Wednesday, August 13, 2008

EPL Preview: Spurs are on their way to... where?!?



Real Low: Feel that! "My cheek has got so cold!"

[- apologies to Rimbaud]


I choose to be romantic about my club even when reason says "no." If Liverpool is a pitiful Friday night tug session, then Spurs are fleeting, miracle intimacy... but never enough. The Tease. Never enough goals. Never enough possession. Never an assertive defense or aggressive keeper.

They are lilywhite and deep navy, and mansion dot com poker and casino. They are powder blue and collars, and some overwrought, like a tattoo, Asian lettering.

There is always something wrong. And yet, who would you rather watch walk the tightrope? Who would you rather see rise up over Chelsea (like Woodgate's nose) or disappear with the flushed diarrhea water (splayed forth from a diseased Carrick's arse) as the Scum re-appear in the Champs League?



Outside of the Big Four and any larger conversation about what football should or could be (or used to be and should be again), there is no club who breeds more aggression (in our little world at least) than Tottenham. They are both a feeder club and mad spenders. Poll our readers and just as many would have Spurs as the new Leeds as an English Sevilla.

You've Lost Keane! Screaming always... Berbatov is gone (either to Man U. or out for a smoke)! Modric is paper mache and Gio is Mexican!

Well yes, Keane is gone (and for no small fee), but Berba is here for now (and will only be leaving for no small fee, cigs not withstanding). Modric is flesh and blood (may they stay warm and flowing inside the skin!) and for shite's sake, look it up, Dos Santos is Brazilian-born. So let's get our facts straight before the start. There's cause for pause for concern, but just as much reason-- reasonably-- to be excited.

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BREATHE! We begin at the back. Spiderman. I'll say this for Heurelho Gomes: the fucker has that positive energy. Forgetting even for a moment that he is a prime shot-stopper and attacker of the ball, the Brazilian's enthusiasm alone distinguishes him from his predecessor.

Is he a reaction rather than a solution? Time, and not a match or two or three, will tell the story. But for now, the keeper as first man, happy warrior, is pure oxygen. Robinson was never bad for us, at least not until the dying days, but even at his best his face was written with the map of England. That is, the tension, the focus, the sound and the fucking fury and all that nothingness that is precisely what a keeper cannot carry on his shoulders if he is to fly above and punch that spinning corner 40 yards into the noontime breeze.

"Stop thinking, you're hurting the ballclub," they told Jim Bouton, as he recalled it in "Ball Four." This is not to say Gomes is less intelligent than Robinson, but I don't think that thinking will get in man’s way. So if set-pieces and long-range efforts-- terrible enemies to a timid keeper-- were Spurs' weak point last season [Ed. Note: they had plenty more weak points than that], then the Brazilian should offer a considerable upgrade.

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PUSH! Where the Spurs defense stands will be largely to do with where they’re standing. Too often in the past two seasons they’ve made near permanent residence inside the 18-yard box. On your heels and without the best talent: now that is a dangerous proposition. The inclination in a tentative defense is to drift back, to protect, and with midfielders gone missing, a No-Man’s-Land worthy of The Great War opens up atop the box.

Everyone from United’s Nani to Blackburn’s Samba fired potshots from this space last season, and even with a more confident keeper the defense will count on the Zokora/Huddlestone/Jenas triumvirate to close up the gap. Spurs of ’07-’08 conceded more “wonder goals” than any team in history, I’d gamble, and it was little surprise.

There exists, on this date at least, true confidence in Spurs’ talent in the back four. It is Health and Depth that are, as they are for all teams not called United and Chelsea, the big issues. A starting line of King and Woodgate in the middle, with fullbacks Hutton and Bale is good enough to compete with anyone.

Figure Dawson and Zokora as cover for the central defense and Gunter, Assou-Eketto (who impressed before a terrible injury in ’06), Gilberto, and maybe, possibly Vedran Corluka as subs and occasional starters — a necessity with four competitions to play — and there looks to be some grit and speed, though maybe not in that order.

What impresses most is how Ramos has in so little time brought in and utilized so many players in such a variety roles. There are dozens of permutations of this defense, more even once you factor in O’Hara and Huddlestone. I can hardly dream up a game situation to which the mister can’t adapt when he has his guys in form and fitness. As we learned last year, Ramos will play anyone anywhere.

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RUN! And that innovative mind will be called into immediate action when it comes time to arrange the midfield for this Saturday's Starting XI. For the moment, let’s assume Berbatov is gone or not playing. That Bent is alone up front. This means Ramos is playing a 4-5-1.

The Likely Lad was scarred last year, so he desperately wants some sort of holding... err, defensive midfielder in the fold. We all know Zokora’s deficiencies, but why not sit him up in front of the central defense and ask him to tackle and make a simple, first pass? With the talent around him, Zokora can be Trent Dilfer: no bad giveaways, safe-minded, rid of the ball. Around him can swirl the madness. Dump it off Didier!***

With so much still unsettled as far as the final roster, much of what follows is speculative. For that matter, a lot of what you’ve just read is remote management. Juande is a football paella chef; you never know exactly what you’re going to find in the pot. I do think it’s fair to say the Middlesborough game will begin with Bentley on the right, Modric in the middle... somewhere in the middle, perhaps off to the left?

What the Lad would like to see is Modric at the top of a diamond that has Zokora at the back, Jenas in the middle and Giovanni off left.

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WIN! If the pre-season is any indication (and of course, it’s not), this is a lineup that will score goals. There are simply too many players capable of individual brilliance to think that one or two won’t break off something sublime once or twice in 90 minutes. If they establish a flow, a rhythm, a dependable pure striker — is it you Darren? Fabio’s watching now, son, you are so close to it! — a confidence to belie their youth, then God of the Hebrews' knows what!

Down a goal? Bring on Lennon. Up one and call for O’Hara. No luck with the little guys up front? Draft in Huddlestone and pierce the defense with his 60-yard precision-guided daisy cutters. This is a side that can play both Pitter Patter and Hoofy.

Contributions from Pekhart, the young Czech striker, Bostock, still so young, should not be discounted either. Who knew Jamie O’Hara was alive before Ramos rode into town. (I did, but that was the extent of it. Alive...)

So, as much as ever before, there is the potential… the promise of not just winning, but that Audere est Facere. This squad, as constructed, is certainly a dare. We can only hope the truth doesn’t stray too far from that dream.

Let the defense and midfield close the gap at 25 yards... let the keeper be brave and bouncy. Bless the men with the skinny legs, may they shimmer and dance, then drive forward with options...

And Fuck Arsenal. Their pederast manager too.

Predictions: 4th place ahead of the Scum. FA Cup Winners. UEFA Cup semifinal.


"Football season, at last!"


***The Likely Lad doesn't really believe in this whole Zokora scheme, but he's feeling very emotional today.

18 comments:

Bigus Dickus said...

Find a new picture Likely Jeeez...

up the arse said...

Typical spuds. I am sure that we heard this last year.

Lingering Bursitis said...

cute, but essentially meaningless. much like Tottenham

The Fan's Attic said...

i'm foolishly backing spurs to break into the top four.

Lingering Bursitis said...

attic: why are you doing that?

The Fan's Attic said...

just a gut feeling that one of the "big four" isn't going to make the top four and tottenham could be the one to challenge for that spot.

Lingering Bursitis said...

I feel like I barely know who you are anymore

Keith said...

Attic: Really? You do know that Bent's going to turn into a pumpkin this weekend, right?

The Fan's Attic said...

like i said...just a hunch...it goes against the common wisdom...but i have already said it...one of the top 4 from last season is not going to be top 4 this year.

Keith said...

And there's already a team that knocked at the top four who've made several big moves to shore up their biggest weakness ready to step into the top flight

Lingering Bursitis said...

attic, I think Keith is hinting at Aston Villa?


Still, no Laursen or Bouma make O'Neill something something

BerbaBent said...

I am optimistic but realistically I think we will get a Uefa Spot. It will take a couple of more years to seriously make a real run at the Top 4. We are building a nice squad and while we have spent a lot we also sold our fair share to balance the books nicely. I think people like "Up the Arse" have every right to be smug when it comes to who own N London but I would be more worried if I supported that lot as their squad depth and losses of real class could pose problems come January. Last year they were top of League until a few injuries and they crashed out of everything. Twas a beautiful sight.

Keith said...

LB, Laursen isn't the issue; he's fine and healthy. We're missing Davies for the first month, but O'Neill added Carlos Cuellar from Gers to offset that injury. And on the Bouma front, we added Shorey, plus we'll probably be playing that guy whom the Tom Jones lookalike up at Liverpool is after in the left back slot in a few games here and there.

strong like bull smart like tractor said...

Maybe it's all the peyote, but I have to agree with Keith. If any team is going to break into the top-4 stranglehold, it's Villa. Spurs are playing for 6th, at best.

Adam said...

"Last year they were top of League until a few injuries and they crashed out of everything. Twas a beautiful sight."

Where it only took about 2 weeks for you guys to crash out of everything but the carling cup last year.

Also, you got a new name waiting in the wings incase Berbatov gets sold?

BerbaBent said...

Adam,

What have you won the last couple of years? At least the football is "sexy". I guess it just wasnt sexy enough for Hleb or Flamini. Ramsey and Nasri are the answer?

The Fan's Attic said...

how about DosBentos?

and yes, i know keith likes villa to sneak in the top 4...however...that squad is razor thin in depth and it allowed too many goals last season...it also has an unsettled Barry...

H.U. said...

Tottenham will not break into the top 4 this season. Their attack is fine, as we acknowledge, but their defence is simply not good enough. They ranked 16th/20 in defence last term, conceding over 60 goals. This is terrible.

To get into the top 4, you must not concede more than 40 goals and change. Do you seriously expect Spurs to concede more than 25 fewer goals this season than last season? Tottenham's defence will certainly improve - it can hardly get worse - but to expect a 25 goal improvement - something unheard of in the modern game - is a bit of a stretch.

If you have not already seen it, check out the Tottenham Team Case Study at soccerstatistics.blogspot.com for a more detailed analysis of Spurs and then make a judgment on their potential for 2008/09. 5th is in view. Arsenal and Liverpool are not.