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Entries in must win (5)


Norwich at the Lane, the afternoon after the night before

The season starts here. There's nowhere else for it to hide now. Second home game of the season against beatable opposition (we've heard that before this season and last) and we need a win to compete a triple (to go alongside the loss and draw). Not that I'm counting points. Had we held on last weekend we'd still have posed the odd question about the side's overall performance and the strange substitutions - which illustrated the gaps that the transfer window filled in. Well, almost filled in. We have no João Moutinho. Not that he would have been signed in time for Norwich at the Lane. But clearly, based on the lack of obvious midfield creativity, we lack that spark. So no pressure Mousa Dembélé. Hope those shoulders are nice and strong. Welcome to the world famous home of the Spurs. We promise to smile, chant your name and get behind the team.

Chris Hughton is back with a Norwich team that were deserving of the win here last season. The same result today and those smiles and chants will take on a more sinister feel. If we play as well as we did against WBA in the first hour and take our chances, we'll be dancing a merry jig in the stands and on the touchline. Have to be ruthless in front of goal. That's it. There's no requirement for any major reshuffle tactically to the way we set out last week. The issues became apparent the longer the game went on allowing WBA to push forward more and trouble us with the physicality of Lukaku, who battered us every time he came forward. We have to be the ones that do the bullying and the punishing. Options will improve further when Clint Dempsey is available, but for now Dembélé and his dynamism and hopefully a fitter Adebayor will have to provide the punch and Bale and Lennon in improving supporting roles.

To tie all this in with Daniel Levy and the transfer window, utterly bored of this 'early points will cost us Champions League' argument which seems to bask in hindsight that some seem to enjoy citing. Dropping six points last season in the opening two games was unavoidable in some ways thanks to two yet to be signed players and Redknapp's selection with the way the midfield lined-up. The points that truly cost us came after the fact, later in the season, when form had been hit and defeat pulled us back down to earth with failure to recover. These very early games can be sacrificed to transition with the real tests coming when pressure to retain success on the pitch is prominent to all concerned. Still flexing those muscles.

Still, flexing or no flexing, points (in a bundle of three) on the board and a good solid performance will go a long way in settling things down and sending us on our way in the right direction. Outside pressures, we have no control of. But pressures from within can do far more long term damage. Three points and no booing.

The season starts here.


If you want it, go get it

Spurs away to QPR.

I've just this moment stopped playing with the voodoo dolls. I've exhausted all the pins. I've dished out a hex or two for good measure. Arsenal v Chelsea. That show-piece game was my doing. So boring, one of the side effects from watching it was I've regressed to a foetus. I'm blogging from the womb. I've also taken the time to prepare some protective and transfiguration spells to make sure all corners are covered (although no guarantee our actual corners will show a marked improvement in delivery. Voodoo only stretches so far).

If we win tonight, we'll claim a top 4 finish. That's my resulting has no merit in the living world prediction.

Dark magic and sacrificed mascots aside, we've got no momentum, no mojo and we've been on a downward spiral for a while. More erratic never erotic. Same squad, same players that produced scintillating football and long unbeaten runs during the first part of the season. Got too comfortable, feel asleep. Alarm clock set for wake up call. Please, do not hit the snooze button.

This is the last must win of the season. It's the end of days must win. The Godzilla of must wins. No, scrap that...It's the bastard child of Godzilla and the Kraken of must win games.

This is it.

Come on you Spurs. Rip the heart from out of my chest and kick it about for 90 minutes. It's the only way I know.



I want Mila Kunis


That's one point from four games. If we match that record in our next four games then we'll have two points from eight games. Has an endearing quality that. Feels like it belongs on a t-shirt. Can't quite put my finger on it though. I'm sure I've heard it somewhere before.

Okay, so hand on heart, I really can't be bothered to write a match report for the Chelsea game drowning in the same tactical must-haves and blah yadda ya because thanks to this non-productive run of games I'm having to repeat the same desires I lust for as a supporter from one aftermath to the next. We all know what it is we want from our team. What went missing at the Emirates is still missing four games on. It's sort of got better. Performance wise. Sort of. But the results have not. Not really. And the results are what remain paramount at this juncture of the season as we stare into the blank expression of the run-in. Nothing is quite set in stone yet. Time is still a commodity of worth. Only just.

How have we come to stand on the edge that might lead to either despair or glory?

1) Capitulation. Deserved defeat. Lost.
2) Played well, plenty of possession. Got taught a lesson in how to mug a team. Lost.
3) Disorganised but 'battered' them second half. Lost.
4) Statistically 'battered' them without really ever looking like overwhelming them and actually scoring. Managed to claw back a point from the jaws of defeat. Drew.

It's like a really crappy ground-hog day where you get stuck in the lift alone for hours on end with no means of escape rather than being stuck in the lift for hours on end with a flirty Mila Kunis.

The one repeated necessity that I've cited on a number of occasions during this spell of misery is that we need to somehow rediscover our fluency, our mojo. Be it from individualistic magic or a collective tenacity to dig out the result. Or alternatively, luck. Just a lucky break. Anything. It's not happened in the two games where we expected it to happen. Chelsea away is hardly the best place to hope it will perhaps make a surprise appearance. Because winning there (not as daunting an objective as any of the previous 22 years of mugged off visits) would switch confidence back on and we'll all marvel at how one result can change it all. We'll all scratch our heads as we witness the mentally fragile suddenly reclaim the required guile to once more go forth and conquer. Twenty-two years since we last won there. I know we don't pick our fixture list but sometimes it feels like we do.


If I shut my eyes real tight, I can see her


I'm under no illusions. Even a below par Chelsea side can cause a below par Spurs side on field headaches. The best cliché that suits this game is 'the team that wants it more will win it'. A draw would be a fine result. A win would be the important result.

Do you feel that? That eerie been here before feeling? I said I couldn't be bothered with a match report and I'm being dragged down by one.

Beyond this game, it's going to the wire, no matter the result on Saturday. Your soul has suffered aplenty in the past few weeks and it will continue to do so for a while yet.

From somewhere deep within, Tottenham Hotspur have to wake the **** up and start playing the way we know they can. The way they know they can. Lose the apologetic shrugs. I don't buy into  all this rhetoric about burn out and egos and losing focus. It's the same group of players. Pound for pound the best midfield in the country? Prove it then. Make the season counts for something. Start treating the situation with the type hunger and spirit it deserves.

Christ sake, there I go again. I'm turning into the same match preview for the fifth time in succession. I'm back in the lift. Stuck between floors. The emergency alarm doesn't work. It's ground-hog day and the inevitable conclusion to it will no doubt be waiting for me when the lift plummets down several floors to the basement and I'm left wondering why I ever walked into it in the first place.

This is not a good place to be. There is no Mila Kunis to keep me company. Even if by some miracle she did appear she'd probably morph into Meg from Family Guy. But hold up, I'm not alone any more. It's Harry. Harry Redknapp is in the corner. He's giving an interview about the England job to the lifts broken intercom.

Someone please help me. I need help.




And...we're back

Is it safe to come out? International break is over, right?

Thank God.

Other than Bale and Lennon being pulled out of their squads due to 'injury' it's been a decent week having not lost anyone on a more permanent basis with the additional bonus and return of Tom Huddlestone to training. Woodgate is apparently injured again. Conspiracy theorists might tell you otherwise. Although that may simply be desperate optimism rather than kidology. Harry capable of the latter? van der Vaart did say our gaffer is like Jose. Probably meant they're both suave and sharp dressers.

But before the glamour of Madrid we play the role of visitors to bottom club Wigan. The fixture has less sex about it than an orgy hosted by eunuchs. Can we tag this with the must-win label? Goes without say, doesn't it? Back to basics here. Keep it simple, keep it traditional. 442 please. Nobody expected them to win in the game at the Lane, what with memories of the 9-1 still buzzing around our heads. Upsets still do happen and they tend to get dished out to us when we're feeling all apologetic in performance. They're bottom, but they're still fairly organised and plucky and they're fighting for their lives whilst once more (as ever) we have one eye on another game that might well distract.

Even with players rested, if we line-up up with a decent spine and attack and we don't wear t-shirts underneath the Lilywhite, we'll be just dandy. We could have decimated Blackpool a few weeks back and ended up losing 3-1. Wigan won't pose the type of threat we encountered on that particular evening. But anything resembling complacency or lack of focus from our lot will be disheartening and dangerously encouraging for them.

Momentum Spurs. It's easier to win the next game if you've won the one before and the one before that and the one before...etcetc.

Cohesive, clinical, cutting edge. Stand tall please. Show some heart.

It's every game is a cup final time. Hold onto your flat caps.




Domestic bliss the European hang-over cure

Wolves this weekend. Six points. That's what they took off us last season. Third league home game for us and a win is much required. We need to shake off the sleepy lapses (energy drinks should do the trick), be clinical and not fade away in the second half. We've been a touch out of sorts. It's not quite flowed from start to finish within individual games which has birthed the same blippy form across all our games. Perhaps now our first CL group match is out of the way, having worked our way through the build up, the experience, the game, the post-match - we can start to perhaps relax and just play.

The EPL. Bread and butter. It's the priority.

Modric fit to play?

If Modric is back and fully fit, Harry has to once more shuffle. Very decent against WBA before he left the pitch injured. If he's fit, I'd have him back in the side in place of Jenas. But wouldn't be too upset to see JJ get another chance. Although he's likely to disappoint (what? I can't be doing with too much JJ positivity, the Spurs blogosphere would collapse in on its self). Jenas would mean Luka getting a softly softly return to action. Kaboul in place of Corluka at right-back. Just because Charlie hasn't got it going on at the moment.

I'd drop Lennon for Gio. Or Bentley. However, I'll hazard a guess and say Azza will start regardless of his current average form. Mainly because he might just explode into life, and Harry values that potentiality a better risk than to play the likes of Gio or Bentley from kick-off.

Crouch will start up front on his own, if that's how we opt to play again.

The bog standard 442 is now redundant if played in traditional fashion. 4411 is not negative for a home assault. Not if the midfield display relentless ruthless rogering of the opposition. Hey, it might happen. You never know.

Probable (hopeful) line-up then?

4-5-1, lined up as a 4-4-1-1 or displayed as a 4-2-2-1-1 (bite me). We played 451 away to WBA. With Bale left-back. And Roman up front. Bale left back? No thanks. And give Roman a holiday.

--------------------------------------  Cudicini  ---------------------------------------------

Kaboul --------------- Gallas ------------------ Bassong --------------------- BAE

--------------------- Modric/Jenas ------------------- Huddlestone ------------------
Lennon ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bale

----------------------------------------- vdV --------------------------------------------------

-------------------------------------- Crouch ------------------------------------------------

King to be rested. But if his knee allows it, I'd start him alongside Gallas. Otherwise Bassong. Palacios to miss out again. And even though Wolves beat us last season and Wigan beat us the other week, Harry will still deem this game very winnable and therefore might not risk the Luka rush-back (UNLEASH THE JENAS) or for that matter rvD.

van der Vaart not fit to play?

So if there's no rvD (calf injury recovery), let's say he's not risked/fit. Sits on the bench.


--------------------------------------  Cudicini  ----------------------------------------------

Kaboul --------------- Gallas ------------------ Bassong --------------------- BAE

------------------------ Modric/Jenas ----------------- Huddlestone ------------------
Lennon --------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bale

------------------------------- Crouch ----- Keane ----------------------------------------


I've just gone back to 442, haven't I? Ah bugger.

Robbie Keane? Am I mad? He's as pointless as West Ham I hear you shout. Well, if there's no vdV then there's no 451. So it's two up front and I'd rather give old man Keane one last chance to ignite his flagging/flagged/flaggigated Spurs career. If he's with us until Jan, then he has to play a part at some point and what with Pav resembling a Russian inanimate carbon rod on wheels, Wolves at home is surely a good candidate for Keano to try and reclaim some respect. I'd also want Kranjcar to get a game. He's been somewhat marginalised this season. Although not at the expense of Bale at left-back, but if he's Bale at left-back. So perhaps Niko should remain benched. Trying to second guess Harry. It's tricky business. Palacios can be stuck on in the latter stages if required.

No Moddle or Raf

Of course, a team without a Modric or a vdV is going to be substantially weaker than one with either of them or both of them. The problem is (re: 451) can't work if we're missing Luka or Rafael. Hence the default to 442. Or can it?

Before anyone says 'hold up Spooky, in your last article you said Harry should settle with a formation and be done with it', all I meant was: Play your best players in their best positions. And if we're going to stick with 451 (or a variant ) then it's not so difficult to stick to it and just shuffle players like for like around due to injuries/rest/etc. Sure, tactical switches to say nullify certain opposition tactics or players - well, that's just a given for certain games, but I don't believe every opposition requires special treatment.

Get the same players playing to build up momentum and consistency.

But perhaps tinkering is unavoidable if key key players are not available. I suddenly see why Harry mixes it up so much. Hang-over? I've got a headache.


For larfs and larks:

--------------------------------------  Cudicini  ---------------------------------------------

Kaboul ---------------- Gallas ------------------ Bassong ---------------------- BAE

-------------------- Palacios/Jenas ------------------- Huddlestone -------------------
Bentley ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Bale

----------------------------------- Kranjcar/Modric/Gio --------------------------------------

------------------------------------------- Crouch -----------------------------------------------


No? Fair enough. I'm just getting all Football Manager with this now. I'll quit and let you lot (some of who are far more tactically astute than myself to discuss all of the above in more detail).

The main bugbear as far as application, intent and end result is that we need to put to bed (preferable with a bullet to the head) the frustrating fact we can smash up teams that attack us but struggle to break down teams that sit back and defend.

We need to seek and destroy. Carpet bomb the Wolves all the way back to the midlands.

We are struggling with goals from forwards (in the league) so the midfield have to push up and get involved in and around the box. We can craft and create until the cows come home. Modric and vdV and Huddlestone's disguised passes.

Let's hope one of the two (Luka/Raf) make it.

We need to FINISH the chances layed on. Ruthless Tottenham this Saturday please. Nothing less. Regardless of formation.

No hang-over. Hair of the dog Spurs, hair of the dog.