Tottenham slump into Premier League Mood Rankings dropzone as on-and-off-field Conte negging takes its toll
It’s great how much the mood around the Premier League can change in a month. Sometimes things can seem to be going broadly okay, and then BANG, you get knocked out of two cups by mediocre opposition and your flailing and failing manager announces the entire club is a prick that will never be any less of a prick.
Or things can be going bad and then keep going bad until you find yourself with apparently no option but to reappoint the ancient man you were rightly delighted to have moved on from a couple of years ago.
Or you can just keep winning game after game after game – often in absurdly unlikely and thrilling style – in pursuit of a league title that absolutely nobody thought was remotely feasible when the season began approximately 473 years ago.
It really, truly is a funny old game.
Here’s where we were in February, and those are the numbers in brackets…
20) Crystal Palace (14)
It’s all gone horribly grim and Patrick Vieira, who last season really appeared to be building something a bit special at Palace, has paid with his job. Now they have brought Roy Hodgson back, which feels like the most monumentally depressingly retrograde step any football club could take.
Last year Palace were righteously celebrating the raised ceiling provided by Vieira’s more progressive, less pragmatic (read: dull) brand of football. It all went to shit, but surely this isn’t the answer. As much as anything else, Hodgson is now 75 years old. Come on.
Also, while Vieira did have to go, Palace’s 2023 fixture list has been insane. We’ve not checked, obviously, but it must be unprecedented: they are currently still 12th in the Premier League despite failing to win any of their last 12 league games, but those 12 games have also been played exclusively against the 11 teams above them in the table. They’ve faced 10 of them once and Manchester United twice, culminating in a grim 4-1 paddling at Arsenal.
Surely no team as high as 12th can ever have had anything like such a run without facing at least someone worse than them. After that absurdly harrowing January-March run comes a six-game April that will define Palace’s season: all six of those games are, unsurprisingly really, against teams below them in the table: Leicester, Leeds, Southampton, Everton, Wolves, West Ham.
Don’t f*** it up, Roy.
19) Tottenham (8)
Beyond hilarious that they are still fourth in the league and would have been third had they managed to beat Southampton. But really, expecting to be able to hold a 3-1 lead against the worst team in the division for 15 minutes is just another example of the unreasonable and unfair expectations those daft entitled Spurs fans have had of blameless Antonio Conte and why, if they’re not careful, he might just leave and take his thrilling football with him.
We joke and we mock because of course we do, but it’s really bloody grim. Conte has now so thoroughly gaslit this entire football club that he’s able to spend Saturday evening covering his own arse by carpet-bombing everyone from the owner to the chairman to the entirety of the playing staff and then spend Sunday explaining that he was actually only throwing the entire playing staff under the bus to deflect from his own inadequacy and people a) accepting this obviously provable lie and b) thinking that ‘throwing the entire playing staff under the bus to deflect from his own inadequacy’ was a fine and okay thing for him to be doing.
Bet he couldn’t believe his luck. He might have thought his rant would get him the sack he so obviously craves, but he surely couldn’t have expected this nakedly self-serving bumwash to have a string of Respected Journos lining up to beard-strokingly insist that the wallet inspector raised some important home truths and that Spurs fans really should probably hand over their wallets for inspection.
Also funny that we put them eighth a month ago, but in our defence that was before serial winner and esteemed noter of Spurs’ lack of silverware Mr Antonio Conte decided not to bother even trying to win the FA Cup or Champions League. And we made it absolutely clear that we, like everyone else, have absolutely no f***ing clue what this irredeemably stupid football club might do next. Look, see? ‘There is a very real prospect of Spurs if anything actually strengthening their hold on fourth place over the next few weeks, during which time they should also reach the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and might well also still do so in the Champions League. Just as likely of course, because Spurs, is that by the middle of March they’re out of both cup competitions and seventh in the league.’
They couldn’t quite manage seventh in the league before the international break, but it’s in the post according to Antonio. Will probably go on an eight-match unbeaten run now and seal fourth, because it’s precisely the sort of prick move they pull off time and again, and the fact it still feels equally possible that run happens under Ryan Mason is in as under Conte is in every way absurd yet, again, entirely on-brand.
18) West Ham (19)
Still inside the bottom three despite the violent shitness of half this season’s Premier League and somehow inexplicably still employing David Moyes, whose recent policy of blaming the fans for the Hammers collapse from sixth and seventh is arguably even more offensive than Antonio Conte’s gaslighting hypocrisy across London. They do have games in hand, but those are at best a mixed blessing in this season more than others. There’s only two months of it to go, and West Ham still have to play 12 league games having spent this season mixing disarming domestic incompetence with a serene and often astonishingly dominant (if entirely unnoticed by anyone else) progress to the last eight of the Europa Conference, a tournament that actually is a continental version of the competition people unfairly think the Carabao is.
17) Leicester (12)
Just when they thought they were out, Barclays pulls them back in. They really shouldn’t be anywhere near this relegation rumble. They should absolutely be sat with Villa pointing and laughing at all the silliness going on below them. But they remain resolutely incapable of hauling themselves clear and are now in really very serious risk indeed of too-good-to-go-downing themselves right into the Championship.
From the outside there still appears to be an expectation that Leicester Will Be Fine because they just don’t look anything like as crap as the rest of them down there, and we’re now quite conditioned to the idea of Leicester being Quite Good. But this Leicester are not Quite Good. This Leicester are indeed crap and also appear to be quite alarmingly fragile.
They’re still the outsiders of the nine in the relegation betting odds, and we’re not quite sure that’s right. We’re absolutely certain Leicester fans don’t currently feel so sanguine.
They’ve taken just a single point from five league games since thrashing Tottenham 4-1, and that feels like the most perfectly concise encapsulation imaginable of both those entirely daft teams.
16) Chelsea (20)
It’s a lot better than it was a month ago. Champions League mistakes made in Dortmund were rectified in London, while a couple of league wins were also welcome in what will nevertheless go down as a grimly embarrassing league season. There are hints of Chelsea starting to look something like a Graham Potter side, but you still ultimately struggle to see him as the long-term solution to anything there. The bigger question, perhaps, is whether anyone does.
Managing to take two second-half leads against Everton and still not beat them points once more to a distinctly un-Chelsea-like fragility running through a squad full of expensive trinkets but short on steel.
15) Leeds (18)
Such is the nature of that bottom nine, now separated by just four points, that the moods among them will shift and tilt violently on a game-by-game basis as teams haul themselves out of or sink back into the dropzone. As such, Leeds are climbers here because banter-filled 4-2 away wins at direct rivals are just enormously good for the soul. There is also mounting circumstantial but increasingly undeniable evidence that Javi Gracia is making them a better football team and the previously discussed nature of this relegation fight means it really doesn’t need much of that to make a very significant difference.
14) Southampton (17)
Still have the air of the most doomed of anyone in the relegation nonascrap, yet resolutely refuse to be cut adrift and remain capable of accepting gifts that are offered by silly teams like for instance Spurs. It was a very funny and possibly vital point, but losing both your first-choice centre-backs was a high price to pay.
Other opponents, ones who aren’t fortunate enough to have serial winners doing them a favour by managing their daft little team for a while, might actually try to take advantage of the fact Ainsley Maitland-Niles is at centre-back. But overall things certainly haven’t got worse for them over recent weeks; while other teams were looking to get themselves out of this absurd bunfight, Southampton were the ones who first needed to get themselves in it and avoid being cut adrift.
Ruben Selles has achieved that, but without being anywhere near as funny as Nathan Jones and that’s the real quiz.
READ: Ranking all 32(!) Premier League managers from the season so far
13) Everton (16)
Saturday’s bonus point at an inexplicably careless Chelsea means Everton now have more points away from home against the big six this season (2) than Spurs (1) which is quite something in a season where the Toffees have otherwise resolutely lived down to their reputation for away-day misery, their one and only win coming at Southampton in October. It’s obviously not particularly pretty, it’s obviously not the sort of thing to make your heart soar, but pressing the Sean Dyche button has clearly worked. Eleven points from eight games is precisely the sort of numbers Everton would have expected, and they are precisely the sort of numbers that, properly maintained across the rest of the season, will see the most precarious of the Premier League’s ever-presents live to fight another day.
All three of Dyche’s wins being 1-0 feels almost excessively on brand, and long-term questions remain about where exactly this club is headed and the likeliest answer remains entirely up its own arse. Probably won’t get relegated, but that can’t keep on being enough can it?
12) Wolves (13)
Nothing about Julen Lopetegui suggests he is a frivolous or silly man, but his Wolves team appears to be both. Two of their last three wins in the Premier League have come against Liverpool and Spurs, but in that time they’ve also contrived to lose at home to both Bournemouth and Leeds, behaviour which is beyond careless in this economy. Ought to be fine, but there’s no denying the Leeds game represented a golden chance to just put themselves on the fringes rather than right in the thick of the Great Big Relegation Bunfight of 2023.
Now a question of whether the righteous anger they feel about how that game went down fuels their survival bid or consumes them. They certainly can’t afford to end this season the way they ended last season.
11) Bournemouth (15)
We’re enormous fans of Gary O’Neil’s new policy of just every now and then plucking a rogue 1-0 win out of the air to keep things interesting. They’re probably going to go down, but they’re not going quietly. Their last five games have been a heady brew, containing thrashings from City and Villa, defeat to Arsenal after inexplicably going 2-0 up, and those 1-0s against Wolves and Liverpool. It’s a mad sequence of results, but six points from a five-game run featuring Arsenal, City and Liverpool is entirely acceptable.
Like pretty much everyone else, they face a pivotal and busy April, which kicks off with games against the relentlessly competent Fulham and Brighton but then features tantalising six-pointers against Leicester, West Ham, Southampton and Leeds as well as a trip to full banter-mode Spurs where anything could happen.
10) Nottingham Forest (5)
We all got a bit carried away there for a bit, didn’t we? Haven’t won a game since the last rankings, picking up a solitary point in a 2-2 draw against Everton and even contriving to lose to Spurs’ band of workshy wastrels. We still say they’d have taken this current position if offered in August – outside the bottom three and a relegation fight involving almost half the division – but we also think January’s second round of mad transfer activity may have represented a costly excessive egging of a very eggy pudding.
9) Liverpool (9)
Won the Beating Manchester United 7-0 Trophy and, to be fair, we’re not even taking the piss there. Liverpool fans will very correctly dine out on that one for years and years and years despite this, in the round, being a really quite shit season.
Getting spangled by Real Madrid in the Champions League happened to Jurgen Klopp’s team even at their very best so no great surprise to see it happen at something approaching their worst, but their resolute failure to take any Premier League advantage whatsoever of Spurs being entirely Spurs is truly baffling. Can’t shake the notion that the Jurgen Klopp Era, which has been glorious, is coming to its end with no certainties at all for Liverpool about what might follow.
READ: The top 10 favourites to replace Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager after Champions League exit
8) Manchester City (10)
They’re going to be slightly miffed if they don’t reel Arsenal in to win their now customary Premier League title, but this does feel like a season where the mood hinges entirely on what happens in the Champions League. The point about Erling Haaland being absurdly brilliant but not making them a better Premier League team remains valid, because they were already pretty much an unimprovably good Premier League team. But he wasn’t bought to win City the Premier League, he was bought to win them the Champions League and go some small way to salving Pep Guardiola’s Julia Roberts wounds.
We still think it’s very, very, funny, by the way, that City are in with an entirely realistic chance of recreating Manchester United’s iconic 1999 Treble and absolutely nobody gives a single solitary shiny shite because a) it’s City and b) the entire English football media got itself worked up about a Manchester United quadruple that was absolutely never remotely on and wasn’t even The Quadruple. If it were still 2017 you could probably get decent three-figure twitter likes by doing a Distracted Boyfriend meme to this effect.
7) Fulham (3)
Bit of a shame that a run of two wins in eight Premier League matches has seen them slip out of the European conversation and into mid-table with your Chelseas and Aston Villas. But given Fulham’s other recent efforts at the Premier League this has still been a monumental effort from Marco Silva and his men, even if the defining moment of the season may well prove to be the 40-second meltdown at Old Trafford that hulled their FA Cup chances while also leaving them missing key players for any attempt at arresting the league ‘slump’. We have a nagging feeling they’re going to end up 11th now and thus technically the worst of the 11 teams who watched with detached curiosity as the most outrageous relegation fight of our times unfolded beneath them.
That’s a bit of a pisser, but of all those 11 teams there’s also no doubt that it would be Fulham with most justification to watch that scrap and go “Really glad that’s not us.”
6) Brentford (7)
Lost their long unbeaten run in a 1-0 defeat at Goodison, but as Arsenal will tell you, that’s how all the best long unbeaten runs die. Have still only lost five games all season, which is just absolutely nutty, and now moved ahead of Newcastle in the race to have the campaign’s highest number of draws. They’re just a very decent, very solid if often easy to miss football team. Our favourite stat about them is that they are now one of only three Premier League teams not to lose a game after taking the lead and one of only two not to win a game having fallen behind. Brentford have spent the entire season in calm waters. Until Ivan Toney gets banned, anyway.
5) Aston Villa (11)
There are nine teams who would give their left nad for the quiet mid-table life Villa have carved out for themselves under Unai Emery. ‘Snice. Challenging for the title or for Europe or whatever is all well and good, but it is undeniably stressful. And fighting relegation has even more of the stress with none of the ‘well and good’.
You wouldn’t want it every season but my word is there something to be said for every now and then having a year when it’s March and you can just sit back and enjoy the days getting longer and dreaming of barbecues and beer gardens and not needing your big coat without your stupid bastard arsehole football team stressing you the f*** out on a bi-weekly basis.
Ten points from four games since the Arsenal daftness means a top-half finish is now firmly on the cards, but hey, no worries if not. Knowing with absolute certainty at this point of the season that you’re going to finish somewhere between ninth and 11th is the third-choice goalkeeper of football supporter gigs.
4) Manchester United (1)
Won an actual trophy since being top of the last rankings, but you can’t lose 7-0 at Anfield and retain top spot in the mood rankings, that’s just the way of things. That and a drab home draw with Southampton in which Casemiro collected his second straight red card of the season and indeed his career mean an inevitable drop despite United taking further steps towards the Tinpot Treble, an achievement that merits a far less demeaning moniker.
If there was a silver lining to losing 7-0 at Liverpool, and you have to look really bloody hard for it, then it did at least bring to an end all that daft quadruple talk. Should be noted, though, that precisely none of that talk emanated from Old Trafford.
3) Newcastle (4)
Defeat in the Carabao final was a pisser but a welcome return to winning ways in the league combined with the fact the only shooting Spurs and Liverpool can be relied upon to complete effectively is when taking aim at their own feet means Eddie Howe and his Elephant in the Room remain very much in the hunt for a top-four finish – which would surely exceed August expectations – and are almost certain to snag some sort of European football which would very much have been the season’s primary goal.
Last couple of wins have also shown a side to Newcastle we’d not yet seen this season and were the sort of wins that come with an undeniable added dopamine hit. The win over Wolves was Newcastle’s first after conceding an equaliser since April 2021, while the dramatic late win at Forest was their first in the league this season after falling behind. Mood lifters, those.
2) Brighton (6)
Just lovely stuff. They are, as we all predicted back in August, behind Liverpool only on goal difference with a game in hand. Tick that one off your bingo cards, people. Might genuinely win the FA Cup, which would scratch one of English football’s greatest itches and a Champions League campaign remains dizzily, intoxicatingly possible because none of the other three teams fighting with them for fourth are remotely convincing.
Sheer weight of fixtures may ultimately kibosh the Seagulls, because they’ve still got 13 league games to squeeze in around an FA Cup semi-final and who knows maybe even a final as well. There are currently three TBCs that need space to be found for them during a run-in with a conspicuous lack of space, and those TBCs are also against Manchester City, Newcastle and Manchester United which doesn’t seem ideal.
But again, we must consider the full and wider implications of what we’re saying here: ‘The problem for Brighton is that their run to the last four of the FA Cup may ultimately make it harder for them to qualify for the Champions League.’ As problems go…
1) Arsenal (2)
Losing an eight-point lead over Manchester City was disappointing but really it’s also just one of those things that can happen. What doesn’t ever happen for a team is to lose an eight-point lead over Manchester City AND THEN REOPEN ANOTHER EIGHT-POINT LEAD OVER MANCHESTER CITY. Sorry for shouting, but even with a bit of fixture list and games in hand assistance that’s an incredible achievement. We don’t know what is going on with Arsenal this season but it is surely not the natural order of things.
Everyone was poised with their ‘I told you sos’ after a three-game run without a win. Eighteen points from six games since and the only thing that stops Arsenal being fully over the top giddy is the idea that they might end the season losing the title by one point and having to live forever with the grievance that had someone remembered/bothered to draw the offside lines against Brentford they would be champions. Secretly, though, Arsenal fans would even love that. Give a man a title and he will gloat for a year, give a man a Conspiracy and the injustice can fuel him for a lifetime.
Even getting knocked out of the Europa League in Nayim-esque fashion wasn’t as disappointing as it might have been, preventing Arsenal’s fixture list for April and beyond getting entirely too silly.