Having foolishly made promises about being back in the game for good, Tea and Crumpets dragged itself south just in time for the start of a tough December slog comprising Tottenham, Manchester City, Chelsea, enforced seasonal cheer, and a spot of maudlin introspection as the end of another calendar year loomed. Devon crab with Italian trifola d'Alba stuffed with Beluga caviar and dressed in gold leaf helped to pass the time on a cool afternoon in North London and raise the mood ever so slightly as we got right down to business with Uncle Menno of Cartilage Free Captain…
T&C: After a squad overhaul that saw more than £100M headed in either direction and a massive influx of big name talent to replace the departed Gareth Bale, how exactly is it that Tottenham have become so damn boring? Paulinho, Soldado, Lamela—boring. Holtby, Eriksen, Townsend—boring. The fewest goals scored by any side in the top half; less than half the goals of any side currently in the top four; and all along with a distinctly average goals against record. If this steaming pile of dull keeps up, just how likely is Daniel Levy to call in one Harry Redknapp's dogs from Monaco to replace Villas-Boas come summer? And are fans starting to wonder if the club may have misspent the winnings from their giant Welsh lotto ticket?
CFC: Boring? Really? The football may be dour, torpid, flat, and languorous, but as a Spurs fan, the abject terror of potentially losing to sides such as Fulham and Hull in a season where many expected a push for the league title can hardly be called “boring.” But I do see your point. More often than not, Spurs have been shambolic. We’re not sure at this point how much to attribute to players underachieving, how much to Andre Villas-Boas’ perplexing lineup choices and tactical decisions, and how much to sheer dumb luck. It’s probably a combination of all three. And hey, we got seven players in for the price of one Welsh superstar! That’s, like, a bargain, man—like putting in a dollar and getting back seven dimes.
Though really, I like the players we signed. If you would’ve told me last spring that we’d start the season with Paulinho, Roberto Soldado, and Erik Lamela, I’d have gnawed Luis Suarez’ right forearm off. Nacer Chadli has been a solid option as a defense-minded winger, and Christian Eriksen has the potential to be that impact creative number ten we so desperately need. Vlad Chiriches has helped solidify the back line, and Etienne Capoue has been impressive in his injury shortened campaign as backup DM.
So insert mollifying platitudes about new signings needing to gel here. And it’s the truth, really. Yes, we’re underperforming, but statistically, our terribad conversion rate should eventually revert to the mean, and we’ve actually scored two goals in TWO CONSECUTIVE GAMES! Progress! Or it could just be that AVB has no idea what he’s doing. Let’s not discount that entirely.
T&C: Lord Sugar, former chairman and roosters standing on basketballs aficionado, has publicly criticised the manager. The manager in turn has suggested there's something of an agenda to undermine him, and further claims he's being treated differently than the two Manchester managers who have at times struggled this season. Other than the whole bit where Tottenham are playing some really boring football despite a boatload of attacking signings and so it's hardly surprising some might start to grumble or ask questions, would the most ridiculously monikered Lord in all of the British Isles humming a few bars of "Sacked in the Morning" have made Villas-Boas feel he was getting more even treatment with the rightfully derided David Moyes?
CFC: Let’s get one thing straight first off: while Lord Sugar is the yin to Piers Morgan’s yang—or perhaps the "win" to Piers Morgan's... never mind—they’re both equal parts of the same obnoxious and overexposed symbol. Ask a Spurs fan about Lord Sugar and you’re more likely to get a double-fisted wanker sign than an eloquent response to Sugar's time in charge at White Hart Lane. So in that sense, you can understand how our first-team coach’s recent comments smacking down our dear departed former chairman was met by a rousing chorus of “OHHHHH SNAP!” in the Cartilage Free Captain writer’s room.
Honestly, though, I think that there are a number of prominent journalists in the British media who have had the knives out for Villas-Boas since his days at Chelsea. It’s fascinating to see the attacks from the likes of David Hytner and Neil Ashton over perceived personality issues and post interview spin jobs when there are so many legitimate tactical issues to criticize. Choose one: his continued insistence on trying to make a Dembele-Paulinho double pivot work, the strange substitutions, the rigidity of structure that has hampered Spurs’ movement in the box and frustrated Roberto Soldado. You don’t even have to try hard! It’s curious though that AVB has been under the gun while leading Spurs to a point higher point total than at this point last season, while David Moyes “just needs more time” at United.
T&C: Before going any further, Tea and Crumpets would just like to take the opportunity to thank Tottenham for making it so Liverpool only have the second most embarrassing change kit in the Premier League this season. For supporters, though, it must be a worry. First owner Joe Lewis privatised, delisting Tottenham from the Alternative Investment Market in 2012, and now this. Are there any new insults in store for the club's most loyal supporters just in time for the holiday season?
CFC: Okay, wait a second. I just want enjoy the irony of a supporter of a club that has a freakin’ game of Tetris on its current change jersey and featured Maori tattoos on a purple and orange scheme last season is pointing and laughing at our eye-catching cyan away kits. Let’s pause for just take a moment to savor this. Mmmm, yep. Beautiful irony. Keep going. Hold it. Hoooooooooold iiiiiiiiiit.
Okay, let’s continue. I want to be clear here. I got a good long look at Spurs’ away uniforms at UnderArmor’s kit reveal in August and, once the afterimage seared into my retinas cleared and I could see again, I discovered I actually liked them! And I do! I love the super cyans. Now, nobody’s going to mistake me for a fashion expert. I’m a Yank who has a hipster-like fascination with vintage bad football jerseys and who would give his left nipple to get ahold of one of the old Norwich City “birdshit kits," and I’ve been known to speak warmly of not only Tottenham’s 2009 home kits with the yellow accents, but also the infamous “chocolate brown” third kits from 2006. But still, isn’t a Liverpool blog calling out Spurs’ kits a little like Sunderland calling Crystal Palace shit?
Besides, I think we can both agree that Swansea’s purple and yellow change kit is a visual depiction of an epileptic seizure and well worth both of our scorn.
T&C: Everybody loves Tetris; eye searing is another matter; and Swansea may just have the edge. In any case, the barnyard flavour many associate with lamb isn't inherent to the meat. Rather it comes from lanolin—the waxy, waterproof coat beneath the wool. While lamb is always going to be a more gamey meat than beef, particularly when the animals graze, those finding their early forays into lamb unpleasant are likely to have been presented with the meat of a wool-first animal, as breeds with the most lanolin inevitably produce the best wool. There have always been breeds with little lanolin—and which generally also produce more meat in addition to it carrying a less overpowering flavour—but historically it has been breeds that produce the best wool that have been favoured.
This can make lamb a bit of a guessing game, though of the world's two largest exporters, lamb from New Zealand mostly comes from wool-first animals while Australia's doesn't. This is due to a decrease in wool demand in the later stages of the 20th century that led Australia to focus on meat production and breed low lanolin traits into their herds. In any case, if Spurs are intent on doing all they can to ensure a quiet, orderly crowd, perhaps the supporters' unions could look into knitting Hugo Lloris a fluffy wool unitard. It would help keep him warm over the winter, which would be nice for him, while also making him look more llama-like and keeping the fans caught up doing something other than singing and cheering. So everybody wins, really.
CFC: I think you’re giving French sheep short shrift here—the world wouldn’t know of rocquefort cheese without the influence of the Lacaune breed from southern France, and Roussin and Charoullet routinely find themselves on the tables of some of the world's finest restaurants. Naturally, then, Hugo Lloris would not be a stranger to the wonders of low-lanolin lamb, nor would he be entirely unprepared for English winters. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he already wears French wool stockings under his boots to combat the bracing English cold while dining on a half-rack during the pre-game meal. Also, since he’s both French and superhuman, he would have a natural resistance to the elements.
But really, you’re asking the wrong question here. You should be asking your starting striker how he feels about the taste of meat and the various factors that affect the flavor. You might also ask him specifically about the taste of French goalkeeper , though I’m not certain he's tasted that particular delicacy—yet. Though there’s still time, and this particular match on Sunday is likely to be one that both players and fans can really sink our teeth into.
T&C: And finally, because it's been the question on fans' lips for most of the past year, is there any chance somebody will figure out where Kyle Walker left his brain before kickoff on Sunday?
CFC: This makes me very sad. There’s this persistent zombie “truthy” factoid in Premier League circles that Kyle Walker is a mental midget track star freak of nature who probably gets put on the power-generating treadmill inside White Hart Lane before and after the weekend matches. Eighteen months ago, I’d agree with you that Kyle Walker was frightfully, even shockingly dumb at times, but that’s just not the case anymore. In fact, I think Kyle Walker has been not only one of our most improved players over the past year, but has put in some truly remarkable performances for us.
He’s dramatically improved his defensive positioning and his football intelligence, and he continues to add some nuance to his bombing runs into the final third. Now, you’d never catch me saying that he’s one of the best right backs in the league—he’s not. He’s a good, young English fullback who’s on the upward trajectory of his career. I thought he was marvellous against Sunderland last Saturday, and if he keeps improving at the rate that he has over the course of the last year, then he could turn into a very, very good player indeed. If you’re Kieran Gibbs—and, really, who isn’t?—don’t you get a wee bit scared when you see either Walker or Aaron Lennon running full-tilt toward you with the ball at their feet? Plus, Walker can put in a tidy cross, and every so often he does something like this.
But please, continue to underestimate Kyle Walker! In fact, forget I said anything. He’s shit. Next question?
T&C: John Flanagan will certainly be happy to hear he's terrible, as if that hadn't been the case Liverpool might have been in for a spot of bother on the left flank come Sunday. As for Uncle Menno and Tottenham, Tea and Crumpets would like to take the chance to thank them for their time before wishing them the best of luck the rest of the way. So long as they don't have such good fortune as to find themselves ahead of Liverpool in the final table, at least. Enough luck to beat Arsenal, Chelsea, and the Manchester clubs while dropping points just about everywhere else, though, would be quite thoroughly welcome.