Friday, 20 January 2017

Pep's Most Difficult Job

I fancy tempting fate. Football fans hate to tempt fate, especially Spurs fans, because it will all go wrong and for some strange reason you will think it's your fault it all went tits up. The thing is I tempted fate with a massively proportioned sex doll at the start of the season by stating, quite emphatically, that Tottenham Hotspur would win the league and then in December, after the team suffered defeat against a poor Man Utd team, I started to think my forecast was going to go the same way as other bursts of optimism in the past.

Since then Spurs have strung seven straight wins - six in the league and a rare emphatic win in the FA Cup - and each game we win the better we look. At times last weekend, against one of my club's bogey teams, we played like Brazil circa 1970 with Dele Alli as Pele and Harry Kane as Jairzinho. At times the football we play makes Barcelona look, you know, a bit, okay but nothing special. On a couple of occasions on Saturday I felt like a child being subjected to some ultimate glee-inducing fun. At one point, after one stunning move resulted in a simply wondrous disallowed goal, I clapped my hands together like a child seeing Father Christmas for the first time. There is something remarkable about the feeling you get from watching your football team play with such confidence it's almost scary - it transcends sex and just condenses into an ecstatic joy that I can only imagine my friends, who support teams that have won things, have felt.

This Spurs team scares me as much as it delights me. There is almost an entire team of potential world class footballers on display. At this moment in time I'm struggling to see a weak link in the side when it's on the same wavelength. That alone is some kind of surreal reality matched only by the weird shit that is going on in the world, add to that the first manager we have had who looks both happy and determined to do better and is doing it in a way that must give Daniel Levy almost unbearable erections of joy. I'm struggling to find any other negative than we're going to end up being much richer than we are now when all of them and the manager are bought for £1billion by another 'bigger' team.

Remember the Harlem Globetrotters - a team who, legend has it, were so good they gave up competitive basketball and just played exhibition matches against top teams they then proceeded to demolish. That's my Spurs at the moment (maybe not in Europe, but certainly within these more isolated shores).

Yet, ironically, I find myself feeling slightly sorry for one of my team's rivals and opponents this coming Saturday. Frankly, I couldn't care less if Man City crash and burn and lose their Arab owners lots of money and I, on the surface, find it hilarious that the media-proclaimed 'best manager in the world' is struggling to turn his team of expensive class into a unit that will challenge for the title.

Any harsh critic of Pep Guardiola will point out that the two teams he has managed so far, both only really had one or two serious rivals and if you need evidence that anyone can win a league in a division of one just look at Brendan Rogers at Celtic. Most people who manage Celtic get to add trophies to their CVs and act like priapic porn stars because in their league there is no competition. What Pep possibly did realise is while the Premier League has four, maybe six, likely winners, he probably didn't think the other 14 pesky teams are more than capable of upsetting the odds and beating your side. Pep probably suffered some slightly embarrassing losses in his time at Barcelona and Bayern Munich, but English football has a tendency to throw up unexpected results and City's 4-0 thumping by 'average' Everton made me feel a little sorry for him.

It really isn't his fault he's been so successful at two of the world's richest and most successful clubs. His style of football isn't bad and he's proved that with world class footballers at his disposal he can do good things; but he's never really tried to manage at a slightly lower level, where you have to show your adaptability rather than just bring on a £50m player from the bench. This is why Mauricio Pochettino is likely to end up managing one of the world's richest clubs and why he might even get something others aren't often afforded - time. This is also why Spurs' visit to Man City this weekend is so significant. First off, it's a game neither side can afford to draw or lose because with Chelsea playing easier opposition the odds are they will pull even further ahead. Secondly, and more long game, is the stock of each manager. Mauricio looks happy, relaxed and his team are playing in a way that would make any manager happy (and secure). Pep on the other hand looks like a man who has been presented with his first real problem - plucky opposition - and he's not sure what to do. The pressure is really beginning to show on him and while I don't think his job is at risk, it would be if he, as I sometimes think he might, just resigns in the middle of press conference, storming out and never seen again outside of Spain.

The third and, at present, least important thing about the game will be how many of the Spurs side will the Sheikhs be eyeing up a transfer deal for? And from a personal position, the fourth thing is can we continue our current upper hand over City? I hope we can because even 7 points behind Chelsea is a big gap, but one I think we can overcome in the next five months; 10 points might be enough to put a dent in our chrome. The loss of Jan Vertonghen is a worry, but we have able cover and usually players who come in at the back retain the rhythm. We're the better side at the moment, the mark of true champions is whether they can overcome these kind of obstacles.