WEDNESDAY’S BIG STORIES

Antonio Conte fires shots at Tottenham

Antonio Conte is a winner; Tottenham Hotspur are not. These are two facts. Perhaps the marriage of the two will alter that one way or the other.
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Now, part of the reason the Italian is a winner is he assesses a situation, forms an honest opinion and let's whoever needs to know, know. As such, the Italian tactician had no qualms telling Tottenham about themselves when he spoke to the club's official website after his appointment.
“I am extremely happy to return to coaching, and to do so at a Premier League club that has the ambition to be a protagonist again," began Conte.
Tottenham, despite all the progress under Mauricio Pochettino, ultimately were - in the cold vernacular of winners - nothing more than protagonists. Pochettino achieved plenty during his tenure. To some, The Warm-Up included, value can't be placed on reinvigorating the relationship between Spurs and its fanbase.

Tottenham Hotspur appoint Italian boss Antonio Conte

However, it must be said, he did not raise them above the status of protagonists. They won nothing. They were entertaining and likable but never THE protagonist. Since Pochettino's departure, they have fallen some way below that standard. Conte will expect more - much more - than that.
Anyway, what else did the big man say about his new team? Surely a shout-out to his new charges next? Nope, not yet - it seems Conte ordered his statement in line with Spurs' most notable characteristics.
So having more or less called them a bunch of losers, he noted the cracking sunk fixed costs.
Tottenham Hotspur has state-of-the-art facilities and one of the best stadiums in the world.
Third on the list, the team. Note the lack of superlatives.
“I can't wait to start working to convey to the team and the fans the passion, mentality and determination that have always distinguished me, as a player and as a coach."
Look, The Warm-Up is terrible at reading a room and even worse at reading between the lines but if a new boss had uttered those words in this direction, it would filter as such: You are fairly horrendous at your job and your situation is salvageable only by following to the letter instructions provided to you, otherwise it will be a P45 and a thank you very much.
Tone set. Over to you Harry Kane and co.

Manchester United are not a good team

Manchester United have some excellent players. However, they are not a particularly good team.
That was again evidenced in their Group F 2-2 draw against Atalanta at Gewiss Stadium. The result leaves them top of the group. It may sound repetitive to say so but this is a side without direction or a philosophy.
It is incumbent on the manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to infuse direction or a philosophy on the expensively-assembled side that the board have put together. Solskjaer has - in his three years at the helm - never shown an aptitude for moulding a team capable of competing with the elite of Europe.
If he can't do that then it is incumbent on the board to put someone at the helm who can. To not do so is a dereliction of duty.
A brace from Cristiano Ronaldo may see them into the knockout stages but that does not mask the fact - in the grand scheme of things - United are bad.

Diego Simeone: Not a fan of pleasantries

Handshakes are pleasantry nonsense. And Diego Simeone has no time for them at the end of a match. And that should surprise the sum total of no one.
Depending on the school of thought it is generally seen as a sign of peace or sincerity. So, to be fair, it has absolutely no place at the end of a football match.
The Atletico Madrid boss was criticised for not shaking Jurgen Klopp's hand in the return fixture. Anyway, here is what he said ahead of Wednesday's match against Liverpool.
"I don’t like the greeting after the match because they are the emotions of two sides in different emotional minds,” he said.
I know in the UK it is a custom but I don't share it and I don’t like the falseness it may include.
"I don’t know Klopp as a person very well but I know he is a great coach who has done great work at every club he has been at.

RETRO CORNER

The Wolf. The 90s. Odd times.

HAT-TIP

Ajax are the antithesis to Manchester United. They have a philosophy, they have structure and they have a coach of repute in Erik ten Hag. Raphael Honigstein details their excellence over at the Athletic.
Ajax don’t just score with an ease befitting their home city Amsterdam’s famously laid-back proclivities. They also defend with the kind of resoluteness one might more naturally expect to encounter in northern Italy. It’s that fluid balance that makes them such an exciting team, a study in collective movement, preferably in the opposition half.

COMING UP

An absolute avalanche of Champions League football. Real Madrid face Donetsk at 17:45 followed by Man City v Club Brugge, Leipzig v PSG, Liverpool v Atletico and Dortmund v Ajax all at 20:00.
Andi Thomas, a winner through and through, will lift this here blog above the status of mere protagonist tomorrow.
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