New Year, I’m Happy

Domination so complete, I have a crick in my neck from facing in the same direction for too long. Then, finally, Lloris’s bank holiday stroll around his green and pleasant area is rudely interrupted. He saves well, low to his right, two hands. Being alert after long periods of inactivity is another of his many attributes. The reading centre forward has a gaping net but heads the rebound wide. Pressure now, unexpected, unknown since the third minute when he put another bouncing rebound into the net. From the second corner, there’s an almighty schmozzle on the goal line. Legs, bodies, arms raised, accusing glances towards referee and linesman, but play on. A little while later, Dempsey’s celebration is indecently joyful as his deflected shot spirals over a stranded keeper. Spurs’ win is safe, 3-1 now and no way back.

Seasons turn on such short passages of play. Off the line at one end, a lucky goal at the other. If Spurs had dropped any points, it would have been a gross injustice in a match we dominated totally, but whoever said anything about football being fair? For Spurs, not pressing home an advantage and conceding late is not something that could happen, it’s something that does happen. From now until the end of the season, every point will be vital. The pursuit of 3rd and 4th will go the wire. Yet over a successful holiday period, 10 points out of 12 will do and in each of our three wins, we played well in the first half but better in the second, scoring eight second half goals and conceding none.

Our new year is a time to look forward. Without getting carried away on the back of three victories against frankly poor oppositionSpurs blog 88 – Sunderland were limited up front, Reading limited everywhere, Villa just arouse pathos – the signs are all positive. Bearing in mind the fact this team needed major rebuilding over the summer with the loss of both manager and its creative heart, we are moving ahead far more quickly than could be expected. The players are comfortable with each other and with their style of play that at its best offers an outlet for their attacking instincts and at its worst provides a fall-back position of solidity based on hard work. It’s pass and move in the Spurs tradition, easy on the eye and a possession game that’s entirely modern. The proviso is, we keep the tempo high, it’s what suits us best.

It’s significant that almost all of the players have improved in some way since Andre Villas-Boas took over. Fans never truly know what influence coaches have over their charges. However, something’s working. In no particular order, Sandro is a beast of a defensive midfielder who has responded to being his manager’s first choice by becoming an absolute rock. Lennon is having his best season, excellent yesterday. Defoe is scoring, Caulker has stepped easily into this side – I keep reminding myself he only turned 21 last month – while Bale is reaching stratospheric heights as the most dangerous midfielder in the league.

New comers Vertonghen and Dembele look as if they were born to play at the Lane. Their class was evident to whoever scouted them but the way they combine with their team-mates, that’s Villas-Boas again. The Dembele-Sandro axis could be as good a midfield paring as any in the Premier League. Dawson could have been transferred but wants to play and gives everything he has for the team, as does Gallas although his powers are waning not for  want of trying but through the passage of time. Naughton has benefitted from having a few matches in a row, which also means we can rotate at the back. Dempsey has finally found his place after a sticky start, hence his celebration yesterday. All this without Parker and Kaboul, our best centre half.

Of the rest, none has been a disaster. Sigurdsson has taken time to settle, a better game yesterday but best as an impact sub to ensure the tempo stays high towards the end of games. Huddlestone has not picked up the pace that’s required. Walker needs guidance and perhaps some firm words about how to defend, while Adebayor, once the missing link up front, has become the weak link with a series of ineffective performances.

Again, his manager has kept faith in him, seeing the value of giving his choices several games to find their feet rather than chopping and changing every weekend. His patience was rewarded with a classic far post headed goal yesterday. In the first half Manu walked back to the halfway line bewildered after weakly heading wide. This time, he tucked Lennon’s glorious cross into the narrow gap between keeper and post. Strikers thrive on goals and the match was delayed as Manu milked it, eventually emerging from a heap of celebrating team-mates who also realised the value of that goal went way beyond putting Spurs 2-1 up. He looked to the heavens and crossed himself. This has got to be the way forward for religion too. Perhaps after a particularly good service the pope and his cardinals could spontaneously pile on top of each other in front of the altar.

Time rushes by as it does for older people like me but it doesn’t seem that long ago since the season began. Yet the media coverage at the time feels like ancient history. Villas-Boas was incompetent. Couldn’t handle players. Creates an atmosphere. Disharmony among the players was rife according to several tabloid journalists. They could not be more wrong. The players clearly want to play for him, for Spurs.

I’ve deliberately not mentioned Hugo Lloris, destined to be one of the finest Tottenham goalkeepers in modern times. Then, the papers had a hotline to Didier Deschamps and printed how unsettled he was even before he was actually fit to play. Now, his gradual introduction into the side appears a masterstroke of man-management and he’s been able to extend the redoubtable Brad Friedel’s contract. Lloris is sharp and agile on his line and seeks to dominate his area, which in turn means we play a back five, him included.

Yesterday we were unperturbed after that early setback, settled into our rhythm, kept the ball and kept probing. Dembele was back on top form after a few quiet games. The way he drops his shoulder and is gone is a sight of subtle beauty. This big man can disappear, at least as far as his marker is concerned. Sandro’s strength and Reading’s inability to get the ball forward – it seemed like they went for half an hour without holding onto the ball in our half and Lloris did not have a save to make until late in the second half – gave him the freedom to stay forward where he is dangerous.

Without Bale, suspended for the new offence of being too quick and too good, we lacked width. Naughton did well throughout but is very right-footed so we were narrow at times. As the half ended, we gave the Reading keeper shooting practice with a succession of efforts from too far out but come the second we upped the pace and put more balls into the box.

We begin the new year in 3rd place, albeit having played two more games than Chelsea, but the optimism is real. There’s plenty more work to do. Although we have beaten United we have lost to all the teams in top four contention bar West Brom, who I think will not quite keep up. It’s not so long ago when we were conceding stupid late goals and we still can’t defend a lead with total confidence. Nor do we convert our many chances as often as we should. We get more men into the box these days, finally answering my whinging about this problem that has gone on over the life of this blog, but on crosses especially we should pile into the six yard box not hang back.

In the window, Tottenham On My Mind will do everything in its power to retain the status of The Blog That Knows Nothing (TKN) and will stay resolutely ITK free. But we need a striker from somewhere. If Adebayor goes to Africa and Defoe is injured, that’s it! If Moutinho is available, I would buy him even if we pay over the odds. Buy two players and it will make all the difference.

We have to take the long view. An interesting piece in the papers recently suggested that Levy did not fully back his new manager in the market in the summer, preferring to wait and see how he does. Whilst I’m not entirely sure that is a ringing vote of confidence exactly, Villas-Boas has shown more than enough potential to be worthy of greater investment. He deserves the backing of his chairman. Looking ahead, this summer we will be again be vulnerable to bids for Bale, Sandro and others if we are not in the Champions League or have not won anything.  The squad is young and like its manager still developing. The potential is rich and we must do all we can to see it fulfilled.

Happy New Year to everyone who takes the time and trouble to read this old-fashioned one-man no ads labour of love blog, especially those of you who add to the rich debate in the excellent comments section. You are a select bunch but I’m genuinely touched by the number of regular readers from all over the world who come back every week. I’m deeply grateful.

 

 

49 thoughts on “New Year, I’m Happy

  1. My first time on this blog and i like your points, maybe if AVB had a little more backing in the summer we could have signed Willian and at a cheaper price than he’s available now i bet. Two signings would be great, a decent striker (Damiao would be amazing but i think that’s wishful thinking so maybe Remy?? or Ba) and maybe a Left Back, i still think either Siggy or Dempsey can grow into their role although i would LOVE a player like Eriksen. A lot of rumours flying around about Holtby, haven’t seen much of him but another good option? Btw your writing is really good, im gonna stick with this blog 🙂

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    • Thanks Andy, look forward to seeing you here again. I think you are right re the summer. I can’t comment on the individuals you have scouted because I’ve not seen them much but if we had signed the right men, we could have made even more progress than we have.

      Regards, Alan

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  2. Happy New Year! I really enjoyed yesterday. I thought the combination of Vertonghen and Dawson at centre back gave Naughton the confidence to get forward and he had a much better game. Hopefully this will give him a bit of confidence.
    Most players look better than last season with the exception of Walker. I just think he needs a rest. We don’t have cover in that position and I think the mistakes yesterday were down to tiredness again. We really need to get someone in as cover.
    I’d love to get Moutinho but I’m not confident. The complexity of third party ownerships in Portugal generally leads to either protracted negotiations or a high buy out clause, which don’t suit Levy’s modus operandum. I’m equally unhopeful on the striker front too given the dithering of the last two/three seasons although we might do a Saha type deal for someone again.

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    • HNY pete, thanks as always for your insightful, regular comments. The problem with strikers is that everyone is after them. We have a small ground, no CL football and are not the best payers, so it’s tough to attract the top class man we need. Levy should stretch the purse a bit but there is so much silly money around in competition.

      Regards,

      Alan

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      • You’re right in the sense that I think a ‘top top’ player (as ‘Arry used to say) is out of the question but we haven’t had the means to finance that for years. I wonder whether the desire to negotiate the last drop out of every deal is counterproductive when it comes to strikers. Ironically my ‘second’ club Benfica has an abundance of striking options. Cardozo is scoring for fun at the moment.

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  3. Happy New Year to you and yours Alan,

    The thanks are due to you, for writing so well and insightfully about Spurs each week.

    I thought Adebayor had opted out of the African Nations? I very much want to see a quality midfielder come in, but not for the sake of it. Perhaps a cheeky loan of Modric back for the rest of the season … However,ee really do need another warm body up front, but we should try for a good’un with a medium-term perspective. How feasible that will be in January, we will see soon enough, I fear.

    It’s a real testament to AVB (his coaches) and the players that we end the year playing good and winning football with a versatile and willing squad, given the huge pressure they’ve been under from the media and many Spurs fans in the first half of the season. He appears to be flexible in terms of strategy/tactics, a good man manager and honest and likeable fella. Not like he was painted at all …

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    • HNY IKAG, thanks as ever for your contribtuions to the blog, really appreciate them. I too thought Adebayor had opted out, then I read Andre’s comments yesterday about the choice being up to him so I guess he’s had a change of heart. Agree totally with the rest of what you say.

      Regards, Al

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  4. Thank you Alan, most enjoyable read, we definitely need a striker, possibly even Ba, and I would still like to see Moutinho, what a midfield that would be!

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  5. Hey Alan – its always a pleasure to read your articles. Along with some of the articles on Cartilage Free Captain yours is the best Spurs blog about and the only one I return to. As not having seen a Spurs game in a decade its good to have match reports I can trust.

    Much appreciation!

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    • Thanks very much Joe, like to think anyone reading the blog will get a balanced view of events at the Lane, reagrdless of whether I’m right or wrong! HNY!

      Regards, Alan

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  6. Alan, it’s always such a relief to read your take on a game… what a change from the overly-partisan repetitive fan drivel and the pap from the red top paparazzi!

    I think you’ve just about hit the mark regarding our mid-season progress. And although I believe the team did well to wrest 83 per cent of the Xmas points on offer (and would probably gladly have settled for such on the 15th), I now am even more irritated that we didn’t achieve all 100% with the aplomb that the games since Stoke have frequently shown we possess in spades. Had we beaten Pulis’s outfit and (looking back even further) not surrendered to a last minute sloppy lack of concentration at Goodison we could have stormed a perfect December (including the Bubbles’ visit) Just think how much happier we’d all now be with an extra five points (points… not pints!!!) under our belts. We could have been just one behind Citeh, and far less inclined to peer over our shoulders at the Blue Racists’ games in hand.

    Going back even further, when you consider matters, it wasn’t di Matteo München miracle that robbed us of 2012-13 CL participation. It was the lack of one point + one more goal in the League. With that l’Arse would have had to consume crow – if you’ll forgive the revolting imagery.

    Nuff of this hindsight stuff. But I think the message is clear: we are now beginning to display the sort of stamina, concentration and determination to hold on to leads, even when the pressure builds – albeit recently against some of the PL’s weakest sides – but it’s all good practice and builds confidence. But “Goals For maximisation” is a must and can we honestly say that our firepower is adequate or numerous enough? QPR upcoming, but then the real test. It’s vital that the team is able to show that 29 September was more than a lucky flash in the pan

    (BTW my parish priest confirms to me that His Holiness and his favourite Eminences frequently pile on top of each other after a particularly high-scoring mass – but they have the decency to do so in private later in the sacristy when the altar boys have all received their tips.) I shall be reporting you Mr Peter Herbert for flagrant discrimination against left footers worldwide (Gareth B excluded).

    I bet you’re real worried… Relax – only jesting! HNY

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    • Very kind. I like to think I can be partisan without being blinkered.

      Agree completely with your comments and of course you are right to remind me of the 2 points that we failed to get over Christmas, the result of a performance lacking in precisely the wit and focus that will keep us there or thereabouts.

      Mr Herbert has my e-mail as I have dropped him a line, without receiving a reply, so i look forward to both that and excommunication.

      Regards, Al

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  7. Hi Alan, A supporter from the Double era here, so I’ve seen a lot at THFC. We would love a Greaves or an Allen, (Les or Clive) as the one to stick the ball in the net, trouble is, they would cost a fortune if they were around today. Maybe Ba? A midfield controller is needed, Moutinho? Holtby? Willian? Good to see that Ranieri Sandro has developed into the Dave MacKay type player that I suggested he might become when he first joined. Very happy with Lloris, hopefully will become the new Pat Jennings. I will be happy when Benny and Kaboul resume playing, what a defence we’ll have then eh?
    Keep writing sense and we’ll keep reading, Mike

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    • Hi Mike, good to hear from a fan from way back and there is a touch of Mackay about Sandro’s fierce determination and drive. Now I’ve started, I can’t stop writing so you’ll have to put up with it….

      Regards, Alan

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  8. Hi Alan. 1st time I’ve read your blog, and I am very impressed with your article.
    Have to agree with you that Spurs need to buy at least one striker for this transfer window, for cover at least.
    Keep up the good work and all the best for 2013.
    COY MIGHTY SPURS

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  9. Nice article! I would suggest though that the ‘paper’ claiming Levy may not fully trust his new man at the helm, with a large war-chest, is simply pot stirring, as DL has invested much more than money on this appointment working out.
    Levy is far from stupid, so he knew that when replacing ‘everybody’s favourite ‘Arry’ with a man that had just been sacked in his first season in the EPL, as a manager, this educated gamble has to pay off!!!

    With his legacy, as the man who helped master-mind Tottenham’ return to the higher echelons of the game, both domestically and abroad, at stake (in the eyes of some), its hard to imagine our ambitious Chairman not following through with his calculated gamble, by denying AVB the funds to see his vision for the club realised. Especially given the way AVB has performed so admirably so far in his tenure as Spurs manager. I think its important to remember that, although the current manager may NOT, initially, have been high up on OUR lists of possible replacements for the now departed Redknapp, AVB was ALWAYS Levy’s first choice. With that being said, I would expect that AVB will, perhaps, be backed MORE than any previous manager, before!!!

    To be honest, after the initial shock of the appointment, I was one of the few people, at the time, who thought that the acquisition of AVB as manager was a good move, believing that his spell at Chelsea would act as perfect preparation for his time with Spurs- providing he had learnt from his mistakes. So to see Spurs in a more than healthy position, heading into the New year, comes as little surprise , and offers great optimism towards the future providing we build on a squad which has all the hallmarks of being very successful in both the near and distant future.

    I think the January transfer window represents the perfect time to ‘restart’ the building process, with Spurs having a real OPPORTUNITY to lay down a marker,not to only the rest of the clubs we are competing against at home and abroad, but to coveted players such as Bale and Sandro, who will be looking on with interest to see whether the club can match their own ambitions in the forthcoming season/s. I am sure that Levy will be more than aware of this, and as a result will no doubt pull a rabbit out of the hat, this window……………………… WATCH THIS SPACE

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    • Just the sort of excellent comment I mentioned in the blog, thanks for that. Spot on re the restart of the buidling process, that’s exactly what it is. Re AVB, many have suggested he wasn’t the club’s first choice but I think he’s a good fit – up and coming, ambitious, wants to play the right way, brings a degree of organisation. Regards, Al

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  10. Thanks for the great blog. Totaly agree for an striker but for what price…
    Think we will see Eriksen and Damiao this month. Maybe Mouthino also but depends on the price..
    Greetings from Norway.

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      • Well judged article, during the past 3 games, the quality of our football has been sublime, apart from the final third, shots converted to goals ratio must be improved upon, as I so want the Lilly-Whites, an AVB to succeed…..I believe. #COYS

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  11. Alan, thanks again for all your excellent work. You’re weekly missive is essential reading. Here’s hoping for a good 2013 for THFC.

    I agree with your rationale re the need to buy in order to help assure CL qualification. It would be great if Levy felt likewise though who’s to know what he’s thinking.

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    • Thanks Tom, always good to hear from you and I appreciate your contributions to the comments section. We have Holby now, another younger player on the up who sees Spurs as a step up. We are building a reputation in europe for being able to give players a chance.

      Regards, Al

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  12. Very happy with our progress under AVB. My only gripe is that I’d like to see him rotate a tad more (aside from at centre back where he does mix it up). We look fresh enough at the moment but, as happened last season, the core players will start to tire in February and March.
    Levy needs to make amends for the fiasco of last season’s January window. Audere est Facere please Daniel.

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  13. I do enjoy your Friendly positive Blogs, hope it carries on for the foreseeable future, and that it’s readership grows! I particularly like the fact you post pretty often around most games and latest general Tottenham news. Great stuff! COYS!

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    • Cheers Paul, the description is what I aim for, and I try to post not straight after a game but within 36 hours, a commentary and reflections because there are loads of great match reports out there. And it will carry on, guarantee.

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  14. good blog, insightful and fair, i’m loving the man avb, he shows both class and decorum when interviewed. he has the passion for the spurs and long may it continue. i would have been happy with top 6 this season allowing for the transition so my expectations are being surpassed.
    coys

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    • Thanks, and me too – I keep a lid on my expectations, been a fan too long. Top 6 and be contenders, and right now we’re better than that.

      Regards, Alan

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  15. Yes. It is an exciting time for those mighty Spurs.
    Still think we need a world class striker and a creative mid fielder and hopefully this will happen in 2013/14. This season is about consolidation and learning to play with each other under the new manager.
    I firmly believe we can win the league the following year.
    COYS

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  16. Thank YOU, Alan. This site has been near the top of my bookmarks for a while.

    I think apprehensive is a good word to describe how I felt about AVB’s appointment. Harry was gone and, well, was never coming back and you have to move on. It had the potential to implode spectacularly like Ramos and mentally losing the spine of the team was a major worry (before actually physically losing them!), but the majority of the players have only focused more intently and the spirit is clearly there. They clearly want to play for the man and a couple of precise reinforcements could well see us reach the promised land again.

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    • Hi Michael, thanks for your good wishes. Villas-Boas was a good fit but still a great risk and I’m not sure he was first choice but if Levy backs him with some cash, he’s earned it.

      Regards, Alan

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  17. Just discovered this blog, for an exiled Tottenham fan (living in Asia, back each season for a game or two otherwise watching every game we play courtesy of satellite tv) it is a fantastic find. Written with thought and dedication but also passion – it is bookmarked and I will be back. The (Reading) match in question provides further evidence for what I think may become a real issue by the end of the season – we all worry about losing Bale (despite being skillfully tied up on a long term contract by Levy), but I think the best financed clubs will be chasing after Sandro who is definitely my player of the season so far.
    Anyway, great work Alan.

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    • Kind of you, Rory. Sometimes you may be in a better position to comment as of course we don’t see every game live over here and they are cracking down on the streams. Agree re Sandro – I can’t believe no one has made a serious bid for him. Glad they haven’t…he seems very motivated and committed.

      Regards, Al

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  18. HNY Alan.
    Levy doesn’t back AVB because he’s waiting to see how he does.
    And if he does well, as he has, we clearly don’t need anyone.
    Catch 22 I believe.
    THe unknown known is that we don’t know how well we would have done
    if Daniel had laid out some investment money.
    We could have been contenders Charlie. We could have been contenders.
    Lovely stuff A.

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    • And a very happy new year to you, Jim. Sums it up perfectly – we’ve done well but there remains the what ifs, what could we have been if we had signed those two players…

      Regards, Alan

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  19. Hello Alan,

    Another fairly new poster here …….. I like your comments and similarly feel good about the way things are going. AVB engenders a lot more confidence in me than I was generally prone to feel with “Arry, even with Luka and Rafa in the line-up. I wouldn’t, if I was a QPR supporter, feel terribly secure with ‘Arry in charge of that huge squad and a readiness to wheel, deal but not coach …… I often get the feeling that, as I am spotting a problem, AVB is spotting it too, and is already beginning to work on it on the training ground. It isn’t as though we aren’t still having problems but, unlike with Arry, they are not being swept under the carpet. I wonder if the two new signings are an indication that we will not sign anyone big this window. I would be OK about not making a big playmaker signing yet, but I really would love to see a decent goalscorer with a proven international reputation (wouldn’t we all). That may simply be beyond us, but we need back-up, if only to concentrate the minds of the present incumbents. Happy New Year!! COYS!!!

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    • Thanks Tommy. Great name there. You’re right – Andre has worked on a series of problems which as the season continues, add up to playing better consistently. You get the impression he’s constantly thinking about how to make Spurs better. Tottenham on his mind, in fact.

      Regards, Al

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