FRIDAY'S BIG STORIES
One regular day of Tottenham
If swapping Antonio Conte in for Nuno Espírito Santo was supposed to bring the excitement back to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, then job very much done. There was more packed into last night's win over Vitesse than Spurs have managed in the rest of the season combined. Goals, comebacks, three daft red cards: there was a lot of daring, and a frankly alarming amount of doing.
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However. If getting Conte in was supposed to turn Tottenham into a competent, well-balanced, and broadly speaking functional football team, then we're all going to have to wait just a little bit longer. Which is fine, of course: he's a manager, not a magician. And where magic is a question of knowing the right words and procuring the right animal parts, management takes time.
But it also takes buy-in. That was what did for Nuno, as much as anything else. He knew he was the ninth choice, everybody else knew it, and from that unpromising start point he took nobody with him. What we can say, after 90 minutes of extremely high-effort chaos, is that Conte won't have that problem. At least not to begin with.
"You don't know what you're doing," was the refrain from the terraces last weekend: now, amusingly enough, it's actually true. Of the players. Tottenham's shiny new 5-3-2 formation makes a lot of sense on paper, and the sight of Sergio Reguilon and Emerson Royal scooting up and down the touchline suggests that the most important elements are present and correct. Not even Conte can play wing-backs without wing-backs.
But there were a lot of misplaced passes, a lot of chasing back mistakes, a lot of "Look, somebody's to blame for that goal that just happened, and it might just be all of us." Let's be kind and assume most of that was organisational, a question of familiarity and training. And now let's look at the fixture list and the upcoming international break and wonder when they're going to get any actual training done.
Still, Son Heung-min looked brilliant, because he's brilliant; the wing-backs had fun, because being a wing-back is fun; and Tanguy Ndombele's brief cameo was enough to get everybody hoping that this time it's going to happen. This manager will be the right manager. For there is no better player at turning around under pressure, which sounds like faint praise but is actually the most important and most delightful skill in modern football. The press goes one way and, oops!, you go the other.
Whatever this game was — it was a glorious mess, it was liquid Europa Conference — it was better than what came before. The debate about Conte is always over the long-term implications, which always seems a bit odd to the Warm-Up: this is football. Everything is always provisional, and managers, like coats, are seasonal appointments. But the immediate short-term mission of making this collection of players look a bit like a team, and this collection of fans feel a bit like a club, is off to a perfectly imperfect start.
Toepoking into the Knockouts
Over to the Conference League's older and more serious brother, where West Ham secured their progress to the knockouts with a draw against Genk and a friendly result in Zagreb. And it was a pleasantly chaotic evening, even if it did get rather blown away by the exhibition of spursiness that followed.
It takes something special to displace a late, hilarious own goal in the Warm-Up's affections, but luckily for Tomas Soucek, Said Benrahma was having himself a full evening out. And even more importantly, he remembered the most unfashionable part of the footballer's foot. He didn't neglect the toe.
It's a lovely clip, this one, and not just because former footballers earnestly enjoying current footballers is the most wholesome genre of punditry around. It's a nice reminder that the Europa League, at least before the Champions League rejects turn up and transform the thing into a giant consolation prize, really does have a glamour and appeal for teams that have earned their place and want to be there.
And there is, in the Cole & Cole double act, a nice window into life as a West Ham fan at the moment. A team that is playing well, a fanbase that is enjoying their team, and the mutual exchange of positive energy between both parties and all around the club.
Well, not all around. As soon as we wrote that paragraph we read that West Ham are attempting to identify a group of fans filmed singing anti-semitic songs on a flight to Belgium, which serves as a sharp and appalling reminder that football can still be a wholly miserable presence in the wider world.
IN OTHER NEWS
All praise to Fenerbahce for their diplomatic efforts here, reconciling one of football's most enduring culture wars. Here is a goal to reunite the bitter partisans of "slick passing goals are the best" with the dug-in troops of "flying volleys are the business". Experts predict the two forces will now combine and launch a sneak attack on "I quite like big headers".
RETRO CORNER 1
Happy birthday to Jean Pierre-Papin, who won the Ballon d'Or in 1991, scored bagfuls and bagfuls wherever he went, and sort of seems to get left out of football nostalgia conversations. Maybe we're just not talking to enough French people. Anyway, here are quite a lot of pretty good goals
RETRO CORNER 2
On a cold evening in southern France some 18 years ago — excuse us while we pick up our jaw from the floor and pop our teeth back in — Monaco and Deportivo la Coruna got together and decided to put on a festival of football. 11 goals. Some of them really rather good. Do keep an eye out for Depor's players sprinting to get the ball back at 4-2 down, with absolutely no idea about what's coming next.
There's the early stages of a crisis coming at Aston Villa. You can hear it. Things are just starting to creak a little. They're off to Southampton tonight, and that means we're guaranteed one of two things: muted celebrations from Danny Ings, or more and louder creaking.
Have a pleasant weekend, one and all. Tom Adams will be here on Monday.
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The UCI Track Champions League is coming and you can watch all of the action live on the Eurosport app, eurosport.co.uk and discovery+. Find out more about the "mind-blowing" new era for track cycling, with the first event on November 6 in Mallorca.
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