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Who Needs Goals When You’ve Got Managers Fighting?

Tottenham Hotspur's Italian head coach Antonio Conte (R) and Chelsea's German head coach Thomas Tuchel (L) shake hands then clash after the English Premier League football match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge in London on August 14, 2022.
Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel said and did a lot of things during today’s 2–2 draw between Chelsea and Tottenham, but the stupidest thing he said or did was this postgame quote about his second (!) almost punchy confrontation with Spurs manager Antonio Conte: “It was not necessary, but a lot of things were not necessary.”

Dead wrong there, Coat Hangar With A Hat. It was all necessary—the draw, the late score, the debatable decisions by referee Anthony Taylor, the first near-fight with Conte, the second near-fight with Conte, all of it. Necessary and, with any luck, repeatable. Middle-aged men acting like angry bar drunks is never not worth the bother, and that’s after a match between embittered rivals that ended both controversially and brilliantly. How can that not be deemed “necessary?”

Indeed, with the highlights as the backdrop and the only thing you actually need to absorb, this is the match of the year, and we’re only in Week Two. Never mind the World Cup, or El Clásico, or Liverpool’s pending 26–0 win over Manchester United. Give us hyperkinetic/borderline psychotic coaches already freaking out about third place offering to simultaneously strangle each other over goal celebrations and then handshakes every single time.

Tuchel’s postgame sturm und drang tried to play down the Conte stuff while playing up Taylor’s failings and a bit of an extended whine about Chelsea being the far superior team, while Conte just . . . well, does it matter? Both got red cards post-fight and will probably be given a stern talking-to that each will ignore because coaches don’t do obedience any better than they do decorum, rules, or much of anything else. Most of the time, they’re just faking all of it.

But when they do let go as Conte and Tuchel did, we get to see them in their natural state, and the only thing this lacked was David Attenborough sitting at a distance and whispering, “Nature has its own rules and requirements, as these two wildebeests show us.” This needs to be the opening for every NBC/USA/Peacock promo from here on out, just because this clicks with the American audience in ways that free eights and half-spaces never will. Conte-Tuchel—that we get, and we’d like to get it again.

Oh, and so you don’t have to look it up: February 25.

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