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Why Thomas Tuchel replacing Antonio Conte would be a mistake

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This is not how Antonio Conte’s first full season at Tottenham Hotspur was meant to go down.

Having yet failed to agree terms on a new deal, Spurs alarmingly free-falling out of the top four, and the standard of football bordering on un-watchable if not for its comedic value, the Italian is being linked with an exit.

Whether it’s a divorce in the coming weeks or an amicable summer split at the end of his contract, Conte’s time in north London is running out. There have already been reports on potential replacements, too.

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90min revealed last year that ex-Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino is keen to return to the club, knocking back Aston Villa’s advances in the autumn in hope that the Spurs job would become available in the near future.

While the Argentine remains a revered figure in N17, it’s a link that’s divided the fanbase, partly seen as one lacking ambition and a signal that the club is either living in the past or stuck in reverse.

There is, however, a more alarming managerial link emerging – one with Thomas Tuchel.

On the face of it, the German does make some sort of sense for Spurs. He’s proved himself at a range of clubs on varying scales and budgets, demonstrated he can oversee different footballing philosophies as a chameleon coach. He would, at the very least, keep Tottenham relevant at a time where that’s beginning to be threatened.

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But the red flags overpower the green ones. Tuchel would not fix Spurs’ problems, and would endanger only exacerbating them.

He’s proved divisive – whether on a personal or tactical level – at each of Borussia Dortmund, PSG and Chelsea. That’s sometimes unavoidable and he enjoyed tangible success in those stints, but they are clubs better set up to compete and win.

Tuchel was at least initially a unifying figure at Chelsea, shoring up a leaky defence and turning them into Champions League winners in just five months.

That is surely the appeal of him to Spurs, the notion that he can take what has seemed un-coachable squad and make them winners with a snap of the fingers – it’s not the first time we’ve heard such an argument, however.

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Tottenham don’t necessarily need to rip everything up and start again mid-season. They have a comfortable run of fixtures for a potential new manager to get his teeth into from February through to March, while they also take on Milan in a winnable UEFA Champions League tie. This squad recovered from a slump this time last year to rally and make the top four against the odds, it’s not out of the equation that they go on another such run with fresh blood in the dugout.

Planet League’s Rich Holmes & Sustainable Clarets’ Cat Jebson join Shebahn Aherne to have football’s climate conversation ahead of Green Football Weekend. If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!

It’s merely a short-term fix, though. It’s the same risk Tottenham took when they appointed an even more notoriously short-term coach in Conte and their first ‘winner’ in Jose Mourinho. Tuchel’s conflicts with previous hierarchies paint a similar picture to Conte’s gripes.

The Premier League is evolving away from that brand of management. Spurs are currently the only top-half team without a manager known for long-term projects or positive football. ‘Win-now’ windows are closed, particularly for a club that hasn’t won anything since 2008.

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Then there’s the obvious negative. If Tuchel were appointed, it would be the fifth (FIFTH) time that Daniel Levy and ENIC would have hired an ex-Chelsea manager, the third in four years in which they will have tried to fast-track their way to the top.

It’s a trend that needs to stop – not just for rivalry reasons, but for cultural ones. Tottenham have to stop pretending to be Chelsea, or even Chelsea-lite. They are not a powerhouse of English football like that, and it’s okay to accept such a truth. The Blues – in the pre-Todd Boehly state Spurs are trying to mimic, at least – managed to thrive and survive in chaos, but that isn’t the case across London.

Fan unrest at the board is at an all-time high, with many believing that on-pitch performances and results have at least been made worse by years of ineptitude at the top. If Conte is to leave, Levy cannot afford to get his next appointment wrong. He could barely do with his current project going sideways.

Would Tuchel make Spurs better immediately? Yeah, probably. He’s probably a better footballing fit for the club than Conte anyway. But Tottenham are largely an emotional club in need of unifying and and clear goals instead of stumbling into the next big-name manager they can find.

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EPL

Player ratings as single Ake goals knocks Gunners out of FA Cup

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Manchester City knocked Arsenal out of the FA Cup at the Etihad Stadium as the fourth round kicked off on Friday night, with Nathan Ake the unexpected star of the show with the only goal.

The Gunners made a bright start and right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu stung the palms of City goalkeeper Stefan Ortega after only a few minutes. Leandro Trossard was the architect of a few moves down the left in those early stages, exposing City’s preference to have right-back Rico Lewis operate as an auxiliary central midfielder.

The hosts caught their first sight of goal courtesy of a loose ball that threatened to let Erling Haaland in. Matt Turner was quick to rush out, but as the ball popped up into the air, Haaland attempted the acrobatic – think Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs England in 2012 – but Tomiyasu dropped back onto the line.

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Midway through the first half, Ortega’s strong left hand stopped Trossard putting Arsenal ahead after the £27m Belgian drove in-field from his flank. City had their own chance from a Belgian soon after when Kevin De Bruyne whipped a left-footed shot just wide of the far post.

Trossard made another Arsenal chance when he put a teasing cross into Eddie Nketiah at the near post, with the in-form striker sending his flick just wide. It didn’t really feel like an action-packed first half, yet the opportunities kept coming as Haaland missed the target under pressure from Gabriel.

Trossard aside, none of the big players on either side had particularly stood out in the first 45 – the likes of Haaland, De Bruyne, Riyad Mahrez and Bukayo Saka had all be disappointingly quiet.

Given that, it was perhaps fitting that the eventual breakthrough came from an unlikely source. Substitute Julian Alvarez changed things by taking on a shot from distance that rebounded off the post. Jack Grealish recycled it and found left-back Ake, who passed the ball into the far corner of the goal like a seasoned striker.

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Both managers made numerous changes to try and shift the balance of the game in their favour as the minutes ticked away. It achieved little as far as the spectacle was concerned, breaking up any potential for a bit of rhythm or momentum.

City dug in in the closing stages, squeezing Arsenal out whenever the Gunners threatened to make something happen in or around the box – in particular Ortega made a couple of vital smothers when Arsenal sub Gabriel Martinelli injected some pace for the hosts.

Stefan Ortega

Stefan Ortega was the busier goalkeeper in the first half / Michael Regan/GettyImages

GK: Stefan Ortega – 8/10 – Needed to make saves from the start, keeping City in it when Arsenal were arguably stronger in the first half. Stayed strong throughout and never looked as though he was going to be beaten.

RB: Rico Lewis – 6/10 – Spent a lot of time in the middle of the pitch as per instructions from his manager. Clearly a good player but it gave Trossard too much space, albeit not his fault.

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CB: John Stones – 5/10 – Often looked vulnerable because of how Lewis was playing. A suspected hamstring injury then ended his night before half-time.

CB: Manuel Akanji – 7/10 – Had to switch positions after Stones was taken off but put in a dominant performance regardless.

LB: Nathan Ake – 8/10 – Finished with great composure to put his team ahead and put in a solid defensive shift as well, with Saka hardly given a sniff.

CM: Kevin De Bruyne – 5/10 – Narrowly missed with a great curling effort in the first half and slightly improved after half-time but was far from his best.

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CM: Rodri – 5/10 – Unusually sloppy with the ball by his standards.

CM: Ilkay Gundogan – 6/10 – Did both sides of the ball pretty well but not always on the same page as the forwards ahead of him.

RW: Riyad Mahrez – 4/10 – Not really himself. Didn’t have enough of the ball to make any real impact and was withdrawn before an hour had passed.

ST: Erling Haaland – 5/10 – Attempted the spectacular early on and also took a whack to the back of the head before half-time. Didn’t get his usual quality service.

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LW: Jack Grealish – 6/10 – Gets an assist for his layoff to Ake and City’s best forward on the night.

Substitutes

SUB: Aymeric Laporte (45+4′ for Stones) – 7/10

SUB: Julian Alvarez (58′ for Mahrez) – 7/10

SUB: Kyle Walker (58′ for Lewis) – 7/10

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SUB: Bernardo Silva (75′ for De Bruyne) – 6/10

Manager

Pep Guardiola – 7/10 – The way he set up the team didn’t make sense when Trossard kept causing problems down City’s right. Changed shape early in the second half and the substitutes definitely did make a positive impact overall.

Bukayo Saka; Rodri

Bukayo Saka saw precious little of the ball / Michael Regan/GettyImages

GK: Matt Turner – 6/10 – Stood little chance with the only goal. Always keen to come for crosses or rush off his line.

RB: Takehiro Tomiyasu – 6/10 – Had the first early chance with a good foray forward.

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CB: Rob Holding – 5/10 – Got physical with Haaland and took a yellow card for it with 50 minutes still left to play. The danger of getting another saw him removed at half-time.

CB: Gabriel – 6/10 – Did enough to put Haaland off in a key moment.

LB: Kieran Tierney – 6/10 – Would have expected a tougher test from Mahrez. Didn’t offer much going forward to take advantage of that.

CM: Fabio Vieira – 5/10 – Had one shot that missed the target and didn’t do enough otherwise.

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CM: Thomas Partey – 5/10 – Didn’t stand out and was surprisingly replaced at half-time.

CM: Granit Xhaka – 6/10 – Successful in stopping City play their usual sparkling game, although a couple of hesitations in key moments were almost costly.

RW: Bukayo Saka – 4/10 – Just 23 touches of the ball tells its own story.

ST: Eddie Nketiah – 5/10 – Couldn’t find the target with a chance in thef first half. The service wasn’t there for him and he touched the ball only slightly more than Saka.

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LW: Leandro Trossard – 7/10 – Gave City real trouble from the start and created a number of chances in the first half. Much quieter after the break.

Substitutes

SUB: William Saliba (46′ for Holding) – 6/10

SUB: Albert Sambi Lokonga (46′ for Partey) – 6/10

SUB: Gabriel Martinelli (66′ for Trossard) – 7/10

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SUB: Oleksandr Zinchenko (66′ for Tierney) – 6/10

SUB: Martin Odegaard (74′ for Saka) – 5/10

Manager

Mikel Arteta – 6/10 – Took no risks with Holding on a yellow card and later responded to going behind by making chances immediately. Couldn’t get one over on his old mentor.

Player of the match – Nathan Ake (Man City)



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Wolves finally set to sign Brazilian talent from Flamengo

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Wolves are finally set to conclude the signing of Joao Gomes after winning their stand-off with Flamengo, sources have confirmed to 90min.

90min revealed earlier in January that Wolves had agreed terms with Flamengo, but at the point of exchanging contracts the Brazilian club did not return documents at their end.

Wolves then struggled to communicate with Flamengo and it emerged that talks had begun with French side Lyon, who made a bid worth €19m (£16.7m) – that was €2m more than Wolves offered.

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However, despite Lyon’s determination to persuade Gomes otherwise, the player refused to move to France. Instead, he insisted he wanted to move to the Premier League and even new Lyon owner John Textor made a personal trip to try and convince him to no avail.

Now, after accepting the Lyon move won’t happen, Flamengo have greenlighted the Wolves deal and given permission for Gomes to join them. The transfer is on course to be finalised over the weekend.

On this edition of Talking Transfers, Scott Saunders hosts Toby Cudworth & Graeme Bailey to discuss some of the latest transfer news. On today’s agenda: Dusan Vlahovic, Anthony Gordon, Enzo Fernandes, Amadou Onana, Malo Gusto, Nicolo Zaniolo, Pedro Porro, Weston McKennie, Milan Skriniar, Maiximo Perrone & more! If you can’t see this embed, click here to listen to the podcast!



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Kieran Trippier signs new Newcastle contract

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Kieran Trippier has committed his future to Newcastle with a new two-and-a-half-year contract.

The 32-year-old England international was the first signing made by Newcastle following the Saudi Arabia-backed takeover, joining from Aletico Madrid in a £15m deal in January 2022.

Trippier’s previous deal was due to expire in 2024 but he is now tied to the club until 2025.

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After putting pen to paper, Trippier said: “I’m absolutely delighted that I’ve extended my contract here. I’ve got a lot of thank yous to make to the manager, owners, fans and my team-mates.

“When I first arrived here, they made me feel so welcome and I want to help the club achieve great things. It’s a positive moment for us players in the club and there’s no place I’d rather be.”

Newcastle United head coach, Eddie Howe, added: “It’s a fitting reward for the season he’s had. He’s been outstanding both on and off the pitch, showing real leadership at a difficult moment when he first arrived, and now he’s excelled in a team that’s doing well.

“I can’t praise him enough for everything he’s given the club.”

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