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Spurs should not expect that Dele Alli payment anytime soon and Everton are cursed

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Yerry Mina reacts

There are two ways to lose a match: the normal route and the Everton method. More injuries and Dele Alli officially retiring ought to do it.

 

A lot can change in three months. When Everton and Chelsea last met in May, Richarlison and Timo Werner led the respective lines. Alex Iwobi played at wing-back to ensure there was central midfield space for Fabian Delph. Antonio Rudiger marshalled the visiting defence.

Equally, plenty has stayed the same. Everton remain prone to both inexplicable mistakes and frustrating injuries and their limitations are painfully clear. Chelsea are still a great team as close to falling back into the pack behind as they are joining the leaders.

And that’s the thing with scrappy 1-0 wins: the margins are so slender between victory and defeat that it becomes difficult to avoid outcome bias. Everton had nine shots to 17 at the end of last season and won. They had eight efforts to 15 at the start of this campaign and lost.

But some things can be ascertained as early as the opening fixture. Frank Lampard really needs to cleanse the bad juju surrounding Goodison Park, for example. A squad already often literally hamstrung by injury lost Ben Godfrey in the first half and Yerry Mina in the second.

The former was hoist by the petard of his own errant back pass. That it went out of play, only for Jordan Pickford to strike a clearance straight into Kai Havertz and encourage Godfrey to make a forlorn amends, only added to the sheer Everton of it all.

The papier-mâché Yerry Mina joined Godfrey in the treatment room midway through the second half, his left ankle struggling under the sheer weight of narrative.

Hopefully Lampard kept the script he utilised for most of last season because those setbacks, combined with the baffling tackle from Abdoulaye Doucoure to concede the decisive penalty, felt like a continuation of 2021/22.

That sort of bad luck makes for a lethal blend with a stuttering summer transfer window and a coach caught between what he wants to do and what he can do. Be it down to Lampard’s own foibles or those of his squad, Everton can only compete to a point. Their game plan works until it doesn’t.

They created precious little of actual note. James Tarkowski elicited a fine save from Edouard Mendy and Demarai Gray had a shot blocked by Thiago Silva on the break but Chelsea were more troubled by those intermittent Goodison roars than anything Everton actually conjured.

Their striker situation is particularly disheartening. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Salomon Rondon cannot be relied upon for different reasons.

Anthony Gordon was deployed as a nominal centre-forward against Chelsea but what he offers in effort and work-rate, the 21-year-old lacks in guile – particularly up against a defence as experienced as Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and Kalidou Koulibaly.

Dele Alli was touted by Lampard as a possible solution but one moment late on summed up the last few years of his career. Nathan Patterson pounced on a rare Koulibaly mistake to launch a counter-attack, slipping Alli in.

Instead of a first-time shot, his crumbling confidence was betrayed by a heavy touch as he almost tackled himself before limply prodding the ball out for a goal kick while laying on the ground.

In his case, it might be that form is temporary and class is permanent. The player of his first three Tottenham seasons is, for all intents and purposes, retired. Jose Mourinho might be yesterday’s manager for some but his suggestion that Alli’s brother replaced him years ago was prescient.

The first element of his potential total £40m fee is due to Tottenham when Alli plays his 20th Everton game. Daniel Levy will hardly be frantically refreshing his NatWest app.

Chelsea should be content to have controlled that game in difficult circumstances, given the atmosphere. Everton were OK but relying on there being three worse teams for a second consecutive season is to request an appointment with trouble. New signings are imminent but they will have to hit the ground sprinting – just try not to injure yourselves doing it.

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Chelsea ‘work on deals’ for £84.5m duo as Tuchel ‘insists’ on improved Fofana bid

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Reported Chelsea target Wesley Fofana during a match

Thomas Tuchel is reportedly ‘insisting on another bid for Wesley Fofana’, with Chelsea said to be £10m short of Leicester’s valuation for the centre-back.

Tuchel is looking to bolster his defence before the close of the transfer window and Fofana has emerged as his top target.


READ MORE: Ten Hag makes his Winners and Losers debut as Gerrard and Liverpool keep him company


Reports suggest Chelsea have had two bids of £63m and just over £70m turned down and are preparing a third.

The 21-year-old is said to be keen on a move to Stamford Bridge and the Independent claim the Blues are £10m short of agreeing a deal, suggesting a bid of around £80m would be enough to persuade he Foxes to part with their prized asset.

Brendan Rodgers has said Fofana, like James Maddison, is not for sale, but sources close to the club claim the financical strife they find themselves in means one of the two will likely have to leave.

Tuchel is ‘insisting’ on an improved bid to get the deal done, while the report claims Chelsea owner Todd Boehly is also ‘working on deals for Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’.

Manchester United agreed a £71m fee with Barcelona for De Jong last month, but the midfielder has dug his heels in over his deferred salary and reticence to leave the Nou Camp for Old Trafford.

On Sunday, Barcelona president Joan Laporta reiterated a desire to keep De Jong and the player’s desire to stay at the club.

Laporta said: “Frenkie de Jong is a Barcelona player of great quality and we want him to stay. With him and his teammates, we have a very powerful midfield.

“He has offers, but we want him to stay and he wants to stay too.”

But multiple reports have suggested that if De Jong does end up leaving the Nou Camp, Chelsea would be his preferred destination, and Blues chiefs are still said to be in talks with the Dutchman’s representatives.

And Aubameyang –  valued at £13.5m by Transfermarkt – emerged as a target last week as Tuchel looks to bring a striker in to lead the line and score the goals that have been hard to come by for too long.

Tuchel spoke of the need for Chelsea to bring in young talent like Fofana after their 1-0 win over Everton on Saturday, a game in which his back three of Cesar Azpilicueta, Thiago Silva and new signing Kalidou Koulibaly had a combined age of 100.

“Azpi is the legend that he is, Thiago is in the moment still very important to us and when we had the chance to sign Kalidou we did it because we believe that he has some years ahead of him,” the German boss said.

“But in general it is the fact that like the goalkeeper and the double sixes are in their thirties, and that is just what it is. Pace is an issue and speed is an issue. In all signings, this is the demand of the game that you can play one on ones, that you can defend space if needed with high-speed runs.

“It is a lot of experience, it is maybe another of age – it is a lot of experience and they have their quality and they know what they are doing. We also need to make sure we have a new generation to take over in the next years but the guys are strong that is why they are under contract and the guys have our trust.

“There needs to be [balance]. I think it is necessary. The game in general is very physical and demands a lot. This is the situation. We knew it before.”

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McTominay ‘interesting Juventus’ as swap deal emerges for £15.3m Man Utd target

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Ten Hag McTominay Man Utd

Manchester United star Scott McTominay is ‘interesting Juventus’ amid multiple reports of the Red Devils’ interest in Adrien Rabiot.

The former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder is entering the final 12 months of his contract with the Serie A side and has been linked with both Chelsea and Arsenal this summer.


READ MORE: Ten Hag makes his Winners and Losers debut as Gerrard and Liverpool keep him company


And David Ornstein of The Athletic claimed on Monday that the 27-year-old has ’emerged as a leading option’ for United as they look to bolster their midfield options.

It’s not clear whether they will chase Rabiot irrespective of their pursuit of Frenkie de Jong, or if they will wait to see if they can tie up a deal for the Barcelona star before making a decision on the France international.

They would also need to agree personal terms with Rabiot – valued by Transfermarkt at £15.3m – who is ‘high among a number of candidates’.

And Italian outlet JuveDipendenza, who picked up on United’s interest in Rabiot on Sunday evening before other outlets, also claim McTominay could move in the other direction.

The Scotland international, who came through the youth ranks at United, is ‘interesting Juventus’, according to the report.

McTominay has divided opinion throughout his United career and came under fire after Erik ten Hag’s first game as manager on Sunday.

United fell to a 2-1 defeat to Brighton, and both McTominay and midfield partner Fred were heavily criticised for their performances as the Seagulls opened them up with ease in the first half at Old Trafford.

Club legends Roy Keane and Paul Scholes were adamant after the game that their former club need to significantly improve in central midfield.

Keane told Sky Sports: “The decision making and the football intelligence, in particular from Fred – and I’ve said this for a long time – Fred and McTominay are not good enough. They won’t get Manchester United back competing at the top.

“We see it week in, week out. [They are] not up to it.”

Scholes described the first half showing against Brighton as “shambolic” before agreeing with his former teammate.

He told Premier League Productions: “The quality in the middle of the pitch was really poor.

“I was happy he [McTominay] didn’t get sent-off [for a late challenge], but I think he was slightly lucky. Again, he’s running with the ball, absolutely ridiculous. The quality in the middle of the pitch was nowhere near good enough, but we have seen that for the last few years with these two players.

“With Fred and McTominay, he [Ten Hag] is going to have to play just one of them [moving forward] but even one of them is probably too many. Fred gives the ball away all the time and McTominay tries run with it constantly and then gives it away. Pass it to your best players…

“It’s not that difficult. It’s criminal on a day like today [Sunday afternoon].”

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Ten Hag can’t save zombified Man Utd while parasitic Glazers profit from failure…

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Avram Glazer and John Murtough watch Man Utd lose to Brighton.

Johnny Nic saw reality dawn on Erik ten Hag on Sunday. He can’t rescue Manchester United. No one can while the leeches remain in charge at Old Trafford…

 

You had to feel for Erik ten Hag in his post-game interview on Sunday. He’d strode out onto the Old Trafford pitch chest out, shoulders back, cutting an impressive and determined figure as he accepted the applause from fans. This was a man ready to get to work. A new man. A new era.

But when the final whistle blew, he looked physically altered by the experience of watching the full horror that is Manchester United. He looked smaller, more hunched and deflated. His eyes wore an expression that was part fear and part shock. How has mediocrity become endemic? And what the hell was he supposed to do about it? ”It takes time, but we don’t have time,” he said, perfectly expressing the Old Trafford Catch 22: a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem.

All great managers clearly back themselves to do any job. All of United’s managers in the last 10 years have, all of them have been wrong. It looked as though ten Hag realised in that moment he had been wrong too.

This club is a beast that is too big to be changed, but nor can it be slaughtered. It is a zombie, dead by some definitions, certainly all soul hollowed out like a massive baked potato, leaving only a shell. A giant football cash machine brilliant at dispensing money to the owners and seemingly limitless executives, but utterly dysfunctional in all other respects.

As the club hierarchy looked on, all in their suits and club ties, they looked considerably less concerned at the skip fire that was on the pitch than ten Hag. Why would they care as long as the cash machine keeps paying out? And even if they did care, there is precious little evidence that any of them have a clue what to do about the walking dead that United have become.

 


Ten Hag makes his Winners and Losers debut as Gerrard and Liverpool keep him company


 

However, while we should lay much of the blame for this dysfunctional monster at the club’s owners and directors, they were not the ones who had inexplicably asked Christian Eriksen to play as a false nine. It made no sense, not just because it isn’t a position he’s familiar with, but more because we all know where Eriksen does his best work and it isn’t as a false nine. And as soon as he was pushed further back in the second half, things improved marginally.

And just like last year, the manager turned to that ageing recividest CR7 to bail the team out, surely aware that it was another example of desperation. As it turned out, CR7 was peripheral, an irrelevant old lag.

What must it be like to be a great player, like Jadon Sancho, who has proved his worth in Germany only to walk through the Old Trafford love
removal machine and come out as half the player. New signing Lisandro Martínez came with the intimidating nickname the ‘Butcher’ but was laughably incapable of butchering anything as Danny Welbeck literally ran over him. United had instantly turned the butcher into a vegan.

And then there’s poor Marcus Rashford doing his best Dele Alli impersonation as a once great star whose talent has evaporated, never to be seen again. Somehow, they have ruined him. United ruins players. This is what they do. They take gifted players and turn them into lesser men.

This is a peculiar phenomenon, unique to Manchester United who remain a top six club by virtue of breathtaking spending, but with a squad that are all fur coats and no knickers. A veneer of glamour with nothing underneath.

United are corporate football in excelsis. The football doesn’t matter really, its primary function is to generate money, what happens on the pitch is a distant second to that, especially if fans all over the world keep supporting the club. The owners abuse the loyalty of fans, indeed, it is easy to imagine them privately laughing at them for being such mugs as to stick with them even as they drain money out of them and the club. They will think them all idiots to keep paying through the nose for a bag of chips dressed up as Michelin Star cuisine.

The whole thing is a deception, an elaborate ruse to trade off United’s history while ruining their future. This is how it works. They spend big on players to look like a big club and to keep eyes on them. They pull in huge amounts of money from all kinds of ‘partners’ and spend it on huge wages and pay those huge fees and that makes them look important. Players come for the big wages and stay for them. But there’s no rhyme or reason to these purchases and no strategy to make sense of them, so the team malfunctions. But that doesn’t matter. Only the image of United being a big spending club, a big force, matters. That pulls in so much revenue that the Glazers can skim off plenty for themselves.

It is all one big con. They have set up a machine to enrich themselves and nothing else matters. Everything that appears to be part of funding and running of a modern football club, that’s all part of the illusion, all part of the trick. All of this only exists for the Glazers financial benefit. They have no interest in the club apart from funding it sufficiently to maintain its money-making status. When that stops, they’ll sell up, leaving a husk of a club behind, but there’s no sign of that yet because of football’s insane economics. And they know that a hapless United is good for TV business as viewers flock to see the giant brought low. Being rubbish is great for content. Indeed, they’ve worked out that fans will still keep paying for tickets and watching on television in order to be able to keep on moaning and complaining. It’s brilliant, they’ve monetised failure. Indeed, it is quite possible that they have a spreadsheet which proves failure is better for business than success.

Manchester United manager Erik ten Hag watches the defeat to Brighton.

It is like United are an experiment. How long can you keep creaming off money from a club before the very people you rely on for the money you are going to cream off, rise up and drag you and your minions out of the place by your feet.

Obviously, they have learned that this will never ever happen because of the nature of fandom. Fans will never stay away, never stop supporting them. So how terrible the team is remains irrelevant to the Glazers.

The toxicity from the ownership and the board has stained everything, leaked over the whole place, into the dressing room and onto the pitch. It pours diesel into the petrol engine, making the whole machine cough and splutter and malfunction. But do they care? No. Why should they? They keep hitting that cash machine for another pay out and if times get tough, they can leverage money against the club’s valuation. The goose is still stuffed full of golden eggs.

They have turned United into the living dead and I think Ten Hag suddenly realised he was just another schmuck turning coin for the bosses as the giant con continues.

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