It is not unknown for us to leave the field to a chorus of disapproval; I remember Big Ron after a particularly dire performance being asked by a journo if he had heard the booing at the end, to which he replied, “Yes, and I started it”. I must admit I enjoyed the Tottenham soundtrack knowing which beacon of the fair deal it was aimed at. After all, N17’s finest had come seamlessly from being on the verge of selling his club’s soul to the devil to selling his fans a pup charging sixty nicker a ticket to watch his ESL superstars soundly beaten at home by a club of no account.
I just loved the speculation of Nuno going to Spurs because they could have sold tickets at rather more than sixty pounds a throw to clock in on Zoom to watch Mr Levy and Senor Mendes ‘negotiating’ over the latest overpriced Portuguese wonderkid.
I have to say that I was unusually optimistic about the outcome of the Spurs match. With the press already having written the story of St Harry scoring several on his last home match, the roving pre-match camera following our hero everywhere and the very evident ‘we only have to turn up’ body language of the Spurs players it had an away win written all over it. I was almost pleased when they scored early on as they clearly suckered themselves \(and briefly the crowd) into thinking it was the first of lots. In fact, they were lucky to get away with 1-2 and their four-goal win at Leicester a few days later emphasised just how far we have come this season. Best own goal I have ever seen, by the way.
I know we had a few matches off while Jack was out and we had just stunk out Selhurst Park but we can all agree that several thousand right arms would have been willingly gifted last September for a final match played out in the comfort of a guaranteed mid-table position. Especially as it was a match we had no chance of winning. At least on paper and in Mr Tuchell’s head.
With that in mind, I guess the fans’ return day versus the soon-to-be European champions was seen as a bit of a celebration of tribal togetherness rather than a nailed on three-pointer. Unfortunately for Chelsea, they evidently thought much the same and their body language did not look a lot different from that of Spurs a few days earlier. The win was not quite as comfortable but again Smithy could confidently extract the you- know-what by bringing on raw teenagers to see out the last ten minutes. Class.
And of course, it was not only Chelsea who then went on to win a final, which represents an ultra-fast return for NSWE’s investment in the juniors and bodes well for their ambition of developing a production line of talent. After all, they appear to be on record as saying player development is more important than trophies, but it is still nice to have the proof that all is going to plan. All credit to Messrs Bramley, Verity and Harrison and to everyone involved in the academy set-up.
The season’s big disappointment for the owners would have been the struggle experienced by the women’s team. Their last match survival uncannily mirrored the men’s experience last Spring but, tellingly, there has been no repeat of the faith shown last year in Deano and his coaching team. That tells you a lot. In a classic did they jump/were they pushed scenario the entire management structure has been culled in what may well have been brutal fashion. Take careful heed everyone else, progress is expected. Or else. I anticipate’ a dramatic improvement next term.
Like everyone else I got no fun from reading the recent list of young names released from the club. It represents a lot of worlds crashing down but I fully expect us to see more of the better retained lads lining up for senior selection next season. I guess Deano has no real choice in the matter and the hints dropped by the club concerning limited new blood being brought in suggests the bench may turn out to be a bit on the young side. One of the big questions is whether Louie is ready to move up now? At eighteen he could be the new Michael Owen ‘oven ready’ for the big stage, but for every Owen there have been far more Nathan Delfounesos. Discuss.
In clickbait terms Louie is overshadowed by Carney who looks to be the ‘New Jack’ as the “Big club is interested” stories began the morning after he hit the Spurs’ post. I’m not sure I can stand this into the foreseeable future, especially with the added “Dortmund are interested” tag line that seems to accompany the rise of every half-good English teenager. How long will it take these people to realise that we have no earthly reason to sell off our best talent?
As we expected, the clearing of the senior lockers has already begun. We should give due credit for the efforts and loyalty of Elmo and Taylor who have already gone, and methinks Conor may opt to move on. All three have been solid role models for the younger players and, pound for pound, Elmo at one million has probably been as good a piece of business as we have done in years. Not that they wouldn’t have grumbled a bit about selection, but each has been around long enough to know how the game works and they will not be short of work.
I was sorry to see Tom Heaton go but the move to United was fully understandable and not only for financial reasons as I suspect there may be a coaching opportunity in the offing. You may agree with me that Marv’s superb performance against Chelsea will have comfortably played him into another year on the books but few of us expect to see Bjorn Engels next season. A pity he could not kick on as, when he came in, I thought him possibly the brightest prospect of the 2019 summer window.
On the other side of things, you may remember something that surfaced in Martin O’Neill’s day known as the Steven Gerrard Principle? I refer of course to Agent Emi’s well-chosen playing partner for a little game of pool during downtime at the Argentinian Copa America camp. Perhaps they chatted about the weather or maybe it was the relative merits of the Arsenal and Villa managements? Who knows? Whatever happened, it follows Ollie’s rejection of Spurs as another market coup at the expense of a Big Club. I am not alone in wondering who Jack and Tyrone have orders to manipulate into sharing a coffee table during the Euros; it sounds a persuasive double act to me and perhaps there are one or two rather keen to listen?
To anyone with the eyes to see, and I do not include Arsenal fans in that group, the club is clearly engineering a power shift in the league. Once again, our tactical planning looks spot on. Amazing what you can do with a spread sheet nowadays. It is more than interesting that our CEO and manager are both almost confidently flirting with the ‘Europe’ word.
Barring last minute hitches, Emi Mk2 should solve some of the attacking midfield issues but defensive midfield solutions may already be on the books. At the risk of banging an old drum yet again, and I know I just commended Marv as a squad player, I still reckon Ezri could be the real DMF deal. He is versatile, knows how to defend, has good positional sense, decent distribution, pace, mobility and, as his close-ups show, he does not take shite from the opposition. What is not to like? Especially after the way Kortney handled a clutch of the game’s top forwards in the final two matches. Might save looking for a centre-back until January, perhaps?
In similar vein there is a body of opinion that reckons Matty Cash is worth a try at right-side midfield. I have seen enough of the lad (admittedly on TV) to say he could do a job there and if Freddie Guilbert comes back, which I hope, it could indicate Deano may be considering a win-win option. Cash with Freddie could shut the opposition left wing as an attacking option while Cash with Traore playing to the right of Buendia is positively mouth-watering.
Throw in Luiz’s late attacking midfielder cameo at Spurs, which may have given a hint of management forward thinking, a hopefully decent pre-season for Morgan Sanson and the form john McGinn was coming into and I could start to get very optimistic. You will note my assumption that Jack is going nowhere,
Normally I am so emotionally exhausted at the end of each season that I welcome the break. This year is different. As someone who has habitually doubted the levels of knowledge held by armchair fans I am almost ashamed to say that this time I am already missing my weekly TV/streamed fix. Despite Jack and Tyrone’s involvement the Euros are only of passing interest and, having secured my season ticket, what I am genuinely excited about is turning up in person again. In fact, I fantasise about the walk from Plume Street, let alone how we might play.