Tottenham and Antonio Conte are going hand in hand at the moment, one deserves the other and certainly Conte and the club are reflecting one another. In a sense both have a lot of quality about them, there is a vision but there is no clear daylight about how to reach the summit. After Tottenham's 4th defeat of the season this past weekend there is certainly unrest from the fans and yet this time last season the club were in 10th place, currently they are 4th and in position to qualify for the knock out stages of the Champions League, effectively making them a top 16 side in Europe - there has been progress. However the romantics will point to the fact that former manager Mauricio Pochettino not only made the club a top four fighting side but got them into a Champions League final too and perhaps the romantics want Pochettino who has been jobless since the summer back in north London.
However can we really start a Conte vs Pochettino debate when Pochettino has yet to win a trophy and Conte has 9 of them, but then again perhaps Pochettino understands Tottenham more. With Conte his passion on the sidelines feels as if he has been a manager for Tottenham for 10 years, not one. His every emotion is poured into every header, every kick, every tackle, heck even every thrown in. He lives in that moment but he has lived just like that with his emotions also for Juventus and more jarringly if you're a Tottenham fan for Chelsea. There is no longevity anymore and even success could still mean Conte is on his merry way in a couple of years time to take charge of perhaps a direct rival to Spurs.
All of the passion which has included a red card and at the weekend a yellow would mean much more of course if Conte had won some silverware or were at least challenging for a league title but when it's all showman and no show on the pitch it is easy to draw in your critics. Let's be reminded that Conte's win rate for Tottenham is the lowest he has had with a club since his days at Siena 11 years ago. Still a win rate of 57% is hardly poor but with a world class stadium, some brilliant players and his record, fans were expecting to be in the hunt. Of course they still are but after their second successive league defeat at home are their titles chances spent? If Arsenal win their game in hand over Tottenham the gap would be 10 points after just 14 games, but that's not all, Tottenham have the current champions Manchester City in between and also the emerging Newcastle who have leapfrogged them into third place and who dished out the clubs first home defeat of the season. So just 13 games in and because of the consistency of Arsenal and Manchester City, a trophy that has eluded Spurs for 61 years in the league title looks like it will further evade them. The problem of course is not winning the league title, who expected that at the beginning of the season? But to not still have your hat in the ring as early as November will be ringing some alarm bells around the club.
Ralph Hasenhuttl has been sacked as manager of Southampton and he becomes the fifth dismissal so far. The Saints had dropped into the bottom three at the weekend with a 4-1 home loss against Newcastle and that has proved to be enough. Recent form had seen 5 points earned from their last 15 on offer and two defeats in a row but they had already lost 8 times this season from 14 games. Of note West Ham, Leicester and Nottingham Forest have also lost the same number of games and one has to wonder if a manager of those respective clubs will be next on the chopping line? As football can throw up all kinds of results it is worth noting that only Southampton and Manchester United have taken points from league leaders Arsenal this season. Sometimes sacking's can seem harsh but it seems that the Saints have made the right decision here and that doesn't mean that Hasenhuttl is a poor manager but after being in charge for almost four years perhaps the German simply had run his course.
After hectic scheduling of the Champions League which seen all group stage matches squeezed into two months rather than three and not caring one jot about players fatigue because of the upcoming winter World Cup, the draw has been made for the first knock out round. The competition will kick off again next February and there are some mouthwatering ties to look forward too. First up in a repeat of last season's Champions League final Liverpool will take on Real Madrid. The Reds will want to avenge their final defeat of course but Real are looking very strong yet again. People will say there are no easy games in Europe but Manchester City will fancy their chances against RB Leipzig and should advance to the quarter finals. Tottenham will face AC Milan in what could be a very close battle indeed and Chelsea do not have an easy draw after getting Borussia Dortmund out of the pot. The tastiest match though looks to be PSG against Bayern Munich with the French champions searching for their first Champions League trophy, they have a very tough task to get past Bayern.
To win the Champions League: Manchester City 2.75, Bayern Munich 7.00, Liverpool 10.00, PSG 10.00, Real Madrid 13.00