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Season Preview 2021 – Part 5 13/08/2021

Posted by Matt Rowson in Thoughts about things.
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TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR

INS: Bryan Gil (Sevilla, Part Exchange), Cristian Romero (Atalanta, Undisclosed), Pierluigi Gollini (Atalanta, Season Loan)

OUTS: Toby Alderweireld (Al-Duhail, Undisclosed), Jubril Okedina (Cambridge United, Undisclosed), Erik Lamela (Sevilla, Part Exchange), Dennis Cirkin (Sunderland, Undisclosed), Justin Foyth (Villarreal, Undisclosed), Joe Hart (Celtic, Undisclosed), Paulo Gazzaniga (Fulham, Free), George Marsh (AFC Wimbledon, Free), Danny Rose (Watford, Free), Shilow Tracey (Cambridge United, Free), Jamie Bowden (Oldham Athletic, Season Loan), Kion Etete (Northampton Town, Season Loan), Troy Parrott (MK Dons, Season Loan)

OUR EX-SPURS: Maurizio Pochettino, Danny Rose

THEIR EX-ORNS: Nigel Gibbs (Academy Coach), Perry Suckling (Head of Academy Goalkeeping)

GOOD THINGS: Lean-on bars in the away end.  Beavertown Beers on tap in the away end.  Tony Galvin. The most interchangeable, self-explanatory nickname in the world. Jürgen Klinsmann. 

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2020-21         2-1
2019-20 0-0 1-1      
2018-19 2-1        
2017-18 1-1        
2016-17 1-4        
2015-16 1-2        
2011-12     0-1    
2008-09       1-2  
1999-00 1-1 0-4      
1998-99     2-5    
1994-95       3-6 / 3-2  
1982-83   1-0      

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Lloris
Doherty       Romero      Rodon        Reguilón
Højbjerg         Ndombele
Son                          Lo Celso                  Bergwijn
Kane

VERDICT: I did feel at the time that United would have been better off appointing Mourinho directly after Ferguson left.  Whoever stepped into that void was on a hiding to nothing, much better a Mourinho whose arrogance would survive the ordeal and whose collapse would be (relatively) quick and absolute than the slow inevitable decay under Moyes et al.  The next guy, whoever he was, would have been a merciful release after Mourinho rather than the post-Ferguson fall guy.

However many years on Spurs fans come out of the footballing enema that Mourinho stints have become feeling… well, desperate for something positive I guess.  Anything.  Nuno Espirito Santo is regarded as… slightly underwhelming perhaps, certainly not done any favours by the prolonged nature of his appointment which felt rather like a journey through the yellow pages (or whatever young people use nowadays) in search of a plumber without a £100 call-out charge.

As I write rumours circulate that the new boss is planning to raid his former charges for either Conor Coady, Adama Traore or both.  When stuff like this happens you’re never sure whether to be encouraged by good relationships that means players trust their old boss, or a lack of imagination which means that he’s going to keep going back to the same guys, or (in this case) whether everything’s in the imagination of journalists without enough to write about.  Time will tell.

Either way, the soap opera may only just be beginning as Harry Kane fails to turn up to training.  Should he get his out then all bets are off.  Spurs aren’t about to come close to accidentally winning the league again in any case but Kane aside they shouldn’t be a car crash either.

WEST HAM UNITED

INS: Craig Dawson (Watford, undisclosed), Pierre Ekwah (Chelsea, undisclosed), Alphonse Areola (Paris St.Germain, season loan)

OUTS: Sean Adarkwa (Queens Park Rangers, Free), Fabián Balbuena (Dynamo Moscow, Free), Alfie Lewis (St Patrick’s Athletic, Free), Tunji Akinola, Sam Caiger, Joshua Okotcha, Joseph Anang (Stevenage, Season Loan), Nathan Holland (Oxford United, Season Loan)

OUR EX-HAMMERS: Ashley Fletcher, Jeremy Ngakia, Domingos Quina

THEIR EX-ORNS: Richard Collinge (Head of Medical), Craig Dawson

GOOD THINGS: Upton Park, including pre-match pie and mash. Blowing Bubbles, inc bubble machines.  David Sullivan’s big hat. Tomáš Souček.

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2019-20 1-3        
2017-18 2-0        
2016-17 1-1 4-2      
2015-16 2-0        
2011-12 0-4 1-1      
2008-09       1-0  
2006-07 1-1        
2004-05 1-2 2-3      
2003-04 0-0 0-4      
1999-00 1-2 0-1      

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Fabiański
      Coufal              Diop          Ogbonna          Cresswell
Rice          Souček

     Bowen                     Fornals                      Benrahma
Antonio

VERDICT: West Ham are like that annoying kid at school.  Not the bully, the one who nicked your dinner money or smacked you around the head with a hockey stick or threw chewing gum in your hair on the bus.  The other kid.  The acolyte.  The vulture who picked at the carcass.  

It’s always bloody West Ham.  The defeat before the cup final.  Irrelevant, we’d lost Europe, the big game was to come.  And yet, not.  The relegation season, the guileless but effortless amble through our defence at Vicarage Road.  Not decisive.  Not the end of the road.  And yet portentous.  Then the thumping at their “place”, scene of such joy in 2012 and yet.  Again, not decisive.  And yet decisive.

West Ham had looked like relegation candidates, but then weren’t.  Last season they rubbed the salt in by being quite good.  They underperformed two years ago, overperformed last season, this season they have a Europa League campaign and very little money.  As mid table as they come.  Bastards.

WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS

INS: José Sá (Olympiacos, £6,800,000), Yerson Mosquera (Atlético Nacional, £4,500,000), Rayan Ait-Nouri (Angers, Undisclosed), Francisco Trincão (Barcelona, Season Loan), Louie Moulden (Manchester City, Free)

OUTS: Rui Patrício (Roma, £10,000,000), Sadou Diallo (Forest Green Rovers, Free), Ryan Giles (Cardiff City, Season Loan), Taylor Perry (Cheltenham Town, Season Loan), Dion Sanderson (Birmingham City, Season Loan), Matija Šarkić (Birmingham City, Season Loan)

OUR EX-WOLVES: None

THEIR EX-ORNS: None

GOOD THINGS: The racket at Wembley in 2019. Conor Coady. Ollie Floyd’s Collection. The nickname – powerful imagery. 

REPORT ARCHIVE:

Season H A FAC LC OTH
2019-20 2-1 0-2      
2018-19 1-2   3-2    
2014-15 0-1        
2012-13 2-1        
2008-09 2-3        
2007-08 3-0   1-4    
2005-06 3-1 1-1   2-1  
2004-05 1-1 0-0      
2002-03 1-1 0-0      
2001-02 1-1 0-1      
2000-01 3-2 2-2      
1998-99 0-2 0-0      
1995-96   0-3      

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:


      Boly         Coady       Mosquera
Semedo       Neves         Moutinho       Jonny
   Traore          Jiménez         Neto      

VERDICT: Wolves were extremely good at being the new kids on the block.  Breezed into the division with a side high in quality and well-resourced and looked like they would be dropping anchor in mid-table for years.

A couple of years on things don’t look quite so comfortable.  Refreshing, or rebuilding a side is always the tricky bit.  That difficult second album.  And whilst Wolves have done a reasonable job of bringing in younger players the team no longer looks formidable.  The rebuild kinda needs new options now, and these appear to be thin on the ground… Rui Patricio has moved on, Boly is injury prone and slowing up, Coady, Traore and Neves are attracting interest from elsewhere, the impressive Neto is out until the end of the year and the squad is beginning to look stretched with, messageboard rumours suggest, outgoings needed before money is spent.  Wolves, like so many, are short of cash.  

As previously suggested, securing a relegation place in the face of significant competition is going to take a concerted effort this season.  Wolves probably have too much quality to sustain a successful relegation push.  But only probably.

WATFORD

INS: Emmanuel Dennis (Club Brugge, £3,600,000), Mattie Pollock (Grimsby Town, initial £250,000), Kwadwo Baah (Rochdale, £140,000), Juraj Kucka (Parma, Undisclosed), Imrân Louza (Nantes, Undisclosed), Vincent Angelini (Celtic, Free), Ashley Fletcher (Middlesbrough, Free), Joshua King (Everton, Free), Dapo Mebude (Rangers, Free), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur, Free), Peter Etebo (Stoke City, Season Loan)

OUTS: Ben Wilmot (Stoke City, £1,500,000), Bosun Lawal (Celtic, £120,000), Craig Dawson (West Ham United, Undisclosed), Sam Dalby (Southend United, Free), Toby Stevenson (Bromley, Free), Carlos Sánchez, Achraf Lazaar, Jerome Sinclair, Tiago Cukur (Doncaster Rovers, Season Loan), Pontus Dahlberg (Doncaster Rovers, Season Loan), Tom Dele-Bashiru (Reading, Season Loan), Juergen Elítim (Deportivo La Coruña, Season Loan), Dapo Mebude (AFC Wimbledon, Season Loan), Adalberto Peñaranda (Las Palmas, Season Loan), Ignacio Pussetto (Udinese, Season Loan), Phillip Zinckernagel (Nottingham Forest, Undisclosed)

POSSIBLE STARTING ELEVEN:

Bachmann
Femenía          Troost-Ekong      Sierralta            Rose     
Etebo        Louza
Sarr                             Cleverley                   Hernández
Deeney

VERDICT: Certainty is easy.

Definitely this.  Clearly that. Obviously the other.  The illusion of clarity can convey… perceptiveness.  Insight.  Analytical capability.  The facility to process all the variables, weigh up the factors, come up with a definitive conclusion.  It’s also complete bollocks.

This season as much as any, close enough to post-pandemic for us to say post-pandemic but not far enough out that we don’t refer to it at all, all the sands still shifting for all that a newly promoted club is always going to be up against it to a certain extent.  It’s not as if we’re in uncharted territory;  for one last time let’s recognise the achievement of promotion in the wake of the relegation that followed an almost unprecedented spell in the top flight.  Never a given, that.   But it’s not like we’re completely new at this.  We don’t have the infrastructure of a Championship club any more.

Another source of variability is the playing squad.  The new recruits.  There have been plenty of them;  some for now, some perhaps for future years.  We don’t know how they’re going to work out… but Rose and King bring proven Premier League quality in areas that needed strengthening, Etebo and Kucka stiffen up our midfield, the long awaited rubber ball that is Cucho Hernández already looks a bag of fun, Dennis and Louza both untested in this League but long term targets.  You don’t look at any of them and think “no….”, and most of it was done early in the window.  We had our ducks lined up.  That’s what you’re supposed to do, right?  Get the players in in time for pre-season?

Presuming that nobody’s stupid enough to be panicking because we lost a pre-season friendly to bloody Palace…  perhaps it’s what we haven’t got as much as what we have.  A coherent, fully-formed first eleven for example, featuring creativity in midfield and reliable goals.  Given the volume of influx that was never going to happen straight away, but look at the size of the squad.  Heaven knows there are options there.  Last season Xisco came in from the other side of Europe and pretty quickly we were more than the sum of our parts having been distinctly less than that for much of the season.  Promotion from a standing start.  I’m not sure why so many have lost faith in his ability to form a team so readily.

The Hughes and Chalobah situation, clearly, we could have done without.  As reflected earlier in this series when talking about Buendía at Norwich we’re victims of circumstances a little here.  But for the pandemic it’s not unrealistic to suggest that Hughes at least might have been off last summer.  A year on and both have shown their quality again and we’re left with players with only a year on their contracts.  

I’ll be desolate when either leaves, frankly.  Hughes is an ace in the pack, but Nate too is coming off probably his strongest season for the club, stronger even that 2012/13 when so much was context.  But I like the fact that we haven’t caved to whatever’s being asked for.  That would be the easy thing to do, especially in the case of Hughes who is so clearly an important asset, everybody would “understand”.  It would be the populist call, but someone’s got their eye on the long game here.  Also interesting that neither has actually gone anywhere yet.  Perhaps it’s not just us reining in on the contracts (though optimistic to even hope that nobody will throw money at them).

The other consideration, considerations, plural, is the other lot.  Sartre’s quote again:  “in football, everything is complicated by the presence of an opponent”.  And it’s been clear in preparing these pieces that whilst some clubs can afford to spend extraordinary amounts on top players, plenty of others are bricking it.  It’ll be a competitive relegation race this season, whoever goes down is going to have to work bloody hard at it.

So I’m more positive than some, I think.  That doesn’t mean we’ll definitely be OK.  See above.  Who the hell knows, frankly.  But a lot of the “we’re obviously going down” stuff is fundamentally cowardly.  Disassociation cushions you from responsibility, you get to point from the outside if things go wrong, before things go wrong.

The club have gotten themselves promoted immediately after a relegation in a pandemic.  A pandemic in which they excelled themselves off the pitch.  Did more for their community than could have reasonably been asked.  They deserve a bit of faith I think.  They deserve support.

Apart from anything else, it’s been a while since we’ve had the luxury of being able to do that noisily…

See you tomorrow.  Yooorns.

Comments»

1. "Season loan at Royal Union Saint-Gilloise" - 13/08/2021

This: 🙂

“Nuno Espirito Santo […] certainly not done any favours by the prolonged nature of his appointment which felt rather like a journey through the yellow pages (or whatever young people use nowadays) in search of a plumber without a £100 call-out charge.”

Matt Rowson - 13/08/2021

Ithangyew

2. David - 13/08/2021

Great preview series, once again. Thanks! Looking forward to being back at the Vic tomorrow.

Matt Rowson - 13/08/2021

Cheers David. Too right.

3. Harefield Hornet - 13/08/2021

Brilliant summaries as always Matt. Can’t wait – near to full house – beatable opponents – COYH!!!!

4. johnsamways28 - 13/08/2021

The conclusion of an engaging, creative series of ‘reads’, Matt, as ever – ‘thank you’. Your contributions often end with you weaving together a paragraph or two summing up the key issues – this is no exception.
From ‘So I’m more positive than some …’ to the end should be required reading for all Horns. Spot on!
ps You’re not more positive than me(!) …. and I’ve only been watching WFC for >65yrs. Perspective matters ……

Matt Rowson - 13/08/2021

😊

5. Sequel - 13/08/2021

Every time a club recruits a surprise-choice manager I will now think of Yellow Pages. Thanks, Matt!


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