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Spurs news, rants Spurs transfers

Djed Spence: Three Tottenham Talking Points

1. The Basics on Spence

Having prattled on a bit about Perisic and Forster (hither), Bissouma (thither), Richarlison (yonder) and Lenglet (abaft) it seems only decent to mangle the language for a few additional paragraphs in honour of young Master Spence.

The usual disclaimer applies here, as, in common with most folk plucked from anywhere but the Premier League or uppermost echelons of Europe, my folder of research notes on the young bean is pretty light stuff. “Potential and whatnot” is pretty much the sum of it.

Stringing that out a bit, he featured in a couple of entertaining Cup games against Premier League teams last season (including one not a million miles from N17), which gave casual observers such as AANP an opportunity to cast the beady eye.

During these Spence could be observed bounding forward with all the gay abandon of youth, unhindered by such concerns as hangovers, childcare arrangements and defensive cover. It was all harmless enough fun and he didn’t lack for wiling, but in truth there was nothing on show that had me grabbing the megaphone and parading the High Road to declare that the answer to our right wing-back woes was incarnate and to be found putting in his shift in Notts NG2.

However, I’m not about to judge a fellow on a couple of matches half-watched while getting down to the serious business of studying Duo Lingo Spanish and thumbing the pages of a PG Wodehouse, and I rather sneer at the ass who does. Far better to base judgement of the chap on the musings of more celebrated sages in the field. Actually, it would be better to give the poor cove a chance before judging him at all – but celebrated sages it will be, and the consensus amongst them seems to be that Spence is rather a goer in the market for frontfoot attacking larks, has great big handfuls of energy and occasionally lets the mind drift when the defensive klaxon sounds.

2. Conte’s View

All of which points to a signing that is a bit removed from the Conte template, and instead bears all the grubby pawprints of a classic Daniel Levy signing from each of the last fifteen or so years. Young, English, a bit of talent about him but swathes of room for improvement and, crucially, potential for a pretty hefty whack when it comes to cashing in a few years’ hence. The fact that Spence and young Sessegnon have been acquainted since shortly out of nappies rather hammers home the point, as the similarities in profile abound.

It’s little wonder that Conte has gone on record to deliver a near-perfect Pontius Pilate impression, if you don’t mind me introducing a spot of Scripture into things, and washing his hands of the signing.

“Not my idea,” has been the loose translation of Conte’s thoughts on the signing – but nevetheless he’s been quite happy to play the game and stick him on the subs bench, presumably because in Messrs F, P, B, R and L he already has most of what he wanted (experienced, proven sorts), and has them nice and early in the piece too.

Still, if Conte had taken an instant dislike to the fellow I can’t imagine we’d have gone through with this, and presumably that Paratici chap is also a believer. The moral of the story here would seem to be that anyone who hoped Spence might be shoved into the starting XI and left to get on with things, popping up in the Premier League Team of the Season at the end of the year and collecting a Young Player’s Award en route, might be in for some disappointment. At best I would expect him to share wing-back duties on the right with whomever of Doherty or Emerson isn’t sold, no doubt making a few mistakes along the way, and accordingly attracting instant and damning censure, not least from AANP Towers.

3. Emerson and Doherty

Talking of E.R. and M.D., I’ve gone round in a goodish number of circles trying to establish how their immediate prospects shape up.

If this were left to me it would be one of the shortest meetings on record – keep Doherty, give Emerson the elbow and off to the nearest watering-hole for some refreshment – but the powers that be seem intent on making rather a production of this.

Emerson seems a genuinely likeable soul – seemingly missing a few critical neurons and whatnot, but one of the boys and pretty committed to all things lilywhite. And were this a land of milk, honey and 4-4-2 then I’d suggest his Spurs future would have a pretty rosy tint to it, for when it comes to ticking boxes as a right-back in its purest form he knows his eggs.

Alas, ours is a world of wing-backs, and in the attacking respect, Emerson seems to have a pretty strong catalogue of evidence to suggest that this is not his game. No shame in that, of course, it’s not for everyone – but the point is that this having been established, there doesn’t seem too much point in having him around the place. Starts to get a bit awkward, what?

Doherty, despite a wobbly start, seemed to have received the memo towards the end of last season and generally seemed happy to confirm that if this were a wing-back system then he would be part of the gang. Although, like Emerson, he wasn’t necessarily the most natural when it came to swinging over a peach of a cross into an inviting area, he nevertheless seemed to know the how, where and when of the job. While I’d have happily welcomed an upgrade, his presence was reassuring enough.

Moreover, with Spence now on board to apply a spot of breath down the Doherty neck, we seem well equipped for a world sans Emerson. I’ll therefore waggle a pretty irritated eyebrow if I read over the morning kippers next week that Doherty has been given a handshake, commemorative pen and wished good luck elsewhere, but I suppose I’d better brace myself nonetheless. Either way, young Spence now has the most certain immediate future in N17 of the trio, and good luck to him.

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Spurs news, rants Spurs transfers

Bergwijn Out, Lenglet In: Four Tottenham Talkiing Points

1. Bergwijn: Unfulfilled Potential

Mention the term ‘parallel universe’, and the AANP mind tends to swim a bit, but it’s actually not too difficult to picture a world in which Steven Bergwijn became a roaring success in lilywhite.

It only really needed the adjustment of a few –admittedly critical – details: better luck with injuries, a manager who persisted with him as the regular third part of the forward line, and so on. Where Kulusevski now enjoys the run of things up the right flank, it might have been Bergwijn.

Bergwijn generally seemed sufficiently well equipped in the fields of puff, willing and a scent for goal to have made a fist of things, either centrally – where admittedly he would have found chances pretty hard to come by, giving existing personnel and the unspoken hierarchy about the place – or as a wider attacker. Watch him in the garish colours of his motherland and he seems bobbish enough as either.

Obviously those wider positions rather take care of themselves now in N17, but for every successful Sonny and Kulusevski there has been a Lamela or Lucas – by which I mean the sort of wounded puppy who, despite ticking a fair few boxes, somehow never quite got round to nailing down the position as their own. I don’t mind admitting some mild surprise that Bergwijn didn’t graduate to a more permanent role, as goodness knows a vacancy existed long enough.

In fact, if you can excuse the particularly daring line of thought, I wiled away a few idle hours wondering if he might have made a go of things as a wing-back, not least because it was precisely the sort of zany idea that seemed to grab Senor Conte over the years.   

Indeed, with the dawn of five substitutes that I keep prattling on about to anyone who will listen, Bergwijn might yet have found himself a niche this coming season if he’d stuck around the place. But after two and a half years largely spent wrapped up in a duffel coat on the bench, one understands the urge to scarper, particularly with a World Cup due to be dropped into the middle of the coming season.

2: Bergwijn: Memorable Moments

Still, any llilywhite of sound mind will send him on his way with pretty warm sentiments ringing in his ears, because despite only ever seeming to be flung on with ten minutes to go here and there, the blighter certainly knew how to make a bit of an impression on the natives.

Two moments in particular stood out, the first of which was that swing-and-ping of his – on debut, no less – against a City team who then, as now, were an all-conquering sort of mob. It was the sort of strike that leaves an impression for various reasons. For a start, a goal at home on debut is pretty much first on the list of proven ways in which to endear oneself to the newest fanbase, speaking volumes for the lad’s sense of occasion and timing.

On top of which, it set us up for one of the more memorable victories of the campaign, which adds a bit of clout to the thing.

And moreover, in those calmer moments later on, when one takes a breath or two and watches the highlights over again, everything about the way in which Bergwijn took his goal suggested that he had arrived at the club with a decent amount of technique fizzing in his size sixes (just going out on a limb here and assuming they’re small).

The celebration one could take or leave I suppose – the AANP verdict being that those of a certain age will insist upon such things so they must be suffered – but all told, it was one of the more memorable ways in which a laddie had announced his arrival in recent years.

All of which was blown out of the water by his cameo against Leicester last season. Again, context was everything – we were drifting deep into injury-time, staring defeat in the face – and Bergwijn’s late double prompted the sort of orgy of untethered ecstasy from all concerned that really is only permissible in exceptionable circumstances, and which seems to justify the years of grumble and toil that precede and follow.

His goals that night (particularly the second, including as it did that unique aesthetic sheen that comes with a shot going in off the post) will live long in the memory, as will the celebrations, what with Lucas Moura and that chappie’s hat and whatnot, giving us all something to relate to wide-eyed offspring a few decades hence.

So it is a pretty amicable parting. Things might – and really ought – to have blossomed rather more than they did, but Bergwijn takes off into the night having given us some pretty priceless stuff, Grandmaster Levy recoups the entire investment and Bergwijn’s career appears to have escaped any serious damage. Bon chance, mon brave.

3: Bienvenue, Clement Lenglet

If placed in the dock and instructed to tell the truth, the whole truth and so on and so forth, AANP would have no qualms sticking a paw on the Bible and testifying to having watched our newest arrival in action for a full 90 minutes, on more than one occasion.

Now if John Grisham novels and various courtroom dramas on the tellybox have taught me anything it is that those legal johnnies don’t really go in for sociable chit-chat once the action has kicked off. I’d therefore likely say no more than the above. However, should that change, and invitation be extended to me to elaborate upon my fascinating testimony, I imagine I’d oblige by relating to the stunned gallery that I’d also watched a full 90 minutes of the Austrian Women’s team, as recently as last week. And the crucial connection here, which I’d unfurl with a sweeping gesture or two, is that in neither case could I tell you the first bally thing about any of the players concerned.

I do sometimes wonder if I’m the only one who watches football in this way – able to peel off forensic analysis of every pass and shimmy of my lot, be they Spurs (male or female) or England (male or female), but all blank stares and clueless shrugs when it comes to literally any amongst the opposition.

The sum of it is that my knowledge of the deeds of M. Lenglet are restricted to the pearls of wisdom of those who study such things for an honest wage. As such, one understands that Lenglet is a little slow (I paraphrase), left-footed (horse’s mouth) and relatively competent in possession (I p. once more).

All of which means that, as has tended to happen quite a lot since Our Glorious Leader took over, I’m off down the road labelled Ben Davies Avenue.

 One of the more curious anthems being belted around the corridors of power this summer has been that big money must be spent on a Ben Davies upgrade.

Upgrades in any position are, of course, welcome with open arms and miles of bunting. After all, one always ought to strive to improve. This is no time to rest on laurels. And so on – you get the gist.

However, lasering in on Davies as the object most in need of improvement and upgrade within the eleven seems a slightly rummy one. I’m not convinced that Davies is more obviously in need of upgrading than, say, Dier (which is not to denigrate either of them, more to illustrate that they’re carrying out duties equally admirably). The feedback I’d personally file on Davies for his efforts would be pretty glowing stuff.

More pertinently I’d suggest that we ought to stick whatever cash is filed under ‘Ben Davies Upgrade’ into a right-wing-back-shaped basket, preferably identifying a nib who has a minute of top-flight football on his CV – but this, I suppose, is a debate for another day. Evidently someone with clout has been pretty wedded to the idea that Davies is the one upon whom to improve, so here we are, thumbing through the mugshots of Europe’s finest left-sided centre-backs.

Or at least I assume they’re Europe’s finest, because personally I’d not know any of Bastoni, Pau Torres, Bremer or chums if they tapped me on the shoulder, but as one can’t throw a brick without hitting someone giving them rave reviews I presume they’re the goods.

However, it appears that with each of the above being unavailable or unwilling to join the gang, The Brains Trust (Sub-Division: Transfers) have stood on one leg and pivoted 90. In the absence of an obvious upgrade we have scratched that particular phrase from the manifesto, and now seem content to pick up anyone in Europe who’s earned a respectable living as a left-sided centre-back. Put another way, the focus has switched from upgrading on Davies to providing cover for him.

4: Cover For Rather Than Upgrade Upon Ben Davies

This is fine in AANP’s book. As emphasised earlier, Davies seems to have done decent things, both defensively and in augmenting things as an unlikely forward-thrusting auxiliary. While he is honest, dependable, willing and all those other wholesome sort of things, it would be a bit much also to expect him to play every minute of every game this coming season.

It therefore makes good sense, in a Football Manager sort of way, to stock up for the next 12 months on a chappie capped 15 times by the World Champions, and who has earned his monthly envelope of the last couple of years at Barcelona. Even if he is not the best in business, one presumes he’s sufficiently capable to deputise for Davies as and when necessary, without standards falling off a cliff and into the territory of Davinson Sanchez at his most petrified.

A season’s loan minimises risk, and removes the awkward questions around selling on or pensioning off. On top of which, this is further evidence of Conte getting what Conte wants – all done, yet again, before a ball has been kicked in anger on the pre-season tour. It might not be the best deal going, but with the present incumbent of the position playing well enough, it strikes me as a sensible move.

Tweets hither

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Spurs news, rants Spurs transfers

Richarlison: Three Tottenham Talking Points

AANP was woken from mid-summer slumber last week by the unmistakeable pitter-patter of newly-signed feet, which seems as good an excuse as any to scribble some thoughts (with the usual apologies for more Covid-induced tardiness).

1. Positionally

Spurs have signed a competent striker, and this alone is pretty sensational stuff.

Now I suppose some might immediately quibble that Mother Nature did not roll up her sleeves and use the ‘Striker’ template when fashioning Richarlison, he being more the sort of laddie to be found starting wide and buzzing infield, as is very much the vogue these days.

It’s a fair point, and actually quite the bonus, an element that no doubt fed strongly into the decision to raid the vault for the necessary sums. Richarlison will not just be an able deputy for Kane, but also for Sonny and Kulusevski.

All well and good, but it’s the ‘Central Striker’ part of the arrangement that has really put the spring in the step of those at AANP Towers. The failure time and again to arrange suitable cover for Kane had pretty swiftly evolved from mild curio to major design flaw in the workings at N17, over the course of the last half-dozen years.

Alternatives to Kane had either taken the form of ghastly inexperience (see Carlos Vincius, who seemed to find his level with a hat-trick against Marine) or fellows at the other end of the spectrum, just about ready to be put out to pasture (see Fernando Llorente, a chap to whose hip I will always be grateful, contributing as it did towards the great Etihad CL victory, but who otherwise devoted his energies to the twin pursuits of general immobility and finding all manner of ways to miss presentable chances).  

Throw in a Janssen here and a Clinton N’Jie there, and one begins to appreciate the excitement at the hiring of this Richarlison chappie. In notable contradistinction to any of the aforementioned, here is a lad who has proven himself quite capable of leading the line; who comes already programmed with a few years of experience in the Premier League; and who at 25 is approaching his peak.

The whole business of five substitutes next season means that he ought not to want for game-time, on top of which he can expect to lead the line in those random early-round Cup ties that clutter the calendar at various points. As such, the sentiment around these parts is that we should bung him into a lilywhite shirt and unleash him at the earliest opportunity.

2. Character

To say that Richarlison is a sullen sort of fellow barely scratches the surface. Here is a lad whose face would crack in about seventeen different places if obliged by law to uncork a smile. Much of the moody teenager about him.

Indeed, one does not need an in-depth knowledge of the internet and its various nooks and crannies to find footage of Richarlison and his newest teammate, Cristian Romero, lunging at each other’s kneecaps, in what I suppose you might call a spirit of national fervour.

Is this a problem? Quite the opposite. As my old man, AANP Senior has been known to observe, having been brought up on the Double-winners and whatnot, what our lot lack is a Mackay prowling the place and ensuring that all concerned charge around like their lives depend on it.

Being of a more recent vintage, the standard I tend to use is one from the Keane-Vieira mould, who will scream blue murder in the face of colleagues to ensure that standards are high, and set the radar to ‘Seek and Destroy’ when dealing with opponents.

Now Our Glorious Leader has without doubt done much to change the mentality at N17, to the extent that defeats are no longer simply to be shrugged off, but are intended to wound deeply. And learned sorts with inside knowledge of Richarlison have highlighted that here is a fellow who of a similar mind. Apparently he is the type of egg who expends every last drop of oxygen in the cause of victory, and then broods like the dickens for a few days after if things do not positively unfold. Frankly, I cannot wait to have a sort like that stalking the corridors.

3. Business

A final note on this particular transaction is to note that once again, presumably at the behest of the Big Cheese and his desire for a full and uninterrupted pre-season, the T’s are being crossed and I’s dotted on this nice and early in the piece.

In recent years we long-suffering lilywhites have become accustomed to transfer windows defined by final-hour haggling, refusals to cough up the necessary few bob and a hastily-struck loan for Fraizer Campbell. To have four players signed up and ready to go as early as the start of July is therefore as welcome as it is discombobulating – and while it does make me wonder why the dickens we couldn’t have done our business this way every year, the move is further evidence of the shift to a more professional approach being instilled across the club by Signor Conte.

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Spurs news, rants Spurs transfers

Yves Bissouma: Three Tottenham Talking Points

1. Joyous Tidings

If you happened to notice AANP bounding about the place in particularly bonny, blithe and gay fashion in the last week or so I’d congratulate you on your perceptive nature. Every now and then our lot unveil a new signing that puts no end of buck in the step, and the scrawl of Yves Bissouma across the headed notepaper has done precisely that.

I mentioned in my last tuppence worth, a couple of weeks back, that I’m not generally one to devote my energies to watching opponents, being far too consumed with monitoring the every move of those in lilywhite. As a result, it’s something of an event when an opposing player catches the AANP eye during a Tottenham game, but in this category young Monsieur Bissouma can proudly step up to collect a gong and clear his throat for a victory speech.

The job he did when we travelled to Brighton last season, was quite something to behold. Memory suggests that while some other chappie pinched the last-minute goal that weighted the scoreline in Brighton’s favour, it was Bissouma’s security work in the central areas that won the thing. In particular, I wouldn’t wonder if that rotter Harry Kane greeted Bissouma’s arrival in N17 by bunging him over the head with a brick, such was the job done by the latter on the former in that match. Whenever the ball was shoved in the general radius of Kane, Bissouma was upon him in an instant, sucking the life – and most of our collective creative juices – out of him for the entirety of the gig.

And while admittedly one random shindig in the sun last season is not the sort of stuff upon which one ought to base a fully-fledged opinion, the bespectacled sorts who crunch numbers have rather more weight to throw behind the chap. For a start, the numbers have him down as having made more frequent tackles and interceptions than anyone else in the league last season, which lends a touch more gravity to the argument and has me nodding an admiring head.

Of course, he might still swan into the team and prove a dreary letdown (he wouldn’t be the first in the hallowed corridors of the Lane) but frankly the odds are stacked in his favour. A player who looked in charge of much he surveyed last season, with a couple of years of Premier League experience and, at 25, one would presume a fair amount of oxygen to in his lungs, represents one heck of a deal at £25m.

Indeed, he even popped up with a rather eye-catching solo goal in the Cup fixture at N17 last season; although my spies assure me that such activities are the exception rather than the norm when it comes to Bissouma’s list of bullet points. Nice to know that he’s capable of such things, of course, but the fellow has been designed by Mother Nature for more defensive-minded inputs.

And that’s fine by me. While Bentancur would collect the ball and dreamily pop it along to the better-placed, Hojbjerg last season grafted away but often seemed to be operating on the very last couple of drops of energy wrung from his tissues. The addition therefore of a bona fide midfield enforcer is pretty exciting stuff, particularly given that in our neck of the woods midfielders tend to be the creative sorts who’d rather not waggle too many defensive legs if they can get away with it.

2. How He Fits In

The central options next season therefore appear to read: Bentancur, Bissouman, Skipp and Hojbjerg, the first two of whom will presumably rise, cream-like to the top, but the latter two of whom have respectively the energy and nous to deputise at the drop of any hats and with minimal disruption or – crucially – dip in quality.

One might, of course, quibble, that between this quartet there is still something of a dearth of creative tricks and party-pieces that make the eyes pop and opposition fall apart at the seams, but that’s not really the point. Conte-ball seems to require a central midfield pairing that neutralises all threats and shifts us from back- to front-foot in the blink of an eye, and in both respects Bissouma appears to be precisely the sort of egg about whom exciting montages are spliced together.

(Some might also point that the potential incoming of a certain free-of-charge alumnus in central midfield would add a degree of creativity, and the option for tactical tweaks away from 3-4-3, but that’s a debate for another time.)

3. Our Changing Transfer System

Part of the thrill of all this to-ing and fro-ing is the pretty radical departure it signals from the traditional way of doing things in N17. We’ve been raised (rather cruelly it seems to me) on a diet of tortuous transfer sagas stretching the entirety of the summer, before a last-minute panic to complete deals, and the signing of a couple of unproven bods in their early twenties with potential sell-on value.

Witness the current contrast. Three deals inked and ready to go before the longest day of the year has stretched its legs; each of whom are proven in their positions. This rather than being the sort for whom we wait, with fingers crossed and lips pursed, to see if they’ll fulfil their potential.

Frankly, the good sense of this summer’s dealings thus far, coupled with the no-nonsense way in which players have been identified as the best available to meet the necessary criteria, makes this seem like a game of Football Manager rather than the Way of Things in Hotspur-land.

The immediacy of it all – buying proven players who can waltz straight into the starting line-up and will improve our league position in this coming season, rather than three years hence – is both unusual and jolly entertaining. Frankly, it represents a degree of sensible thinking I had not thought possible with our lot. But then, Conte has seemingly had that effect in all he does about the place. And Grandmaster Levy, rather sensationally, is now backing the honest fellow! Long may the sanity continue!

(Not wanting to gloss over the potential seriousness of the legal case hanging over him, but with no information available it’s near-impossible to opine one way or t’other at present, so the ramblings above are purely football-related)

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Spurs news, rants Spurs transfers

Perisic, Forster & Gollini: Three Tottenham Talking Points

1. Ivan Perisic

The headline summary of AANP’s reaction to this one is somewhere along the lines of “Ripping stuff, what?”

Oddly enough, Perisic is one on whom I’ve had my beady eye for quite some time. And those who know me best will attest to the fact that I do not use the term “oddly enough” casually. For a start, when watching Spurs I rarely compute the identities of any in opposition, so contorted am I in paroxysms of anguish by the performance of our lot. After all, there’s no time to be taking notes on anyone else when you’re busy staving off massive coronary events within your own framework 

And when I do make the very occasional observation of some lad not of lilywhite persuasion, one might label the exercise “Miss” as often as “Hit”. Take Shane Long, for example, a johnnie who presumably looks back on his apples with some satisfaction, and should be able to see out his days in some comfort – but nevertheless not a player one would honestly say has risen to the heights for which AANP earmarked him several years back. 

Perisic, however is a different kettle of fish. Here’s a lad who back at the 2014 World Cup had AANP nodding a sage head and tipping for glory. And while these things are subjective, one would be hard pressed to dismiss a CV that includes the Champions League, titles in Italy and Germany and a goal in a World Cup Final dash it. 

And as it happens it is precisely this clutch of medals and rosettes and whatnot that has AANP nodding with vigorous approval at the scrawl of I. P. on the dotted line. For here is a chap who knows how to win on the biggest stages. A chap who laced his boots before crunch games and Cup Finals, and 90 minutes later waved shiny pots above his head. Marry this to team Hotspur’s famous ability to trip over their own feet at the final hurdle, season after season, and suddenly the sense of the move rather lurches into view. 

Yes we have Monsier Loris who has had his mitts on the World Cup, and Kane with a World Cup Golden Boot, and Dier and Sonny and Hojbjerg, all of whom have been around the block often enough to know how to get things done – and rarely was this nous illustrated better than against Woolwich last month – but laddies who’ve actually done the deed at club level are pretty thin on the ground in N17. So if Conte and chums want to roll out the red carpet for an egg like Perisic then I’m all for it. 

I’m reminded of the invigorating effect of Cambiasso at Leicester a few years back, or even the positive impact reported by those in the know when Edgar Davies rocked up in this parish – attitudes in training, reactions to defeat and so forth – and am inclined to gush a fair bit with excitement. 

On a practical level, I’ve spent the best part of the Conte era bleating that a system like Conte-ball requires as a pretty essential component for success a couple of wing-backs a good few notches above the average, and while Messrs Reguilon and Sessegnon have rarely lacked willing, few of sound mind would categorise them as World Class. 

Admittedly, whether or not Master Perisic can shake a defensive leg is something of an unknown at AANP Towers, but if Conte likes him enough to bring him into the gang then I consider the requisite boxes have been ticked and criteria met. 

The Causes For Concern

The principal objection to the signing of the multi-award winning and still-in-presentable-nick Perisic is his age. 33 don’t you know. Personally, I’d happily murder a lesser member of socially to be that age again, but some of the pickier sorts seem convinced that a fellow who’s been around the sun 33 times ought to have no business in the Premier League when there’s a retirement home sofa with his name on it.

I suppose more pertinently, one wonders about the lung capacity of a chap signed up for wing-back duties at 33, and particularly one transitioning from Serie A to the Premier League. And being a fair-minded sort, even though I am a fully paid-up member of Team Perisic, I am happy to acknowledge the risk in this scheme.

I suppose the riposte here lies in the fact that Perisic will presumably be asked to perform his duties in tandem with young Sessegnon. That is to say, one of the pair will strut his stuff midweek, the other take the stage at weekends. As well as allowing Perisic to catch his breath in between assignments, one might also hope that this Master-Apprentice arrangement might serve to chivvy along the career of young Sessegnon, a bounder whose ability to follow positional instructions appears vastly to outweigh his competence with ball at feet.

And as much as anything else, I’m whistling a particularly upbeat ditty on account of the fact that the whole approach to transfers, firmly embedded in the marble halls of N17 over the last decade or two, appears now to be subject to a minor adjustment. It seems that ever since the ‘90s, The Tottenham Way on such matters has involved hoovering up young sorts as yet unproven on grass but with buckets of potential and – tellingly – sell-on value. As part of a broader strategy, involving one or two experienced heads, this would be sage business. At Spurs, however, the strategy in its entirety seems to have been to bank on these fellows in their early twenties to blossom into world-beaters on our watch, with world football’s more established stars strictly amongst the more non grata breed of persona.

Therefore, seeing us invest in a chap whose finest years might be behind him, and whose sell-on value might be minimal, but who, crucially, has a few tales to tell and medals to display, represents a pretty significant swerve from the route usually trodden. In theory at least, however, it ought to complement well the massed ranks of younger nibs buzzing about the place, and strikes me as a pretty sound piece of thinking.

Fraser Forster In; Pierluigi Gollini Out

The more perceptive amongst you, having skim-read the above, will be unsurprised that the AANP stance on the incoming of Fraser Forster is not a million miles from that on Master Perisic. At 34, Forster could theoretically bounce Perisic on his knee and spin a few tales from his youth, whilst, at the risk of sounding like a Brexit Minister, our quota of home-grown players also apparently receives a nudge in the right direction by virtue of his arrival.

Any reserve goalkeeper worth his salt in a Champions League side ought to have a few decent character references and work experience jaunts, and Forster, while not necessarily amongst the world’s elite between the sticks, seems have enough experience both to fill the void in random Cup games and also to deputise for longer stints should Monsieur Lloris happen to chip a toe-nail at any point during the season.

One might argue that the very fact that Forster has won a clutch of England caps at all says something about him in the first place, because if four decades of watching the national side has taught me anything it’s that back-up goalkeepers rarely get a look-in.

That said, I can’t claim to be any sort of expert on the fellow. Science, a pretty reliable gauge of these sorts of matters, informs me that he measures six foot seven, and while there is more to being a goalkeeper than general mass alone, I dare say he has put his presence to decent use over the years in his chosen profession. However, the issue of whether a chap whose brain is so far from his feet offers any value when kicking the thing is not one to which I can attest.

A cautionary note might be struck in that the last time we welcomed aboard an experienced and seemingly capable, home-grown deputy goalkeeper, the name ‘Hart’ was being ironed across the back of replica shirts. However, while Joe Hart had struck me as a pretty sensible addition when brought into the fold a few years back, on his donning the lilywhite (or lurid goalkeeping equivalent) I was swiftly reminded of his principal failing, namely his inability to save anything directed to his left.

For most of us, I suppose the inability to dive to one’s left might not really interfere with life’s mundane tasks, and far less one’s paid employment – but in a goalkeeper it can be quite the hindrance, and thus it proved with Hart. Principally for this reason, Hart fairly quickly became exposed as being at his best when hollering at those around him, but vastly more limited when pressed into actual on-pitch service.

Young Senor Gollini has similarly underwhelmed during his year at the Lane. The initial plan had apparently been for him to bed in and gradually usurp Lloris, his year-long loan designed to culminate in a triumphant permanent move, which just goes to show how wrong folk can be, what?

The fellow’s sporadic appearances in various Cup competitions were of fairly middling quality, his stint with us most notable for that rather curious if emphatic flap at mid-air during the Carabao Cup defeat to Chelsea. Few, one suspects, will mourn his departure.

All of which seems to point to Forster’s most useful attributes being the fact that he is neither Joe Hart nor Pierluigi Gollini. Nevertheless, it was a spot of business that needed doing, and if he can guide us through the early Cup rounds without too many alarms, then Forster-in-Gollini-out will represent a pretty tidy spot of early-summer give-and-take.

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Spurs news, rants

Spurs’ January Transfer Window: Six Tottenham Talking Points

1. Dele

AANP has traditionally been one to greet bad news with a stiffening of the upper lip and, if pushed, a solemn, unspoken nod at a nearby chum who feels similarly. And rarely has the upper lip been stiffer in recent times than upon learning of the departure of young Dele.

Utterly inevitable of course. The young bean had long ago fizzled out, and generally only popped up in lilywhite in recent years to drift along in his own little world before another month or two on the bench. If any other wag did what he’s been doing – slowing down the game, hogging the ball, moodily waving the arms and giving up the cause when dispossessed – the knives would have been out and pitchforks flung in his direction a long time ago.

By the time the bitter end swung around Dele offered purely decorative value. We’d spot him pre-match, forlornly nutmegging his fellow subs during the warm-up, but thereafter his biggest contribution tended to be in unwrapping a blanket for his legs as he watched on from the bench. If ever a former bright young thing needed a change of scenery, it is Dele. One does not disagree with the unceremonious binning.

Quite why it all went wrong is a rummy one. Dele’s problem seemed ultimately to be an existential one, in that his favoured No. 10 position simply ceased to exist. Disappeared into the ether. This must have been pretty tough for the chap to take, essentially turning up to work to find that his desk had been removed, but I suppose time – and systems involving one central striker and two inverted wingers – wait for no man.

Within Conte’s 3-4-3, there is no room for a midfielder who yearns deep inside to be a forward. Conte’s midfielders must midfield first, and ghost into the opposition area only on special occasions.

(Admittedly the 3-5-2 set-up, which brought something like the best out of Dele vs Liverpool a few weeks back, suggested that there might be life in the old dog yet, and I confess to being a mite surprised that this experiment was not repeated, but Conte presumably had seen enough.)

So off he has popped – and yet it does lower the mood about the place, what? Peak Dele was, if not necessarily the heartbeat, then certainly one of the essential organs of the whole glorious-without-actually-bringing-home-any-specific-glory Poch era.

This is not so much for what he did (although the list is plentiful and glorious: popping up as young scamps will do, with goals against Real, and Arse, and Chelsea; demonstrating some quite glorious touches to pluck falling footballs from the sky; grinning cheekily while kicking out slyly; contorting thumb and forefinger; and so on).

It’s as much for what the very presence of the chap said about our last fun adventure: Poch-era Tottenham. Here was a brash young bounder who oozed talent and positively revelled in flicking the ears of shinier opponents. Think of him in his bursting-from-midfield pomp, and it’s hard not to think of that all-singing, all-dancing team of nearly-men who had an absolute blast and took us to within a whisker of pots of various sizes.

And by a similar token, removing Dele in effect dismantles more of that Poch machinery, leaving behind just the top and tail of the thing.

“Here’s Dele Alli… here’s Lucas Moura… OH THEY’VE DONE IT!

2. Ndombele and Lo Celso

Tottenham Hotspur is, of course, where talented foreign footballers go to die, so we probably should not be too surprised that having looked like the sort of beans around whom Title-challenging teams could be built in their YouTube compilations and international performances, Ndombele and Lo Celso are now being bundled out of the nearest exit.

Dashed shame though. One didn’t need to boast the keenest football eye to detect that each of the aforementioned were capable of some pretty ripping stuff with a ball at their feet – and I rather fancy that they’ll do more of the same in sunnier climes in the months and years to come, when bedecked in anything but lilywhite.

And yet, present them with the lush greenery of N17 and the pair of them struggled to remember what game they were playing.

Actually, I do Ndombele a disservice there. The chap’s great flaw was not his touch, or delivery, or any such thing. The main challenge Ndombele seemed to encounter any time he finished tying his laces was that after one quick trot around the pitch he seemed to need a full week to recover, gasping for air, his lungs aflame and legs as jelly.

If inclined one could probably write a long-ish essay on what went wrong and what might have been a bit right-er about Ndombele’s time at Spurs. There were moments when he would receive the ball in the narrowest of corners, boxed in by a variety of opposing limbs, and still mesmerically emerge from said dead-end with ball at feet and opponents dizzied. Sometimes he would even throw in end-product too, a delightfully-weighted pass or a shot from the edge of the area.

Ultimately, however, neither he nor Lo Celso seemed remotely cut out for a life in the heart of the Tottenham midfield. Lo Celso in particular seemed to make a habit, in recent months, of doing small things with great error, be it a simple pass to tick along the midfield or a corner to beat the first man.

Perhaps if any of the umpteen managers who oversaw them had seen fit to take either of these two souls, stick them slap-bang in the heart of things and construct a team around them, their talents might have blazed forth and all would have been right with the world.

But it is telling that none of those managers did. Sometimes no words need uttering, and these appears to be those times. A knowing nod, and tap of the nose speaks volumes. “Ndombele and Lo Celso”, one manager after another seems to have been saying, without actually saying, “not the sort of eggs upon whom one can rely.” And if an egg can’t be relied upon in midfield, there’s not much left for them other than the scraps of substitute appearances and an occasional Europa start.

3. Bryan Gil

There are loans and then there are loans, and while Ndombele and Lo Celso’s loans seem to carry with them a rather unsubtle message that if they want to stick around in their new homes then it’s fine by all back at HQ, the loan of Bryan Gil has more of the bona fide have-him-for-a-bit-but-then-return-him about it.

The view at AANP Towers is pretty unimpressed about this one, from start to finish. One probably should let bygones be bygones and whatnot, but I still chafe a bit at the thought that we traded in one perfectly serviceable Lamela – plus £20m, dash it – for this Gil character.

Not Gil’s fault of course, he can do little more than turn up where told, at the appointed hour and with hair combed just so. But the logic behind the whole trade-off to this day has me scratching the old loaf. I should probably revisit the whole script in a few years’ time, when Gil has discovered the joys of steak lunches and bench presses, but for now he is a boy in a man’s world if ever there were one.

The loan at least means he can get his size fives in contact with a ball again, so silver linings and all that. More terrifyingly, in conjunction with the paperwork on Dele, Ndombele and Lo Celso, it leaves the creative cupboard pretty bare – but this is presumably a contingency for which Our Glorious Leader has planned.

4. Bentancur and Kulusevski

As ever, if you want a detailed analysis of these fellows’ strengths, weaknesses, preferences and whatnot then you are in a laughably bad spot of the interweb, but do stick around anyway.

AANP can be pretty sharp at times, and having seen Conte get rid of three creative central midfield types, and summon Bentancur – yet another of those fellows whose idea of a good time is rolling up their sleeves, scrapping for the ball and then shoving it sideways – I get the impression that Our Glorious Leader has a type.

As such this means another seat will be needed around the Central Midfield campfire, next time Messrs Hojbjerg, Skipp and Winks gather to chew the fat. Whether Bentancur proves to be any improvement on current produce remains to be seen, but he is another pair of legs for that midfield slot, so this can be considered a good week for anyone who has ever taken a look at our squad and tearfully warbled about its depth.

As for Kulusevski, this is apparently a chap fitted out for life in the more advanced positions, either coming in from the right or, intriguingly, straight through the centre (albeit as a supporting act rather than line-leading sort).

It would be a bit of a stretch therefore to suggest that in him we have that much-needed back-up to Harry Kane, but I think the gist is that he can be shoved into any of the attacking spots and expected to know his way around the premises.

As ever, one wishes him the best, and patience will be the watch-word, and so on and so forth – but having witnessed Lamela, Lucas, Bergwijn and Gil all try their luck in these wide-ish attacking positions, my enthusiasm for another off the production line is a little muted.

5. Non-Purchases

The failed attempts to snaffle Traore and Luis Diaz, while rather embarrassing, seem hardly calamitous.

The Traore affair struck me as good for a chuckle rather than having any obvious, analytical merit. Here was a chap who in the first place was undoubtedly muscular, and seemed nigh on unstoppable whenever he played against us. So far so good, one might suggest.

Get down to the nitty-gritty however, and a few plot-holes seemed to emerge. For all his muscles and love of a direct approach to attacking life, his end-product seemed pretty wild – and having sat through half a season of Emerson Royal’s struggles to deliver just one adequate cross from the right, I’m not sure Traore and his blast-it-anywhere approach is quite the remedy we’re after.

Moreover, the fellow is not a defender, and while Conte has some history of alchemy in this respect (Exhibit A, Victor Moses), the whole thing leaves me pretty sanguine about missing out on him.

As for Diaz, my Porto-dwelling chum Hawth has for some time been raving about the fellow’s attributes, and it is not hard to see why, so this one does rankle a tad. Even here though, the blow is softened considerably by the fact that Diaz earns his weekly wage in exactly the same position as one Son Heung-Min Esquire. So while the ignominy of rejection is again hard to swallow, this particular plot-twist did not exactly leave us any worse off than a month prior.

More of a frustration at AANP Towers is the passing of yet another transfer window without a sniff of a worthy understudy to that rotter Harry Kane. Lovely though it is to see Kane returning to his finest fettle in recent weeks, we are yet again left hoping that he navigates the remainder of the season without injury. Sonny, Bergwijn or potentially the new chap Kulusevski could all theoretically deputise on the odd occasion, but lose Kane for, say, six weeks or so and the panic button will be slammed with some gusto.

The failure to bring in another right wing-back is similarly being declared a mis-step by some sages, but in truth I’m rather encouraged by the 45-minute cameo of Matt Doherty against Leicester a few weeks back, so would be all for the chap being given a further stab at the gig, if only to keep Emerson Royal off stage.

6. Lloris

Perhaps the greatest triumph of the window, however, was the retention for the foreseeable future of Monsieur Lloris. It seemed a little bizarre that we even reached the stage that he was free to bat eyelids at other suitors, but Grandmaster Levy and chums move in mysterious ways their wonders to perform, and the moral of the story is that the chap remains ours for a couple more years, so it’s back-slaps and cigars all round.

While Lloris’ standards have taken a few notable wobbles in recent years, this season he has come out swinging, and our lot have looked all the better for it. Nobody is perfect of course, and I still wonder for example whether he might have waved a paw at that Chelsea opener from Ziyech in our last game – but one only has to cast the mind back to Gollini’s bizarre flap against Chelsea a few weeks earlier to realise how grateful we should be that Lloris is prepared to ride off into the sunset with AIA tattooed across his gut.

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Spurs news, rants

Conte, Potter and Spurs’ Strategy & Identity: 3 Tottenham Talking Points

1. What’s The Long-Term Strategy?

As part of the day-job, AANP can often be found swanning around town claiming to help create strategies of all things, for individuals and organisations gullible enough to lap up this sort of thing. In truth, this typically involves asking such folk where they want to end up, in the long-ish term; charging them the earth for the privilege; and then decamping to the nearest bar to knock back a splash or two of something stiff and rattle on about the glory days.

I mention this because as I watch on from my perch, it’s increasingly difficult to fathom what the hell is the strategy (there’s that word again) at Spurs. And for clarity, I mean football strategy, rather than the ‘Make More Money’ approach so earnestly peddled by D. Levy Esq. every waking minute in our shiny new bowl.

Under Poch, a strategy of sorts could be detected. Press high up the pitch; scamper around pretty indefatigably; attack; and develop the younglings – these seemed broadly to number amongst the key factors. It helped create an identity about the place and aligned with the traditions of the estate, so to speak.

It did of course help that we generally won a heap more than we lost, but by and large we the honest punters were pretty happy with how things panned out each week.

Fast forward to the final days of Poch, and more specifically the aftermath, and if you were to wonder what the devil the overall masterplan was then I’d shake you by the hand and suggest you’d hit the nail pretty squarely on the head.

In short, once Poch was out the door and wandering the streets of N17, any semblance of a broad strategy and long-term aim went with him.

The appointment of Jose? Put charitably, the strategy here seemed to be ‘Win Something Shiny’, with the parenthesised addendum ‘In Whatever Manner Necessary’. Less charitably, it seemed to be an opportunity for Levy to buy himself a long-coveted toy. There was no regard for style of play, and no consideration to the longer-term consequences – either in terms of playing style, or, crucially, the potential fall-outs and internal rifts for which Jose had become pretty famous.

Once that experiment ended, even the long-ish shortlist of would-be paramours this summer gave little hint of an obvious strategy in place post-Jose. If a specific style or identity had been identified, a common thread would have run through all the half-dozen or so managers courted. I suppose in Ten Haag and Poch Mk II there was a similarity, but Conte and Gattuso seemed cut from pretty different cloth.

The eventual decision to plump for Nuno, while essentially born of desperation and the realisation that if we started the season with nobody in charge we would look pretty comical, again gave little consideration to the identity of the club. In a sense, this was more understandable, because by that stage we needed simply to hire anyone who would take the damned gig – and when necessity comes calling, strategy is generally shoved out the door without so much as a ‘Cheerio’.

2. Conte

But with Nuno now bundled off into the sunset, and the chase on for Conte, the question that springs to mind is again the one being mumbled when Poch was axed – viz. what’s the strategy here? Or, put in another couple of ways, what’s the long-term goal? What’s the intended identity of the club?

There seems to be much of the short-term solution about the current pursuit of Conte. This is not just a reference to the supposed 18-month contract, but more pressingly to the fact that he historically does not care too much about long-term planning when creating his teams, and certainly not when ostracising players the cut of whose jib does not tickle him.

In a sense, this is actually understandable enough, and one sympathises. Our lot are in the dickens of a spot, and this is no time to entrust young Mason or whomever with 18 months to learn on the job. Making a beeline for the most qualified sort currently available is, one could persuasively argue, a no-brainer.

And if Conte hauls our mob up by the bootlaces, and drags us kicking, screaming and minus a few rotten eggs into the European spots come May, Levy will understandably beam from East stand to West.

Put another way, the pile of steaming dung is now so sizeable that consideration of long-term strategy, and identity and whatnot, ought to be placed on hold for a couple of years, while the club simply arrests its decline.

And as indicated, this is understandable enough. For the record, AANP still rather furrows the brow at it, but one has the decency to appreciate the logic.

Nevertheless, were I pulling the strings of this particular puppet-show, the next appointment would be one that gives greater consideration to the style of play and, more importantly, the broader identity of the club.

I can hardly claim to be an expert on Conte’s tactics, but from what I’ve seen and, more pertinently, from what Chelsea-supporting eggs have informed me, he likes a solid defence and a counter-attack. Not necessarily the ultra-defensive type that many have proclaimed, but equally not a fellow on whom one can necessarily hang their attacking hat.

3. Potter

As such, AANP’s covetous stare (presuming that Poch is still otherwise engaged for at least another 18 months) is directed towards Graham Potter. Having seen our lot spiral disastrously downward I’ve taken the opportunity in recent weeks to study Brighton, and bearing in mind that their individual players are hardly of the ‘Seasoned International’ ilk that we boast, I’ve been mightily impressed with the way in which they earn their weekly wage.

Most notably, when they attack they do so swiftly, their football featuring no end of early passes and off-the-ball movement. Rather than receiving the ball and pivoting back towards defence like there’s a prize on offer for whomever can do it most regularly, they show a spot of bravery and attempt to play forward. Most eye-catchingly, to repeat, they play quickly, with one- and two-touch football, the sort of stuff for which I currently yearn at Spurs. And this against teams including Liverpool and Man City, mind.

The lad Bissouma is generally on sentry duty in front of the back-line, and the full-backs seem to have no qualms about charging north to aid and abet things – but without getting bogged down in the specifics, they seem to have an identity and an attractive style about them.

And for that reason, I’ve thrown my hat in with Team Potter. I imagine he would not just attempt to create an attractive style of play, but he’d lay a foundation that would bring with it a longer-term identity.

(To the practical objection of prising him away from a project with which he’s presumably perfectly happy at present, I counter that apparently £15m is being waved at Conte, and whether or not that’s true, the principle, I would suggest, remains that if Levy were set on him he’d be able to throw enough money at the thing to effect it. Might not work with PSG, really ought to work with Brighton.)

Of course, there would be no guarantee of success, and one could reasonably point out that Potter has not won a damn thing in England as yet; point out that he took a hammering in the Man City game I’m using to showcase his supposed talents; point out that he’s yet to manage players as high-profile as ours; and no doubt trot out a string of further objections, each of which would probably be pretty difficult to counter.

But, having been observing from AANP Towers all day as this whole spectacle has unfolded, I thought I’d lob in my tuppence worth – and most specifically hammer home the point that the identity of our club has disappeared within the raft of short-termist appointments, and – while, as ever, I’ll back him to the hilt once in situ – the cueing up of Conte would do little to change this.

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Spurs news, rants

Harry Kane: 5 Talking Points

1. Trophies

First up is this issue of Kane wanting to win trophies, and deciding that this is a thing best achieved in places other than N17. Galling to hear of course, vaguely akin to being overlooked for a plum role in the workplace, or jilted by a would-be paramour; but one stiffens the upper lip and accepts rough with smooth.

What should not be overlooked, however, is that Kane himself is complicit in this failure to win trophies. Nobody would dispute that Kane fights the good fight better than most, but this business of wanting to cheese off elsewhere to win shiny pots makes it sound like he’s fulfilled his part of the bargain and Spurs did not fulfil theirs. The truth, I would suggest, is rather more sinister.

When our lot reached various Finals and Semi-Finals, and challenged for the League, Kane had as much responsibility as anyone else to complete the job. And yet forensic analysis – or even a passing glance – is sufficient to confirm that while definitely physically present on these occasions, the fellow’s contributions at such crucial junctures tended barely to register. A forlorn shrug here, an attempted halfway line header there; but hardly match-winning stuff.

No doubt at this point in a court of law, a whole bevvy of lawyers would leap to their feet and yelp about ankle injuries and match fitness and whatnot, and these would be compelling points, applying to at least two of the aforementioned shindigs. Yet the overall gist remains, that Kane himself bears much of the responsibility for Spurs’ failure to win these trophies of which he speaks with such longing.

None of which matters a jot of course. The identity of those responsible for our failure to win a dashed thing is neither here nor there if Kane decides to jump in his car and speed up the motorway. But AANP is a man of honour, and will not stand by idly while the good name of Tottenham Hotspur is besmirched. The insinuation that trophies cannot be won at Spurs meets with a pretty frosty reception at AANP Towers. Kane had the platform at Spurs; and Kane was part of the team that repeatedly fell short.

2. The Six-Year Contract

Next up is this business of the contract – a six-year package, so my spies tell me, with t’s crossed and i’s dotted back in 2018. All of which means, according to the mathematic bods who chew these sorts of figures for fun, that Kane is still legally bound to flex his sinews aboard the good ship Hotspur for another three years.

And moreover, while I’m not one to conjecture wildly, I’m prepared to stick my neck out and suggest that back in 2018 when the thing was thrashed out it was not done in the presence of several of those big burly sorts, dressed all in black, threatening expressions across their maps and guns trained on Kane’s forehead. In short, Kane’s decision to sign away six years of his life was done in a spirit of perfect liberty and autonomy.

If it did not occur to him that at some point in the coming six years at Spurs the horizon might cloud over and life’s journey turn into something of a struggle, one can at best sympathise with him for being subject to the vagaries of football – and at worse chastise him for being pretty dim in not contemplating the contingency. Dare I suggest that someone amongst his gang of advisors (who hardly seem shy of dishing out advice) ought to have mentioned to him before he scrawled his name, “For better and for worse, old bean”.

Now opinions differ on whether contracts these days count for much in the glitzy world of top-level football. Briefly summarising these opinions, some say “Nay”, and others say “Yay”, and that’s about the whole of it.

Personally, I’m not much one for the legal game. However, whether or not Kane is obliged to stay – legally, morally or otherwise – what just about everyone can agree on is that he’s not played a particularly smart card by sharpening his elbows for a move when three years remain to tick away on the paperwork.

Footballers in general are admittedly not renowned for their intellectual prowess, but for Kane to fail to realise the mechanics of this one is a tad bizarre. With three years on the contract, he should surely have clocked that if the club wished to dig in its heels then they would hold most of the aces going? And moreover, after spending just about his whole life at Spurs, how the dickens did he miss that there are few things Grandmaster Levy enjoys more in life than digging in his heels? Wait another year and Kane’s value will certainly drop – but the club will still be well placed to cash in. Advantage Levy.

Whereas Kane’s options, with three years left to run, are – as we are witnessing – both limited and pretty unseemly. Of above-board options there are precious few; and of the various forms of tantrum on offer, Kane has now had a healthy stab at most.

Curiously, and for reasons that others are presumably better able to understand than I, as far as I’m aware he has not yet submitted a formal transfer request (and you may with considerable justification call me old-fashioned, but I’d have thought that would be the obvious starting point for any such process of extrication).

Beyond a formal transfer request, all that remains is for him to refuse to play for the club. Kane’s form on the tantrum front suggests that this is now very much on the cards – and yet the situation remains that with the three years left, there is little imperative for Levy to sell up.

3. The Gentleman’s Agreement

The plot thickens with this business of the ‘Gentleman’s Agreement’ of Summer ‘20, supposedly granting Kane the good word of Daniel Levy that he could skip off into the hills come Summer ’21.

Difficult to cast any useful judgement on this particular chapter of course, the whole drama being by its very nature the sort of thing conducted in hushed tones, behind closed doors and with nothing concrete to support one side or t’other.

In a sense though, there’s the rub – a gentleman’s agreement does not provide anything concrete.

So for Kane to base his entire gambit on this was, one might topically say, speculative. Behind closed doors Levy may have delivered an ode channelling the best of both Shakespeare and Churchill, guaranteeing Kane in no uncertain terms the freedom to dance off in whichever direction the wind blows; Kane himself may have danced a little jig as he left the meeting and tootled off triumphantly to his gang to share the joyous news; and if anything like this sequence of events did indeed transpire then one would understand Kane picking up the nearest toy and hurling it from his pram.

However – with not a word of it committed to paper the whole thing rather disappears in a puff of smoke, and the dashed thing about puffs of smoke is that no matter how much one grasps at them, and no matter how much detail one later uses to describe them, once they’re gone there’s not a damn thing one can do to get them back. Whether it happened or not, the gentleman’s agreement gives Kane no leverage. To the faux pas of signing a six-year deal and expecting to wander off halfway through, one can add the faux pas of relying upon a verbal agreement to supersede that six-year deal.

So while I’ll offer Kane a chummy pat on the back, as a small act of sympathy, I’ll as soon suggest that he really ought to have known better and is now paying the price for some pretty poor planning.

4. Man City

The other element in this is the poor, cash-starved lambs of Man City, desperately scrambling together enough loose change for £100m bids for both Jack Grealish and Kane.

First of all, something about the way City have gone about their business in the last ten or so years gives the impression that they do not want for cash, so few hearts will bleed if they bleat about being priced out of the deal.

Secondly, by valuing at £100m the lad Grealish, they might have inadvertently done themselves a mischief in their planned summer shopping spree, because Harry Kane – with his goals, assists, international career, golden boots and so on – will, by whatever metric, have to be valued at one heck of a higher price.

And again, with Kane’s contract still alive and kicking for three years, the onus at this point is on City to cough up rather than on Spurs to sell. All of which rather suggests that the ire Kane is venting at those in the corridors of power at N17 might more appropriately be directed towards those controlling the purse-strings in Manchester. The onus is not on Spurs to sell; it’s on City to pay whatever price is named, if they really want the chap.

5. Kane’s Reputation and Spurs Legacy

This whole sordid business does Kane’s reputation few favours. Now many footballers, admittedly, would not care a hang for reputation, and happily wave from a luxury yacht, sipping cocktails, puffing a cigar and leaning back to have grapes dangled into their mouth, while indignant mortals like yours truly hammer away at their keyboard.

However, one suspects that Harry Kane is cut a little less from this cloth. “Role model”, “England captain” and “all-round reputable egg” are the sort of anthems he likes to hear. On top of which, having mooched about White Hart Lane since his childhood days one had laboured under the impression that here was a man who cared deeply about the club and its fans, and rather thrived on the fact that the feeling was mutual.

Alas, the fellow has pulled some pretty thick moves in recent weeks, haemorrhaging class like nobody’s business. Gags like his unsubtle interviews, dismissive wave of the hand when reminded of his contractual obligations and now refusing to turn up to training all paint the picture of a man for whom ‘Respect for club and fans’ now sits a long way down the list.

All a dashed shame, for I had been readying myself to stick the fellow on a pedestal of the ilk of those occupied by such club legends as Perryman, Mabbutt and Ledley, and was delighting at the notion that this particular bean would imminently etch his name indelibly in our history by becoming our greatest ever goalscorer.

Well you can scratch all that. Every last drop of bonhomie about the place has evaporated, and where once the AANP dial was painted with adoration for the chap, now the very mention of his name brings about a look of narrow-eyed coolness.

Personally, I am not one for booing, as there still needs to be a certain decorum about things; but if H. Kane Esq. expects that his next contribution in lilywhite will be met with some sort of rousing cheer from the AANP lips then he’s as misinformed about that as he has been about every other element throughout this whole saga.

There is no telling what might happen next of course, and the production might end with handshakes and back-slaps all round, but I rather fancy that there is a dashed sight more drama still to come.

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Spurs news, rants Spurs transfers

5 Thoughts on Spurs’ Transfer Deadline Day

1. Lo Celso: We Approve

Admittedly my excitement about this is slightly akin to excitement about buying a purple unicorn, because I’ve no real idea of what the chap does aside from the YouTube clips that have done the rounds, and the occasional article about Expected Goals and Successful Dribbles that makes the head hurt just to read.

Nevertheless, I dare say onlookers have noticed a spring in the AANP step since this one was confirmed. One does not have to cast the mind back too far to recall, with a shudder and darkened brow, the days when we were linked with a reasonably exciting foreign name, and the thing dragged out for a while before failing to come to fruition at the last. (It happened yesterday in fact, with Dybala.) So just the fact that Levy has dug into the pockets, cleared out the moths and sifted through his coppers in order to bring Lo Celso to the Lane is an exciting development.

For make no mistake, our midfield needed a bit of a spit and polish. When young Skipp is one of the next cabs on the rank, you know the cupboard is, if not exactly bare, then boasting only those jars that nobody really wants to touch. Since the start of last season we have lost Dembele – admittedly an ageing and creaking Dembele, but still one of the finest around – and struggled to cope with injuries.

The addition of Ndombele appears a pretty suitable fit for the Dembele-shaped hole; and it appears that Lo Celso will add some vim and sparkle in the other direction. Even should Eriksen leave, we seem to have done pretty well out of this. By all accounts Lo Celso is no Eriksen Mk II – a different type of attacking tool, so my spies inform me – but that strikes me as no bad thing. Not to besmirch the good name of the Dane, I just mean that having a new, different box of tricks will freshen up our attack, as well as keeping all others on their toes.

2. Sessegnon: A Match Made in Young Player Development Heaven

Rather pleased with this one too. It’s a blindingly obvious match in truth – one of the best young prospects around, coupled with a manager with the reputation for developing the best young prospects around. One can imagine them leaping into each other’s arms as if were a routine they’d been practising for weeks.

Word on the street is that young Sessegnon is pretty happy wearing any of the hats marked Left-Back, Left Wing-Back or Left Winger – and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Fulham apply him in that awfully modern role of inverted right winger, whereby he’s constantly cutting infield.

While it might possibly be heaping a little too much pressure on the lad to expect him to be the second coming of Gareth Bale, the N17 hopes are undoubtedly high that this young bean will have a long and distinguished career in lilywhite.

One would expect him to be eased into the team this season, competing with Rose as an attacking left-back, and maybe having the occasional free hit as some sort of left-sided attacker. In effect his signing also provides us with central defensive cover, as it means Ben Davies is likely third in the pecking order for left-back – and quite rightly too – so will become an option as left-sided centre back.

And all at the pretty reasonable sum of £25m, which in today’s market will buy you the standing leg of Aaron Wan-Bissaka, a few curls on the head of Harry Maguire or one entire Tyrone Mings. Pretty nifty work.

3. Dybala: Never Likely (Except it Almost Actually Happened)

As mentioned, the Dybala thing came and went the way of Rivaldo, Juninho, Leandro Damaio and various others the years.

The cynical, wearied, pessimistic Spurs fan in me simply did not have the energy nor inclination to become excited about the Dybala rumour, even though at various points it seemed that pundits and fans alike were pretty convinced that he would transform from puppet into actual boy.

As it turned out, we were actually a lot closer than expected to signing the young whippet, which would have made for a curious but excellent addition. Even having failed to get the chap, on account of some terribly modern garbage called Image Rights of all things – whatever next? – the fact that we met the asking price and coughed up the wages reflects pretty well on our resident purse-string holder – as well as indicating that there are reputational gains to be had from reaching a Champions League Final.

The question of what to do in case of long-term injury to Kane therefore still remains, and with Llorente having very slowly ambled out the exit there is also something of a concern as to what our Plan B might be, or how to withdraw Kane for a breather with 10 to go.

However, a second striker was not as much of a priority as adding an extra layer or two to the midfield. Moreover, this potentially means that, unless he is shoved out on loan, the rather exciting young nib Parrott might gain a few minutes here and there.

4. Rose, Alderweireld, Eriksen: Keeping Them Is Excellent Work (So Far)

As well as the players in, arguably as great a triumph was making it through the transfer window without losing either of Danny Rose or Toby.

Now I’m well aware that we probably ought not to start decking the halls with bunting and strewing confetti around the place just yet, as there is every chance some rotter or other from overseas will swoop in and do their damnedest for either of the above.

But nevertheless. Toby’s £25m release clause was so obviously a good deal for literally every single one of our 19 Premier League rivals that one can only conclude that every last one of them spent the period in which that clause was applicable out on the mother of all drinking binges, lasting several weeks, and only waking up the following morning to discover that the clause had expired.

Toby for around £40m to some foreign power would still represent a pretty smart piece of business on their part, so my breath is held, but it does appear that we are over the worst of it.

While on my soap box, the whole business of being willing to part with both Toby and Rose strikes me as madness of the highest degree. I’m all for planning for the future, but not at the expense of the present, dash it. Toby and Rose are arguably as good as anyone else in their respective positions in England – why on earth would we want to jettison either of them? It’s sheer lunacy! If folk are waving £100m at us I get the point; but if we have the option of retaining their services for another full season, at near enough the peak of their powers, then oughtn’t we to do that, even if it does mean losing them for a pittance? I realise that this is simply not a language Daniel Levy speaks, but I honestly think that they will repay any losses in transfer fee by contributing to on-field success.

As for Eriksen, the arrival of Lo Celso at least covers for the eventuality of him scramming for the continent.

5. Onomah: No Tears Shed Over Here, Laddie

A final epitaph on the notable departee from yesterday. As seasoned drinkers at the AANP Tavern will be aware, Josh Onomah had the honour of being the one chap I simply could not stand, for relatively senseless reasons, so his departure seemed an excellent excuse to allow myself an extra splash of bourbon.

He was an honest enough soul, I suppose, and could not be faulted for effort. But the young fish was far too lightweight for this game, as evidenced by the fact that if an opposing full-back sneezed in his direction he would hurtle off the pitch as if tossed there by a woolly mammoth. Too lightweight, and not extraordinarily gifted in other ways, he was of that breed marked as “One for the future” who, when the future arrived, was found not to have progressed all that much. The Championship seems the right home for him at present.

All things considered then, while the Dybala miss was a shame, this has been a pretty satisfactory window. Poch has been backed, key areas have been strengthened and while some concerns remain (cover for Kane, right-back looks light until Sissoko saves the day), we are in a better place than we were two months ago.

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Randomonium Spurs news, rants

5 Thoughts on the Trippier Transfer

The headline news from the last week or two is that Kieran Trippier has biffed off, to Madrid of all places.

1. A Tad Leftfield, What?

If you were casually to have remarked over the early-morning exchanges that this move was by-the-numbers, utterly normal and thoroughly in keeping with the general way of things, I suspect I would have waggled a particularly suspicious eyebrow and suggest you lay off the sauce for a while.

Trippier to Atletico Madrid was about as fantastical a plot-swerve as they come. It reminds me of those card games played by my nieces, in which cards are picked at random with the result that a clown’s body is matched with a lion’s head and a ballerina’s feet.

2. The Rationale

That said, it makes a lot of sense for the young bean himself. Twelve months ago his stock could not have soared any higher if it had been packaged up in a rocket and sent to the stars, for he was one of the stand-out performers in the World Cup, topping it all off with that fabulous semi-final free-kick.

However, Trippier as a wing-back with the safety net of three central defensive chums bringing up the rear is one thing; Trippier as a right-back within a back-four, as we rather painfully discovered, is a slightly different kettle of fish, and to say that there were grumblings of discontent amongst the masses at his performances in season 18/19 is rather to understate matters.

Put frankly, the chap’s defensive work left a heck of a lot to be desired, with all manner of high-profile and costly defensive aberrations littering the highlights reel.

So from his point of view, the opportunity to pack his wash-bag and apply some fresh sheen to his reputation elsewhere made some sense, particularly abroad, where they presumably still hang more to the free-kick against Croatia than the attempted nutmeg in his own area against Wolves.

3. Trippier’s Comments

On hearing that Trippier had dropped a few racy comments about his former paymasters, in one of his very first interviews in Spanish colours, I positively raced to the newswires to experience for myself what I presumed was some violent attack emanating from his mouth.

However, anyone expecting him to denounce Pochettino as a fraud, claim that squad morale was at an all-time low and disturb Toby’s immaculate hair for good measure was left pretty disappointed. The chap said that there were a few problems behind the scenes, which is the sort of mildly disgruntled fare one would expect of anyone has ever asked or been asked to leave a job.

Some lilywhite fans appear to be frothing at the mouth and perfecting their Trippier effigies at this, but at AANP Towers the news, in common with most of Trippier’s contributions over the last 12 months, has been granted with a shrug.

Still, one wishes him well and so on and so forth.

4. Not Levy’s Finest Moment

The transfer fee does strike something of a nerve though. In these ludicrous times, in which the lad on the Powerleague pitch next to me is probably worth £2m, and Harry Maguire is supposedly fetching north of £80m, a fee of around £20-25m for Trippier strikes me as one of Daniel Levy’s more slipshod pieces of financial brinksmanship.

5. Next Cabs On The Right-Back Rank

Moreover, our right-back is dead so long live our right-back, and in this spirit I give the chin a pensive stroke as I weigh up the ins and outs of our policy in this area for next season.

While Aurier showed some signs of improvement, he has put some solid legwork into establishing his status as one heck of a liability since joining, and juries across the land will require some mightily conclusive evidence to be convinced of the lad’s reliability.

The back-up option of Kyle Walker-Peters bounds around with all of the joys of spring, but his effervescence has done little to paper over the cracks in his defending. The post-it note slapped across his sturdy frame is once again scrawled with the words “One for the future”, but opportunity will presumably present itself more regularly this season.

Another alternative is Juan Foyth, whose love for a forward gambol works in his favour, and who has featured there for Argentina in the Copa America no less, but who nevertheless is something of a square-peg for the role, and is hardly the most accomplished at centre-back himself.

Our Glorious Leader appears to think that there are enough options within the squad (and one or two rather mischievous chums have even suggested that Sissoko might emerge as the front-runner), so I await further developments with interest.