hungrier, grittier

It’s an early arrival at the Lane for once. Oogfather and Oogbruder are in town and have procured last minute tickets in the west upper. As is his wont, Oogfather insists on getting there at 2pm to enjoy the lack of atmosphere. As is his wont, Oogbruder is gabbling on about whether they will serve Bovril. Yeast Army.

So there’s time to sit back and soak up all the lowgrade tat the Jumbotron has to offer. Special deals for ‘lateral and medial cat branded’ football boots. Aspirational commercials for morons who i) want to be just like Jamie and Louise Redknapp and ii) think that booking a holiday with Thomson’s will make it happen. Highlights of our game at Villa Park last year. I still find Agbonlohor’s bundled in opener infuriating even though I know we equalised. I’m glad he’s not playing today as I am scared of raw pace more than of anything else. Raw pace won’t necessarily do you as much damage as tiki-taka or Drogba-like power, but it always looks threatening. The kind of threat that will humiliate you again and again. Ever since Craig Bellamy single handedly beat us 3-1 in his Newcastle days, raw pace keeps me up at nights.

Its Ged Houllier’s Villa now, but it still looks like a Martin O’Neill team. In the words (sentences, even) of Alan Hansen: Pace. Power. Commitment. I like Villa games. Along with Everton and maybe a few others, they aren’t a CL team that terrifies me to death nor a relegation candidate that bores me to death. They are a proper test, but one I expect us to pass. They are slightly less good than us.

Not that we ever actually beat them, of course. And the team news is a bit bewildering. Hudd at the back. Jenas in for King is the only change and it seems like big squad or not Harry has arrived at a few conclusions. Kranjcar is on the bench but seems to be regarded these days as filler. Gio has used up all his chances I hope – I’m bored of talented Adel players who Taraabt flatter to deceive.

Davewatch. As usual Dave’s 2:59 pre-match analysis consists of an arbitrary psychological profile of the players based upon the colour of their boots. Dave says he wouldn’t play in pink boots no matter how much you paid him. Dave says some other things and then says “put that in your blog”. Dave is told that isn’t going to work anymore.

On to the game. It’s a tough opening 25 minutes and it looks like we might be overrun. An earlyish goal in which Heskey outfoxes Bassong with worrying ease is the least they deserve. They are outplaying and outmuscling us. Lots of words beginning with ‘out’. Is this a CL hangover? If so it’s not just the players. The yid army isn’t feeling the buzz either. But as the crowd slowly rouses from its slumber (Villa’s taunts of “Just like the library” help), we claw our way back into the game.

These days we have a brace of playmakers of unquestionable vintage but the subtle tones that differentiate them are now beginning to emerge. Modric can dictate the pace of a game on his day and is probably the more beautiful player to watch. But Fvondefvoort has a hungrier, grittier quality to go with the obvious skill. He can wrest the initiative from the opposition and turn a game back in our favour. It doesn’t have to be a moment of genius. He’s just there when you need him to be. Just before half time Crouch nods a header from a sumptuous Pavlyuchenko cross (yes, really) across the goalmouth and Rafa, leaping like a tiny Dutch salmon ready to breed with his attractive salmon wife, rises above Richard Dunne to level the match just as a depressing half time beckons.

And he was Dunne again in the second half. I’ve watched our second goal about ten times and I still don’t understand. Is it a piece of genius by VDV or dunne Does just get in a tangle all by himself? It Doesn’t matter. The point is someone special has arrived at our club. This gritty quality I mentioned in a ‘skill’ player is quite rare. Tevez definitely has it. Rooney has it in spades (though maybe he’s a grit player with skill). Zola had it, and to please Oogbruder, so did Moravcik for Celtic. Arshavin almost has it. Early days, but the prospect of having this kind of talent is mouthwatering. And he’s not even our best BALE BALE BALE player. How long’s his contract?

A month ago we were worried about how any of our strikers could play upfront alone. Turns out we just needed a genius Dutch midfielder to play in the hole. I think I know who may suffer as a result. Whereas Defoe needs space to get his shot off , VDV has the close control to take a couple of touches, find himself some room in a crowded penalty area and fire home. If he can be a creator and do some of Defoe’s job by feeding off Crouchy’s scraps, our injured England superhero may be hanging out with Keano on the touchline a bit more. Talking of the tall guy, he’s growing on me. In Crouchy’s comedy corner (literally) this week, his stepovers to waste time were again causing belly laughs, in block 28 at least. Get this man his nachos.

So a really good match. Not a classic, but a quality piece of premiership product. I predicted that we would probably beat Twente stylishly, creep past Villa and then lose at Fulham away. I haven’t forgotten West Ham and I don’t think we’ve suddenly changed. But sometimes it’s good to forget about league positions and formations, score predictions and squad rotation. Sometimes you can just enjoy a cracking game of football.

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9 responses to “hungrier, grittier

  1. Great game. I thought that it would be turned into a defensive bore fest when Villa went one up but it was all out attack from both sides.

    Rafael is different class – the kind of player that we crave according to Lineker on MOTD. Have we ever had a player like him? Is our best formation now 4-5-1?

  2. Agreed, we can always improve, but sometimes I just want to enjoy the feeling of winning and watching a player I know I will look back on fondly in years to come.

  3. I quite agree that the Villa fans were the architects of their own downfall. As much as the players might have been suffering a CL hangover, the White Hart Lane Choir certainly was. The Villains taunted, we woke up and so did our team.

    The one thing that worries me about us these days is that we are alarmingly one dimensional in our goal scoring. With perhaps the exception of quite a large number of penalties we’ve won, just about every time we’ve netted its been from a Peter Crouch knock down. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when a team finds out a way to neutralise him or he picks up an injury. Fortunately, both seem never to happen.

    The Bagel.

  4. I definately think the second goal was a touch of pure genius by VDV, I watched it on MOTD (massive tall man in front of me stood up a touch to quickly so I only saw it on the jumbotron at the game) and hit the rewind several times too. A deft little touch with the left foot, onto the right and in. Just lovely to watch. It was one of those games (and goals) that made me happy to be a football fan, even happier to be a spurs fan.

  5. Great result and great to have VDV at our club.
    Are we getting Kaboul / Gallas / or anyone else who can play centre back returning from injury any time soon?
    This international break is rather handy.

  6. very soon I hope HY – because Huddlestone and Hutton were badly exposed for the Villa first goal!

    another great piece oog!

    Van Der Vaart is the total star of the show! not since Klinsmann, Ginola, Gazza have we had such a stand out player who dominates.. and whom the team will be built around – and we weren’t lacking in midfield quality before his arrival!
    I’m just gutted that he wont be on the pitch at the San Siro where he deserves to be.
    All that said, his eminence is going to be to the detriment of now fringe players like Dos Santos, Kranjcar, Keane .. maybe even Lennon (depending on his form). This is a toughie for me – as these are Prem quality and Spurs players and I hate to see them bench warming in frustration – or even doing so well over at QPR because we couldn’t accommodate so many of ’em. It’s a long season though so hopefully we can keep them all in the picture. So far, Harry is doing great and seemingly making all the right man-management moves (just ask Pav – he’s never been happier!). Guess he’s a shoe-in for the England job, what with Roy looking more and more apologetic each week, and if you ask Linekar (anyone catch his documentary last night? – great stuff).

    I’ll be taking my customary seat at the cottage on the 16th in the ‘Neutrals’ stand – next to the yanks and japanese tourists – marvelling at the Tottenham Midzone (thanks uncle fulham).. never been the best hunting ground for us (although great memories of a rare top performance by Rebrov years ago in the two-bob cup or whatever it was called back then – netting the winner right in front of me).. hope to hear you all there!!

    COYS yah for shuure.

  7. This Olympic stadium story has more to it than first appeared. Initially I thought it was just a ruse to get Haringey to roll over and play nicely. This AEG consortium have been saying some rather worrying things this week.
    Personally, I believe we should cherish our roots and stay where we are. I’m sure this will happen but it just seems so disturbing to think that our chairman may seriously be thinking about us playing in NEWHAM!!!!!!!!

  8. Hornchurch, I am quite sure it is to rattle the cage of Haringey.

    It seems to have rattled the cages at West Ham too, which is a bonus.
    Aside from being far away, is it really a good idea to set up home in the heart of another club’s support? Probably not.

    The worry is, if Levy is bluffing, he should be careful.

  9. I´m getting a bit worried about the Olympic stadium too. No-one wants to go there. More than that, I want to see West Ham – who can´t even fill Upton Park for games against Chelsea or us – flounder there in front of 25000 fans every fortnight.

    The comments coming out of WHL are a concern – but I suppose if your tactic is to make it look like you want to go there, you have to talk the talk as well as walk the walk. Problem is, if its just a tactic to apply pressure – who is it aimed at? As I understand it (and I do glaze over a bit when I try to follow it) we have already got the green light from Haringey council and its up to Boris. I can´t imagine Boris is going to alienate a hundred thousand voters or the construction industry by saying no.

    So what are we playing at?

    Anyway – apologies there´s going to be a little bit more of a gap between posts as I´m on my annual holiday in the Basque country at the moment. I´d love to blog about football, but there´s all this foie gras to stuff down my gullet.. normal service will resume on my return after the weekend. I expect, in the absence of any football, to be ranting about the loyalty ´no´point debacle for inter away. I´m fuming. Vino tinto to the rescue…

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