Ahead Of Schedule

I’m so pleasantly surprised by how much the team has picked up Ange-ball (see: Have Spurs already mastered build-up play?). I honestly thought it would take several months for us to successfully transition from the dismal shit that Conte was trotting out to a modern positional play model, complete with intriguingly high defensive line, intense high pressing, inverted full-backs and a single pivot in midfield.

The first three games of the season were — on paper — tricky. And yet, we’ve looked highly competitive and, at times, dominant in each, improving along the way. For example, the latest game saw, in my view, the best use of substitutions yet. Ange Postecoglou changed the flow of the game with his bench options.

One of those that came on and helped secure the win was Pierre-Emile Højbjerg. He has been touted around this transfer window, and I think he’s a useful player to present as a case study for our squad management in this transfer window (and beyond).

Højbjerg is an interesting one as he’s both our best alternative to Yves Bissouma, and also arguably our best ‘game closer’ in the role he was used in against Bournemouth. But he’s also a highly saleable asset: a competent Premier League player with bags of experience and, at 28, probably either peak age or just post-peak. As such, in this crazy market he must be worth around £35m. The amounts we’ve been offered this window, it seems, fall well below that.

So should we sell? Well, I don’t think so. But the predicament we’re in is that we’ve *already* got too many players for the 25-man squad before we even consider adding new players. So we’ve left ourselves potentially accepting bids for players we’d ideally rather not sell (Davinson Sánchez is probably also in this boat) else we risk players being left out of the 25-man squad and, thus, sidelined and miserable until January and, in the meantime, losing value.

So what do we do? The options appear to be:

  • Sell the likes of Højbjerg and Sánchez now for fees probably (significantly?) below what they’re worth.
  • Loan or even release a bunch of players in the final day or two of the window.
  • Accept that we will have to leave players out of the 25-man squad.
  • Possibly a combination of all three.

Højbjerg out of the starting XI with two years left on his contract and one of the older players in the squad. Selling him makes sense from a business perspective, particularly as he is one of our more sellable assets and actually has suitors. However, given his still-important role in the squad, the only scenario which I’d sell Højbjerg and even Sánchez in now would be if we were to replace them… which kinda defeats the purpose unless we get Under-21 players or, possibly (depending on others we can shift), home grown players. So, we find ourselves in a tricky spot.

We’ve been lumbered with more players than we’d have liked because:

  1. A bunch of our players have lost value over the last few seasons because they’ve either been under-utilised, frozen out, set-up to fail, or they were poor team fit signings in the first place.
  2. Wages in the Premier League are higher than in other European leagues and players don’t often actively choose to lose money.
  3. Some of our players are deluded and think they should be playing at a level that, at this point, is frankly unachievable. I’m looking at you, Hugo.
  4. Prices have gone bananas so you better be sure you’re paying up for someone you really want.

But I do think we need to see this window as the start of a longer-term process. It’s going to take us two or three more windows to re-shape this squad, which had become bloated, poorly balanced and was older than I’m sure Daniel Levy would have liked given the choice. We’ve made great strides, and we are ahead of where I expected us to be right now, but there’s lots more work to do. Don’t let ‘perfect’ be the enemy of ‘good’ as they say.


Home Grown Players (HGP) Quota – Summer 2023 Transfer Window

Each year I write about the Premier League’s 25-man squad requirement and the implications of the home grown players rule and how it will impact on Spurs’ transfer strategy. The home grown player numbers could impact on how many signings we can make, the nature of those signings and/or the size of our squad for the rest of the season.

The Premier League ‘Home Grown Players (HGP)’ Rule

The basic point is that we can name a maximum of 17 non-home grown players (HGPs) in our squad. The common misconception about the requirement is that clubs must name eight HGPs in their squads. We could name fewer than eight HGPs, but would need to also name fewer than 25 players in our squad — for example, if we only have seven HGPs, we can name a 24-man squad, 6/23, 5/22, etc. 

Remember, an HGP is defined as one whom, irrespective of nationality or age, has been registered with any club affiliated to The Football Association or the Football Association of Wales for a period, continuous or not, of three entire seasons, or 36 months, before his 21st birthday (or the end of the season during which he turns 21). Source: Premier League.

As ever, we will not need to name players who are under 21 on our squad list, so could augment our squad with youngsters. This would mean that we could manage with, say, a 22-man squad with just five HGPs, but would need plenty of under 21 players who are ready to play. For the 2023/24 campaign, players considered ‘under 21’ will have been born on or after 1 January 2002. This means that for the current season we could still have a number of ‘freebies’ who are fairly well-known names, the likes of: Troy Parrott, Pape Matar Sarr, Max Robson, Yago de Santiago Alonso, Maksim Paskotši, Nile John, Matthew Craig, Josh Keeley, Jude Soonsup-Bell, Dane Scarlett, Alfie Devine. Some of these players will ultimately be sent out on loan, of course.

From this season, Bryan Gil and Harvey White would need to be named on our squad list should we wish to use them as they were born before 1 January 2002.

The UEFA ‘Home Grown Players (HGP)’ Rule

Obviously we are not in any European competitions next season, but the UEFA rules may factor into our squad planning as, hopefully, we will be planning for a European campaign in a year from now.

The UEFA rules are a little different to the Premier League rules — have a look at article 45 (‘Player Lists’) of the regulations. UEFA don’t just want clubs to have players trained elsewhere in the FA structure; they have additional requirements for club-trained players. They want to encourage clubs to bring through their own young players.

The good news is that last year a rule change was implemented whereby Welsh players who trained at clubs affiliated with the English league system now count as ‘homegrown’ in Europe. Previously they counted as ‘foreign’ players. For us, this is Ben Davies and Joe Rodon, who trained at Swansea. They would now count as ‘homegrown’.

If we wanted to name a ‘full’ (25-man) squad in a UEFA competition, we would need at least four ‘association-trained’ players and four ‘club-trained’ players in List A (players over 21). Those that currently qualify are:

Club-trained players

  • Harry Kane
  • Alfie Whiteman
  • Brandon Austin
  • Japhet Tanganga
  • Oliver Skipp
  • Brooklyn Lyons-Foster
  • Harvey White
  • Troy Parrott (from 2024/25 season)
  • Max Robson (from 2024/25 season)

Association-trained players

  • Fraser Forster
  • Ben Davies
  • James Maddison
  • Joe Rodon
  • Ryan Sessegnon
  • Djed Spence

Players under 21 can be included on List B so long as they have been ‘eligible to play for the club concerned for any uninterrupted period of two years since his 15th birthday by the time he is registered with UEFA, or a total of three consecutive years with a maximum of one loan period to a club from the same association for a period not longer than one year.’

We have a whole host of potential List B Players who might be useful were we to qualify next year though, of course, several will likely be out on loan.


We currently have 30 players who would need to be named on the Premier League squad list if we wanted to play them (the maximum allowed is 25). A good few of these players are expected to leave (Giovani Lo Celso, Davinson Sanchez, Hugo Lloris, Ivan Perišić, etc), Brooklyn Lyons-Foster is a previously unused youth player, plus we have two goalkeepers in Brandon Austin and Alfie Whiteman. Therefore, it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions about whether the squad list restrictions will be an issue for us at this point; but I would say probably not.

Of the 30 players, 17 are not HGPs. We will, no doubt, be selling several non-HGPs, and so it should not be a problem, but it is something the club will need to keep in mind when signing further non-HGPs.

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Squad Rebuild

I’m currently in Chicago (more on that later) and waking up a little early due to the time difference, so I’ve put that extra time to good use and had a think about how our squad might start to shape-up this summer.

I am super, super excited about the appointment of Ange Postecoglou but my main (only?) worry is that our squad is not especially well set-up to implement his style. Alongside this, read my Twitter thread in which I explain why I think we need to off-load up to 18 players as soon as possible. The key reason being that we have a two-competition squad going into a one-competition season.

So, I’ve gone through the squad and made some judgements on where I think we are with each player. This is just my opinion and there are a lot of assumptions here but, if nothing else, it shows the scale of the work to do in re-shaping the squad. I think we need to consider the way players can fulfil roles rather than positions specifically but it’s so much easier to group traditionally by position, so I’ve gone with that here.

Here are my categories:

  • SELL – just get rid
  • ACCEPT GOOD OFFER – if we keep hold of them it’s not a problem, but a good offer would mean it’s sensible to sell
  • ANGE POTENTIAL – a player I think could fit the system well
  • SHRUG – just too many variables
  • NO FURTHER DISCOURSE – you know why
  • N/A – we don’t own Kulusevski or Lenglet



If all had been well at the club he’d have been sold two or three seasons ago. The decline we’ve seen since then has been steep and has not made for easy watching. We will be playing a style of football that requires him to play out a fair bit and he just can’t. Now that his elite shot-stopping has gone too, there is simply no point in keeping hold of him.

Hugo Lloris is bad now.


He’s done ~okay when called upon, he’s better with his feet than Lloris, but it’s a low bar and we should be looking to improve on him. But there’s just so much other business to do, and at least he’s homegrown. I’d be tempted to keep him for now and look to bring in a better, more suited back-up over the next two windows. I’m going to guess that’s what Postecoglou will do.


Please, Brandon, for the good of your career: go play some actual football matches.


Please, Alfie, for the good of your career: go play some actual football matches. Unless we sell Forster and one of these two becomes the back-up, it makes no sense to keep either and certainly not both. These guys are 24 now.



He’s a relentless final ball merchant so asking him to dial that back and play volume passes from an inverted position is going to require some serious coaching from Postecoglou and self-discipline from Pedro Porro. But once we have sustained possession, his crossing will come into its own. That’s if he even plays FB; there’s a strong possibility that he could play wide right and hold the shape and just shell crosses in. I think there’s a degree of versatility and also a base talent level that will really interest Ange. I like him lots and think he has a place in the squad.


His renaissance across the last season was a beautiful thing to see — he certainly never deserved the treatment he got. But he really offers little in the final third. He is pretty good at coming inside and his unambitious but safe passing could become a strength in build-up. My feeling is, though, that Ange will be wanting more and I don’t think he’s ultimately suited to a more fluid, possession-based style. He is a really good player in the right system (highly aggressive low block and counter without too much expectation of attacking) and will do well elsewhere, so I think if a good offer comes in (and it certainly could), we should sell.


Full disclosure, I love Djed Spence and have done for a long time. I view the way Antonio Conte used him (or didn’t) as one of his biggest crimes. I think there’s lots to work on for Ange — Spence’s driving runs, both inside and out — are a huge strength and his high pass completion will offer encouragement about what he could offer when moving into the middle of the pitch. Very excited about how this will play out.


Davies has essentially become a specialist left-sided centre-back in a back three. He looked really quite poor when asked to play a more traditional left-back role at the end of the season, though he did have a couple of good games as a left wing-back. However, the bar was low at that point after Ivan Perišić had had a string of dreadful matches. It’s highly unlikely but maybe Postecoglou starts with a back three (he did play this way with Australia for a while) simply because that’s the way our squad is set up for. If that’s the case, he may get a stay of execution. Or maybe he stays as a ‘defensive’ LB who can allow Pedro Porro or Djed Spence to play more ambitiously on the right. I just can’t call it with Davies. It’s hardly the biggest problem — he’s a great guy who is universally popular within the squad and who has been an adaptable squad player over many years, so I’m not going to pretend I have particularly strong feelings either way.


I can’t see any way he stays — some reasonable crossing, some good corners, but he is a shadow of what he was previously and particularly hopeless defensively. He needs to go and I think he will.


I’ve backed Sessegnon when others have given up on him because it’s clear to me that the talent is there. But he really struggles with keeping a positive mindset, and you can see the confidence drain out of him when he makes a mistake. Ability-wise, there’s plenty of Postecoglou potential, but I think it’s going to take a lot to build him up to here he was mentally, and I just worry that there’s too much other work to do. I’d be down for essentially kicking that can into the long grass and loaning him out to Luton for a season.


I don’t see this one working. He’s too frantic, too much in a hurry, and I don’t think he has the ability to step inside and become a midfielder. Not for me.


I don’t want to spoil Nathan’s video so on this one I’ll stay relatively tight-lipped. Check out this tweet and, of course, the exceptional video.



I almost put ‘SHRUG’ for Dier, as I definitely think the last season of form in a poorly-performing team is not reflective of Eric Dier as a centre-back. But I also think that we have so many players to lose and that Dier should ideally be one of those. Postecoglou has made Carter-Vickers a mainstay of his defence, and maybe that scales up to Dier. But I frankly just think we can do so much better, and the idea of Dier/Romero in a back four is not something I’m comfortable with. In my view, the reports linking us with Harry Maguire don’t tally well with Eric Dier staying at Spurs.


Obviously. He’s extremely good. He urgently needs to play in a more stable defensive pairing, though.


Davinson Sánchez just doesn’t have the on-ball ability to thrive, in my opinion. He’s got a lot left to give in his career, but not at Spurs. He has been a good servant but it’s time to move on.


Japhet Tanganga is in his mid-twenties now and he really needs to be going and playing games. I can’t see it happening at Spurs.


There’s just something about Rodon that makes me think… maybe? He’s pretty good (though not exceptional) on the ball and has pretty well-rounded defensive abilities. We’ll sign better centre-backs this summer which will no doubt push him down the pecking order, but I feel like he’s one that might make a bit of a comeback in pre-season and could put himself in contention.


I thought he was ‘okay’ overall last season in a defence that generally struggled. I wouldn’t sign him. We can do better.



I would strongly urge you to listen to this interview — I think that Hojbjerg’s emotional intelligence will chime with Potecoglou, and my natural inclination is that he’ll remain a part of the midfield for a season whilst we transition, and then perhaps we sell him in summer 2024. I know that will upset a lot of people, who think that Hojbjerg is terrible and the main problem in our team. But he’s not. He’s a competent, if unspectacular player, who can probably fulfil a couple of different midfield roles under Postecoglou and, therefore, might be quite useful for a bit. But man does he need to not play every week; he’s so much better when he gets proper rest.


So much depends on how he comes back from injury but, if he’s anything like the level he was at before he got hurt, he should be an important midfielder for Postecoglou. Our best presser.


Postecoglou needs to find a playmaking number 6 and, whilst I think Skipp is better than he has shown for the first team to date, I don’t think his passing is adventurous or creative enough overall and, therefore, we should accept a good offer. If that doesn’t come, we could keep or loan him.


I thought his performances at the end of the season were seriously impressive. I can’t see him playing the play-making 6 role, but as an 8 he is ideal. A starter for me.


I’m intrigued to see what Postecoglou makes of Sarr — it’s difficult for us to make a clear judgement on him because we’ve seen so little. Pre-season will tell us more, but my instincts are that he’s quite similar to our other midfielders (albeit maybe more ambitious with his passing) and that we might loan him out and see how he develops. Hell, send him to Luton with Sessegnon.


Winks profiles as the Postecoglou 6 but we should be able to do better so we should sell him.


You already know what I think and it’s pointless going over it again. I don’t want that smoke.


In theory there’s a lovely mesh there between his 8/10-ishness and what Postecoglou wants from his 8s. But, also, we need to reduce numbers and he holds significant value whilst being wanted by Unai Emery at Aston Villa. If we get a good offer I think we should probably sell him (though I do rate him).



I think so much of Son’s future rests on what happens with Harry Kane. If Kane leaves, then Son probably becomes our number 9. If Kane stays, perhaps Postecoglou starts him on the left. It’s not clear to me how well he fits into the system, but he’s such a brilliant player that I’d guess Postecoglou would want to work around him.


We should sign Kulusevski because he’s young, and excellent, and could play either as an 8 or wide on the right. Love him.


Like Kulusevski, I like Bryan Gil’s versatility in the system. He could probably play on either flank or as an 8. He’s also a fantastic presser. I definitely expect to see him involved a lot.



Everything that could possibly be said on him as already been said many times over. Here’s where I am.


Again, so much depends on Kane. I’d like to think that at least he’ll get more game time across left-wing and number 9. He’s a good player, though, and I’m happy to have him.

We also have several youth players who are bubbling under the surface and could interest Postecoglou. Alfie Devine is the most obvious one, and we have returning loanees Harvey White, Troy Parrott and Dane Scarlett. There are also some more pretty promising prospects including Alfie Dorrington (CB), Rio Kyerematen (CM) and Tyrese Hall (AM). There will be something that Postecoglou does that nobody predicts — like, I dunno, Harvey White inverted LB or something. I’m buzzing.

So I’ve got:

  • SELL – 9
  • SHRUG – 8
  • N/A – 2

Selling twelve would be a good start, but man that’s a hell of a busy summer.

Okay, so there’s where the Spurs stuff ends. If you’ve got no interest in my trip to Chicago, stop reading here!


I’ve been asked so much about what I’ve done and plan to do that I thought I’d give a quick round-up.


Saw: We landed late so didn’t have time to do much besides check in, grab some beers and eat.

Drank at: Revolution Brewing / Maplewood Brewery and Distillery

Ate at: Chef’s Special – Chinese recommended by the server at Maplewood. Incredible walnut shrimp.


Saw: Some of the key sky scrapers, Millennium Park and various other bits on a Greeter tour – highly recommended. Architectural boat tour. Outstanding!

Drank at: Billy Goat Tavern. I’d skip. Revolution Brewing (again). This place is so good.

Ate at: Breakfast at a small cafe in a fancy-ass building. Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria for lunch – had to try the Chicago deep dish but it’s mid. Do it, but don’t expect much. Grabbed some light bites from Revolution Brewing in the evening — the wings are good.


Saw: a grand slam walk-off at the Guaranteed Rate Field! Insanely fortunate first experience at a baseball match watching the White Sox. Thanks so much to Adam for getting us access to the patio and some Sox merch.

Drank at: Marz Brewing (really fun place, great beer)

Ate at: Guaranteed Rate Field patio at lunchtime, followed by Green Street Smoked Meats in Fulton Market, which was incredible and highly recommended.


Saw: Shedd Aquarium, some of the Riverfront Trail.

Drank at: First Draft (sports bar with a fantastic beer menu) / The Old Plank.

Ate at: First Draft / The Old Plank (shrimp tacos whilst watching the Stanley Cup).

Remaining plans

Do some shopping, hit some more breweries (some of Corridor Brewery & Provisions, Hop Butcher For The World, Begyle Brewing, Dovetail Brewery, Hopleaf, Alarmist Brewing & Taproom, Old Irving Brewing Co, Half Acre Beer Co), see some Chicago Spurs folk (Tuesday, 18:00, Corridor Brewery & Provisions), check out the Skydeck and maybe the 360, eat at Galit and Au Cheval. We’re packing a lot in.

Moving forward

Last night I decided that, in the morning, I would lay in bed with a cup of tea and blog about the current Spurs situation. And then the Julian Nagelsmann news broke. I debated leaving it. I’d be leaving it because my views seem to be out of step with the current vibes (at least on Twitter and in our Discord). I knew what it would lead to — being accused of being a Levy shill/cuck and lacking ambition or being ‘part of the problem’. I tweeted a pretty innocuous thing and, sure enough, woke up to said accusations.

This guy went more route one…

Yesterday I helped my friend Nathan write a To-Do List for Tottenham’s next Director of Football. The only point I disagree with is the 5th — I wouldn’t sell Kane at any cost, even if it meant we only got one more year. I’d also keep Son for another season. The rest I think is absolutely bang on the money.

I think it’s essential that Spurs appoint a Director of Football as the number one priority. I’m encouraged by links to Johannes Spors and understand that we’ve spoken to Lee Dykes of Brentford, who has overseen some excellent recruitment and is accustomed to working in an exceptionally well-functioning model. Sami Mokbel reported yesterday that Roma’s Tiago Pinto and Eintracht Frankfurt’s Markus Krosche are also being considered. I have not yet done much reading or research on these two new (to me) names, so cannot comment too much on their suitability.

It’s quite difficult to analyse Pinto’s transfers for Roma over the last couple of years because you have to factor in the Mourinho-tax (i.e. he signed Nemanja Matić). I’m not impressed with some of the fees he achieved for outgoing players (Nicolò Zaniolo €15m, Jordan Veretout €11m) but, again, who knows the impact Mourinho had on those prices. The biggest red flag, obviously, is that one of the first things he did was fire Paulo Fonseca and appoint Jose Mourinho.

Krosche has done some interesting transfer business and also appointed Oliver Glasner, who won the UEFA Europa League in 2021/22 but finished 11th in the Bundesliga that season and currently has them 9th. It’s reasonable to say that that is not too out of kilter though — their last ten league finishes are: 6-13-9-16-11-8-7-9-5-11. Anyway, Director of Football is the immediate priority. And only then should we move on to coaches.

Aside from, perhaps, Steve Hitchen’s list of Mauricio Pochettino, Erik ten Hag and Graham Potter prior to the appointment of Antonio Conte by Fabio Paratici, I think the current list of linked coaches is the best I’ve known from Spurs. I’m not taken by Xavi Alonso as I think his style of play is too counter-attacking, but Arne Slot, Ange Postecoglou, Vincent Kompany, Roberto De Zerbi and Ruben Amorim are about as good as I might expect. Julian Nagelsmann was my number one choice. I would have been happy with the re-appointment of Mauricio Pochettino. I’ll address why I suspect we are not progressing with either.

My main (but not only) concern with Mauricio Pochettino was that he would not fit within a system which included a Director of Football. During his tenure, he requested to move from Head Coach to Manager, gaining more control and responsibility. He personally vetoed the signings of Youri Tielemans and Ricardo Pereira, players who I believe would have significantly improved us at the time. I believe that coaches should have input into signings and should not be given players that they do not want and will not use (*cough*DjedSpence*cough*, but I believe that Pochettino, in vetoing these particular signings, was allowing ‘perfect’ to be the enemy of ‘good’. Maybe he would be willing to change. I’d have given it a chance. I have no idea what terms Daniel Levy and Mauricio Pochettino are on, and it’s entirely possible that Daniel Levy is too proud and stubborn to go back to Pochettino anyway. If we’d wanted to appoint a permanent coach once Conte left, Pochettino would have been the ideal choice. Given that we decided to wait until the end of the season, I think Pochettino was legitimately and rightly pushed down the pecking order.

I believe Julian Nagelsmann was the ideal candidate. I really enjoyed recording this podcast with Adam Khan about him. My understanding is that Nagelsmann, during early sounding out, made some ‘suggestions’ that implied that he would require a level of control over and above what one might expect a Head Coach to have (edit: I understand that this is accurate). In my opinion we cannot enter into another situation like the one we had with Mauricio Pochettino or even Antonio Conte, where a coach is given too much power (or perceived power) and it becomes a power struggle with the club. For me, working within a structure is non-negotiable. There was also always a chance with a star appointment like Nagelsmann that he, like Conte and Mourinho before him, saw himself as above us.

In my opinion, where Daniel Levy went wrong with the appointments of Mourinho and Conte was veering away from the club strategy. He actually called this himself (prior to appointing Conte, sadly).

“As a Club we have been so focused on delivering the stadium and dealing with the impact of the pandemic, that I feel we lost sight of some key priorities and what’s truly in our DNA.”

“We are acutely aware of the need to select someone whose values reflect those of our great Club and return to playing football with the style for which we are known – free-flowing, attacking and entertaining – whilst continuing to embrace our desire to see young players flourish from our Academy alongside experienced talent.”

From Chairman’s Message, 19 May 2021

I was excited about the appointments of Mourinho and Conte. I found the names irresistible and convinced myself that they were what we needed to capitalise on having Harry Kane and Son Heung-min. I was open to them being given more control because of their histories of success. I was absolutely wrong, and I realised this quite early on with Mourinho and slightly later with Conte. Levy cannot make the same mistakes again.

Finally, Ryan Mason. I am repeatedly asked how I feel about Ryan Mason taking over at Spurs given how he has started. I have a lot of affection for Ryan Mason, having first watched him play for our Under-18s as a skinny 16-year old (him, not me). I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him on the High Performance podcast. He comes across extremely well, is smart and reflective and modern and open to new ideas. I also really like the blend of skills he has with Matt Wells as his assistant. I urge you to read this on Wells (who also happens to be Cliff Jones’ grandson). I believe that Wells — who uses a video analyst in the stands to clip up moments for the half-time team talk — is responsible for recent tactical changes.

Mason and Wells are proper Spurs. I hope that one day they return to manage us, but I don’t think now is the right time. I’d like to see them both go to a club in League One or League Two and gain some more experience. I totally understand that every appointment comes with a degree of risk, but the idea of appointing a Head Coach who has overseen just thirteen matches (as it will be by the end of the season) as a first team Head Coach is too risky for me to consider at this stage, despite my love and admiration for Ryan.

I fundamentally do not trust Daniel Levy to make good football decisions. I hope that he appoints a Director of Football that we can have faith in, and that the Head Coach that they land on is focussed on those stated priorities and with working as part of a team to get there. Then we can finally move forward with a clear vision.

Finally, and just to close the loop, the last time I wrote was in mid-January, where I was urging the club to fire Antonio Conte. Had we done so and appointed Mason and Wells then, I believe we could still be in with a chance of Champions League football next season. Daniel Levy left it until Antonio Conte made his job untenable to make the decision to part ways. He then made the catastrophic decision of sticking with Conte’s second in command, implying that he didn’t think that the tactics were the issue, just the personality at the helm. The reporting has suggested that things had become completely toxic around Conte, and I have been told that this is accurate. But it was not just the toxicity of his leadership, but the toxicity of his coaching and tactics. I think we’ve totally wasted the latter half of this season, which is a damn shame.

However — and I preface this by accepting that I am an eternal optimist — every summer there’s an overstated buzz around returning players on loan or young players or previously ostracised players getting a second chance (or first chance in some cases) with the first team squad. This summer I think it’s justified. Given the way Conte unceremoniously ‘disappeared’ a bunch of players (and I’d include Pape Matar Sarr in that), I think there’s a lot to look forward to this summer. We have some exciting young players to involve in pre-season in Destiny Udogie, Djed Spence, Bryan Gil, Sarr, Alfie Devine, etc. We also have a bunch of other returning loan players who may or may not be fancied by the incoming coach. I’m really looking forward to seeing how the squad shapes up over the next three months and I remain very hopeful ahead of next season. That will soon change if we don’t get the DoF appointed quickly, with a Head Coach to follow soon after the season is over.

What Now?

I just wrote a Twitter thread, but it become long and unwieldy so I’ve decided to bash out a quick blog instead; apologies if it’s a little clunky.

We spoke on The Extra Inch tonight (to be released shortly) about whether we should change Head Coach or not. We could back Antonio Conte now with three or four important signings (say, goalkeeper, centre-back, right wing-back, creative midfielder) in order to attempt to get us back into the Champions League come the end of the season. We would be doing so hoping that he would turn things around with better players and then extend his contract in the summer or, if not, that we could find a new coach that could make use of a squad built for Conte and a back three.

Or we could sack Conte now and let this be day one in building a top-to-bottom club strategy. Working out what we want to be as a club, what we have the means to be, and building in that direction so that the Head Coach is but a cog in the machine, and can leave with the philosophy and strategy remaining. Brighton are a good example of this — Graham Potter leaves and Roberto De Zerbi comes in and can make use of the same group of players and play in a similar way, progressive with some of the same principles.

So this is the choice facing Daniel Levy. My preference is for option two, and here’s why. At this point I’m feeling pretty worn down by Conte’s methodology on and off the field. I find him tactically inflexible, and overly reliant on individuals. We’ve seen Eddie Nketiah — a significantly inferior player to Gabriel Jesus — come into the Arsenal team with minimal drop-off, because they prioritise the system over the individuals within it. Whereas Spurs can’t seem to cope without Rodrigo Bentancur, or Cristian Romero, or especially Dejan Kulusevski.

He’s not developing players or implementing his system well. We’ve seen so few players improve under Conte — on the podcast Bardi suggested Bentancur, and I think that’s a good shout. But I believe more have regressed than improved. Yves Bissouma, as an example, does not seem to have been able to grasp what’s being asked of him, and is a shadow of the player he was in Brighton, where he was a progressive destroyer. Under a good coach a team should be greater than the sum of its parts. Look at Newcastle United, or Brighton & Hove Albion, or Brentford, or Fulham or those horrible lot up the road. For most of this season I believe we have been less than the sum of our parts, and that’s a major concern. Conte is one of the world’s highest paid coaches, and I think we can expect more on the pitch.

And, frankly, I’m tired of his attempts to gain leverage by positioning himself outside the club in his press conferences. He is (temporarily) a part of this club, and it would be good for him to remember that every now and again.

With Conte’s contract nearly up, his tendency not to stay at clubs long, his reliance on recruiting highly specific (and often older players), his desire to only play a back three, and our performances this season, I’m just not sure that backing him at this stage is the prudent thing to do. The doubts are stacking up. We have just enough time to bring in a new guy now and get a couple of players in to support a transition to a new playing style.

Nathan’s concern is that maybe Daniel Levy hedges his bets and does minimal squad-building now (for the reasons stated above) and instead waits and sees how Conte does for the rest of the season, before potentially changing the coach in the summer. This would risk seeing us finishing outside of the European places and having less transfer funds as a result.

A growing number within our fanbase are sick of the ownership and believe that Daniel Levy and ENIC don’t invest enough money in the playing squad. A side note on this is that, even in my Twitter mentions, I’ve seen an increase in anti-Semitic language being used about Levy — please think carefully before using the term parasite. My own personal belief has always been that, once the stadium arrived, we would begin to see significant outlay. I believe that that has begun now and I expect it to continue. But I think it’s important that we spend wisely as we do not have the unlimited funds of Manchester City or Newcastle United.

I remain unconvinced that Daniel Levy has it in him to develop and implement a whole club strategy. I would love for him to step back and delegate this, but not to Fabio Paratici, who I simply don’t trust to identify and attract Head Coaches or oversee a modern recruitment department.

Ultimately I think we’ll be ~fine either way. We are — in my opinion – set-up to be a sustainably wealthy club forever more (and Levy deserves credit for that). But it’s unbelievably frustrating, because we could be tremendously successful if we were run just a little bit smarter.