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Correspondent James' current form on the keyboard is almost as good as Gareth Bale's current form on the pitch:
There was a ton of tension and drama last night as Spurs took on West Ham at Upton Park. Of course, West Ham's home is one of those wonderful old English football stadiums like White Hart Lane. And there was a nice pre-game tribute to England hero and former Hammer Sir Bobby Moore. And there was Spurs desperately needing three points to maintain their four point gap on Arsenal, and West Ham needing the three points to help stay up.
Of course, in the midst of all of that, it may be unnecessary but nevertheless important to note, the fans of the respective clubs hate each other. The Hammers, in the panoply of Spurs' bitterest rivals, are somewhere just behind Arsenal and juggling with Chelsea for second place, depending upon which of the two clubs’ retrograde Neanderthal groups of fans has lodged the most recent round of gas chamber hissing, Nazi salutes or other assorted anti-Semitic abuses at Spurs fans.
Yes - we do hate the Spammers. And with a North London derby approaching in only six days’ time, the aforementioned perilous four point gap over Arsenal, the fortuitous opportunity to hop Chelsea into third with three points, the ESPN commentary of the inane Steve McManaman and the incredibly pedestrian play of Spurs' midfield (and by "pedestrian" I mean literally walking - Spurs midfield has been walking) yesterday's match shaped up to be an all-around rant inducing stress-fest for this correspondent.
It did not disappoint. For Spurs fortunes were once again saved by the Greatest Player In The World™ with two more simply ridiculous long range strikes balanced between a garbage goal picked up by someone not named Bale: the seemingly resurgent Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Hammers' goals came in ways that were almost as maddening as the horrific play in Spurs' midfield in the first half. The recently lambasted Scott Parker stupidly slid into Andy Carrol in the box and the same obligingly slotted the ball into the top left corner of the goal on the ensuing free kick. And, mid-way through the 2nd half, West Ham burned Spurs' high line in a shambolic display not seen since late summer with Joe Cole of all people punching an angled shot past Hugo Lloris into the far corner. This put West Ham up 2-1, and with Jussi Jasskelainen making incredible saves under waves of pressure from Spurs, this correspondent was left thinking of other recent and painful Spurs’ February collapses.
But wait – were the words “waves of pressure from Spurs” just uttered in the preceding paragraph? “Waves” – “pressure” - “Spurs.” Wow – haven’t said those words in that order in quite a while. That pressure would thankfully, enable us to avoid the historic collapse – at least for today. We have, as usual, Bale to thank for that, but also – to a large extent – some sort of inexplicable but wonderful change in the 2nd half with one Scott Parker and the rest of Spurs’ midfield transition game.
In the first half – as has been the case for weeks – Spurs' agonizingly slow build up worked like this: get the ball, dribble ten yards or so, stop, dribble a little more, stop, maybe do a pirouette or three, stop, pass the ball backwards, start over, eventually cede possession, fans beat own heads on table, repeat. But at the intermission, someone (AVB?) wound up the Scotty Parker doll, who started rushing forward with the sort of purposeful speed and intensity not seen since pre-Achilles injury.
Hopefully, we’ve turned a corner with the RAF Captain. While he will never make plays with his passing, his runs created gaps in the Hammers' defense that opened opportunities that Spurs capitalized upon the second half. This was the case not only with Bale, but with Sigurdsson as well, whose introduction in place of Louis Holtby (who just looks lost right now) was the other paradigm shifting event in this entertaining – and thankfully – victorious match.
All is not solved by any means. We are still wondering if Adebayor will ever get consistent service. We are still wondering if we ever will have any threat (or activity of any kind) on the left now that Bale is positioning himself pretty consistently in the center. We are still wondering who will score when Bale’s form inevitably dips. We are still wondering if the monumental showdown with Arsenal, looming on Sunday, will reawaken the 2012 February demons. But, all that aside, Spurs sit third – and we’ll take that happily.
This is farlieonfootie for February 26.