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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 match reports

Dinamo Zagreb 3-0 Spurs: Three Tottenham Talking Points

1. Attitude

The attitude of the players seems to be the major gripe amongst the masses today, and that particular narrative certainly gets my vote, because from the AANP vantage point last night the attitude of the collective from first whistle to approximately the 115th minute stunk the place out.

And while the countless individuals thrust into the limelight yesterday should all be publicly flogged for their pitiful efforts, I do wonder what the hell Jose is doing to earn his weekly envelope. If the players’ attitudes are rummy, or their confidence low, then the manager is presumably tasked with inspiring the requisite changes in mindset, and sharpish. And if the manager is incapable of drumming into their thick skulls the need to buck up and get the pistons firing, then one might say he is incapable, full stop.

It would not quite be accurate to say our lot picked up where they left off on Sunday, because strictly speaking, on Sunday we perked up considerably once the odds had lengthened to enormous levels (anyone else notice a theme emerging here?) via throwing away a lead, going behind and going down to ten men. At that point the place was choc-full of fire in the belly.

No, more accurately, our heroes picked up pretty much where they started on Sunday, or perhaps a regressed a step or two from that point. The approach last night from the opening toot seemed to be to hope that the game would stagnate into nihilism, actively trying to ensure that nothing happened each minute so that we could hurry along to the final whistle and qualification, preferably without the need to break sweat.

Now strictly speaking, in logical terms, there was much to applaud about this approach. If nothing had happened, we would indeed have qualified. Very clever stuff. If the entire match could have been spent by Winks and Sissoko passing sideways to each other and occasionally backwards to Sanchez, as seemed to be the dedicated aim, then we would indeed have coasted through. In fact, I got the impression that our lot were hoping that the ref would decree that there was no need to play a game at all, and that he might just instruct everyone to sit quietly on the spot for 90 minutes, after which results would be recorded with minimal fuss.

However, while fool-proof in theory, if anyone wanted practical evidence of flaws in the tactical approach of “Let’s hope nothing happens for the entire 90 minutes”, then last night their cup overflowed with the stuff.

The galling thing was that one goal would have neatly ended the contest, and one goal against these willing but limited opponents was eminently achievable. Had our heroes gone up the necessary gears they would almost certainly have fashioned enough chances to kill the thing.

Instead, as per the headline, the attitude stunk the place out. Our mob presented themselves as fully converted to the doctrine that they needed only be present and the game would see itself through to full-time in their favour. No effort was exerted in search of a goal because no need was seen for a goal, and the sound of a million Spurs fans banging their heads against the nearest brick wall back home did nothing to amend this.

2. Jose’s Future

It has been widely suggested that Daniel Levy has sacked numerous coaches for less heinous crimes than the rap sheet currently pinned to Jose. Whether or not this is true, one would imagine that the Paymaster General is now casting his mind back a little nervously to Jose’s assurances on contract-signing day. Where Poch’s appeals for funds were often ignored, Jose was invited to dive into a cartoon bathtub full of money at the first opportunity.

Having been duly backed, we find ourselves outsiders for the top four and peddling some pretty dreadful fare on the pitch; and really at least one of these – results or performances – needs to be in place to justify this whole wretched experience.

In the interests of fairness it should not be overlooked that we have at least started beating the teams at the lower end of the table, as the recent run of victories evidences. Nevertheless, the nagging suspicion remains that, armed with Kane, Bale, Son, Lucas, Dele, Lamela, Ndombele and Reguilon at their disposal, most managers ever to have walked the earth could probably have conjured up a win at home to Burnley.

It is being suggested that a Cup Final win against City would be enough to keep Jose in post, and Levy presumably would concur. After all, the whole point of the Jose exercise seemed to be to bring in some shiny pots. I’m not sure that the t’s and c’s included doing so at the expense of our footballing souls, but if it’s pots that Levy is after, then at least one pot Jose now has an opportunity to snaffle.

The AANP tuppence worth is that this would not be sufficient. Should Jose win the Carabao then let that be a triumphant, if ill-deserved, coda to a pretty ghastly tenure, and let’s have him shoved out the door while bleating about his knack for winning titles wherever he goes.

As suggested above, Jose does not appear capable of coaxing, cajoling, hypnotising or blackmailing the players into playing with the requisite attacking feist. Blessed with arguably three of the most talented attacking footballers of their generation, not to a mention a supporting cast that would be the envy of most teams across Europe, he has fashioned a team that seems convinced the road to glory is paved with a counter-attack every half hour.

The style is only bearable if we are top of – or perhaps challenging for – the league. In this context, winning a trophy (via a bye, a penalty shoot-out and wins against two lower-league opponents) hardly cures all ills.

I spent much of last night trying to avert the bleeding of my eyes by working out whether we are a decent team that is occasionally dreadful, or a dreadful team that is occasionally decent. Neither of these seem good enough for a manager having wads of cash thrust into every available pocket, yet who, eighteen months in, is yet to present a plan for future improvement.

All that said, it is difficult to imagine Levy giving his man the elbow unless we spin down into the bottom half. For unfathomable reasons Levy seems pretty obsessed with Jose, having near-enough stalked the man until he agreed to hop on board. It seems unlikely that he will turn on his back on him now, with the Top Four and a Cup Final win both still within the realms of possibility.

3. Son and Kane’s Futures

But to hell with Jose, what about Sonny and Kane?

I’m no student of body-language, but Kane’s demeanour as he exited the crime-scene last night did not strike me as that of a man bursting with the joys of life and all it has to offer. My spies tell me that the fellow turns 28 this summer, and one would therefore not blame him for using his quieter moments to pause and wonder where the heck his first winners’ medal might come from, and whether any more might follow.

Things would be different if, as were the case in the prime Poch years, the club were elbowing its way into conversations about the top prizes, and appeared to be in with a shout. Kane presumably is not hanging his hat on this particular season being one of triumph, but, one suspects, he would at the very least want to see that the vehicle as a whole is heading off in the direction of success.

Alas, under Jose there is precious little indication of any such thing. The current lot are pretty accurately-seated, being somewhere between sixth and tenth, and with every step forward having pretty promptly been followed by one in the opposite direction.

Kane undoubtedly has affection for the club, and it’s a safe bet that he is well aware of being within a season or two of Jimmy Greaves’ record, but one would hardly be surprised if he announced that he would rather not spend his prime years working up a sweat on Thursday nights in Zagreb. This is not to denigrate Zagreb: I dated a Croat for a while in my youth, and can attest to the fact that the city has its fair share of delights; but regular Champions League involvement is not amongst them. Kane will rightly feel that he needs to be sharing a stage with Lewandowski, Mbappe and Haaland, and the clock is ticking on his career.

While Sonny may be inclined to wait a little longer, I imagine he will have less of an affinity to the club than Kane, and it’s a pretty safe bet that he will be almightily cheesed off if Kane gathers his possessions and pootles out the door.

Nights like last night are happening a little too often; much more of such rot and the whole dashed thing will unravel.

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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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Spurs match reports

Spurs 3-1 Fulham: Four Tottenham Observations

1. The Return of Toby Alderweireld

Quite the unexpected bonus to hoop up and see Toby’s name on the teamsheet, what? Rather like turning up to school expecting the usual six hours of drudgery, and being told instead that all lessons are off as a visiting circus has popped in to entertain the dickens out of everyone.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that, and there was something terrifically reassuring about seeing Toby and his immaculate hair pop himself on the right of the back three and get to work.

Not that there was much work to be done in truth. Bar that awkward fifteen minutes or so when Fulham scored, one got the feeling that our defensive bods spent most of the afternoon simply swapping stories about their World Cup adventures.

So if you want a blow by blow account of the young imp’s performance it might make for pretty dreary reading. Suffice to say he did little wrong, and if blame should be apportioned anywhere for the goal conceded Messrs Sanchez and Davies ought probably to have fingers wagged in their direction.

What the future might hold for Toby is presumably known only by Levy, Poch, Toby himself and one or two select others, who communicate via knowing nods and mysterious handshakes. This whole episode might simply have been a cunning plan to scrape off the rust and give the chap a glossy sheen with which to preen in the transfer window. Hope nevertheless springs like nobody’s business here at AANP Towers that the chap will still be in situ for the coming season’s rigours.

2. Lucas Moura-Watch

For those amongst you who are not up to date on these things, I can assure you that one or two nibs have been quite beside themselves at the fact that our Commander-in-Chief kept the wallet firmly out of view all summer, with not a single signing made. That particular barrel of fish is worth an entire thesis in itself, with rights, wrongs and nuances in every dashed direction – but the upshot of it all is that the nearest thing we have a to a new signing this season is a fully-acclimatised Lucas Moura.

As the mathematically-talented will have noted, it’s two starts in two games for the chap now. I don’t mind admitting that the fleeting glimpses of him last season had set my hopes sky-rocketing, for here appeared to be a chap who’s great thrill in life was to put his head down and run at pace at terrified defences, rather like a Brazilian version of our own tearaway Prime Minister.

Curiously enough, this season has seen precious little of those mazy, pacy dribbles. There is a sense in which I wanted to dig out the receipt and check the T’s and C’s of the Moura purchase, because I was very much of the opinion that we were sold the chap precisely on that proviso, but in fairness it turns out that he has various other strings to his bow.

Most impressive to me was his out-of-possession workrate. This should not surprise, I suppose, because Poch has long been an evangelist of that sort of muck, so it would have made little sense to sign the blighter unless he were fully on board. Nevertheless, like one of those chappies at school who would spend every spare minute with his head down, beavering away at his geography homework, Lucas seemed to determine to impress the man in charge, and the Fulham back-line were barely given a moment’s peace.

End-product was a rather mixed bag. He overran an early chance (and might have had a penalty for his troubles), missed a jolly straightforward header and then scored an absolute peach of a goal. For the second consecutive week I consider that we have not yet seen the best of the blighter, but nevertheless there was a decent amount in there to encourage.

3. A Loving Ode to Kieran Trippier

Unlikely thought it might have sounded a year or two ago, Kieran Trippier is fast establishing himself as one of the most well-loved cherubs in our ranks.

For a start he has the distinct advantage of not being Serge Aurier, and this talent manifested itself in abundance on Saturday, in the first half in particular, when Trippier time and again made himself available as the de facto right winger, and was duly handed the ball and invited to make merry. Be it a delicate dink from Eriksen or a cross-field ping from Kane or Dele, the ball was repeatedly churned out to him and he made pretty nifty use of it.
Blessed with the ability to deliver crosses whipped or half-volleyed, he was pretty much our main attacking outlet.

When the opener did eventually come it was sparked by neither a whip nor a half-volley, but a cute dink to the byline where Eriksen was chasing. Quite how Fulham overlooked Trippier’s threat after the summer he’s had is a little perplexing, but thus did the cookie crumble.

And then to top things off, that free-kick was positively Beckham-esque. Hard-working and blessed with a wand of a right-foot, Trippier is fast establishing himself as the sort of egg I would like a daughter to bring home.

4. In-Game Changes

As frequenters to these parts will know, I worship fairly committedly at the altar of Our Glorious Leader, but being an honest sort I am equally unafraid to point out his flaws, with all the expert knowledge of a seasoned armchair critic. And chief amongst these is his typical inability to affect a game in good time. Throw a mid-game crisis Poch’s way and his tendency is to wait until the clock ticks beyond 80+ before swapping a full-back, and maybe throwing on Llorente for injury-time. Hardly the zenith of innovation (and a textbook from which Gareth Southgate appears similarly to operate).

On Saturday however, Pochettino was flinging around game-changing inputs like a chap with a sports almanac in one hand and the keys to a DeLorean in the other. With Fulham level and threatening to lead, Dier was hooked, the back-three dispensed with and a diamond introduced, with Dembele at its base. The balance of power gradually eased back our way, and an admiring glass could be raised in the direction of the grand fromage.

Lamela’s introduction followed soon after, and again the impact was pretty prompt. Lamela did what I had rather expected Lucas to do, and hared straight through the middle, to set up Kane.

There was even time to re-introduce young Master Winks from the bench, giving us what might be our last ever glimpse of the Winks-Dembele midfield axis, for around 45 glorious seconds.

All told, it was a smart few minutes between the Pochettino ears, and having buried the chap often enough on these grounds it is only right to praise him now.

Like what you read? AANP’s own book, Spurs’ Cult Heroes is pretty reasonably priced on Amazon…

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Spurs news, rants

Pochettino – The Pros and Cons

A hearty “What ho!” and pat on the back to our newest glorious leader. Primarily for the sake of idling away the hours until the World Cup begins, AANP has cobbled together some thoughts on this Pochettino blighter, some communicating the general line of ‘yay’, others the less salubrious conclusion of ‘nay’.

Huzzah – He’s Not Tim Sherwood

‘Genetically Not Being Tim Sherwood’ is a positive on the CV at the moment. Not that I want to denigrate Sherwood too heavily, he doubtless did his damnedest for the lilywhite cause, but it seems to have been in the best interests of the club to have him bundled up in a sheet, hit over the head and shoved behind a sofa. Out of sight, out of mind.

Enter stage left Mr Pochettino, the sort of canny fish who seems a little less likely to turn the manager’s job at Spurs into a real-time video diary of how he is making things up as he goes along, and is also considerably less likely to be so angry at life.

All things considered, with talk of van Gaal and Ancelotti about as speculative as a Paulinho 20-yarder, and AANP deeply suspicious of De Boer’s record of umpteen consecutive titles in a Dutch league that is not exactly worshipped far and wide as the pinnacle of European football, we can probably be happy enough with this. Indeed, the general reaction amongst Spurs-supporting chums has been to give an understated nod of satisfaction and invite the man into our homes with the offer of a free splash or two of bourbon. He has our blessing.

Huzzah – He Has Premiership Experience

‘Tis also to be celebrated that the chap has some familiarity with the inner recesses of the Premiership. Last summer’s recruitment of umpteen  players who had never previously set foot on this fair isle turned into a bit of a fiasco, while previous grands fromages who arrived at N17 as complete strangers to the  country seemed to spend a mite too long squinting at the road signs and making sense of tea containing milk, when all along we really needed them to fit snugly into the official club blazer from day one. So where Messrs Gross, Santini and Ramos wasted time scouring their Pannini sticker albums to work out who played in which position, Pochettino can swan in already knowing his Lee Proberts from his Michael Olivers.

Huzzah – His Southampton Team Played Some Entertaining Stuff

One of the main selling points of this blighter is that he seems to have a penchant for good old swash and buckle, when it comes to style of play. Whether or not things will materialise thusly at the Lane remains to be seen, but on a scale of George Graham to Brazil 1970 he seems the sort of chap likely to give a knowing wink when it comes to the tactics board. Heaven help us if we go down the road of ‘Dawson Manning A High Defensive Line’ once more, but things should be fun to watch when we trundle forward.

Huzzah – He Gets The Best Out of Players (Apparently)

A little secret just between friends – a couple of years ago AANP had never heard of either Luke Shaw or Rickie Lambert, while Jay Rodriguez was known to me as the chap who made that film in which Salma Hayek danced around in her skimpies with a snake before everyone turned into vampires (you know the one) and Lallana was the sort of dish that would give me a rum tummy while on holiday. It turns out that Pochettino knows exactly how much spinach to feed these sort of chaps to turn them into the next over-priced young English talent to weaken our knees, and such alchemy would be welcome at the Lane.

Talent is currently oozing out of the sides of our squad and forming unsightly puddles on the ground, but by golly if you pop eleven of our lot onto a pitch together they all start digging at the earth as fast as their little hands allow and bury their heads in the ground before you can bluster “But this is £100 million pound of international talent, dash it.” Someone somewhere needs to beg, steal or borrow the best out of Lamela, Townsend, Chadli, Soldado (Naughton, admittedly, is a lost cause) et al, and Pochettino has previous in this department.

All the sort of thing to put hair on the chest you no doubt agree. However, the long-suffering lilywhite in me has accumulated cynicism by the lorry-load over the years, so it would be highly amiss not to pore over some of the seedier aspects of the career of Pochettino, and howl a prophesy of doom accordingly…

Show Us Yer Medals

In an ideal world, young people would dwell beneath rocks and other convenient crevices until they had something useful to contribute, the only member of the Cyrus clan whose music blared from phones on public transport would be Billy Ray, and Spurs would be managed by a chap with more awards, trophies and medals than you could wave a large stick at. Alas, the Pochettino managerial trophy cabinet is not exactly full to brimming at present. Admittedly, lashings of experience and a sack full of sparkling jugs and whatnot were of little help to Capello when he took charge of England, so such things are no guarantee of success – but the deal would be that much sweeter if Pochettino were a proven title-winner. He will just have to start the habit at N17.

One Good Season

Do 18 good months at Southampton a Top Four manager make? If he had been managing in England for five years would he now be regarded as on a par with, say, Pardew circa 2013 or Pardew circa 2014? The point being, the chap is still a little wet behind the ears, and it is rather difficult to average out his performance when there are but one a half seasons over which to pore.

Can He Handle Proven Players?

‘Tis one thing administering a thousand lashes (or indeed a bedtime lullaby, as the case may be) to young wide-eyed bucks like Shaw and Lallana, who are still making their way in the big wide world, but whether or not Pochettino can command the respect of seasoned millionaire internationals like Paulinho, Adebayor, Vertonghen and chums remains to be seen. AVB’s approach to handling the more experienced chaps at Chelski backfired spectacularly, and his Adebayor gambit here at the Lane was not much better; Pochettino will dashed well need some bright ideas if he does not want to wander back to his office one day to find a bucket of water perched atop the door and some sort of coup taking shape on the training pitch.

This Man Lost to Tim Sherwood. Twice.

Not the be-all and end-all of things by any means, but to lose once to Tim Sherwood can be glossed over as being a mite careless, to lose twice, in the space of half a season, is the sort blot that no man of substance ought to have on his escutcheon. It ought to matter not in the grand scheme of things, but it is not terrifically encouraging, what?

THE VERDICT

Well, there is no verdict as such – sorry to mislead. The chap is here, he seems a bright enough young egg, let’s rally around and cheer him to the rafters.

There is possibly more pressure on Levy than Pochettino with this appointment, but in defence of our follicly-challenged supremo, the appointments of AVB and now Pochettino point to a certain type of manager and set-up.

Moreover, the five-year contract suggests that Levy genuinely does want to perch in his hammock with feet up and a good book, without having to march down the High Road and firing and hiring everyone within sight each time the clocks change. Amen to that. Should we finish mid-table, then the rumblings of discontent will no doubt begin again, but I rather hope that even if we miss the Top Four (as seems fairly probable) and rather make a hash of things all round, we nevertheless persist with the manager, personnel and style.

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Spurs news, rants

The Week at Spurs – Musings on Sherwood & Levy

Credit to Tactics Tim for managing to appear genuinely shocked and enraged when he bounced into work earlier this week and found the locks changed on his office door. ‘Twas a move that one suspects had been planned by Daniel Levy within nanoseconds of hiring him, and accordingly, barely had the lights been switched off after Ledley’s marvellous testimonial before the team of burly sorts were yanking Sherwood from his chair and flinging him headfirst through the nearest window and out onto the High Road.

Seasoned visitors to AANP Towers will doubtless be aware that around these parts we greet Sherwood’s removal with a cheery wave and care-free whistle (even if it has had the regrettable side-effect of him popping up in every dashed nook and cranny to wave his fist and rant about how well he would have done if he had just been given more time. Someone gag the chap and hide him behind a boulder until after the World Cup.)

The epithet on his N17 tombstone ought probably to capture that his pointed observations about the fighting spirit – or lack thereof – amongst our heroes did briefly locate a very pertinent nail and bash it squarely on the head. Alas, painfully under-qualified, seemingly incapable of filtering his thoughts in even the crudest fashion before they tumbled out of his mouth and without any tactical masterplan beyond ‘Pick Bentaleb,’ the blighter fairly quickly drifted into caricature, seemingly finding fault with everyone but himself.

Sherwood’s points tally may suggest a fairly successful tenure, but the statistics can be interpreted in various ways, and while I have the floor I bang drums, ring bells and wave placards at the fact that we ended up more points adrift of the Top Four at his departure than we were at his arrival.

On top of which performances swayed between fairly mediocre and downright awful, we continued to take ritual drubbings from any team with the faintest inkling of quality. My particular bête noire about the whole dashed thing was the absolutely maddening tendency to fiddle with personnel and tactics on a weekly basis (bar that almost religious devotion to selecting Bentaleb), seemingly just to prove a point to anyone who cared. It all seemed rather apt that in his final match Sherwood plucked a lucky chappie from the crowd and popped him into the hot seat, for his own managerial career at the Lane could not have been more neatly summed up.

Levy – The Opposite of the A-Team

So as sure as the seasons ping along in well-ordered fashion, we find ourselves looking for a new manager. Back in the ‘80s, if you had a problem and no-one else could help you nipped off to the Los Angeles underground to bring on board a ragtag bunch of soldiers of fortune. Daniel Levy however seems increasingly determined to style himself as the opposite of the A-Team, with no inclination to see whether a plan will come together, and seemingly precious little patience to invest in a plan in the first place. Hannibal and chums would presumably have been out on their ear before their first fist-fight had Levy hired them.

With each passing day the £100 mil shopping spree, removal of AVB and hiring of Sherwood seem less like part of a prepared strategy, or even a considered contingency plan, and increasingly like the teenage AANP flexing his muscles for the first time on Championship Manager. Quite what Levy will do next is anyone’s guess, but in the decade or so that he has been in charge it has not been massively clear what, if anything, the chap is getting at. Directors of Football, plain-speaking English rogues, European tacticians, bright young things, gnarly veterans – Levy no doubt wants us in the Top Four, but there is now something reminiscent of a crazed general adopting increasingly extreme behaviour as all around him things go awry, before finally placing a gun to his own head and giving one final, manic laugh. Crumbs, he had better get the next appointment right.

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Spurs news, rants

Sherwood, Levy & All The Trimmings

“I hope you’re right. I really do.”

Thus spake surly space lady Ripley, in the Muppets-based whodunit Aliens, when informed by a cocksure chum that everything would turn out just tickety-boo (shortly before things actually went rather awry, when one examines things objectively). Her sentiment of mingled hope, trust and wariness might well be mumbled at the gleaming bonce of Master Levy, for as non sequiturs go this is one of the ilk to have me howling with frustration. Just a few weeks ago we were still contenders for the Top Four, and even now on Christmas Eve we are but four points off said land of milk and honey, but this whole bizarre episode seems to have achieved such a recalculating of aims and ambitions that Top Six is now seemingly the accepted target. What the dickens sort of masterplan is that?

Our all-seeing chairman may well deserve a stern word for letting the guillotine drop without giving much thought about how to dispose of disembodied heads. Ridding the Lane of AVB was not necessarily a bad call, given the style of play we had been sucked into, but it served little purpose if nobody adequate were lined up. Presumably the 18-month contract will be terminated six months in, with the accompanying Levy death-stare, should our heroes fail to progress to the heady heights of sixth by the season’s end, or should someone with but a modicum of experience become available, but it seems a strange approach to shrug shoulders, close eyes, jab a finger onto a 2002 squad poster and accordingly entrust a season and a half to Sherwood. Few top-half teams would appoint Tim Sherwood as Master of their Universe, so it frustrates the bally juices out of me that we have done so.

If ever there were a time to be a fly on a wall, it was during negotiations yesterday, notwithstanding the potentially fatal effects of cold weather upon the poor blighters’ life-cycles. If I understand correctly Sherwood  seems to have talked himself into an 18-month deal on the basis of one home defeat to West Ham, one madcap victory against a Southampton team whose defence and goalkeeper seemed to be playing the wrong sport, and through use of the bluff that he wanted it long-term or not at all. All of which suggests to me that Sherwood is one of the greatest orators of our time.  Should the walls come crashing down on this curious little experiment then a career as FBI negotiator-in-chief blinking well ought to beckon.

Thus concludes the diatribe however. Time to back the chap, and hope that things turn out better for us than for Ripley and her chums (spoiler alert – they didn’t make the Top Four, if you follow my gist). If the Southampton selection were a gamble based on the fact that he knew not whether it were his last game, his new longer-term contract might encourage him to indulge in a tad more circumspection, in the form of a more recognised holding midfielder. Playing two in attack has already born fruit, the squad is certainly strong enough to rub shoulders with the great and good, and with a festive fixture-list that could be more foreboding we are but one string of wins away from a media meltdown about 2014 in fact being a lilywhite year.

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Spurs news

Southampton – Spurs Preview: A Potential Flaw In The Levy Masterplan?

Here at AANP Towers we are honourable men. When Dogtanian waved farewell to the folks and left for pastures new, the upper lip did no more than quiver. When baited by rival fans in the office every dashed Monday, reminding me of my idle gloats the preceding Friday and collecting their winnings, while the boss wanders by and reminds me that the pretence of working is more effective when the computer is actually switched on and why must I look at him in such a gormless way, I treat the defeat with stoic resolve, determining to make an even larger wager the following week because that will teach them all. And thus do I unashamedly admit that when the burly security chaps marched up to AVB, grabbed him mid-sentence, frog-marched him out of the premises and unceremoniously dumped him onto the High Road, I did little more than shrug, reasoning that that might well have been the right course of action, and licking my lips at the prospect of our imminent upturn in fortunes.

Alas, the upturn has not quite materialised. In fact, the grand plan of sacking one chappie, lassoing another, more capable chappie, depositing him into the leather chair and watching the marvellousness unfurl has hit an early but quite critical snag. Suddenly, the realisation dawns that Master Levy might not necessarily have the entire strategy mapped out. In fact, it is not particularly clear that the plan even extended to the hiring of a new bean at all, but that he laboured under the misapprehension that firing AVB would in its entirety signal a glorious conclusion of affairs – because quite where he goes next, or even what sort of blighter is brought in next, does not yet seem obvious. That Tim Sherwood may or may not be at the helm for days, weeks, months or even – horror or horrors – permanently is about as underwhelming as an action film in which the pillars are tumbling down and the hero ambling up stage left to save the day actually turns out to be merely Ben Affleck.

Nothing personal against Sherwood of course (or Affleck for that matter), but one suspects that the opportunities for success might not necessarily be maximised by leaving the office intern in charge of the entire A to Z of things for a few weeks, even if the aforementioned does do a sterling job of booking meeting rooms and whatnot. However, this is what we have for the immediate future, and having deployed a bright and breezy 4-4-2 for the first home adventure, Sherwood now has to decide how to go about things away from home, against a Southampton team who seem to be sufficiently well versed in the intricacies of the game. Who knows, Levy might also be using the opportunity to cast a furtive eye over Saints own grand fromage, Mr Pochettino.

Injury to Townsend threatens to derail things somewhat, particularly if the Sherwood gospel preaches touchline-hugging wingers, but the squad boasts enough attacking types, so one of Sigurdsson, Lamela or Chadli will presumably be unleashed. A more defensive-minded chap in the holding role might also be advisable, after Dembele was deployed in that spot midweek, while in defence it will presumably once again be a case of using anyone fit enough to hobble over the line.

It would be a dashed shame if our whole season were to lose momentum because of a yuletide wobble, but such a circumstance lurks menacingly around the corner. The talent is there, and under AVB our away form was generally positive enough, but our very recent history does little to engender expectations of unparalleled success. One can but hope.

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Spurs news, rants

5 Potential Managerial Candidates for Spurs

AVB: An Epitaph

Here at AANP Towers we like to see a good, clean contest, with batsmen walking as soon as the finger goes up and a man nobly stepping aside when some bright young bounder on a horse bends his cannon and makes off with his wife. In such circumstances we cannot help but stiffen the lip at the demise of a manager just three shakes of a lamb’s tail into a season.

That said, not a tear will be shed around these parts. The £100 million pound mob were peddling a style so bereft of life that by yesterday evening it had eaten away approximately 78% of my very soul, which was a far from ideal state of affairs. On top of which, every band of rag-tags and hoodlums (hoodla?) with body-art on their arms was swanning up and knocking our lot to kingdom come. Given the circumstances, it is difficult to imagine a murmur of discontent from anybody involved.

So AVB is now swimming with chums of a piscine persuasion, and with that particular king dead we might as well toddle on to the next point on the agenda – the gentlemen whose services may imminently be volunteered.

Hoddle

He has such lovely hair. But coiffeur aside, this suggestion generally meets with a wary eye and murmurs of warning – understandably so, as Hoddle made rather a pickle of things last time out, and has since drifted into the ether of TV studio mumblings. However, if we want our Tottenham back the blighter knows our style inside out. His sterling work with England in ’97 and ’98 merits a ticked box, and while he did admittedly benefit then from a cracking group of players the 2013 vintage at the Lane seem a similarly fruity bunch.

AANP Rating: Gives the impression of a man who knows his after-dinner port.

Laudrup

Blessed with similarly lovely hair, and also a chappie whose playing career suggests he knew a thing or two about the finer points in life. Laudrup may be a little green behind the ears in this managerial tomfoolery – and history suggests that leaving a fresh-faced type in charge of our troops is not necessarily a guarantee of success – but he has his Swansea mob playing football the right way, has some experience in England and a nice shiny pot at home to impress the slew of nubile young women who possibly trail after him.

AANP Rating: Young enough to have his way with the fairer sex, sufficiently debonair to light a cigar afterwards

Capello

Crumbs. I dare not say a bad word about this chap lest he track me down, and disintegrate my insides purely through the medium of an inscrutable stare. That said, I’m not a huge fan of the old bean. It all seemed a bit dour and funless when he managed England to humiliation, and if the last few weeks has taught me anything it is that humiliation without any fun is the worst sort of humiliation. Let’s at least get humiliated in a blaze of glory, what? However, disciplinarian that he is he might be inclined to pick one strategy and stick to it, which would be progress of sorts. None of this Capoue-up-front nonsense.

AANP Rating: The sort of blighter to sink a few neat whiskies and eyeball his guests if they do not do the same.

Klinsmann

He once turned and looked at me after he scored. We had a moment. Striker to striker. One for the dreamy idealists I think, as this would equate to a romantic swoon in managerial form, but with fairly limited substance behind it in terms of club management. He seemed to have a rip-roaring time managing Germany to the brink of glory on home turf in 2006, and I have no idea how he is getting on with the States, but he has just nabbed himself a four-year contract. All things considered this seems like the dreamy gamble that, right now, will not amuse Levy.

AANP Rating: Likely to be the one dancing atop a table, gin-based cocktail in hand. Which is not really cricket.

Guus Hiddink

Might be worth a knowing nod through a smoky haze and a charged glass. Hiddink kept his head down and the muck off his shoes while sipping from the poisoned chalice at Stamford Bridge, only losing once (to our lot, bizarrely enough), and yanking the FA Cup en route, before being shoved out. The CV is sparkly enough, and my spies tell me he is currently loafing around at home doing crosswords at present.

AANP Rating: Picks the appropriate vintage for each dish in a five-course meal.

The unfortunate truth is presumably that, despite the rigorous scientific compendium upon which these findings are based, Levy is likely to make his own call on this one, hard-nosed renegade that he is. So be it. If nothing else, chewing over the identity of the new man at the helm will give us all something to do while the young folk are spilling over the dancefloors at this week’s Christmas parties.