|DATE||Sunday 11th May 2014|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
final game of the season with little hanging on it for either team
than playing for three points, which will not improve the previous
114 they have contested since the start of the campaign back in
August. For the men leading the teams, it is a different
matter, as both have their futures to play for ... whether with or
without them being at the present club.
While others are attempting to win the league title, Spurs are clinging to the hope that they will get Europa League football. Important for no other reason than you can attract those up and coming players or ones who were Champions League players, rather than the prospect of nothing more than the League Cup to look forward to. Manchester United are the only team who can deprive us of that avenue of European football, but despite Spurs losing to West Ham United last week, Man U could only succeed in losing at home to Sunderland. While all the teams at the top of the PL claim they are not favourites to win it, teams are doing everything possible not to qualify for the EL.
With Ledley King's testimonial ... sorry, I mean the World Cup coming up, players will not be wanting to pick up last day injury that rules them out of the tournament. Christian Benteke has unfortunately befallen that already and will miss the trip to Brazil with knee ligament damage. A number of other Villa players are sidelined with injury, leading to Paul Lambert playing some of the younger members of the squad at Manchester City on Wednesday night. They lost there 0-4, but many teams have done so this season.
They have some decent young players, but maybe not a huge amount of experience in the side to bed them in alongside. It is that blend that needs to be achieved, but with a limited budget Paul Lambert has found it difficult at times to get the balance right. Joe Bennett and Matthew Lowton are adventurous full backs, with pace and energy, but are still a little raw, leaving chances to be exploited by wide men. This can leave them exposed to fast breaks and with Ron Vlaar, a solid but less than speedy central defender, with the home-grown Ciaran Clark or Nathan Baker partnering him, they both have the propensity to cock up, so the pressure might build on them if Tottenham can maintain a tempo and push into the Villa half. On loan from Chelsea Ryan Bertrand is an option at full back, with Alan Hutton and Enda Stevens both returning from loans in the Championship both available, but perhaps unlikely to be used.
Without Benteke up top, the goal-scoring chart looks a little thin, with Andreas Weimann and Leandro Bacuna both on five, then Gabriel Agbonlahor on four. Goals have been a problem, but that might be one Spurs can solve, as we seem only too keen to give goals away this season ... even to teams like West Ham. Weimann is a mobile striker, who has a keen attitude, with Agbonlahor more pacy compared to the Austrian, who finds his positions by stealth rather than speed. Rather than start with these two, Lambert will probably go with a face that is familiar to him, with Grant Holt starting, to try to unsettle the Spurs defence. It could be a tactic that has benefits, but Dawson and Chiriches need to have learned from last week's debacle at Upton Park. Kaboul is missing with the suspension for getting sent off against West Ham United, leaving resources thin in the middle of the back four.
Bacuna is a midfielder, but most of his goals have come from a dead ball rather than a moving one. The Dutch midfielder is a hard-working player, who gets up to support the attack, but again, he might be in the wrong position when Spurs manage a break. Fabian Delph has probably had his best season for Villa, but he is a shadow of the player who broke onto the scene with Leeds United, but eh is another capable of covering a lot of ground and finishing moves off in the box, but he does have a vicious streak in him, which could count against Villa. With Gardner and Albrighton doubtful, the manager might be minded to select youngster Jack Grealish alongside Kharim El Ahmadi. The former is a player who had a big impact on loan at Notts County, helping them avoid relegation, while the latter is another Dutch midfielder, who might have not been the best by the club have ever made. Ashley Westwood is likely to feature, as he is a creative left footer, who can also find the net, but tackling is not always his forte. Australian Chris Herd is another busy midfielder and Yacoub Sylla tried to be a ball-winner, having Aleksandar Tonev, the Bulgarian winger outside him, but he is yet to find a regular place in the team.
So, lots of promise in the Villa ranks, but it has not come together this season and the fans who fill the Holte End will hope that it does next season, because they have flirted with relegation far too closely this time around.
I reckon that all that is certain about the Spurs side is that Sandro won't be in it and young attacking midfielder Alex Pritchard will make his debut at some stage of proceedings. With players who were on loan to Championship clubs, there might be places on the bench for Jon Obika and Ryan Fredericks. But whatever happens by the time the final whistle goes, Supply Teacher Sherwood will definitely be on his way. The only mystery will be who replaces him and so another summer of speculation to be followed by another season of transition is on the cards for Tottenham Hotspur fans.
Enjoy the break !!
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 Aston Villa 1|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Andros Townsend (ankle surgery), Jan Vertonghen (ankle), Erik Lamela (back) Kyle Walker (pelvis), Nacer Chadli (hip) and Mousa Dembele (ankle) are all out of the last match of the season. Etienne Capoue (ankle) is hopeful of making an appearance. Younes Kaboul serves his one match ban for getting sent off last week.
ASTON VILLA TEAM NEWS :
Christian Benteke is out with a knee ligament injury and Joe Bennett (ankle), Gary Gardner (ankle), Nikolas Helenius (thigh), Libor Kozak (broken leg) and Charles N'Zogbia (shin) are all joining him on the injured list. Marc Albrighton (groin) and Gabriel Agbonlahor (knee) are hopeful of recovering in time to play.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
in these countries on these stations ...
Aston Villa 0 (0)
Sunday 11th May 2014 Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Baker (o.g.) 35
Adebayor (p) 37
Naughton (foul on Weimann) 73
|Crowd : 35,826||Weather : Sunny, chilly breeze|
|Referee : Jon Moss (West Yorkshire)||Assistant Referees : S. Long; Mr. L. Betts|
|Fourth Official : Andy Woolmer||-|
|Aston Villa kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.|
|Game time : - 90 + 4 minutes.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||Aston Villa :||kit|
Gylfi SIGURDSSON (39
7 Leandro BACUNA (37
|Manager : Tim Sherwood||Manager : Paul Lambert|
|Sponsor : Hewlett Packard||Shirt sponsor : dafabet|
|Kit Supplier : Under Armour||Kit Supplier : Macron|
With the party atmosphere in full effect in the Aston Villa end, the laid back end of season approach spread to their players, with Spurs running up a 3-0 score-line in the first half and then relaxed back into training session mode for the second half. Villa fans for their part created a noisy (if somewhat self-critical) exhibition during the proceedings, cheering every effort on goal, no matter how far off target.
Taking until the 80th minute to hit the target and even then, forcing Hugo Lloris to a less than routine save, Villa were one of the poorest sides to come to the Lane this season, showing how Tottenham have missed a great opportunity to jump into the top four, leaving Liverpool to grab that spot. However, the team were reasonably professional today in going about their business and getting three goals ahead to seal the remaining Europa League spot ahead of Manchester United, who could only draw at Southampton and thus miss out on European football for the first time since 1990. This could mean a July start to the EL campaign, with the preliminary round to be negotiated before qualifying, but the thin gruel of this competition comes as a sustenance on missing out on the top four.
Sandro was a surprise inclusion in the Spurs side following his Twitter spat with the manager, but with Aaron Lennon missing, the side looked narrow in it's composition, with Sigurdsson and Eriksen nominally the wide men. Chiriches came in for the suspended Kaboul and Kane continued alongside Adebayor up front. As for Villa, they included a youngster up front in Leigh Bowery (who I thought was a deceased 1980s performance artist) to partner Andreas Weimann, with Gabriel Agbonlahor dropping back into midfield.
With little riding on the game, it was not surprising that the teams were perhaps less important than the managers, both of whose positions were less than stable. Paul Lambert was losing the faith of the fans, while Tim Sherwood's spell of keeping the seat warm for the next incumbent (whoever that might be) was coming to an end.
A quick start had been missing from Tottenham's play for much of the season. With Villa looking as though they had come to prevent a defeat than to win the points, Spurs began by trying to play balls slid through the Villains back four, but Guzan was sweeping up well by coming out to grab a through ball before our forwards could get to it. Kane got a header on a cross, but it went straight to the keeper, before Rose fired an effort into the top tier of the Park Lane, then Kane was onto Adebayor's low ball to the near post from the right wing and Guzan dived at his feet to save and the ball bounced off Kane for a goal-kick.
Agbonlahor got involved with Michael Dawson who responded to being pushed over by the Villa forward ... and not for the first time in the match. The striker appears to have lost a considerable amount of pace from his early impact on the Premier League, perhaps earning him the tag as the "New Darius Vassell". Not damned by faint praise, but damned by no praise.
Then a finely crafted passing move opened the way for Paulinho to open the scoring with 14 minutes gone. Paulinho, Eriksen and Sigurdsson linked well to pass the ball into the penalty area, where it hit Kane and Paulinho ran in to draw a save from Brad Guzan, but the keeper would not hold the ball and the Brazilian midfielder tucked the loose ball into an unguarded net from inside the six yard box. After a season of waiting, Spurs had finally scored within the first fifteen minutes of a Premier League match.
Just a minute later, Paulinho might have had a second, with Naughton's slick pass putting him in on the right side of the box, but his shot went across the goal and wide. In an unusual event, when Villa had an effort on goal, with Agbonlahor heading over from Weimann's flick on from a corner. Back at the other end, Kane's low cross came off Baker and Guzan had to stretch to tip it over the bar, before the defender did even better in the 35th minute. With an Eriksen cross being blocked out, Danny Rose picked up the ball on the left and crossed into the goal-mouth. As Adebayor went in for the ball, Nathan Baker got a head to the ball and thumped it past his own keeper to double Tottenham's lead.
Within a couple of minutes, the gap was beyond Villa. Kane was put through by Eriksen and was through on goal, but was denied by a last ditch tackle. Ironically, Spurs fans had appealed for handball against a Villa player, which brought mocking calls of "handball !" from every touch thereafter. However, when Eriksen's corner was pulled back to Sandro outside the box, his shot might not have been hitting the target, but Agbonlahor turned his back and his elbow stopped the ball's passage towards goal and Moss whistled for a penalty. Emmanuel Adebayor stepped up and rifled the ball high into Guzan's goal, straight down the middle.
"Sacked in the morning", the Villa fans sang ... but to who ?? Followed by "Rich in the morning !!" The rich irony of a large pay-off for your own incompetency makes the Financial Fair Play scheme look foolish in the extreme.
With the game heading towards the half-time whistle, Sandro lifted a high ball into the box from a cleared corner and Michael Dawson rose majestically and hung in the air to power a free-kick goal-wards. As the ball looked as tough it was going in the goal just inside Guzan's left hand post, he dived to tip the ball wide and save Villa going in even further behind.
There was the weird sight of a Star Wars Stormtrooper, a penguin, Father Time, Bo Peep, some traffic cones and various bananas all claiming that we were not very good as we were only winning 3-0. Gallows humour has been hanging in the air at Villa Park for some considerable time. That is why, at half-time, a great irony arose when the ex-Spurs players to be interviewed were Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa. Their first home match after signing for the club was against Aston Villa and the Midlanders turned us over 4-1. This was shortly before Villa became champions of Europe, wearing the same style of shirts as their successors did today. Not the same class of players and perhaps the decision to wear fancy dress by the fans (and however outrageous it was) proved lightly less embarrassing than being seen in a Villa shirt.
The second half was half-paced and half-arsed. Neither side attacked with much vigour; Spurs because they didn't have to; Villa because they couldn't. Up until along passing movement late in the second half that ended in a shot by Delph that was saved by Lloris in the 80th minute, the previous longest spell of possession by the visitors was when the ball went into the Park Lane away section and the fans wouldn't give it back.
There was little to get excited about, but referee Moss was a stickler for where the ball went off for a throw-in, while ignoring a two footed jump tackle by Lowton, when he had given a free-kick (presumably for intent) against Chirches, who produced a sliding tackle that kept his feet on the floor and failed to make contact with the Villa player he was challenging. Such feats of mind-reading by officials is something special, because having seen the videos of the Romanian defender when he is not playing (and he won't be after the remaining 27 minutes left of this match) the level of intent appears to be limited to the inside of a bar and possibly a beach with his girlfriend.
Moss excelled himself though, when a long ball forward saw Harry Kane in a foot race to get to it before the advancing Guzan. The American keeper was well out of his area and as Kane touched the ball first and it hit Guzan, the keeper then crashed into the Spurs forward and claimed a head injury, but had the presence of mind to fall over the ball, without hand-balling it. As Spurs players closed on him to try and kick the ball from under him, Moss blew his whistle and pointed for a Villa free-kick. The ref only then consulted his assistant and having explained it to Michael Dawson, the Spurs skipper turned away with a look of extreme disgust on his face.
Spurs failed to test the keeper again, even though there was 25 minutes left. They were happier to keep the ball with Adebayor dropping back to just in front of the back four to exchange passes with Dawson. Not that this deterred Tottenham from trying to make a game of it by regularly passing straight to claret and blue shirts. They were perhaps safe in the knowledge that once in possession of the ball, they would not be able to hurt Spurs with it.
Sherwood actually got someone else to do the task of being the seat-warmer towards the end, by dragging a fan out of his seat in the crowd who had been imparting advice to the Spurs Head Coach for the duration of his tenure. The fan took it well and played it well, perhaps expounding his right to be the Spurs manager with a 100% win ratio making him the best manager at the club ever !!
With added time running out, El Ahmadi got an elbow into Danny Rose's head just as the final whistle went and escaped as he had done twice before in the game for late tackles. It seemed that all Villa had to play for was taking Spurs players out as and when they could, with Adebayor a target.
The lap of honour was once not clouded by which player might be off in the summer, with Sherwood the prime suspect for that (dis)honour. Of the others, it was nice to see the team spirit amongst them and to see Erik Lamela, looking slightly bemused by it all, but hopefully he will be back for more next season. As many of us will ... despite it all.
Keep the faith.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Manchester City||2||West Ham United||0||Sunday|
|West Bromwich Albion||1||Stoke City||2||Sunday|
|13||West Ham United||39||11||7||20||40||51||40||-11|
|17||West Bromwich Albion||38||7||15||16||43||59||36||-16|
Position before match :
Position after match : 6th
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