The art of defusing mob football
The end of days. Was meant to be yesterday. But perhaps the apocalypse doesn't actually kick off until 3pm on Saturday afternoon when Stoke visit White Hart Lane. Then again their football is hardly comparable to the intricate Maya civilisation. It's medieval at best.
Oh how we love to hate them. Their time wasting during the first half. Their irritating long ball throws and angry set-pieces. Their disruptive determination. Their stubborn ugly workman approach. It's hardly pretty. But then if they attempted beauty they'd be left with tearful mascara running down their faces. Stoke are Stoke because that's how they wish to survive from one season to the next. And it works. They frustrate and they fight. Sometimes literally with badly, borderline vindictive, tackling. Similar supposedly 'small' clubs have embraced the more tidy, silky approach. Stoke play the way they do because they choose to do so. Seems to be a far safer bet to hassle and bruise opposing sides (they're currently mid-table).
They're a unit, one with a competitive work ethic. They might not have the class but they'd walk on glass to prove (and win) a point. Can be a bloody mess for them and the opposition. I suspect this game won't be scripted by the footballing Gods as one consisting of enthralling entertainment.
Must be horrific to watch their brand of football week in week out. Bit like attempting to watch a Betamax when there's a Blu-ray available. But then your local team is exactly that. I guess there must be some pride in knowing articles like this get written about them. I'd rather see them go down (which they won't). Might save a few points each season as they like to take them from us. Etherington, the git, always seems to produce when he plays. They've got Crouch too which reeks too much of the ominous. A welcome back to Palacios. A destroyer in his first season for us until tragedy took his form away .
They are yet another side which will defend deep and test our patience. Hardly brave in attack away from home, they remain a tough proposition to break down. Which sounds like I'm describing every side that's visited the Lane this season.
Bale and Dawson should be involved. Adebayor faces a late fitness test and then hopefully he'll face ninety productive minutes on the pitch (what? it's Christmas, let a man dream). Scott Parker might get a run out as he continues to work towards full match fitness. Benny is also not that far off from returning. Who cares about Santa when the only delivery we want is three points. Would make a great buffer as we move into the two festive away games before a return to N17 in January.
No Charlie Adam (compassionate leave). Stoke (as cited) don't win much away from their home fortress and are currently on a seven match unbeaten run. We are still in search for a 'perfect' afternoon of our own. Last week was dominant in terms of possession. We created almost 30 chances (mostly half chances) but had several blocked. We'd be looking back at a far different result had a few of them gone in. Instead, 1-0 makes it a far more risky occasion, especially when playing out the final 10 minutes of the match.
Stoke will no doubt want the game to be tight all the way into the depths of the second half. Best way to deal with those nervous end-game minutes is to be out of sight by the time we get there.
Simply put, Tottenham have to build on last week with additional cutting edge. Dictate tempo, retain the ball and use pace on the flanks and guile through the middle. Pretty much the standard hope I have for any given weekend. Key battles? Sandro versus all of them. Dembele and the space he might have/not have in the middle and when attempting to get forward. The movement of Defoe/Adebayor against Stoke's back four. Our defence will have to retain focus for any punctured attack they might succeed in asserting on us. Especially from dead ball kicks. A Parker cameo would aid immensely in the latter stages. Lloris will be kept relatively busy. Probably won't have any trouble knocking Crouch out if the scenario presented itself.
The key might well be selection (especially at the back). I smell rotation which is to be expected this time of year.
Don't let them and their mannerisms influence the flow of the game. Two first half goals for the home side might breed enough confidence and further expression to rock expectancy and produce something clean and crisp compared to the dirty and choppy norm. What's that you're shouting at me? They've enjoyed eight clean sheets already this season? Oh. I am asking for too much then. May as well bask in positives in the pre-match before the reality of the actual match kicks in.
Don't let them mug us Tottenham. Spark 'em out before they can throw a punch. If there is to be an apocalypse, let it by virtue of a Lilywhite rapture.