The Blog that's not always wrong.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Dust to dust

What may turn out to be the last General Meeting of the Tottenham and Portsmouth Joint Old Boys Association for some time passed off peacefully enough, with Mr. Harry Redknapp presiding. The main item of business was the laying to rest of the Portsmouth Premier Division Branch and the confirmation of the Tottenham Branch as serious contenders for the honour of representing the Association in Europe next season.

Apologies were received from several members who's injuries prevented attendance including Mr.Jermain Defoe and Mr Kevin, Prince, Boateng.. Other items on the agenda included the position of Mr. James O'Hara in relation to the impending trip to Wembley. The Rule Book on this matter is still under scrutiny and a decision referred back under ' Points of Order' by the Joint Chairman to the Rules Committee. The Meeting was also billed as a Dress Rehearsal for this prestigious Cup tie.

If this was indeed what it was then they will have problems filling it: Wembley that is, not the cup although that depends on how big the cup is. Perhaps the intimacy of the managers and the two sets of players and the gravity of the situation made this more restrained than was strictly healthy. Not quite incestuous but like watching your parents engaged in the final practical arrangements for providing you with a little brother or sister.

Fittingly two Portsmouth Old Boys acted as gravediggers and scored the goals that sent their previous colleagues ever closer to the big hole in the ground. Unusually for such a Meeting two Members of the Portsmouth branch were stretchered off though the proceedings were essentially without incident. There were several notable absentees who had played for both clubs and there are at least two players who have had the distinction of playing for Tottenham, then Portsmouth, and then Tottenham again.

In the circumstance what might have been a fraught Meeting was conducted with decorum. Business was concluded with as little fuss or even exertion as possible: the Tottenham branch received three points; no serious injuries; Palacios, clutching his nine yellows, was rested; a youngster bloodied; our fifth league clean sheet running for the second time this season,and the Branch is now clear in 4th.

The game was played in a suitably funereal atmosphere, due to the Portsmouth's Branch current financial situation. Occasionally fleeting spectres could be observed flying about amongst the Yew trees, mainly Bale and Walker who are too young to show the proper respect. They rushed through the graveyard, trampling on graves, smashing flower vases and setting up both of the ghouls (sorry). Ah youth: its wasted on the young.

Captain Dawson went off with an achilles problem but reports suggest that this was precautionary. To lose one centre-half is a misfortune; to lose two smacks of carelessness; to lose three is criminally negligent. Kaboul will stand ready to replace him at Sunderland but he is cup-tied for the semi final.

In the event the Portsmouth Branch were not as overwhelmed by the occasion as most pundits predicted. However given our close ties we showed them the requisite consideration for a club that is in such Dire Straights. Which reminds me of their prescient lyrics 'Get your money for nothing and your chicks for free'. Mr O'Hara opined that he sometimes didn't get his money at all and that his 'chick' was very high maintenance and certainly not 'free'. Well not in everysense of the word.

It was a plain pine box sort of do: no plumed black horses, glass hearses, brass bands or top hatted attendants. Just a workmanlike couple of goals, a header from close in by Crouch and a neat Kranjcar flick after a blocked Modric shot. We could have had a couple more: Crouch and Huddlestone rattled the woodwork but we needed Gomes to be alert at the start as they made a couple of early chances.

Then it was all back to Harry's gaff for the wake where no doubt the shared reminiscences flowed and Harry was forced over the vol-au-vents to gently decline Avram's request for Mr. O'Hara to be allowed to play at Wembley. The Rules Committee Chairman urged on by a Mr. Daniel Levy had clearly whispered in Mr. Redknapp's ear. 'Tell him rules is rules Mr Grant: would be more than my job's worth to permit such an event as much as I would like to'.

The players are not showing signs of tension yet, rather the opposite, unlike some of the fans, who booed the team off the pitch at half time against Fulham. We didn't even play that badly. Not even delusional fans can believe that their self indulgent booing inspired the boys to turn it on in the second half against Fulham. Carrots lads, not sticks as any donkey will confirm and this lot are thoroughbreds.

Perhaps they think that we are entitled to win every game now and that if we don't make 4th or win the cup then this season has been a failure. Whatever happens now this has been the best season for some years. We have done it the 'Tottenham' way; no jostling the referee, diving, moaning about the injustices after the game, blaming injuries and played some sparkling football along the way.. Harry maintains a certain downbeat dignity in both victory and defeat which to me is in the best traditions of the club.

The real bonus for us in qualifying for the Champions' League would be that Lennon, Bale, Modric, Palacios and others are unlikely to be tempted away and we can start next season with more or less the same squad, and Harry of course, and continue to build.

Any other Business? Sunderland on Saturday is the most pressing This is the last of the clearly 'winnable' games before we face Arsenal, Chelsea and Man.Utd in succession. With possibly the most testing run-in we hope to be well clear of the chasing pack before then. At least for the moment it's in our own hands. We just have to win our remaining seven games and we are there.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Hats off to Harry

          Harry promised me they wouldn't come out for the second half.

Harry has definitely got the hang of this football managership thingy. Proactive substitutions, not after an hour, but at half time; team re-arranged in order to maximise the attacking impact and to minimise the effect of injuries; skilful deployment of all available resources. Everything that didn't come off in the first half worked like a dream in the second. Excellent team and man managership all round.

Harry and Roy slugged it out like two old prize fighters. Both men should take credit for the improvement in the standing and performance of their clubs. We didn't play badly in the first half but they were well organised and kept it short with plenty of movement. Our attacks broke down in the final third and they frustrated us. We went too long too soon. We didn't cover quickly enough and Palacios was left exposed in midfield. The boy's good but there are limits.

Their goal came from one of our attacks that broke down. Modric was slow to get back and they passed their way through what was left of our midfield and scored a deserved goal well taken by Zamora and engineered cleverly by Duff.. Mind you this was their first goal at the fourth time of asking this season.

Harry must have said something choice to concentrate their minds at half time and showed them he meant business by taking off Kranjcar and Ekotto and putting on two returnees from the Infirmary. How wonderful to have got through a substantial injury crises and have players returning for the run in. Bentley scored within a minute from his first touch. Harry seems to have dismantled him from the top down and re-assembled him using the manufacturers original blueprints. £15 million? I think they've missed the boat on that one.

Bale, who I think is more effective from full back, though its good to have the option, replaced Ekotto and Huddlestone filled up the midfield. We upped the tempo, found our passing range and threatened to overwhelm a very rattled Fulham. When Corluka was injured Palacios went to full back, Gudjohnsen dropped deeper and Pavlyuchenko came on and inevitably scored a scorching volley from a narrow angle from a Bentley cross. Modric, statistically our most effective player again, now buzzing from the left, set up Gudjohsen for the third after, it is reported, a 23 pass movement started by Huddlestone.

Palacios lost his bearings on occasions but played in what is now becoming his customary circumspect manner and completed yet another 90 minutes without a yellow card. He doesn't need to tackle now as his reputation precedes him. He has had a set of printed cards made to hand out at the start of the match which read, 'I am Wilson Palacios. Don't even think about it'.

So its 'Hats off to Harry' as the old Del Shannon hit nearly said: for his positivity, his organisational efficiency and for knowing when to gamble. Elsewhere on an almost perfect night Villa drew and Man.City lost. We are now clear of all our challengers for fourth place. Fulham was our fifth straight win and we have Portsmouth on Saturday. After that it gets more difficult but two of our 'top four' games are at home and in current form we would hope to get something from them. Of our remaining eight games four are eminently winnable on our current form: Portsmouth, Sunderland Bolton, and Burnley. Simply winning all of those might be enough to clinch it. The other game away to City has yet to be arranged but could be the key to 4th place.

The injury to Bassong is not thought to be serious but Corluka could be out for three weeks. The best moment of the match was when Harry called Pavlyuchenko across during an injury break to relay some tactical instructions to the team. It wasn't clear whether this conversation was in Russian or English but Roman's face registering a mixture of surprise, delight, and incomprehension said it all.

Hats off to Harry too for his shrewd recruitment of Gudjohnsen and Kranjcar and his rehabilitation of Bale, Pavlyuchenko and Bentley. Bassong too has turned out better than we might have hoped. We just need Lennon, Defoe, Jenas and Ledley back now and we have a squad more than equal to the tasks ahead. Its amazing what we have achieved without so many first choice players but where Harry's going to fit them all in I have no idea.

Far from fearing that we will not make the grade if we should step up I am worried that we are becoming a little predictable: winning games we are expected to win; players playing to their full transfer value. Where will it all end.? Decades in the Champions' League; trophy cabinets full of silverware; Harry still manager into his seventies. Is that what you all really want? What about the uncertainties, the disappointments, the mounting tensions when we are a goal or even two up? You mean you would swap all that for glory and success. We might have to go over to W.Ham for our weekly despondency fix.

On Saturday we are at home to Portsmouth. Who knows what state of mind they will be in or how many first team players they still have or can afford to play. O'Hara possibly their best player is ineligible and they have injury problems of their own, Unlike us they have nothing in particular to play for and their away record and record at WHL is very poor.. We should win this easily especially with quality players returning, confidence high and a capacity crowd.

JimmyG2 official prediction: 3-0. Remember, I'm not always wrong.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Kaboul in a china shop

Look into my eyes and repeat after me: 'I am Wilson Palacios'

Well Harry got it completely wrong against Stoke. He prioritised the wrong competition and in order to ensure that we still had Wilson available for Wednesday's replay against Fulham he kept him on the bench and sent on Kaboul in his place. How wrong can you be.

As a result of these errors we won the game and Wilson is still available. Not only that but Gudjohnsen, once described in this very column as a 'once great player but now sadly past his best' scored a fine goal with a clever assist by Crouch, once described in this very column as a 'very poor footballer'.

However I did get the score correct, even though that prediction was made before Defoe was ruled out and Harry made all those tactical errors. So once again we are all thankful that Harry is our leader and that he got it right but clearly for all the wrong reasons. Is it better to be wrong for the right reasons as I often am? Or do you prefer Harry's system which seems to work against all the odds? Harry's mistake was the worst since Sir Alf dropped Jimmy Greaves for Hurst in the World Cup Final nearly 50 yrs ago. We not only won the World Cup but Sir Geoff scored a hat trick. Managers: what do they know.

The game itself lacked interest as a footballing spectacle and was more engaging for the side shows, most of which occurred in the 20 minutes after half time. Ekotto had a spat with Corluka; Ekotto still surrounded by the Red Mist conceded a pointless penalty which enabled them to equalise; Gudjohnsen replaced the injured Pavlyuchenko before half time, which gave us all that sinking feeling; but Eidur then proved us all wrong, well me anyway, by playing with some craft and skill, scoring a first class goal and later providing a clever step-over for Kranjcar's winner. We threatened to overwhelm them but then came the penalty. Before that Whitehead had earned a second yellow card for another crude foul on Modric who had been targeted as had Bale in the first half.

Kaboul is no Wilson but proved more than adequate for the occasion especially in the air. He even emulated Wilson's shooting skills: high wide and averagely good looking. The defence was largely untroubled because Stoke played more like the away side and anything resembling actual football was provided by ourselves which prevented Stoke FC being charged under the False Descriptions Act.

The much vaunted 'afternoon of the long throws ' was largely a damp squib thanks in part to Crouch and to Gomes' enthusiasm. We got into more trouble trying to avoid giving away throw-ins than from the throws themselves. Bale flickered gamely in the first half but then donned the cloak of invisibility for the second. Modric kept the ball well without creating a great deal and they had a couple of late chances, the best from a poor back pass header by Bassong which Sidibe found so comical that he fell over laughing and Gomes was able to clear. Kranjcar was lively and effective but Gudjohnsen stole the show.

So now we have proved that we can play without Lennon, King, Woodgate, Modric, Defoe, Jenas, Huddlestone, our Friend in the Far North and Wilson Palacios. We have got to within spitting distance of the end of the season and are still fourth having been in the top four for most of the time and not once below 7th. place. Of our challengers only Man.City have a theoretical advantage on us and we have to play them in what could be the Champions' League place decider.

On Wednesday it's Fulham for a place in the semi finals against Portsmouth and on Saturday its Portsmouth again in the league. These are two 'winnable' games, a term which is starting to have more meaning than previously'. Konchesky has attempted to raise the stakes by huffing and puffing after their victory against Juventus but by Sunday Man. City had reduced their claims to their proper level.

At home we should be able to progress . We have played Fulham three times this season and they have yet to score, home or away. Assuming that we have a dozen or so players available who can be put in some sort of team formation I predict a win by the odd goal, probably 1-0. Anyone attempting to make a career out of placing wagers on my predictions are warned that past performance is no indication of future return.

Some fans are worried that we might make the Champions' League places only to go out in the qualifying or fall be the wayside next season. Enjoy it while you can friends; nothing is guaranteed, anything can happen, 'better to fail aiming high than succeed aiming low', 'to dare is to do'. I'm still lovin' it and so too should all of you.

This reminds me of an old Spurs fan's reaction to an apocryphal Jenas hat-trick.
'Ah yes', he said, 'but can he do it every week?'
Lets get there first and see what happens.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Bye, bye Blackburn

Does Harry not like that?

Well, that all went according to plan. Sometimes we seem to get the plans the wrong way up but not on Saturday. There were the odd alarms of course: a decent penalty shout turned down early for them; a disallowed goal that would have made it 3-2 with minutes to go; two penalty appeals turned down for us against Bale. Their replacement keeper made a couple of good saves and as the first half played itself out without any clear chances, except for the ones that Pavlyuchenko missed you began to get that 'here we go again' feeling.

Defoe however with lightening reflexes picked up a Corluka glanced header from a corner just on half time and slammed it home. Half time talk amended, crowd happy, terrible tea never tasted so good and all is right with the world. Pavlyuchenko missed a few more but contrived to grab a couple and only defensive acrobatics prevented his hat-trick. Return ticket to Russia put on hold once again. From outcast to Harry's best mate in half a dozen games.

Palacios still hovering on the edge of a two match suspension maintained his balance and once again played with effectiveness and control. He can't get through the rest of the season can he? Bale roasted Salgado several times and picked up another assist for Pavlyuchenko's second. Salgado an experienced ex Real Madrid star paid full tribute to a fellow member of the attacking full backs club despite accusing him of diving twice. Well he would say that wouldn't he. I'm not sure how a La Liga notable ends up in the twilight of his career at Blackburn. I assume that there must have been a mix up with his travel documents.

Blackburn scored from yet another set play, where over 50% of their goals have come from. Samba was clearly holding Dawson down which was another Webb error but over the whole game his incompetence was fairly evenly distributed and didn't ultimately affect the result. We should have won it; we did win it. We are getting just a little predictable and I could get to like it.

Results are still going our way, Aston Villa drew at Stoke but at the time of writing Liverpool have just scored three in 6 mins. against Portsmouth but whatever happens there we are still 4th with nine games to go. It's still Man.City that have a possible points advantage over us in terms of games in hand but they do not look like putting a sustained run together at the moment. They blew a couple more of their points advantage in their draw at the weekend. Our goal difference is superior to all our challengers and might prove crucial in the final analysis. I have said that before but the prospect of the whole 38 game season going right down to the wire is clearly preying on my mind.

Whether I will have any thing resembling a mind by the 9th of May is debatable. We could do with a couple of our wounded warriors returning to the front line rapidisimo. Huddlestone for preference but even Bentley and Jenas lurking on the touchline would be reassuring just in case Palacios has a rush of blood before the end of the season. Lennon, King and Woodgate have been sent back behind the lines from the front line field hospital and would appear to be on very extended leave, possibly for the duration.

The seemingly endless current debate about whether we would prefer to win the cup or come 4th, is a no-brainer to me. The FA cup is a shiny domestic bauble which adds just another line to our proud history. The Champions' League offers us prestige and status in the wider world. We could look the Sky four squarely in the eye. One of them will have been discarded and the world will never be the same again. It's more than a headline its a new chapter in the History of FFootball. It means that our key players , particularly Modric will be more than happy to stay and those that dream of exotic foreign imports may get some of their Xmas wishes. The money will be nice too. Champions' League nights at the new stadium. Mmm!

Mind you there is no reason why we shouldn't do both. Now that's what you might call just being plain greedy, but its wonderful to be in this position after so many years of waiting and hoping.

Pack up all my care and woe' indeed.

On current form we should be able to handle Stoke. Another team that relies heavily on set plays. Any team whose secret weapon is a long throw deserves to be soundly thrashed and I think that we will win it, even with a depleted squad given the form we are in.

The home game was a complete mess. We conceded late to a very good goal by sub. Whelan having gone down to ten men with Woodgate and Lennon injured. Simonsen made some good saves and we missed some decent chances. It can't all go wrong again. We coped with the long throws of Delap but I assume that we will concede one but should score a couple with Defoe and Pavlyuchenko on such good form.

Official JimmyG2 forecast 2-1 and another week in the top four. Do we all not like that!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Mind the gap

Thinkstock single image collection

Look up all the statistics; home and away form; goals scored or whatever and there is clearly a yawning gap between Blackburn and ourselves. Let´s hope that the game doesn´t produce a yawning opportunity for the spectators. See what I did there? Although at this stage even I start to concede that good results start to edge out the requirement for good performances. But never entirely for me because I believe that good performances over a season produce the goods even if in a single game it doesn´t quite work out. Fill in your own examples. I´ll give you a clue: Wolves at home.

We have been very good defensively: more clean sheets than a Chinese laundry. We are at least two goals better than Blackburn so I make that 2 or 3-0. They have little to play for in terms of league position and we need the points to maintain our push for the you know what. However teams with no worries or prospects can sometimes surprise teams that are starting to come under pressure but Blackburn have shown little other than determination this season and I anticipate little to concern us. Even the prospect of Paul Robinson playing a blinder should not be enough.

We have our excuses ready made in terms of injuries but we overcame them away to Fulham, a better team than Blackburn, so we surely will again. Kaboul is available and perhaps Bentley but we could well see the same starting line up as last week: Ekotto in defence and Bale at left midfield. Harry is not one for changing things round without good reason.

Unless Wilson has departed for Real Madrid, Kaboul will be kept in reserve and Modric will start in the middle. Let´s hope he gets into the game more quickly this week as without Huddlestone we are a little short of creativity. I would play Bale at full back and Modric down the left as he seems to create space when he moves inside for the boy Gareth but it worked out last week with Ekotto and Harry will probably stick with it.

With Defoe available I hope we go with him and Pavlyuchenko. Last week revealed no spark between Crouch and Pavlyuchenko so let´s hope that Harry´s sentimental affection for his Portsmouth´connections doesn´t see him reverting to Crouch and Defoe. I don´t think that Crouch will stand up any better to the physicality of the Blackburn defence. We need to keep the ball moving from the midfield at pace and both Kranjcar and Modric have the ability to do this while Wilson minds the store.

If we win we can enjoy yet another week in the you know what and with winnable games to come, before we meet Arsenal and test Harry´s gap closing predictions, then the last few games begin to look very interesting. Very interesting indeed. Form can go out of the window when the going gets tough in the final phase of the season. It could all be settled one way or the other by then, either by our own collapse or that of some or all of our rivals.

Somehow I don´t think so and it looks like going down to the wire with upsets all over the place. Lets hope that tomorrow lunchtime isn´t the first upset of many. Only joking.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Come into my parlour

Well it worked against Bolton so why not give it a go against Fulham: smother them away from home; wrap them up and entice them back to the Lane where we devour them whole.
'Come into my parlour said the spider to the fly'
.Ah but what about Leeds? That was reverse psychology: lull them into a false sense of security; give them a chance at the Lane; then swat them just when they think they've cracked it. So I'm relieved in a disappointed Tottenham fan sort of way but clearly it was all part of the Tottenham overall grand plan. Neither side were prepared to risk everything to secure a Wembley semi-final place agaiinst Portsmouth. Fulham, although at home, had Europa Cup hopes and Juventas on their minds. With a depleted squad, we were content to do enough to bring them back to the Lane.

On a tight ground they were compact in defence and unadventurous in attack. Neither Crouch nor Pavlyuchenko got much room to work in. Both teams were missing their creative heart in midfield with Murphy and Huddlestone out. It opened up a little in the last quarter but neither side really departed from the safety first option. None-the-less on a rough hard pitch in windy conditions an impressive amount of decent football was played and not just by us. We had the better of the possession and they had the best of the few chances . Both keepers made a couple of decent saves. We forced another 9 corners and didn't make any of them count.

Palacios was voted our man of the match but Zamora was the best player on the pitch on the day. He has certainly changed his game since he was with us, relying more on strength to hold off challenges. He played most of the game with his back to goal, and trying to set up others . In his brief time at Spurs under Hoddle he scored a single goal in 20 or so appearances.

Palacios under the threat of a two game suspension for ten yellows patrolled the mid-field with intent but with more circumspection than usual, as he did at Everton and was all the better for it. No late lunges and more precision and time in his passing. Bale Modric and Kranjcar made a number of decent runs and we didn't overuse the long ball. Modric, playing in the centre, didn't make as much impact on the game as we would have liked. It took him some time to become more attack minded although he was playing in his normal position for Croatia. Perhaps he was under instructions to tend to his defensive duties first.

Harry chose the Ekotto option in defence, with Bale in midfield and it worked well enough although with several midfielders to return it may not be a long term option. Decisions will have to be made, sooner rather than later with any luck. Pavlyuchenko's control was poor in the first half but improved later and he made a useful contribution by dropping deep to cover. There was little sign of any rapport between the two strikers. They played like divorcees at a party determined to ignore each other. Defoe looked more threatening in his ten minute cameo than either of them.

A replay at the Lane is by no means a worst case scenario. None of our rivals for the top four played in the Premiership this weekend so that's yet another week in fourth to enjoy. Wigan bearing us no grudge beat Liverpool to give us a game in hand as well as a point of daylight and a superior goal difference. Our heavy defeat of Wigan might prove vital in the final analysis.

Harry said this week that what is important is 'the way we play'. I don't believe or agree with a lot of what Harry says except when he is running for the 'statement of the bleedin' obvious' award, but I hope he means this and if he does I will cut him a lot of slack. We haven't sold out to a billionaire playboy who wants results the day before yesterday and we haven't sacrificed our values in the search for glory and success so far. On Monday night Liverpool were ragged but also crude and over physical in a way that I hope we never resort to. And it didn't even work. Was this the Wigan side that we convincingly beat twice this season?

This can all be frustrating to older fans hungry for the return of the Glory, Glory days or for those too young to remember them, or fed up with hearing about them. Building success and making steady progress is more satisfying in the long run. Trust me. Who outside their fans loves Chelsea? Are they respected and admired? Similarly Man.City. Aren't we all delighted that the Abu Dhabi billions haven't bought them instant payback and have already led to the sacking of one manager. Birmingham, even with access to large Hong Kong fortunes, have done it the hard way and are commended for it.

We have won a lot of attention this season by the quality of our football. We have restored a lot of pride in ourselves and remained true to our traditions. It can all come unstuck obviously but there is no reason at the moment to suppose that it will.

The travails at Portsmouth, who have had more owners than league wins this season, and the discontent at Man. Utd should give us all pause for thought. Less than half of even Premiership clubs are financially viable and when new accounting rules are brought in, which they assuredly will be in the aftermath of the banking crises, then clubs who are trying to cut corners may find themselves broken down on the hard shoulder and not in the fast lane with the top down.

Mind you I've had this bloody 'Doom is Nigh' placard round my neck for some time.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Down to the bare bones

Three Human Skeletons

                                       The Spurs bench

If we can find enough players down the back of the sofa we should have enough to at least bring Fulham back to the Lane and finish them off. We have done this in the previous round . I don't know if its an actual plan but it seemed to work against Bolton.Leeds we did the hard way drawing at home and winning away. We can put out a reasonable first team but we are 'down to the bare bones' in reserves as Harry would put it.

We've found a couple, Livermore and Townsend have been recalled and of these Livermore is the more likely to start in place of Huddlestone. Rose is ahead of Townsend in the left flank position Unless Harry puts Ekotto at full back and pushes Bale up into midfield.

Up front without Defoe I think it will be Crouch, fresh from his England triumph, and man of the moment Pavlyuchenko. Gudjohnsen will probably be held in reserve to fill a more defensive role depending on the state of the game. If we keep the ball mainly on the ground we should create enough chances. Defoe might still make it and Harry could be trying to mess with Roy Hodgson's head. It always looks and sounds as if someone has when he's interviewed but he is an experienced old hand and has worked wonders at Fulham.

I think Harry will go for as little disruption as possible with Ekotto as an option if we are chasing the game. The smart money seems to be on a 1-1 draw but I think we can edge this one and get it all over and done with on the day. Both strikers are in positive mode and I think the usual back five can cope with the threat that Fulham pose.

My main worry is that Palacios charged with the main defensive duties in midfield might find himself stretched and lured into reckless tackles. His tenth red card and subsequent two match ban needs to be carefully stage managed. But he wasn't booked against Everton and might escape again today. Modric will probably join him in central midfield, if Livermore doesn't start, where he usually plays for Croatia with Kranjcar starting on the right as he did so successfully last week.

O'Hara cannot be recalled and Kaboul is cup-tied so that closes those options off.
My official forecast is a narrow win for the skeleton staff probably 2-1.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Never do things by halves

           Varied fare at the Lane. 

We played our best half of football this season champagne and caviare stuff, but the second half was more warm beer and a ploughman's. Everton inevitably came back at us from 2-0 down after half time. We just about had the strength to survive although in the end we were a little fortunate that they didn't take their chances.

We saw the best and worse of Gomes, sloppy handling and match saving efforts in an amusing little soufflé. Thankfully this is only an occasional 'special' on the bar menu rather then a daily choice.
We stuffed Everton like marrows in the first half and they nearly made gooseberry fools of us for afters. In the end the sticky toffee pudding was 'off' so we had the Victorious Sponge instead. We enjoyed the first course but the second gave us a touch of indigestion.

One talking point seems to be whether Defoe passed the ball for Pavlyuchenko's opener after 10 minutes or whether it was a mishit shot. Since Defoe has never in his life passed when in a shooting position the smart money is on the latter. Actually with Roman hidden behind two defenders as he ran in on goal it would have taken an incredibly accurate ball to set him up. Judging by Defoe's body shape and the speed of the ball it doesn't look like a pass. Not that it matters.

No dispute about the goal of the game and possibly the season. The ball disappeared for several minutes into the Croatian triangle. It re-appeared at the feet of Modric who contrived what Andy Murray would recognise as a whipped top-spin forehand shot from just inside the area. The ball ended up in the net off the underside of the bar. Almost game set and match to Spurs.

So its back up to fourth although with all our other rivals for top four winning it was a vital result. Huddlestone is possibly out for a month with an ankle injury and Kaboul came on in his place. He did OK and once he settles in could be a useful, versatile asset for the run in. He needs a tighter positional brief from Harry to curb his wanderlust. Let's not write him off prematurely, again.

Bale is so reliably good these days that he barely merits a mention. He was good defensively as well on Sunday. If I were him I would contact his Union rep. about getting an attacking supplement. With Bentley out with a groin strain the experiment of playing all three Croatians worked this time because Kranjcar made a skilful, pacy appearance and Modric a masterful return to his elusive best. Shouts of 'popustanje mene lopta' rang around the ground. That's 'Give me the ball' in Croatian for those that didn't keep up with their Croatian studies which you will remember I launched when we only had a pair of Croatians.

All four of our strikers were on the pitch at some time but not all at once obviously. Crouch fulfilled his real purpose by providing the long ball alternative as time ticked away but we won the game mainly on the floor. I'm with Cloughy on that one, there is no grass up in the sky. Eidur was a little aimless, unless he was trying to frighten the lives out of us, which he did with a cheeky, mazy little dribble on the edge of his own penalty box.

Injuries are piling up: Woodgate, King, Lennon, Jenas, Bentley and Huddlestone currently and we may well need a diving suit to survey our famed strength in depth. I said from the beginning that O'Hara should be retained and I think he should be recalled. Who knows we might get 'The Prince' back in a fire-sale at Portsmouth. If we could just re-sign Chimbonda from Sunderland 'Spurs Re-united' would be nearly complete.

It would nice to be able to say that we don't do things by halves but unfortunately we do. At least we turned it on for the first half which is better for my nerves. The once fashionable metatarsal injury has been replaced by problems of the groin which seems appropriate in the light of the recent scandals at Chelsea.

It's been an excellent week: three wins; 9 goals scored and only 1 conceded and still in the Champions' League places. Fulham in the heightened atmosphere of the cup is definitely on for us next weekend. We played out a 0-0 with them on Boxing day and a replay at the Lane is a possibility of course. Assuming that we can raise a squad for the game, with confidence high from the past week's performances we should be able to put this one away first time though again the margin is not likely to be great.

Pavlyuchenko and Defoe should start, with the Croatians; King could be back in for Bassong. In the absences of Huddlestone and Bentley then Ekotto might come in at full back and Bale play left mid field. However I wouldn't be surprised to see Kaboul join Palacios in the centre with Modric on the left and Kranjcar on the right. I might have to update this in the light of injuries, recoveries and availabilities later in the week.