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Fiery Antonio Conte will wake up Spurs

The writing was on the wall for Nuno Espirito Santo when the Tottenham faithful booed him and his underperforming Spurs team after being...

The writing was on the wall for Nuno Espirito Santo when the Tottenham faithful booed him and his underperforming Spurs team after being humiliated by under fire Manchester United. It was a game that would decide the fate of the manager and could have severely dented Ole Gunner Solskjaer’s chances of survival in his job. After the game, Spurs’ Technical Director Fabio Paratici talked for four hours with Chairman Daniel Levy and the decision was made to sack Nuno.

In truth he was never accepted by either the club or the fans and was of course only given the job after several top managers turned down the chance to lead Spurs. Enter Antonio Conte. The fiery manager and Levy could not reach agreement five months ago when Nuno was appointed and once again Conte was in prime position during negotiations and his agent Federico Pastorello succeeded in striking a deal worth £18million a year and a contract until 2023 with a year’s further option if things go well.

Spurs have not won any silverware since 2008 whereas Conte has won league titles at Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan during that time. The key man to help Conte settle down quickly is Paratici who has a close bond with the Italian because of their time together at Juventus. Make no mistake, I have seen Conte train his team and he is tough unlike the gentle Nuno who is laid back and soft spoken. Conte makes his players totally commit with punishing work routines and a sharp voice if he thinks they are giving less than 100 per cent. If anyone can get great performances out of players such as under-performing Dele Alli and Harry Kane then it is Conte. Many players at Spurs have been accused of not giving their all for some time but I can assure you that will not happen under Conte’s watch.

Conte slept at Spurs Lodge hotel on Monday night and watched the team train on Tuesday but was not allowed to join in because he did not have a work visa but as I write this column Spurs officials are making the necessary arrangements so he can attend the Everton game this weekend and even take charge. The players looked genuinely excited as they welcomed their new boss. We then have the international break and Conte will be assessing his players and how to arrange his squad. The briefings will be tense and woe betide any player who is not listening very carefully and responding to instructions! Spurs fans you have an exciting time coming with one of the most charismatic and most talented coaches in football providing Tottenham can control his fiery temperament. I leave you with a comment from the legendary Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo who said of Conte, “When Conte speaks his words assault you.” 

Arteta delighted it’s all about set pieces

Suddenly Gunner’s fans have something to smile about. Winning at Leicester is a fair test of any team and Arsenal did so because of perfect training ground preparation. The game against Leicester was the fourth consecutive game in which Arsenal have scored from a corner and they have scored six goals from set pieces which promotes them into first place in the Premier League for those attacking moves. Coach Mikel Arteta said, “It’s a crucial part of the game nowadays and a lot of games are defined by them. It’s something that you have to dominate and master.” In the summer Arteta had the foresight to hire Nicolas Jover, a specialist set piece coach from Manchester City who he had worked with under Pep Guardiola. The other team who are brilliant at set pieces are newly promoted Brentford. For a corner the Bees have often moved all 10 of their outfield players into and around the penalty box with six players inside the box and three just outside to form a ring. In their first seven games this season Brentford scored four goals from set pieces. That is impressive but more so when you consider they took the lowest number of corners in the Premier League during that time.

Shock news: Pep isn’t always right!

Pep Guardiola is admitting he has perhaps got it wrong. And that doesn’t happen very often because he usually gets everything right. However, not bringing in a recognised striker this season to replace Sergio Aguero was not the smartest move. After the 0-2 loss to Crystal Palace he studied the stats at home on Sunday morning and realised that after five league matches in nine, without scoring a goal, he has an urgent problem. He also recognised that Patrick Viera set up his Palace team to defend deep and that is where Pep said his plans came unstuck, “With 10 players we have to be precise, we have to be good in those positions. Except for five or ten minutes we created chances but we are not scoring. We have to score more.” The facts are that City had only three shots on target in a home match! Always remember that Pep won the treble at Barcelona after he sold Ibrahimovich but of course he had Messi but he says Phil Foden is as good as Messi and the youngster has scored 18 goals and made 15 assists since the start of last season. Another problem for Pep is the poor form of Kevin De Bryune. The playmaker is struggling and was substituted in the Palace match. Kevin sustained an ankle injury playing for Belgium in June and only continued with pain-killing injections getting him through matches in the Nations League last month. He has yet to complete 90 minutes for City since that time.

Moyes and his Hammers are flying high

After years in the shadows of its famous neighbours West Ham are now flying high and a match for any team in the Premier League. They also have a huge support crowd for away games and 3,000 saw them witness the beating of Aston Villa last Sunday. The Hammers latest win set a club record of eight away games without defeat and five consecutive away wins sets another record. 

United identify replacement for Pogba

Manchester United have finally lost patience with the “will he go or will he stay” situation surrounding midfielder Paul Pogba who is out of contract at the end of the season. United want him to stay but negotiations with his agent Mino Raiola have not even started yet and the two sides have a difficult relationship history. Pogba was signed for £90million in 2016 and the dealmakers at United factored into their spending that they might not get a fee for him at the end of his contract. The club are relaxed about him leaving. That of course drastically reduces Raiola’s payday because his income derives from a percentage of the transfer fee. United have discussed the situation at the highest level and have targeted Leeds and England midfielder Kalvin Phillips as the ideal replacement for Pogba if he leaves. Leeds have opened negotiations with Phillips to make him the club’s highest paid player when his contract expires in 2024 however owner Andrea Radrizzani recognises that Kalvin might prefer a move to a more high-profile club. Phillips himself has not commented on the situation however he is worried that manager Marcelo Bielsa might leave at the end of this season and the two have a very close working relationship. Liverpool are monitoring the situation and Jurgen Klopp is a known admirer of Phillips.