Thursday, 9 April 2009

Do you rate Pavlyuchenko?


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Pavlyuchenko apparently requires surgery for a groin injury. You'll have noticed he hasn't played a part in our recent games and the last thing I can remember from him (other than a missed penalty in a reserve match) was some quotes based around a complaint that he is struggling to learn English. This is largely thanks to his every day routine of hotel - breakfast - training - hotel - dinner - bed. Gruelling work schedule taking its toll there for Roman.

It's been pointed out that the club should be doing far more to make sure he develops his linguistic skills. The player still 'thinks' in Russian which means he has to attempt to translate what he wants to relay to his team-mates from Russian into English. Which, according to the player, is time consuming.

I'm miffed. Just call out the players name. You're not exactly gonna find the need to stand on the edge of the box and scream, 'Hey Aaron, Aaron, please strike the ball with the outside of your foot and lay it into my path. I'm going to sweetly strike it to the left of the goal'.

A simple yelp will suffice.

Pedanticisms aside, he is probably referring to the aftermath of a broken down attack when he needs to explain to the player who passed the ball to the right when he (Pav) was running to the left what space he intends to run into next time round. Again, arguably, all he has to do is point and wave his arms about and even speak his disgruntledness in Russian. The likelihood is his team-mate will understand the complaint far more clearly than anything coming out of Robbie Keanes mouth.

There's a lot that hasn't gone right for Pav since his move to the UK. Arguably, the guy is tired having playing several months of football in Russia in the snow before the Prem had kicked-off. He hasn't done too shabby considering the start of the season we've had (two points, eight games), but although he has scored himself into double figures - he hasn't scored that many in the league. He's a bit slow, and sometimes his first touch isn't great and his long shot efforts are poor - but he seems to find himself in the right place at the right time and unlike Darren Bent, he contributes far more and appears to be more adaptable to Harry's tactics. He's a decent goal-scorer. Maybe not one worth £14M on current showing, but we always pay far more than what the player is truly worth. Problem, arguably, is he doesn't quite excel in anything in particular and can't be defined in the same terms of importance in the same way Keane or Defoe can (with what they can offer on the pitch).

Is he over-rated? Guess we can't really judge him until 10 games into next season. Although even a 'tired' player should be showing us a little bit more in the way of ability. But at the minute, the tired excuse and the injury issue saves him from the knee-jerk 'Get rid of him!' brigade.

I like Pav. He's comes across as a bit daft (maybe something is lost in translation) in interviews, but he plays with a smile on his face. You just get this impression he's only playing at around the 60% mark.

Arshavin is fairly fluent in English, but then he's also probably fluent in Spanish, German and Italian as right up to the end of the transfer window he probably wasn't that sure where his final destination would be.

So, I guess it's down to what Harry thinks and what he plans to do with Keane, Defoe, Bent and Roman when the season draws to a close and the summer months transfer merry-go-round kicks off again.

Surely Spurs can keep him behind an hour or so after training every day for a lesson in the fine art of speaking the Queens English? Just lock him in a room and stick a Only Fools and Horses VHS in the video player, and he'll be fine as dandy in a month.

Based on what you've seen and in comparison to our other forwards - and taking into account we have 4 players who strive to be first-team players - should he stay or should he go? In your opinion, has he shown us enough?

If anyone happens to bump into him in the Waltham Abbey Tescos - say hello. And compliment him on his choice of Louis Vuitton English. If he shrugs and mutters something in Russian spank his bottom and state 'NO! Bad £14M forward who hasn't settled in England yet'. Give him a stern look and shake your head, before slowly walking away with a despondent swagger.

That ought to tell him.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Let's Relegate Newcastle United

Slow news day, so I'll take the opportunity to slate Alan Shearer. 7,500 people turn up to watch a training session which is nothing more than a carefully executed propaganda exercise (with less of the careful and dollops of the propaganda). The attendance was apparently quite low considering how folk in Newcastle don't have much else to do other than follow their football club and welcome the latest in a never-ending recruitment drive to find their true Messiah. Although it's best to point out that the Worlds Greatest Fans© are struggling to turn up for home matches this season with attendance figures falling. Which must surely be down to their teams performances on the pitch and all the unwanted boardroom politics off it. Which would make them 'fickle' and not 'passionate', not that the media or Sky Sports News know how to differentiate between the two. Unless of course the club is based in the south of England, and in particular, North London - where they are most definitely classed as fickle.

In the training session Shearer barked out instructions, which is a first as Dowie has apparently been coordinating things on the training pitch since their arrival at the club. More comically, he took part in a 5-a-side game and scored following it up with his textbook hand in the air trademark celebration. Rolling back the years there Alan. It's epically embarrassing stuff from the publicity-shy pundit. Not quite the same thing as Hoddle showing Beckham how to bend a free-kick, but still....transparent for all to see.

Dowie is the one with the experience in training and management (when you write these things down and read them back, it just seems to get worse and worse for them doesn't it?). Shearer is meant to be there as some form of inspiration. A testament to a brand new beginning. A figure head to galvanise the club. In reality it's a ploy to soften any potential disaster that might befall the club. If they go down, they will go down with a 'legend' at the helm. A legend who can't be held accountable thanks to the fact he only has 8 games to save them (1 down, 7 to go). He's going to 'walk away' from it at the end of the season, so either way its advantage Shearer. If they go down, he'll be thanked for his gallant effort. If they stay up, his ego and new founded managerial credentials will expand tenfold. From a personal perspective, it gives him an opportunity to experiment with management and see if he has anything in the way of ability for any future challenge. What better way to test the waters than with the gift of eight games from the struggling Toon fanboy die-hard Mike Ashley (who might or might not be a Tottenham fan).

Keegan left in the midst of controversy. Kinnear (wish him well) might only return in a non-management capacity. And as for Shearer? He'll be back on the Match of the Day sofa, faster than you can say 'relegated'.

He apparently asked the 'lads' where else would thousands turn up to watch their team train (apart from the fact some clubs get 20,000 or so for reserve and academy games)? This is apparently his way of illustrating the importance and passion Newcastle play in the hearts of the locals. I guess getting 45-50K for home matches isn't reason enough for players to try harder.

Sort of puts it into perspective when compared to our lot. Everytime a new man arrives at the Lane, he is also referred to as the new Messiah by the media. And pressure is always evident from the stands regarding style of football played. Which is why George Graham was never destined to be a favourite (along with rather more obvious reasons) and why Sam Allardyce lasted 5 minutes at Newcastle. There are some unnerving parallels between both clubs, although we have a habit of picking up silverware every decade. They just have a rather annoying habit of always beating us up at St James Park. Newcastle are there to make us feel better. For all the soap opera elements that Levy orchestrates, we are always out-done by our friends up North.

Thank you.

It seems like an age ago we did manage to beat them (2-1) in possibly the worst game of football ever up at their ground in the Carling Cup earlier this season. Sunday 19th April has the potential to be one of emotional dejection, if the barcodes win at the Lane. Because it would mean we have aided them in their fight for survival.

That is simply unacceptable.

So, welcome to the 'Let's Relegate Newcastle United' campaign. Stoke, Pompey, Liverpool, Boro, Fulham and Villa are the other esteemed members. The prime directive is simple: Defeat Newcastle and do not allow for sharing of points.

It's in our hands to wipe the smugness off the face of Alan Shearer and make Match of the Day a little more bearable for all next season (I've run into some legal problems relating to the 'We must deport Mark Lawerson' initiative. Will keep you posted on developments on that one).

Stoke up first. Thoughts and prayers.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

We're all going on a mid-table tour...

Seven games left. We are now deep into the business end of the season. Alas squeaky bum time is not part of our agenda. There is still however a possibility of a European push to add some extra spark to the fixture list, but looking at the games ahead and then looking back at the miserable start to the season and the various hiccups and mis-guided moments of alleged clarity (we're going down, we're going down) we've had along the way, it's safe to say...thank God we are safe. And we are safe. We are right? Of course we are. Couple more points here and there should see us finish top half. I'm looking forward to the nosebleed. As for's akin to an injection of botox to a thirty-year old face. Completely unnecessary.

But still, plenty of potential shenanigans left in the season (West Ham at home, relegating Newcastle, City and Utd, Everton away....etc) so no need to throw your season ticket towards the directors box just yet. 630 minutes of Tottenham left to go.

Regardless of all this, it still won't stop some people from thinking about the summer months that lay ahead of us.

Which means having to brace yourselves for plenty of Lennon and Modric transfer stories, even though one has signed a contract extension and the other only signed for us last summer. And after the Berbatov and Keane epics, you'd hope our chairman doesn't allow for the usual gut-wrenching acceptance of departure of key players. Expect Liverpool to be linked to our little Aaron anyway. And Levy - JUST SAY NO. The Tottenham Foundation is rich enough from donations, thank you very much.

Also brace yourselves for all the ITK and club insiders, that will surely be crawling out of the woodwork soon to tell us about potentially someone being signed but it's only 87% done so might or might not happen yet. I said I'd ignore them so that I could avoid another shitstorm like the one that took place during the last window. Remember the jihad directed my way? Happy days.

What might or might not happen with David Bentley is something that will also take up plenty of tabloid space between now and the summer and through out June and July. Did Harry whisper the other day that we are not going to sell any of our star players? Guess that means David has already cleared out his locker and is hitch-hiking his way back up North. Personally, I don't think he should go but as I've discussed a few times already this season - where can he play if he can't play right-wing? Can't see Lennon being dropped any time soon. Unless his form dips or he gets injured. If David is having personal problems, then fair enough, let him be. Let him sort himself out. When you set yourself such a high standard, it can sometimes be a struggle to reach it consistently. Those star-jumps were ace, and we've not seen the likes of them since.

But this is something we can all revisit in a couple of months. For now, I'd much prefer to enjoy what we have left of the season and hope the players strive for improvement rather than have one eye on how they plan to spend the summer months. We need to remain competitive at all times. Even when we are mathematically safe. None of this oh so typical switching off lark we experienced ponderously after last years Cup final and all the way to the death of the season and into the beginning of this season.

Palacios will be suspended for Saturday, which is a great shame. But a test to the depth of the squad, as we fall back onto the past. Yes, it's flux capacitor time with Zokora and Jenas pairing up in the middle. If West Ham win this, then expect a week long party in Green Street. If we lose, then I can imagine a vast majority of Spurs fans burning their season tickets and claiming celibacy from football forever. Such is the magnitude of this encounter.

Naaaaa, just fucking with you. West Ham fans might see this as a game of importance as they aim to surge ahead of some truly God awful sides below them to stake a claim for 7th spot, in a season where being average is enough to claim a ticket to Europe. And I don't blame them. They've had plenty of their own turmoil and quietly, in the midst of everything happening down at the bottom and right at the top, Zola and Clarke have got them ticking over fairly well in the middle section of the table. They've done enough to get them into a position that might event warrant the words 'successful season'.

I just want us to dick 'em cause it's fun, innit? Also because I'm still haunted by that 4-1 Easter defeat several years back. Put me right off my Creme Eggs.

Apologies for the textbook 'Spurs fans don't care about lickle West Ham as much as they care about us but by stating this it must mean that I do care otherwise I wouldn't bang on about it' preview of the Easter weekend game. I guess it's all down to one particular fan who sends me never ending texts that are meant to pass for 'banter' but appear to be of a more stalkerish nature in tone. Early in the season I was told it was 'do or die' at Upton Park for the both of us. And to think they call Spurs fans drama queens. I'm now being told this return fixture is a Cup final for European qualification. Some Cup final when we've gone from being almost season long relegation fodder to within a whisker of European qualification.

Best league in the world, innit? While West Ham have been picking up points and improving steadily, we've spent most of it being shit and yet we're what...4 or 5 points adrift of them? Shame we didn't beat Rovers. That would actually have made Saturday a potentially hilarious and ironic turnaround to our season and a rather fitting illustration of just how gash everyone below 6th is.

So step up, Didier Zokora and JJ. Dominate and boss the midfield with urgency, composure and menace. Let's brush the claret and blue aside and reveal in the glory bestowed upon the winners of a ding-dong derby match!

Jesus Christ, we're fucking doomed.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Two players and a referee walk into a pub.......

"What do you both want to drink?" Asks the ref.
"I'll have a pint", says one of the players. "Make mine a rum", says the other.
The ref then sneezes a 'Dummy's Guide to understanding Java' out of his nose and Deirdre from Coronation Street wakes up from her dream explaining the fundamentals of dark matter in spoken Hebrew to the badger with the head like a golf ball. He laughs and the squirrels feast on the dead carcass of themselves from the future. North Korea then star-jumps with a knowing nod and remarks 'Καλά Χριστούγεννα'.

Confused? Was that joke a little on the random side? Inexplicable and surreal? I personally thought it made far more sense than some of the decisions I witnessed during Saturdays 2-1 defeat to Blackburn Rovers.

In particular, the foul on Palacios.

No matter how many times I watch it, all I see is Aaron Mokoena shoulder-charging Wilson Palacios face. Even looks like he shapes up to hit him as he runs towards our midfield powerhouse. Surely a red card ref, no? The right honourable Mr Walton didn't see it as such, but no surprise there considering what he did and didn't see through-out the afternoon. Whether it was the penalty he gave to us, the one he didn't give to Rovers or the second yellow to Palacios.

Allardyce (if you happen to notice) subbed the defender almost immediately after Mokoena flattened Wilson. Hmm...I wonder why.

Nothing has been said about this since (from what I've seen). And not a lot was made of it at the time either. Wilson (eventually) got up and got on with it. No damage done. I can't remember Andy Gray having kittens about it either. Mountain out of a mole hill then? Maybe I'm being too protective of a player in Lilywhite.

Or perhaps it does not require a re-visit based on the fact that Wilson does not wear the colours of Man Utd/Liverpool/Chelsea/Arsenal thus deeming the incident a non-event and a simple case of over-exuberance and Wilson's face getting in the way of very legal player-to-player contact.

The irony of later on having to watch Palacios get red-carded for basically attempting to avoid physicality with Dunn (and avoid a certain card) and thus falling to the ground and still receiving a card is completely and utterly lost on me. With Johnson of Pompey sent off for running in one of the other Saturday games, it's like some kind of weird experiment in anti-football where refs are following directives set by David Lynch.

Respect the referee? Sure I will. But only after the backwards talking midget in the room with the red drapes tells me to.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Blackburn 2 Spurs 1 - How did we manage to lose this one then?

Up against the hoofing anti-football of Sam Allardyce, for the sake of all things beautiful, we had to win. Unfortunately, the ugly won.

King (4 games on the trot) and Bent started, unchanged side. Hail consistency! Wasn't a tidy game by any means when we were in possession, but we played in some clever balls, Modric involved as often as possible. Got ourselves into some tasty positions first half. But we remained comfortable. All the way through to the second half and up until the final 20 minutes. Where it all went wrong.

Should have had this wrapped up in the first half. 1-0 up from a Keane penalty. A controversial one at that. Although at a stretch you could argue Givet leaned forward and didn't try to move his arm away. At a stretch. In all honesty, it wasn't a clear cut penalty and the referee struggled with consistency through-out the game (not giving Rovers a pen earlier for a handball by Corluka) - so no surprise when he ignored his assistants lack of flag waving and gave it. Not that I complained much.

There was more hilarity when Keane didn't quite place the whole of the ball on the white pen mark, which is fine, if you look at how most players take corners nowadays - placing the ball right on the edge is legal. One nil half-time. Job half done.

If only.

Second half saw us create more chances, none taken - but nothing overly decisive in the way of a killer killer pass. Nothing anywhere near ruthless. Gomes didn't have anything to do for 65 minutes or so. But the longer it went on, that horrid mist of ominousness began to cloud my confidence that all three points were safe.

Wilson, already on a yellow, got a second and his marching orders for basically pulling out of a tackle. He did not swing his leg, he pulled away to avoid committing the foul. But the ref decided it warranted a yellow and off he went. And you just knew that at 1-0 up and down to 10 men that things would go from bad to worse. It's the curse of mentioning 'Europe' one to many times in the past couple of weeks. That mist was now engulfing all hopes of sitting in that 7th spot, for a couple of hours at the very least.

And so, it went to shit. Rovers, galvanized pushed forward. We switched off and got sloppy. Gomes saved well from Warnock. But then cometh the 82 min, Rovers made it 1-1, and then 2-1 in the 89th.

Shocking stuff. Messy defending. Far too easy for Rovers. Final whistle, Diouf does his detestable best to rub it in. No Match of the Day for me.

I'll keep my final analysis simple.

First half was all good, just no second killer goal. Woody and King great at the back. Bent playing well. Lennon quiet but just doing enough to keep things ticking. Palacios involved, Modric not quite magical but effective. Second half, Lennon quieter. Palacios unlucky. Bent's positioning evaporated like a fleas wet fart in the Sahara desert. Still no second goal. Bad ref decision (to make up for the one that gave us a 1-0 lead). Team structure gets messy. Blackburn only have to get the ball into the box for our defenders to lose concentration where its needed. The End.

Blackburn are shit. Diouf and Allardyce. They make little attempt to play football. They are shit. We were not sharp or bang on form. But still possessed enough quality on the ball to win comfortably. We just didn't really have the application to do so. Disappointing as it is, and ironic that we could have gone 7th - but in the grand scheme of things, its a learning curve and a reminder that we have to be a certain bite to our play whether its against Chelsea or Rovers. The ref didn't help matters, but at the best of times, they don't tend to.

41 points is safety territory. It will have to wait another week.

Mark this one down to a footballing hangover. Learn from it, stuff West Ham next week.

I'll leave you with this gem from Allardyce:

"Doesn't matter how you win as long as you win"

There you have it people. It's not about playing football on the ground, pinging it around to feet, flowing pushing forward with style. It's just about winning. Touch.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Back to Reality.......3 points at Blackburn please

I'm excited, are you excited? Premier League football is back and we don't have to wait as long as others thanks to Saturdays 12:45 kick-off. I'll be tucking into my breakfast around that time. Mug of tea in one hand and face stuffed with egg, bacon and toast. The good life. Andy Gray commentating would complete me.

I don't miss Blackburn away. Always found myself travelling up there by car, which as some of you may know is a hideously long journey. Especially for a 0-0. I'm a Sky Sports man tomorrow (it's part of the contract when selling your soul to the devil).

Palacios a main concern for the away trip, jet-lag being the likely reason if he's not present in the starting line-up. He played a part in Honduras 3-1 win over Mexico that saw the end of Sven. No team news just yet, so I can't confirm whether England International Darren Ashley Bent will be fit and available for selection.

Win this and any lingering concerns of relegation will be banished. I'll be shaking my booty in celebration. 41 points is safety territory. My hips don't lie. We can probably start to salivate at the possibility of a 7th spot finish. We've picked up points some cheeky points when not expected to do so. All I'm requesting from Harry and the players is to not lose any points where we are expected to pick them up. It's a test. One that needs passing.

Elsewhere, congratulations to Aaron Lennon for claiming the PFA player of the month award. Well deserved. Even if some of the lazy journalists who prioritise completing a match report in time for a deadline and base their analysis on generalisations and sound bites (rather than actually watching the game) don't quite rate his rate of improvement. At international level at least. I read one or two references to 'end-product' or lack of. Really? Sure, he has a habit of fizzing the ball when on occasions cutting back and playing it 'inside' would be preferable. But the boy done good against the Ukraine. When his team-mates decided to give him the ball. Criticism was best left for the ones who deserved it. Johnson and Cole come to mind.

Be very afraid

Don't usually talk about other clubs, but everyone has an opinion on Newcastle United. Bit of a gutless move this by Shearer. An exercise in inflating ones ego. If Newcastle stay up, he'll be a hero and might well walk away from it (he's claiming he is there for 8 games only) as the inspired legend of the club saving them from the hellmouth of Championship football. If they do go down it wont be because of him. He'll have done his best and at least galvanised the crowd in the short term.

The Newcastle board should have appointed someone far earlier or Shearer should have stepped up after JK went into hospital. Or would that have meant far too many games for Shearer and the possibility of actually being responsible if his team were relegated?

Imagine Shearer on MotD next season having 'saved' Newcastle from the drop? The smugness will be unbearable. He'll be able to give us insight on other managers experiencing problems at their clubs, because 'he's been in the dressing room from the perspective of first team coach'.

That's why our priority this season should simply be this: Thrash Newcastle United at the Lane and save our Match of the Day as a consequence.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The Magnificent Moddle: The little man on the left

Deconstructing the Tottenham midfield conundrum - Part VI

Magic Mullet

So here we are, at journeys end. Although it's more of a beginning than a conclusion as the Spurs midfield is bound to go through another change or two cometh the summer months and the usual giddy transfer shenanigans that we never seem to go without. No knee-jerking please Mr Levy.

From Part 1 through to Part V - I looked at the current set of central midfielders at the club and attempted to dissect the conundrum: Who should sit in the middle?

Palacios is the only 100% certainty. Jenas the current preferred choice alongside him. Which leaves Zokora, Huddlestone and O'Hara on the bench. Taarabt, on loan at Q.P.R., is a player who I would like to see ahead of all the three just mentioned in a creative capacity from next season.

So Palacios remains the anchor in midfield. The player tasked to do the dirty work, get the tackles in, protect the back four and allow other players the freedom of expression. He gives us some much needed breathing space and confidence in that other players don't have to worry too much if they happen to lose the ball in an offensive position as Wilson will be there to fix it. A defensive/holding midfielder is one that's been lacking for a while. Zokora simply doesn't excel in the acquired abilities needed to boss the midfield. Great athlete, limp footballing brain. Wilson does not have the passing range of a Carrick, but although both have similar responsibilities - both go about their business with completely different methods. In fact, they are nothing alike. But either system works. I will try to avoid going over old ground, so feel free to read up on the previous parts for a more detailed analysis on specific players and their attributes.

What has to be asked is who gets paired up with Wilson in central midfield? It's a simple answer to the final question of this series, but one with some minor complications. Here's why the conundrum isn't quite solved just yet:

We do not have an out-and-out left-winger.

We haven't had one for an age. Ironic that we've struggled to sign players for these two key positions (DM being the other) or simply got it wrong with the players we did sign. We've failed to find the right player for the left. And then we go out and buy a right player (David Bentley for £15M ) when we've already got Aaron Lennon - plain ridiculous - more so when Aaron retained his right-wing place and Bentley was slotted out on the left - which didn't help his already fragile confidence. Only Spurs, eh?

So with Wilson in the middle, with the players available, the best option (which Harry finds agreeable) is to have Jermaine Jenas partner him and play Luka Modric on the left.

I've not discussed Modric in detail yet during the course of this series. Best to leave the jewel of the crown till the end, and as we're at the end, here goes...

Modric, ideally, would prefer to play in the middle of the park with Palacios. It's a more natural position for him to be central. Add to the mix a defensive/offensive combination with Lennon out on the right and XXXXX (please God, not Downing) on the left and the balance would be unquestionable in comparison to some of the sides we've put out over the past couple of seasons. But as we do not have a left-winger, and we can't say for sure if we will be purchasing one (although if Boro go down, expect IT to happen) the logical option would be to have Modric out on the left-hand side. He is more than capable there.

What this does is change is the dynamic of the midfield in comparison to how it would work if Modric was in the middle of the park with Wilson - which is what most want to see. Having Jenas out on the left as an alternative? Hush. So the dynamics? Let me explain...

Palacios remains the anchor, but having Jenas in the middle gives us a player with an abundance of energy who can run box to box and defend and attack. It's almost a ying to a yang. One player inhales (Wilson) the other exhales (JJ). The role of Jenas is adaptable depending on the tempo of the game. In an ideal world its perfect, but we know that Jenas is erratic and lacks self-belief to turn potential to product. But for now - out of all the options we have for that position, its best to have JJ there.

The other options, you'd shrug at in a second.

Zokora in the middle with Palacios? That would be like having a litter-bug following a road-sweeper around.
Huddlestone? Wilson would need to clone himself to help compensate for Toms weaknesses.
O'Hara? Nope. Decent late sub for a couple of positions, but not an option alongside Wilson.

So, Jenas it is. Which means Modric - who isn't a natural left-winger - can (still) play on the left but with the twist of drifting in and dictating play. Jenas, adapting to the game at hand, will work with Palacios to make sure the midfield is protected and the opposition hassled while Modric drifts in and does what he does best. Play incisive balls, create and orchestrate. At times this requires JJ to be instinctive in his responsibility for the team. Allow me to place my fantasy-hat on my head. Now, take JJ out of the equation and imagine Essien alongside Palacios. Or Gerrard. Imagine the difference and impact this would have? Fantasy-hat off, the reality is somewhat rooted to the ground rather than floating up in the sky. JJ is neither one or the other but on form, he has enough about him to cover the ground and participate rather than be a passenger. He has a chance to really shine now, before the summer arrives and decisions are made. For now he is the best player we have who can support Wilson in the current midfield set-up.

What does this mean for the team, and in particular Luka? In essence, Palacios and Jenas are there to make sure Modric has the freedom to play football. It's a pretty simplistic viewpoint I know. A generalisation based on the fact that Luka is out on the left and has far too much talent to be stuck there - and the emphasis has to be to get the little Croatian involved as much as possible, on his terms. If the middle two do their job well, then it will snow rainbows. If it doesn't, expect a heavy downpour of misery. Which is why Jenas is perceived as the weak link. Stronger player, and we wouldn't worry so much,

If Jenas excels, maybe we won't look to change the system and purchase a left-winger. Maybe drifting in from the left will suit Luka in the long run. But its doubtful. The little man can handle himself just fine so sitting in the middle of the park and getting stuck in won't be too much of an issue for him. He took time to adjust to the English game, not helped by our woeful form and lack of structure. And he'll improve further in a consistent winning side (something Harry has began to flirt with in recent games). A base of operations is far more prominent from the centre than out on the wing. Although it's in no way a disadvantage. It's not quite a free-role in the purest sense of the term, but it's tricky for the opposition to mark a player who darts and dinks inwards.

Modric is showing glimpses of form that warms the cockles. A little bit of Ossie, a little bit of Hoddle. In truth its just a little bit of flair and creative output we love down at the Lane. It's an imperative ingredient for any team that displays comfort when unlocking the oppositions defence. Luka has a skeleton key.

Berbatov gave us that something special before he moved to pastures new to look after orphaned squirrels, and Keane can provide sparks - but we have needed a constant pipeline of passing for some time and in Luka we have that. Whether its down the middle or on the left-hand side - he can provide the magic.

Luka has vision, great touch, superb passing ability and can score the odd goal (not enough, but I expect him to hit the back of the net more often from next season). All the 'he's too weak for the Prem' nonsense was exactly that. He has fight in him. Might not look like he does, but he does.

Obviously the problem we might have is when Modric or Palacios or the both of them do not play. Which is why it's important that Adel Taarabt's development is made a priority. Harry called him a genius, and I'm holding out he was talking about football and not a reference to comedy. Zokora and O'Hara will have to do in any possible absence of Wilson from the starting line-up. Bostock is a couple of seasons away from the first team (at a guess).

So as things stand - Wilson and Luka are dead certs for the starting eleven. Jenas third in line. Three 'central' midfielders then. And Lennon guaranteed the freedom of the right-side of midfield (where this leaves Bentley, other than sitting on the bench, is up for debate).

The Fab Four. Modric Palacios Jenas Lennon.

Might seem unbalanced but its far from being so. It's not perfect, but it works. It works because the players play for each other. Everyone has a responsibility. It's a unit.

What happens next is dependent on who slaps in a transfer request in the summer and what we do to replace them? We have some useful kids in the academy and reserves. Do some of them get promoted early? Or do we look for more experienced players to come in to play back-up? We'd need to, if say Huddlestone and Zokora go. Jenas might walk if we draft in another central midfielder. And if that happens, then Luka and leftism will have to rule supreme.

Whatever Harry decides it has to be strategic, tactical. It has to either provide depth to the squad or improve the midfield. We have a tradition of just buying players without a thought-process behind what that player will do to the equilibrium of the side. Just to reiterate, the only two positions that should be considered for evaluation is where Modric and Jenas play.

Either both stay where they are and we sign squad players or we shift Modric into the middle and purchase ourselves a left-winger. Or we keep Luka on the left and buy us a more complete and established all-round central midfielder to partner Palacios.

So the conundrum has evolved a little, but remains with us. The question that now requires answering is simply.............Do we need a left-winger?

The Magnificent Seven - Part I

The Curious Case of Jermaine Jenas - Part II

The Incredible Huddlestone - Part III

Palacios answers the question: "Yes he can" - Part IV

The Lilywhites on the outside looking in - Part V

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The 'New White Hart Lane' - Looking good on paper

The club have released more progress updates on the re-development plans for the new stadium. So far there is little to be critical of. Yeah, heard me right. I guess this is as close as a pat on the back (that's just a single pat of hand to back) I will get to giving our esteemed chairman. Please do not take this as a form of weakness from myself. I'll still be greeting him with a water balloon, as per usual every Monday morning as he drives into work. No reason in either of us getting slack.


There's perhaps one or two minor design quirks (what's with the wavy upper tier?) and no apparent news of whether the Cockerel on the ball will re-appear on the new east stand but all otherwise looks good (isn't this also a good time to think about a statue for Sir Bill Nicholson?).

The general re-generation potential for the local vicinity will also go down a storm. Upmarket Tottenham, eh?

Here's a quick look through some of the updates below:

  • 58,237 capacity - Wonderful. And with a possible 45k+ being made up of season ticket holders (meaning less of the corporate ilk), the new stadium will have no excuse to ever be on the quiet side.
  • Fans being kept together to retain the 'camaraderie which has built up over the years' - This is a simplistic master-stroke. One of the most important ingredients and vital to retain the current atmosphere WHL is capable of. Have to say, of all the things announced by the club, this one makes me smile the most. Evidence that the club actually listens to the fans.
  • Stadium 'bowl' tightened to maximise atmosphere (8.2m from the pitch) - Compared to Arsenal, City and Wembley we'll be far closer than the three of them to the pitch. Not as close as we are now, but close enough. Which is a nice touch.
  • Re-location of the away fans - Interesting this, as the away supporters will be moved from the South-West corner where they preside now to the North-East corner of the new stadium which means the new North stand (or new Paxton if you want) will be, in-effect, the new Park Lane - as long as they move the Park Lane residents to the new North stand. That would make the new South stand a family designated area (as having them sat next to the away fans would not make sense). You dig?
  • New public square on Tottenham High Road - Nice touch. Can imagine a sing-a-long or two occurring here.
  • New supermarket with parking - Guess the locals will like this one, and might even mean an improved pre-match diet for me personally.
  • Only concerns are the travel aspects where several 'hoped' improvements are subject to 'discussions'.

Check this for more info:

PDF Guide from

Or just visit the official site.