Racist Abuse From Arsenal Fans

From minute 1 to minute 95 of today’s Arsenal v Spurs match I was subjected to racist and homophobic abuse from Arsenal fans. Why is this brushed under the carpet? Stuff about the gas chambers and being a “yid faggot”. It goes on all the time and is seen as just banter, but it is not acceptable. It’s abuse and is very unpleasant for the people it’s directed at.

Racism. Homophobia. Hate.

Repeated experiences like this from Arsenal fans in a range of different venues across the globe have led me to link those words to that football club. Unless you’ve experienced it I doubt you will understand. This is why you won’t see me posing for a photograph outside the Emirates when my running crew run there. It’s like when Chelsea asked Souleymane Sylla, the French man who was abused by their fans, to go to Stamford Bridge for a match. Hell no.

What sort of a disconnect is going on in people when they think it’s OK to abuse strangers in this way?

And why can’t we just sit down and watch a football match without resorting to personal, abusive comments?

Very sad.

The Chelsea Macbeth

I’m teaching Macbeth to Year 9 this term. We were exploring the Captain’s speech, which describes the brute power of Macbeth, and I suggested that Macbeth is like Chelsea’s Diego Costa, who had been instrumental in Chelsea’s victory over Arsenal last weekend. A number of the boys got it completely with that analogy, so I started exploring it further. This is just a bit of fun, and I don’t want anyone to take it seriously in any way, but here’s the Chelsea Macbeth…

Jose Mourinho is King Duncan, presiding over the Champions of England.

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Transitions

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When is a season at Spurs not transitional? At least this year ‘s transition seems more logical and planned than most. Over the past decade, Spurs’ transitions have tended to follow the sale of our best player(s) and failure to qualify for the Champions League. This season, transition has centred on the pruning of some bad apples from the squad, and the blossoming of youthful prospects.  Read More

A Good Break

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They say a change is as good as a rest, and boy, does it make a change to see four Spurs players on the pitch for England. When did this last happen?

Well done Harry Kane, who stepped up to the international stage and got on with business as usual, scoring a looping header reminiscent of his winner against Arsenal after just 80 seconds. The only blot on his copy-book was seeing him pass the ball to Theo Walcott, although this was tempered by the fact the Arsenal Head Boy has not had a good match for club or country since his 2-0 gesture to Spurs fans at the Emirates in January 2014. Andros Townsend scored a belter from a Mason assist, and even Walker managed a clean sheet during his 45 minutes.  Read More

Dreaming of Wembley

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What a difference a week makes. From trying to see the glass half full to our cup runneth over. We’re in a cup final, and while today’s performance at West Brom wasn’t perfect, a 3-0 win away over a side who beat us at home earlier in the season is an excellent result. Kane is the first home-grown Spurs player to score 20 goals in a season since Marco Falco, while Eriksen has scored 3 goals in 2 matches. Read More

Glass Half Full

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Losing at home in the FA Cup Fourth Round is frustrating. On this we can all agree. For some time now I have been saying Pochettino should use width to break teams down at the Lane. I’m all for us playing the champagne football we exhibited against Chelsea, where our inverted wingers played extremely effectively as space was created by the overlapping runs of the full-backs and by Eriksen pulling Matic all over the place. But when we can’t quite find that groove, is it too much to ask to put Townsend on the left for 15 minutes? Or, heaven forbid, bring persona-non-grata Lennon off the bench and play him on the right? Because last time I checked, defenders didn’t like wingers running at them with pace and with the ability to cross first time because they’re on their good foot.

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It seems Pochettino doesn’t agree. And maybe he’s right. Maybe he knows better than me and all the others packed into White Hart Lane. None of us saw us putting 5 past Chelsea, after all.

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That being the case, all we can do is get behind the team for the next match. And what an opportunity it is, both for glory and ignominy. The BBC have recently dredged up from the vaults the video of Spurs’ defeat to Manchester City in the FA Cup several years ago. You know the one, where we lead 3-0 at half time against 10 men and still managed to lose. The one that scarred me and many another Spurs fans so badly that even at 5-1 at home against Arsenal in the Carling Cup in 2008, I feared we’d somehow slip up. There’s a massive opportunity for Sheffield United here. We’re going to have to be on our game.

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I can’t help but link the return of those ne’er-do-wells Adebayor, Capoue and Kaboul to the first team to the down-turn in our fortunes post-Chelsea, as if some sort of bad-karmic Adebayor-esque juju has infected the team like a succubus with their return. That said, Capoue’s unforgivable strolling about in midfield as we were put to the sword by Leicester is less juju than doo-doo. Of course, during this run of matches we lost Mason to injury, Bentaleb to the African Cup of Nations and Chadli to a sad bereavement. It may be that when those players are restored to our first team, and Kane up top with Eriksen behind him, that the champagne flows again. Until that is possible, we need to find a way of winning that extends beyond Townsend blasting a penalty with half the panache that poor old Bobby Soldado would.

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So negative as we all feel, let’s see the glass half-full. Lamela is back from injury, as is Mason. We’re a goal up, so Sheffield United have to come out and attack. We avoided Chelsea and Liverpool in the draw. And we’re just 3 points away from fourth. We can get to Wembley.

Just don’t expect us to play with width. Cheers.

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Resilient Spurs

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Phew. Relief was the overriding emotion at the end of a difficult 90 minutes at White Hart Lane, in which we dominated, but almost failed to unpick the  lock due to a lack of width and an over-reliance on trying to find a way through the middle. In the end, the scoreline should have been 3-1, but Chris Foy continued his approach of doing all he could to help Sunderland by incorrectly ruling Jan’s second goal out for offside.

This had first surfaced when Kane was sent flying by a shove in the back from ex-Gooner Larsson. Moments later, the official’s eyes were fully-functioning again as he penalised star man Vertonghen for halting Defoe. Larsson is a dead-ball expert and made no mistake from the free-kick. Foy was full of mistakes and none greater than ruling out for offside a goal scored by a player who received the ball in his own half. Let’s hope goal difference isn’t important at the end of the season.

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The stats will show that we dominated possession and had numerous shots on target, but while we were a little unlucky not to score when we hit the post in the first half, if truth be told, we were mostly restricted to tame shots from distance. With Jermain Defoe having scored on every debut until today, his presence in the Sunderland team kept us on edge until his departure. Hugo was imperious as ever and the captain was on hand to do what he’s paid to do in a way that Soldado has never quite managed in a Spurs shirt.

Poor old Bobby. He played well again, but the more I see him, the more he reminds me of my hapless friend Dave, who was always the only one not to get lucky in the indie discos of my youth. Time and again, we’d see Dave dancing with a girl, laughing, joking, and we all hoped against hope that tonight would be the night, but it never came. That said, it was a strong decision from Pochettino to start him, and I applaud the thinking behind it. However, Kane was less effective from his deeper position than earlier in the season, and the lack of natural width meant we were crying out for Townsend to come on far earlier than he did. It was the wide-man who provided the assist for Eriksen’s goal and he will push hard to start against West Brom when the league programme recommences.

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It was pleasing to leapfrog Arsenal with today’s win, and I’m hopeful City will consign them to a couple of weeks in our shadow on Sunday. I’ve had a look at the fixture lists for Spurs, Arsenal, United, Liverpool and Southampton in March and April. United have a terrible run of matches, with 5 out of 6 against Champions League contenders. We play just one contender during that time, while Arsenal, Liverpool and Southampton all play 3, so if we’re still in touching distance at that time, the scene could be set for us to steal up the table.

Before that, though, attention turns to the cups. Wednesday’s tie against Sheffield United is a great opportunity to get one foot in the final against either Liverpool or Chelsea. I hope Pochettino starts a strong side including the likes of Eriksen and Kane. Let’s get a good home win and then rest players for the away game. Leicester will be buoyed by the signing of a new striker, so we will have to be on form to deal with them.

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It’s been pleasing to see Pochettino make good use of the full squad this week, with surprising comebacks for Kaboul, Capoue and Adebayor. Ade ran about a lot today and looked keen to impress, and if we can’t find a mutually agreeable buyer for him, then if his poisonous side can be tempered, he’s certainly a good man to have on the bench. He’s made his bed and is third choice striker until he proves indispensable. All five centre backs were used this week as illness hit.

I personally would have started Capoue over Stambouli today, but Benji had his best game so far for the club. Admittedly, he was under practically zero pressure for long periods, so had time on the ball which he will not be afforded against teams with more ambition than Sunderland. I’ll be glad when the first choice pairing of Bentaleb and Mason are back in the first team. It’s such a pity the Algerian had to shoot off to the African Cup of Nations after bullying Fabregas for 90 minutes on New Year’s Day.

One things for sure- both players and fans are learning to be resilient under Pochettino’s tenure. We have the fitness to find the extra yard to score those late goals. It’s not good for the nerves, but when I heard Jan using the Head Coach’s buzzword “philosophy” in his post-match interview today, it cemented the belief we are moving in the right direction.

Player Ratings:

Lloris: 8 Improved distribution. His fantastic save enabled us to win.

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Walker: 5 Has gone beyond the grace period given players returning from injury. Makes bewilderingly bad decisions.

Dier: 5 Generally sound but his lack of savvy was exposed when Sunderland burst through towards the end.

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Vertonghen: 7 Excellent. Scored two good goals. Pushed forward well.

Rose: 7 A good performance, poor crossing notwithstanding.

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Dembele: 6 Solid. Has lost weight, but goes sideways more than Vinny Samways. Do we need two defensive midfielders at home against Sunderland?

Stambouli: 7 His best game for the club.

Eriksen: 7 Constantly pushing and probing. Must do more to track back when wide.

Kane: 6 Quiet by his ridiculously high standards. Could have scored.

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Chadli: 5 Anonymous. Another who needs to do more when we lose the ball.

Soldado: 6 Lovely build up play, but still all mouth and no trousers. Love him, though.

Adebayor: 6 Ran about a lot.

Townsend: 7 Width, Mauricio. It is our friend at home against the unambitious.

Paulinho: 6 Why not play a box-to-box midfielder against teams who sit back?

COYS

Harry New Year

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What a way to start the year! It was an absolute pleasure and privilege to be at the Lane to witness our dismantling of the Chelsea machine. Of course, it wouldn’t be Tottenham without some obligatory moments of comical defending on our part, and we duly obliged. But let’s stay with the positives.

We won with kids. The average age of Thursday’s team was 24. Four of the team were home-grown: Townsend (23 years old), Kane (21), Bentaleb (20) and Mason (23). How many other Premiership teams can boast this? The academy is looking good for the future. Add to this Danny Rose (23) who has been with us since he was 17, and Christian Eriksen who is 22 and we have a team that is only going to get better if they can be kept together.

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We were up against Chelsea’s best first XI. This has to give us a psychological advantage should we come up against them in the Capital One Cup Final. Sheffield United are not to be taken lightly, but we must be favourites to reach the Wembley showpiece.

We are now unbeaten in 6, having won 5, scoring 13 goals and conceding 6. I’ll admit that a little while back I couldn’t see Pochettino’s system ever working, but now I see the light. The addition of Walker at right back has provided the width we were lacking, and on the other flank Rose exploited Ivanovic’s positional weakness superbly on Thursday. The attacking four of Chadli, Eriksen, Townsend and Kane were irresistible in the first half. Townsend actually shows signs of having been coached, and is becoming a better player for it, winning us corners and throw-ins. He still needs to work on his defensive game and was rightly taken off second half, but he’s doing much better than I expected.

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Kane looks like a world-beater. It was a pleasure to see him and the front four exploit the space in between the lines time and again. Check out Spurs Fanatic’s excellent analysis for a more in-depth look.

We now go into a run of games which can definitely be described as winnable, with Burnley, Crystal Palace, Sunderland, Sheffield United twice and West Brom in January. It would be classic, frustrating Tottenham to lose some of these, but hopefully we have now got the fitness, the width and the understanding of Pochettino’s pressing game to open up teams who sit back.

It’s particularly pleasing to have seen the way the team have come together so strongly since the rumoured incident in which Kaboul, Adebayor and Capoue went over Pochettino’s head to complain to Levy after Harry Kane challenged them to play with more passion. If the rumours are true, and certainly these players’ exclusion from the first team ever since suggests they are, then it’s been a turning point for our season and has enabled the rest of the squad to commit positively to Pochettino’s methods. I’m really looking forward to seeing what 2015 has to offer Spurs now. Bring it on.

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COYS.