Wednesday, 27 April 2011
Talking Tottenham with @charlieparrish - Part 3
My discussions with @charlieparrish (who I thoroughly recommend following) continue. This time we're assessing the best and worst of Spurs' current crop...
Dave (Such Small Portions),
Right, a Player of the Season. I might just plump for William Gallas. He sometimes looks like he’s running on fumes, he’s the mercenary’s mercenary and those nose-bleed, crazy-legged advances into enemy territory always make me giggle/gasp, but he’s dragged us through games this season. And in the absence of Ledley, Gallas has given Michael Dawson his requisite hand-holder.
Our captain’s an odd one. Imperious against storied opposition and defiant when his back’s firmly against wall, yet occasionally mindless in less glitzy arenas and always culpable versus nippy strikers. I feel like I’m bad mouthing the faithful family dog, but there are times (in fact, I can be explicit about those times: a.) whenever he’s sailed a Hollywood cross field ball needlessly into Row 9 of the East Stand b.) he chugs through treacle after a disappearing forward and c.) each occasion he allows himself a penalty box lunge) where Daws is essentially a Rich Man’s Roger Johnson. I also can’t help but feel he remains forever the junior partner longing for a calm, senior head to guide him through choppy waters, despite now being a 27-year-old international.
To their right, well, it’s been a bit of a shambles. Vedran Corluka began the season with Kaboul panting down his stubbly neck, before Scots thug Alan Hutton lucked out on a dual injury, swung us a game against Wolves and turned in several months of 6/10 performances despite Harry loathing him. All the while, we were harbouring grass-is-greeners over at our own Kyle Walker, who most of us now presume will return to usurp his trio of middling rivals. (Funny how it’s always the less fancied half of our double deals who seem to flourish at Spurs. Davies over Etherington. Dawson, and not Reid. And now seemingly Walker instead of Championship-doomed Kyle Naughton).
Since Alan Hansen’s vindictive and beautifully ignorant attack on Benoit Assou-Ekotto (although he was pretty rubbish that night against Everton), our left-back’s consistently impressed. The derby was the perfect Benny performance: tenacious when challenged, unruffled and cocky in possession and mentally tuned in for 90 whole minutes. Yes, he then hobbled off with a dubious looking knock after gifting West Brom their opener and I doubt he’d confident identifying what “WBA” stood for if challenged, but I do sort of love him.
Now, I know you love Luka as strongly as I nurture a misguided torch for Rafa. And don’t get me wrong, he’s probably been our best player this year. His departure would be catastrophic and I’d forever miss seeing him dance past burly henchman. But as you bravely stated in your post-Arsenal report, Dave, he doesn’t score enough. And we’ve needed goals from him his season.
Meanwhile, Rafa’s gaudy goal record masks a lot of mid-season issues. He has looked unfit, he matches Modric in the deceptively slow stakes and owes us an almighty last few games to apologise for waddling around, petulantly wasting possession since Christmas. But, had we landed Harry’s chief target – a prolific striker capable of leading the line solo – then I believe 4-2-3-1, with Van der Vaart, Bale and Lennon buzzing about behind said £30m man (with Modric and Thud/Sando in central midfield) presents zero problems. That formation soured when our strikers hardened in their perverse collective goal strike. Suddenly, should our attacking midfielders not score, we were doomed.
And it’s the forwards who deserve our loudest tutting. Defoe’s now third choice and, for me, bound for another prolific stint somewhere more austere than London. Domestically, Crouch has been rumbled. Games of unplayable dominance like Stoke endured the other week are far, far too rare. Instead, we groan as he drags another shot feebly past the post and like lovely Abbey, struggle to forgive him for dicking about in Madrid.
The whole ‘Super Pav’ thing has been always a cult hero too far for me and I’d like him returned this summer. I never liked how the woefully limited Steffen Freund was always championed for charging around like a WWE moron, but at least he cared. Too often, Roman fails to get beyond a canter, has a maddening habit of reminding you just good he can be when games are irredeemable and simply isn’t prolific enough to warrant any further patience. Same for Gomes. I can’t stand him for a season longer. Just give me a bog-standard stopper who won’t humiliate me at work on a Monday, please.
During last summer, I would grow giddy imagining Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon hurtling down their respective wings. Which is why their injuries and inconsistency have been so disappointing. You see, Dave, I was expecting the pair of them to carve up the Premier League. Instead, they’ve just given Europe a fright and each have a handful of league moments to cherish. I know I sound incredibly harsh on the pair of them. Bale is Europe’s most wanted prospect, the Player’s Player of the Year, and doesn’t require me bleating on about his abilities. And Lennon has enjoyed patches of fully-realised productivity and won us several huge, clutch and exciting points in the final minutes. But I’m greedy, I want more.
And that probably sums it all up. No one’s played particularly poorly this season, really. Watching Spurs in the second half of the derby, I realised just how good we are now. But then we stink the place up in games against West Broms and West Hams and I realise I want more. And this lot can give us more. They can all just be incredibly annoying.
Dave (Such Small Portions):
It has been an odd season in terms of heroes and villains.
Especially odd when you consider that Gareth Bale was voted PFA Player of the Year and yet most Spurs fans would say he’s not even Tottenham’s player of the year, and that little Luka has actually been our most outstanding and consistent performer (AND IF THEY DON’T SAY THAT THEN THEY ARE IDIOTS AND SHOULDN’T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL).
I think your run-through of the line-up is pretty spot-on – and extra kudos for the phrase ‘gaudy goal tally’ in reference to the sometimes maddening Mr VdV.
I’m not prepared to go quite as far as you re. Billy G, though. Yes, he’s played well and can be an especially reassuring presence in big games, but I still tend to check my phone, or tie up a shoelace when his name’s read out before the match. He’s still William fucking Gallas for God sake. And I can’t shift that image of him staging that sulky sit-in at whatever northern graveyard Arsenal found for their title hopes a few years back.
Sorry, to keep to some sort of order, let’s dart back to the Gomes conundrum. He costs more points than he saves and he pisses me off with that stupid jumping up and down touching the crossbar thing when he comes out for the second half. So, whilst it’s not as important as sorting out the striking problem, we should at least have a scout around for someone better.
In defence I’d pick out Kaboul as a beacon of hope. And I’d insist that all discussions discount the possibility of King and Woodgate ever playing for us again. That’s the mindset we need when assessing our CB options. Totally agree with your point re. Dawson; he needs to be the main man, not second banana. If he can make that psychological leap then I’d have no problem with him and Younes being our first choice pairing next year.
In midfield, Modric is clearly a superstar. Our best player, one of the Premier League’s best players and, if he keeps progressing as he is, soon to be one of the world’s best players. We must keep him. Fuck it, make him captain if we think it’ll help. He’s not a gritted teeth, clenched fist kind of player, but he never shirks either the responsibility of possession or the crunch of a 50/50. Who wouldn’t follow and respect him?
The emergence of Sandro has been a bonus – and as far as I’m concerned a wholly unexpected bonus. I just didn’t think someone with that haircut would ever really, pardon the pun, cut it. I mean it’s just so awkward and graceless. He’s overcome it, though, and Palacious, I think (hope) will now be surplus to requirements.
Bale, Lennon and Thud have all stalled to some extent. That might sound odd in relation to our Welsh winger and his peer-approved prize, but we knew he was this good last season, and apart from a golden period in and around those two Inter games, he hasn’t really kicked on in 10/11. In fact, in the last couple of months he’s seemed subdued, distracted and hesitant.
If those three can develop next year (and stay fit) like we hoped they would this year, then that will be a huge bonus. With Lennon and Thud, though, you do start to worry that we’ve been talking about ‘potential’ for rather too long.
Up front? Fuck knows. The problem with our three is that they’re not completely hopeless. There’s no obvious one to chuck or one to keep. Defoe can still shift the ball half a yard and slam it in the corner; Crouch has undoubtedly proven a handful in Europe and worked well with VdV; and Pav, our enigmatic if not exactly energetic Russian cult, well he has the physical presence and finishing technique to be a real handful on his day. He just doesn’t have many days.
So, we need a change, we need more quality and we need goals. But do we need one big buy? Wholesale change? Personally, I’d keep Pav and Defoe and buy one more big name (Redknapp will be off soon, and isn’t there a chance that someone else might fancy Pav a bit more and subsequently get more out of him?). Oh, and if Man U offered a straight swap, VdV for Berba, I’d probably take that – providing he came with the right attitude. Yeah, you’re right, unlikely.
Or, we make a smart, informed punt, like we did with Berba, in fact, spend £15-£20m on someone who’s on the radar but not yet a superstar. I’d rather do that than go for Drogba, anyway. Just couldn’t learn to love that man.
So, yeah, agreed, no one’s been awful. The strikers have been disappointing, the midfield hasn’t lived up to its stellar potential and the defence, shorn of its two best performers, has been largely admirable whilst prone to meltdowns. And Gomes is a clown, a clown who can sometimes pull off a worldy. And now, having slipped into the vernacular of Paul Merson, it must be time to sign off. COYS!
That's it for this week. I'll be trying to temper Charlie's optimism again real soon, but in the meantime, check out his excellent A Spurs Blog. It's a blog. About Spurs. Doesn't fuck about, our Charlie.