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Tottenham: How ‘big brother’ Conte reinvigorated Spurs in top-four fight




ddly, perhaps the most important juncture for Antonio Conte’s Tottenham was the Covid outbreak which struck down the squad in December.

Spurs were forced to call off their final Europa Conference League group game against Rennes and UEFA subsequently handed the French side a 3-0 win, eliminating Spurs from the competition.

Conte was furious when he learned of the situation, storming through the corridors at Hotspur Way, cursing UEFA and demanding an appeal. The head coach, not unreasonably, believed Spurs were among the favourites to win the competition and were being robbed of their only realistic route to silverware this season, given the difficulty of beating Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea to one of the domestic cups.

The club told Conte they would explore an appeal but, privately, the view from the boardroom was that it would be pointless. Some senior figures were also conscious that the ruling, while frustrating, could be a blessing in disguise, given they had hired one of the world’s foremost training-ground coaches.

It has taken a while, but that is now proving the case, with Spurs having won seven of their past nine League fixtures and Conte adamant that having more time between matches is the biggest reason for their turnaround.

“To have more days to prepare the games for me was really important,” Conte said, not for the first time, after Saturday’s 4-0 win over Aston Villa. “Because, don’t forget, I arrived at Tottenham in November and during the season you have to bring your idea of football and at the same time you have to play for three points.”

In other words, Conte was initially faced with trying to teach his players his philosophy and get them up to speed physically and tactically all while they recovered from and prepared for high-pressure matches every few days. With more time between games, Conte has been able to steep his players in his brand of football and there is a sense that something clicked around the end of February, when Spurs’ schedule eased.

Conte is renowned for knowing how to use the stick, but the new schedule has enabled him to employ the carrot, too. Before the Villa game, for example, the Italian promised his players an extra day off — yesterday as well as Sunday — if they won, prompting Harry Kane to confidently arrange a whistle-stop trip to the Masters. Kane positively bounced out of Villa Park to catch a direct flight to Georgia following Spurs’ fourth win on the bounce.

Rewarding his players in this way has taken the edge off Conte’s demanding training sessions and allowed the 52-year-old, who has said he wants to be like a “big brother” to his players, to show his squad a softer side.

Tottenham are now the clear favourites to win the battle for fourth place in the Premier League this term

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With more time at Hotspur Way, Conte has increased video analysis sessions with his squad, typically holding one every day for around 20 to 30 minutes. When Spurs had a midweek fixture, he would typically try to cram in one video session between games, usually lasting over an hour and far harder for the players to digest.

Among the issues Conte has addressed in these seminars, as well as on the training pitch, is set pieces, the head coach having finally lost patience with his side’s Achilles’ heel following the 3-2 defeat to Manchester United, when Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner came from a corner. It was notable how much more solid Spurs were at repelling set pieces at Villa Park, reflecting the meticulous work of Conte and his coaches behind the scenes.

If there was another big turning point for Spurs, it was the 1-0 defeat to Burnley, which prompted Conte to suggest he may not be the right man to take the club forward. He has since insisted the comments were part of a “strategy” to send a message to his players and, although it hardly felt that way at the time, the results are undeniable.

Spurs’ only blip since was the defeat at Old Trafford, when they were the better side, and they have put five goals past Everton and Newcastle, four past Leeds and Villa, three past West Ham and two past United and Brighton.

Antonio Conte finally has Spurs clicking, with his comments after the defeat at Burnley acting as a wake-up call

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Conte’s comments at Turf Moor were the wake-up call his players needed, and he was so encouraged by their reaction, he finally challenged them to finish fourth ahead of the 5-0 win over Everton a fortnight later.

They have risen to that challenge impressively and although Spurs are still not capable of playing Conte’s football for a full 90 minutes, the fingerprints of one of the world’s best coaches are now all over the team, from their steely defending to rapid, structured attacks.

It was not so long ago that it was easy to wonder if Conte was fundamentally ill-suited to the task of rebuilding Spurs, but now he is presiding over a team who are improving with every performance and should be well-placed to kick on if they maintain their grip on fourth.

Conte has not forgotten the perceived injustice of UEFA’s decision, but it is doubtful that Spurs would be in such a promising position if they were still trying to navigate their way through Europe.

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Chelsea FC: Brilliant Badiashile leading way for new signings as Thiago Silva partnership blossoms




helsea have not conceded a goal in the first 270 minutes that Benoit Badiashile has been on the pitch since his £35million move from Monaco.

His promising early form at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will hope, hint at better times to come through their new signings.

The arrival of French centre-back Badiashile at the start of last month kick-started a record January spending spree of more than £300m.

After Chelsea were sent spiralling into crisis with defeats by Manchester City and Fulham, Badiashile made his debut in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

After the Blues claimed a further two clean sheets in 0-0 draws away at Liverpool and at home to Fulham, he is building an impressive partnership with Thiago Silva.

Impressive start: Benoit Badiashile has formed a promising partnership with Thiago Silva

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Badiashile was one of five new signings to feature in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham. He started alongside £106.8m Enzo Fernandez, who started well but faded over 90 minutes, £89.5m Mykhailo Mudryk, who struggled over 45 minutes while carrying a cold, and £30m Noni Madueke, who was bright after being brought on at half-time.

“What a waste of money” was the regular chant from the Fulham fans in the away end.

That felt harsh in Badiashile’s case. With his size and speed, he looks like a perfect partner for 38-year-old veteran Silva.

In addition, he showed the ability to play brilliantly out of Fulham’s well-drilled press and he coped in his duels against Aleksandar Mitrovic.

There is still adaption to be done, as Graham Potter barked instructions about his positioning in relation to Silva.

However, using French to communicate with the former Paris Saint-Germain captain, Badiashile has helped steady the ship in the absence of the injured Wesley Fofana, and with Kalidou Koulibaly out of form.

While still only averaging just 1.05 goals per game in the Premier League, Chelsea will draw more than they win unless their new midfielders and forwards step up.

Arriving in the weeks after Badiashile, the likes of Fernandez, Joao Felix, Mudryk and Madueke have not had as much time to adapt to their surroundings.

With Chelsea still in 10th place and increasingly falling behind in the race to qualify for Europe, they must follow Badiashile’s lead and hit the ground running before time runs out.

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Reporter’s notebook: Jesse Marsch’s Leeds side showed encouraging signs at times but lack of points cost him his job | Football News



Jesse Marsch was approaching his one-year anniversary as Leeds United head coach before the decision was taken on Monday to relieve him of his duties.

The defeat to Nottingham Forest a day earlier had been the final straw for the Leeds board, who were all aligned in the view that a change was necessary after almost three months without a Premier League win.

The recent statistics paint a grim picture for Leeds. Seven Premier League games without a win and just two wins in the last 17 league games. And against Forest, although they dominated in the first half and created the better chances, a worrying pattern had started to develop which had become a huge concern for fans. Leeds were producing performances with lots of positives, but not enough points.

There is little doubt that a large proportion of the fan base had lost patience with Marsch, and they made their frustrations clear at the full-time whistle on Sunday with calls for a change of head coach.

What is very evident is that Leeds have not kicked on this season. At times there have been really promising signs, but the fans and the board at Leeds wanted more. Marsch will feel that with time he could have delivered more, but he was also realistic enough to know that he was walking a tightrope.

I got to know Jesse well during his 12 months at Elland Road and it was abundantly clear he cared passionately about the club. He understood what it meant to be head coach of Leeds United and what the club meant to the city and the fans. And he has to be given great credit for keeping Leeds in the Premier League last season.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Leeds.

Although it hasn’t worked out for Marsch this season, there is a strong argument to suggest that the next Leeds boss will be in a great position to move the club forward.

Patrick Bamford and Luis Sinisterra are now fit, and the January additions should make the starting line-up stronger. The club has also invested heavily in young players and one of those, Willy Gnonto, has emerged as one of the shining lights of the season.

Those factors have created an expectation that Leeds are better than their current league position, and that means a reluctance to accept another season fighting to avoid the drop. It also means that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

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Former Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson believes sacking Jesse Marsch was the right decision as he was given enough time at the club.

The process of finding a replacement for Marsch is already underway and Leeds hope to make a swift appointment. A move for Marcelo Bielsa is highly unlikely, but West Brom boss Carlos Corberan, who worked under Bielsa, is a candidate, while Ange Postecoglou at Celtic has also been linked.

It is also worth noting Leeds have a track record of leftfield appointments, so as they work through their list of targets, there is a good chance that a candidate emerges that could surprise everybody.

In the meantime, Michael Skubala, Paco Gallardo and Chris Armas will take training at Thorp Arch, and will be in the dugout for Wednesday’s Premier League fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Leeds’ next Premier League fixtures

February 8: Manchester United (A) – kick-off 8pm

February 12: Manchester United (H) – kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports

February 18: Everton (A) – kick-off 3pm

February 25: Southampton (H) – kick-off 3pm

March 4: Chelsea (A) – kick-off 3pm

March 11: Brighton (H) – kick-off 3pm

March 18: Wolves (A) – kick-off 3pm

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Tom Brady in his underwear is taking over Twitter



Um .. oh.

Um .. oh.
Screenshot: Twitter: Tom Brady

It’s Super Bowl week, and if you thought Tom Brady was going to let this week go by without being all up in your timeline…well. Just a week after announcing he’s retiring from football (you’ll never convince me he didn’t play an extra year just to stick it to Adam Schefter), Tom Brady has dropped his first thirst trap on Twitter. Or, attempted thirst trap. Actually, IS this a thirst trap?

As will many things Tom Brady, the attempt to be cool and edgy just winds up being sterile, boring, and kinda sad. A beige man in a beige room in beige underwear with a “pleass clap” look on his face.

And because OF COURSE:

Yes, Tom. We all knew the plug as coming. I’m not sure what color “heather crimson” is supposed to be, but I believe this is what we used to call “puce,” which… meh. The fact that there is something called the “Brady Boxer Brief” is enough to make me want to stick my head in the oven, because you know there are guys in New England burning up the internet right now to wear the same undies as their hero. And even more so because no amount of refusing to mask during COVID, vouching for Antonio Brown, stumping for Donald Trump, or getting a PPP loan during a nationwide pandemic is enough to get people to stop buying what this guy is selling. He’s even gotten to Jane Fonda, for crying out loud.

Of course, this entire thing was set up by Brady’s own brand:

So…whatever. It’s Super Bowl week and everyone is talking about Tom Brady, which is exactly how he wants it to be.

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