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The worst thing about the match…

22 Aug

Manchester United away.  Depressingly predictable.  What’s to say?

Not a lot – although it is worth noting that we are the premier league club with the worst record at Old Trafford.  For a team that is now operating in and around the top four that is almost farcical.   It reveals, I think, a staggering mental weakness.  Few clubs with our aspirations could simultaneously find themselves in such a rut.  Yes, we have been cheated by referees, injuries and timing but it’s the two contrasting psychological profiles that’s the real problem, that ultimately casts one club as the abuser and the other as the abused.

But the past is the past, even if it’s still playing on Sky Sports +1, and we don’t have to worry about going there again until next season.What I’d rather talk about are crowds.  Specifically the bumbling heard of marks they’ve managed to corral into Old Trafford.

Roy Keane complained about the prawn sandwich brigade, but he only had to contend with them munching and slurping away whilst he plied his savage craft.  These days, thanks to specially produced infomercials featuring Simon Callow, they understand the concept of half-time – like the intermission!  This is the theatre of dreams after all.

Now they’ve put away their snacks they can devote their full attention to the show and to those quaint mummers toiling below;  ye olde  mis-shapen lumpen-proles perspiring and cursing in the limelight.  A rumour goes around that Johnny Evans drives a horse drawn cart to training.

What oohing and ahhing.  What premature excitement!  Look Daddy, Wayne (Wayne?) Rooney just did a back heel in the centre circle.  By Jove, he did, cheer son, cheer or Roy Keane will get you.

There’s something soul destroying about watching your team capitulate to mindless shrieks of a typical Take That crowd.

And this is not just a Manchester United problem.  Arsenal supporters (or at least the ones they let into the Emirates) cannot differentiate between a meaningful attack and a wild clearence that goes slightly near that pensive man of letters Theodore Walcott.

Watching football can be a burden.  The TV commentary and analysis is atrocious.  Newspaper reporting has been shown up and taken refuge in the gutter.  Now the plastic fans are conquering our grounds.  Why can’t they be better, why can’t they be like us?  Will we become like them?

Think about Stefan Freund.  Is the age of being able to enjoy a player ironically coming to a close?

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Great De-Presh 2000 and e-lev Round-up

24 Apr

We all thought it would be alright when Huddlestone got here. We all thought that once he rinsed parliament (by which I mean his body) of Disraeli and the Tory filth (by which I mean his injury) all would be right in the Kingdom. Alas strife is a squatter.

On the face of it the return of Huddlestone has restored us to form. The games against Stoke, Real Madrid, Arsenal and West Brom saw some of our best performances of recent weeks as well as a fair return of goals. 2.7 per game in the league to be exact. If we’d maintained that over the season so far we’d have scored 88. A marked improvement.

On the other hand we’ve conceded 2.3 goals a game in that period. Extend that for the season so far and we’d have let in 77. A marked decline. However, that total includes an inordinate number of howlers (cataclysmic errors from Huddlestone, Bale, Gallas plus Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s pulled hamstring) and an inordinate number of near-wonder strikers (Etherington, Jones, Cox) . It’s simply not feasible that that ratio could be kept up over the course of a season – whilst our performances and number of shots suggest the goals tally is no fluke.

The point of the blog is optimism and I think there’s reason to be optimistic and yet…

Above these impressive displays lies aura of chaos. The frequent sucker punches reveal a team playing under massive pressure. Until Defoe goal against West Brom we were desperate; commanding and fluent but desperate when it came to the final ball. Redknapp’s tactics, despite what you have heard, are coherent in theory but unstable over the course of a game. Van der Vaart was widely judged Man of the Match against Arsenal but for significant portions of the game his contribution dwindled to nothing and, worse, his lenient interpretation of ‘right midfield’ left us woefully exposed.

The functionality of the team is fuzzy; too many elements are unpredictable, from how players operate on any given day, to the selection. Rather than things coming together for the grand finale, we’re still winging it. Despite Redknapp showing a degree of faith in Pavlyuchenko, it has not been fully vindicated so we cannot assume it will continue. Despite Huddlestone having a positive impact, it’s not been so overwhelmingly positive to guarantee a settled centre of midfield.

The rain may be easing off but it’s getting perilously close to tea-time.

Crouchometre Mania!

11 Apr

Given Redknapp had been saving Crouch for Europe (at least he’ll be champing at the bit… oh shi-) I didn’t have much hope for the big man but perhaps now he’ll be playing regularly and roboto dancing his way to the top of the Crouchometre.

Carroll did his part tonight, though there seems to be some doubt he even got a touch for his second. Could this be an asterix in the superscript of their goals tally? Add it to Suarez’s dubiously attributed first Liverpool goal and the Crouchster could be outscoring them 2 to 1.

One crouch to rule them all

The Great Depression of 2011: Wigan (away)

2 Apr

The worst thing about watching football is that it can make you feel so powerless. It’s hard to imagine another scenario where we tie our happiness to something we have absolutely no control over – At least they let you choose your lottery numbers.

Watching Tottenham in the league these days is like entering the lottery with an out of date ticket, with numbers somene else has chosen. But you go to check them anyway, just for the sake of it, only to realise that someone has cut off your hands and replaced them with Betamax players. Welcome to the great depression of 2011.

This blog was supposed to be all about positivity but this is a bad time. It’s bad chiefly because things are so good. The squad is great, overflowing with interesting players and we’re having a jolly old european adventure, being praised an lauded the world over. But it’s hard to enjoy these things knowing they’re liable to be taken away in the near future, and it’s hard to endure these dismal league performances knowing that we’re capable of so much more.

I don’t want to analyse the Wigan, it’s best to look ahead, but there is one thing I’ll mention:

Jenas – I found it hard to understand what his role was meant to play today. It’s a common problem with him. Against Arsenal, when he was alongside Modric, he was notionally the more defensive of the two yet when we conceded the second goal he’d pushed up into an excellent but innappropriate attacking position, leaving us over exposed when they counter attacked. The improvement in the second half was in part due to Gallas encouraging him to stay put in front of the defence.

Today, alongside Sandro in a narrow midfield, was surely a great opportunity for him to play on the front foot where he’s best. Yet I recall a passage of play in the first half where Modric was on the attack. He was looking in vain for options and movement from our somnambulistic strikeforce but Jenas, who had pushed forward, decided to casually jog back and reassume a position behind play. I can’t believe it was per Redknapp’s instructions and it didn’t make a lot of sense.

Jenas isn’t playing badly, he’s a relatively consistant performer, but he’s rarely ever in the right place and never at the right time – in contrast to his first couple of seasons with us. Too often he forms a a midfield axis that is less than the sum of its parts. Literally, it’s as if we’ve got two men doing the job of one.

Crouchometre Update

21 Mar

A sad day in the long and glorious history of the Crouchometre, the chasing pack of gnashers, lashers and manic pixie dream Spaniards have drawn level.

Although with Redknapp playing Crouch solely in the Champions league and Carroll staggering back to fitness it can’t be much of a surprise. Too bad I wasn’t craven enough to include Pavlyuchenko and Defoe on the Crouch team – they’d be romping it.

crouch outscores all

Michael Dawson knows why Birmingham won the CCup

7 Mar

Michael dawson knowsMost football talk is nonsensical, football hyperbole doubly so. When we hear about the competitiveness of the premier league it’s usually someone shouting about how the premier league is the most competitive league in world and every game is difficult! Or else it’s someone screeching about how a club has fielded a weakened team and devalued the competition. Generally no one bothers to look at whether this schizophrenic never-say-die defeatism comes to favour one club or another.

That’s why it was good to hear Michael Dawson talking after our bewildering result at Blackpool the other week. He basically said what a lot of Spurs fans have known for a long time: The premier league is harder for us than for our rivals. The Blackpool game was a clear example. Consider if Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea or even Man City had beaten Milan a few days earlier. It probably wouldn’t have been viewed as a shock or even much of a triumph – Man City would have been breaking new ground but with such an expensively assembled squad victory comes with a dull inevitability. It would have had little bearing on the game at Blackpool. In our case we were perceived as plucky heroes who could be taken down a peg or two.

It’s more than that, Dawson explained: ‘It is not just this season. Tottenham are a massive club and teams want to beat us. Maybe our status is going up.’ This is the crux of it. Our status has gone up, we’ve become a choice scalp for opportunistic Braves lurking lower down the table. But, at the same time, unlike our notional rivals, we’ve not perceived as having the hard head necessary to see off such challenges and everyone knows it.

I can recall a time, maybe twenty years ago, when Manchester United fans would claim the league was harder for them because other teams approached their matches like cup finals. That may or may not have been true then, but it certainly isn’t now. The pressures of the premier league and the disparity in resources between top and bottom have meant that teams will essentially write some games off, that they’ll field weakened teams, that they’ll assume they’ll get nothing from certain matches. It’s logical. If you’re Wolves going away to Chelsea it would be pretty daft to count on coming away with some points. So when things start going against you there’s no imperative to dig in and every reason to think about that upcoming game against your fellow relegation battlers where you have to win.

But against Tottenham? Would you field a weakened team? Would you skip over that fixture when you’re plotting where you points will come from? Of course not. You’d be stupid to. History has shown Tottenham are mentally weak (even though this season we’ve toughened up and won a lot more points in the last few minutes), Tottenham are struggling to combine the Champions League and the domestic program (even though the stats say otherwise) etc. etc. There’s a litany of reasons why you should aim to beat Tottenham. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, a vicious circle. Something we have to deal with whereas our rivals, to a large degree, don’t.

This is why I suspected Birmingham would win the Carling Cup. You’ve got a situation that rarely occurs in the Premier League: a ‘lesser’ club up against a ‘bigger’ club where both teams are equally motivated to win. For everything people say about the league, that rarely happens. Professionalism is important but football is a lot more than just professionalism. This was a game that could only be approached on its own terms, where there was nowhere to run, no way for Birmingham to rationalise defeat and say well, even if we’d won we probably have been knocked out in the next round.

They went toe to toe with Arsenal and got the result. It would be nice to think that it could inspire teams when they come up against the Chelseas and Man Utds. Chances are though, it’ll probably inspire teams when they come up against us.

The World Famous Crouchometre! (part one)

16 Feb

As any Spurs fan knows Peter Crouch is the reason we’re not challenging for the premiership title, the reason there’s traffic congestion on match days and the reason we didn’t get that promotion at work – even though we were far and away the best candidate and have demonstrative levels of productivity way above that of Jeff and even Carl.

It’s completely outrageous, so we’ve introduced the Crouchometre to monitor Uriah Crouch’s contribution against Fernando Torres, Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll – all of whom we could’ve, would’ve, should’ve had!

peter crouch's goals