WSOTP x TFC

As both a fan and writer of the beautiful game, I often find that striking a balance between writing about topics I’m personally concerned with (Spurs!) and writing posts that appeal to a wider audience (anything not Spurs) to be a pretty difficult task. And since the dawn of WSOTP, I’ve generally tried to avoid posting back to back Tottenham articles for that very reason.

So since my last post was focused on the Lillywhites, that means this post shouldn’t be, right? Well actually, I’m going to quasi-break my own rule. You see this newest Spurs article I’ve written isn’t on this site; it’s actually on another site.

BOOM… loophole.

While I know that many of you rely solely on my blog to stay up to date on the latest happenings in the world’s game (I kid), there are actually other blogs out there, too. Shocking, eh? As it turns out, many of them are actually quite good too. One of my favorites happens to be The Fighting Cock, a podcast/blog run by eight Spurs fans based in the UK. And to my bewilderment, the lot have been kind enough to allow me to pen a guest post on their blog.

So if you’d wouldn’t mind hearing me rant on again about Tottenham for another 1500 words or so, click here to read “Clearing the hurdles” on TheFightingCock.co.uk. →

About these ads

digging deep

Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig. – Marcus Aurelius

bale and company have the ability.

Perpetual gloom and doom hangs over White Hart Lane these days, at least that’s how it has felt the last few weeks. Spurs’ terrible run of form would normally be enough to drag squad and fan spirits down on its own, but Muamba’s near-tragedy on pitch last weekend was another blow to the collective despair that currently surrounds the club. The feeling is pervasive, and seems to have reached every corner of the Tottenham’s being.

Our manager has had his head turned, and predictably lost the plot because of it. Though injuries have forced his hand at times, Harry’s willingness to mess with a winning formula has been confounding. Gareth Bale is one of the world’s finest left wingers: let’s let him wander the middle of the pitch or switch him temporarily permanently to the right. Luka Modrić is one of the most sought-after center midfielders in the game: it will be best to play him wide left where he won’t see enough touches to impact the match. We’ve been one of the best sides this season at stretching the pitch and playing direct: maybe we should play narrow and through the middle now… you know, just for shits and giggles.

Speaking of injuries, they’ve finally hit us hard enough to hurt. Though not a world-class player in the same sense as Modders, Bale or Rafa, Aaron Lennon’s absence has been very influential. His pace, when paired with Bale’s on the opposite side, is crucial to Spurs’ ability to stretch opposing defenses and make room for the more creative players to orchestrate opportunities. Without Adebayor up top, we’ve lost the target man and hold-up play a direct offense requires. That’s not to mention that we’re only another Gallas hamstring away from having a legitimate crisis at center half. And with Scott Parker looking rusty the last few matches, perhaps we can again find fault in the manager. Undoubtedly, Redknapp’s reluctance to rotate the squad earlier this season looks to have come back to haunt him.

Then, of course, there’s that pesky drop in form I mentioned earlier. A quick glance at the League Form Table over the last 8 games sees us sitting a paltry 13th, just ahead of relegation candidate QPR and just behind potential top four foe and weekend opponent Chelsea. Had it not been for van der Vaart’s last gasp header against Stoke on Wednesday night, we’d be sitting in at least 16th. If you’re at all worried about Saturday’s visit to Stanford Bridge, I would strongly recommend not having a look at Tottenham’s form over their last five away fixtures… unless you’re feeling up for a/n panic attack/aneurysm.

Some of our fellow supporters have even started turning on the players, which is equal parts predictable and deplorable. How telling the boys that they’re worth “less than poo” will benefit them or spur them on to victory is beyond me, but who am I to judge how other’s cope with such a drop in fortunes?

To make use of an overused Austin Powers phrase, it’s clear that Tottenham as a whole have “lost their mojo”. The swagger and confidence that oozed from the side and fanbased in the first two-thirds has been suppressed. But despite all of that, I’m relatively calm heading into the clash with Chelsea.

So what if the injury bug persists, likewise if Redknapp continues to experiment. Who cares if the Scum have erased the gap. Those are all worrying and troublesome, but all hope is not lost.

chelsea and torres have struggled for form themselves.

Firstly, of all the “Big Four” sides that we could be facing this weekend, Chelsea are ones I most prefer. As mentioned earlier, the Blues aren’t exactly in the best run of form themselves, and they’re arguably the only club in the Premier League that have had more internal drama than Spurs this season. John Terry should be missing through injury — hardly a good omen for a team who’s been defensively fragile this year — and will instead do his best to play managerial puppeteer to interim boss Roberto di Matteo. And even though Torres finally ended his 25+ hour goalless streak, his mental stability is anything but proven at this point.

Secondly, it’s not like we’ve been playing absolutely horrible football of late. There have been flashes of the old Spurs throughout this barren run. Against Stoke, Bale had a beautiful blast against the bar, not to mention we bossed possession. In fact Spurs have done surprisingly well in possession during this stretch, having only narrowly lost the statistical battle in three of the last eight matches (@Arsenal – 43%, @Liverpool – 48%, @City – 47%). They’ve also created nearly 50 more goal scoring opportunities than their opposition during the same run, which suggests that if their finishing improves marginally then they could start taking more points. The City match could have turned out differently had Balotelli been correctly sent off. Maybe we could have taken the spoils against United too, had Adebayor’s early goal not been incorrectly disallowed.

This is essentially the same squad that we’ve had all season, barring some minor personnel changes. We know they’re capable of turning in some breathtaking performances, ones that are more than enough to knock down a side in turmoil such as Chelsea. All we need is for the manager to place the players in the right formation, a little more belief, and a sprinkling of the luck we’ve missed out on the last few weeks, to help lift the gloom that’s hung over the club, the players and the supporters alike.

The ability that’s needed already exists in this Tottenham Hotspur side, they just need to dig deep within themselves to find it again.

ten words or less #49

Today’s the first official day of Spring, even though the season actually arrived weeks ago in Ohio (and the world in general… global warming, anyone?). But despite the onset of warmer temperatures and all the benefits that come with them, I’m still having mixed feelings.

soccer fields in the springtime

spring's warmer temperatures mean soccer in the states will finally ends its long winter hibernation.

On one hand, I’m thoroughly looking forward to my Sunday outdoor league starting in the next few weeks. On the other hand, I’m not in nearly good enough shape to make the move to the larger pitch and the additional running it requires. Just the same, while I’m really looking forward to writing about the increased amounts of footie we get to see with the arrival of warmer temperatures in the US and congested fixture lists in Europe, the warmer weather also means that a sizable chunk of my normal writing time will now be consumed by lawn and garden maintenance. The joys of being a full-fledged grown up, right?

So to keep you distracted from your own Spring time obligations, I figured I could pump out a quick TWOL with ten of my favorite links from the last week or so.

Okay, maybe Orlando isn’t so bad a pick for MLS. – inbedwithmaradona.com

Turkey’s Eskisehirspor: the spiritual home of 4chan/Reddit trolls. – dirtytackle.net

Worried that you’re a football fan hipster? Diagnose yourself here. – thefcf.co.uk

Barcelona’s purported ulterior motive: aiding Syrian rebels with arms smuggling.
- theoffside.com

Ganso’s got the vision. – ojogobonito.net

Tottenham and Arsenal have a lot in common this summer. – soccernet.com

My Spurs match-day routine, as seen on The Fighting Cock. – thefightingcock.co.uk

Where oh where will Rolfey end up? – mlssoccer.com

England’s National Training Ground… bloody brilliant. – youtube.com

Digging the “mango” colorway on the new Vapor 8′s. – soccerbible.com

perspective

St. Patrick’s Day, despite its religious roots, is one of the few global secular holidays where almost  everyone celebrates using the same sets of rituals. Yesterday, all around the world millions dressed in green, held parades celebrating gingers and leprechaun, and headed to their favorite pubs to sip inordinate sums of Guinness all in the spirit of celebrating Irish culture. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, as the saying goes.

sometimes it takes extraordinary events to really put things in perspective.

And thanks in large part to the sports’ association with Ireland stateside, soccer suddenly becomes everyone’s second favorite sport on St. Patrick’s. Ireland and Celtic kits are just as much of staples as shamrocks and kilts. As a football fan in America, it’s great because, for once, you won’t get (as many) angry stares for having the bartender change one of the TV’s behind the bar to a match on a Saturday afternoon.

This year’s St. Patty’s celebrations were particularly large due to the holiday being celebrated on a weekend for the first time since 2007, unseasonably warm temperatures, and because of the early tip-offs for NCAA March Madness basketball games. Since the wife and I regularly watch Tottenham matches at one of the only Irish pubs in Northern Cincinnati, we figured we would need to get there extra-early to make sure we got a seat at the bar to watch Spurs’ winnable FA Cup quarterfinal against Bolton. After the match, we had plans to meet up with some of my old high school buddies to continue paying tribute to the 5th century Irish priest.

All said, it seemed the recipe for a great little Saturday.

A full-parking lot awaited us when we arrived an hour and half before the 1:30 pm kickoff, the festivities already in full swing. As you might predict, most weren’t there for the football… but the more the merrier, right? However to our dismay, all of the bar stools that normally lined the bar had been removed to allow for the larger crowds they expected later in the day. Not only did this mean we would have to stand for the next hour and a half to keep our spot at the bar, but we’d also be standing another two hours for the duration of the match too. “At least it’s like a traditional match day pub experience in the UK,” I told my wife, trying to look on the bright side of the development.

But once we settled into our spot, the friendly staff of bartenders we’d gotten to know over the last few years let us know that most of their normal taps had been removed in favor of more “Irish” brews in honor of the holiday. Grrrrrrr… well okay, I probably needed to have a few Guinness on St. Patty’s anyway. Though they did manage to make it up to us a bit, as they made an exception to their limited beverage list rules for the day to get my wife her favored Snakebites… it pays to be regulars.

And while I appreciated that the pub brought in performers to give us some traditional Irish music to get everyone in the Irish spirit, it also meant that we didn’t get hear the match commentary or crowds like we normally would when watching at the Claddagh. Again, another minor annoyance, but we would survive.

So when Bolton scored to take an early 6th minute lead thanks to yet another lapse on a set piece, saying I was on edge doesn’t really cover it. First the stools, then the beer, now this… nothing’s going my way today. Another pint and a 10th minute Kyle Walker equalizer helped to warm my pessimistic outlook, but as the half approached, I still worried. If Tottenham are knocked out by Bolton, this is totally going to ruin the rest of St. Patty’s.

Then just four minutes before the expected half-time whistle, Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba collapsed face down on the pitch.

I didn’t see any contact between the England U-23 international and anyone on Spurs. He’s just milking the clock, mock injury… get on with it kid. But when the first physio sprinted out and tried to flip a convulsing, limp Muamba on to his back, and then the  cameras permanently cut away… we knew something far more serious was unfolding on the White Hart Lane pitch.

even without context, you could tell something bad had happened here.

As I mentioned earlier, the match volume was muted due to the St. Patty’s celebrations, so those of us watching the match had no clue what was happening. However, the images coming through the TV were enough to let us know the gravity of the situation, even without the commentators to clue us in.

A distraught Assou-Ekotto, standing on the periphery of the now large group of physio’s treating Muamba, stood motionless with his gloved hands covering his face. Nigel Reo-Coker crouched close to his downed teammate, a face in shock. Rafa van der Vaart paced anxiously away, his hands locked in prayer. Wanderers’ boss Owen Coyle could be seen wiping tears from his eyes, an action emulated by multitudes of fans on both sides of the divide. Even referee Howard Webb, normally a bastion of calm, was visibly shaken.

By the time the Fabrice was being stretchered off the pitch, the medical staff still performing CPR, we had pieced the evidence together. At the very least he wasn’t breathing, and possibly had suffered a heart attack. The club captains and managers, along with Webb, rightly decided to abandon the match.

bolton's fabrice muamba

hang in there big guy.

Suddenly, all of the petty little things that I thought might ruin my special “holiday” in the lead up to such a tragic event — no places to sit, a lack of match commentary, the bar not having my preferred beer on tap, Tottenham conceding another soft goal — seemed properly insignificant.

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that it took a player almost dying on pitch yesterday to make me realize how — in the big scheme of things — this is just a game and that there are more important things in life (sometimes) than which team of eleven men can kick a ball between the other’s sticks.

If one positive thing is to be taken out of all of this, it’s better perspective. Watch this wrenching video of the entire experience and see how the fans of both teams joined together to chant the fallen player’s name. FAAA-BREEEEECE MUUU-AMMMBAAA… like they were willing him back to life. The physios were also showered with the cheers normally reserved for star players, finally proving just how invaluable they actually are in Muamba’s time of need. And Webb was even applauded for calling the match; an honorable reaction to a respectful decision.

As others have said better than I, maybe it takes tragedy to help us, the footballing world, see the light. Here’s hoping that on St. Patty’s Day, Fabrice Muamba picked up a bit of that fabled Luck o’ the Irish I was so concerned with earlier… the boy’s going to need it much more than I.

this is bigger than one man

For a long time, I’ve tried my best to avoid the entire “Greatest of All Time” debate. The discussion of anointing any one player as the world’s best ever player is extremely polarizing, so much so that I’ve literally seen a fist fight between friends break out while arguing over the matter. If a mere discussion among friends can lead to such drama, you better believe I’m going to bypass writing down a permanent decision that strangers will have access to and use to judge me in the future.

Lionel Messi of Barcelona

after the performance against bayer leverkusen, leo's practically been anointed by many as the next messiah.

But thanks to Lionel Messi’s recent five-goal performance against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League Round of 16, the subject has been thrust back to the forefront. And yet as monumental as Leo’s achievement was, I still hesitate to venture down that path.

Part of my reasoning for wanting to avoid the matter is personal. Though I harbor no emotional connections to the two players in the current era that most often get dragged into the discussion (Cristiano Ronaldo being the other) I realize that my fondness for Real Madrid likely skews my objectivity. Despite both players putting up numbers so insane that it actually justifies a subscription fee to Opta stats to properly comprehend them, my inherent desire — as a fan, mind you — is to dislike Barcelona players and favor Real’s. Throw in the insecurities caused by a decade of second-fiddle status in the rivalry between Madrid and Barça, and you can see why I fear the discussion from a supporter’s perspective.

But the other, more important reason I’ve avoided entering the “world’s greatest ever player” debate is because I think it’s a pretty pointless discussion to begin with.

Firstly, it’s just not possible to accurately compare players from different eras. The game changes so much from one to the next, both through rules changes and tactical evolution, that it’s hard to say whether a player player was truly great, or just played in a generally weaker generation. Nevermind that there’s not really enough footage of some of the older players in consideration (Pelé and Alfredo di Stefano) to adequately compare them on video evidence alone.

Secondly, the wide adoption and rise of professionalism across globe has also raised the bar for greatness in recent times. In the past, being a dedicated professional or being exceptionally fast or strong could give you a leg up on a competition which included players regularly boozing it up the night before matches and/or partaking in a halftime smoke. But in modern football, the playing field has leveled because everyone is fit… with only a few of the partiers straggling along into modern times. So until someone figures out that whole time travel thing, there’s just no way we would know until we had them playing on the same pitch.

Pele, Maradona and Cruyff in the DeLorean

the only way we'd be able to figure out who was the best ever is if doc diego and johan mcfly pick up pelé and come back to the future.

Pretending for a second that Doc Brown’s manipulated DeLorean wasn’t just a figment of a plotline from a drawn out 80′s movie series, let’s imagine we would be able to fetch those other players and bring them back in their primes to face up against today’s best defenses.

Even then, I just don’t know that’s entirely possible to consider all of the variables to accurately assess what makes one player greater than the next at that level. Highlight reels, goal tallies and trophy cabinets only tell us a portion of the story about a player’s greatness. Numerous other intangibles need to be considered to differentiate them from one another. What kind of teammate was/is he? How good were/are his teammates? Was/is he a leader? What kind of impact did/will he have on the game? Et cetera, et cetera.

To put it simply, I think labeling a player as the G.O.A.T. is a pretty subjective conversation. There’s too much to consider, and even if you could, the rose-tinting from observing the game through the lenses of a fan might still taint the decision.

Naming just one player is too precise of a task for the human mind to undertake. It’s not as if each player that’s ever been discussed as a potential best ever candidate has played the exact same way. Diego Maradona, Pelé, or Johan Cruyff all played at that level, but each had their own style and unique gifts which we used to categorize them as “the best”. Just the same, each had his own shortcomings. It’s part of the beauty of the game that there’s no defined template or mold in which a player has to fit to be considered special.

And the thing we all seem to take for granted in the (somewhat) ongoing debate as to who’s the best player in the world — or ever for that matter — is that some generations come and go without producing a player that can even enter the discussion. So as we squabble with one another over who’s the best, we miss the out on the fact that not only do we have a player that’s capable of joining the penultimate pantheon playing at this time… we actually have two.

There’s really no question anymore as to whether or not Messi will join the top pantheon of players. The pint-sized Argentine has given us plenty of reason to contemplate using his name alongside the best ever, and his five goal performance last week underlines that fact.

But if we’re using numbers alone to make that call, at the rate Ronaldo is putting up goals himself, he’s has to at least be in line for consideration too, right? And even if he’s doesn’t end up sitting with the exclusive group at the top, at bare minimum you’d have to place him in the rung just below along with greats such as Ferenc Puskás, Eusébio, Zinedine Zidane, Michel Platini, Franz Beckenbauer and Garrincha.

ronaldo and messi

both of these men are amazing players. shouldn't that be enough?

It’s almost as if they’re two sides to the same coin, each the antithesis of the other. One is pale, the other is tan. Leo is small and stocky, while Cristiano is tall and athletic. Ronaldo is known for his tricks, flash and power, while Messi is known for his vision, touch and poise. Even when looking at their personalities, they’re polar opposites: Leo’s calm, quiet and reserved, while Ronaldo is emotional, egotistical and flamboyant.

Depending on how you look at the discussion, you could even say that Messi’s greatness has been partially driven by Ronaldo’s own ambition to be the best. Though neither would probably ever admit it, the pair undoubtedly push themselves to improve upon the other’s amazing performances — though Ronnie normally proves as much by shooting 800 shots-per-game the day after Leo drops a hat-trick. The best comparison of such a phenomenon is the way that Larry Bird and Magic Johnson pushed one another in the NBA during the 80′s… two fantastically talented rivals repeatedly shoving one another towards greatness.

Would we be able to truly admire and appreciate each of these great players without having the other to compare him against? I’d venture to say yes, but I doubt our understanding of their greatness wouldn’t be as deep without the contrast between the two. I just feel privileged enough to have been here to witness such a rare, dual occurrence of such talented players.

Bottom line and regardless of which player you want to crown as the best, remember that in 20 years we’ll most likely have another player — one unlike we’ve ever seen — who will capture our imaginations and cause us to ponder the great debate all over again. And if we’re really lucky, we’ll get two.

not gonna happen

Forget this writing gig… I’m going to become a bookie. Because if I’m really ever going to make some money out of my life long love affair with soccer, that’s clearly the best avenue.

Mourinho Caught Back in London

turns out having this guy pop up back in london will cause quite a stir. and just in case, i'm NOT talking about the dude on the right.

In order to get paid to play, I’d have to be good (I’m not). In order to manage, I should probably have first been a player (Ditto). I could be an agent or an administrator, but only if I knew the right people (I don’t know enough of them). Or I could always referee, if only I was a bit mental (I’m not that mental). And there’s a million writers out there, so I’m currently a dime a dozen (Sigh). So that narrows my options to just sports betting and organized crime… which are more or less the same industry, anyway.

For instance, take a look at the current betting odds on who will be the permanent manager at Chelsea Football Club at the start of next season, when Roberto “The Players Hate Me More Than AVB” Di Mateo’s stint as caretaker is currently scheduled to end. At the time of writing, the favorites are as follows:

Rank Manager Odds
1 José Mourinho 13/8
2 Fabio Capello 11/4
3 Pep Guardiola 4/1
4 Rafael Benítez 5/1
5 Roberto Di Mateo 10/1

So what about those numbers has me contemplating a career switch? Oh I don’t know… probably because there’s not a chance in hell that the man currently sporting the best odds will actually end up taking the Chelsea job. I think anyone putting their hard-earned money on Mourinho is simply giving it away to someone… why shouldn’t they be giving that money to me?!?!

Now after reading such a bold claim, I can understand if you’re questioning my confidence about the matter, what with so much time before the position will be filled and so many possible indicators already seeming to hint as much. I mean, he made no secret of his recent house hunting trip to London. Many fans will be quick to place a quid or two on Mourinho taking the job for just that reason, like they’ve forgotten that there will potentially be two other high-profile job openings in the same city this summer.

Either way, trust me when I say it’s not gonna happen. And it won’t happen for two very important reasons: what’s happened in the past, and what has to happen in the future.

Study the past, if you would divine the future.
Before we can even truly consider the Special One returning to Stamford Bridge, we have to look at why he left to begin with. It’s very important to remember that prior to leaving, José was literally a Messiah at Chelsea. He led the Blues to Premier League titles in each of his first two seasons with the club — their first in 50 years — and a club-first FA and League Cup double the following season. And while his departure seemed sudden and abrupt in September 2007, the seeds of discontent for the Portuguese manager were actually being sowed as early as 2006.

shevchenko and mourinho at chelsea

mourinho was never a fan of shevchenko, and yet roman insisted that he stay in the squad.

The first major sign of any trouble brewing between the Russian and Portuguese came with the 2006 summer signings of Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack. Neither fit the mold of a typical Mourinho signing — both were proven/veteran superstars instead of up-and-coming youngsters or relative unknowns — and many rightly wondered whether they were more of Roman’s signings than José’s. Shevchenko in particular had long been admired by Abramovich, and when his €30m signing effectively ate up all of Mourinho’s transfer budget for the summer, he was bound to be displeased.

Of course, the media were quick to jump all over the emerging rift, labeling these so-called “Abrambovich signings” as the proof that the Chelsea manager was being undermined by his owner. And while neither player ever lived up to their star billings, Shevchenko’s inability to adjust to life in West London was particularly glaring. Yet despite the Ukrainian’s obviously poor form, Roman continued to pressure his manager to play his pricey signing… something that did not sit well at all with Mourinho.

But even as these troubles were brewing in the background, José was able to rally his troops and produce successes. Disciplined counterattacking and a vice-like defense were the key tenets of the Mourinho’s ability to produce trophies, but by late 2006 it became quietly known that Roman was not pleased with such “unattractive” methods. The Russian oligarch desired free-flowing, attacking football out of his side. He wanted Chelsea to be the Barcelona of London, yet the complete opposite was on display week in and week out with Mourinho at the helm.

So when Roman appointed Avram Grant as a Director of Football — a position normally responsible for overseeing player transfers – at the beginning of the 2007/2008 campaign, the not-so-private lack of backing was finally enough to push the Special One to the breaking point. After a string of disappointing results and a series of crisis meetings between Mourinho, Abramovich and the rest of the board, it was clear that there was no reconciling and the Special One walked away.

Saying that “bridges were burned” between Mourinho and Abramovich would be a gross understatement. It was more like the bridge had been bombed by Allied troops in World War II: if you hadn’t known there was a bridge there before, you would never know one had been there at all.

And though there’s been talk that some reconciling has taken place since, you have to wonder how much José trust his former employer anymore. If he were to come back to Chelsea, would the boss man be able to guarantee Mourinho the total (and I mean total) autonomy to run the club as he sees fit? Judging by the latest rumors indicating that Mou would be willing to return only if that autonomy is promised — along with absurd wages and that the guarantee that Ronaldo would be purchased too — shows that the Russian will have to put his money where his mouth is if he wants to convince him to go against his gut instinct.

To be honest, aside from the ridiculous wage demands, I don’t think Roman can promise Mourinho any of those things.

The future ain’t what it used to be.
Let us imagine for a minute a strange world where Roman Abramovich would actually be willing to give Mourinho all of the control his heart desires, and that Mourinho accepts said offer and returns to Chelsea. What tasks await him before he can right the ship? To answer that question, you have to first look at the current state of affairs at Stamford Bridge.

drogba, terry and lampard at chelsea

would mourinho even want to break up the "old boys club" that he help put together?

The anchor that’s been dragging the Blues down this season hasn’t necessarily been the manager — though AVB’s tactical and personnel choices weren’t always the wisest for the squad that he’s had — but rather an aging core of players that have an unusually large amount of influence at the club. Terry, Cole, Drogba and most notably Lampard were all reportedly at fault for undermining Villas-Boas both in the locker room and the board room. Yet aside from perhaps Lampard, none have performed well enough this season to justify such importance and sway.

When André Villas-Boas was brought in this summer, his first action should have been to break up the veteran-core. One thing that would allow him to do is implement his new playing system without the friction of the older players who are used to the old style of play. Secondly, breaking up that group would also lessen the odds of anyone challenging his authority.

Lampard and Drogba could have easily been shipped out for decent money, despite their lofty ages. Ashley Cole could have been put on a tighter, don’t-shoot-the-staff leash. And don’t get me started on how John Terry’s toxic ego is poisoning the drinking well. But due to drawn out nature of his appointment, AVB didn’t have enough time to flip them for new players before the start of the season… so he was stuck with them.

Unfortunately, this core group of influential players still remain very close to Mourinho. After all, he was the one that assembled and guided them to prominence. That they all admitted to regularly communicating with their old boss this season underlines how close they are to the guy still.

How is Mourinho possibly supposed to come back and tell them — the guys he’s still friends with — that he’s going to have to give them the boot?

Sure, he’s got a steely personality and doesn’t take smack from anyone. But would you have the cojones to tell a friend, who you’ve been propping up and reassuring all season through text messages, “Sorry guy, you actually do suck and need to move on”? I don’t think I could.

Even if Mourinho could push some of the old guard out, he still won’t be out of the woods. The Chelsea Mourinho would inherit now is not the up and coming squad that he took over in 2004, but rather a fading one with its best years behind it. There’s still a good deal of rebuilding left to do at the club, and he’ll need not only financial backing to bring in fresh faces, but he’ll also need time adjust them to the Mourinho code.

And time, if you recall, is exactly what Villas-Boas was reportedly assured of when he was charged with the project of overhauling the squad. We saw how well that worked out for the young manager. There’s no way a man as smart as the Special One could have overlooked that as anything but the same type of broken promises he’s seen before, right?

————————————————————-

Think about it like this: to José Mourinho, this Chelsea job is like a hot ex-girlfriend. Despite all of the feelings of nostalgia, the familiarity, and the everyone will totally understand why you hooked back up with her… because she’s hot. But everyone also knows that you really shouldn’t be hooking up with her either, since she’s got a crazy dad that says he likes you one day, but the next day he’s got a shotgun to you pushing you out the front door.

Long story short, I just don’t think there’s anyway that an ambitious Mourinho will take this Chelsea job. There’s too much history there, and deep down he knows he won’t get the control that he wants. Unless Abramovich promises he’ll stay far away in Russia and not pay attention to team affairs, a Mourinho-Chelsea reunion feels very unlikely.

Besides, there are potentially other jobs in London that he would be a much better fit for…

ten words or less #48

london 2012's "the albert"

for a ball with such an awesome name, couldn't have adidas gone with a slightly less faded 80's design for the official ball of london 2012?

With less than 30 minutes until kickoff between Spurs and United, I’m a literal train wreck. I’m stressing over Tottenham’s extremely weakened line-up squaring off against a solid looking starting XI for the Red Devils, and the potential repercussions of fielding such a weak squad in such an important match.

The only thing that could keep my mind from going into complete meltdown mode was to finish up this week’s TWOL post… though admittedly, it’s just a temporary reprieve for my fingers from the endless nail-biting that awaits over the next two hours.

This is how you know footballers make too much money. – theoriginalwinger.com

Every Euro 2012 Kit… who’s your favorite? – football-shirts.co.uk

Sadly, this might be the best pitch in Cuba. – kckrs.com

Chelsea are sunk because of… Napoli’s three in the back? – guardian.co.uk

MLS eyeing Florida for expansion; apparently doesn’t learn lessons. – soccerbyives.com

French kiss… quite literally. – kickette.com

I will actually watch more Crew games because of this. - thecrew.com

Suprisingly relevant Will Ferrell link: he apparently loves Chicharito. – dirtytackle.net

If this happened to me, I’d literally shit my pants. – youtube.com

How can one properly celebrate while sitting? Answer: you can’t. – soccernet.com

the stomach punch

It’s been a long few days since the final whistle echoed from Mike Dean’s whistle at the Emirates last Sunday, and yet the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach has yet to subside. As a Tottenham supporter, I feel like the much-hyped North London Derby was a patented Bill Simmons’ “stomach punch” result.

Tottenham's Brad Friedel and Ledley King

by the look of their body language, both brad and ledley know how i feel.

Those readers familiar with ESPN writer Bill Simmons will know exactly what feeling I’m talking about… but for those you still in the dark, take this quick detour to catch up to speed.

Losing so badly to your biggest rival is always going to be a painful experience, but the manner in which Spurs fell to the Gooners and the banter/circumstances/hype that surrounded the match pre-kick off combined to make watching this loss the football equivalent of swallowing a medieval flail painful. We entered the match as favorites, sprung out to an early lead, and crashed spectacularly by allowing five unanswered goals. Out classed, out hustled, and out thought: it was an ass kicking of the highest order.

However, if I’m really attempting to use Simmon’s Levels of Losing system to describe how the 5-3 shalacking felt to a Spurs supporter, I have to admit that this wasn’t exactly a “Stomach Punch” match by definition, despite it feeling like I took one the gut. But just because it isn’t that level of a loss, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t actually be classified into several of Bill’s other categories in that column. Actually, the loss was so freaking comprehensive that simply placing it into a single level of losing doesn’t really do it justice. Let’s examine how and why this match disparagingly fits into so many categories in detail.

Level X: The Monkey Wrench
A match where either a) the manager of your team made an idiotic game decision or b) a referee robbed your team of impending victory.

Like any typical fan, the first scapegoat I targeted after a loss of this magnitude was the referee. And being completely honest, Mike Dean had a nightmare out there. And though I’d love to blame him for the Spurs’ woes, it’s important to remember that his nightmare was in both directions. His inconsistency affected both sides of the battle, and he really set a negative tone for the match by letting it get very chippy, very early. It was almost like he had been looking forward to dealing out a deck’s worth of cards, and invited it by allowing rough play from the opening whistle.

However, I’m not dense enough to think it was his fault Spurs lost so dramatically. Nor do I think his decisions swayed the outcome in the slightest. No, the root cause for this loss falls squarely on the shoulders of Tottenham’s own manager-in-demand, Harry Redknapp.

I can see the logic in why Harry opted for the same starting line-up that featured in the 5-1 demolishing of Newcastle two weeks before. But in trotting out a traditional 4-4-2 formation this past Sunday, you had to wonder if ‘Arry even remembered who we were playing. This wasn’t the depleted Newcastle side that we faced the week before — who were missing two of their normal back four (the Taylors) and their two most mercurial midfielders (Tiote and Cabaye) — but instead a balanced Arsenal 4-3-3 with a world-class striker at its apex.

My mother could have told you that the Woolrich were going to play through the middle with the extra man, and they were always going to dominate possession with only two men in the Spurs midfield. The numerical disadvantage itself was at least partially at fault for Parker’s sending off. Outnumbered, Scotty was trying to do it all on his own and, as a result, made some badly timed, lunging tackles.

Tottenham's Louis Saha

why harry chose to take off saha, who had been working twice as hard as adebayor, still confounds me.

The gaffer recognized his folly by the half, and he had the team revert to the 4-3-3 that’s brought them so much success this year… but the choices Redknapp went with to make that happen probably were only half right. Kranjčar made way for the extra central midfielder we so vitally needed in Sandro, but then van der Vaart came on for Saha to help aid possession. The problem with that was two-fold.

First, Saha wasn’t the striker that needed to come off. Adebayor was embarrassingly worthless, having reverted back to the unmotivated and lazy bastard we all hated during his stints at Arsenal and City. His work ethic was pitiful, he was constantly fishing for calls, and was generally out of position for the entirety of the match. Saha might not have the same potential in his old-man legs any longer, but at least he was using them.

Secondly, Lennon should have come in instead of Rafa. While I get the idea of bringing on the Dutchman to help wrestle away a bit of the possession, I think stretching the Arsenal defense with speed on both flanks would have been more effective than trying to beat Arsenal at the possession game they hold so central to their cause. Instead, he left Bale to wander the middle of the park like an Alzheimer’s patient and put Rafa right in the same space to do the same thing.

On the whole, it was if Harry had no clue how to approach the match. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say with the way he screwed the pooch with the match tactics, I’d think he was trying dissuade the FA from offering him for the England job. After that match, maybe I’d rather he goes anyway.

The interesting thing about the game falling into “The Monkey Wrench” category is how a good chunk of the referee qualification actually came from the Gunner faithful, who were still moaning about Dean’s decisions even after they won. The most common complaints included his awarding Gareth Bale a 33rd minute penalty for a supposed dive, and Arsenal not being awarded for two early penalties of their own for a handball on Parker and a foul on Gibbs. First off, all of those were actually correct decisions. Both Gibbs (right leg) and Szczesny (left leg) caught Bale ever-so-slightly for the penalty call, the Parker handball was unintentional and would have been extremely harsh to give, and Gibbs literally collapsed into his defender when he realized he was about to lose the ball. Secondly, quit bitching… you won, by a hefty margin. There were even a few overly enthusiastic claims that Dean was caught celebrating Tottenham’s second goal… again, from fans whose team won the damn match.

Level IX: The Full-Fledged Butt-Kicking
Sometimes you can tell right away when it isn’t your team’s day, not just the epiphany but everything that follows — every botched play; every turnover; every instance where someone on your team quits; every “deer in the headlights” look; every time an announcer says, “They can’t get anything going”… you just want it to end, and it won’t end. … but you can’t look away. It’s the sports fan’s equivalent to a ninety minute torture session.

Arsenal's Theo Walcott

if someone would have told me before the match that walcott would have a brace in the NLD, i would have laughed in their face.

Now I’m sure a load of you are screaming, “But Tottenham were up 2-0 inside of 35 minutes!” But that’s just looking at the scoreline, which told very little of the events unfolding on the field. Yes, Arsenal’s defense was horrendous in the opening half… but so was Tottenham’s. No Spurs fan in their right mind saw that opening and thought to themselves, “We’ve got this one in the bag.” I also don’t think there’s a single one of us out there that would say that this match wasn’t a full-fledged butt-kicking either.

Despite the early success with two goals, Spurs remained overly reliant on the direct route in hoofing it up to Ade/Saha. When it became apparent that this method no longer worked and Harry changed to the wider formation Tottenham should have started with in the first place, they still tried to hoof it up to a guy that wasn’t even working for the ball. Instead of bringing on Lennon and pushing Bale back out to the wing to provide a dual threat, they left him isolated, out of position in the middle. By the time they attempted to play a more possession-oriented, wider game, Arsenal had run away with the match.

It was horrible watching it go down, knowing there was nothing the boys could even do to flip the result. I would literally rather be water-boarded than be forced to watch the last 48 minutes of that match again.

Level II: The Goose/Maverick Tailspin
Cruising happily through the regular season, a potential top four team suddenly and inexplicably goes into a tailspin, can’t bounce out of it and ends up crashing for the season. 

This potential end result currently haunts my nightmares. Could this match have been the tipping point for entire season? Sure, it’s a very gloomy outlook on the effects of the match, but it’s not as if these types of collapses haven’t happened before.

Going into the match, Spurs held a relatively massive 10-point lead over their hated neighbors, a figure that could have ballooned to an insane 13 points if they had won. We had definitely been the better side up to this point in the season — at least on a consistency front — and look assured of a Champions League spot next season. Arsenal seemed ripe for the picking, fresh off of a blowout in Milan (who we scraped by last year) and a particularly poor performance against Sunderland in the FA Cup. To me, it was clear that the Tottenham players all thought they thought they could walk in and mop the floor with the Gunners… in their own kitchen, no less.

After the loss though, we’re now sitting a worryingly narrow seven points above the Gunners. With United lying in wait next weekend — and Parker suspended for his idiotic red card — that gap could easily be whittled to four points if the Arse can manage a win away to a buoyed Liverpool. If we do suffer defeat at Old Trafford too, it could be a difficult task to resuscitate our mojo for the home stretch of the season. And if we struggle to recapture that early season form, we could find ourselves slipping into a dogfight with the rivals we once felt so comfortably ahead of in the race for the Champions League.

———————————————————————

Many of my fellow Yiddos are calling for calm in this “crisis”, and rightly so. There’s a lot of season left to play out, and at least Spurs do have a margin — albeit a narrower one — to help fend off competition for European places. Both Chelsea and Arsenal have a tough schedule ahead of them too, so there’s plenty of chances for them both to drop points.

But I’m still going to sound the alarm simply because that’s what I do best. And we probably deserved the loss as karmic retribution for old ‘Arry letting Adebayor take a penalty in front of the Arsenal crowd.

Long story short, losing to Arsenal scares me. And though it’s been bad having their uppity fans rub the loss in our faces, it would be even worse if they ended up in the higher position at the close of the season. We handed our closest rivals a big boost, hopefully it won’t come back to punch us in the stomach again in May.