Just taped this week’s pod. There is almost too much fast-moving narrative. Too many shock results. Wonder goals. Managerial hot-seats. Indeed, the word “hot” is now redundant. Seats just implies the life-cycle of a mayfly.
I am still reeling from the Tottenham-Manchester United game. Akin to watching Connor and Kendall Roy grease up and fight to the death. We entered that one hearing Ole’s Death Rattle, only to have Zen Master Nuno be the manager gone by Sunday night. He departs after 124 days, cleaning out his locker filled with tight-fitting bomber jackets and August’s Manager of the Month award. That is the madness of modern English football. Spurs are 5 points off the Champions League places, but in the 53rd minute of the insipid, stale, impotent performance in which the Lilywhites looked more like White Walkers, Nuno took off Moura and replaced him with Bergwijn, leading to a howling of mutinous “You don’t know what you’re doing” and it felt in that moment as if he was done.
How did this come to pass? When we were kids, Serie A was the best league in the world and we used to laugh at how Italian managers appeared to have such fleeting tenure that even Spinal Tap drummers rolled their eyes. The Premier League has become that madness. The thin line between mid-table obscurity and the financial meltdown of relegation has made it just like 1990s Serie A as Dean Smith, Rafa Benitez, and Ole will all appreciate.
Welcome Back Antonio Conte
This morning, Tottenham unfurled their fifth manager in two and a half years, continuing their shameless coveting of old Chelsea gaffers by appointing Antonio Conte.
The lack of concept in the official welcome video hints at just how unplanned his hiring and announcement truly were. It was good to see him again – Conte’s face always reminds me of a composite of the last three surviving Rolling Stones. There is no doubt Antonio is the best available coach in the world. A winner at Juve, Chelsea and Inter. He has accepted a job he rejected over the summer on an oddly short 18-month contract. Back, because he did not originally get the transfer kitty he demanded, but, with the sudden surging leverage, will no doubt splurge in January. While he has never rolled up to a club midseason, he is a ruthless manager with a clear simple set of instructions for his players. A man who tolerates zero bullshit. I can imagine him walking onto the training ground like a Joe Pesci character for reals, and delivering a nut punch to an astonished Harry Kane with the rest of the squad watching. Alright you dirty bastards. You work for me now. There will only be suffering.
So many questions remain about the fit of the current Spurs squad to Conte Ball and to the endurance of the relationship between manager and board, who always tend towards the frugal. But as my Spurs supporting mate Dave Laz texted me to say, “Spurs fans, get ready to get excited to be disappointed again.” Type that in Latin and you have Spurs’ new motto.
Ole. Winner of the Battle. But the War? Not so much
Spurs lose. And Ole stays at United. Possibly the best Arsenal fan result of the season so far. To me it felt like False dawn #237 for Ole’s United. Credit him for finding a tactical approach that worked and summoning the first clean clean sheet in 10 games (Thank you Varane). Atalanta and Manchester City will prove whether a corner can be turned for Manchester United, and if that corner is named Spurs.
We have to be patient and see what happens when United play a real football team. Will this new formation work then? What does it mean for the Jadon Sanchos and Marcus Rashfords, not to mention Paul Pogba when he returns from suspension. To me, little has fundamentally changed. United are what they are: a team capable of incredible moments. But great teams need incredible hours… days… weeks… months, and United are not set up for that, because the problem they are grappling with is so fundamental.
Great, great read here which asks the question: How many other Premier League teams would hire Ole as manager?
Arsenal Back is Back and Aaron Ramsdale is a Playmaker
Massive win for Mikel Arteta against Leicester, for whom Brodge showcased his claim on the Manchester United job by conceding after 5 minutes. So much for Arsenal fans to revel in. The tactical clinciality to take advantage of Leicester’s woeful impotence at set pieces. Emil Smith-Rowe summoning a consistency and one of the single most dominant goalkeeping performances I have witnessed in a long time from Aaron Ramsdale, who has made pundits eat their words by proving his worth at Arsenal and then some. Game-definging. Not just the save of the season but the fan bants. Above all, his willingness to spank a low drive straight into midfield, turning defence into counter-attack in the blink of an eye, is the rock on which Arteta Ball is built.
West Ham are for Real
West Ham are the below the radar story of the season. Three wins in a week, knocking City out of the Carabao tinpot tournament they privately owned. Unbeaten in eight away from home in top flight for the first time in 35 years, and Moyes is level on points with Pep in the league. After his humiliation at United, Real Sociedad, and Sunderland, which forced a break from football, David Moyes’ resurrection, after deep personal reflection, is heartwarming. There is something that all of us can learn from his rise, fall and rise again. It is glorious… and has made fools of all of us.
Raphina’s Bucket List
Raphina almost single-handedly won Leeds three massive points at the corpse of Norwich. The young Brazilian did it all, fancying his chances every time he was on the ball, scoring the opener, and chasing so hard, he even plowed into his own manager, sending Bielsa flying. Life is always dangerous when lived on the edge of your bucket.
Everton. More harrowing than the Losses. The texts from my kids
That’s it for today. Quick reminder that we are back on television this weekend. That’s right, the Men in Blazers Show premieres this Sunday, November 7 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. We’ll break down all this season’s title contenders, and I am joined by my new Dad, Everton manager Rafa Benitez. And we’re back on Spotify Greenroom this Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET, download the app and come join us to talk Conte, OGS, Arsenal, Pep, Klopp. You know the drill.