It is incredible how things change across football - and life for that matter - so quickly. Positive feelings about a team can turn sour, not from dropping points necessarily, but from FFP allegations - even as your side is scrapping to stay in the Premier League for another year.
On the other hand, Everton could be Spurs though. Even with Antonio Conte bossing the side, turmoil finds the blue bits of north London without fail. Even with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Richarlison, Dejan Kulusevski, and so many more names, their now former boss could not help but tear into his side as though he wasn’t even affiliated with the club at all; now he is not.
But as has been noted across social media since the Tottenham draw to Southampton, it is simply “...the history of the Tottenham.” Can Sean Dyche and the Toffees take advantage of the dysfunctional nature of Spurs at this moment in their own Premier League fight? FFP violations or not, the Blues of Merseyside are going to have to win some more matches, and Tottenham could not be any more vulnerable than they are going into Monday’s match on Merseyside!
Prior to that Monday evening affair, we spoke to Sean Cahill, deputy manager of SB Nation’s dedicated Spurs site, Cartilage Free Captain:
RBM: First off, Tottenham feels like a lot right now; they’re fourth in the Premier League, yet Antonio Conte is now gone - by mutual agreement allegedly - and the team has looked inconsistent and unenthused for most of the season; what are the feelings like around the supporters, the training grounds and the outfit right now?
CFC: Turmoil is probably the nicest word I can use right now, but it also depends on which group you’re asking.
First, let’s talk about the players themselves. Reports are that there were a few defenders of Conte, but the dressing room had largely had enough of him. Players - such as Cuti Romero and Richarlison - were basically done if Conte was back at Hotspur Way come Tuesday. These are unconfirmed reports, but the main beat writers said the players knew he was gone. With Conte sacked, I’d expect to see some change in attitude as the players had a good spell under Stellini.
Second, there are the staff/club people. The reports are that morale has never been lower at the club. They largely believe that Daniel Levy has lost the plot and has made some rather bizarre decisions, including keeping Fabio Paratici around as Director of Football. We are also questioning this, especially since FIFA just extended his ban. There’s zero reason to keep him around, but Levy has decided to double down. We had started to believe that this job had finally gotten to big for Levy, and we’re getting evidence that it’s truly correct.
Finally, there are the supporters. In short, they’re pissed. This is yet another “reset” where Levy has decided that Top 4 is what matters and has asked for patience and calm. Supporters are out of both. Levy has done some amazing work at Tottenham Hotspur. When ENIC purchased the club, they were a mid-table club and nothing more than a cup team.
In 20 years, he has taken that same club and made them into a big club with an incredible stadium and has put together some impressive squads. He’s also royally screwed up when it mattered the most (an entire transfer window with no purchases, for instance) and took on far too much when the stadium was being built. For the last several years, the ENIC Out group has slowly gained steam. Now, those voices are extremely loud and banging on the doors. It might truly be time to call for ENIC to sell the club, but that’s about all supporters can do.
RBM: Last time we spoke, we discussed how the team had changed under Conte since his arrival; the same question might be asked once more, but in this new light. How would you go about describing what led to this entire project falling to bits with Conte?
CFC: I think it comes down to two things: Lack of rotation and lack of flexibility.
We knew that Conte’s M/O was having like 14-15 guys he trusted and using them for the most important competition. Anyone else was backup fodder and would be used only when needed. As much as we love Sonny, the man has been pretty bad for long stretches of the season. Calls for literally anyone not named Sonny to start in attack had been loud and finally, we saw it!....under Stellini.
The lack of flexibility goes hand-in-hand as he refused at times to change tactics until losing, then he’d wait too long to makes subs even with players like Richarlison and Danjuma available on the bench. It’s been infuriating and, simply put, we’re glad it’s over.
RBM: How has this team changed over the short yet statistically successful reign of Antonio Conte? And, with just ten matches to go, what are the expectations for this side at moving forward?
CFC: I’m not sure anything has really changed, to be honest. Don’t expect much change under Stellini, either. He’ll play the same formation, but at least with Stellini in charged we’ve seen subs when necessary and a change in system if things are not working. Spurs are still fighting for Champions League after all of this, and while none of us on staff believe Stellini will be around once the season is over, he could do the club one hell of a favor and secure that before he heads out this summer.
RBM: It feels like I ask this each and every time we speak, but surely, supporters must be nervous that Harry Kane could ask to leave now? Is there a boss - like Conte once upon a time - that might convince him to remain on north London?
CFC: That’s a damn strange subject because I think there’s a growing contingent of supporters that realize the painful rebuild that Mauricio Pochettino referred to before he left the club truly needs to happen. Sonny is now 30 and having one of his absolute worst seasons. There was a source that Barcelona are interested in him but it’s hard to see how the hell they could afford him.
As for Kane, if Spurs are going to sell him? This is the time. He will be 30 next season and has a year remaining on his contract. Manchester United reportedly want him badly and the Spurs beat writers have said that 100 million upfront will get you in the door to negotiate. Kane wants the EPL scoring record so I don’t expect Bayern Munich to have any say in this. If Kane leaves, it’s going to be for the red side of Manchester.
I think the only thing that keeps Kane in London is Champions League football with another proven coach, such as Julian Nagelsmann...
RBM: There have already been lots of names circulating as it concerns Spurs job; who do you think will end up being the new boss, and do you think a more adventurous boss would be more appealing to players and supporters than some of the recent bosses?
CFC: Speaking of Nagelsmann!
Simply put, the former Bayern manager is at the top of the wish list. He’s still getting paid by Bayern and is in no rush, but Spurs have already made contact, and it seems there’s interest. The question is if anyone else come calling, such as Real Madrid or Chelsea if they sack Graham Potter.
Of course, there’s a large contingent that wants Pochettino back. I am not one of those people because nostalgia tours rarely work out well. Would the vibe early be great? Sure, but supporters need to remember just how bad and frustrating things were the last year of his tenure. Making a Champions League final allowed people to gloss over things, but the league form was pretty bad.
Put me in the camp of “Nagelsmann In,” and nothing else should be considered unless he’s off the table.
RBM: Which of Spurs players do you think could cause Everton the most problems, and how do you expect Tottenham to set up for the game?
I have absolutely no idea what to expect because Spurs are the walking wounded even with all the other things going on. Spurs now have essentially one healthy wingback in Pedro Porro. Unless Danjuma or Lucas are turned into LWBs, this formation might look damn weird on Monday.
So, Kane? As always? Yeah, let’s go with that.
RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Monday night’s match?
CFC: I’ll say 2-1 Spurs, but this might be the least confident pick I’ve ever made.
Our thanks to Sean for his time.