West Ham march on while Tottenham stumble as their European adventures diverge - The Warm-Up
It's three wins from three for West Ham, who are in control of their group and look primed for a grand European adventure. The same cannot be said for Spurs. And Jose Mourinho has set a new personal best: from optimism to Full Mourinho in about three months. Elsewhere, today would have been Bert Trautmann's 98th birthday.
West Ham United's Jarrod Bowen celebrates scoring his side's third goal with Declan Rice during the UEFA Europa League group H match between West Ham United and KRC Genk at Olympic Stadium on October 21, 2021 in London, United Kingdom
We'll level with you, West Ham fans. We're feeling a little disappointed. Three games into this European adventure and it's all been far too competent. A good away win in Zagreb, and now back to back home wins, all without even conceding a goal? Where's the comedy in that?
Of course, it's possible that England's proud and historic football teams don't just exist for the Warm-Up's amusement. We don't like admitting this, obviously, but sometimes we wonder.
Anyway, West Ham's win over Genk wasn't spectacular, but then "spectacular" isn't a group stage word. Save the flashy stuff for the knockouts. Group stages are about careful navigation and balance: refreshing the squad without breaking the team; winning the midweek without forfeiting the weekend. And West Ham are strolling through this one like they've been strolling through European group stages for years.
A goal just before half time, right in the proverbial "good time to score"; two more rattled in on the hour, just as the game threatened to get nervy. It's all quietly impressive. And Michail Antonio got a full evening's rest ahead of Spurs at the weekend. Everything's coming up Moyesie.
Every other team in Group H has won one, lost two, which gives West Ham a massive six point gap at the top. One more point should see them through, and Moyes, clearly feeling rather pleased with how things are going, is injecting the adventure with some old-fashioned We're Off To The Continent energy.
We have to go to Genk and Venice. This is the bit everyone is looking forward to - the away trips for the fans, the players and the families as well. From that point of view it's still new, still fresh and we're really enjoying it.
There's a photo of Moyes on a gondola in our future. He'll probably be wearing a hat. It's going to be wonderful.
In a turbulent world going through turbulent times, it's heart-warming to know that some people will always come through. They will be there when you need them, they will be themselves when you need them to be themselves. Imagine if Roma had lost 6-1 — 6-1! — to Bodø/Glimt and José Mourinho hadn't immediately thrown his entire side under the nearest bus. How strange we would all feel today, how unmoored.
Luckily for us, though not perhaps for Roma's squad players, it is simply in his nature. Connoisseurs of the Mourinho method will have been thrilled by the traditional opening, in which he appears to gather all responsibility to himself —
I decided to play with this line-up, so the responsibility is mine.
— before diffusing that into his own warm and kindly nature, and drawing attention to the appalling circumstances under which he was operating. A synthetic pitch? How awful.
I did it with good intentions, to give an opportunity to those who work hard and to rotate the squad on a synthetic pitch in cold weather.
And then it came. Pure, perfect, an old classic given fresh new life.
Every defeat does damage. I spoke to the players and was honest. I was honest with them, I cannot be honest with you. I never disguised the fact we were a squad with real limitations. We have 13 players who represent one team, the others are on a different level.
If only he'd managed to sneak in a quick jab at the press. Then we'd have a full house and — wait, what's that?
At least the positive thing from now on is that nobody will ask me why I always use the same players.
Magical. (And so we don't completely overlook Bodø/Glimt after maybe their greatest ever result, here's a big New York Times article about their maverick approach to pretty much everything.)
Elsewhere in the Europa Conference League, Mourinho's former club Tottenham also offered a second-choice line-up to the gods of squad rotation, and were likewise punished for their hubris. Although, to be fair, 1-0 isn't quite the same kind of defeat as 6-1; disappointing, rather than disastrous.
Still, it was hard not to feel a little sorry for youngster Dane Scarlett, pottering away up front on his own. Five established professionals behind him and he barely saw the ball. And if Nuno Espirito Santo was hoping one of his B-team would mount a case for promotion to the starting line-up, or any Tottenham fan was hoping for a bit of attacking verve, they will all have been disappointed.
But at least Tottenham's manager didn't come out afterwards and tell everybody his players were rubbish. It appears you can play Mourinhoball without the Mourinhochatter. Instead, we got the straight bat.
It was a tough match against a good team. There were some moments where we did well but we learned some details. In attack we could do more and we should finish the actions. We had good situations to be better. … The Europa Conference League is like this, there are always tough moments.
A manager of a big team claiming that there are always tough moments in a competition that has existed for a few months? Truly, the Conference League has arrived.
Today would have been Bert Trautmann's 98th birthday, so let's mark the occasion with the Pathé news film of that FA Cup final. It's still pretty extraordinary, though perhaps not as remarkable as the commentator referring to a league win for Manchester United, then a cup win for City, as a "splendid double". Not sure that flavour of civic pride made it out of the sixties.
Here's Daniel Storey for the i, on the general state of Barcelona. Sorry, that should read: the absolute state of Barcelona. And the state of the Camp Nou, under-maintained and offering a stark visual representation for everything going on behind the scenes.
In the top tier of the Lateral stand, the red seats have been baked in the sun for so long that they have a permanent grey hue. In between the blocks, disintegrating stone steps test your balance and your courage. Scaffolding and blue tarpaulin cover part of the external fascia, but any work is long overdue. Recent reports claim that Barcelona ignored warnings about mite and fly infestations and the risk of pigeon excrement falling into food preparation areas.
Hey look, it says here that Arsenal against Aston Villa — the Emi Martinez Derby — is happening on Friday night. A whole extra day of Mikel Arteta narrative! Oh Premier League, you spoil us.
Have a good weekend. Tom Adams will be here on Monday.