It only takes a few hours after becoming a football fan to hear the term, “Spursy.” It only takes a few more after that to fully understand this. This refers to Tottenham Hotspur and that no matter the situation, or the seeming unlikelihood, something weird will happen to the club, and in a bad way. While the truth is almost certainly a calculable combination of mismanagement from above, a lack of a long-term plan, being just slightly less wealthy than their rivals, with a hint of bad luck, the general feeling that something is hanging over the club that will always result in a ball in the air is a must. It is the Premier League Jets, or the Maple Leafs, where something ineffable must be overcome, even though that nebulous force has become so pungent and strong that the task is impossible.
Yesterday was one of the most Spursy days on record in recent history. Tottenham managed to lose a two-goal lead in the final 13 minutes to Southampton, the league’s worst team. Of course, the equalizer came from a damn dubious sentencebut Spurs fans are so downcast by… being Spurs fans that this sort of thing seems like the price of admission.
That result alone would have been pretty odd for the North London club, but it’s Tottenham Hotspur, where they can always pour more confusing mishegas onto the bedrock of confusing mishegas the club is seemingly built on. Enter manager Antonio Conte, with a press conference that set his own players and bosses on fire, and acted like a large flashing neon sign, “PLEASE SACK ME!” which was also on fire.
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The best part of this has to be when Conte exclaims, “I’m very upset!” Oh don’t you say?
It’s also important to remember that Conte is so balanced that he authored my all-time favorite football clip from Euro 2016:
Is Conte right? Probably yes. Spurs are 15 years without any trophies, depending on how much stock you put in the League Cup. They haven’t won the FA Cup for 32 years, and don’t even enter their last league title. Chairman Daniel Levy has been in charge for 22 years, and it’s been a rather barren 22 years for a club that sees itself on the same level as neighbors Arsenal, if not the rest of the league giants. And Levy’s reign has been chaotic at times, hiring managers at a pace that would spin a revolving door off the hinges.
But Spurs have also reached their greatest recent heights under Levy, and perhaps most poignant for all Spurs supporters, manager Mauricio Pochettino. They played in a Champions League final, the club’s first, and contested a few league titles without winning them. Pochettino’s Tottenham won 3rd, 2nd and 3rd places from 2016 to 2018, the best run by far Spurs have ever managed in the Premier League.
Levy’s biggest mistake was firing Pochettino instead of funding the team overhaul that Pochettino told him needed, and a Levy ended up funding anyway to please subsequent managers Jose Mourinho and Conte. But Mourinho and Conte are never, ever part of a long-term vision, given how quickly they shut down, or directly nuke, their surroundings after a season or two.
The perfect symmetry of it all is that Pochettino’s ghost has been in the background all season, as it has been widespread to be the one to stand in for Conte whenever the Italian packs his bags (although he honestly does feel like Conte has packed his bags for a while now). But it’s another example of the scattergun planning that Levy’s Tottenham could never get out of.
The MO Tale
On the other hand, that’s what Conte does. At Juventus, Chelsea, Inter and now Spurs, he engineered an immediate rebound in results, performance and optimism, then bombarded his own work the following season, usually complaining of a lack of support in transfers or influence or both. . The guy just can’t sit still.
And Conte would be hard-pressed to say he wasn’t supported by Levy. Spurs brought in Richarlison, Christian Romero, Yves Bissouma, Ivan Perišić, Clement Lenglet this summer, and Pedro Porro and Arnaut Danjuma in the January window. Of all of them, only Romero and Perišić played regularly, although some were due to injuries. But some of them are not, like Richarlison was only too happy to point out when Spurs limply left the Champions League for a less than impressive AC Milan. That’s some $215 million spent on Conte’s behalf, and that’s a bit more than the change found in the couch cushions.
And it’s hard to blame anything other than Conte for how often Spurs look bland and lethargic on the pitch. He can pillory his players in the press all he wants, and he apparently likes that a lot, but it’s kind of part of his job description to generate passion and desire within his team. Considering he’s been eyeing the exit door for most of the season, it’s not that shocking that his players aren’t exactly feeling it week in and week out.
One wonders if Pochettino could salvage this if he indeed wants to make a glorious comeback, no matter how much goodwill and leeway the fans will give him. Of Tottenham’s best players by minutes this season, only Romero and Dejan Kulusevski are not past or about to be over 30. It’s a mystery how much more patience Harry Kane has for this bullshit (though let’s all pray that Man United will decide to shell out big for him for his declining years instead of Victor Osimhen, who inhaled and spat out the Serie Has for Napoli this year and is six years younger). The team may need another overhaul after the overhaul they designed after telling Pochettino they won’t let him overhaul the squad.