Premier League’s Game of the Week: Southampton 2-5 Tottenham

Our memories of the beginning of the 2020/21 Premier League season will be about goals, there has been over 60 of them already with a goal average of 3.6 per game. You want lots of goals, come to the Premier League and the match between Southampton and Tottenham would be no different.

On Saturday we witnessed Everton come from behind to beat West Bromwich Albion 5-2 and the same scenario was repeated on Sunday when Tottenham travelled to Southampton. This was an edgy game of sorts even before a whistle was blown given that both clubs had lost their opening games. Southampton went 1-0 down to Crystal Palace and Tottenham were beaten by the same scoreline at their ground against Everton. A win was needed by both clubs, though you sensed Jose Mourinho at Tottenham was under more pressure to get it.

This was a game that felt like it had everything. Three goals, one for the home side and two for Tottenham were disallowed early on, Harry Kane thought he had put Spurs in front as early as the 3rd minute but VAR stepped in and it also denied Danny Ings for a handball. At the half hour stage the game was end to end but still 0-0 and nobody could have foreseen that there would be 7 goals to come on this Sunday afternoon. When Kane had another goal ruled out for offside it did seem like it was going to be one of those days.

But the Saints opened the scoring, their first goal of the campaign through Ings who got it right this time. Ings was one of the revelations of last season and he will hope to have a 2nd season just as good. Tottenham were able to equalise on the stroke of half time through Heung-Min Son and you have to wonder just how important that goal was for the Tottenham dressing room atmosphere.

In fairness Southampton seemed good to go in at half time in the lead because Tottenham on reflection had been the second best team in the first half, they managed just 1 shot on target. Still at 1-1 it felt that the psychology of the game had shifted, and with that goal which was Tottenham’s first of the season it seemed to be the switch that they were looking for. Within 2 minutes of the restart Son had pounced again to make it 2-1, Kane had assisted again. This was vintage Spurs or at least what fans had been expecting from the deadly duo in the first game.

If Tottenham were toothless in the first game then in this one they had teeth like a great white shark and they started to take the game to the home side. But Son completed his hat trick just after the hour mark. A fourth goal came ten minutes later for Son, by far the man of the match and yet again it was Kane who supplied the final ball. When Kane scored himself to make it 5-1 it felt that the team had come full circle and the defeat against Everton could be truly forgotten.

A small blip near the end of the game let in Southampton for a penalty in which Ings converted, but it was just a consolation goal, and there would be no miraculous comeback even in a season so far filled with goals.

It’s incredible in how just over a week Tottenham’s fortunes have changed, a win in the Europa League qualifiers and a league win is icing on the cake. But also the return of the prodigal son, one of Tottenham’s genuinely great modern stars, Gareth Bale is complete. Bale has joined the club on loan from Real Madrid. Injured at the moment, you get the feeling that the players have just welcomed him in the most perfect way possible.

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Jose Mourinho will be delighted that Tottenham have qualified for the Europa League

When Jose Mourinho took up the job at Tottenham the London side were flirting with mid table, so he will be delighted that the team have advanced since his arrival.

In the end Tottenham found some great form and consistency to surge forward and qualify for next seasons Europa League. A step forward has been made which sounds bizarre given that Tottenham reached the 2019 Champions League final.

However under Mauricio Pochettino this season had started poorly and that was when Mourinho was brought in. How quickly things change in football, one moment Pochettino was the hero and the next, at least to the clubs owners he was the zero.

Maybe there will be a tinge of disappointment that Tottenham are not returning to the Champions League for next season, they did seem to have a genuine chance as the campaign restarted. But in the end too many draws and not losses stifled their chances- they ended up finishing 7 points off the Champions League pace.

But on recent form alongside the likes of Manchester United, Tottenham have looked like a team on a mission and in fact on form are the 3rd best side in the league. The club went their last 5 games without defeat picking up 11 points in that time. They even defeated Newcastle at St.James’ Park. That may not sound like an achievement for the club itself but for Mourinho it was huge. He had an uncanny record at Newcastle’s ground no matter what team he managed where he kept losing games their. This season Tottenham won 3-1 though.

The least Tottenham could have hoped for is European football next season and after finishing 6th they have it edging out Wolves on goal difference as they finished with 59 points.

Whilst Mourinho wants Champions League football he will realise that for now Europa League football is good enough. And of course he has won the Europa League with Manchester United in the past. For United the trophy always felt like a stepping stone, for Tottenham to win in Europe again (the first time since the 1980s) it would feel like something completely different- a justification of Mourinho’s appointment.

Of course we are getting ahead of ourselves, but after some difficult moments perhaps Mourinho being at Tottenham is not as bad as some pundits have suggested, perhaps there really will be a trophy of some sort at the end of his journey, and a trophy really is what the club need and want.

Mourinho will also be hoping that the prospect of European football will settle some of his players. It has been suggested that star striker Harry Kane may want a move away, as time is running out for the player to win some silverware. Qualification at least is another opportunity for Tottenham to pick up something.

The summer will be interesting transfer wise at Tottenham that is for sure.

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Tottenham fall 12 points behind a Champions League position and will have to accept defeat this season

This past weekend confirmed that Champions League football will not be present in Tottenham’s new stadium next season.

Tottenham lost 3-1 to Sheffield United whilst Leicester and Chelsea recorded wins and that means that the London club have now fallen 12 points behind. There is no way back considering still the teams between Tottenham and 4th place.

Jose Mourinho was brought in back in November to salvage a season where the club at that time were mixing with 11th place. But presently the club are in 10th and so on the face of it one could conclude not much has changed under Mourinho. Of course they do have a game in hand which they will play on Monday night against Everton at home. Win that and they would go 8th.

Should Tottenham fans be concerned though that Mourinho often touted as one of the best managers in the world has not been able to improve the side this season? Currently his win rate for the club stands at just 41% this is the lowest of his managerial career and it has been steadily declining since his days in charge of Real Madrid.

Mourinho himself would want to be cut some slack given a new set up, such a change of club and also he has been dealt quite a few injuries. Ideally a manager wants to start from the beginning of the season, but clearly there have been performances and results that have seemed underwhelming whilst he has been in charge.

It is interesting to see that in Mauricio Pochettino’s first 12 games of the season before he was sacked he earned 14 points with the club. Mourinho’s first 12 games brought back 17. It isn’t much of a difference.

Look at some of the points that have been dropped too? Did anyone expect losses against Southampton and Sheffield United? Or dropped points against the likes of Watford, Norwich and Burnley? Had those 3 draws been converted into wins Tottenham would have 51 points and be in 7th place hunting down Wolves and Manchester United.

It hasn’t been a disaster for Tottenham and Mourinho but maybe one was expecting a bit more magic in the dug out and with tactics. Mourinho will be more judged on what happens next season. For now confirmation that Tottenham won’t play in the Champions League and at least challenge for a top 4 spot has to be a blow for the fans.

In the end the club were simply not consistent enough either with Pochettino or Mourinho in charge.

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Tottenham beat London rivals West Ham but VAR grabs all of the headlines once again

For Jose Mourinho it was relief when the brilliant Harry Kane sealed victory over London rivals West Ham to make it 2-0 on the night near the end of the game. Three points had been achieved, and him and the rest of the team could breathe once more. But threatening to overshadow the game once more was VAR which affected one goal and could have done so with another.

Heung-Min Son for example had thought he had scored the opening goal, and a good one it looked too before replays showed that his toe nail was offside. At the end of the day VAR did its job, but again common sense and VAR do not go hand in hand. Offside surely should only be punished if a player is clearly offside and looking for an advantage. In this case like literally hundreds before it Son was not looking for an advantage, and he was offside due to luck, in his case bad luck.

That incident could have spelled disaster for Tottenham who really needed the win given that Chelsea had gone 9 points clear of them, and Mourinho wants a Champions League finish.

With Tottenham looking like the better side, West Ham still remained a danger with Pablo Fornals given a glorious chance to put the Hammers in front but he miss kicked the ball.

Tottenham eventually opened the scoring but it was an own goal by the Hammers Tomas Soucek just after the hour that provided it. It was unfortunate for the club but perhaps the goal was coming. However after the game West Ham manager David Moyes was enraged as he said replays could show Tottenham player Davison Sanchez had hand balled the cross. He demanded why VAR did not come into play, and by the laws that goal should not have counted. However the incident is not very clear as the ball moves so fast. The end result it looks like sour grapes from Moyes. However if VAR want to give Son’s goal offside, maybe Moyes has a point that it should have stopped the game and looked at the incident.

That goal took the stuffing out of West Ham and then Tottenham went onto win the game. It was an important win and keeps the club in the mix for a European finish.

As for West Ham they are hanging onto survival and are only in 17th place by virtue of goal difference. West Ham’s next game will be against Chelsea whilst Tottenham will play Sheffield United.

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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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This isn’t the Jose Mourinho Tottenham were looking for as season boils down to the FA Cup

So it looks like the season for Tottenham is going to come down to the FA Cup, and they have a manager in Jose Mourinho who wins trophies. Even at his nightmare period with Manchester United Mourinho won silverware and this is the hope that Tottenham cling on too.

In truth has Mourinho’s appointment improved Tottenham as a whole since sacking Mauricio Pochettino last November? Statistically it just about has in Mourinho’s first 12 games in charge he earned 20 points. In Pochettino’s 12 games in charge before being sacked this season he earned 14. But this season under Mourinho Tottenham are on course to earn at least 10 points under what Pochettino earned last season.

Though Tottenham still find themselves in the mix for a top 4 spot, which would mean Champions League football next season, this is not down to how good they have been, but more about how inconsistent Chelsea have been in 4th place. The lack of putting any number of winning games together has given the likes of both Tottenham and Manchester United hope. But the reality is that Tottenham look like they will miss out on Champions League football next season, evidently they are just not a good enough side this season to finish in the top four. That was hammered home again last weekend when they lost 3-2 at home to Wolves, despite being a goal up.

One of the biggest factors in getting Mourinho in and reportedly paying him in the region of £15m a season was that he wins games on a consistent basis and finds a way. His home form in league games is undisputed, but this season under him Tottenham have already lost 3 at home, this under a man who once went 9 years over 150 games without defeat at home. It does feel that Tottenham were looking for the Jose Mourinho of 2005 and have landed with an inferior product.

The Champions League this season is very much in the balance after the club lost the 1st leg against RB Leipzig 1-0. That was a home game and if Leipzig score first in Germany in the return match, Tottenham would need to score at least 2 goals on the night. Tottenham remains a very good side, let’s not forget that they made the Champions League final last year, but they are clearly a few levels below most of the teams left in this seasons competition.

Of course injuries have played their part. Not only did they lose Harry Kane but Heung-Min Son who had found his goal scoring boots is also out injured, and both players are missing months instead of weeks. But something else is missing with the club and it could well be that Mourinho is well past his sell by date, or maybe he just doesn’t have the quality of players at his disposal. Will more money be spent this summer, well you can guarantee it, but then all of the pressure will be under Mourinho with nowhere to escape if the club do not pick up and start challenging for trophies.

This season then looks like it will come down to the FA Cup. And make no mistake if Tottenham did finish outside the top four, but qualified for the Europa League and won the FA Cup the fans would take that. For all of the great play under Pochettino and the memorable wins, the club won nada, nothing, zilch. And fans want to see trophies held aloft at the end of the day.

Today the club will turn to the FA Cup where they will play Norwich in their replay and try to qualify for the quarter finals. Lose that and one senses all momentum could depart a ship that sometimes looks worryingly lost at sea.

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Premier League: Game of the Weekend: Aston Villa 2-3 Tottenham

A five goal thriller took place at Villa Park as Tottenham won a rare away game to beat Aston Villa 3-2 for three crucial points.

It was a meeting of the minds, old and new with Aston Villa assistant John Terry reconnecting with Jose Mourinho his former manager and mentor at Chelsea all those years ago. And this was a game.

Villa started with a very daring formation of 3-4-3 with the possibility of putting one player up front back into midfield. And Tottenham went for 4-2-3-1. The away team trying to crowd out midfield and then have Heung-Min Son up front on his own.

The early exchanges would be something that Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld would not forget in a hurry. He latched onto a ball and ended up scoring an own goal after just 9 minutes to give Villa the lead. It looked like Tottenham could have been heading for their 6th away defeat of the season at that point.

But on the 27th minute Tottenham equalised and it was ironic that it would be Alderweireld who would get the goal. Only his 6th goal for the club and his 25th goal in all competitions throughout his career. With the game at 1-1 Tottenham found a new belief, they were back in the game now. Towards half time there was a penalty call as it appeared that Villa’s Bjorn Engels had handled the ball but the referee was happy not to give it. It finally went to VAR and there was a long delay, which was unfortunate- is this what football is really all about now? But VAR came back and did give the penalty. Suddenly Tottenham had the chance to go into the first half in the lead.

Heung-Min Son took the penalty but his effort was saved by Pepe Reina however the ball rebounded and the South Korean made no mistake in stabbing at home and Tottenham were leading 2-1.

It had been a fantastic and frantic first half of football that had seen 38 attempts on goal, with 10 on target for Tottenham and 4 on target for Villa. And nobody could wait until the second half got underway.

In some ways this was a game of redemption; Alderweireld had scored an own goal and then scored a goal to get his side back in the game and now Bjorn Engels was on hand to do just the same. After conceding the penalty in the first half, Jack Grealish set up Engels who equalised inside 10 minutes of the re start and we had a game on.

Whilst Villa should be given credit for wanting the win and not wanting to settle for the draw, Tottenham were on top in the 2nd half producing 7 shots on target to Villa’s eventual 2. This game looked like it would end 2-2 though, which would have been a big point for the home side but would have dented Tottenham’s top 4 aspirations. But this game wasn’t over.

Villa had held out until the 94th minute with the whistle about to blow there was a clear panic in defence and the ball fell to Son who made no mistakes and scored a glorious winner that sent the team, the away fans and Mourinho ecstatic. It was huge and the win put Tottenham just one point behind Chelsea for 4th. It was also Son’s 9th goal of the season in the league.

Whilst there was jubilation in the Tottenham camp there was frustration of what could have been in the Villa one and relegation remains a big threat for the club who are in 17th and are just one point from safety.

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Away day blues continue for Tottenham and Mourinho has a real challenge on his hands

It was thought that once Jose Mourinho had stepped in as manager of Tottenham that the club would improve on their appalling away game record but in essence the special one is yet to find the right balance in the squad and Tottenham are being put through their struggles.

This was underlined in the teams New Year’s Day match away to lowly but in form Southampton who beat Tottenham 1-0 in what was seen as a surprise result. It was another defeat for Mourinho too charged with the task of taking Spurs to the next level which seemingly former manager Mauricio Pochettino was not able to do.

But have Tottenham really improved since Pochettino was sacked? Tottenham had 14 points from 12 games, so 14 from a possible 36 points which works out that the club had a points win of 40%. Since Mourinho has come in he has presided over 9 games so from a possible points total of 27 Tottenham have earned 16 points that works out at 60%. So yes there has been an improvement since Mourinho has been in charge.

However saying that did anyone expect Tottenham to have already lost 3 times in those nine games? Also in Pochettino’s first 9 games of the season he had lost three too. Statistically a Tottenham team being managed by Mourinho is earning more points, just, and it is getting even more marginal as the games go on.

Pochettino had a win rate of 54.3% and Mourinho currently has 54.5% these take in all games. Again there is nothing in it and of course we are looking at Mourinho’s records where he has only just joined the club. What might be worrying for Mourinho though is that he is following a trend of hitting under a 60% win rate which has followed him ever since he returned to the Premier League in 2013. Before then it was normal to see him with 65-70% win rates a brilliant figure and even getting early to mid win rates of 50% is good, but it’s clearly not Mourinho level good.

Tottenham have lost 4 games with Mourinho in charge in all competitions from 11 games and that doesn’t seem to be a great record. Although one of those losses was against Bayern Munich in a Champions League match which was a dead rubber game anyway. But defeats in the league have occurred against Chelsea, Manchester United (two of his former clubs) and Southampton. On Boxing Day they found themselves a goal down against Norwich and drew that match in the end. The problem is when Mourinho arrived Tottenham could not win an away game, and they have hardly improved on the road.

They did of course beat West Ham in what was Mourinho’s first game in charge of Tottenham at London Stadium and that ended up being the clubs first away win since January. Since Mourinho joined the club have played 5 away games and won 2 of them and that second win came at Wolves in a match that was clearly heading for a 1-1 finish before Tottenham scored in the final minute of injury time. Still a win is a win but it did seem to paper over some of those away day blues.

In total Tottenham have earned 7 points from the 15 available on the road, that isn’t a terrible record by any means but for a club who need to finish in the top 4 it is.

The bottom line is that under Mourinho from what we have seen in a short space of time there has been minimal improvement. But with fairness to Pochettino his record is obviously over a longer period and from what we have seen this may not bode well for Spurs under Mourinho. A team under the Portuguese used to be much more disiplined at the back and simply more difficult to beat full stop.

In the summer Mourinho will inevitably be given funds but will they be used wisely? He has never been able to re build a team, partly because he leaves after 3 seasons usually. This has not been the start that Tottenham fans would have wished for and the club will need to find more consistency if they have any hopes for a 4th placed finish this season. The only good news actually lies away from Tottenham which is the team in 4th place, Chelsea, seemingly do not want it, and are dropping far too many points to warrant their current position.

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Jose Mourinho has already been exposed with new club Tottenham

It is early days in the Jose Mourinho story at Tottenham and there is no denying that the club have played some great football under him. However it is also true that his start has been slightly bumpy with the club losing 3 of their 8 games under Mourinho’s wing.

The clubs latest loss is the one that is going to hurt the most. Losing home league matches is pretty alien to Mourinho. He once went 150 home league games unbeaten and remained unbeaten at Stamford Bridge in his first term at the Blues. You could count on one hand how many home league games he has lost in his career but bang, it has already happened at Tottenham in under a month.

That loss was like rubbing salt in the wounds given that it came against one of his former employers in Chelsea and that the manager Frank Lampard used to play under Mourinho, what comes around, goes around and all that…. The defeat left Tottenham swinging to 7th place and they are now 6 points from a top 4 place.

Tottenham have also lost against Manchester United another former Mourinho team and they also lost in the Champions League away to Bayern Munich 3-1. This feels like a gung-ho Mourinho side and the last time we could say that about a Mourinho team was when he was in charge of Real Madrid in his first season in Spain. Once Madrid were slaughtered 5-0 by Barcelona he was determined to learn from those mistakes and finally turned it around, let’s just say Madrid stopped losing by those big score lines.

It will be fascinating to see what Mourinho does next at Tottenham because he has a team who like to attack, though they did look out of sorts and toothless against Chelsea. But in general this is a team who look like they can score coming forward but concede going backwards.

The clubs objective this season has to be playing Champions League football the next and Tottenham don’t seem to be up to speed enough to do this at this moment in time. Mourinho has bemoaned his lack of time with his players and the one thing he needs to sort out is the teams defence. In those 3 defeats the club have shipped 7 goals, and even when they win they have been conceding goals. Only the Burnley win which ended 5-0 has felt complete.

There is a long way to go for Mourinho at Tottenham and he has started like a speeding Ferrari that keeps hitting the curbs, can he steer the club in the right direction?

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The heat is on for Wobbling Chelsea who could give up 4th place

It wasn’t long ago that Chelsea had made a statement in the Premier League and risen into the top 4. The objective at that point was simple: Frank Lampard’s team were going to finish in a Champions League position. As the weeks rolled on Chelsea opened up an 8 point gap on 5th place and whilst finishing higher than 4th didn’t really look on the cards, 4th was the position the Blues would have accepted after a summer that saw a transfer ban, Eden Hazard sold to Real Madrid and Lampard stepping into his first top flight managerial position.

In fact Chelsea had not started the season well but that was to be expected as they kept dropping points to teams they would have usually beaten and of course it all started in nightmare fashion when the club conceded 4 goals on the opening weekend to Manchester United. Many who bet on sports, particularly football, would have not expected Chelsea to finish in the top 4 following that devastating loss to United. In fact, most sports betting sites would have had odds which hinted that Chelsea were not a side expected to finish inside the top 4 in England earlier in the season.

But bolstered by their form in the Champions League, Chelsea ventured on and started to put a nice run of winning games together. Headed by youth in the form of Tammy Abraham the club have looked irresistible. Look at some of the results Chelsea have already pulled off this season; beating Wolves 5-2, Burnley 4-2 and Southampton 4-1. Not only were Chelsea winning games they were scoring goals for fun. They did lose against Manchester City and Liverpool but both of those games were incredibly close and they lost by the same score line of 2-1 on both occasions.

The problem for Chelsea now is that they are in a blip of sorts. True they beat Lille in the Champions League just yesterday and have qualified for the knock out stages, that is a massive tick right there. However their recent form in the league has suffered where they have lost 3 of their last four games. Defeats against Everton, Manchester City and West Ham have not helped their cause and the club have seen their points gap greatly reduced. They are still 4th with 29 points but Manchester United’s form has really picked up and the Red Devils are just 5 points behind Lampard’s team.

Chelsea have some difficult games coming up including away matches to Tottenham and Arsenal and those London derbies could take their toll. It will be interesting to see Lampard come up against former mentor Jose Mourinho in the Tottenham game but it is clear that Lampard will have nothing but respect for the Portuguese man who carved out such a brilliant trophy laden career for him.

If Chelsea do crack and finish outside of the top 4 there will be disappointment no doubt in the Chelsea ranks but at the same time this was always going to be a season where Lampard would get a ‘pass’, and rightly so. Next season and beyond is where he will be judged. So far this season Chelsea are doing well under Lampard’s guidance and to be fair there isn’t really much to complain about, though one suspects the pressure is growing for Lampard himself as he sees the gap to 5th cut by every passing week. Chelsea will play at home to Bournemouth at the weekend and they should have enough in the tank to beat them. Slip up again and 4th will be in real danger.

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