On The Opening Weekend
Do you think we learned anything that we didn’t already know after the opening round of Premier League fixtures?
I think it’s very early days for the likes of Chelsea, Liverpool, and Tottenham – the teams that you would expect to be contesting the top four – they all had a rocky period last season and will want to respond, but none of them were totally convincing in the opening round of fixtures.
When you look at the teams performing above them: Man City, Arsenal and Newcastle – they were flying last year, and it doesn’t look like anything has changed for them after the opening round of fixtures.
Did anyone – a team, player, manager – catch your eye for the right reasons?
I was very impressed with Bukayo Saka’s first game of the season for Arsenal. He carried on where he left off from last season. He looks very composed in everything that he does on the football pitch and his goal showed us all again that he is player that will make the difference for Arsenal this season.
It was a fantastic strike (the goal he scored against Forest). He knows where he is going to put the ball when he cuts in on his left foot. His decision-making has improved over the last few years – he always makes the right decision when in possession of the ball. When I look at him, his composure on the pitch and his performances, everything tells me that he is becoming a very accomplished player. He will be ever-present in the Arsenal team this season. Mikel Arteta will not be able to leave him out of the team.
Did anything surprise you from the opening weekend?
Roy Hodgson getting involved in a bit of a scuffle on the touch line was a bit of a surprise. I know he’s only a young manager, who’s obviously very inexperienced. He will need to watch himself on the touch line over the coming season (laughs)!
I heard about the incident before I saw it, so when I saw it… I thought to myself he’s a young, petulant manager that’s obviously trying to make a bit of a name for himself in the Premier League (laughs).
Moises Caicedo is on the verge of joining Chelsea for a British record transfer. What do you think of the sum involved to sign Caicedo and does that deal make the Declan Rice transfer look like a bit of a bargain?
No, I don’t think the price that Brighton will sell Caicedo for makes Arsenal’s transfer of Rice look like a bargain. We’ve seen a lot of big clubs go after him (Caicedo) over the last twelve months and if these top managers want him, then they will be prepared to pay the price Brighton set if he can come in and immediately raise the level of a team.
I do feel like the game has gone mad this summer. When you think about the numbers involved to sign a defensive midfielder and you think about what he does in a team – he doesn’t score goals or make them – it’s hard to get your head around the size of the fee. He is of course a very effective player that can play that defensive role well. He sits in front of the back four and is good on the ball, he can get around the pitch and break things up before feeding the ball to more attacking players. If he can keep doing what he’s done for Brighton at a bigger club and continue to keep taking his game to the next level, then the sky is the limit for him. His form at Brighton since he joined them has been magnificent and that is why some of the league’s biggest clubs have wanted to sign him.
On Neymar To Saudi Arabia
I’ve just seen that Neymar is on his way to Saudi Arabia. Wow. Money really talks. He is 31-years-old… all players would have loved a move like that to come up when we were reaching the end of our careers.
I’m not sure about the younger guys that are joining the league in their mid-twenties, but for Neymar, to go over to Saudi Arabia and sample a new lifestyle and a new culture, with all the riches that comes with it. I can understand it.
Do you feel like Neymar has fulfilled his promise or his talent?
Well, he’s Brazil’s joint-record goal scorer with Pele. I was quite amazed by that when I saw. It’s no mean feat to be Brazil’s best ever goal scorer when you think about all the top players that they have produced over the years, but I do think there will always be question marks about whether or not Neymar has fulfilled his potential or made the most of the natural talent that he has.
He is a little bit of a nearly man, certainly in the latter stage of his career. He can be quite theatrical on and off the pitch and that has overshadowed his ability in recent years.
How would you assess Tottenham’s opening game of the season?
First of all, it must have been incredibly tough for Ange when you lose your main player in Harry Kane less than twenty-four hours before the Premier League season starts. Even if he knew that Harry was going to be departing the club, while he’s there, there was always a chance that he could have stayed and could have been involved in the opening game of the season.
To lose him five minutes before the start of the season changes everybody’s vibe at the club completely. Harry Kane has been the ultimate professional and the ultimate leader in everything that he does on and off the pitch. To lose him, not just for the Brentford game, but to know that he’s not going to be part of the club anymore, losing his personality and stature, that’s a massive departure and will be a big thing for Ange and his players to come to terms with over the coming weeks.
For Tottenham to adapt to that and put on a decent showing against Brentford, which is a really tough place to go, especially at the start of the season – we saw United get annihilated there last season – that could have happened to Tottenham if they’re heads went down, but I thought they did OK.
I saw a team that was trying to play on the front foot, dictating play. I thought Maddison was effective on his debut. It was a bit of a shame that Harry Kane wasn’t there to finish off a couple of the little passes he played but life goes on. Considering all that’s happened at the club over the last few days, I thought Tottenham did OK.
I agree. Given everything that has happened at Tottenham this week, it was a good result. What impressed me was the way the team responded to going behind. All the talk pre-season was about Tottenham playing attacking football and it looked like they definitely delivered on that.
There was a nice vibe about the shape and the set-up of the team on Sunday. Once the transfer window shuts and, hopefully some of Harry’s transfer fee will be spent – I’m not sure what Tottenham are going to be able to get with that £100 million, especially when you consider that a defensive midfielder in Caicedo is on his way to Chelsea for a British record fee of £115 million. Transfer prices are beyond me at the moment.
Even is Tottenham spent half of the Kane fee on one player, what would what that get to replace a man that in many ways can’t be replaced. Tottenham could definitely do with a boost of someone coming into the squad as a forward and I hope that is business that the club concludes before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.
James Maddison. He was bossing set pieces and got two assists – how important for him was it to register an assist quite early and are you looking forward to seeing what he can do in a Tottenham shirt this season.
I think that James Maddison is the ideal player for Tottenham at the moment. We don’t really have anyone like him the squad. For example, is if he went to a club like Manchester United where they have more creative midfielders, he wouldn’t have the same impact or presence in the squad.
I think Tottenham are the perfect club for him. The way the team will be set-up will give Maddison the platform to do what he does brilliantly, and I think he will be an excellent signing.
He is the type of player that can release forward players and create chances, which is instrumental in the way that Postecoglou wants his team’s to play. I think he will be a very important player for Ange this season and he will be a very good signing. He was quietly effective on his debut.
Of course, this is the first time we’ve seen Tottenham since Harry Kane left the club. Do you think after Kane’s exit, Ange Postecoglou will be given a bit more breathing space in these opening months of the season as the club adjusts to the departure of its talisman? Does it make his start at the club a little bit easier.
I suppose Harry Kane’s departure does make Postecoglou’s opening period of his Tottenham tenure slightly easier in a sense that the crowd will give him a little bit more time to find the right formula and tactics on the pitch.
Speaking from the perspective of a lot of Tottenham fans, the entire reason that the club have done OK over the last few years is down to Harry Kane’s goals. If it wasn’t for Kane, God knows where Tottenham would have been in the league table is something that I’ve heard a lot from fans at the club. For me, if Kane wasn’t playing, the club would have found another and he would have scored the goals, my view wasn’t as clear cut as some of the fans.
His departure definitely leaves the club in a tricky situation because Harry Kane was such a huge figure at the club. I think in a lot of people’s minds, the fact that Kane has departed will give Ange a bit more time to get things right on the pitch without him.
On Harry Kane
Harry Kane has finally left Tottenham. There had been transfer sagas involving Kane over the last few summers, with a move to a Premier League club seen as his most likely destination. Do you think that Kane has made the right move to join Bayern Munich rather than waiting for a year and joining a Premier League club on a free transfer?
First and foremost, from Tottenham’s point of view, this is unbelievable business. The club are getting £100 million for player that is in the last year of his contract. From a business perspective, it is a move that made financial sense for the club.
As for Kane joining Bayern Munich, it’s a move I don’t really get to be honest. The German league isn’t a league that you would get overexcited about being part of as a player. Over the years we’ve had Serie A and La Liga that look like sexy leagues to go and play in, especially if you’re playing for one of the top clubs over there. The Bundesliga doesn’t have the same appeal for me. Bayern Munich are a massive, fantastic football club, but because of their resources, they are expected to win the league every year and nearly always do. It’s a little bit of a forgone conclusion that Bayern will win the title each year in Germany.
I’m a little bit bemused by the move, but Harry will have his own reasons. At this stage in his career, you want to be playing in the best possible team you can against the best teams in the Champions League, which is one thing that Bayern can offer him. I am a little bemused by him going to Germany. I thought that there would be a better move on the table for him.
He has been such a fantastic servant to the club. He loves the club. Do you think that the fact that Spurs are receiving £100 million for him that can be reinvested has helped influence his decision to join Bayern?
I wouldn’t have thought that Kane would have been thinking about Tottenham reinvesting the money they got for him would have had any influence over his decision to move to Bayern. That would have been an afterthought at most.
In football, you have to be selfish at certain times. If I was in Harry’s shoes, I would have looked at the situation and thought about Real Madrid and Manchester United, two lovely options to have on a free transfer. I don’t think he would have ever considered a move to Chelsea or Arsenal on a free, although I’m absolutely certain that both clubs would have made him an offer if the opportunity presented itself.
The only two moves that would have been a serious option for him were Manchester United and Real Madrid and I think they would have been far better options for Kane. I saw Kane after the German Supercup game at the weekend that Bayern lost 0-3. He was sitting there on his own; he looked a little bit lost. I really hope that he doesn’t live to regret making the decision to join Bayern Munich this summer.
When he came on, it looked like he wanted to say something, but obviously he can’t communicate with his teammates in German yet. These are all little things that Kane will be thinking about because he will need to learn the language quickly. I’ve got my fingers crossed for him that the move is a success.
Kane makes the move after recently turning thirty. Do you think we will see the England captain return to the Premier League after he wins a few trophies in Germany. Could he return to Spurs?
Who knows that can happen in football. You never say never, and stranger things have happened that Harry Kane going to play in the Bundesliga for four years and then returning to the Premier League. We know that he keeps himself very, very fit, so that wouldn’t be an issue for him.
The next four years of his life will be Kane hitting the peak of his powers. These next few years should be Kane’s best as a player – they should be the pinnacle of his career. He knows his game inside out now. He knows what he can and can’t do. Of course, he isn’t familiar with the German league and how Bayern play, so he’ll need to adapt to that. We’ve seen plenty of players move to the Premier League and struggle to adapt straight away, even the best players, so that will probably take him a little while.
Learning the language will be crucial for him. I have no idea what his German is like, but if he has known about this move for a little while, then maybe he’s been practicing (laughs).
How to Tottenham even attempt to address the issue of replacing such a talismanic figure in Kane?
Ange definitely needs to add another striker to the team. Richarlison is not a number nine that is capable of replacing harry Kane. He doesn’t score enough goals and he’s not a poacher – he does offer Tottenham other qualities but he’s definitely not a number nine. Tottenham need to get a striker into the club that can slot straight into the starting eleven and be the focal point of the team.
Is there a player out there that you would like to see the club add to the squad as Kane’s replacement?
It’s so difficult to preplace that quality that Kane had. There are a few players that have been linked to the club – Ivan Toney at Brentford is one of them but are you going to get him out of there when the January window opens? You would have to pay a ridiculous amount of money for him.
Evan Ferguson at Brighton is another player that the club are reportedly looking at. I like the look of him, he is a tremendous prospect, but he is very young. It would be a massive amount of pressure if Tottenham looked at him to replace Kane with and, with the way that Brighton do business, the fee required to take him would be astronomical.
I do think that Toney and Ferguson are the type of strikers that Tottenham needs to add. They are missing that focal point to spearhead the attack. We’ve seen how Manchester United haven’t had that dominant number nine over the last few years and the impact that has had on the team – every club in the Premier League is looking for a goal scorer that can lead the line and bring other players into play.
Look at the impact that Haaland has had at Manchester City. He came into their squad and completed it.
Do you think Spurs will finish in the top four without their talisman?
It’s really difficult to predict if Tottenham will finish in the top four at this stage of the season. We’re one game in, Kane has departed, so Tottenham desperately need to bring in another forward who can lead the line and that would change the whole set-up of the team.
At this moment in time, I would say that with a new manager coming in with new ideas and tactics, I think a top four finish is probably out of the question at the moment for Tottenham.
There are going to be other clubs that are in more dominant positions that will be able to push on into the top four than Tottenham this season.
On Manchester United
Since we last spoke, Manchester United have splashed the cash on Danish youngster Rasmus Højlund. I think United look a little bit light up front. It feels like a bit of a gamble from Ten Hag…
I think the signing of Rasmus Højlund is a little bit of gamble from Eric ten Hag and Manchester United. We’re not certain when we’ll see him make his debut because he’s been carrying a bit of an injury, but you wouldn’t expect the manager to put him into the team until he’s firing on all cylinders.
United have got players that can score goals in the number nine role until he is ready. Players like Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial, if he can stay fit, are capable of doing it up front for Manchester United.
With a tall Scandinavian striker, rightly or wrongly, comparisons will always be made to a certain Erling Haaland. How important is it for Højlund to get off to a fast start and, from a strikers point of view, how important is it to get off the mark quickly for your new club?
As a striker, you want to get that monkey off your back by scoring a goal for your new club as quickly as possible. That is a massive burden to carry for any striker when they join a club, so he’ll want to put one away as quickly as possible.
I think that Højlund will find things a little bit difficult because he is so young. This is a very different situation to when I joined United because I was coming into the squad as an older, experienced player that knew the Premier League. I knew the players that were going to be my teammates, because I had played against them or with them playing for the national team. I could come into the team and settle in very quickly. The set-up was established, and the players had been playing under Sir Alex for years – they knew what his demands were, so it was very easy for me to settle in.
Højlund is a young player that isn’t familiar with the Premier League. He isn’t fit at the moment, and he won’t have a relationship with any of the United players at the moment either. He needs to be fully fit before he’s thrown into the lion’s den so to speak, and the team need to help him along the way. When you’re spending £70 million on a player, you’re expecting the finished article. He isn’t the finished article – he can’t be because he’s so young. Someone like Harry Kane, at his age, he knows his game inside out, so he comes into the Premier League with all its demands as a player that is still developing. It will be interesting to see how he is used by ten Hag this season.
Harry Maguire appears to be edging closer towards the United exit door. You’ve been a vocal supporter of Maguire – how do you think he will be remembered by United fans?
I think Harry Maguire will be respected by the loyal Manchester United fans. I think a lot of football fans jumped on the Harry Maguire is rubbish bandwagon; there will always be a desire from some fans to want to find a culprit that they can blame for when the team isn’t doing well, and I think Harry Maguire was that player for some people. We’ve seen some of these so-called supporters giving Harry a hard time, he’s taken a lot of petulant comments over the years.
If you know the game and understand it, for me, I really think he’s been exposed by the way that Manchester United have attempted to play. Like I’ve said before, whoever gets Harry Maguire will be signing a fantastic player.
We know that West Ham have had a bid accepted for him. I think he would be a great player for the way that David Moyes sets up his team because he’s a defensive-minded manager. With the way that Moyes sets his defence up, the fullbacks don’t bomb forward and sit in nice and tight when they don’t have the ball, I really think Harry will excel. I think he will look like a completely different player in a system that suits his game.
He’s been exposed at United, who have been trying to play an expansive, possession-based style since Eric ten Hag came into the football club. Ten Hag and Moyes are two very different managers who prioritise opposite ends of the football pitch, and I can see Harry flourishing under David Moyes.
Can Man Utd's summer transfer business help the Glazers win fans around?
In a word, no. No, I don’t think the United fanbase will ever be turned around on the Glazer family. The fanbase have made it quite clear how they feel about the Glazers and the Glazers have made it quite clear how they feel about Manchester United. While the money keeps rolling in, they have no reason to sell the club. They are in a great position where they can demand the money that they want for the club – they are in no rush to sell. It’s a bit like having a house that you don’t want to move out of, isn’t it? They will only consider a sale for silly money.
On West Ham
It’s taken a while, but it looks like West Ham are close to spending some of the money that they received from Delcan Rice to strengthen their squad. There have been reports that David Moyes and the new Sporting Director have clashed over targets which has caused the delay. Are you surprised that it has taken this long to make the bids and are you worried that West Ham may suffer the consequences of those delays because they have a difficult start to the season?
I have been surprised by the time it has taken to invest the Declan Rice transfer fee into the squad. Everyone knew that Declan was leaving the club at the end of last season, so you would have liked to have thought that West Ham would have had the targets in place to replace him ready to come into the club.
We’re not sure what is going on behind the scenes at West Ham regarding transfer decisions. David Moyes squashed any rumours about a falling out with his new Sporting Director, but the lack of any significant business apart from the Alvarez deal suggests that something must have been going on.
I like the players that West Ham have been linked with. Ward-Prowse is an excellent player and is a fantastic signing and I think Maguire represents the same for West Ham, if they can get it over the line. Alvarez, I’m not that familiar with him, but I’ve been told that he is a good player.
The new signings will bring energy and enthusiasm into the squad. We all know what James Ward-Prowse offers in terms of goals and assists, so I like the business that West Ham are hoping to conclude.
Obviously West Ham lost a major leadership presence when Declan Rice left. They are linked with signing two former club captains in Ward-Prowse and Maguire. How important is it for West Ham to top up their dressing room with players that have leadership qualities?
That is the beauty of signing a pair of players like James Ward-Prowse and Harry Maguire – they are both leaders. It’s very difficult for players to go straight into a new football club and assume the role of a leader immediately or potentially to be appointed a captain, because we know that Moyes hasn’t announced his permanent captain yet.
That won’t be an issue with James Ward-Prowse or Harry Maguire. Both players will be leaders because of their personality and experience. They have a wonderful understanding of the Premier League and will make sure that standards are high in and around the football club. They are two very good professionals, and they will demonstrate that professionalism from the moment that they step into the club, which gives them added value to David Moyes. They are both outstanding signings if they can get them.
Another player linked is Scott McTominay. We know that he can score goals from a midfield role because we’ve seen him do it for Scotland. Do you think he would be a good signing for Moyes?
Scott McTominay would be an ideal signing for David Moyes. McTominay is the epitome of what Moyes likes in his players: very solid, he’s a good runner with plenty of energy and, as he has done for Scotland, he can score goals.
His range of passing is pretty good. He can pop up with a goal. Any player that can add a few goals from midfield is such a valuable asset for any Premier League team. West Ham don’t have a twenty goal a season striker at the club – they need to find goals from wherever they can get them. Hopefully, with more of a licence to get forward, McTominay can help West Ham add to their overall goal numbers.
David Moyes hasn’t announced his captain yet. Do you think he’s thinking about giving the armband to one of his new recruits or will be looking for an internal solution?
I think if there was already someone in the West Ham squad that Moyes wanted as captain, he would have appointed him by now. With Aston Villa now showing an interest in Harry Maguire after Tyrone Mings’ injury at the weekend, then perhaps David Moyes could dangle that carrot in front of Harry. I think it’s obvious that he is looking at bringing in other players before he names his captain, but the players that have been linked with West Ham can certainly help fill the leadership void that has been left since Rice joined Arsenal.
There were some complaints last season from some of the West Ham players and David Moyes tactics. There were also a lot of rumours about him being close to the sack. Considering the start to the season that West Ham have, playing Chelsea, Brighton, Man City and Liverpool before the end of September. Do you expect Moyes to be under pressure again quickly or do you feel like he will be given the confidence of the board after winning the Europa Conference League last season?
I think there is some truth to both statements. First of all, if you look at David Moyes’ position at the club over a longer period, it would be fair to say that a large majority of West Ham’s fanbase haven’t been happy with the football that’s on offer at the London Stadium. The football is, I don’t want to say hit and hope, but it seems that they’re game is about getting the ball into Antonio quickly and using his physicality. On his good days, that can be quite effective and he can cause real trouble to teams, but on his bad days, he looks a little cumbersome. It’s a tough role for Antonio given the way that West Ham play.
When you put yourself in a West Ham fans shoes, I’m sure a lot of them are wondering what they will see from their team that will get them excited on a match-by-match basis. When you look back at the Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire days, which is when I used to watch them as a fan, you knew that you were going to get excited by what the players could do on the pitch. I don’t think West Ham’s fans have that mindset anymore before they enter the stadium to watch their team. That being said, they ground out a European trophy last season and you have to give David Moyes credit for the way that they did that. It’s not easy to win trophies in any competition – everyone would have wanted to win the trophy when the tournament started, and West Ham managed to do it. It was fantastic to see the fans enjoy that moment, so the recent trophy has to be taken into account when thinking about David Moyes’ future at the club.
If Moyes was sacked in the early parts of the season, despite his relationship with the West Ham fans, which can be difficult, I think a lot of them would be scratching their heads. They will want the board to give him the confidence to push on after what he achieved, but there are probably just as many fans who wouldn’t be too upset if the club did decide to move him on. It’s a tricky situation for the board at the club and one I’ll be watching closely.
One area that I think looks a little bit light for West Ham is that strikers position. They’ve sold Scamacca, Antonio is rumoured to be leaving. Danny Ings is there – do you think West Ham have enough fire power?
I like the players that West Ham have. I think Antonio and Ings are good forwards, both fantastic players in their own right. I think they would score goals in any team in the Premier League but the bigger issue at West Ham is the style of play. We know that David Moyes likes to play a cautious brand of football – very stable. He needs to find the solutions that can unlock the goalscoring talents of Antonio, Ings, and Bowen, but it’s not easy to do that without it impacting other areas of his team.
Finding that balance is really tricky. You want to see West Ham attack with flair, but Moyes will feel to do that he needs to sacrifice the stability of his team. One player who offers West Ham a little bit of magic is Lucas Paquetta, but if Man City are chasing him then he’ll be very disappointed if he isn’t allowed to make that move.
Another player that has been linked with a move to Manchester City is Lucas Paqueta. Are you surprised by the link s with the champions after one season in the Premier League?
It’s difficult for me to say whether or not I think Paqueta is at the required level to play for a club like Manchester City because he has only been with West Ham for a year and it took him a little bit of time to show his potential. If Pep Guardiola is after him, then he must rate his as a top player because he doesn’t sign average players. Pep knows exactly what he is looking for in a player so he will be confident that if he were to sign Paqueta from West Ham, he would have the ability to make an impact in his team.
City have so much of the ball. I would say that he is more of a flair player than what we’re used to seeing at West Ham, so I suspect he would be able to slot into the City team. He could be a better fit for Man City then he is for West Ham, his style certainly suits teams that like to play on the front foot.
On Nottingham Forest
One player that has been linked with a move to Tottenham is Nottingham Forest’s Brennan Johnson. Do you think he is ready to make the next step and play for a club like Spurs and what would he offer to the squad?
I’ve been really impressed with Brennan Johnson since he broke into the Forest team. What people can forget sometimes is that it’s difficult to be a young attacking player when you’re playing for a team that is expected to be beaten each week. He would have been under a lot of pressure to score the goals that helped keep his club in the division, so I admire the way he responded to that challenge at such a young age.
I think he’s still learning his game, playing against top players week-in, week-out, but he never hides, and he has impressed me with how quickly he has taken to the rigours of the league and the pressure of being a main man at such a famous club.
On Nottingham Forest vs Sheffield United
Nottingham Forest’s home form was a big reason why the club retained their Premier League status last season. Will they need to turn the City Ground into a fortress again this season to stay in the division?
Of course, Nottingham Forest will be looking to turn the City Ground into a fortress again this season. You have to have good home form to stay in the Premier League because it’s always difficult for the smaller teams on the road.
Home form is imperative if forest want to retain their status in the Premier League this season. The Forest players are very lucky because the City Ground is a wonderful place for any footballer to play their game and the fans are magnificent.
On Tottenham vs Manchester United
Tottenham are expected to play some swashbuckling football this season. How much of a boost to Ange and his players would an early season scalp against Manchester United be? I think it would really have a positive influence over his players and demonstrate that the club under him are going to be moving in the right direction.
I think it would be unbelievable if Postecoglou can get a result against Manchester United in his first game at home. We know that it won’t be easy for him because ten Hag has had enough time to instil a playing style over his team after being at the club for just over a year.
United will be a tough outfit for Tottenham to crack. OK, this United team isn’t as expansive as some of the great United teams that dominated English football, the team still hasn’t unlocked all of its attacking potential, but they are capable of making life difficult for their opponents and can grind out results on the road.
I think this is going to be a really difficult game for Tottenham to win. If you offered Ange a draw now, I think he would be delighted with that.
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