. Dawson in at the back paired up with Vertonghen and possibly the return of Naughton? Not my problem who plays, just want to see commitment and professionalism.

And I want to be entertained. And win by two clear goals. Bully the opposition. Out class them.

Not a lot then. Just one or two niceties.


Squad: Lloris, Cudicini, Naughton, Walker, Caulker, Gallas, Dawson, Vertonghen, Smith, Livermore, Parrett, Huddlestone, Sandro, Sigurdsson, Lennon, Townsend, Falque, Dempsey, Defoe.



Aftermath thoughts on Saturday's game.

The midfield

If we're missing Dembele we have no natural cover to play alongside Sandro. Huddlestone and Livermore are not replacements. Tommy has been out of action for a prolonged period of time and I'm not sure he's adaptable to specific roles that Villas-Boas might seek from him. Play him in a deep sitting role or one pushed further up-field, but he'll never be a box-to-box engine player and can't keep up with the pace that's required. He's got vision, he's a brilliant passer of the ball but the formation has to be one that benefits his talents, which might be to the detriment of the side. Under AVB, it's about the formation and tactics and the personnel has to fit into it perfectly. Tommy is not robust enough. I still think he has something offer. But if you dared to experiment with him in the position Sig or Dempsey sit in...that opens up further questions on what we're meant to do with three 'offensive' players?

Interestingly (my memory might be playing tricks) but I'm certain there was a league game against Chelsea a few seasons back where he completely dominated the midfield and was supremely influential. The problem here is that every player has his day (see Jenas for the occasional master-class of effort) but Huddlestone has been consistent for us in the past. Livermore is not quite to the standard of a Sandro. He offers hope but doesn't possess the quality. However he's enjoyed similar cameos (okay, perhaps one) and until Parker is available again we'll have to place faith in the training ground and AVB's selection.

Parker, a brilliant 'dirty work' player, chasing down balls - but his passing is not for the long term in a Villas-Boas inspired midfield.

Back to Sign and Demps - Both Sig and Dempsey still feel outside looking in. I've cited 'mojo' and 'groove' and both are lacking that spark. I really don't think we can be dismissive of this role in the team and how vital it is. If van der Vaart was still in the team (although he's erratic and enjoys to roam) he'd provide that missing spark - although he might not aid in other areas vital to the system. Both Sig and Dempsey are not quite offering a final product yet. Now for a second, imagine their influence if firing on all cylinders. Sig has to put the sexy into Siggy and Dempsey needs to discover the dynamism that he's known for.

Brad v Hugo

There is no contest here (for me). Hugo Lloris is simply a far better goal keeper and footballer. He attacks the ball, he reads the game with intelligence and runs out of his six yard box (to tackle/save) and his distribution is superb. Interestingly, you might compare the striking issue (Defoe or Adebayor?) and wonder how much on current form goes towards selecting the players. Villas-Boas does not favour certain players. That's what we've witnessed so far in his tenure. He plays the best players suited for the job. Regarding the strikers, Adebayor had no pre-season, was injured and Defoe is in form (be it not the perfect all round footballer to compliment our play when not in possession). With the keepers, Lloris fits the bill better allowing for cohesiveness and fluidity from keeper to defence to midfield to attack.

Big test on Villas-Boas this. Loyalty to the long term rather than to single individuals. Lloris needs to start as number one.

Defensive shake-up?

Kyle Walker hasn't shown any signs of improvement. Struggling with his positioning, decision making and lacking discipline. Does he need a rest? Does he need competition? Does he need instructions on perhaps holding back from the offensive mind-set all the time and try to focus on the basics to rebuild his faith in himself? All questions I don't have to answer. The coaching staff are responsible for the player and the effect it has on the team. Naughton could provide the competition and rest-bite.

Gallas, a player that I believed to be spent at the end of last season has shown how valuable his experience can be then let's himself (and us) down with a fairly shoddy performance (clearances and possession, lack of).  Long term, Jan Vertonghen has to partner Caulker in the centre with BAE back at left-back. I've mentioned this in the match report - when we have Kaboul available there is strength in abundance there. Gallas can still offer his experience on the training pitch but too often time appears to be catching up with him out on the pitch. If we're making sacrifices to aid our progression and style under AVB, then surely there is no reason to not line-up with the players that we hope to see cement their positions long term for us. However - all of this is once more dependent on player fitness.

Caulker and Vert = athleticism and pace. Good on the ball. Perfect for the fabled high line.

I guess here, it would be easy to cite 'we need more defenders' - when the reality is we'll have too many when everyone is available. So the nearest short term alternative is...Dawson for Gallas?

You're struggling with that one.

Defoe and Adebayor

European game up next. Will Adebayor get a start? Is he 100% fit? Feels like we need to see 90 minutes from him to actually gauge whether all the talk of him being the better player for the system is actually up to scratch. Adebayor, on song, will bring movement to our play - when in or without possession. We know he can work the channels, we know he can drop back and allow the midfield to push forward. The disadvantage is that (goals disallowed aside) he is not always as instinctive as Defoe is. I'm trying to remain balanced here. Both have their advantages and their negatives. Like for like, Adebayor should displace Defoe - but the player has to prove this to the coach and to us.

Do we need a third striker? Like a crack head needs a smoke.



Seems there are efforts to rationalise the Kyle Walker abuse by suggesting the player should man up and accept supporters will get upset. Some will always want to share their frustrations because social media allows such communication to play out impulsively very publicly for everyone to see after the fact (comments are frozen in time for all to see and refer back to). It's anti-social media at the best of times. There is nothing to rationalise here, just some harsh realities to accept as the ugly side of following football rears its head once again.

The below quotes are from Tottenham supporters.

I was at the game and was unbelievably frustrated by what walker did in the build up to the 4th goal and I think his defensive performances this season have been disappointing. If a player makes a crucial error like that then of course supporters are going to have a moan at the time.

But once it's done you have a duty, in my opinion, to get behind the guy and let him know that there's a way back from a spell of poor form.

You don't go on twitter calling him a c**t, or whatever it is people did.

I can understand the frustration and the moaning, but some of it gets quite vitriolic and aggressive. Why act like that towards your own player. I think a lot of people have trouble in understanding that these people are humans.

Bottom of Park Lane were on him like hounds on a limping fox yesterday after the fourth went in, almost as bad as they gave to Ashley Cole. Pretty dangerous for the team if you start abusing your own players worse than the opposition's. Some of the fans during the last couple of years have really done their best to hack off the fans that will support the team no matter what and no matter who they are.

Atmosphere only perked up when we went 2-1 up, I can't put my finger on why. I thought the atmosphere would be malevolent but it was tame, might have been a bit more intense had JT played.

This goes beyond one player's loss of confidence.

You might argue that Kyle should not have removed his Twitter account. He should have simply logged off and taken a sabbatical. Either way it's just a Twitter account. It's completely his prerogative whether he wants to remove it or not. Much like you and I are free to do the same. And let's be honest, most footballers post irreverent stuff about Nandos or just re-tweet shout outs - but it's also their prerogative to use it as they see fit. See BAE and Adebayor for examples on how they entertain us and themselves. There is nothing to stipulate how you should go about micro-blogging. So it shouldn't be a big deal either way but the fact he did remove it suggests he's hardly chuffed scrolling through the colourful messages left for him. Walker has today said it wasn't Spurs fans criticising him but rather people trolling and he's thankful for the support shown since Saturday.

The actual problem away from the social media aspect is pretty much illustrated in the quotes shared above. Our fans are still behaving erratically whether it's at the ground or elsewhere. Kyle Walker along with other footballers simply need to be prepared for the fact that some will always respond in this manner. You've got to be thick-skinned. We've always had an element of fickle and easily frustrated fans for as long as I can remember. We like to scapegoat. Just suck it up as best you can and try not to laugh at the irony that the same fans probably cheered you on when your form was solid and you were being lauded with awards and will cheer you on again when you regain that missing confidence and self belief.

The concerning trend is that the element of fickle and easily frustrated supporters is festering into a far nastier element and for what reason exactly? Are we a club in turmoil? Are we in crisis? Are we destined for mid-table mediocrity? Do we genuinely have nothing to smile about? Are the players out of form so bad, so beyond repair that the way to deal with them is to abuse them? Why do we possess a defeatist attitude before a ball is even kicked? Are we under that much pressure as supporters?

What? I can hear you. I'm back with this same agenda. I can only be reflective with what is currently happening so look closer to home if you're bored of this argument.

Walker's feet probably haven't touched the ground since his hedonistic rise. There's probably been plenty of hype to help him on his way, disguising some of the weakness that need development. The Chelsea performance will hopefully be a catalyst to some soul searching for the player and man-management from Villas-Boas and his coaching team.

Yes, things get said in the heat of the moment, some supporters react without thinking because the heart consumes the mind and it's all reactive and sometimes regretful but always because of the love we have for the club. Makes us do crazy things. Some players will rise above it, others won't.

I've said it before and I've been told much like it's Walker's prerogative to do what he wants, supporters have a right to support the team in the manner they wish to. There's something unnerving and unattractive with the attitude of a fair few of us that think a culture of blame is the way forward. That trend has been ever present this season. Some of our faithful still find it easier to heckle than support, they find it easier to scapegoat and ignore compassion and objectivity. Other's only find their voice when we're winning.

It's an emotive experience, always, supporting Tottenham. At the moment, the despondent trend is one of a minority but it persists in making plenty of noise.


That's done. Back to the football. Which is that thing that happens on the green field that is meant to bring us so much joy. Chelsea aftermath chit chat on the way.


White Hart blame

Tottenham 2 them lot 4

I’m over this result already. I'm philosophical about it. Ignoring the fact that losing to them is like stepping in dog sh*t, when you lose because of defensive lapses, it’s still self-inflicted which means you can tighten up and improve. It's a fine line. You might prefer to be out classed and thrashed and lose thanks to the brilliance of the opposition’s performance as it’s more clean cut but there is something ever so slightly comforting in today’s defeat. Let’s start at the beginning.

We start the day off with no Dembele and no Bale. The former injured on international duty (although seen walking around okay at the Lane – so perhaps precautionary that he wasn’t risked to avoid any long term issues) the latter in the starting eleven initially only to be replaced by Huddlestone. Gareth’s missus goes into labour and a 1000 twitter jokes are born asking why he didn’t shag her a day earlier nine or so months ago. Already there’s cause for concern. How are we going to shape up with two key players out? Dembele was possibly known in advance but with the amount of perpetration work AVB sticks in leading up to a game, Bale not being available will impact the structure of the side. We know our squad and we know there will be scenarios where it will be tested. If we do lack a certain degree of depth, we have to deal with it. There’s also a lot that can be said about application and urgency even if there’s missing quality. We have to be able to adapt.

With some irony in the opening forty-five we lacked not just application and urgency but any form of stranglehold on the game. Our passing was untidy and there was no shape making it relatively easy for Chelsea to ping the ball around confidently. No such concerns for a side that boosts a £150M + midfield. I probably wasn’t alone looking up at the sky cursing those damned footballing Gods. Christ, some one up there hates us. Probably his dad.

Other contentious selection posers: No Lloris who could aid with possession. Defoe retained his spot up front. Regardless, we made it very comfortable for Chelsea. Tempo, intensity and passing – second best. No complaints.

The story of the first half:

One – nil down, Gallas clearance an assist, Cahill volley deflected in.
Late second half rally, growing in confidence, Chelsea for all their tidiness lacking cutting edge.
Mata, Hazard, Ramaires, Oscar on form.
Subs essential at HT.

Far too many lacklustre performances. There was nothing cohesive about our play. Sandro had to do the work of two. Huddlestone struggled with the pace of the game. Players pushed out far too wide. I’m not taking anything away from the visitors. They’re a side in form (have only dropped a couple of points this season), this was no easy task for us but you felt the game was not beyond a comeback. Personally, I wasn’t quite sure how it would transpire unless we made personnel changes.

Something thankfully happened at half-time in the dressing room placing the necessity for subs aside. There was a reinvention of attitude in the second half. Motivation from the coach? A kick up the backside. Plenty of animated motivation from Freund on the touchline too. No major shift in leadership but a genuine team effort tinged with ample mental strength. We got in amongst it more and stole an early goal. I kept thinking to myself, it’s about aggression. It’s all about aggression. Be forceful, relentless and ruthless on the ball and off it. Hassle and pressure and push up. Be decisive. Again I had to quickly stare up at the sky and release a middle finger because the two players missing are two players so key to us being bullish and dominant where it matters most.

Dembele, the manner in which he drives forward and Bale – who can be so influential as an outlet on either flank and through the middle – something sorely missed today. No immense dimensional play from the home side and after all our huffing and puffing, it was ominous that the aggression would run low and Chelsea would simply pick us off. And they did just that thanks to more individual mistakes. But all this followed us going up 2-1.

The story of the second half:

1-1, Gallas header. Perfect second half start.
Better tempo (be it no subs), great pressing
2-1 Spurs, Lennon, Defoe. Goal out of nothing. Game of two halves. Electric atmosphere.
Plenty of guts, determination, fight.
2-2. Another woeful clearance from Gallas. Mata. Vert not covering.
Livermore on for Huddlestone
Vert goal saving tackle on Torres.
3-2 Chelsea. Gallas aided by Walker and enough space for Hazard to thread the ball to Mata (again).
Chelsea with creative clinicality.
Adebayor on. Dempsey off.
Far too many shots straight at Cech.
Ade 88th minute 'chance' from Cech spill. Doesn't quite connect.
Walker long range effort, saved.
Walker ‘whatever that was meant to be’ to allow Chelsea to score a 4th.

It's worth pointing out we had 26 attempts (10) on target compared to Chelsea who had 10 with 7 on target. Ho hum. Cue the standard what ifs about being at full strength and not making schoolboy errors. Fine line, right?

There were other heart in mouth moments, Defoe dipping effort and Torres missing a certified sitter. It was naturally quite an open game of football. Exciting and end to end punctured with some brilliant sublime moments (Hazard’s pass to Mata for their third) and some stupidly casual errors (see Gallas). Did Chelsea score a clean goal? Do they care? They took their chances when presented with them. We didn’t. Seems Gallas picked the wrong game to have a brain collapse. Lucky for our opponents. Bitterly frustrating for Villas-Boas – because shared points looked the most likely outcome.

They just had more spark and consistency and most importantly composure when it mattered most. They kept the ball better than us. But there were positives. When we were on top we looked very good and tested them. If this side we faced are title contenders, I’m not exactly sold on the way they defend. RDM seems to be a very fortunate man at the moment and I still believe he will be tested more so when his side hit a dip of form. Will be interesting to see if they can shift gear and step it up a notch further.

What’s also frustrating is that we’ve yet to really see us boss a game at WHL with the same signature football we’ve seen away. It will come and we’ll have to continue with being patient as there are one or two issues that need resolving first.

Kyle Walker being one of them. Okay, so here’s my rant.

Just some food for thought. Stop slagging off and writing off Kyle Walker. Was it okay to write off the Spurs team at start of season? No. He's completely off the pace and out of form. Needs to be managed by the coaching staff and AVB. It's down to them to sort the player out and for the player to sort himself out.

All this 'he's f*cking sh*t' nonsense is hypocritical. He needs a rest, he needs competition. He also needs to develop his defensive game (and do the simple things right) but his form is rotten at the moment so his going to be prone to mistakes. It’s hardly a situation that is easily solved as we all know that if you persisted in selecting a player out of form, there is no guarantee of improvement and if he’s dropped his confidence could drop further too. I support the team and AVB and his staff are paid to manage and develop. And that is what I hope they do with this particular headache. The kid has raw talent. It has to be nurtured. Once again he lacked positional sense and discipline, when to overlap and when not to.

I’m having a dig at the selective criticism that tends to play out when players are not performing well. Some of the abuse dished out to footballers that wear the Tottenham shirt is on par with the abuse opposition players get. Some shameful behaviour from some of our lot. You’ll have your own opinion but to me it’s not as simplistic as ‘he’ll never make it, get rid of him’ which appears to be some people’s attitude toward resolving it. Another example: Siggy. Obviously over-rated because he's not sparking up the midfield yet so let's get rid. How about we stick 'em all in a Big Brother house and vote out the weakness link every week? Then we can start to pull supporters from the stands and off social media to play in their place.

On the subject of Sigurdsson he's still not found his groove (along with Dempsey who both attempted to compensate for the lack of Bale on the left). We say that most weeks but it's still early days. The argument might be that a player of a certain quality shouldn't be taking this long to adjust. So does he have the quality to succeed in the long term? I don't agree he's over-rated. It's a cliché, but he just needs that one defining league performance to find that extra step up. The midfield, our midfield is still in a state of flux. The holding positions are sorted but the attacking midfielder/second forward still hasn't owned the mojo as well as van der Vaart had it. Worth mentioning that Rafa (brilliant footballer and one that could craft something out of nothing) also struggled at times. Just remember the age gap and experience factor between the two.

Also on the subject of Gareth Bale. Football banter aside, there is very little in life (if anything) that should stop you from being by the side of your missus if there's a chance you're going to witness the birth of your child. At the time of writing I don't know if she's given birth. Knowing our luck she'll be in labour for 20 hours. Actually, that's probably unlucky for her. What we went through today is hardly as painful as giving birth. Good luck to the both of them.

As for those aforementioned contentious pre-match questions. Adebayor did very little when he came on. Someone that’s not played this season (aside from subs bench cameos) should have no excuse to not chase down the ball. Defoe on the other hand performed admirably depending on your perception of what warrants a solid performance. He’s goal was sweet (be it out of nothing but that's what he does) and his work ethic again commendable – but I can’t quite work out what else he offers to the team. However, I'm still appreciative of the fact he was one of our better players on the day. He’s an ambiguous footballer. I guess the confusion arises from the fact that we are always comparing him to the type of player Adebayor is meant to be for us. This story arc will run and run (or stand still depending on what Adebayor plans to do).

Also, time to bench Brad and start Hugo as the definitive number one. Nothing against Brad aside from the fact that Lloris is a better footballer and goalkeeper. This will be one to watch in the next week or two because Villas-Boas has to be decisive here. We need to cement that spine.

More food for thought for our head coach in the coming weeks: Vertonghen to displace Gallas and regain his place alongside Caulker, all dependent on Benny's return to the side. Not forgetting Kaboul. We need to fine tune our defence but can't do so with players out of position.

Sandro missed Dembele, seemed to be ineffectual in presence to the standard we expect from him when lined up with our Belgian beast. Scott Parker's return still not booked into the calendar.

So in the end we got a game of two halves plus an encore. Not in it for the first, came back in the second, lost that impetus and pressing game and allowed them to claim it back before we almost stole an equaliser only to see another twist and concluding goal that sealed it for the visitors. The fact we conceded four mistakes the way we did will not be lost on AVB – who can do very little but bemoan the fact we let ourselves down. But then if you want to be truly reflective you'll admit that the point of a truly solid performance is mistakes are not made and if they are you either take advantage and punish them not find yourself on the back end of one (or two or three or four). Which they did to us, be it with some supremely talented players (Mata is terribly good). Heads up Tottenham. Here's to the next encounter with us being at full strength.

Villas-Boas a class apart in his post-match interview, composed and honest. Giving credit where it was deserved and indicating what proved to be so costly. Was a cracking game. Onwards to the next one.

So that’s that.

Hopefully someone in Lilywhite is having some fun this weekend. I reckon it’s in a private hospital ward with Gareth Bale blatantly smashing his way through the gas and air.


Apparently we're playing this weekend

Lessons learnt from past misadventures will benefit us.

Andre Villas-Boas has already changed his approach with the media (shame he wants to speak only about football whilst they continue to poke questions about non-event sensationalism). He's more giving and less defensive. He also spoke of there being more warmth at Spurs than there was at Chelsea. I guess there are no stipulations and guidelines that have been outlined as imperative objectives. The more welcoming environment has allowed him to settle in far easier than his first attempt in England and his hunger remains rampant. AVB wants to win, he wants to achieve success and he is meticulous in his approach and preparation. He has a plan and he's being allowed to implement it, at his own pace.

So with all the story arcs this game possesses (the ones to be teased and taunted in the stands and exist as the spine of most of the pre and post match coverage) it's going to be a match that demands a fitting chapter if not a finale. Tottenham up against the team that robbed us of CL football and stuffed us in the cup. AVB up against his former club where he failed to impose himself and his ideals and was left humiliated, replaced by his number two, Roberto de Matteo. The only true defining story arcs exist with each club without influence of external influence. Chelsea, fluid but perhaps not as robust as previous sides are winning their games and Tottenham are progressing at a slow brooding rate, simmering not quite to the boil just yet. Both teams 'a work in progress'. But both with enough to be fairly confident of a sustained challenge at the top end of the league. Both far from being finished articles.

Chelsea have a wealth of creative talent (Hazard, Oscar, Mata) and will line-up not too dissimilar to us with holding midfielders. They've been fluid but not dominant but have been spectacular in moments. They can definitely be got at, but this will depend on how we defend and contain them, especially down Kyle Walker's flank. This match is all about the midfield battle and the tempo we attempt to impose on the game.

We're going to need to be disciplined defensively. We're going to need to dominate the centre of midfield. Close down players, win possession back, neat and tidy passing. Tempo has to be high and has to be pressured. Sandro needs to dominate Oscar. Dembele has to drive forward. The holding players might be defensive in their responsibility and positioning but they hold the key to offensive intent. Push up, push wide and push through the middle. Individual battles will influence who wins the war.

What is most telling of all is Villas-Boas in pre-match mode. Aside from some colourful descriptive work and business speak he can be simplistic eloquent and philosophical.

"The team and players are more important than me"

"This game is not going to decide the future of both teams in the Premier League - after this game there will be 30 more games to play, and both teams will have to have decisive matches in front of them. It counts as three points. It doesn’t win us a trophy"

"To a certain extent I feel this is much more about Tottenham in the sense that this is the team who took this club out of the Champions League, and this is the team who prevented this team from playing in FA Cup Final last year - so in the end we certainly have the ingredients for it to be a spectacular match”

“Taking it to an individual situation is not fair on me - first because it means absolutely nothing on the end of season and in which position you might finish, and because it is not a quest of an individual, it is a quest of a team, and where we want to finish at end of the season"

From the heart. No hyperbole or sensationalism. Just the way it is. I'm not nervous, I'm confident and I'm looking forward to it. I don't care for the statistics of the past, I care only for the next game.



André, keep whispering sweet nothings in my ear

We're reanimating Scott Parker.

"It's difficult for him as he still feels pain and is still disturbed in his recovery. It prevents him from being on the pitch but he has been evolving inside, in the gym, with the medical department. It is still within the limits of what we expected. He is making good progress and there has been less pain" - André Villas-Boas

It beats listening to half a dozen triffics.