Newcastle United 2 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur: Match Report

18 Oct

I was allowed to go down to the pub whilst a roast dinner was being cooked up especially for me (and 4 others), what a lucky boy I am!

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and it’s already late so I’ve taken an executive decision and decided not to write very much.

The game started out well enough and ended up being something of an end to end affair with attacking intent rather than attacking quality being the order of the day. The balance of chances probably went Spurs’ way although Fabricio Coloccini was responsible for the most glaring miss of the day.

It was a shame we didn’t add to our winning streak, which we should really have done, but we remain in 6th and 3 points off Newcastle in 3rd with a game in hand. St James’ Park is also a tough ground to go to and one we haven’t won at in some time, so a draw has to be seen as a decent result. Ensuring we don’t lose any ground on 3rd and 4th must remain the priority.

Other than that we wore our purple shirt. We did 2 goals, we conceded 2 goals, both of which were preventable and we are now unbeaten in 5 Premier League games.

A proper match report can be found here: BBC

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 7.5

Kyle Walker 8

Ledley King 7.5

Younès Kaboul 8

Benoît Assou-Ekotto 8
Cool as a cucumber.

Luka Modrić 8
At fault for Newcastle’s first goal

Jake Livermore 7

Scott Parker 8.5
Just did everything that was asked of him so well. He did his little spin 360° round the ball thing a few times (look out for it if you’ve not noticed it already), but kept his passing simple for the most part and broke up the play well.

Gareth Bale 7

Emmanuel Adebayor 7
Offers more to the team than others, just needs to keep working for his goals.

Rafael van der Vaart 8
Scored a penalty.

Sub ’30: Sebastien Bassong 7
Replaced King.

Sub ’63: Jermain Defoe 7.5
Replaced van der Vaart, did a goal.

Sub ’83: Roman Pavlyuchenko 5
Replaced Adebayor.

Referee

Lee Propert, gave the penalty, waved some cards and ran about a bit. Standard. 7

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Newcastle United vs Tottenham Hotspur: Preview

14 Oct

Barclays Premier League
Date: 16 October 2011 Kick-off: 16:00
Venue: White Hart Lane (London)
TV:
Radio:

You might have, but probably didn’t notice that I haven’t blogged on here for over 2 weeks, which means I wrote nothing about our game against Arsenal. For posterity, I may go back and do-so, if I can find a way of backdating posts. I did start to, but a few things got in the way. Firstly, my PC is burgered (i.e. about as good at accessing the internet as a burger.) secondly, I was so busy at work I barely had a lunch break and thirdly, I got a bit superstitious about it. I was at the Arsenal game though and saw us beat them in the flesh for the first time ever, which was nice! But I also got a bit frustrated with the whole blogging thing, so I thought a break would be useful. Had I remembered there were international fixtures, I suppose I could have waited for that! Anyway, boring bit over, on to the game.

Bogey team

Newcastle seem to be one of those teams who, despite largely finishing below us in the league (apart from a few seasons in the mid-nineties), we have never been able to beat convincingly. I can remember a 6-1 in the depths of history along with a string of home losses, which I have to admit I do find a little confusing. We seem to have even less luck at St. James’ Park and having broken our previous winless streaks against Arsenal and Chelsea it’d be nice to think we could carry on with another decent result on Tyneside.

4 wins in a row

All of a sudden, after an appalling start we are one of the form teams in the league with 4 wins on the bounce proving a better recent record than any other side. If we win again we will equal our best winning streak in Premier League history and move equal on points with Newcastle, currently in 4th, although we’ll need to score more than 4 to move ahead of them on goal difference.

Newcastle are a bit of a surprise package this season

Newcastle are a team who got a bit of a rep for playing buccaneering footie under Kevin Keegan, when he disappeared a steady decline set in, culminating in relegation to the Championship a couple of years ago. ‘Clipboard Chris’ Hughton steered them back into the Premier League with a record points total and unbeaten home record before he was given no money to improve the team and sacked for… well, not actually very much wrong really. Alan Pardew was appointed with a decent salary and a ridiculously long contract to consternation from football fans across the country. What’s interesting though is he hasn’t actually done too badly. Last season his side continued to achieve at about the same level as under Chris Hughton despite losing Andy Carroll and being forced to field Shola ‘Oh, so you actually wanted me to hit the barn door’ Ameobi and Leon Best.

This season, Newcastle somehow have the meanest defence in the Premier League. They’ve yet to play any of the really big guns, which helps, but it’s not bad going. Coloccini and Taylor are good centre backs. They have a bit more depth in midfield with Tiote still kicking people and Cabaye looking like a decent signing. All in all I actually think, as much as I hate to say it, that Pardew has been doing a good job. They won’t finish 4th, as much as they might be enjoying their position so far, but I’ll stick my neck out and say they won’t finish below 10th either.

Stuff I think about Newcastle

  • I wonder if they will ever try swapping from old-school barcode shirts to those new ones which you use with your mobile phone.
  • Fabricio Coloccini has the coolest hair in all the world… Except when Benny has a ‘fro.
  • Do Geordies not have jobs, or does the city just shut down when the fans decide to protest?
  • If Mike Ashley was the chairman on my club I’d either have shot him, or myself by now (probably) and I am a pretty placid guy, so as far as I am concerned every Newcastle fan, even the fat ones with their shirts off, are saints.

Spurs’ Team News

You heard it here last…:

Injuries: Vedran Ćorluka, Niko Kranjčar, Michael Dawson, Steven Pienaar, Tom Huddlestone, William Gallas.

Doubtful/Possible: Aaron Lennon, Emmanuel Adebayor, Sandro, Rafael van der Vaart.

Newcastle’s Team News

Injuries:

Doubtful:

Prediction

Newcastle are one of those teams you have to beat if you want to be Top 4. They are decent, but in reality we should prove that we are a level above them. They have some decent players and a good team overall, but I am going to go for a 2-1 victory. Al, my oft quoted barcode housemate fancies a 1-1 for this one, which is a very real possibility if we’re missing Adebayor, or don’t manage to reach top gear.

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Tottenham Hotspur 3 – 1 Shamrock Rovers: Match Report

30 Sep

I have a confession to make… I didn’t watch the game live. I had somewhere else to be last night and to be honest, that was more important. No, I’m not telling you what I was doing and yes, it is probably what you think it was. However, what I did do, was go the long way, stop off at home and set my TV to record the football, with the intention of watching the game after I got home. What I didn’t anticipate was not getting home until 2am. However, Being the dedicated fan and blogger that I am, I watched it, from start to finish, including some of the build up and eventually I switched off my TV at 4am; safe in the knowledge I’d be able to write all about it. As it happens, only managing 3 hours of sleep and working through most of lunch tends to mean that your ability to write anything is seriously impinged upon. The quality isn’t great as it is, let alone writing whilst having to find that careful balance between a caffeine high and sleeping.

So, following my recent trend of including stupid footballing clichés, here’s your latest one… it’s probably more of a quote really, but never mind… ‘Football, it’s a funny old game’.

I have to admit, in many ways, the game went as I expected. The score-line wasn’t far off my own prediction, although it did take a Shamrock goal to inject a real sense of purpose. What I was surprised by, though, was the quality in our starting lineup and more notably, the quality of our play. Pav and Defoe upfront is a first team combination, even if it is not currently first choice. Aaron Lennon is admittedly making his way back from injury, but Kyle Walker was also again playing at Right Back.

Giovani, is a player with many critics, many of the Spurs fans who have yet to see him make a serious contribution at Spurs. I have managed to avoid judging him too harshly, but I will admit that I would have had no major regrets if we sold him either. I don’t know if he’s sorted out the problems that made Harry seem so reluctant to keep him, or if, in the absence of anyone else Harry is using him in the same way as Alan Hutton (i.e. when he has to). Regardless, tonight I thought he was excellent and a major aspect of our overall performance. In terms of the good sides to his play, he was quick and incisive and willing to take people on. Perhaps the more negative side is that with players like Kyle Walker often on the overlap, instead of laying the ball off, he would take it on himself, usually running infield. Still, he created the first with an excellent cross to Pav and smashed home the second following selfless build-up play from Jermain Defoe.

Overall we were quick, we looked driven and up for it and most importantly we scored the required goals. They didn’t come as the result of any particularly inspired play (except perhaps Gio’s) but as a result of Spurs making the most of the notable gulf in class, which is interesting given that the rest of the game seemed to involve much toil from Spurs and a disappointing end product.

Although the first half ended 0-0, Spurs definitely had the better of the chances, which included Defoe hitting the bar with a powerful effort. In reality, it was an excellent save from Rovers’ inspired keeper, who deserved the man of the match award for his efforts (I know not if he received it). That moment, like so many others was spoiled by the woeful commentary, which I can’t avoid mentioning. Graham Taylor, the expert ‘summariser’ or co-commentator immediately said, after Defoe’s shot is clearly deflected/saved by the keeper, ‘I think the keeper might just have got a touch on that’. 4 blatantly obvious replays and with Graham Taylor finally saying ‘I definitely think he got a touch on that’ I was ready to throw the TV out of the window. YOU THINK GRAHAM? YOU THINK HE GOT A TOUCH ON IT, DO YOU? Thanks for that, you blind, senile, imbecile.

Shamrock Rovers got their fairytale first goal and for 10 minutes they led the game. Finally, Spurs decided to stop trying to score and stuck it in the net 3 times over the space of 5 minutes, as far as Shamrock were concerned the game was done and dusted. Thankfully, for the fans at least, neither team stopped trying.

Of the younger lads, all performed well. Tom Carroll looked fantastic for the first 20 mins, playing incisive balls and keeping it simple when he had to. I don’t know if he started to flag, or if he got a bit too comfortable, but a few passes did start to go astray after that, but it’s clear that having heard very little about him until now, Tom Carroll is a major prospect. Danny Rose played at left back, making a recovery from injury and once again proved that he has a good career ahead of him and is actually a little unlucky to have to play understudy with Benny ahead of him. I also got my first glimpse of Yago Falque, who had some good touches and set up Pav for a half volly that should have led to our 4th. I don’t think he’s ready for the Premier League or anything like that yet, but there’s definitely promise there. Jake Livermore had another solid, but unspectacular game, which is no bad thing given what is required of him and the position he occupies.

Overall then, a decent if predictable result, with the high-point being the energy Spurs put in from start to finish, something I really think we’ve lacked in other games after going ahead, particularly when we think we’ve are already won.

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Carlo Cudicini 7.5
You could argue that the Shamrock goal came as a result of Cudicini choosing to keep the ball in play with his save. I think that’s harsh and he got a good punch/save out of the box. He got down to the shot coming back in, beaten by a last second deflection.

Kyle Walker 8
Got forward and made a real difference to the attacks, looks like a right sided Ashley Cole and without meaning to go over the same ground, with some work on the defensive side of his game, could be a ‘top top player’.

Vedran Ćorluka 7.5
There can be no denying that Charlie looks slow on occasion and we saw that again against Shamrock. He’s an accomplished defender and Luka’s best friend, Harry seems to like him too, shifting Hutton on, despite preferring him for large parts of last season. A great back-up option both at Right Back and Centre Half.

Sebastien Bassong 7
Seb has been unlucky, missing out largely due to Gallas’ arrival last season. His form has dipped as a result, there can be no doubt, but there is a defender in there and if Harry can keep him happy enough then I am glad we still have him. Didn’t have to do much last night, but didn’t do much wrong either.

Danny Rose 8
It’s great to have Danny back from injury. He suffered from a heavy challenge and coupled with a lack of match fitness he went off towards the end, but he looked lively and defended well.

Aaron Lennon 6
Something seems to have happened to Azza’s confidence and he just doesn’t run at players anymore. I don’t know if he’s lost a yard, if it’s the positions he’s taking up or the way players mark him, but he just doesn’t seem to be the threat he once was. It always seems that it takes him a while to get back into the swing of things after injuries, which are increasingly frequent, maybe he’s been rushed back one too many times, but I am becoming increasingly concened that he’ll never be the same player again. Maybe he needs to watch a few videos of his old self and see what it was he used to do.

Jake Livermore 7.5
Didn’t stand out, either for good or bad reasons. Tidy, but still has a number of aspects of his game to improve on. One of those players who could go on to be at Spurs for years, or ending up somewhere like Wigan. If he keeps plugging away, working on his game and getting experience in the first team, there’s no reason it can’t be the former.

Tom Carroll 7.5
Tommy started out really really well, I had half a thought of ‘why not throw him in against Arsenal’. It’s too soon for that and there were a few little mistakes, but the world is at his feet, if he works and doesn’t believe the hype he could be the next Gerrard or Lampard for England, or even Englands next Luka Modric. He just needs to get stronger and make sure to iron out the little flaws.

Giovani Dos Santos 8.5 (mom)
I’d just love Gio to make it, I don’t know why, maybe he’s a lovable rogue, but he’s got so much ability, he just needs to apply it. In this game we saw what he can do, lets just see it against better opposition on a consitant basis and he could be a world beater. It’s a big ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ at the moment though.

Roman Pavlyuchenko 7
Pav did ok and looked like he was having a focussed day. He had a couple of chances, but got his goal and hopefully will keep putting in the effort to play a regular role.

Jermain Defoe 8
Scored with a header, but more importantly, put in the mileage for Gio’s goal without selfishly blasting it himself. Hopefully we’ll see plenty of him against Arsenal, I fancy him for a goal or two.

Sub ’46: Andros Townsend 7.5
Replaced Lennon: Added a great deal to the side. Put in some good balls and showed trickery. Shamrock may be more at his level than some other opposition, but showed more promise than I’ve seen from him before. Also did well when moved back to Left Back.

Sub ’73: Yago Falque 7
Replaced Defoe: Good to see him get a chance, but still raw.

Sub ’80: Harry Kane 6.5
Replaced Rose: I like Harry, but he had no time to shine or real goalscoring opportunities.

Referee

Gediminas Mazeika. It’s rare I say this, but I do feel I have a balanced view. I feel like the referee was biased in our favour in this game and we definitely got the decisions. We don’t need that kind of help and it was a little harsh on Shamrock, but they were half a step behind meaning they did give away a fair few legitimate fouls. The linesman also looked extremely ill. 7.5

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Tottenham Hotspur vs Shamrock Rovers: Preview

29 Sep

Europa League LogoEuropa League, Group A
Date: 29 September 2011 Kick-off: 20:05
Venue: White Hart Lane (London)
TV:
Radio:

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that we have a game tonight, with el verdadero clásico… or el clásico del norte de Londres as the Spanish will surely come to know it, on Sunday. Even Harry, in today’s pre-match press conference said, when asked about the weekend: “Have I got one eye on the derby? I’ve got two eyes on that.”

Harry’s team selections have made it clear that the Europa League is not high on our list of priorities, with the ‘Thursday Night, Channel 5’ chants particularly relevant to us tonight, it’s clear that a team with Champions League ambitions could largely do without the 800 additional games the latest UEFA Cup format provides; and that’s not even counting the knockout stages.

The Europa League will prove invaluable though, I am absolutely sure of it. Yes, it means extra fixtures, but it not only provides games to young talents like Tom Carroll (increasingly hyped as a rising star) and others, a benefit I have mentioned more than once previously, but it also gives these lads exposure to European competition. That is playing against unfamiliar clubs and styles of football after long flights and with increasing levels of pressure. If we do ever find ourselves consistently achieving Champions League football, this experience will offer those players a leg up which so many youngsters don’t get.

Harry has also said we’re going to try to get as far as we can in ever competition. Whilst the most cynical will suggest these are platitudes, comments encouraged by the club’s board, designed simply to keep Investec, our cup sponsor, from keeling over in disbelief that they have paid a fortune for a spot on a shirt which will only be worn a couple of times throughout the whole season. I personally think he’d love to pick up some silverware, particularly if he buggers of to manage England at the end of the season and whilst the Premier League will always be a priority, I still think he’ll put out a team he thinks is capable of winning.

When the draw was made and we saw how far we’d have to travel, knowign that one of our trips would only be as far as Dublin was music to the ears of both the club and the fans. I wouldn’t mind betting that we were high on the list of clubs that Shamrock Rovers were hoping to face this season too, so there’s a bit of romance that you just don’t get from playing the likes of NK Maribor or Wisła Kraków. The final injection of interest comes from Rohan Ricketts, our former Right Winger and young player of the year under Glenn Hoddle. His story has also been well documented of late, so I won’t go into it again, but I certainly thought he had something when he was at Spurs and his steady decline since has been sad to see. It’s interesting that his fortunes and those of someone like Aaron Lennon have been so different given the similarity of their early time with Spurs.

We should win this game

It goes without saying that Shamrock Rovers will not provide the type of test offered by the likes of Inter Milan or Werder Bremen last season. Of course we will have limited experience on the pitch, but the likes of Carroll, Ryan Fredricks and Harry Kane have shown potential thus far and that’s without even mentioning lads like Jake Livermore.

Not the most important game of the season, so far…

The old clichés seem to be invading either my mind or my fingers, despite the fact I hate them so. The latest one is ‘never look beyond your next game’. It makes so much sense and usually seems to be trotted out in the game before a big cup final, but it seems like its relevance needs to be considered now.

I am not entirely comfortable with Harry’s admission he is only thinking about Sunday’s game, no matter how much more important it is. Behind closed doors, fine, but we have people paying to watch tonight’s game and 11 players out on the pitch. If the likes of Pav, Gio or Rose are playing, they don’t want to be left feeling like they are only worthy of playing in games Harry considers to be a dead rubber, regardless of the accuracy of that.

Things I think about Shamrock Rovers

  • They look a bit like Celtic with those green and white hooped shirts, don’t they? That’s a bit of a co-inkydink.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo made his Real Madrid debut against Shamrock? That’s kinda cool.

Spurs’ Team News

It goes without saying that the big boy won’t be playing to night but even so, it might be worth reminding you that although many are unlikely to feature, we definitely won’t be seeing Rafa van der Vaart or Brad Friedel, neither of whom are registered for the Europa League squad. Also, although he’s not officially injured Ledley King is also guaranteed not to feature, with both the timing of the game and relative importance (or lack of) ruling him and his fragile knee out.

On the plus side, Aaron Lennon is now fit and likely to play, with this game providing the ideal opportunity to attain some match fitness, the same goes for Danny Rose and Steven Pienaar, both of whom could also start.

Injured: Michael Dawson, William Gallas, Tom Huddlestone.

Shamrock’s Team News

Ricketts aside, I am not ashamed to admit that once again my footballing knowledge doesn’t stretch as far as the minor European Leagues, so BBC, I am sorry I am stealing your informations again. (by that I mean, thank you please for being a useful and valuable source of information, without which I’d look even more thicker!)

Doubtful: Craig Sives, Ken Oman

Prediction

It may only be our boys, but after being unlucky not to beat PAOK (apparently), I fancy them to go out hungry to prove themselves as capable. These boys will, regardless of their age, fancy themselves for more first team action this season and will want to show it. That and a reasonable home crowd (thanks to Season Ticket eligibility) makes me think we’ll get a decent 4-0 victory.

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Wigan Athletic 1 – 2 Tottenham Hotspur: Match Report

26 Sep

So, I have been slower than rocks, only just getting around to writing about this game two days after it happened. I don’t know why I’m bothering at this point, it’s more for me than it is for you quite frankly.

I didn’t go up to wigan, but did get to see the game live, which tells you how useful the internet can be, although various commitments did mean I couldn’t pay 100% attention, unfortunately.

I hate footballing clichés, one of the worst being ‘it’s a game of two halves’, frustratingly though, cliché or not, you can’t avoid the truth. The first half saw Spurs carrying on the form we saw in the Liverpool game. Utter nomination is an understatement and I watched on thinking about whether my suggestion of another 9-1 drubbing really was out of the question. The first goal, created by Adebayor and tucked away by van der Vaart was classic Spurs, with Adebayor doing the job we all wish our forwards could have done last year; the second a corner from Modrić and a flicked header from Bale was another goal we need to see more of. The first signs that it may not go all our way and that we might be in for a tougher time was a couple of unfortunate, but glaring misses. Adebayor should have converted his near post shot from a Kyle Walker cross, while some over-complication and lack of incisiveness in the Wigan box meant other openings were not capitalised upon. Going in at half time with a dominant 2-0 advantage meant the game was going to go one of two ways.

Wigan are a tough proposition at home and despite many pundits suggesting they may stuggle, I still see them as lower mid-table candidates rather than relegation battlers as long as they retain Martinez. They proved their bottle and quality at home coming out of the blocks as quickly as Spurs had at the start of the previous half. With 5 minutes of the second half played they had their reward. Assou-Ekotto, characteristically nonchalant, but uncharacteristically wayward passed the ball forward on the edge of the box and found only the boot of Ronnie Stam, the man brought on at the break for Wigan. The ball skewed up and from Ledley’s head found it’s way to Diame, who despite his lack of goals for Wigan expertly picked his way through the Spurs defence sheilding the ball before unleashing his shot through the gap he’d manufactured for himself. It was unfortunate that we didn’t manage to chalk up another clean sheet, with Brad in a spell of consistent good form, but these things will happen. I have to admit, I think Gomes might have reached that one, but Brad provides a level of assurance amongst the defence that Gomes has never achieved.

With the score at 2-1 it looked as though we could end up allowing the lead to slip entirely. Eventually The Wigan Right Back, Gouhouri fell into the same trap that caught out Martin Skrtel last week and managed to pick up 2 yellows and an early bath for his trouble. When Bale is in this kind of form, with his explosive and powerful runs, defenders without sufficient protection simply can’t live with him. The only downside is Bale does pick up injuries and the way he ends up on the floor, grimacing and thumping the pitch is becoming an all to familiar sight. If you’re hurt, fine, if not, please don’t make such a big deal about it.

In the end we held out, with Kaboul twice having opportunities from corners and hitting the crossbar with one of his thunderous free-kicks; 2-1 seems a fair result. In reality we have lessons to learn. Games are not won until the final whistle blows and whether that’s playing keep-ball against Liverpool or becoming complacent in games like this, we need to apply the killer instinct for 90 minutes, especially while the tanks are full at this stage of the season.

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 7.5
Assured and although another keeper might have got down to save the Diame goal, you just know what you’re going to get with this fella between the sticks.

Kyle Walker 7.5
Marauding runs up the right-wing are becoming a trademark and very useful with Lennon out. When he took the ball past a man and played a fantastic cross for Adebayor’s chance, he really showed what he’s capable of going forward.

Ledley King 8
The term Rolls Royce is becoming ever more frequently bandied about to describe this man. He’s no Lamborghini, but he’s the footballing equivalent of the car you keep locked up until the weekend and then take outr for a drive. Perhaps the equivalent of an old roller, the epitome of style and comfort. Perhaps sometimes the reliability will let you down, but as long as it’s driving you won’t find any better.

Younès Kaboul 8
I’m still blown away by this guy’s progress. I can tell you now, with a completely clear conscience, I was one of those who never wanted him to leave, although he had much to learn he always had it in him to be a top defender. Thank god Harry brought him back, because he’s starting to show it now.

Benoît Assou-Ekotto 7
Cool as a cucumber.

Scott Parker 8.5
Just did everything that was asked of him with the minimum of fuss and maximum effort, I am still disappointed he never found his way to White Hart Lane sooner, hopefully one day he too will admit choosing the likes of Chelsea, Newcastle and West Ham over us in the past were mistakes.

Luka Modrić 8.5 (mom)
What can you say about this guy? He might not always have the most obvious influence, he doesn’t make the searing runds or have the locker full of tricks, but he is just one of those guys who makes stuff happen. I am so glad he’s still at the club and desperately hope we can do what is required to make him want to stay; whatever that may be, not only for him, but fo all of us, a club that Modrić 

Sandro 8
Played well and could really strike up a partnership with Scott Parker, opening up the possibility of a 4-2-3-1 formation, which worked so well for Man City against us.

Gareth Bale 8
His runs drew the fouls that took Wigan down to 10 men, this is the sort of form that makes him unplayable, more of this will maintain his threat and keep Spurs in the goals. My only criticism is he keeps shooting from the left. It worked for him against Inter Milan, but his shooting angle is often tighter and the cross would be more likely to yield a goal with unmarked runners making their way into the box.

Rafael van der Vaart 8
Picked up an injury, suggesting he may have rushed himself back, it typifies the guy’s heart and dedication though.

Emmanuel Adebayor 8.5
He set up the first goal, but missed his own chance. He also played on with an eye injury, helping to dispel fears that he is something of a mercinary or may wish only to play when it suits him to do so (i.e. not playing on when injured risking further problems). What I am trying to say is, well done for the bloke for sticking with it, with no alternatives available.

Sub ’78: Giovani Dos Santos 6.5
Replaced van der Vaart, Gio deserves to have a couple of chances, especially if he’s knuckling down, he didn’t have long to make an impact, but he ‘ran about a bit’, which will always please Harry.

Sub ’90: Jake Livermore 6
Replaced King, unfortunate for him that the purchase of Scott Parker has curtailed his run in the first 11. He didn’t have time to make an impact, but he will get chances to shine this season.

Referee

Jon Moss is not a referee I am familiar with, however, he didn’t flash too many yellows and still made the big sending off decision and got it right. 8

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Wigan Athletic vs Tottenham Hotspur: Preview

23 Sep

Barclays Premier League
Date: 24 September 2011 Kick-off: 15:00
Venue: DW Stadium (Wigan)

It’s nice to have another Saturday 3 o-clock kick off, although it is away again.

I’m having trouble getting genuinely excited about this game, Wigan are just one of those teams I think maybe even their own fans aren’t particularly excited about.

9-1 again? Not on last season’s evidence

Obviously a couple of years ago we achieved one of our most famous results in recent history against Wigan, indeed it has also gone down in history as the second highest Premier League scoreline ever. The game was incredible, in that at half time, we were just 1-0 up, a pretty typical scoreline for any match. We went on to score 8 in the second half, Jermain Defoe took his tally for the game to 5, equalling the Premier League’s record and Wigan were smashed, earning their consolation goal from a blatant Scharner hand ball.

We shouldn’t expect the same again. Last season, seeking vengeance, they beat us 1-0 at home and held us to a 0 – 0 draw at the DW. We are away again, but Wigan, without such fire in their bellies will hopefully be an easier proposition. I’d be happy with any scoreline which involves Spurs scoring more goals than them, whether that’s 9-1 or 1-0.

Which team will turn up this weekend?

Having started so poorly, perhaps we will finally become a side of consistency. To be brutally honest, if we lose against Manchester City, United and Chelsea and win every other game this season I would be more than happy, and that, to me would be consistent for a side aiming to finish behind those clubs. Obviously life doesn’t work that way, but as long as we are only really losing to the teams we expect to finish above us, we’ll get that 4th spot. The question is, were the hammerings against United and City more about them, or us? Our heads dropped and we’ve still not won a game in this (admittedly young) season in which we have gone behind. Last season that was our strength, goals against serving to fire us into action. whilst I hope we don’t need that type of catalyst this season, we need to respond the right way when we do concede.

This game is the most important of the season… so far

All in all then, we just need to prove we are the team we think we are and get a decent result against Wigan. Against Wigan in the 9-1 game just about every attack seemed to end with a goal, we were rampant. We could have done something similar to Liverpool last week who were abject even with 11 men. Once they were down to 9, a cricket score looked possible. In fact, as harsh as it is, what better way to stick the boot in to the body and soul of one of our big rivals for Champions League qualification this season? Liverpool are not a club who lose big and we have been on the end of some tonkings against ruthless sides in the past, it’s early in the season, I genuinely don’t understand why the players decided to switch off for 20 minutes instead of going for the throat, with a 3 million unbroken pass sequence at one stage typifying our attitude.

The good news is Ledley King is available for his 3rd League game in a row this season. His return coming at the same time as Dawson’s injury is either a spooky co-incidence or indication Harry will only use him when he has to; either way, we’ve not conceded with Ledley on the field yet this season. However, in his presser today Harry has suggested that Pav is ‘playing up’ (not in so many words) and has reported in with a hamstring injury. Harry has reportedly said ‘Pav’s not in the team because the other 2 are doing better. He’s come in today and he’s got a hamstring injury.’ Obviously he’s not been in great form so far this season, but it’s not the kind of attitude or behaviour we need and not the kind of thing Harry loves. I don’t like the way Harry seems to assume every injury is a player being soft and sometimes seemingly forcing them to play through it, potentially making the situation worse, but if Pav’s being difficult, he’s better off out of the club than in, even if it leaves us light up front.

Stuff I think about Wigan

There is very little to say about the midlands club. They have started the season very well, but there is no doubt in the minds of most football followers that they will be one of the teams battling relegation come May next year.

My general views…

  • They are quite possibly the dullest team ever to grace the Premier League! I don’t mean their football, Roberto Martinez seems to be a stand up fellow who plays the game the right way, but I can think of absolutely nothing about this team to stir any kind of reaction from me. If you attached me to a heart rate monitor and put a Wigan game on in front of me I’d be flatlining by the end of it.

Spurs’ Team News

There are a few new injuries and illnesses, with a couple of players having already come back with Rafa playing the second half against Liverpool and Sandro 71 minutes at Stoke. The details of those unavailable are as follows: –

Injuries: William Gallas, Steven Pienaar, Danny Rose, Niko Kranjčar, Roman Pavlyuchenko.

Doubtful: Benoît Assou-Ekotto, Aaron Lennon.

Wigans Team News

Injuries: Hugo Rodallega, Steven Gohouri, Antolin Alcaraz.

Doubtful: Emmerson Boyce.

Prediction

So following some over-optimism at the start of the season and pessimism in the following two games, I think I have reached the middle ground of realism. I hope so, because otherwise I’ll be lost in the abstract world of impressionism, which is no use to anyone. So, I am going to go for a 3-1 Spurs victory. We are away, so perhaps I should say 1-3 for accuracy, but I’ll stick with listing the Spurs half of the score first for consistency.

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Prediction League – Update

23 Sep

Things are hotting up in the prediction league. With 4 games down Alex, my Newcastle supporting (but not a real geordie) housemate has built up a convincing lead over me and Lawro, picking up 3 points compared to the 1 scored by his idiot-ship and myself.

With 3 points available for a correct score prediction, it’s still all to play for though. with a couple of accurate predictions likely to be anough to give someone an impressive early lead. Not only that, it means that there is plenty of opportunity for you to enter yourself!

In the meantime, I have a theory about Alex’s impressive return of three correct results out of 4, despite his misguided footballing preferences. He has two minor advantages over me and a big one over Lawrenson. The latter is obvious, he isn’t an utter biased, self interested, ignorent bullshit talking c*nt. His advantage over me I think comes from the fact he is generally knowledgable and has a balanced, outside perspective. Hence, he could easily assess our chances against United and City (slim) and he also judged that Liverpool were not as strong as their spending suggests and that they would come a-cropper, whereas I, downbeat about our early season form was far less optimistic.

Lawrenson falls into the same old traps, against us he predicted a draw (his normal formula being big teams at home don’t generally lose and inability to predict a bad result for Liverpool meaning a draw is his obvious choice). Hopefully this type of thinking will continue to hold BBC’s most idiotic pundit back, proving that the average fan does indeed know more about footie than Lawro.

Things are hotting up. Give me your predictions if you want to play!

Stoke City 0 – 0 Tottenham Hotspur: Match Report

21 Sep

So, obviously I didn’t see the game, but having heard it on the radio, I’m not too upset about that fact.

Clearly then there is little point in trying to go over the details of a game I could only listen to, however, there are a few impressions that I was left with.

  • Pav. How frustrating is this man? His form, like his desire to stay at Spurs seems to change like the wind. He rarely makes a huge impact on games, but even when he’s quiet he can get on the score sheet, usually with a spectacular effort. Away at Young Boys last year springs to mind immediately. However, it seems that in this game he was absolutely abject, rounding off his performance with a ridiculous skied effort in the penalty shoot-out, leaving far less experienced takers having to step up and accept responsibility. Now, let’s be clear, I don’t blame Pav for the miss; anyone that steps up in a penalty shootout, even in the Carling Cup 3rd round deserves respect. However, it seems that the appalling miss was symptomatic of his entire night. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harry is now only keeping him to maintain the numbers up front; although it is worth noting that (I think) the Russian transfer window is still open. £10m+ would be more than enough to convince me into selling and promoting Harry Kane to 4th striker (if you include Rafa in those numbers).

  • The academy boys…Starting with Tom Carroll. It sounds like he was excellent in this game. I have to admit, when I saw him against Hearts, I thought he looked far too young to be playing first team footie. Shame on me, as a short guy with a baby face, I’ve had the same snap judgements made about me and they are invariably wrong.We’ve heard so much in the past about John Bostock and Dean Parrett, ‘big money’ academy signings, although Bostock seems to have believed his hype and Parrett has suffered with injuries. Ryan Mason and Adam Smith have both made an impact in their various loans and Harry Kane scores for fun (although I am weary, because Lee Barnard broke all sorts of records for the reserves and never looked much kop for the first team). With Jake Livermore breaking through into the first team, I had almost sub-consciously decided that would be our lot for this year. However, we have an academy team which keeps performing well in youth tournaments, a group of players recognised by many as one of the best we’ve had in some time. The academy is now a progressive set-up which recognises the poor return  over the last 10-20 years and with the changes all made over the last 5 or 6 years, now is the time we should be expecting to see a return. For me Jake Livermore is the start of that, but the likes of Tom Carroll may really be the type of player who will prove the academy’s worth.Massimo Luongo. His name sounds Italian, he was born in Australia and he plays for Tottenham Hotspur. Again, I made a bad assumption here. My thought was that with a number of our other youngsters in our UEFA ‘B’ list (see the squad list on this site for full details here), Massimo Luongo would be waiting another year for his shot. He only came on as a sub and to be honest, with us dropping out of this competition it may be another season before he sees first team action again; however, he has been roundly praised by those who watch academy games and it seems his performances have been noticed by the management. It’s a shame for him that he missed the decisive penalty, but hopefully he won’t take it to heart because it’s certainly no reflection on him as a player.Heurelho Gomes. It sounds like he had a poor game. He’s a confidence player and it’s his first game since Hearts away (often not even sitting on the bench) which says to me Harry has lost confidence in the sometimes amazing, sometimes amazingly bad ‘keeper. It comes as no surprise then that he had a few hairy moments and had to be saved on a couple of occasions. However, he kept a clean sheet, which counts for something. I have to admit though, despite being shorter in the tooth and longer in the arm than both of our other two stoppers, he looks the most likely of the three to be making his way out of White Hart Lane.

Spurs’ Team

Heurelho Gomes

Vedran Ćorluka

Younès Kaboul

Sebastien Bassong

Benoît Assou-Ekotto

Rafael van der Vaart

Jake Livermore

Sandro

Tom Carroll

Roman Pavlyuchenko

Giovani Dos Santos

Sub ’63: Jermain Defoe
Replaced van der Vaart

Sub ’71: Massimo Luongo
Replaced Sandro

Sub ’96: Andros Townsend
Replaced Giovani

So there we have it. You can find a proper match report on the BBC and whilst I am sure I haven’t told you anything you didn’t already know, sometimes it just feels good to get it down in writing!

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Stoke City vs Tottenham Hotspur: Preview

20 Sep

Carling CupCarling Cup – 3rd Round
Date: 20 September 2011 Kick-off: 19:45
Venue: Britannia Stadium (Stoke-on-Trent)
Radio:

The League Cup, or Carling Cup as it is currently known. What an interesting competition. Over the years teams have begun to deem this competition as something between an irritation and an irrelevance, which appeared to start with Arsene Wenger fielding his favourite little boys. We have seen clubs use the competition to blood youngsters and give a game to experienced players unable to get a game in the league. Despite the fact this competition has never had the glamour or romance of the F.A. Cup, it remains a sad fall from grace… or does it?

We have reached the stage now where the league is all important, the riches on offer are vast and the rewards for reaching the Champions League huge. Despite the squad limits now in place there are a number of younger and fringe players who struggle to get a game when the first 11 is fully fit. Whilst this is rare at Spurs, players like Bassong, Giovani and Pavlyuchenko may be called upon at important times to cover for suspended and injured players. Short of match fitness, these guys will probably not do us, or themselves any favours, meaning the Carling Cup is an ideal competition to get these guys some minutes. Gallas and Sandro, on their way back from injury, will also benefit from minutes on the pitch, without the pressure or risks associated with playing in the Premier League. Finally, those youngsters, many of whom have played in Europe’s equivalent of the Carling Cup (The Europa League) will also get the chance to add to their appearances in the Lilywhite.

It’s wrong to assume that it’s easy to win the thing. Whilst the early rounds are populated by sides big and small playing younger teams to protect their stars, once the competition reaches the final stages, the big guns will come out to play. For a club like Spurs it’s certainly a serious prospect. We can take advantage of weakened opposition and we know in a one-off game we can beat anyone, 2008 proved that and maintained our record of winning a trophy at least every 10 years which stretches back to 1951. The evidence is there, though, that despite not always showing the competition the highest level of respect in the early stages that big clubs often do win this competition. (Chelsea – ’05, ’08; Manchester United ’06, ’09, ’10; Spurs ’08), Birmingham bucked the trend last season beating Arsenal 2-1.

Lets try and get through this and have a proper run at it

Obviously we won’t be fielding our strongest team here, but this is a trophy we can win, I want to see us have a good go at it. Given that last season was our ‘year ending in 1’ chance, which we didn’t take, it’s about time we started some new traditions. If we can win it playing the lads most of the way through that will be a great achievement.

Stoke might have 2 metre Peter up front, which is obviously not too much of a worry for us, perhaps more of a concern is if they decide to play the man Crouchaldinho has replaced, the significantly more effective Kenwyne Jones, who may be out to prove a point. Regardless, if he plays it will be great to see Jonathan Woodgate again, a player I was less happy to see leaving the Lane.

I don’t really care about the Carling Cup

If we go out I won’t be sad, it will ensure that we are not over-committed, particularly towards the end of this year and the start of next when everything starts to get serious. However, games = revenue and more importantly, as I have mentioned, it means the younger lads and others will get some games.

Stoke

Stoke’s tactics aren’t subtle, but they certainly are effective. We’ve dealt with Delap’s throws well in past games, but with a less experienced side on the pitch it will be interesting to see how we get on, regardless of which large/beanpole striker they play.

Spurs’ Team News

It looks like Sandro and William Gallas will each get a run out on their way back from injury, as will Rafa. In addition, Gomes, Bassong, Corluka and Pav all look like getting a game. It will be interesting to see which of the younger players will get a chance, although given performances so far Harry Kane and Tom Carroll both look like candidates and Livermore needs a game to keep up his momentum.

Injuries: Michael Dawson, Danny Rose, Steven Pienaar, Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon.

Stokes Team News

Glancing at Stoke’s website and the BBC suggests Stoke do not have any injury worries.

Tom Soares, Danny Pugh and Michael Tonge were all omitted from Stoke’s Premier League squad, suggesting that they may get a run out in the Carling Cup.

Prediction

I’m not super optimistic about this game, but I am hopeful. I’m going to go for a 2-0 Spurs win, despite this being a difficult away game.

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Tottenham Hotspur 4 – 0 Liverpool: Match Report

19 Sep

Well, I must admit it feels rather nice to be writing about a game in which we’ve played really well (having missed the Wolves game).

I didn’t manage to get to this game and to be honest I nearly didn’t see it at all, given that I was supposed to be busy on Sunday, but I am so glad I did see it.

To a man, everyone on the pitch did their bit and it seemed like, as a side, we were tactically prepared and psychologically motivated to go out and do the job. There were obvious weaknesses in Liverpool’s side, many have which have been discussed at length by pundits and reporters alike. It was initially unclear which side of midfield Bale and Kranjčar would each start on, with Bale playing from the right against Wolves. What did seem clear though is that with Skrtel playing at right back for Liverpool, there was a weakness to be exploited, and exploited it was.

It was not only Bale and Kranjcar, but the whole midfield which was the defining area of the pitch. Liverpool’s midfield was unbalanced and inexperienced, leading to them eventually becoming completely swamped, regardless of the number of players they actually had on the pitch.

So before really getting into the game, the biggest question is, why have our games against Wolves and Liverpool been so different to those against the two Manchester clubs?

There is no doubt that Manchester City and United, with expensively assembled, high quality sides were always favourites against us, there is no doubt that anything earned from these games would be a bonus, with us finding ourselves at that difficult stage of being enough of a threat that the bigger teams never relax against us, but requiring the balance of luck and fate to be on our side to achieve a positive outcome. What there can be no excuse for is our pitiful turnout having gone a goal down against each side, not something which seemed to faze us last season.

The first obvious difference against both Wolves and Liverpool is, not only did we score first, we kept clean sheets. It’s hard to believe (despite the fact I love both Kaboul and Dawson) that the presence of King Ledley at the back hasn’t had something to do with that.

Secondly, a subtle change to our midfield has made such a difference. Modrić and Kranjčar, no matter how talented simply aren’t able to stem the flow of attacks from central positions. When Harry first arrived, both found themselves vying for the Left Midfield position, with a preference for an enforcer in the middle (Palacios initially showing what an improvement this was). Harry, despite being forced into playing the to Croats this season has always recognised this and we have certainly missed Sandro. Lennon, once our most incisive attacking outlet is also not missed, with him offering little in his first two appearances. I hope when he returns he isn’t blindly returned to the starting lineup, he seems like a player that needs the competition to keep him performing.

Thirdly our signings seem to have made such a difference. Neither Adebayor or Parker were the type of names to really get my juices flowing, however, not only have each been relatively cheap, they have been exactly what we needed. Adebayor has provided everything Crouch was unable to do. With strength and power both in terms of his movement and striking ability, coupled with a sharp mind, Adebayor has demonstrated how a striker can both score and link the play; with flick ons that actually reached his strike partners, you can be confident a ball played to him won’t immediately lead to it coming back towards you in the form of an opposition attack. Parker, despite being 30 has a serious engine. He keeps running, he keeps tackling and he keeps playing the simple passes. With him and Modrić in midfield, there is a grit and a level of quality which many teams will struggle to deal with this season.

Finally, whether it was the win against Wolves or the calming down of the storm around the club at the end of the transfer window, the mentality of every player seems to be worlds apart from the two early season defeats. Against the Manchester clubs Bale didn’t seem interested in running, the strikers couldn’t get their foot on it and Rafa was running around bawling his face off. What a change we’ve now seen.

During the first 20-25 minutes we absolutely decimated Liverpool, leading to a top drawer Luka Modrić goal (I’d like to see a few more of those in a Lilywhite shirt) and culminating in an inevitable Charlie Adam sending off. In fact, my housemate, Alex, predicted it with unnerving accuracy. As soon as Adam was booked he said, ‘he’ll be off’ and with Skrtel booked soon after his commented that they’d be down to 9 by the 60 minute mark, he was just 5 minutes out.

The drop down to 10 men, as it often seems to, actually galvanised Liverpool a little and may have led to some complacency in the Spurs ranks as Liverpool had their best spell of the game running up to half time. With a goal correctly disallowed for offside representing their best moment of the match and the only time they were able to split the Spurs defence.

The second half couldn’t come soon enough and Spurs looked dominant throughout. Eventually Skrtel picked up his inevitable second booking after felling Bale again and Liverpool looked like they would never get the chance to make an impact upon the game. Spurs made their advantage tell with a quick-fire double from Defoe and Adebayor respectively before deciding to play keep-ball for the remaining 20 minutes; Adebayor eventually ambling into the box and slamming home the 4th during injury time.

It’s hard to tell whether Liverpool were awful, or Spurs performing fantastically well, with a combination of the two likely. The only shame is that Spurs decided to take their foot off the gas and didn’t make their advantage count, preferring to show mercy to Liverpool’s remaining players and protecting their own sometimes brittle limbs.

Spurs’ Player Ratings

Brad Friedel 7.5
With not a single shot on goal until the last 10 minutes, the big Yank had little to do, but did what was asked of him well.

Kyle Walker 8
Was up and down the right wing and defended well enough against Downing on the few occasions he did get on the ball. Showed great promise with a couple of bursting runs, suggesting he can make up for the lack of Lennon and link up with Kranjčar.

Ledley King 8.5
Was rightly removed towards the end and I am surprised the change didn’t come earlier with fragile knees and groins to protect. Makes such a difference every time he plays.

Younès Kaboul 8.5
Constantly growing in his role, Kaboul is still prone to the odd error, but a worthy long term successor to King in the Spurs back four.

Benoît Assou-Ekotto 8
Cool as a cucumber.

Niko Kranjčar 7
Niko was only given 45 mins to make his impact and whilst he was not a stellar performer he played well.

Luka Modrić 9 (mom)
He doesn’t score enough, but took his chance today with the type of quality that makes him so coveted. Hopefully he can bed back into the squad properly and as much as I hate to admit it, continue to prove he is the man that makes Spurs tick.

Scott Parker 8.5
Just did everything that was asked of him so well. He did his little spin 360° round the ball thing a few times (look out for it if you’ve not noticed it already), but kept his passing simple for the most part and broke up the play well.

Gareth Bale 8
I’m still concerned that he’s believing the hype a little, but I also feel he has been found out a little, in the sense that any occasion he is double marked he’s unable to break free. However, with a better threat up front and a more solid and threatening midfield, hopefully teams will be unable to do-so, meaning he will get more chances like he did against Liverpool, in which he had free reign of the left wing.

Emmanuel Adebayor 9
Made his quality show. He dropped back to pick up the ball a little too much for me and wasn’t in the box when Bale was crossing enough, but he’s exactly what we need in that position.

Jermain Defoe 8
One great chance but often isolated by van der Vaart dropping deep and looking to influence the play, Defoe is not a lone striker and needs a supporting forward to help his game.

Sub ’45: Rafael van der Vaart 7
Replaced Kranjčar, Rafa clearly wanted a run out having got himself fit in record time. He didn’t have a great deal of impact on the game but didn’t do much wrong either. He was brought on to play on the right though… He didn’t.

Sub ’83: Sebastien Bassong 6.5
Replaced King, against a particularly weakened Liverpool side Bassong had little to do except a silly dance to celebrate Adebayor’s second goal.

Sub ’83: Giovani Dos Santos 6.5
Replaced Defoe, unfortunate to get on so late and didn’t have a chance to do much. Should be used in the traditional van der Vaart role really and hasn’t had a proper run there, hope to see him against Stoke.

Referee

It has to be said, I think Mike Jones refereed the game very well. Maybe I am biased because he sent off 2 Liverpool players, but all to often refs duck the big decisions and give players on a yellow card the benefit of the doubt. Jones did not, which is particularly nice to see given that Dalglish spent much of last week ranting about refereeing decisions. 8.5

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