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Drink it in
Nearly there! I’m walking to work with preview podcasts in my ears!
I’ve got tomorrow’s multi-channel multi-sensory experience all planned. Soccer Saturday on mute, 5Live on the radio, text feeds on my iPad. So much football, a veritable digital intravenous drip of football, I am going to be off my f**king mash on football.
Can. Not. Wait.
Stu (of course the sun is back out, it knows) London
…Finally, it’s about to go down.
Bring it on…COYG.
Big weekend’s little brother is back
Arsenal vs Leicester City
We’ve been here before. Arsenal have now won three out of the last four Community Shields (eat your heart out, José), but that no longer makes for optimism. What would help more is a win on the opening day at the Emirates, which has seen three such losses in the last four years. Alexis Sanchez and possibly Mesut Özil will be missing, so we may get the same attacking setup as against Chelsea. At least three at the back should match up well against Leicester’s two strikers. For the Foxes, Kelechi Iheanacho is getting up to speed, but even if he’s ready, Craig Shakespeare might start with the harrying Shinji Okazaki behind Jamie Vardy. A great story is the return to form of long-injured Matty James, who should start next to Wilfred Ndidi in central midfield. You know exactly how this game will be played, so the only question mark is the result.
West Bromwich Albion vs Bournemouth
They’re not very happy in Baggietown these days, with transfer business at a standstill and Tony Pulis’ winter halo having long melted away. Meanwhile Bournemouth got their business done early and have their deepest squad yet. Reports say Jermain Defoe is fit to start, and last year’s standout Josh King will probably slot in behind him. Eddie Howe has several choices to make: keeper (Artur Boruc or Asmir Begovic), central midfield (Andrew Surman or Lewis Cook), wing (two of Marc Pugh, Ryan Fraser, and a resurgent Jordon Ibe). There won’t be any surprises in West Brom’s lineup (although Gareth McAuley might not be ready), and most eyes will be on Jay Rodriguez, who certainly looked back to form in preseason. In four Premier League meetings, Albion have yet to record a clean sheet against the Cherries, but last year this fixture was won by the home side 2-1.
Crystal Palace vs Huddersfield Town
The game of the round, a fascinating match between two European managers new to the league. David Wagner’s Terriers love to press, but how aggressive will they be away to a decent side, particularly one with pace? Will Frank de Boer’s possession-oriented 3-4-3 make enough use of Christian Benteke? The 4-2-3-1 will give Huddersfield the extra man in midfield, so Ruben Loftus-Cheek, who has looked good in preseason, will be severely tested. Speaking of Chelsea loanees and midfield advantage, Kasey Palmer will be the Terrier most likely to find space in the attack. In preseason Jason Puncheon has played some beside Loftus-Cheek, with Luka Milivojevic dropping into the back line, not his natural position. Potential outstanding matchups at both ends: Benteke against Mathias Jorgensen (known as Zanka), Steve Mounié against Jairo Riedewald. Find a (legal) stream of this one.
Peter G, Pennsylvania, USA
Spurs are playing a dangerous game
I’m not going to get into the whole argument of who is better out of United and Spurs – it’s pointless at this stage of the season, let’s review that after they’ve played each other and at the end of the season, eh? But I would just like to say that Spurs are playing a very dangerous game. They are attempting to build a house of cards based on a foundation of assuming that their players are all happy to stay. Spurs’ insistence on doing things their way is the thing that is going to hamper them the most, in my opinion. Arsenal were regularly accused of trying to score the perfect goal, passing up opportunities for scrappy goals and tap-ins and dropping points in the process, and I feel that this is what Spurs are doing with their squad.
They have a group of players who really are exceptional, but they are banking on the good faith of those players and their insistence that success is coming being enough to sustain them, while they watch their peers at other clubs earn more and win more. Basically, they are asking an assembled group of players to become a team of Matt Le Tissiers. Purchased players rarely have that kind of loyalty for long. I’d expect Harry Kane will be one of the last to leave if success doesn’t come soon, but any Spurs fans expecting Totti levels of loyalty from the like of Alderweireld, Wanyama, Rose, Dembele, Alli, or Eriksen are a little naive at best. Do you really think either Eriksen or Alli would turn down the chance to join Real Madrid or Barcelona in favour of staying at Spurs if they don’t convert this potential into actual success soon? How long do you think Harry Kane is going to be happy earning less than Ashley Young if he’s not even winning medals in the meantime?
It seems that Spurs have determined that investing in a new stadium is the way to propel them into the highest echelons of football, but I fear they have made a mistake here. You don’t need a big, brand new stadium to be a big club, and having a big, brand new stadium isn’t going to suddenly make you a big club; winning and success are far better ways of achieving this. In my opinion they would have been better off breaking their wage structure for a season or two and signing a couple of truly high quality players – not potential, but peak players – and taking that final step to winning the league. They haven’t been far off these past two years and it wouldn’t take much to take that final (admittedly relatively expensive) step to bridging the gap. Worry about the stadium later, win the league first. But maybe I’ve over-simplifying it?
What Rose said in September
In light of the Danny Rose story, just thought I’d share what he said when he renewed his contract. In September:
“Everyone knows the club is going in the right direction and I’m over the moon that I’ve earned a new contract that will keep me here until I’m an old man! We all want to go out and prove that last season wasn’t a one-off with us finishing third. Right now I’m so happy. I’m settled here – I’m slowly turning into a southerner! I hope I can stay here for a very long time and see where it takes me but at the minute I wouldn’t wish for anything more than to play for Spurs for the rest of my career.”
What a lovely chap he is. If I was Pochettino I’d be absolutely livid. He was bang average before Poch turned up, and this is how he gets repaid for all his help – all this from a guy who spent a fair part of last season injured.
He’s clearly all about money, and I understand how it can look unfair when others get more than him. But there are ways of going about it without looking like a tempestuous t**t.
So now we *want* players to get paid more?
This wages thing. When did it flip in the media? When did they decide to pick the ball up and run with it, to the point where some seem actively campaigning for players to be paid even more than they are already, or to push for moves?
This seems like an overtly emotional opening remark for a mail but it’s a pertinent one.
Tottenham are a club that for a long time, have recognised that they need to grow their revenue in order to compete at the top table when it comes to wages and transfers. It’s no secret. Liverpool understand this – they looked at relocating to Stanley Park but instead opted for the painstaking process of trying to buy land around the existing ground and have extended their main stand. Arsenal, when under the expert tutelage of David Dein, who begrudgingly as a Tottenham supporter, was an excellent Chief Executive that got stuff done, got the Emirates was built. Chelsea are building a new ground. We could go on all day.
But back to Tottenham…
It has taken years to acquire the land, get the planning permission and to get the stadium on it’s way and we’re sitting here now, just 12 months away from opening, with a year at Wembley in the meantime. The ‘current’ stadium was something like the 10th largest in the country and it’s arguably our location, history and limited prestige that has enabled us to become the 6th biggest club in the land in spite of this. In the years where we’ve been ‘coming up’, pretty much since back in 05/06 under Martin Jol, the game as a whole, as in football in England, has remained pretty financially stable, bar a couple of anomalies like Manchester City spending millions.
This last summer, things seem to have reached critical point and I feel we’re at a crossroads with the game we all love. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that I’m a supporter of a club that bullies smaller clubs into selling players. I’m not pretending Spurs aren’t part of the problem in our own right to some extent, but when you look at the transfer window and the wages players are now demanding, we are certainly nearer to the lesser clubs in the league in terms of our ability to ‘pay the going rate’. In years gone by we’d see headlines of ‘greedy’ players demanding a kings ransom. We’ve seen dollar signs shoehorned into $amir Na$ri’s name for example, and ‘Cashley Cole’ and by and large, the press have provided a consistent stiff breeze behind fan discontent.
This now seems to have changed. The narrative throughout last season, which seems to have gone turbo this summer and driven by what I call ‘the transfer press’, BT Sport and Sky pundits, SSN and tabloid hacks who are sympathetic to the bigger clubs, is ‘Spurs don’t pay their players enough…they need to pay the going rate’. Whilst there is some truth to it, the simple fact is, we can’t afford to pay what these players are worth, due to the insane inflation generated by Europe’s sugar daddy elite clubs. Tottenham can probably afford, even within their current constraints, to increase their wage bill by around 50%, no problem. But what would be the point? We need to increase it by 150% in order to pay our players what the other big clubs could and would pay them.
What is quite sad, and I’m brutally aware that there will be fans of other clubs that will or won’t share my view in this instance, is that the Premier League markets itself, with support from football media, on being a competition that any number of teams can win, a highly competitive entity, but at the same time, turns it’s back on this borderline offensive orgy of spending. Liverpool are in a similar position to Tottenham and are having similar problems – they’re being told to pay £75m for a Bundesliga player with one good season under his belt and are going into next season arguably no stronger than the last season despite qualifying for Europe. It is affecting clubs near the top of the game, clubs with history, clubs that have grown organically through hard work, and blood sweat and tears. This isn’t good for ‘the product’ in my view.
Danny Rose made the point in ‘THAT’ interview, that he doesn’t want Spurs to sign players he has to google. It’s a funny quip, and a quite clear dig at the hierarchy of the club, but not only can Spurs not really afford these non-Google players in the current market, but the club he’s playing at has been largely built on taking players with potential and improving them. I didn’t know who he was when we signed him. I didn’t know much about Kyle Walker either. Or Eric Dier. Eriksen, Vertonghen et al were playing in the Eredivisie. Even players we’ve bought from top European clubs were players who couldn’t get in their side or had outgrown the league, in Alderweireld and Lloris respectively. Our best player is a youth product.
When I see a player moaning that he ‘isn’t being paid what he’s worth’ when he signed a contract extension on improved terms in September 2016, along with a slew of others at the club in the last two years, and has spent the last 6 months injured, it annoys me, it’s fair to say. We as a club try to incentivise players and although Levy has a reputation as a miser, a reputation he seems to enjoy, he isn’t shy in renewing contracts with improved terms year on year to reflect improved form of a player, a tactic which would have continued apace with the increased revenue in the new stadium, which will net us around £800k extra per week.
It would be interesting to hear what other fans have to say on the wider problem facing the game, not only from smaller clubs, but the clubs at the top of the spending pyramid. Enjoy the weekend all, and the return of the actual important stuff!
Spurs can do a Monaco
If you can’t pay the wages and you can’t keep the players, you have to look for a different strategy.
Spurs are a European level team with a notable coach, and a “businessman” Chairman – they should use that. Buy low and young, sell high, replace…rinse and repeat.This is the Monaco strategy.
Sell Rose for a massive mark-up (a swap plus cash with Shaw would be great). Next up is almost certainly Alli and Eriksen – players like Chalobah, Tom Davies, Foden, etc are all maturing nicely, and that’s just the English boys. Recent “kids” that could have been picked up include half the Monaco squad including Mbappe (do you think they’d rather play in France or the EPL), Martial, Keita, Pulsic, or a Dembele or two.
Spurs will be ahead of Watford, Saints and Everton in the queue and may have to compete with Monaco, Red Bull, and even Chelsea/Man City/etc. but they’d be offering first team football for a Premier League top 6 club in the Champs League or Europa League…paying top wages for top young talent, and operating at a profit with hungry players with a point to prove.
The other point is that a first XI closed shop breeds complacency – Alli, for instance, is basically undroppable, particularly if you’re not paying him market wages…it all seems a little bit unsustainable to me in its current form.
If I don’t see Tottenham’s current predicament reported under the headline “Danny Woes” in the next few days, then all hope is gone and North Korea should just get on with it.
Chris (bonus points for a feature with Roy Hodgson recalling their time together with England) C, Camberwell Spurs
Does Coutinho to Barcelona even make sense?
Having read countless mails/articles about it… I still wonder why Barca are going for Coutinho?
It just seems a bad move for all parties:
– Barcelona get a player well below the quality of the one they just lost, and more importantly below Madrid’s attacking 3/4/5 (however many you need to include Isco).
– Coutinho (whose pace is… average?) gets shunted to the left wing, because Messi. Even with Barca’s
movement that means less of Coutinho’s build-up play & 30 yard screamers.
– Liverpool fans are reminded that Barcelona are considered *by at least a couple of people* to be a bigger/better club. They bloody hate that.
Although there is an obvious replacement for Neymar in Monaco I can understand some apprehension before spunking £130m on one good season. For me, the only way they maintain – or even improve upon – their attacking line-up is Hazard. He’s not at a super-club, fast enough to play on the flanks, clever enough to dovetail with the other two and a change of scenery may stop the mood swings. And, when fit, he’s bloody brilliant – unlike Coutinho who, up to now, I’d describe as occasionally exceptional (willing to be shot down on that one).
Saying that, a cut-price deal for Alexis Sanchez’s return would make sense for everyone?
Clubs are not pawns anymore
‘If he wants to go there is nothing you can do.’
This opinion is really starting to grate with me. I am a Liverpool fan and we are currently in the middle of 3 reasonably complex transfer negotiations. Firstly we have Phil Coutinho who apparently wants to play for Barcelona but has the small issue of a recently started 5 year contract, then there’s Virgil Van Dijk who wants to join Liverpool but is one year through a 6 year contract with Southampton and Naby Keita who also wants to join but is at the start of his 5 year contract with RB Leipzig.
Firstly and to ensure there is no confusion, Liverpool, Southampton and RB Leipzig can refuse to sell. End of story. The player might complain in the media, he might go on strike, (and subsequently be docked the appropriate weeks wages) he might put in a transfer request or he might quietly talk to the club and express his wish, should a suitable deal be agreed, to leave, ultimately this doesn’t change the fact it’s the clubs decision to make. The player signed a contract and without going through an unthinkable and insanely expensive litigation process (which will rob the player of years of his career) would be expected to remain employed to the culmination of that deal.
This concept is not new, yet in the last 12/18 months there has been a subtle but significant shift in the balance between having money to spend compared to having talent already within the squad. Take Roman Abromivich’s real-world Football Manager experiment that started in 2003; that first summer he signed 11 players for a total of £121.3m. This included Makelele and Geremi from Real Madrid, Veron from Man Utd, Crespo from Inter and somehow Scott Parker from the colossal Charlton. Their record purchase that summer was Damien Duff for £17m from Blackburn.
All of these clubs from big to small looked at the millions of pounds being offered and felt their best option was to take the money. Cash in the bank could be reinvested; if the offer was paying over the odds, it was better to take the premium and look to upgrade with the increased funds.
However, this balance has moved. With an entire league of clubs flush with cash due to TV billions, commercial clamour for involvement swelling coffers further, super-rich foreign owners proliferate throughout Europe and lucrative new markets opening up in the East, many clubs around Europe have significant sums to spend should they find the appropriate talent available. However finding that talent is now the limiting factor. Having £100m to spend is all well and good but teams are struggling to find the requisite players to spend it on. And with this shifting attitude comes a change in the power structure within the player / club relationship. Where once a player could push for a transfer and the club would take any premium over the player’s expected value rather than having to deal with an unhappy player, now clubs cannot see value in selling a player even with a considerable premium, if there is not going to be guaranteed opportunity to reinvest, attaining relative parity to where they were before the original sale.
Currently there is considerably more incentive for the club to sit back and wait for the transfer window to slam shut and test the players resolve. If it’s Virgil Van Dijk telling the club he doesn’t feel able to play while not getting the requested transfer, how long after 1st September is he going to hold out when he has 5 years remaining on his contract, is 12 months away from a World Cup and is threatened with being docked every weeks wage sat in the stands?
Interestingly, agents seem to have been slow on the uptake; the logical transition for players within this environment would be for them to push for reduced length contracts (perhaps at some reduction in remuneration). Having 3 year terms increases the likelihood a player who becomes disillusioned with a club, will sit in the reserves for a season or even 2 allowing them to leave for free at the end of the contract. This option provides leverage for a player to push through a transfer. Yet 3 year terms are still a rarity for players under 30. Although expect this to change for those under 25 who believe they could further their careers instead of push for better terms and longer contracts. This balance is not necessarily here for the long run. I, like most people, think football has peaked in ever escalating tv revenues and the next package will be the first at a lower value than its predecessor but that’s a email for another time…
Anyway, my point was that a player wanting to leave doesn’t just get his wish whatever, and anyone saying otherwise is wrong. And for the record my belief is that all 3 of those players will still be at their respective clubs on 1st September, although I would be happy if VVD proved me wrong.
No sympathy for Chelsea on squad size
How can Conte be complaining about his squad size when you see the players they’ve let go? (unless he has absolutely no say in transfers, which, knowing Chelsea’s heirachy and what’s happened in the past, might be true).
But there’s talk that they want at least four more players. Now, bearing in mind that these are likely to be squad players and not walk into the first team (other than in the wing-back position where we could do with a world class lefty), you’re probably looking at players valued between £10 and 20 million who are happy biding their time and waiting for their opportunity. Which is exactly what we had in a whole bunch of players we either sold or sent on loan.
Why not keep Ake, in my opinion a brilliant defender that can cover left and centre back as well as defensive midfield? There’s talk of another attacking midfielder, what about Traore who was pretty exciting in an Ajax team that reached the Europa League finals? I was never a fan of Cuadrado, but try finding a better player at £17m. I’m on the fence about Matic, he’s a very good player but with Kante in the team we needed someone more dynamic as a partner and £40m seems decent money for him. Others that could have done a job at Chelsea (and have done so when called upon) include: Loftus-Cheek, Chalobah, van Ginkel, Zouma, Kalas, Atsu and Aina. Are we really going to find better players out there that are happy not starting every match?
Maybe this was the season to put some faith in their academy instead of farming them out and buying in new players…
Ed (a bit of a frustrated Chelsea fan)