Spalletti: “We must approach the game as though it were a straight knockout”

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Luciano Spalletti held his traditional pre-match press conference ahead of Inter’s crucial UEFA Champions League group stage match against Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley. Here is what the 59-year-old Tuscan tactician had to say in front of the dozens of journalists in attendance: Continue reading

Classic derby will tell Pellegrini how far Hammers have come

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Ask any West Ham fan which fixture they really look forward to every season, and without hesitation it will be the classic derby against rivals, Tottenham Hotspur.

Even a supposed hatred of south London side, Millwall, pales into insignificance when the north Londoners come to town.

This fixture also has added spice now given Spurs’ own efforts to try and secure the London Stadium which the Hammers currently call home. Continue reading

Poch deserves respect despite wretched run

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After Tottenham had succumbed to a late Inter comeback in the Champions League on Tuesday, the knives were out for Mauricio Pochettino.

Three losses in a row was, evidently, a crisis for the north Londoners if media coverage was to be believed.

The Argentinian scoffed in the face of such suggestions leading some to argue that the coach simply wasn’t bothered. Continue reading

Why Tottenham’s trip to Old Trafford is the biggest in years

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Much of the focus on Monday’s game at Old Trafford seems to be on Mourinho and Manchester United and the uncertainty surrounding them. But make no bones about it, this is a huge game for Tottenham Hotspur.

One could argue, that this could be the best time to play the Red Devils. An early Spurs goal could really create a hostile atmosphere for Mourinho’s men. Spurs of course are looking to maintain their 100% record whilst Manchester United are looking to bounce back from their humbling at the hands of Brighton at the Amex a week ago today.

This is a huge opportunity for Pochettino and his men. 1 win in over 15 attempts away from home against the so-called ‘Big-Six’ just isn’t good enough, no matter which way you look at it. There has been much to praise about this Spurs side under Pochettino however one of their glaring flaws remains their away record against their fellow challengers. Certainly, this abysmal away record against the big boys will have played a big part in Spurs’ failure to mount serious title challenges in the last few seasons.

However, this is a new season and Monday is a chance for Spurs to put out a statement that they mean business this season. A win at Old Trafford would be considered an achievement at any time, however should Spurs manage it, it would not only go against their recent trends, but it could also see Spurs potentially eliminate one of their ‘Big-Six’ rivals from the equation only in the third week of the season!

A defeat from a Manchester United perspective seems unthinkable, it would leave Mourinho’s men with back-to-back defeats and already 6 points cut adrift from the early pace setters. Spurs themselves could create a six-point gap between them and Mourinho’s men. Although it’s early in the season, six-points is a significant gap. And it certainly would leave United in an utter conundrum with there already being an intense level of scrutiny placed on Mourinho and the club.

A win for Spurs could see the North-London club announce themselves as real title-challengers this season. Of course, it is early in the season and as many have claimed you can’t win the title this early in the season but can certainly lose it. Spurs themselves have paid for slow starts numerous times, despite the third-place finish last season their early season struggles suggested ensured that there wouldn’t be any possibility of them challenging for the title. Something which of course their fans crave and the likes of Harry Kane and co need to be doing should they remain at Tottenham for years to come. This is Tottenham’s opportunity to change the record and really put down a statement for the rest of the season. Manchester City drew at Wolves on Saturday and again despite it being early on in the season the rest of the big boys will certainly have to be taking every opportunity that is thrown their way in gaining points on City, as if last season is anything to go by it won’t be happening too often!

Harry Kane himself has a very poor record against Manchester United, however as pointed out in my last piece he had a poor record in August too, something which he finally put to bed last weekend! Despite all the pre-match talk primarily being on Manchester United, make no mistake Monday’s game is Tottenham’s biggest opportunity in years to put one over on the Red Devils. Mount more misery on Mourinho and send out a statement of intent to your fellow challengers, I’m sure Spurs fans will be licking their lips at this prospect. But as history has taught us before, never rule out Jose Mourinho.

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Why less is more for Tottenham this January

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Tottenham Coach Mauricio Pochettino has an unfamiliar problem this January – how do you go about strengthening your side in the transfer window when everyone you field from your current squad looks like they could hold down a place in most Premier League sides? Does it mean no reinforcements are required, or would complacency in this potentially vital period be looked back upon as a turning point and missed opportunity?

There are two positions Spurs could be looking to strengthen. First is in the striking positions – as the theory goes, talismanic front man Harry Kane could get injured, and leave their Champions League challenge in tatters. But although Kane has netted 13 goals this season, the stats would suggest that Pochettino’s side are not overly reliant on the England man.

The rest of the side have contributed an impressive 27 goals, with Dele Alli netting six, Eriksen four, Dier, Lamela and Dembele with three, and Heung-Min Son, brought in to adapt up front if needed, has two in six Premier League starts.

With that in the mind, does bringing in a £20m striker, let’s say Saido Berahino, really make sense? Especially when you risk upsetting what is a seemingly happy and balanced dressing room. It’s a delicate decision.

The second position to consider is central defence. Jan Vertonghen hobbled off against Crystal Palace at the weekend with medial ligament issues, that will leave the Belgian out for a few weeks. In his place will come Kevin Wimmer, the 23-year-old Austrian signed for 7m Euros in the Summer from Koln.

Wimmer has only played 15 minutes of Premier League football this season, but has looked solid in two recent FA Cup tests with league-leaders Leicester City. Assuming Vertonghen does not have a longterm issue, Wimmer could comfortably cover in this position.

And a second injury in defence – could that see the excellent defensive record fall apart? Not necessarily. We won’t be facetious and suggest Federico Fazio will come in and sure everything up, but one option available to Pochettino, which he did  against Leicester in the FA Cup, is to move in-form Eric Dier back into his favoured central defence position, with Alli or Dembele taking his more defensive midfield role. Suddenly a defensive injury crisis doesn’t necessarily look so dangerous to the top four hopes at White Hart Lane.

And so it could be the case this transfer window that Pochettino absolutely means it when he says what every manager says “We’re not actively look for reinforcements”.  He has all the tools at his disposal to see through the top four challenge, and he could do with as few distractions in terms of new players as possible. It may well be one of the best transfer window decisions this January.

Pochettino – it’s a game of two halves

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Tottenham have had an impressive recent run of form since their opening day Premier League defeat to Manchester United, currently enjoying an eight game unbeaten record, with top half sides including Everton, Manchester City, and Liverpool, among those to have failed to take three points away from Spurs. A win this weekend away to Bournemouth could take them into the top four.

However there is a noticeable difference in the first half form for Spurs, and that of their second halves. Pochettino’s sides are renowned for their fitness, and indeed the aim is to run more, and importantly, run for longer, than their opponents. It is therefore no surprise to see Spurs in the top five for second half form in the Premier League, behind only Manchester Utd, Manchester City, Arsenal, and rather more surprisingly in top position, West Ham.

Four winning second halves, four drawn second halves, and only one defeat. Seven goals scored, only three conceded in nine games. It’s the kind of form that keeps Tottenham’s Champions League qualification dreams alive.

But if Spurs have real ambitions to break into the top four with their newly energised squad, they need to appear for the first half too. While Utd, City, Arsenal, and indeed West Ham, all appear in the top five for first half form too, Spurs do not. In fact they lie far down the table, in 17th, having won only one first half (a statistic they share with Sunderland), drawn a very high six out of nine, and lost two first halves. They’ve also netted only four times to claim their nine points from first halves, compared to 16 in the second.

These slow starts will end up costing Tottenham points, indeed they’ve drawn their last three games, and with five draws in total, have the most in the league. They will now enter a busy winter period where multiple games per week are played, and yet more of a push is needed in the first half of matches if they are to turn these draws into victories and challenge the Premier League big boys.

 

Is Pochettino right to demand Europa League rest?

Tottenham Hotspurs manager Mauricio Pochettino believes having midweek Europa League games is having an adverse effect on their weekend form in the Premier League.

When the European fixtures come round, the Londoners play on a Thursday and then have to play again on Sunday. It’s even more of an issue for away games given the anti-social hours they are often travelling to and from different countries, which leads to the side having little time to recover for their Sunday game.

Spurs face Partizan Belgrade tonight, and will be forced to go into training the day after a game, with Friday and Saturday the only days they have for preparation for their Sunday clash against Everton.

“Yes, maybe it is a good idea to play Monday if you play Thursday. Why not? One day more is good for the players to recover. One day extra is very good for the players to recover because maybe you play in Turkey, Serbia or Greece and you arrive 4am. It changes your sleep and after it is Friday, you need to train, then Saturday, then Sunday you play at one o’clock. It is very difficult for the players, said Pochettino.

Last season, Tottenham could not perform in the Premier League after playing in the Europa League in midweek. After qualifying, the Londoners played a total of 10 games in the competition, but lost five and drew one in six of the games played after a European clash. This season, Spurs have played four games in Europe, and have lost three of the four games played after a group game already.

It’s not a new argument about the Europa League, and while many point to sides in Europe needing big enough squads, constant tinkering of players and formations will also lead to inconsistent results. Being in European competition shouldn’t be viewed as a punishment, but for sides having small squads, it’s a real headache as to how they will go about coping with the fixture pile up.

The Europa League doesn’t have the best reputation due to the larger amount of sides in the competition, let alone the pitfalls of playing Thursday/Sunday in each game week. Tottenham have continued to struggle with performing after a European clash, and Pochettino certainly has a point when arguing his case for an extra day‘s rest. A lot of managers will rest key players in the competition as a result of having an eye on domestic duties, which degrades the Europa League even further, so should they change the fixtures from Sunday to Monday after a European clash on Thursday?

Tottenham’s woes won’t be solved with a quick-fix

Tottenham lost 2-1 at home to Stoke City on the weekend, which was their fourth defeat at White Hart Lane this season. Supporters’ anger has somewhat turned to new manager Mauricio Pochettino as the Londoners find themselves six points worse off then this time last season.

This summer, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy named former Southampton boss Pochettino as the club’s third manager in a year, succeeding Andres Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood respectively, but Spurs have seemingly gone backwards in the Premier League, and their recent form is one of the worst in the top flight (4 games, 3 defeats).

Naturally, people look at the management and coaching staff to blame for the poor form, but the squad must take responsibility too. Tottenham have a lot of players who aren’t likely to be at the club in the next couple of seasons, but the moving-on process won’t be sped up.

Emmanuel Adebayor‘s contract is up next summer, while Jan Vertonghen, Aaron Lennon, Younes Kaboul and Kyle Naughton’s deal will be up at the end of  next season. The majority could well be allowed to leave which means a minor rebuilding process is required again.

Pochettino was given a long-term deal in his appointment at Tottenham, so clearly Levy knows they have a lot of work to do that can’t be solved in just one summer. But the scale of their problems run much deeper than just personnel.

The Londoners’ indiscipline has been a big issue. Tottenham have had five red cards issued to them in all competitions this season alone. When the chips are down, you need your players to remain composed and calm, but the opposite is happening this season.

Odds of Pochettino to be the next manager out of the door slashed overnight, but Daniel Levy’s managerial changes have made little difference to their league standings in the past few years as shown.

2009/10: 70 points
2011/12: 69 points
2012/13: 72 points
2013/14: 69 points

The lack of improvement from Tottenham in four of the last five seasons shows how the club aren’t moving in a particular direction, but rather standing still, so the changing of managers isn’t helping to better their fortunes.

The London club need a total rebuild, which is something Levy hasn’t allowed previously due to his penchant for sacking managers. He gave Pochettino a five-year deal, however, so he should allow the former Saints boss time to get the club how he wants them to be. Tottenham’s woes won’t be solved with a quick fix.