Category Archives: Spurs

Arsenal’s North London Rivals COLLAPSE via Conte sacking!

Apparently, Daniel Levy didn’t read my letter. Tsk. It was chock-full of useful, pragmatic, and, above all, objective advice on the necessity of keeping Conte at any cost. Sadly, that polite but firm letter to Levy or at least his underlings who, with some cajolilng, would pass it along to him or at least give him the gist of it never arrived. Now, here we are with Conte cast aside—oh, I’m sorry, he’s left by “mutual consent”, a club’s version of “it’s not you, it’s me”. Conte joins the ranks of Nuno, Mourinho, Pochettino, Sherwood, Villas-Boas, and, well just about every manager of the last 15 years in getting sacked.

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Open Letter to Daniel Levy regarding this current crisis…

Dear Daniel (may I address you as Daniel? Good.)—

I come to you in a spirit of camarederie, sympathy, and, yes, even respect. Set aside any suspicions you may have about this being a blog dedicated to your club’s biggest rival (our club is quite a bit larger than yours, you must admit). Oh—I’m being told that “biggest” in this sense usually refers to the importance of the rivalry, not the relative size of the two clubs involved. Hm. Be that as it may, I hope you will be open to my entreaty.

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Ted Lasso returns!

For those unfortunate enough not to know, NBC, which started showing Prem matches in the United States this past season, ran an ad featuring actor Jason Sudeikis as a fictional coach of “the Spurs” (which you can watch here). For Amerian Gooners, it was alternately irritating and entertaining. “Why did NBC choose Spurs for its first promo?” we asked. However, seeing the stereotypical American football coach stumble through a half-day of employment as Spurs’ manager (which roughly approximates a real Spurs manager’s tenure, I’m told), was well worth it. I’m happy to announce, then, that Lasso has bounced back from getting sacked, this time as a commentator. I’ll shut my yap now and let Ted take over:

Just what have Everton, Spurs, and Man U been up to?

In part two of our ongoing, two-part series, we again play the part of nosy neighbors in order to learn just what it is our friends elsewhere have been up to. It’s a bit of keeping up with the Joneses, except we want to do much more than keep up with the Joneses. We want to pummel them and leave no doubt in their minds as to where things stand, pecking-order-wise, and to put them back in their rightful places, leaving things crystal-clear, nice and tidy so that there are no unpleasant misunderstandings. Yesterday, we looked at the three clubs that managed to finish above us (in large part, it had to do with out-spending us). Today we’ll look at three other clubs with designs on leap-frogging us: Everton, Spurs, and Man U.

Everton, of course, enjoyed a very brief but dangerous spell above us in the waning weeks of the campaign, bouncing back from being bounced from the FA Cup to defeat us and hold onto to fourth, only to fade under the pressures of qualifying for the Champions League for the first time since, well, ever. Despite failing to prove manager Roberto Martinez’s bold prediction of doing just that, Everton will play in the Europa League, having finish fifth, seven points behind us. In what ways have they tried to bolster their squad to this point in the transfer-window (set to close 31 August)? Keep in mind, we’re focusing here on major or likely-to-be major contributors…

Players in:

  • Romelu Lukaku, centre-forward, Chelsea: £31.2m
  • Muhamded Besic, defensive midfield, Fercencvaros (Hungarian League): £4.2m
  • Gareth Barry, defensive midfield, Man City: free transfer.
Players out:
  • Gerard Deulofeu, winger, Barcelona: end of loan.
It’s been an eerily quiet summer thus far for the Toffees, with Lukaku as their only major signing to this point. We know full-well how potentially dangerous he can be. The question that arises is this: will Lukaku thrive or struggle under the price Everton have paid? For the last two seasons, he’s played with the relative freedom of being loaned-out. Now, however, he has to earn his keep. He’s still just 21, and it will be interesting to see how well he lives up to the expectations of being his club’s #1 centre-forward rather than being that chap whose club loaned him out. At a lower level, the arrival of Gareth Barry may lend a more-stabilizing, wizened sense of things, as the no-nonsense 33-year old knows the pressures of playing top-flight football and may lend a steadying hand to a squad otherwise short on battle-tested mettle. On top of that, Martinez will have a season under his belt and that his squad, largely unchanged from last season, will be more-familiar and more-competent with his system and expectations. That’s a threat not to be underestimated, even if the new stress of Europa League blunts their Prem ambitions.
On to Spurs. By contrast with last summer, they’ve been very, very quiet. Once bitten, twice shy, as they saying goes. After bringing in some seven new players and a new manager, it’s likely that Spurs have drawn the conclusion that a bit of stability might be a good thing. Indeed, their only significant additions to this point have come from within the Prem, be they players or manager:
Players in:
  • Ben Davies, left-back, Swansea: £11.1m.
  • Michael Vorm, keeperk Swansea: £5.1m.
Players out:
  • Gylfi Sigurdsson, midfield, to Swansea: £8.9m.
  • Jake Livermore, midfield, to Hull: £8.9m.
It’s easy to sneer at Spurs. You probably did it each time you saw the word. Spurs. There. Did it again, didn’t you? However, their most significant addition won’t appear on the pitch: Mauricio Pochettino. The additions of Davies and Vorm look to be back-ups, at best, but Pochettino might be the manager who finally makes good on Spurs’ perennial promise to finish above us. He was good enough to guide Southampton to its highest finish since 1990 when they finished 7th in the First Division. Between the departure of Bale, the arrivals of Lamela, Soldado, Paulinho, Eriksen, Capoue,  Chiriches, Chadli, and a few others, and the switch from Villas-Boas to Sherwood, there’s been a great of turnover at White Hart Lane, and a lost season of sorts is to be expected. However, like Everton, they may yet benefit from a more-stable approach to things. We’ll be counting in Carl Jenkinson, who will face them as a loanee to West Ham, to put an early season dent in their ambitions.
Last, but certainly not least, is Man U. It’s a bit odd to ponder just how far they’ve fallen (their lowest-ever in the Prem) and to heap scorn on the fact that they failed to qualify for European competition in any form for the first time since 1989. They’ve ben deprived of even Europa League competition thanks to Hull City’s qualification via the Tigers’ appearance in the FA Cup final. Still, that absence of a European distraction may just their biggest asset as, like Everton and Southampton, they’e been strangely quiet to this point…
Players in:
  • Luke Shaw, left-back, Southampton: £33m.
  • Ander Herrera, attacking midfield, Atletic Bilbao: £31.7m
Players out: 
  • Alex Buttner, left-back, to Dinamo Moscow: £4.9m.
  • Patrice Evra, left-back, to Juventus: £1.3m
  • Rio Ferdinand, centre-back, to QPR: free transfer.
  • Nemanja Vidic, centre-back, to Inter: free transfer.
Truth be told, the list of players exiting Old Trafford would include about 10 other players too young too make meaningful contributions. This, to me, highlights the problem at Old Trafford: too many long in the tooth, too many not yet shaving daily. Yes, Evra, Ferdinand, and Vidic are gone, but those are three Prem-tested warriors you can’t simply replace. In their place, Man U have managed to add Luke Shaw, an intriguing player but not one who can single-handedly replace the experience of Evra, Ferdinand, and Vidic. Yes, there is a stable of young, ambitious starlets chomping at the bit to replace them, but few if any are ready to deliver the consistency and tenacity of the departed. As with the 2013-14 season, I’d love to see another season of depressed expectations, led by the increasingly petulant and petty bleatings of the Dutch Skunk, among others (Rooney, I’m looking at you…). I wish we could write off Man U at that and be done with it. 
However, as with Everton and Tottenham, the real story with Man U may lie with the manager. Louis van Gaal is no ingenue. He doesn’t strike me as being in over his head as Moyes so often did. Whereas Moyes seemed to play it safe too often, a hold-over from his days with a cash-strapped Everton, van Gaal weds a Dutch, “total football” strategy with Man U’s all-too-familiar financial largesse. Suffice it to say that, for as much as we hope to hunt down Man City, Liverpool, or Chelsea, we’ll have to keep an eye on those behind us. Man U, perhaps more than Everton or Spurs, will challenge: no European competitions to distract. A legacy to uphold. A manager with a track-record. Financial reserves to exploit.
In any Prem campaign, success or failure sometimes comes down to just a few matches. We’ll face these hungry, ambitious squads six times, all told, and our ability to open up a can of whup-ass on them each time might just make the difference between winning the Prem and failing to qualify for spoils as sorry as the Europa League.

Chambers, Ospina, and my terrible weekend…

Ugh. What a lost weekend. Not only did everyone I know fail to buy me a plane-ticket to New York City and match-day ticket to watch Henry’s assist to Wrighty’s son, no one else I don’t know also failed to buy me the same. Worse, or better, depending on how you slice things, the match itself was a bit tepid, ending in a 1-0 win for the hosts. If there’s a silver lining, it’s in the fact that Henry showed us all that he still has something to offer, and no Gunners got injured. Whether that counts as two silver linings is too much for me to contemplate, as I’m still recovering from the Tottenham invasion of my hometown, an invasion that culminated in Spurs actually defeating a team in red for once. To top things off, we still don’t quite know what if anything is going on with Chambers, Ospina, or anyone else we’re apparently pursuing. What a life.

For those of us who watched the Red Bulls-Gunners match, we got what we deserved: a lackluster match in which Arsenal fielded a hodge-podge of players (Rosický as center-forward? Okay…) and basically went through the paces. As I put it in elsewhere, Americans got to see Arsenal without booking a flight, renting a room, coping with everyone driving on the wrong side of the road, or figuring out whether ‘centre’ is pronounced differently from ‘center’. On this side of the pond, we’re more or less comfortable with pitch (not field), match (not game), and of course football (not soccer). It gets a bit dicey when you ask us about boots, kits, and squads. Are we Yanks to use them, are would this sound too much like we’re trying too hard to impress?

Speaking of trying to impress, I hope it’s not too churlish (eh?) to ask for a bit more flair from the lads today. Absent a few moments here and there, I felt like I was watching two mid-table squads squabble without having to worry about relegation or promotion. So it goes. Still, the match had its moments, such as when Wilshere tried to recreate the pornogol against Norwich, but there’s not much to take from it. The sky-is-falling crowd will point to Red Bulls’ goal as evidence that we cannot defend set-pieces. That is their wont. The fun part of being in that crowd, much like being a ‘reporter’ for The Daily Mail or others, is that you need only be right about 1% of the time to earn the right to say, “See? I told you!”

Speaking of rumor-mongers, it appears that we’re about as close to signing Ospina and Chambers as we were a week ago. With Saturday’s match, it’s understandable that there wouldn’t be any dramatic announcements over the weekend. Let Henry and other Gunners enjoy the limelight. Maybe we’ll see a new Gunner unveiled on Monday. As enticing as that may be, we’d likely be looking at back-ups or supports rather than upgrades. Ospina, for all of his statistical prowess, may challenge but not supplant Szczesny as our #1 keeper. A bit of competition would be welcome, if only to keep the Woj on his toes, but it’s not the kind of signing that vaults us to the top of the Prem. Similarly with Chambers, I’d welcome the signing despite my misgivings over raiding the carcass that Southampton is rapidly becoming. I don’t see how it would dramatically intensify our squad. Competing with Debuchy, Chambers would surely grow and improve, but the same could be said of Jenkinson.

As irritating as all of this gossip is, it’s a far-cry better than having to witness the abomination that is Spurs arriving in Chicago. Worse, they actually won. Will wonders never cease? As I’m sure we all know, Arsenal’s loss, coupled with Spurs’ win, can only spell out one conclusion: Arsenal will once again finish above Spurs. It follows as surely as four follows two plus two. This doesn’t do much to alleviate my own personal suffering. I felt one part missionary, one part martyr, explaining why one should follow Arsenal and not Tottenham. It was miserable, worse than rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. That the Fire rolled over for Spurs hardly made my job any easier, as those Spuds could proudly proclaim victory. It was a jarring, unexpected outcome, and the various Spuds in attendance didn’t quite know what to make of it, as celebration is to them a foreign concept.

All in all, these visits are like oases in the desert, as our MLS is still largely a retirement-community for the Prem, and any chance to see the Prem’s best and brightest—or, failing that, Spurs—is like manna from Heaven. Speaking of which, may a few more signings come our way before too long…