What’s the point of Spurs drifting with Conte? And Newcastle didn’t need the Saudi billions…

Tottenham manager Antonio Conte greets Newcastle boss Eddie Howe. Credit: Alamy
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte greets Newcastle boss Eddie Howe. Credit: Alamy

The Tuesday morning Mailbox offers missives on Tottenham’s drifting, and the reasons behind Newcastle’s start. Also: plenty on Arsenal, and a World Cup boycott. 

Get your views in to theeditor@football365.com before the afternoon Mailbox arrives…

 

Media should take a stand too
It’s not going to be easy switching off the World Cup this winter. 86 was my taster, 90 and 94 were the magic ones, and it’s been true love ever since. But like the China Winter Olympics, we won’t be following it in my house, not sure what it will do in the grander scheme of things, but at the very least my kids will know in life we can’t turn a blind eye.

Media companies like yourselves and the Guardian have been writing a lot of articles on why people should take a stand, and ask the question of how they can take a stand. So I would like to ask you, and all the decent media outlets to back up your words and say, we’ll only report on the basic facts— fixtures and scores—no World Cup football related interviews, opinion pieces, match reports or news will feature on your sites, channels, and papers. As for the games themselves on TV, the coverage during Man United v Sociedad when the Queen died should be the blueprint, show the game but without a panel or discussion before, during, and after the games. Please strip it all back, and take the stand you can and should do.
Austin Maguire, Dublin

 

Hypocrisy365
There’s very little i disagree with in John Nicholson’s article. The labor exploitation for the Qatar World Cup seems shocking and reprehensible. Who could argue it? Who could argue that it’s sports washing at its peak. It’s absolute peak.

Oh hang on… I just remembered that before the football this weekend we had the spectacle of the lone trumpeteer, playing his little song, wearing his little poppy for all the heroic soldiers who murdered countless thousands (millions?) in the name of British colonialism. Ah the Poppy, the respectful silence, the proud roar after the minutes quiet, all in the name of the raping and pillaging of countless lands, in the name of Queen and country, lovely stuff. If only the Qataris could be as progressive as the mighty British. This isn’t sports washing at its grandest scale… POPPYCOCK… its a respectful silence to honor Britain’s spotless history and flawless past. Show some respect you ignorant cretins!

Noooo, the Premier League are not Sports washing the absolute evils of Britain’s past (and present), this is of course completely different and doesn’t require passionate think pieces by liberal journalists. None. ZERO. Gary Neville doesn’t need an opinion on this one. I can only hope that backwards Irish man James MacLean has read the proper English history books and changed his crazy opinions on the mighty Poppy. Sure, all Britain were doing was civilizing them crazy Irish. He should wear 2 poppies to say thanks.

I look forward to the next time Britain looks to host a major tournament. We will of course be inundated with articles on why such a tournament in Britain is only affordable on the back of centuries of death and destruction. Maybe Danny Boyle will curate another opening ceremony focusing on Beatlemania and not say… um… the illegal war in Iraq based on a lie that led to the death of hundreds of thousands and misery in the region for god knows how long. Because sports washing doesn’t happen in Britain you see, its only those crazy middle Easterns, they’ve even brought it to Newcastle! WEY AYE!!!!.

Sure, there won’t be any money left for another tournament as the British tax payers money is currently being spent pumping billions of pounds worth of lethal weapons into Eastern Europe. Another endless profitable war for Britains unelected bribers… i mean lobbyists. Its corruption in Qatar… its lobbying in the UK. Big difference. Lovely Jubbly. Lets have a cup of tea to celebrate.

Sportswashing??? Why bother, sure the Western World have washed most of the history books and almost every aspect of popular culture… that’s why we have movies of Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher as heros and not the monsters they actually were. Soldiers are heros, War Mongers are complex stoic characters, Royalty are the embodiment of sacrifice, the Queen a hero… never mind sports washing… its brainwashing since the day of birth.

And that all leads up to the weekend… hundred of thousands of people respectfully paying tribute to the British Colonial past, one of the greatest evils on the planet. Its not even close to comedy… its far beyond that… but yeah Qatar…

So yeah, ill be watching Qatar 22, just like I watched Euro 96, just like i watched USA 94, just like i watched Italia 90, just like i watched the Premier League at the weekend… minute silence n all…
shz

 

World Cup fatigue
Nope, Johnny, it sure doesn’t.

I know some of that is me getting older, more cynical, and more fatigued by the ever-more saturated football calendar.

After all, I have been an utter nut for sport, precluding education from my list of concerns at school right up until finishing high school, only to be quite jaded by 35 years of age with all of them to be honest.

Definitely isn’t the World Cup of 98, which did indeed draw me in with everything that hadn’t seen in a premier league match on MNet on a Saturday afternoon.

The new players, unseen kits, the novelty of nation vs nation instead of clubs, the stakes of clear national pride being caught up in each nations hopes, it was unreal to savour for the first time.

And it was school holidays.

Still, I don’t think it needs to be this uninspiring a buildup for me personally.

Really is about time for FIFA to pick a likable host nation again.
Long Lost Fan (Hope everyone else is more excited though)

 

Newcastle didn’t need Saudi billions
What a time to be a Newcastle fan. Yes, other fans will criticise the ownership (rightly so) and the money spent, but this could have been achieved without the Saudi billions. This is a team managed by a guy pundits said wasn’t good enough, with our best two attackers injured (one on the bench again), starting with 7 (SEVEN!) English players, going away from home, not at our best and winning 4-1.

The team is so likeable, because they play with energy and they attack in numbers. But also look at who’s on the pitch! The second half midfield attack was: Longstaff, Bruno, Willock, Almiron, Murphy, Wood. Asides from Bruno, two months ago you’d have said that’s a relegation side.

And that’s why the fans love what Eddie’s doing – he’s transformed players, the way we play and the whole club. We can look at a home game against Chelsea next weekend and think “we can have them” rather than worrying about how many we’ll lose by.

It could go horribly wrong – Spurs, Cheslea, Man U and Liverpool will all probably improve and we might finish 7th or worse, but this has been the best start to a season since the mid 90s. We could (should) have more points if it wasn’t for dodgy VAR calls (Crystal palace was particularly ridiculous) and have only really not been the better team against Liverpool (with half our team injured) and Brighton (they’re very good but did a Brighton special).

Just like Arsenal fans enjoying the ride, Newcastle fans are too. We’re going to be in the top 4 on Christmas day and a year ago we were in the bottom 3 and doomed. If you can’t enjoy that journey, then what’s the point of being a football fan.
James, NUFC.

 

Murphy’s law
Newcastle fans wake up staggered again – sitting third, will be third after all games in hand have been played, and will reach Christmas at worst fourth.

The morning after a clinical victory, what stuck with me was the attitude of the players. Newcastle won 4-1 away, to an established prem side, but had fewer shots and were narrowly behind on xG. And so instead of celebrating a huge win, senior players were being clear how disappointed they were with the performance and how much they need to improve. That’s a mentality Howe has instilled that will do well whatever comes next (and for me any finish in the top 7 this season would be a great achievement no matter where we are now).

It was also another big result from a forward line seemingly destined for the championship 12 months ago. Several big signings played in defence and Bruno at DM, but everyone in the offensive half – including sub scorer Chris Wood – was in a relegation form side this time last year.

Almiron’s incredible form has been talked about a lot, and Callum Wilson has always been class when fit. But I wanted to give a massive shout out to Jacob Murphy and Sean Longstaff – two long-time squad players who might not have been expected to have a future in the post-takeover Newcastle, and if they were lesser men you could understand if either had switched off or asked for a move. But both have reacted the way Howe requires – they seem to have worked harder and played better than ever – and both have featured in every single match for a top-4-form team. And Murphy even has more goal involvements than Jack Grealish…

Big match against Chelsea next week then Gareth can get Trips, Pope, Wilson (and Dan Burn?) on the plane
Roger, (Longstaff for England), Newcastle in London

 

Where’s this going, Antonio?
While a defeat is still a defeat, as a Spurs fan the Liverpool game was significantly better than the Arsenal, Chelsea, or Man U games which genuinely made us look like League Two minnows just trying to avoid double-digit humiliation. That we should have got something from the Liverpool game is equally frustrating and encouraging.

Nevertheless, as a number of articles have already written, it’s a curious time to be a Spurs fan. Which is better than how it’s felt as a Spurs fan for most of the Premier League era. But at least we knew where we were when we were shit.

This curiousness mostly stems from Conte both being simultaneously the answer to our problems and the cause of our problems. We know he’s a very good manager. We know that he wins things. We know that he’s one of the best chances of changing the mentality at Spurs. But we also know he’s destructive and negative. We know he’s tactically rigid. And most pertinently of all, we know he’s transitory.

The deal you make with Conte is that you accept defensive football, moaning, and short-termism in exchange for winning something. But here’s the thing. The evidence suggests that with Conte, that winning is usually in the form of a league title. This season the league is obviously gone. And what hope winning the league next season with City miles ahead, Arsenal resurgent, Newcastle growing, and Liverpool, Man U, Chelsea unlikely to all start so poorly again. Conte surely won’t hang around after a third season.

So this “winning” thing I’ve heard about comes down to Europe and the domestic cups. Famously Conte has little pedigree for Europe as a manager. This shows no sign of changing. Although he took over last season half way through, his games in the Conference League were pitiful and this season he made what was effectively a Europa League group much tougher than it should have been. It’s also bloody hard to win the Champions League anyway despite a potentially more open field this year than usual.

So it’s probably onto the domestic cups. Again, his record as a manager is poor considering the teams he’s managed. Even when sweeping everything before him with Juve in the league, he failed to win the cup. Coincidentally or not, Juve went on to win it four seasons in a row immediately after he left. He didn’t win it with Inter either and, you guessed it, they won it the very season after he left too. Yes he won the FA Cup with Chelsea so it’s not a complete write-off. But it’s not a great record given he’s usually been with the best team in the league (spoiler: Spurs aren’t…).

So my question is what is the point of Conte and Spurs together? There’s no evidence he’ll stay long. And the chances of winning things just aren’t that great. While he’s in charge we’ll never be able to long term plan. I genuinely thought at 2-0 to Bournemouth that he might be resigning after the match – that threat of sudden departure will linger after every bad defeat (and there will be a few…). No-one is enjoying the football either. In no way am I suggesting to fire him – just qualifying for the Champions League last season was amazing. But I’m just not sure what the point is at the moment. Do we just shake hands with Conte at the end of this season, say thanks and move on for both our interests?
Jon L, Kew

 

P*ssing off all the right people
As Arsenal fans we’ve been told, all season:

– We’ve played no one of note
– We (fans) celebrate too much
– Our manager should stay in his technical area (why are people so hung up on that little box, it is a stupid thing IMO. Let Managers prowl the touchline like a big cat I say!)
– Our players celebrate too much
– Top 4 is the best we can hope for and then Arteta should leave (GNev)
– We are too soft (this is an evergreen position propagated by hardmen like Souness who believes ‘they don’t like it up em is the best tactic to play against us)
– We dive (which is absolute BS)
– We are dirty
– We release too much merchandise (this is true, they’re gonna bankrupt me!)

All I hear are sour grapes and boiled piss. And I love it. We haven’t been anything other than a joke for close to a decade. A bunch of perennial losers who paper over cracks with FA Cups. And for a long period of time, that was true. No Arsenal fan will say we weren’t a dysfunctional club, who struggled to achieve anything of note. Overpaid prima donnas who gave at best 6/10 performances.

I think what is upsetting people now is our club, our fans, and our players are in complete synchronicity. Opposition fans see our club and if they aren’t a petro club, you see something you want your club to be. A club believing in youth, who play the right way, who back their manager and who trusts their players. You see players fighting for the badge every game. You see Arteta’s non negotiables being correct. You see that the dead wood he cut was in fact dead wood. Aubameyang yesterday giving his textbook performance we Arsenal fans came to expect for Chelsea while Jesus showed everything PEA wasn’t.

Iyanu, I don’t know a single fan who is getting carried away and thinks we are going to win the league, not a single one. In fact, most I know are saying we are gonna come second and have the fact that ‘no club with this many points failed to win the league’ shoved down our throats because City exist and we aren’t them. But we haven’t enjoyed watching our club this much since the days of Henry and Pires. That is a long time.

So pardon us Arsenal fans as we support our team with full throats and hearts. We may not win, and seeing City and Newcastle amassing behind us bodes ill for the future of the league, but for now, we are so very happy.
John (watch us drop points at Wolves) Matrix AFC

 

In it to win it
I keep reading Arsenal fans in the mailbox say that they are not title contenders.

And i get that, somehow…

Sure, City are rampant, Haaland is a cyborg and teams roll over for City to tickle their bellies and KBD gets free peno’s.

But for arguments sake..

• Barcelona are currently on top in La Liga with 34 out 39 – Madrid game in hand possibly at 35/39.

• One-horse-race Bundesliga is topped by Bayern with 28/39

• PSG – on top of the Qatar Playground League is the same with 35/39

• Napoli, 35/39

• In my league, there’s PSV with 30 out 39, though Ajax have a game in hand and could go 31/39.

Now all of these teams are on top of their league and doing worse than or exactly equal to Arsenal, but you would be hard pressed to find any football fan to not consider these teams contenders for their title.

Arsenal have taken 35 out of 39 points and have only lost to ManUtd (lol), if they keep this up they will finish on 100 points.

So newsflash, title contenders you most definitely are.
Stijn, Amsterdam

 

…So I heard again a reluctance from various quarters to proclaim Arsenal as title contenders (95% of Arsenal fans don’t think they are contenders, really PK?). We’re over a third of the way though the season and If they win their game in hand, they will be 10 points clear of Newcastle (in third, can you believe it). As they have only dropped 5 points so far, if they keep this pace up, Newcastle and those below them would have to win all their remaining games to have a shot at catching them. It’s likely they won’t be able to maintain that pace, but its even less likely that any of the crowd from 3rd to 8th will go the rest of the season unbeaten. So if there are only 2 teams that can win the league, you’re one of them and you’re at the top of the table then you’re a title contender. I still think City’s squad depth gives them the advantage, but lets not pretend anyone else is going to be in contention.

Obviously Arsenal were not expecting this so soon, and would have taken top 4 at the start of the season. They shouldn’t now be pilloried if they end up in second or third, a slump at the end of a season is always judged more harshly than a slump at the start (assuming the manager survives). But they do have a big chance to win the league.

On the Newcastle front, I’m just so excited so see how they have developed this year. A solid defence, a positive goal difference and an assumption that we will at least show up for games is something I haven’t seen in a long time. Feels like the Bobby Robson era in terms of optimism (the early Pardew years always felt a little unsustainable to me, although I did like them). The players seem happy, tight knit and up for the challenge, which is wonderful to behold. The owner stuff continues to be thrown at them on socials, but the ‘mainstream’ football community seems to be able to appreciate what is happening on the pitch, without it being totally coloured by political opinions. I still have mixed feelings, but its hard for the logical side of the brain to subdue the side that gets a little giddy when Miggy bangs in another goal.

As for the World Cup, I sympathise with people who have been aiming for this professionally for years. I won’t judge anyone who goes, and I’ll watch some of the games for sure, but the timing and the controversy have teamed up to make this the least anticipated World Cup of my life so far.
Derek from Dundalk

 

Finding the joy in Arsenal
Does it not occur to everyone that one of the main reasons Arsenal are top of the league is because of the “histrionics”? Arteta has brought a holistic approach to football and it’s obviously paying dividends. A team with togetherness plays better. A team with buoyant fans plays better. Looking at the past 5 or 6 years, a team with a pirouetting manager plays better and wins the league. It’s strange to look at a team that’s doing well and come to the conclusion that the things they do are wrong. Maybe your team should be taking a leaf from their book? Why do people hate joy so much?

On the fouling issue – literally every team surrounds the referee. Every single one. In fact, historically Arsenal have been guilty of not standing up for each other and have been criticised for it. But by all means, we’ll stand by and watch as another potential world class teenager gets his career kicked out of him so it doesn’t peeve you off too much.

As an aside, it always amuses me when parents publicly complain about their children like it’s not their own fault that their child is like that. If your two year old is a turd it might be because you’re a miserable sod.

Also, Calum, when you’re parroting Richard Keys it might be the right time to evaluate where you went wrong in life.
SC, Belfast

 

…So following another big win for Arsenal, I see another round of people losing their minds about Arteta being animated on the sidelines, and Gary N’s usual round of sour grapes. Obviously, I’m an Arsenal fan and have generally been pretty positive about Mikel, even in the dark days…but the degree to which he clearly infuriates a certain sort of commentator is just sort of the icing on the cake of our winning season. The reaction would be baffling to me, if I didn’t have a pretty good understanding of where it’s coming from.
1 – For a certain generation of English commentators (for the record, I’m the exact same age as Neville, though, obviously, American) Arsenal still represent the club that brought an end to the good time British Boys Club that was soccer. They were the team that not only globalised the game (they think this is bad) but also changed the focus to things like nutrition, analytics, and psychology rather than “Passion”, alcohol and strikers that lead with their elbows.
2 – He proves that coaching talent is an actual thing. I think a lot of these guys think that modern coaching is just a plug and play thing, that you can just throw a Scott Parker or OGS in there, as long as they can talk to the cameras. But as Stevie G fell away, and Lampard and Viera seem destined for respectable midtable careers, Arteta MIGHT be about to prove that he is indeed a special one. I get this resentment…it was only after Man U’s post Fergie collapse that I finally had to admit that the old bastard was something special.
3 – As illustrated by the All or Nothing, Arteta gets that a lot of his job is to be a mentor to a group of very young men, who’ve lived a bizarre, monastic life and to get the best out of them. To men who view them as coddled millionaires who need to be kicked up the backside on a daily basis and told to run around a bit, this grinds their gears to no end.
4 – Seriously, why do you give a single solitary F what Arteta does on the sidelines?
None of this is any great mystery, it’s just amazing that these guys don’t have the self awareness to realize how it plays.
Josh, Arsenal, Quincy MA

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta squeezes Ben White's face Credit: Alamy
Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta squeezes Ben White's face Credit: Alamy

Partey just started
Sorry but I have to take issue with PK’s DM claim (maybe it’s tongue in cheek but these days you can never rule out absolute stupidity).

I agree he was good at Atletico Madrid and he’s had his share of injury problems but it’s taken him a fair old while to get going too. Even at his current performances he isn’t anywhere near the level of Rodri, Fernandinho before him, Kante and I’d also argue, Casemiro at their best.

He’s good, but statements like this is what pricks up the ears of the celebration police.

Stay in your lane fellas.
Marc, MCFC.

 

Still not convinced
Not that I don’t think they‘re a very good team… but they haven’t a patch on City, or a fully fit Liverpool. I just see too many mitigating factors in their big wins for them to be taken at face value. Here are their biggest games so far:

Liverpool – beat a completely underperforming Liverpool team (who no one seems to be cutting some slack due to their horror movie-level injury list…) by a single goal at home when all 3 big Ref decisions went their way on the day. And Liverpool outplayed them in the first half with that shell of a team. Honestly over the last 5 years when Liverpool were challenging can you think of any half of football where Arsenal have outplayed Liverpool? No, I didn’t think so.

Spurs – Son was absolutely shocking in the first half and spurned about 4 opportunities to play a simple pass in to Richarlison / Kane for one-on-ones with Ramsdale. On another day Spurs get a few of these (although maybe only in the second half when they decide to play football). Then after the red card it was a walk in the park.

Chelsea – only team in the league with an injury list to rival Liverpool. In fact for yesterday’s game they had even worse. My count is 6 of the first 11 out – James, Chilwell, Kepa, Koulibaly, Kante and Fofana. That’s over 50%!! Arsenal didn’t beat Chelsea, they beat their B team. And STILL only by a single goal from a corner.

Man Utd – Even though they lost this one I’ll throw it in for color. Arsenal ‘Controlled’ the game for large parts without actually threatening and were beaten 3-1 while it could have been worse with Utd countering them at will towards the end.

Over the last few years when Liverpool were the City-challengers, they were absolutely romping these games, silly score lines and completely one-sided….And they still only beat City to the title once. You don’t get to squeak past games against injured opposition and challenge this City team. Top four? Yea, obviously. Title? I couldn’t be more certain of HELL NO. If anyone thinks I’m skewing facts here please do point it out. Arsenal don’t beat the good teams convincingly, and you need to.

All that being said I think Arsenal deserve massive credit for sticking with Arteta. Could have easily sacked him over the past 3 years, especially after bricking it at the end of the season last year and gifting Spurs 4th place. Chelsea would have sacked Arteta, re-hired him, and sacked him again by this stage.
Patricio Del Toro

 

Man Utd still need legs
Well then. Amidst all the kudos for Casemiro and Erikson, who are both Pundit’s darlings, it seems we’ve forgotten the workload that McTominay, Fred, and especially Bruno carry in a game. Fair play to Ten Hag for using his squad – he’s got to at some point and some of the changes were enforced. But once you look past all the tactics, any football game boils down to work rate, concentration, and desire. Casemiro and Erikson have a combined age of 60. In front of them Ronaldo’s running days are behind him, and Van De Beek rarely breaks a sweat in a 90 minute game. That’s the spine of the team.

Bruno, for all his theatrics, never seems to stop sprinting. And McTominay and Fred are the same. Just as Liverpool are discovering that a midfield of Henderson, Thiago, and Millner won’t cut it, Ten Hag also has to ensure he has the legs in the middle of the park to make it count.

In all of this I don’t get Van De Beek. I can understand confidence dips, and things not coming off, or making errors. But the sheer lack of effort for a player supposedly on his last chance is confounding. Given the number of times he’s either walking around or just not in the game means United were effectively playing with 10 men.

And while on United, a big shout out to Newcastle. I’m really pleased for Howe and impressed with the way they’re playing without going out and buying an eye-wateringly expensive squad. If you can’t feel happy for Almiron, you’re missing a heart. And they’re scoring 3-4 goals a game without the help of Maximin. I did have an email published earlier when I wondered why none of the pundits and writers had Newcastle down for a top 4 finish. But far be it from me to say I told you so!
Ved Sen (MUFC)

 

CL draw
Here I was as a Liverpool fan hoping to draw our annual whipping boys, Porto. Only for Real Madrid to draw their annual whipping boys, Liverpool.
TM.

 

Divock on drugs
I’ve finally made my mind about Darwin. He’s like divock origi on crack cocaine, no other way to describe him
George (LFC Cyprus)

 

Penalty or not
I heard that the same ref who gave the Fulham penalty was also on VAR duties for Sunday’s Spurs match. Difficult to understand how the incidents differ. I’m not certain it’s a penalty, and my instinct wasn’t to call for one – but the issue, as ever, is consistency. There simply isn’t any from one match to the next, and that is what drives fans to the point of sacking it off.

There is no accountability from the refs nor Stokley Park. The rules, which Jenas (MOTD) referred to, aren’t being followed, or are but intermittently which means they aren’t rules but suggestions.

Each team can point to times they’ve been done by VAR but surely the point is that there shouldn’t be any times. The sport is being tarnished but worse of all, it’s making it boring.
Dan

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