Thursday, December 28, 2006

Good Signs

Before The Waddler jets off to sunnier climbs, how about some pleasant reading from Sporting Life; the current top goal-scorers in the Premiership (all competitions):
Lge FAC LC Euro Other Total
Drogba (Chelsea) 12 0 2 5 0 19
Defoe (Tottenham) 6 0 4 2 0 12
Saha (Man Utd) 8 0 0 4 0 12
Berbatov (Tottenham) 5 0 0 5 0 10
McCarthy (Blackburn) 7 0 0 3 0 10
Ronaldo (Man Utd) 10 0 0 0 0 10
Van Persie (Arsenal) 8 0 0 2 0 10

Not bad eh? I think you may have found your best partnership Mr Jol.

See you in a couple of weeks.

The Waddler.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rock and Roll Xmas

Spurs went to pieces up at Newcastle on the day before Christmas Eve, with a collapse of England cricket team proportions, only to bounce back in a more Aussie way with a victory over Aston Villa on Boxing Day. Our very own captain fantastic, Ledley King had a Freddy Flintoff style shocker at St. James’ Park, as Kieran Dyer bamboozled the Spurs defence like Shane Warne does to an English batsmen. It is typical of Spurs’ luck that Dyer, who manages about 6 games a season had to be fit for Spurs. The guy is quality when on top form, and Spurs had no answer for him. It was painful to see Mad-eye Roeder getting one over Jol, and this away form is a serious problem.

Of course losing Jermain Defoe in the warm up is not ideal, and presumably Mido wasn’t fit to play 90 minutes, which was why Murphy was chosen as his replacement instead. Any other reason and Jol wants shooting for playing Berbatov on his own up front against such a shoddy defence as Newcastle’s.

Credit where its due though, Spurs bounced back against Aston Villa yesterday in a fixture notorious for upsets, with Ledley back to his outstanding best. There was an odd atmosphere at the Lane, so quiet to start with that the players were making all the noise at one point. Christmas hangovers were the accepted reason, and it looked like there were a few nursing them on the pitch too with some very sloppy passing from the boys in white. However, there were many chances created and in the end it took some cool finishing from Defoe and some intelligent forward play from his strike partner Dimitar Berbatov to settle the score. Villa grabbed one back towards the end to make it a twitchy final ten minutes but Spurs held out for the deserved victory.

Two more games to come on Saturday and Monday before a short break and the FA Cup tie in Cardiff. Injuries are starting to mount up, and we will do well to get more than three or four points from the Liverpool and Pompey games – both of whom are above us in the league.

The Waddler, unlike the Premiership, is going on a winter break until after the Newcastle home game on January 14th. Lets hope there are plenty of points placed on the board, and the name Tottenham Hotspur is in the hat for the FA Cup Fourth Round in the meantime. A left winger in the January sales would be nice as well but you can’t have everything.

The Waddler.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Comolli’s January To-Do List

In just over ten days time the January transfer window will open, sparking a rush of transfers all across Europe. As Daniel Levy pointed out in his recent Chairman’s statement, THFC have been one of Europe’s most active clubs in the last two years, so should we expect the same level of activity this time around? Here The Waddler takes a look at what realistically needs to be done to the squad, whilst keeping in mind Spurs’ finances, attraction to players and likelihood of players moving clubs.

IN: A Centre Back to act as cover for Ledley or Dawson. Curtis Davis at West Brom has been mentioned a number of times and looks like a sensible option if available for the right price. Davenport and Gardner are simply not in the same class as King or Dawson, and whenever either is not available, we suffer. King also has long standing injuries that may bring his career to an early close, and quality cover needs to be brought in sooner rather than later. A little competition in that area wouldn’t hurt either.

OUT: Davenport and/or Gardner. Don’t need them if a replacement is bought, neither are good enough. Good bargaining chips in a negotiation for someone better.

IN: A left winger/midfielder. The perennial target, and one that has been needed during the last two or three transfer windows at least. Downing would be OK if Boro are sensible about the price, he’s English, has a nice cross on him, takes corners etc. Nothing special, nothing exciting, but would be good for the squad. Ideally, we’d go and buy Robben at Chelsea but it’s simply not realistic. There are European versions out there as well, and hopefully Comolli knows of one or two.

OUT: Murphy, Davids. Too old, too slow. The game seems to pass both of them by and neither are used to playing bit part roles, and neither make good substitutes. They aren’t going to start anymore, and must cost a fortune in wages so why have them in the squad?

IN: More decent youngsters. Not everyone comes off, for every Dawson there’s a Reid, for every Lennon there’s a Routledge. Its quantity and potential when it comes to youngsters and Spurs should continue to snap them up. It’s the only way we’ll compete with Chelsea’s millions – by buying the players before they get really good. Giles Barnes at Derby, Gareth Bale at Southampton both fit the bill and should be snapped up early. Comolli looks to have signed Abel Taarabt from Lens already if stories are to be believed, and hopefully the window won’t pass without another couple coming in. The outlays tend to be small, with most of the cost wrapped up into how many games they play, and how many caps they get.

Aside from the above it should be a case of shopping in a opportunistic manner. If for example a good young right back becomes available, buy him and ship out Stalteri. If he doesn’t, hold on until the summer. Anderlecht’s Van den Borre was linked last week, and he has an impressive reputation already and could be ideal. If a good keeper is available, get him in and dispense with Cerny. Robinson needs some competition to ensure he doesn’t become complacent. Cerny seems to be here as purely cover. What’s wrong with someone pushing Robbo for the number one spot? Ben Alnwick at Sunderland has been strongly linked and is a good up and coming youngster so he could be the one.

So a centre back and a left winger should be at the top of Comolli’s to-do list, and preferably underlined with little stars by them. Once they’ve been sorted out some deadwood can be shifted and then some good youngsters and the odd squad upgrade should be sought. The squad is very close to being one of the best in the league and above all trading should be kept to a minimum. Too much upheaval, and too many new first team players can cause issues in terms of stability. After each of the last four windows Spurs have had themselves half a new team, and as a result suffered from needing time for the team to gel. Bar the left wing option any changes now are to the squad players, so should have a minimal impact.

Once again it will be an interesting month, and Spurs will be linked to every man and his dog but this time, hopefully, we can bargain from a position of strength, knowing that for the most part the team is sorted, and that we just need to make a couple of adjustments to the squad here and there.

The Waddler.

Shrimpers Tough to Digest

For the second round running Spurs made hard work of lower league opposition, needing extra time and the arrival Dimitar Berbatov to ensure safe passage. With the changes that were predicted on here yesterday, such as the inclusion of Mido, Murphy, Stalteri and BAE and an unexpected switch of Dawson for King, Spurs were lacking that bit of class that was needed in circumstances like last night. A midfield of Murphy, Huddlestone, Tainio and Malbranque is fairly pedestrian, and really lacking the sort of character to take a game to the opposition. There is no pace there, no one to pick the ball up and run at the opposition in the way that Lennon, Jenas, Zokora or even Ghaly tends to do. As a result Spurs found it tough going to break Southend down, and it wasn’t until the very end of extra time that a lovely Berbatov through ball found a nice Mido run on the left and his cross was perfect for Defoe to slide home.

Jol presumably had hoped not to need Berbs, but Spurs were kept out by the Southend goalkeeper Flahaven who had an excellent game. Mido twice came close, first a swivel volley that crashed off the cross bar and the second a glancing header brilliantly saved. It wasn’t the best of performances, but enough chances were carved out to win the game in 90 minutes, and in truth Southend didn’t test Robinson all night. The morning papers and the ITV highlights were full of comments about how Southend made Spurs look ordinary and pushed them all the way, and whilst there is some truth in that, it must be remembered that this Spurs side was missing first-teamers King, Chimbonda, Lennon, Jenas, Zokora, Keane and Berbatov; as well as preferred squad players such as Ghaly and Lee. It’s no excuse for needing 115 minutes to beat the team bottom of the Championship, as any Spurs side should be capable, but it doesn’t help as the aforementioned players are the class that put Spurs above the dross.

Players such as Murphy and Davids, who came on for Tainio, have really lost what they once had and should be jogged on in January. They no longer offer anything to this Spurs side, both are getting on a bit, and their no doubt large wage packets could be used elsewhere. What do they offer that an up and coming youngster wouldn’t? It really is difficult to think of a reason. Get rid of both and go and get Giles Barnes from Derby and be done with it. At least he would be hungry and willing and can’t be worse at passing. The goal also highlighted the need for a left footer on the left flank, as Mido put in a great cross for Defoe from that side and it shows what a weapon that could be for Spurs. All four strikers would thrive on crosses, and as three of the four are right footed, crosses from the left are ideal to latch onto as the goal showed. Going 4-3-3 and having Mido and Defoe flanking Berbatov is a decent option when desperate, as we were last night, but is not something to start a game with. We do need a leftie who can thread balls behind a defence as our strikers are just made for such chances. Worryingly Downing seems the obvious option, but let’s hope Comolli’s greater knowledge can unearth someone better, and cheaper.

Its strange to be negative after a win in a cup quarter-final, so on the bright side Spurs are in the hat for the semi-final and if we get Wycombe it would be one of the most remarkable routes to a final ever. After a bye in the second-round, MK Dons in the third, Port Vale in the fourth and Southend in the Quarters, could Spurs be lucky enough to avoid top flight opposition all the way to the final? Its about time we had some luck, but no doubt it will be the goons or Chelsea and we’ll have a tough fight on our hands.

Its Newcastle on Saturday, and hopefully with a fresh King and Chimbonda as well as a fit Lennon, Spurs should get a positive result up there against the hapless Roeder’s bunch of mercenaries. A fit Dyer and a Duff with something to prove to Levy could be a worry, and we haven’t often come away with the points up there in recent times, but Spurs remembered how to win away last weekend, and are in good form with only two losses in the last twenty games now.

The Wadder.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Southend Preview

Spurs face Southend at White Hart Lane tonight in the Carling Cup Quarter Finals, one step away from securing a place in the two legged Semi Final and a chance for a trip to Cardiff and Martin Jol’s first piece of Silverware for the club. It’s all a long way off, and Spurs will hopefully just be concentrating on the Shrimpers, but as a fan you can’t help but look ahead and imagine some glory. The fact is it’s a great opportunity, and with Wycombe now possible opponents in a Semi Final it could all slot nicely into place.

Spurs will need to be wary of Freddy Eastwood, Southend’s hero from the win over Man Utd and best player by a country mile, but aside from him, so long as BMJ picks a strong side it should be an easy night at the Lane. Against Port Vale Spurs struggled in the main because of the weak side that was picked, Barcham and an out of form Defoe up front was never going to work, and the midfield and defence was in the main second string or players returning from injury. We are now that little bit closer to the silverware and have a great opportunity that should not be wasted, so Jol needs to go with the big guns from the start and take them off when the game is won. Doing it the other way around like he did against Port Vale is dangerous and very nearly cost us.

That said it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Mido up front, and maybe Murphy in midfield if fit. BMJ has been subbing Chimbonda in recent games as well, he might be carrying an injury, so it could be Stalteri at right back, and maybe BAE will come in for YPL as it’s not a league game. Even with those changes, we should be too much for the Shrimpers, and the name Tottenham Hotspur should be in the hat for Saturday’s Semi Final Draw.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.