Where to now, for Spurs? Well, to Sunderland on Saturday, obviously, though that’s not quite what I meant. What I’m wondering is whether, now that we have broken with the Spurs tradition of acting as a charitable institution and helping other sides to end whatever bad run they’re experiencing ( let’s be honest, for a long while on Wednesday night it seemed like a Fulham side coming into the game on the back of five straight defeats would be the latest beneficiaries of our generosity, just as we’d helped West Ham end their away win and goal drought a few weeks back), we are about to finally embrace consistency and embark on something approaching a decent run.
Two things are crucial to our chances of success on Saturday. Firstly, it’s a Saturday, usually a day of rest for Spurs. I can see that fact already being filed alongside all the others in the large box of excuses we have collected to explain lax displays this season, ready to be used should our latest positive run (four points from two games – wow!!) be extinguished at the Stadium of Light. AVB: “Our boys could not cope with a 3 o’clock kick off and thought they were out shopping for most of the first half. I think we have been treated unfairly by the Premier League’s fixture-setting committee.” Or something like that. Secondly, it’s Sunderland, a team fired-up by Gus Poyet (another old boy – and how many times do they come back to haunt us?) and likely to fight for their premiership lives with more conviction than Fulham. That’s Fulham who would still have probably beaten us were it not for
Hugo Lloris. Forget about the fact that Sunderland conceded four goals against Chelsea; that was more to do with Hazard than poor defending and the only thing Hazardous about us recently has been our defending.
So, what team will AVB select on Saturday? The only guarantee is that it will be changed in some way. I suspect that, even if the only fit and registered players available for him were the eleven who finished the previous match, he’d still find a way to make changes. I’m aware that all Premiership managers these days are trying to keep large squads happy but sometimes it just seems as if AVB’s philosophy is, ‘If it ain’t broke, break it.’
Dawson again seemed vulnerable on Wednesday. Much as I admire the character he showed in staying and fighting for his place last season, he’s been given the runaround by more mobile forwards this season. He’s a good, old-fashioned, last-ditch tackle and head it clear box defender, not the speedy, quick-turning individual ideally suited to the high backline AVB favours. So he’ll definitely start. Walker has speed in abundance, as he often demonstrates when vainly chasing back from some adventure that left him stranded upfield in the wake of a counter-attack taking advantage of the space which he should have been occupying, and will surely also definitely start. Chiriches has looked good, scored a great equaliser at Fulham and many fans believe he should be first choice, so he’ll probably be on the bench, even if Vertonghen isn’t fit.
In midfield, there are signs that Sandro, Paulinho and Dembele are developing something of an understanding, so one of them at least is likely to be replaced, just to keep us, if not the opposition, on our toes. Up front, will AVB go with Jermain Defoe, often referred to by ex-player TV pundits as a “proven goalscorer”, which suggests that they have been watching a ‘greatest hits’ compilation from several years ago rather than recent footage, or Soldado, who was dropped to the bench on Wednesday just after we showed signs against Man, Utd. of giving him the service he’s been craving and which the evidence of his La Liga form suggests he’ll deliver on if given time. So it’s Adebayor, then.
Ok, I’m being flippant, and, if I was voicing these opinions in person from a vantage point a few rows behind AVB’s dugout rather than from the safe sniper’s nest provided by the internet, no doubt I’d be ejected by stewards at his request, just like the hapless Tromso fan who had the audacity to practise his English by singing ‘You’re being sacked in the morning’ last week. But it does worry me that, while AVB is happy enough to hear supportive comments from pundits arguing that our numerous new signings need time to gel and our fans ought to be patient, he doesn’t seem to feel that giving some of them a substantial run in the team, rather than enacting a bizarre version of the ‘hokey cokey’, might be the best way to achieve this.
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that, if fit, Soldado should be given a long, uninterrupted run, with Sandro, Paulinho and Dembele forming the central midfield trio behind him, with the tweaking limited to which two, according to whether home or away and depending on the opposition, out of Lennon, Townsend, Lamela and Sigurdssen, man the flanks. (Personally, I also favour giving Lamela an extended run). In defence, I’d try a fully fit Kaboul at right back and sentence Walker to a period watching dvds of the defensive cock-ups he’s been involved in until he gets that part of his game sorted before he comes back, and pair Chiriches and Vertonghen in central defence, at least as soon as Danny Rose is fit to return at left back. Obviously Lloris is between the sticks.
Of course, this will be nothing like the team that starts on Saturday and I, like all other fickle fans, will hail AVB’s wisdom if we get the win we need. If we don’t, then I reserve the right to say ‘I told you so.’
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