The FA would be wrong to punish Tottenham’s Eric Dier

Eric Dier made more headlines off the pitch then on it as Tottenham crashed out of the FA Cup in midweek against Norwich, who are currently bottom of the Premier League table.

As the players were leaving the pitch with his side Tottenham having just lost on penalties to the Canaries Dier could be seen to jump into the crowd in amazing scenes. What transpired was that he was reacting to something that was said to his brother who was in attendance. As a fan had shouted abuse, Dier found his tipping point, blood boiling and entered the stands to confront the fan. As cowards go, this fan was top of the list and seeing Dier coming towards him he ran off. Not in a million years did he actually think Dier would jump the advertising boards to confront him, but he did.

Inevitably the FA have got involved and Dier could be looking at a ban, but the FA need not show their power in this incident. When matters of racism arise in England the FA are always quick on the mark and show a zero tolerance attitude and they need to be applauded for that, other leagues can learn from the FA’s attitude on this. But it does seem that the FA love to show their power to other matters.

Take the Everton game when Carlo Ancelotti was sent off for swearing at the referee after seeing a last minute Everton winner ruled out against Manchester United. Whilst the FA rescinded the red card, they still fined Ancelotti £8,000. Pocket money to him, but why the fine for a swear word?

What Dier did was nicely summed up by his manager Jose Mourinho who said it was not professional but he could understand the circumstances as it was an attack on his family member.

Some have tried to compare the incident to Eric Cantona’s infamous kick on a fan in 1995, and that is so wide of the mark. There was no violence in this confrontation, although the fan ran away so we will never know. What Dier did wasn’t correct but there is two sides to the story. No abusive fan bullying his brother and no incident. That is as clear as day and one would hope that the FA would consider this.

The ideal scenario would be to see the fan banned from the ground, if not for life at least for the next couple of years. The season is almost over, so a season ban makes no sense. They should talk to Dier and that should be it, no ban and no fine. But make it clear that they won’t tolerate that behaviour again. For example why didn’t Dier motion to the stewards to act on the incident before he had too?

So Dier was silly to react but he was also protective. Maybe the people who decide his fate need to think what they would do in that situation before handing down judgement.

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EPL Best XI – Aubameyang and Lacazette lead the way

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Unbeaten Manchester City, Chelsea and Liverpool are only separated by goal difference at the top of the Premier League table after Week 8 of the 2018-19 season. Let’s take a look at which players made our Best XI of the weekend…

GK: Hugo Lloris, Tottenham – seven points
Hugo Lloris started his first Premier League game since August as Tottenham narrowly defeated Cardiff 1-0 on Saturday. The Frenchman earned seven points in the match — no other goalkeeper picked up more over the weekend.

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EPL Player to watch – Harry Kane (Tottenham)

kane8The Premier League ends a seemingly endless summer of waiting this weekend when it returns to action, and with football up and down the country fans are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of another nine months or so of constant matches, stories and controversies. OK, so there has been a World Cup since last season concluded back in May – and what a time to be an England fan – but one of the Three Lions’ key players will set out to end one of the most bizarre existing curses in the English top-flight. Despite scoring a whopping 52 goals in 59 games for club and country last season – a truly exhausting campaign with little respite – Harry Kane will be desperate to find the net against Newcastle in Spurs’ opener.

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Oliver Skipp to break into Tottenham first team this season?

skippFollowing on from Harry Kane‘s success at this summer’s World Cup, while namesake Harry Winks continues to impress domestically there have been rumblings that English football could be ready for the next big breakthrough to emerge from Tottenham’s youth academy. The identity of that player could well be none other than Oliver Skipp, a 17-year-old Hertfordshire-born talent who is thought of very highly in the corridors at Wembley. Skipp has been starring for Tottenham’s U23 side over the last year, and has represented England at U16, U17 and U18 levels. With no first team experience to his name just yet it still seems a gamble to claim he will be a breakout star this season, but Tottenham’s success (or lack thereof) so far in this summer’s transfer market bode well for him.

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Maradona apologises over England “robbery” rant

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Legendary Argentina striker Diego Maradona has apologised for claiming that England committed “monumental robbery” in their World Cup last-16 tie with Colombia on Tuesday evening. The former Napoli star was incensed that American referee Mark Geiger had apparently shown a bias towards England, punishing Colombia more often than the Three Lions. Speaking on a nightly World Cup show on Venezuela-based Telesur, Maradona had said: “Here’s a gentleman who decides, a referee who, if you Google him, shouldn’t be given a match of this magnitude… Geiger, an American, what a coincidence.”

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Gareth Southgate’s big call – Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson?

Generally speaking, Gareth Southgate made good use of the two friendly fixtures he scheduled in the build-up to this summer’s World Cup. England took on Nigeria at Wembley before travelling north to host Costa Rica at Elland Road last week, with the Three Lions registering wins in both matches.

The England manager tested out options in goals, with also giving both Danny Rose and Ashley Young an opportunity to stake a claim at left wing back. Southgate will pick between the two for the opening World Cup group game against Tunisia on June 18, with many now of the opinion that Rose has the edge.

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At the back, Southgate has also experimented over the past few weeks and months, but there is a consensus that the back three will consist of Harry Maguire, John Stones and Kyle Walker. Walker might be a natural right back, but this way Southgate can fit both the Manchester City defender and Kieran Trippier into the same side.

In attack, Harry Kane will lead the line, with Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Raheem Sterling all useful options as supporting attackers. It’s not yet known who will start against Tunisia, but all four will surely be utilised throughout the tournament. There may be some rotation.

It’s in central midfield where Southgate is left with his one, last dilemma – Eric Dier or Jordan Henderson. The England manager has made clear that only one of the two will play from the start, pitting the Spurs and Liverpool midfielders directly against each other. The dynamic would have been even more interesting had Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain stayed fit to make the flight to Russia.

Henderson has been handed the vice-captaincy for the World Cup this summer, which ordinarily would suggest that he will be given the nod by Southgate. But recent reports claim Dier will in fact be favoured. It’s easy to see why Southgate might prefer to play the Spurs man over Henderson.

England boast a lightning fast attack. They might be one of the quickest teams at this summer’s World Cup and Southgate looks ready to make the most of that quality, if the friendlies against Nigeria and Costa Rica are anything to go by. This approach means Dier would be the better option at the base of the midfield.

Dier is the more defensively adept of the pair, as demonstrated by the fact that he can fill in at centre back. While Henderson is more of a natural number eight, Dier is a number six. He will provide balance to this England team, holding things together while more attacking talents, like Alli, Lingard and Sterling, bomb on into the final third.

Henderson’s game has developed significantly over the past season. As shown by Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final, he is capable of competing at the top of the game. But Dier might be a more natural fit to start in the centre for this England team. This call could come to define England’s World Cup.

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Game of the Week – Newport County 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

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With a distinct lack of Premier League football this past weekend thanks to the fourth round of the FA Cup taking place, it is only natural to look at that competition to fill in as this week’s “Game of the Week”.

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VIDEO: Sanchez speculation amid ‘the worst’ Arsenal team

The Premier LeagueLa Liga and Serie A are all back up and running this weekend so to talk you through some of the news and fixtures from across the three leagues, Nicholas Carroll provides this week’s Euro Fantasy League preview.

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EPL Weekend Picks – Week 23

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With the return of the English Premier League after a brief hiatus for FA Cup action, it’s now time to look ahead to this weekend’s fixtures and find 11 players worth keeping an eye on. Continue reading

English Stars Continue to Shine in Build-Up to Euro ‘16

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There has long been an argument in English football that the influx of international stars to the Premier League has harmed the potential for success of the national team. This is codswallop – as we will discuss later in this piece, but the good news for these naysayers is that domestic talents are shining brighter than ever at the moment.

Eleven of the twenty two players that started the Everton vs Spurs battle on Sunday were English, while five of Crystal Palace’s starting eleven against Chelsea were from domestic shores.

Andy Carroll gave a timely reminder of his talents as he netted for West Ham in their 2-0 win over Liverpool in a match where Aaron Cresswell again caught the eye for the Hammers with a stylish display, while even Arsenal – perhaps the most continental of all Premier League teams – started with Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and introduced Kieran Gibbs late on.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Wayne Rooney reminded us all of just how good he can be with a fantastic winner for Manchester United against Swansea (a game in which Ashley Young was voted man of the match), while Norwich had stopper Declan Rudd to thank for a number of fine saves in their 1-0 triumph over Southampton. Even Jermain Defoe, a multi-capped player for his country, bagged a brace for Sunderland as they overcame Aston Villa.

So what is the point to all this? Well, the good news for England fans is that their country’s key players are performing week in, week out in one of Europe’s toughest leagues. This stands them in good stead heading into the European Championships in the summer, and perhaps dispels the myth that ‘foreigners’ are taking over the domestic game.

Think about it: the reason that these Englishmen took to the field at the weekend is because they are good enough to do so. There is no favouritism, no hometown bias in football; if you’re good enough you will play. It is this crucial tenet that is often forgotten by armchair pundits clamouring for quotas of international players in the Premier League.

Take a look at Barcelona, for example. The core of their team is South American (Bravo, Alves, Mascherano, Neymar, Suarez and Messi), with the reason being that these players can generally be picked up cheaper when purchased from their domestic clubs and because they are well suited to the Spanish climate. And yet Spain continues to thrive in international competitions.

Only four of Bayern’s starting eleven in their 1-0 win over Hannover 96 were German; and yet they continue to dominate World Cups and European Championships. The notion that an absence of natives in a country’s top club sides affects them internationally is hokum; it s often that the players in question simply aren’t good enough.

The good news for England fans is that their domestic talent is enjoying something of a purple patch at the moment. Exciting times indeed.