Dunkirk

Towards the end of the gloriously good Oscar-winning film, Alex and the other survivors are seen getting off Mr Dawson’s boat and there is an old man handing out blankets. He keeps muttering, ‘well done lads, well done lads’. As Alex approaches to pick his blanket he notices that the man doesn’t even look up to acknowledge him. ‘well done lads’,the old man repeats as Alex picks his blanket. ‘All we did was survive’ Alex retorts to which  the old man replies ‘That’s enough.’ Alex later complains about how the British people are so ashamed of the survivors they cannot even look them in the eye. However later on we see the man stretch his hand and hold another soldier’s face as if to signify that the old man is indeed blind.  Whichever way the players want to look at this semi-final exit, blind or not, fan or rival, one thing that remains is the fact that there is no shame brought whatsoever to the millions who watched them from Russia as well as afar.

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They might be known as the three lions but after seeing the progress Southgate has had on the team, he did not just give them belief,  he took lions and clipped wings on them daring them to fly and boy did they fly! The wax may have melted off the wings but they flew nonetheless and I genuinely can’t remember handling a tournament defeat this well. It is one thing playing with expectations weighing on your shoulders but have you tried playing without any expectations? A bunch of kids let off in the playground with only one instruction; express yourself. What is not up for debate is that Gareth has taken a significant weight off the England jersey and the generation to come surely have a free punt at this.

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However there was also something very English about this exit. It seems the narrative continues in that when England comes up against  half a decent team they either struggle (Colombia) or crumble altogether (Belgium and Croatia). This is still something that Southgate needs to work on immediately, as there is the small matter of the this place playoff this weekend.

With all the furore it might be lost on us as to how good Croatia actually was. They matched their class of ’98 by getting to the semis and went one better by getting to their first ever final. To refer to my point about ‘heavy shirts’, Modric and Co have been carrying ghosts for over a decade. They might not have shown it but the penalty shootout against Turkey haunted the players including Modric and Rakitic who took and missed spotkicks that day. With a relatively light burden on their shoulders now, there is no guessing which Croatia side will turn up on Sunday.

Their street-smart nature also disarmed England quite effectively. When push came to shove, Croatia pressed the right buttons while England scrambled to read from the manual. In extra time, if Croatia was a brand new intercooler engine simply whooshing past, England was a 20 year engine spluttering and spewing smoke trying to get to the next gas station. Understandably England did not have someone who could take the game by the horns and control the midfield. England should not feel bad about this as not only did England not have a Luka Modric, the rest of the world does not have Luka Modric. Peerless, genius and a lovely man to watch altogether. No matter who you were supporting yesterday it was weird not to clap whenever this gorgeous conductor sprayed passes with the outside of the boot or simply took the sting out of the game with dummies and cute little passes. Player of the Tournament for me.

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How liberating it must feel to vanquish ghosts of penalties past. Both England and Croatia have emerged with greater mental strength after the paths trodden to get to the semi-finals. How satisfying it must be for the man whose penalty miss cost England in the Euro ’96 to be the first England manager in 20 years to win a penalty shootout. There was nothing lucky about the penalties England slotted in. In the buildup to the tournament, Southgate reiterated the fact that England had been practicing penalties and it was tempting to wonder whether these were just the ramblings of a deluded man seeking to bolster his squad’s confidence. However you look at the technique the players used and Trippier in particular and one gets the sense that they have been doing this for a while. This is such a gigantic mental victory that will be appreciated for years to come.

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The Beckham Bury!!

However the rebuilding now begins. Southgate need not slack off in his quest for impeccability. Kyle Walker has been decent but at centre back? Probably not his best position though the manager’s decision to play him as part of a back three has hardly been the biggest mistake in the world. This also looks like its Young’s last tournament thus a replacement should be groomed from early on. He should also seek to get a defensive midfielder who will be calm in his passing under pressure, not the Henderson type who just punted long aimless balls upfront hoping Kane gets a nibble.

The English U17 and U20 are the reigning world champions, the U19s are Euro winners, the U21 are Euro semi-finalists and the senior team are the world-cup semi finalists. It doesn’t take a genius to see that there is something special brewing in English football and with Southgate at the helm it’s quite obvious that we are in safe hands. Southgate has done the impossible job of turning fans and media alike from being self-deprecating creatures to a bunch of people who were willing to get behind the team and most importantly the manager. The players know what it feels to feel the love of a country and the various appreciation from their social media handles prove that.

Southgate

All in all Russia has brought more joy than pain. The players can hold their heads up high and drink in the accolades because they deserve each and every one of them. After the game, Southgate noted “In international football you give everything for your country and play in a way that you hope connects with the fans.” You sir, have certainly done so.

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds. We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. and even if this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old. – Sir Winston Churchill after the Dunkirk evacuation.

Also, the video of thousands of England fans singing 70 minutes after the final whistle waiting for Southgate to finish his media duties so that they can serenade him makes me shiver!! Truly truly, not all super heroes wear capes, others wear waistcoats.

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Southgate you’re the one 

 

 

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Taxi for Pardi

In Tim Robbins’ Dead Man WAlking, Sister Helen aptly puts it “Redemption isn’t some kind of free admission ticket that you get because Jesus paid the price. You got to participate in your own redemption. You got some work to do” By virtue of Pardew leaving “by mutual consent” it is clear Pardew had a shot at redemption but he did not do himself any favors. There is always a recurring end to tales about dead men who walk. They usually end up dropping dead again. It might take days, weeks, months, a very shape stake driven through their chest or a helpless team determined to plant themselves at the foot of the table but in the end dead men stop walking and retreat to their graves, ready to be roused again of course. Dead man Alan is tucking himself into his tomb, because he can’t stand the covers dragging the floor (he looks like the type to actually tuck himself into his grave). As is usual with managerial dismissals, the pitchfork holders have already come out and declared how bad a managerial choice this was (never mind the fact that they were shouting anyone but Pulis a few months ago) and are now training their assault on the board. That’s the thing with this sport, somehow someway there will always be someone to blame. But three wins and 5 draws out of 23 games culminating in a 14% win rate, is it Alan’s fault?

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Perhaps the only fault that can get to Al is the fact that he took the job in the first place. Sure he has always achieved the new manager bounce in his past jobs but it never quite worked at the Hawthorns. This was not expected though considering he had taken charge of a deathly stodgy club lacking a clear style of play, we probably should not have anticipated immediate results. Pardew was always going to be expansive as he is one of the few lower rung managers who have resisted the art of parking the bus. It’s no wonder games have always slipped away because if his inability to close off the game, but is it necessarily a bad thing? Should we castigate a manager because he refuses to bow to defensive pressure? (At this point of the play Pep walks in, without the yellow ribbon of course because we all know how political wrong that is!)

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This that “What did I get myself into” face.

Pardew has always been known to trust his team and in previous situations it has more or less worked in his favor. This time it has blown up in his face.  He is not an imposing manager and compared to the likes of Sam, Moyes and Hodgson, Pardew prefers not to whip players into shape. He is not a fan of the carrot or the stick as he prefers the players exercise maturity and raise their own playing levels which is progressive and seems a good idea until the Barcelona farce came to light and poor old AL was left with egg on his face.

This is the part where I get critical; his conduct in the aftermath of this PR nightmare. For starters, his decision to take them to a city with one of the most vibrant nightlife in Europe was an accident waiting to happen. He then decided to play Johnny Evans and Gareth Barry in the next game which was absolutely ridiculous. These are the senior members of the squad and for them to be part lead this deviant bunch was simply idiotic. Gareth Barry, Mr Perfect, should particularly feel ashamed of himself. One begins to question what message Pardew was sending. Are these two players untouchables? He should have stripped Evans off the captaincy, fine all players and banned them from training. They showed a shocking level of unprofessionalism so why is Pardew still giving them a lifeline? Before we castigate Pardew altogether let us not forget that Iwobi went clubbing barely 48 hours before a game and Wenger went ahead and started him. I wonder what became of that. But West Brom is struggling and Pardew has not won a trophy so bring out the prisoner!

Pardew is the only replacement manager in the PL (ignore Hughes) who hasn’t built on the points per game achieved by their predecessor. This was not helped by a largely underwhelming transfer window. It was an open secret that his main target was Troy Deeney who had fallen out with the manager then. He was capable of offering leadership and physicality leading to goals which this side was missing. Rondon was given his chance but he clearly showed he could not be trusted to deliver when push came to shove. His 14 goals in 68 Pl appearances highlight that fact. Instead he ends up with Sturridge just because the board refused to meet Deeney halfway in terms of his wage packet. Sturridge got injured in his first start and has proved to be nothing more than an efficient headache.

Twenty points in 21 games since he took over together with the failings of the board show how wretched a position the club is in. What is clear is that there is no way in this world West Brom get out of the relegation zone. As is with his predecessor the board has taken too long to pull the trigger leaving whoever is in charge with a ridiculously small operating window to work something out. Maybe for a club with stability, firing Pulis was a big mistake but one remembers the football six months ago and quickly shakes themselves back to reality. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to stick with Pardew in the championship giving him a chance to sell the deadweight and forge an identity with the players he wants who can then go ahead to challenge for promotion? Newcastle showed what a galvanized unit from the board to the tealady can achieve. The 40 million pound windfall from the TV money supplemented by a few quid from the transfer kitty would have been more than enough for Pardew to work with. Now we will never know.

The buck had to stop somewhere and this time it fell squarely on Mr Perfect Hair. Time will tell if this was a good move by the board or simply a case of shifting the blame elsewhere by putting the proverbial cart before the horse. Until next time(read within seven months), rest easy Al!

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Please be Gentle

I will keep this short and straight. I wasn’t looking forward to an article before the end of the year but my friend DBA reached out and asked if she could do a piece,. Of course I said yes! It’s not everyday you get into D’s head. I am proud of you for penning this and I would personally like to tell you I’m here for you. I will always listen.

Enjoy!

She lay under him, trying desperately to get as much air into her lungs but half his weight was on her abdomen. Her breath now quickened. She tried to sit up but something stopped her. It was his gaze. There was something oddly familiar about the way he was looking at her. She was finally seeing the real him and a smile played on her lips. She remembered all the good times she had enjoyed. She remembered dating after such a long time. She remembered how he made her feel. She belonged, she felt wanted and for once she found a man who reciprocated her love by the bucket loads. The 193 miles between them when they were both at school never even made a difference because when he wasn’t calling her, she was texting him.

He always distracted her whenever she was researching in the library and she always made him get late for his lectures due to her incessant video calls. That one week she decided to visit him was probably the best moment of her life. Doing nothing but eat, talk and lie in bed all day. If they remotely got bored, the just cooked, talked and slept some more. Orion was not her first but in reality Orion was her first. He made her feel things she had only read about in those magazines her mother usually stashed deep in her bookcase. She used to giggle whenever she read them but when she was with Orion there was no laughing involved. Cosette showed him passion and Orion responded by giving himself to her, which was weird because he was a guy but then again he was no regular guy.

She was brought back to reality when one of his sweat drops landed on her forehead. His gaze hadn’t moved at all. She moved again to try and taste those soft lips just one last time but the hard object between their bodies stopped her dead in her tracks. The fluid between them now had a musky smell and this sort of horrified her.  As if on cue this brought back all those tough times in the relationship. Suddenly they were talking less and she was going out more. They seemed to be more of competitors and less of the teammates working towards a common goal. Their phone calls could not last 10 minutes and even then they were punctuated by long periods of silence and drab words like ‘Sema? Umekula? and Unafanya?’ She was getting bored by all this in all honesty and for once in her life she questioned whether she was going against fate.

Fate, such a weird word right? Like it was crazy that your decisions and thoughts were being influenced by someone else. Supreme was always the word used. Cosette was never the religious type. She was the standard Christian; Church every Sunday, Church Camps when she was in her teens and regular Christian meetings dotted her annual calendar. But this once she went on her knees and prayed for the Supreme Being to sort of show himself. She left church feeling very weird. Did he really get it? How would she know HE responded? It’s not like she would receive a snap or a DM titled “The answer to your relationship problems”.

But the night she went through Orion’s phone, she knew. It was at that point that she felt her snap or DM had arrived. In a way she was not that surprised but the fact that he had actually been with other people while she was there trying to salvage the relationship was a smack dead in the face. She could not believe that this was the man who looked him in the eye and said the words “I love you” numerous times without blinking. At that point she knew this had to end but Cosette being Cosette she still waited until he cleared up his issues with his dad; people’s problems always seemed bigger than hers.  She was broken when they finally got separated. Her safe haven was wrecked and the only constant in her life that year was no more. Her Universe suddenly turned into a vortex that was back to sucking all the happiness in her life. But life had to go on. He begged her to get back but she could not go back to what the Supreme Being had essentially said no to. Even her usually happy go lucky soul was on the old man’s side this once.

Her usual therapy was not working. She wanted to cry but nothing was forthcoming. Now she wanted to die, she wanted to end it. But her stupid friends would never leave her alone and encouraged her to talk it out. Whenever she was asked she always said she was fine. But what is fine really? When she laughed during the day but cried at night. Told close friends and family that she loved them but come nighttime she wanted to take herself away as if she was not important to them.

Footsteps were now approaching. He realized this and quickly withdrew the knife from her belly and whisked away almost gracefully into the hazy night. She watched him walk away and tried to memorize as much of him as possible just in case she ever wanted how pain looked like or walked. The footsteps were now at her side and the figure crouched down beside her. “Are you OK?” He asked in the most hopeful voice she had ever heard. “Who are you?” she manged to whisper, her head now picking up roller-coaster speed. “My name is 2018. We should really get you to a doctor.” He was now concerned and for once in 12 months, Cosette felt safe. “Please be gentle” she muttered as the last rays of the light faded away.

DBA

XX

 

Pardew’s Packed

In 2001, 59 year old Sharon Stone claimed that while suffering a brain hemorrhage, she died and came back to life. She also claims she saw her close friends who had died, friends who were so dear to her. But it was so sudden and the white light that was engulfing her quickly went up in smoke and she was back in her body again. Whether you believe this or not is up for debate but what is surely believable is the spiritual place where people meet dear dead friends of theirs. Certainly this is where Alan Pardew, David Moyes, Roy Hodgson and (soon to be) Sam Allardyce crossed paths right before they came back to managerial life and got jobs this season. The four managers are certainly four strong points for the detractors of the fact that foreign managers are taking the jobs away from young British managers (How many are they anyway?)

So 11 months after Pardew’s sacking and this blog’s promise that he will be back, Mr Perfect Hair strolled through the revolving doors at the West Bromwich Albion Training Ground. Doors that have to be said had not yet swung back to place owing to Pulis’s slow, deathly and non-attacking nature of football.

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His first port of call will be to shore up the defence. Conceding (especially from set pieces) and Tony Pulis have never been in the same narrative especially on the back end of last season where Tony led the team to 10th in the Premier League. Something they had not achieved in a considerable amount of time. Further their defence was among the top last season. Fast forward to this season and they have conceded 23 goals in 14 games which averages 1.6 per game. This is something quite shocking and Pardew has to fix this very very quickly. He will have to depend on the experience of McAuley, Dawson and Johnny Evans to step up and take responsibility from now on.

Confidence also has to be restored to the team. Just like Everton, the West Brom players have looked clueless and shell-shocked even in instances where they played in front of their own fans – case in point the 4-0 drubbing by Chelsea. The home crowd this season has tended to be edgy and very nervous, with every misplaced pass drawing a gasp perhaps in anticipation of an inevitable atrocity. To cure this, Alan will need the crowd to back the team so as to get them firing. The last two games have exhibited the soft center that West Brom possess where they have scored first but fail to see of the game hence leading to two consecutive lucky draws owing to the controversial calls that officials have made against their opposition. Confidence will get them playing composed football again.

What has to be said is that the style of play at the Hawthorns will not be revolutionary and the Baggies will not transform into a possession-based, slick passing football team. With Pardew’s appointment, that childish line of ‘be careful what you wish for’ has once again been hurled at the West Brom faithful, as if consistent mediocrity is a better option to the ‘unknown’. However as Pardew mentioned in his maiden press conference, he intends to get the team to play an expansive type of football. This will be adequate entertainment to a stadium that has become ghostly this season due to the ghostly thing in the name of football that has been pranced around often with four central defenders, three defensive midfielders, two very wide wingers and a lone man upfront. Matt Philips has been offered very limited playing time this season but leads the club’s most chances created list. Further, with the presence of Gareth Barry, the experienced midfielder can provide an anchor for a free role midfielder to do the running and link the passes. Barry’s range of passing will also give an opportunities to the zippy wingers like McCLean to work their stuff. Chadli just has to come back into this fold. You’ll be naive to believe that he is injured. Something happened between him and Pulis in the background. Perhaps he refused to tuck in and desired to be expansive? We can only speculate.

What will be good news for West Brom is that Pardew has often been a man of quick fixes. He has been known to squeeze every last drop from his players to ride the new manager wave. This will be very important as his next two games will be against Crystal Palace and Swansea. He will certainly be desperate to do one over his former employers. There is currently a five point difference between 17th placed West Brom and 9th placed Leicester. In a league where Eddie Howe alludes to the fact that you are one result away from a crisis and one win away from safety, there is no overstating the importance of the next two games.

It is difficult to wrap your head around the fact that West Brom’s biggest win this season is a 1-0 victory against Burnley. In light of this, I do not think that the fans have the liberty to cross Pardew’s Ts and dot his i’s. They simply have to get behind him. The same goes for the players. They have to start playing for the shirt again. With a relatively comfortable contract, Pardew has the added advantage of a full month before deciding who to buy and who to offload in January. He will no doubt make West Brom watchable again.. Surely it can’t be worse?!

‘When death comes to you, as it will, it’s a glorious and beautiful thing. I had an incredible sense of well-being and a sense that it’s just so near. Death – it’s very near and very safe. It’s not a far away or scary thing.’ Sharon Stone stated at the end of her interview. Alan Pardew will certainly hope he can keep the proverbial grim reaper at an arms length as soon and as long as possible.

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Last Chance Saloon

The King in Leo Tolstoy’s 1885 “Three Questions” was intent on learning three things; the right time to begin everything; who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid; and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do. If he had the answers to this questions, he would never fail in anything he might undertake. If these three questions had been posted to West Ham’s Chairpersons, Board Members, Fans and David Moyes, the answers would have been varying and very confusing. Thankfully it is not the 19th century, David Moyes and the West Ham hierarchy did not have to answer the three questions and a result, Moyes takes over the London Club. Should the questions have been asked though?

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On Moyes’s part, this is clearly the last roll of the dice. A chance to drag his name from the realms of mediocrity. In all fairness, he must count himself lucky to get a job in the top tier. You do not fail in three consecutive clubs and still get handed another one . The big question is whether he is ready for another big job. After 11 solid months at Everton during a period in which he transforms a relegation-threatened team into big four contenders. He moved to Man United and despite a six year contract and an ageing squad, he left 10 months into his contract with the club languishing in 7th place.

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He moved over to Real Sociedad looking for a fresh start but a culture shock, language impediment and poor tactics left the club fighting for relegation and after a year he was sacked. Against better judgment, he moved over to Tyneside to manage the Black Cats. He drummed them up as being a big club and that they were in the same league as Everton. By the end of the first month, he was already conceding the fact that Sunderland were in a relegation scrap. Sunderland finished the season with 6 premier league wins, bottom of the table and a goal difference of -40. He went out on a whirlwind regretting the switch to Sunderland, blaming everyone else including the players he bought but exempted himself from blame. This is despite the obvious stodginess the team exhibited when playing and the apparent over-insistence of crossing drills during training.

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On to more positive news, it seems West Ham seem to have finally got their man. He was the man they sounded out to replace Big Sam in 2015 nut he turned them down. Now they get a second bite of the cherry in terms of their managerial choice. He is a painfully honest man and this might be the other factor why he was chosen. He calls things as they are and a reality check is really what West Ham need right now. With all respect to Sunderland, he talked up about the quality of players being better than the lot at Sunderland and it is hard to argue. Lanzini, Antonio Hernandez among others are actually a decent bunch and all eyes will be on how he will inspire a fractured dressing room to get them to show unity on and off the pitch.

However this has never been the case. Time is against Moyes and he has never kick-started immediately. He has always taken his sweet time to set his teams up and with fixtures coming thick and fast next month, one wonders how long Moyes will actually be given. The trend that follows the teams he hops onto have always been a downward trend. Look away Hammers! He is being hired for his ability to set teams up well but the reality of the matter is that it has been a while since he has tactically won a game.

The obvious question is now whether he can steady the ship. He has enough premier league experience with 499 PL games managed. Redknapp apart, he was the most experienced manager available. On 19th November against Watford, it will be his 500th Game but between now and then, his ‘to-do’ list is certainly overwhelming. He takes over a team languishing in 18th place with only two PL wins, 9 points from 11 games and with 23 goals conceded. With indiscipline player including Arnautovic, Fonte and Carroll, it will be interesting to see how the manager cracks the whips on these three players especially.

David Moyes has often been credited with setting up teams that are tactically disciplined, mentally resilient, defensively organised and quite simply hard to break down. With West Ham’s leaky defence, they need all the Moyes they can get.

Over to you Willy!

 

 

Alvaro

In the alternate universe of Galactico, Morata is preparing to go back to Madrid. He is buoyed by the international break having scored a hat trick against Albania and this was followed up with a brace against Israel. Benzema still looks to miss out with an injury and there is no cause for worry and the four previous games without him, Morata has certainly steeped as he scored the winning goal in the pulsating game against Valencia in the 93rd minute. Against Levante, he scored the decisive goal with his first touch of the ball and against Real Betis, his quick reactions ensured Madrid wrapped up all three points despite the fact that Betis pulled one back. He has dragged Madrid to their feet all on his own and are now trailing Barcelona on goal difference alone. There is already talk of a Ballon d’or.

In another universe labelled Mancunia, the fans are camped outside the striker’s home hoping to catch a glimpse of their talisman. He was whisked off in the game against Israel in the 12th minute and was later seen leaving the stadium on crutches. There is talk of him missing three months of competitive football. Twitter has had a meltdown following this rumors. United fans cannot imagine life without Morata. His 14 goals in 7 games places him top of the top scorers’ list comfortably. The premier league has not fazed him at all and United are sweating over his injury and are hoping he can make an appearance against Liverpool.

Coming back to reality, Alvaro Morata is a Chelsea player that Chelsea payed 70 million for. The 24 year old is undoubtedly one of the finest finishers in Europe right now and Chelsea fans have no doubt that they bagged themselves a world class player among their ranks.

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Factor in his 20 goals in 43 appearances last season and his numbers certainly speak for themselves. Depending on who you ask, Morata was always Chelsea’s first choice forward. Even this is uttered while paying little attention to the interview with the Guardian in April when Morata was talking about how public rejection impacts a player.

He seems to have put all that behind him and his six goals in 7 PL games shows a striker with an instinct for goal. This has however not been enough to convince his detractors. He started off  on the wrong foot in the Community Shield by missing a glorious chance and also a penalty. This clearly got to him as he lashed out about he has played half an hour of football and missed a penalty and everyone is killing him. Perhaps he should have seen the fierce criticism coming considering how competitive this league is.

He did not retreat to his shell but came out guns blazing and it certainly seems like he is coming out on top. There is no one doubting his qualities as he is one of the most technically astute players to grace the field. He is an all rounded player with a turn of pace, ability to beat a man and a heading ability to die for. This is a player quite tidy in possession as he was dispossessed only 1.2 times per game last season as compared to Diego Costa’s 3.4.  The one area that he is yet to be keenly tested on is his ability to lead the line. At Madrid, he was often used as a substitute in the dying minutes of the game or in games against minnow opposition.

This was one of the reasons he resorted to move to Juventus in 2014, so as to get more first team opportunities. This did not also go well as during his Italian stint, he scored 27 goals in 93 appearances which in all truth is a paltry return for a striker of his caliber. He struggled to adapt and during a training session he once broke into tears. In his first season, Carlos Tevez was the top scorer and in his second Paulo Dybala was the top scorer. He definitely had a problem dealing with the pressure that his role demanded.

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Will he crack again when pushed against the wall? 

His conversion rate of 27% last season was another talking point for the various critics as it seems erratic for a player of his ability. Of his 20 goals last season, only 5 were scored against top ten opposition perhaps highlighting the kind of opposition most favorable to him. Five of his goals in the PL have come against Stoke, Leicester and Burnley.

For a ‘cameo-man’, 70 million seems like a lot but as it is with players and transfers, needs must. Consistency is certainly key and the jury is still out as to whether he is a 20 goal a season striker. His rejection by Manchester United will perhaps fuel him to prove a point as to why he should be taken seriously and considered to be one of the best. First things first, he has to work on his fitness to come back from his injury and not show any sluggishness or after effects because all eyes are on him. For a player who has never played more than 43% of available minutes in a league campaign, the onus is on him now more than ever to prove that he deserves to be labelled ‘world-class’.

Morata

The Time for Glory is now!

“The true definition of mental illness is when the majority of your time is spent in the past or future, but rarely living in the realism of NOW.”

– Shannon L. Alder

The year is 2014 and Mauricio Pochettino is already under pressure in his new job having made the switch from Southampton to Tottenham a few months back. Its Gameweek 8 and Spurs have only garnered 11 points. Poch pleads for time and makes a pretty bold statement, “In two years Spurs will have won a trophy”. Well its year number three and the trophy cabinet is still quite dusty.

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Yea not quite happening is it?

The last time Tottenham got their hands on silverware was in 2008 when they won the League Cup. For those who have watched the premier league for a while, you will certainly remember the Newcastle side under Kevin Keegan in the ’95 season. The side was genuinely lovely to watch in terms of how they moved the ball and the quality of the goals they bagged with Les Ferdinand banging in 25 goals in that season. However come the final day of the season they finished four points behind eventual winners Manchester United. Doesn’t ring a bell for the millennials? well you lads are in luck as  Spurs could well be the best new age team to never win the Premier League.

For the last two seasons we have seen a improved Spurs side who have taken it to the league leaders but there has been nothing to show for it. Last season was an improvement to the season before last as instead of disintegrating under pressure, Spurs pushed up to ensure that the league was only confirmed on the penultimate game of the season.

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Best banter ever 

Its not been all doom under Poch. On the contrary there could never have been a better time to be a Spurs supporter. Pochettino has carved out a pretty strong bunch of players particularly their technical ability on the ball. Players such as Erikesen and Dembele have certainly blossomed under the Argentine and are very assured when they are on the ball. Their defence is also something to marvel about as they have been the meanest defence over the past two seasons. Their movements especially the fullbacks when making the transitions from pressing to counter-pressing  and from defending to counter attack is nothing short of phenomenal. Before Pochettino’s arrival, they had only finished in the top four only twice in the PL history. He has done it back to back. They also got their highest league position finish last year in about 50 years. You factor in that during that period their net spend has been a paltry 7 million pounds and you only marvel at what the Argentine is doing.

This is the start of Pochettino’s fourth season at the North London Club and the question on some lips is does he need a trophy? Is silverware that vital in the definition of his time at Spurs? Well for one Pochettino himself does not think so. He has often stated that it is not vital for him to win a trophy. The journey to arrive at a position where you win a trophy is more important to him. But the question that still remains is, have they not arrived at the said position? Its hard to think of an intermediate level between Spurs’ current position and a team capable of collecting trophies.

With just about two weeks until the close of the transfer window, urgent business for Tottenham will be to improve their squad depth. Having lost Kyle Walker, a replacement is urgently needed. They do have Kyle Walker Peters but still.. There are four pieces of silverware available to them this season so squad rotation will be very important. Pochettino will  need to pay attention to the cup competitions, something he has not been previously fond of. Only 13 players made over 10 starts in the league. This perhaps shows his tactical rigidity and in this season where the pressure may be greater than normal, they will need all hands on deck. Able backups to Kane, Alli and Vertoghen should be acquired as soon as possible.

Keeping a hold of his star players will also be top of his agenda. However that will not be much of a problem as we all know how Daniel Levy is. The man could probably walk into a bar and convince his bar stool to pay for his drink due to his hardheadedness. However his job was not made any easier by Rose’s comments with the left-back suggesting that Spurs should sign players you don’t have to google to know who they are. Everyone lashed out at him but he had a point. Spurs wage cap means they can’t compete with the Manchester Clubs in terms of going for a player. Salaries aside, its hard to convince a world class player to come to Tottenham to play backup to Kane.

alli and kane
What a sight.

Sloppiness is also something they have to avoid in the current season. They have often had slow and miserable starts to the campaign, a fact compounded by the realization that Harry Kane has never scored a premier league in August. the 2-0 win over Newcastle was mighty impressive but Kane will have to show up sooner rather than later if this steady start is to continue.

90min.com stated that a trophy should not be seen as the ultimate yardstick for success at Tottenham by lending a thought to Leicester during their PL winning season and the season after. To them a trophy symbolizes success but it does not guarantee it for years to come. The expectation for silverware  should be replaced by admiration and reflection.

Jamie Carragher stated that it would a travesty if this current crop of Spurs players fail to win anything. This is because it is only a matter of time before the big clubs start picking apart this young team with half of them having not even reached their potential. What we have seen recently is that  money will turn any footballer’s head. I wouldn’t use such strong terms but in my opinion a trophy represents the transition from a good team to a winning team.

Bring on the new season!!!

winks
Player to watch: HARRY WINKS