Saturday, 29 October 2011

Tottenham v QPR - here come the nice

It's impossible to say this without sounding patronising. And I retain the right to completely reverse my position after the game, but I quite like QPR. They're nice.

Very few of us, I'm sure, have QPR-supporting friends that really get on our tits with their constant arrogance, needling, aggression or triumphalism. They don't do that sort of thing. (And yes, the fact that they haven't won anything since 1967 or been in the Premier League since 1996 probably helps).

Their famous fans include Mick Jones and Mark Ellen. Top marks.

I like the ground. I like where it is. I like the walk to the ground. I like the pubs. We all love Sir Les.

QPR are a good, solid indie label of a team. Plus they didn't half stick it to Chelsea last week.

If we don't win tomorrow, though, I will burn a copy of Word magazine and smash a couple of Clash albums to pieces (Cut the Crap and Sandinista, I guess).

Because a series of weird results mean that whilst City disappear into the distance, everyone else is checking calculators and fixture lists to see if they're going to be second or seventh when Christmas comes. I'm gonna guess fifth for us. And the same goes for where we'll finish come May. I knew if for a fact last year - and I fear it as our fate this year.

That said, I suspect all I have to do is Tweet one grumbly remark about VdV being picked ahead of Defoe and he'll bag a hat trick. I will look 'stupid' - and – although most of you will have to trust me on this – very, very happy.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Rafa: we need the eggs

The big question ahead of Sunday's game is a strange one: will Rafa start?

Yeah, Rafa, the guy that slotted two fine goals and won us three points away at Blackburn. That Rafa. Our leading goalscorer, you know the guy.

It was the big question this time last week, as well, with much debate as to whether/where he should fit into the line up. And when he was announced ahead of Defoe, there were some dissenting voices. One of them sounded suspiciously like mine. In fairness, though, I am an idiot.

And yet, questions remain. Not about Rafa's quality as a player. But how he fits into our meat-n-potatoes system - and how much we're prepared to change, adapt, sacrifice in order to accommodate him.

So, let's look at the options. I don't think he should play in goal. Not unless it's a straight choice between him and Gomes.

Let's rule out the back four as well. And assume that in midfield we have Bale on the left, with Modric and one of his minders (Parker or Sandro) next to him.

That leaves the right of midfield, up front, or just off the striker.

If we play a nominal 4-4-2, then playing him wide right is a risk, as he is a free spirit/law unto himself and will go looking for work/abandon any sense of defensive responsibility (delete according to generosity of spirit/levels of Rafa fanboyism).

If you play him up front or 'just off', you negate the possibility of Adebayor and Defoe striking up a proper partnership. You could play him with Defoe, but I don't think that works; our wandering star leaves the little guy too isolated. The worst (best?) example of this was last season's home game against West Ham where we ended up playing, essentially, with one up front, at the Lane, in a must-win game against a not great side.

Finally, of course, you could play him with Pav... okay, no, you absolutely couldn't. Jesus, as a pair they'd have the work ethic of Cheech and Chong.

So, the riddle of Rafa. It's a bit like a joke told by this blog's patron saint, Woody Allen, in Annie Hall. He's discussing how love is so infuriating and irrational, whist also being the only thing worth living for. He tells a story of a guy who goes to the doctors and says 'Doc, my brothers crazy, he thinks he's a chicken'; the doctor says 'Well why don't you turn him over to a psychiatrist?'; the guys says, 'I would, but we need the eggs'.

Rafa: he thinks he's irreplaceable, he thinks he can win games single-handed, he thinks he'll score every time he takes to the pitch. We could, of course, dismiss all this vainglorious nonsense and just drop him. But, well, we need the goals.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Newcastle report/Blackburn preview

Didn't get round to a Newcastle review and haven't done a Blackburn preview, but both can be covered off with similar points.

(Not even a mention of Rubin Kazan, but I can do that now: Oh Pav. Pav, Pav, Pav.)

Okay, it's gonna get a bit technical here, and I might lose some of you, so concentrate. Against Newcastle, from the off, we just looked... wonky.

Was it 4-5-1, or 4-4-1-1? Or nine outfield players going wherever they had to to cover for Van der Vaart?

Right midfield is obviously the problem. I'm sure most players at the cub know what both words mean individually, but fuck me they're baffled when used in conjunction with each other.

We've tried VdV there, we're tried Sandro there, we've tried Bale there, we've tried Modric there and for 10 minutes against Arsenal we tried no one there.

Lennon's supposed to be the answer, but he he didn't look in sparkling form on Thursday and it's doubtful he'll get the nod of either Rafa or Sandro, even in his 'specialist' position.

Shame. Because whilst I know there are plenty of ways of tweaking the system to make room for our best players, there are three things that I want to see every game for at least a while: Adebayor and Defoe in partnership up front, Bale on the left of midfield and Modric plus either Parker or Sandro in the centre of midfield.

Got a bit of a headache now. I don't like thinking about shape and tactics. I like shouting useless encouragement and frankly non-sensical abuse. So, Harry, make it easy for me to understand. Make it easy for the players to understand. Fuck it, make it so simple even Alan Smith understands. And make us win.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Adebayor, or... or what, precisely

Right, just a quickie: is it me or have we become awfully reliant on Adebayor all of a sudden?

If he's out, which apparently he might be this Sunday, what are our options? I don't think Defoe on his own works; I don't think VdV on his own works; I don't think Defoe and VdV work together; I don't think Pav... well, I don't think Pav knows what 'work' means.

And what are the chances of us actually signing Adebayor at the end of the season? Slimmer than Luka on cup-a-soup, I'd say.

We've got a long term plan though, right? Good. Just checking.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Super Seismic Sunday

Spurs always do this to me. Or do I always do this to Spurs?

A non-descript match in the middle distance of our fixture list comes closer and suddenly takes on the proportions of an epochal acid test that will basically decide the fate of our club for at least a decade.

I mean, Newcastle away. Who gives a fuck, right? Or, at least, who gave a fuck? But now it looms. And it looms large. See how it looms. Goddam it's loomy. You can practically hear the John Williams theme welling up in the background.

Newcastle looked like a bump in the road when the season began, especially after the fucking car crashes that befell us against United and City. This was something to look forward to, surely.

Now it looks more like a fork; a pivotal moment. Win and we'll probably be top four and the pecking order will be established. Lose and we'll be mid-table, scratching around with Villa and Everton.

Newcastle, of course, are unbeaten. And in that hallowed top four. Now, I can't be arsed to check who they've played, but, off the top of my head, I'd say Wolves, Blackburn, er, Grimsby, Chorlton-cum-Hardy under-11s, the lot that lost to Brian Glover's team in Kes... Barnstoneworth United?

Anyway, the point, the crumb to cling to, is that they might still be shit. (Can you cling to a crumb? You can't, can you?)

And yet, they're 4th. They're unbeaten. They seem to have a load of French players that may well go on to, I don't know, form the nucleus of a national side that lifts the world cup in three years time or something.

See, it's happening again. Newcastle away, with Nolan, Carroll, Barton and Enrique all gone, was going to be a walk in the St James Park. Now it looks like one of Hercules' 12 tasks. Probably, given the nature of the opposition, the one involving clearing a never-ending pile of horse shit.

Mark Lawrenson will soon be saying almost exactly the same over at BBC Sport, mark my words.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Jr Walker and the All Stars make a joyful sound

The most significant thing, perhaps, is that this was only my third favourite win against Arsenal in the last couple of years.

The spell-breaker at White Hart Lane in 2010 and the curse-lifter at the Emirates six months later occupy the top two slots.

Still, it wasn't bad...

We were, of course, famously, loudly, justifiably and terrifyingly favourites going into the game. And during the game? Did we look noticeably the better side?

I think in terms of possession and territory, they were at least our equal, but we consistently looked more dangerous - apart from when VdV stopped playing ten minutes before he got taken off. And they gave the ball away far more often and easily than we did.

From a fan point of view, the reviews, regrets and recriminations have swapped almost completely. Here, surely, is what a sane Arsenal fan's appraisal would be:

* They went into the game with the better squad and the better starting 11

* We had a lot of the ball but never really looked like scoring until they sort of let us.

* They scored two and could have had four or five more.

* We always looked vulnerable in defence and nervous in possession.

* We huffed and puffed but never purred.

* They had the game's outstanding player(s).

* When we equalised, we kind of knew it was false hope. And so did the team. Instead of us kicking on for the winner, we sat back and let them wrestle momentum back. We never believed

* And yes, at the end, were were knocking on the door. But very, very timidly.

* We could, just about conceivably, in a galaxy far, far away, have snatched a win. We should, maybe, in something akin to the real world, have grabbed a draw. But, ultimately, in 2011 we lost - and could have lost by more.

* We're not as good as them and need to get some points on the board fast before we get dragged into a relegation battle.

* I really miss us being good.

That's our script! Unchanged for 25 bloody years! That's worse than My Family (dear wife and children, please note capital letters and obvious reference to pedestrian but inexplicably enduring BBC sit 'com')

And now? Well, we've won three out of the last four derby games? Arsenal? They've 'only' won 12 out of the last 20 or something. So, as with most stats and trends, the result depends on how long a period you take into account. And which point you want to 'prove'.

The giant leap forward will be finishing above them in the league. And saying goodbye to all that St Tottering Day bollocks - dumped, hopefully, in the same bin where Chelsea's Three Point Lane jibe is gathering dust.

Even then, it will only be one year in 17.

So, let joy be unconfined, absolutely. But let reality have a starter and pour perspective a drink.

Also, our next game, against Newcastle, suddenly looks huge, doesn't it? They're in a Champions League spot and packed with good young French players you hadn't heard of 20 minutes ago. Remind you of anyone?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Hip hip hip hooray

It's October, the sun is cracking the flags and we're odds-on favourites to win the North London derby. Someone is fucking with me.

If you were to pick a best 11 from the two teams' current squads, the majority would be from Spurs. I get that, I really do.

In the last three years we've drawn two and won one. I know that, of course I do.

And we should have done the double over them last year. I believe that, I honestly do.

But do I think we'll win? That's a blazing sun up in the sky, not a pig.

Selection will be interesting. I'm thinking chest pains beforehand, self-harm for the first hour and then bring on weeping and incontinence to see the game out.

On the pitch, I know it's boring, but I'd like to see us go 4-4-2, with either Sandra or Parker 'minding' Modric, maybe even Lennon on the right and Defoe upfront alongside that son-of-a-preacher-man, Adebayor.

The consensus, however, seems to be that Parker and Sandro need to be accommodated, and that VdV should start somewhere. Either as a sort of midfielder or a sort of striker. In his favour, he seems very much a big game player. But wherever we stick him he'll end up in central midfielder. Probably giving us four in there.

Anyway, all very boring and probably irrelevant. Because when we kick off tomorrow, form and formation will be forgotten instantly. The ball will take lucky deflections and unpredictable bounces, referees will make bad decisions and players will make horrible mistakes, someone you'd never even thought about will do something wondrous/disastrous and everything will fly past at 100 miles an hour - lasting a total of 17 excruiating years.

My forecast: dark, dark clouds.