Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Comolli Watch

If this story on Eurosport is to be believed, then Spurs have snapped up another young French talent by the name of Abel Taarabt for €3.5 million from Ligue 1 side Lens. Now normally with these things Spurs get linked and then it’s either denied, or the rumour just goes away, but in this case it seems to have legs as we have direct quotes attributed to the boy:

"I have discussed things with Martin Jol, and he really wanted to have me. I have visited White Hart Lane, and I can't wait to play there."

Seems fairly black and white that one. Apparently an attacking midfielder, at roughly £2.4m he comes with a chunky price tag for a 17 year old, although knowing Spurs that will be paid over the next 10 years with half based on whether we win the Champions League and the rest when he wins his 50th French cap or something similar.

Spurs have also signed Sunderland’s young highly rated goalkeeper Ben Alnwick in the last few days, with Martin Fulop going in the opposite direction plus £1m. Fulop burned his bridges at Spurs with comments about wanting to sign for Coventry where he had been on loan, and not return to Spurs reserves, so it was just a matter of time before he was gone. In any case it is better to have British or at least EU back-ups these days as UEFA are soon to have strict rulings about the number of players trained by the club and trained in England in a squad for European games.

It is great to see youngsters being snapped up from all around Europe, and these two follow the young Swedish goalkeeper Oscar Jansson and the young Norwegian striker Dag Alexander Olsen who were both featured in The Waddler’s last Comolli Watch and have since signed permanently at White Hart Lane.

With Dorian Dervitte getting good reviews in the reserves, and of course the undoubted quality of first-team signings such as Berbatov, Zokora, Chimbonda, BAE and Malbranque its looks like Damien Comolli is a real find for THFC and as an added bonus we now seem to be shopping in the sort of markets that Arsene Wenger used to have all to himself. It’s no coincidence that his former main man in terms of scouting was one Damien Comolli.

The Waddler.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Safety First

In Jol’s analysis of Sunday’s game on the Official Website we get a little insight into his thinking, and in particular why we sit deep against teams once we’ve taken the lead:

“It didn't take too long for us to get back and we knew after we got the second that we would be able to hit them on the break. As I said, it took us a long time to get the third and what we want is for it to be like a couple of seasons ago when we scored five goals on a few occasions and three on others. If there is only a margin of one it is often not enough in the Premiership.”

He believes that after taking the lead against a team that they will throw everything forward and that we’ll be able to pick them off on the break, perhaps with the pace of Lennon, Keane or Defoe, and even Jenas. Fair enough, but why do we do this with a one goal lead at home? Away from home this attitude is good, as the home side want to win in front of their own fans so they’ll go for it. When a team comes to White Hart Lane though they were probably only here for the draw in the first place so they don’t go for it and leave space at the back, they stay solid – why not when there is only one goal in it? All we do by switching to a counter attack style is hand the impetus to the opposition and give the fans heart attacks due to having to watch us defend so deeply.

If we have a two-goal lead then Jol’s counter-attack attitude makes more sense; soak up the inevitable pressure and hit them on the break safe in the knowledge we have a nice two goal cushion. But at one-nil or two-one it’s a dangerous game to play. We should carry on playing at one-nil or two-one as if its nil-nil, i.e. going all out looking for the second goal. Once that goes in then the foot can go off the gas and we can pick off the opposition at will, as they will have no choice but to go for it.

Its good to see that he recognises that we haven’t been spanking teams this season or last season, but he should be having a think as to why this is the case, and hopefully his conclusion will be that it is due to his safety first attitude. This season and last season our biggest wins have been 3-1 victories, against Wigan and FC Bruges this season, and Charlton last year. We haven’t scored 4 or more in a league match since April 2005 in the 5-1 mauling of Aston Villa. You can’t count the 5-0 win over MK Dons this season as it wasn’t a fair fight.

Why should this be the case? We’ve always got it together a couple of times a season to spank somebody, doesn’t matter whether it was Pleat, Hoddle or Graham in charge, we managed to stick four or five past someone each season. Its something that needs to be looked at, as all the big teams belt the smaller ones a couple of times a season and Spurs should be no different.

The Waddler.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Dimi Does The Business

Quality told at White Hart Lane yesterday as Spurs ran out 3-1 winners against a distinctly average Wigan side. Spurs started the game incredibly poorly, with some very sloppy passing, marking that was all over the place and a distinct lack of desire, perhaps due to tiredness from the mid-week trip to Germany, or due to simply not being able to motivate themselves to play Wigan. Who knows? What ever it was it took the inevitable Wigan goal to motivate them, and two splendid goals in a minute turned the game on its head.

Dimitar Berbatov was the star of the show, scoring one and setting up the other two, and for the first time in the league this season showed how he is head and shoulders above everyone else at the club in terms of ability. It was a lovely through ball for Defoe to score the equalizer, and the little man’s turn and pivot to beat the defender was exquisite, and something he tried a couple more times during the game. Being free on a Saturday evening so much this season has obviously done Jermain some good, as he seems to have picked that one up straight from BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing.

Berbs’ goal a minute later was right from the top draw as well, and one for a future Greatest Spurs Goals DVD without question, as the Bulgarian nutmegged Jackson, took the ball on and blasted it over Kirkland and into the top corner. Great stuff, and hopefully just one of many that we will now see from him as he finds his feet in the league. Another good run from Dimi nearly forced Jackson into an own goal, before a break away at the death where the steadily improving Malbranque found Berbs on the wing, who sailed into the box before laying on to Lennon to slide home Spurs’ third.

Between the second and third goals was the entire second half, and as usual when Spurs are winning these days it was more about defending than trying to score the third. Its something that needs to be sorted out as the fans pay good money to be entertained and whilst this is a results business, being 2-1 up against Wigan at home in the league in November is not holding onto a lead in the UEFA or FA Cup final. So why when Chimbonda won a corner late in the second half were we tapping it to each other and trying to run down the clock by the corner flag? That is a small team mentality, the sort of thing a League One club does when beating a Premiership Team in the Carling Cup. It is not what Tottenham Hostpur should be doing when beating lowly Wigan at the Lane. We should be piling forward looking for the third or the fourth, scoring goals, getting players’ confidence up, entertaining. When the third went in at the death it was clear that the game was over – so why not try to score it earlier and take it easy? Why not sling the corner in the box and let King, Dawson, Chimbonda et al attack it and try to score? What’s the harm in that? Maybe the power brokers at the club have forgotten the old ethos summed up by two great quotes from Bill Nicholson and Danny Blanchflower:

“It is better to fail aiming high than to succeed aiming low. And we of Spurs have set our sights very high, so high in fact that even failure will have in it an echo of glory.” Bill Nicholson.

“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It's nothing of the kind. The game is about glory. It's about doing things in style, with a flourish, about going out and beating the other lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.” - Danny Blanchflower

This is a good Spurs team, and Jol is a good manager, but there is an attitude coming from somewhere that is distinctly small time and needs to be eradicated. Running the clock down by the corner flag at home to Wigan is small time, so is grimly holding onto one-nil leads at home against teams like West Ham, or not going for the win against 10-man Blackburn. So is releasing commemorative DVDs and T-Shirts of a 2-1 league victory against Chelsea. These things are not what big teams do, and if Spurs want to be a big team again then they need to start acting like it down to every little detail.

Again this may come over as being harsh after a win, but we are so close as a club and a team of breaking into that upper echelon that it is frustrating to see the things that are holding us back. As Jol quite rightly said after the game, things are going OK at the moment:

"We are in the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup, have nine points in our group in the UEFA Cup, had a good win against Wigan and now it's one defeat in 14 matches. So we can be pretty satisfied."

Next Saturday’s game will be the true test of how far this team has come and how much they want Glory, as it’s the first North London Derby at The Emirates and just how good would it be to do them over at their new home? Spurs have the quality these days, that lot are going backwards and it is a great time to play them. Spurs can do all the clock running down they like if they’re beating the Goons away with a minute left next weekend. We’ll have to wait and see.

The Waddler.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Wigan Preview

Its Wigan at home on Sunday as Spurs are dealt another favourable home game after a Thursday night UEFA match. Someone must have been having a word somewhere as so far it’s been so good after UEFA games:

After Salvia Prague (A): Tottenham 0-0 Fulham
After Slavia Prague (H): Tottenham 2-1 Portsmouth
After Besiktas (A): Tottenham 1-0 West Ham
After Club Brugge (H): Tottenham 2-1 Chelsea
After Bayer Leverkusen (A): Tottenham ?-? Wigan

The run does come to an end after Dinamo Bucharest as we go to Middlesbrough, but it has been a useful little quirk of the fixture list for a team not used to playing twice a week. Particularly after our “record” number of games last year – the fewest ever if all the Gooner and Hammer statisticians from last season were correct.

Wigan are a funny little club, only having been in the league for less than 30 years, and coming from a Rugby League town they are way down on the list of things you think about when someone mentions Wigan. After Andy Farrell, and of course The Verve, Wigan is famous for having and then not having a pier. Very strange. Wigan Athletic, as the football club are known, in 1972 applied to join the Scottish Football League as they weren’t getting anywhere in England! Still once JJB’s Dave Whelan took over things started looking up, and with the appointment of Paul Jewell they took the Championship by storm. They did excellently last season as well, and confounded most people who thought they would go straight back down. They have had it hard this season though as Spurs stepped in and bought their best player, Pascal Chimbonda, and they lost Jason Roberts, their target man, and replaced him with Emile Heskey.

Heskey aside, Wigan still represent a tough task for Spurs on Sunday. They are one of the teams that chase and press, fight for every ball and work their socks off. The opposite of Spurs, and just the sort of team we can’t cope with. See Reading and Bolton away and Everton at home for evidence if you’re not sure. Last season they kept knocking the ball up to Scharner at White Hart Lane and he won absolutely everything against Dawson and caused no end of bother. We scraped a 2-2 draw in the end, but it wasn’t pretty and we lucky to come away with a point.

As usual Jol and Hughton have to sift out the dead and wounded from the previous battle and work out who is fit enough to play. In an ideal world, you would pick the same team that started last night, as without JJ it was our first choice eleven. BMJ picked the same side for the Chelsea game that started against Brugge, so its possible, and that worked out OK so why not? Either way, what ever combination of players is picked, they should be too much for Wigan, but Spurs still need to match them for effort. If they do that then there is no reason why we shouldn’t steam roller them and warm up nicely for a certain derby game on December 2nd.

It would be good for Berbatov to score in the league, and Keane looks like he really needs a goal but you have to fancy Chimbonda to get on the score sheet against his old club. He came very close to breaking his duct last night, and if he’s fit enough to play it could be one of those peculiar twists of fate that football throws up – just like Berbatov scoring against Bayer Leverkusen. One suspects Pascal might celebrate rather more flamboyantly than Dimi did though, given his rather acrimonious departure from Wigan. Anything less than a win will be a poor return for a nearly fully fit Spurs team, who have to start performing in the league sooner rather than later.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Berbs Breaks Bayer Hearts

Spurs sailed into the next round of the UEFA Cup last night with a relatively simple 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen, with the goal scored inevitably by Dimitar Berbatov. Spurs always looked in control, and missed an absolute hatful of chances that would have put the game to bed long before the final whistle. Yer man Schneider had a shot cannon off the post, which as was pointed out on here yesterday is a speciality of his, but bar that and a couple of Robbo saves it was cruise control all night.

BMJ picked a nice attacking side, which seeing as we only needed a draw seemed a fairly baffling but pleasing decision after the bore-fest of Blackburn. Chimbonda made a welcome return and showed how he is approximately one million times better than any other full back we have at the club, and nearly got his first goal too after a lung busting run at the death which was finished with a shot that cannoned off the goalkeeper’s legs. In the midfield the more defensive trio of Davids, Ghaly and Huddlestone were replaced by the almost holy trinity of Malbranque, Tainio and Lennon. Steed is getting better with each game, and there were some nice through balls and bits of skill shown by him last night that hopefully foreshadow a glittering Spurs career.

Lennon was off colour, and got disposed at every turn – presumably the Germans had targeted him as the danger and saw to it that he never got a chance to dribble at them. Either that or they just defend much better than your average Premiership defender. The fact that the little man has just come back from injury probably means he wasn’t going at full pelt, and lets hope he saved something for Sunday instead. TT looked pretty good in his favoured central midfield position, always looking forward rather than sideways, and Zokora looks a proper player when allowed time on the ball. His forward surges when the pass isn’t on are excellent and he’ll come good after a bit more time in England.

Berbs actually looked a little off colour last night, presumably confused by playing against his old team, and the fact that he looked sheepish after tapping in his goal probably said more about the circumstances than the ease of the chance. The reception he got from the whole crowd when he was subbed for Mido after 75 minutes must have been a nice moment for him, and he can now get this game out of the way and concentrate on winning the UEFA Cup single handily for Spurs which he seems to be doing at the moment. Robbie Keane was the star man, until in front of goal that is, and it was his lovely through ball that set up Lennon for the move that created the goal. He was buzzing around and stepping over everything all night, as he did against Chelsea, and was causing the Germans lots of trouble. His finishing though was poor, and he could have easily had a couple of goals if he showed a little more composure. Mido had a great chance late on too, which he should have squared for Robbie, but then the Egyptian is not exactly an unselfish player so it wasn’t to be expected and the way Robbie was shooting would probably have gone over anyway.

So that was that. Lots of pleasing shots of Bayer’s Sporting Director and former strike partner of Jurgen Klinsmann, Rudi Voller looking shocked last night, and perhaps he should have a re-think about the comments he made about Berbatov going to a top club, not Tottenham. Still think that Rudi?

Wigan preview to appear later.

The Waddler.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bayer Preview

It’s the heavyweight clash in the UEFA Cup Group Stage tonight, as Spurs travel to Leverkusen only needing a point to secure safe passage into the next round. Hopefully though Spurs won’t spend the entire game camped on our own 18 yard line defending desperately, but that said, they can go there without much pressure, knowing that there is still the home game against Dinamo Bucherest to come to ensure qualification if we need it.

Last season Leverkusen finished in fifth place in the Bundesliga to qualify for the UEFA Cup but are currently 12th in the eighteen team German Bundesliga, having lost their last two games to Nurnberg and Bayern Munich. Sounds very much like Spurs! In the UEFA Cup they have drawn with Brugge in their only game so far in the Group Stage. Whilst Spurs plucked their best player from them in the summer, Dimitar Berbatov, Leverkusen are a team with good experience having got to a Champions League final as recently as 2002. The best known of their current players is the German international midfielder Bernd Schneider who played in last summer’s World Cup and has scored twice in this season’s UEFA Cup, including a screamer against Brugge.

Spurs have the usual injury worries, although it looks like Chimbonda will pull through, but it is a game too soon for Jenas and probably Lennon too although he maybe on the bench. Steed Malbranque should be ready to start after having good run outs against Port Vale and Blackburn and Ghaly is bound to play tonight given his impending three match suspension. Up front it will be Keane and Berbatov for sure, and it was pleasing to read a nice quote from Berby in the build up to this game:

"I was at home when they told me we had drawn Bayer Leverkusen because I was on international duty. I was sick. I had five wonderful years there but that is over. It will be strange, but I am a professional player. I play for Tottenham and I will try to score. It doesn’t matter that they are my friends, I will forget about that and try to help my team. I will celebrate like usual, raise my hand and show that I have scored. I appreciate that I play for Tottenham and I will try to show that with my goals."

Good boy Dimi, lets hope we see that celebration tonight.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Monday, November 20, 2006

He Who Dares Rodders...

Spurs managed a point yesterday in darkest Lancashire, but it could have been so much more as yet again Jol’s negative tactics stopped the team from grabbing a game by the throat. It has been mentioned on here before that the main difference between the “success” of last season and the poor returns this year are not the performance of the players but the lack of luck. It seemed to be following a similar pattern yesterday when Tugay’s thunderbolt went in, the third long range goal conceded in three weeks. Thankfully, it didn’t pan out that way as Ghaly was tripped in the box and Tuguy went from hero to villain and was sent off rather harshly. Defoe then tucked away the penalty and the game was in theory flipped on its head.

However, Spurs or rather Jol didn’t take advantage of the numerical advantage and looked to settle for the draw that they went there hoping for. Most fans would have been crying out for the introduction of Keane and Berbatov to take the game to Blackburn, and use the extra space that was created. Putting Keane on the left and even Defoe on the right to stretch them would have made sense, with Malbranque sitting behind Berbatov or Mido. Sadly this wasn’t the case and Spurs created a few chances but it was Blackburn that looked like they wanted to win the most.

After the Liverpool game where Spurs capitulated, The Waddler questioned whether Jol was really the guy to take Spurs to the top table, and whether he would be the Ranieri or Houllier to our Mourinho or Benitez. There is no question that he has stabilised the team after a barren run under Hoddle, Pleat and Santini; and that taking us into the UEFA Group stages is something that no previous Spurs manager has achieved for a long time, probably since Shreeves in 1984/85 after Burkinshaw had done the hard work by winning the trophy the year before. For that he deserves credit and recognition, but there is something lacking there and it’s difficult to see how it can change. Whenever Spurs go one nil up its sit back and defend time and hope to hit the opposition on the break. Likewise when away from home its keep it tight, put as many defensive players on as possible, and look to hit teams on the break, even when you’re losing. These are small club mentalities and reflect the fact that Jol has only managed small teams before getting the job at THFC.

He has a good squad assembled, thanks mainly to Arnesen and Comolli, and with one or two additions and a couple of replacements to the reserves it would be a great squad. However you get the feeling that all is not well either with the team morale or with Jol’s tactics as this side rarely kill off the opposition, and of course rarely win away from home. Its not pleasant to have to quote Tony Adams on a Tottenham Blog, but he was once asked to compare the difference between George Graham and Arsene Wenger on what was when Wenger first took over still very much Graham’s team. He said something along the lines of Graham had the players but that he never let the team fly in the way that Wenger did. Of course Wenger had added Vieira and Petit, and Bergkamp had also joined since Graham left, but the fact is he came along and took Graham’s boring but functional team and made them rather good by playing attacking and attractive football. The parallels between Jol’s boring but functional team and Graham’s get stronger week by week, particularly after watching games like yesterday.

Now there is no point getting rid of Jol mid season, and he has to be left to finish what is only his second full season in charge, but someone has to remind him of the club’s motto, which is even written in English these days so there’s no excuse for not understanding it: TO DARE IS TO DO. If he doesn’t get it, or agree with it, then Messrs Levy and Comolli need to have a think about who would be the right man to take over and take this team on. The man who would be Tottenham’s Mourinho, Benitiez or Wenger.

Perhaps this all sounds a bit draconian after what is on paper a respectable point at Blackburn with an injury ravaged squad, but this a culmination of 3 years of Jol’s negativity and settling for what you’ve got attitude. Maybe he has a grand plan to unleash this team on an unsuspecting world at some stage in the future, but that day could be now if only there was some ambition shown and positive decisions taken occasionally. The game was played with one eye on Leverkusen on Thursday, hence the resting of Keane and Berbatov, so lets hope for some PMA (positive mental attitude) in Germany, as this becomes a typical “cup season” for Spurs.

The Waddler.

Friday, November 17, 2006

No Lennon, JJ or Chimbonda: No Hope?

Its Blackburn away on Sunday and the team news isn’t good with Lennon, Jenas and Chimbonda all out of the running. It’s a tough place to go and get points at the best of times, but without three of your best players its making it look a tough trip. Blackburn are not the same team as last year now that Craig Bellamy has gone, but that said they are decent enough, and got to sixth last season and are doing well in the UEFA Cup this year.

Spurs away record in the league is still shocking, reading 6 games, 4 losses, 2 draws, 2 goals scored, 1 by a Spurs player and none in open play. The longer this goes on the more it will become a monkey on the team’s back, so the sooner it can be put to bed the better. Reading was a disaster last week, and hopefully the team have spent the week reflecting, and getting ready to put it right.

Given the injury situation, it could be the same back four as last weekend, with a midfield of Zokora and Huddlestone in the centre, with a newly fit Tainio on the left and Malbranque on the right. Not a bad line up, but lacking a little in pace. That said Zokora didn’t exactly win any friends last week, so it could well be Davids that drops in for JJ. Whether Jol goes for Tainio and Malbranque, both of whom would lack match fitness is another question, so Danny Murphy should feature one way or another. Up front it will probably be Keane & Berbatov, but with one eye on the Thursday’s tie at Bayer Leverkusen, it could be Mido and Defoe if Jol decides the UEFA game is more important. Who knows basically!

Live on Sky Sports again, lets hope for a better showing than last Sunday.

The Waddler.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Ballad of Reading Goals

If Spurs took a step forward by beating Chelsea last weekend then they took two back yesterday by putting in a dire performance against Reading. It was a display completely lacking in desire and in many ways the polar opposite of the game against the Champions.

Spurs took to the field with an air of superiority about them, almost as if they knew they were better than Reading, so simply had to turn up in order to win. This attitude wasn’t helped then when we went one-nil up through a Robbie Keane penalty in the first half, as Spurs continued to coast. Reading on the other hand played like we did last week, forever chomping at our heels, chasing balls and getting stuck in. Spurs never play well against teams that do that to us, and as a result the passing went badly awry as every player was closed down before they even received the ball. When they equalised Spurs just went to pieces and conceded an abysmal second goal from a corner that gets worse every time you see it.

For all three goals Paul Robinson looks culpable, with the first and third seemingly going under his outstretched hand. That looks like a technical issue, as he can clearly dive far enough, but somehow can’t get his hand to the ball. For the second, whilst there were people not marking or concentrating everywhere, a goalkeeper should claim any cross in the six yard box and Robinson was rooted to his line when the corner came in.

9 games in 28 days is lot to ask, and unbeaten runs end sooner or later but it was a poor performance and there can’t be any excuses. Only Keane and to a lesser extent Jenas looked like they cared, and were the only two really putting a shift in. YP Lee had a terrible game, and Hossam Ghaly and Didier Zokora were also woeful, looking completely shocked when they weren’t given time to control the ball by Reading. It was a very quiet team that was picked, with no real aggressors on the field without Chimbonda or even a Davids, and that didn’t help when the chips were down after their equaliser. It seems strange to heap so much importance on a right back, but you couldn’t imagine any of the goals being scored with Chimbonda on the field, in particular the second one. The third was a result of Spurs going with 3 at the back so doesn’t really count in the analysis. The fact is though we missed his aggression which rubs off on the rest of the team, and that highlights some gaps in our squad.

It’s Blackburn away next up which won’t be easy, and let’s hope Spurs take it a little more seriously than they did yesterday. Oscar Wilde once wrote that “In Reading gaol by Reading town, there is a pit of shame” and you would hope that Spurs sat in that pit yesterday and had a long hard look at themselves.

The Waddler.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Reading Preview

We travel to newly promoted Reading on Sunday to face a club we haven’t met in a competitive fixture since 1931, a period when Spurs were spending some time below the top flight and Reading played at Elm Park rather than the swanky new Madjeski Stadium. Reading have had a patchy start to their first ever season amongst the biggest boys, and were recently spanked 4-0 at home by our North London neighbours. Their ambulance procedures and morality have also unfairly come under criticism from Jose Mourinho recently, which may have shaken them and contributed to their recent poor form.

The referee for the game is Rob Styles unfortunately, he who handed the Chelsea game last season to the opposition on a plate by sending Mido off and giving Chelsea every decision they wanted. He has a tendency to give decisions to the biggest/most hyped team in any given match that he is refereeing but has yet to ever give us anything so we need to play him as well as Reading on Sunday.

Spurs’ away form in the league has been very poor, still not having scored a goal ourselves and only amassing two points so far. The games against Slavia Prague, Besiktas and MK Dons all proved that we are capable of winning away from home, but we are yet to prove that in the league. The team should be buoyed by last weekend’s demolition of the Champions and should go into the match well rested (most of them) and full of beans. We should expect the same team that faced Chelsea to run out against Reading, assuming Chimbonda has recovered in time from his knee injury inflicted by Lampard last weekend. If he doesn’t make it, Y-P Lee should come in at right back, but Chimbo will be a loss as he has very quickly become a mainstay of the side. There will more than likely be a role for Malbranque as well, probably on the bench after his 60 minutes against Port Vale.

It won’t be easy but it’s about time Spurs broke their away duck for the season and posted 3 more points to take us further up the league table on Sunday. Live on Sky Sports 1 for those not making the trip along the M4.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Spurs in Left Winger Shock?

Well according to the Guardian Spurs have signed a left winger, and even more shockingly beaten our North London rivals to the signature (and Wigan). His name is Leonardo Vitor Santiago, he is Brazilian and currently plays for NAC Breda in Holland. He was previously at Feyenoord where he had issues with his coach and was forced out. His contract at Breda is running out at the end of the season, allowing Spurs to nip in with a nominal fee in January.

All sounds good. He’s obviously a risk given his temperament, and being Brazilian will no doubt be typecast as soft and not suited to the hurly-burly of the English game, but for a nominal fee the risk is minimal, and presumably BMJ knows of him at least, and is confident he can keep him on a tight leash. Mido came with a similar reputation for falling out with coaches and being difficult to handle but he’s been OK at Spurs, at least in public, and Jol was confident enough to sign him permanently in the summer.

This assist he made whilst at Feyenoord shows some nice ability, and he would be a most welcome addition at the Lane, especially if Spurs can sort it out so that he arrives on January 1st so we can have him as soon as possible, and then he can play in the FA Cup and hopefully start by terrorising some lower division defence to ease him in. As usual we will have to wait for Comolli’s comments on the official website before celebrating too much, so in the meantime lets keep fingers crossed that he is the one. Will he be the first Brazilian at White Hart Lane?

The Waddler.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

THudd Thwarts Vale

Spurs made heavy work of Port Vale last night, needing extra time to see them off and at one point being 10 minutes away from getting knocked out of the competition altogether. As it was, it just needed an injection of class, and with the introduction of Lennon, Berbatov and Ghaly the game was easily turned around into Spurs’ favour and Port Vale were dispatched 3-1.

That it was such a struggle probably owed a lot to Mido’s withdrawal before the game with a knee injury. It meant that Jol, with his desire to rest Keane & Berbatov, went with Andy Barcham and Defoe up front. Now no disrespect to Barcham, but he is no Mido and if Keane and Defoe doesn’t work as a partnership there is no way Barcham and Defoe was going to either. As it was Spurs’ attacking moves weren’t working, Defoe was blasting chances everywhere but the net and it took a Vale goal to enliven the tie.

Once the big boys were on there was only one result, and Tom Huddlestone’s first two goals for the club, the second a real screamer, plus a late Defoe tap in were enough to put away Port Vale. It was a risky move by Jol to play so many of the second string, but he got away with it. Malbranque looked rather short of match fitness, but there are ideas there, and Dorian Dervitte looked good on his debut. Other than that, the highlight is simply being in the next round, and extending the unbeaten run to 10 games.

Quarter Final draw on Sky Sports 1 (or Sky Sports News) during Soccer Saturday. Lets hope for a nice home game against Wycombe or Southend.

The Waddler.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Need for Steed

Tottenham Hotspur fans get their first chance to look at Steed Malbranque in a Spurs shirt this evening in the Carling Cup tie with Port Vale at White Hart Lane. Of course Spurs knew what they were getting when they signed the injured Steed just before transfer deadline day, but its been a frustration for all concerned not to be able to call upon one of the most skilful players in the squad. Out with what has been described as a hernia injury, Steed has been training for a few weeks now and is ready for some first team action. The Carling Cup is actually an ideal way to get some match fitness, and it will be interesting to see whether BMJ puts him on the bench, or starts him and then takes him off before the end.

Port Vale are there for the taking, but Spurs should be mindful of Grimsby last year, and of course Man Utd crashing out to Southend last night. The holders being knocked out means that the path to Cardiff has cleared a little for Spurs, and being in the hat for the next round, and receiving a favourable draw could mean a very real chance of silverware and an early ticket back into next year’s UEFA Cup. Jol therefore needs to think about this, whilst balancing the need to rest players, as it was nearly the same eleven that played Watford, Club Brugge and Chelsea all in the space of 8 days.

There is no chance of Ledders playing, and you would expect Berbatov to also be rested. Looking at the last game against MK Dons in the last round it could be the same sort of thing with Cerny in goal, Davids and Huddlestone in midfield and Mido and Defoe up front. Injuries to Davenport and Stalteri, who would normally slot straight in, could mean a chance for people like Phil Ifil and Dorian Dervitte. Either way, a team with mainly squad players and the odd reserve should still be enough to secure safe passage to the next round, especially at the Lane.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Not "So Easy" Now

What a day. Spurs beat Chelsea, the Gooners lost to West Ham and plenty of fireworks were seen, both actual and metaphorical. Spurs didn’t just beat Chelsea though, they smashed them. By the end of the game Chelsea were a mess, down to ten men, substitutes being substituted, players woefully out of position and Spurs carving them wide open. It was beautiful to watch, if rather nerve-wracking, and if you weren’t there, I’m afraid you missed a treat.

Chelsea are very dislikeable these days, more so than ever because of their new found arrogance and disdain for the opposition. Even before the kick off they displayed their lack of class by making Spurs change ends and attack the Paxton rather than the Park Lane like we always do. A small thing but typical of Chelsea. The less subtle referee goading, not retreating for free kicks, diving, dirty little fouls and abuse of opposition players are also nasty traits of theirs, as well as Mourinho’s constant moaning and “mind games” of course.

John Terry’s sending off yesterday was for two bookable offences and on the replays it was difficult to see exactly what the second one was for, but if you look at Ledley King’s reaction to what Terry said to him, and the subsequent melee involving Chimbonda, Zokora and BAE its obvious it was down to what he said rather than what he did. Ledley isn’t someone that would hurt a fly normally, so for him to have to be restrained by Robinson meant that it was something very upsetting. The reactions of Drogba and Essien also suggested they were trying to restrain the Spurs players rather than get involved in a fight, and Wright-Philips’ attempt to remove Terry from the scene and the complete acceptance of the card by Terry suggests that it was bad, and everyone knew it, Spurs and Chelsea alike.

The chant that then came out of the Park Lane of “That’s why you’re w*nkers!” summed them up perfectly. The Spurs fans were on form all day, telling Lampard he had let his country down as well as telling Mourinho where his place was, both politely are rather more fragrantly. The fact that we were all so chipper stemmed from the excellent Spurs performance after Michael Dawson’s equaliser. Prior to that it looked like it was going to follow the usual Spurs-Chelsea game pattern, but once Daws grabbed the goal, a lovely header from an excellent Jenas free kick, Spurs were a different team, full of confidence.

Jol’s formation change mid way through the first half worked a treat, and full credit must go to him for having the balls the change his tactics so dramatically. The 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 depending on how you class Keane and Lennon’s roles worked well, matching Chelsea’s midfield as well as putting our two best dribblers against their full backs. Ferrera was booked and withdrawn for Bouhlerouz who was then given an absolute roasting by Keane and subbed after only being on the field for 20 minutes. It was the Keane-Lennon combo that combined for the winner, and it was great skill from Keane to roast the full back (twice) then cross for Lennon, whose first touch took him away from Cole, and with his second steered the ball into the net. Cue the Lane going into raptures.

The rest of the game then involved Spurs soaking up the pressure and trying to counter attack, which is how BMJ likes it for some reason, but yesterday it worked and bar Robben’s shot that hit the post, it was always going to be Spurs that took the spoils and ended the curse of 19 years. Great stuff and long may it continue.

The Waddler.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Berbs Bashes Brugge

Spurs edged a little closer to Glasgow in May last night with a good 3-1 win over a reasonable Club Brugge side at White Hart Lane to take us top of Group B. Another excellent performance from €15m summer signing Dimitar Berbatov was the highlight of the evening, scoring two lovely goals and setting up the other with an exquisite pass to an otherwise off colour Robbie Keane to fire home.

Brugge had taken the lead with a nice goal from Salou, and the Spurs faithful were briefly silenced. The away support Brugge brought with them was excellent and very noisy indeed, often drowning out the Park Lane and Paxton choral societies. It wasn’t until Spurs got the third that they shut up, and by then they and their players knew the game was up.

BMJ opted for Lennon on the left again with Ghaly on the right. The problem with that though is that Lennon doesn't get to the byline on the left and just cuts inside. Its plain he can't shoot, and he ends up knocking it square to JJ or Zokora or back to BAE. Berbatov is wasted without crosses, and unless Lennon is on the right he won’t get any from him. Surely Ghaly could do what he does on the left and let Lennon fly down the right? It’s blunting our main weapon playing him on the left. It’s like taking the jam out of your doughnut; it’s still a doughnut and better than not having one, but it could be so much better.

Anyway, that was really the only downer on a good night, and its pleasing to see the forwards scoring at last. Berbatov now leads the charts with 4 this season, followed by Keane, Defoe and Mido all on three. Now if they can all start doing it in the league we may be able to see the name Tottenham Hotspur in the top half rather than the bottom. At least we’re reminding Europe that we’re back, and stating our intent to reclaim our rightful place at the table.

The Waddler.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

UEFA Cup: Club Brugge Preview

So who are our opponents tonight? Club Brugge or FC Bruges are the only Belgian club to reach the final of the European Cup, losing to Liverpool in 1978 at Wembley (bit unfair that!). Spurs have met them once before in this competition when a 3-0 victory at the Lane took us, the holders, through 4-2 on aggregate in the 1984/85 campaign. They have never won in England apparently. They have not lost in more than two months, are third in their league and spanked Mouscron 5-1 over the weekend. In midfield they have one Jonathan Blondel who was signed for Spurs by David Pleat as the “blonde Enzo Schifo”, and looked good, albeit lightweight, in a couple of League Cup games under Pleat’s stewardship. Hoddle had previously refused to play the boy, and he eventually got home sick and went home, obviously.

Spurs have the usual injury worries of course, but may welcome back Didier Zokora which would be a boost. There are rumours going around of BMJ resting a few players tonight, but as long as the back 5 stays more or less intact it shouldn’t matter terribly. Whilst we have cover for every position these days, its only in midfield and up front where that cover is actually any good. The thought of Stalteri’s furrowed brow trundling up and down the flank tonight is not a pleasant thought.

Really this is the game Spurs should look to win, as passage to the next round would be all but secure already, but with Chelsea looming on Sunday perhaps it would be wise to keep one or two players fresh. Even with a little rotation Spurs should be too much for our opponents who seem to have based all their scouting on the Watford game, and our a rather confident apparently. Time for a Besiktas level of performance and a few goals would go down a treat too.

Come On You Spurs!

The Waddler.