Will Mourinho be ‘found out’ at Spurs?

On Wednesday night, Jose Mourinho returns to Old Trafford – the place where he was, rightly, last dismissed from a job.

The self-proclaimed ‘Special One’ (although it was 2004 when he uttered that term, so maybe he gets a pass on that now?) is now the manager of north London club, Tottenham Hotspur.

In recent years, Spurs had been punching well above their weight thanks to Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine had endured a transfer-less summer window in 2018 to then Continue reading

Jose Mourinho’s arrival raises questions for Moussa Sissoko

Sissoko Title

When Jose Mourinho was appointed manager of Tottenham Hotspur following the departure of Mauricio Pochettino, it raised many questions what the Portuguese maestro would do with this talent laden Spurs squad.

While it’s obvious the likes of Harry Kane, Son Heung-Min and Dele Alli will be an integral part of Mourinho’s plans, it’ll be fascinating to see how he handles some of the other players who aren’t guaranteed starters. One such player whose fortunes are up in the air is Moussa Sissoko.

Sissoko’s arrival at Tottenham just over three years ago might have set the stage for future drama, as the Frenchman and his agent Bakari Sanogo navigated a last-minute reversal in negotiations between the then-Newcastle midfielder, Everton, and Tottenham on the final day of the transfer deadline. After Newcastle were relegated and Sanogo’s talks with Chelsea and Tottenham dragged on, Everton agreed to Sissoko’s price tag and thought they’d closed the deal – until Tottenham signed him instead.

After that dramatic entrance, however, Sissoko got down to business. Proving himself under Pochettino’s guidance to be a very handy contributor, especially in the last 18 months, and always fulfilling his role wholeheartedly, the imposing player’s energy, work rate and athleticism appeared a good fit for Mourinho’s counter punching approach.

Sissoko’s performance with the Spurs also got him called back up to France’s reigning champion national team after their 2018 World Cup win. Discussing his “return to favour” with the France’s Le Parisien in September, the Frenchman attributed his turnaround to spending far more time as a central midfielder and to gaining confidence over the course of several matches at the start of the year. He even gave his agent a shoutout, saying Bakari Sanogo has helped him see where he can improve.

The fact Sissoko’s so versatile was another reason for optimism, as he gives his new manager plenty of tactical flexibility as to how best deploy him, for he can play in a variety of midfield roles and formations and even at full back if need be.

Having not started Mourinho’s first game in charge against West Ham and heard the former Manchester United coach’s comments, though, it certainly looks like Sissoko faces an uphill battle to convince his new manager of what he brings to the team. “When I see Moussa, he is a very good player, but he is very different than my needs. I need that stability from Dier and the kid to move the ball faster, also positionally and also to find the attacking players in the positions we want,” explained Mourinho.

Sissoko, however, has faced his fair share of criticism and setbacks, so he’ll be eager to rise to the challenge and prove his worth. Possessing a good range of attributes, there’s certainly a lot Sissoko can offer.

To begin with his defensive output, and the man who’s learnt so much under the tactically sophisticated tutelage of Pochettino is a real asset in this regard. Full of energy and intensity in his approach, he does a top job of making life uncomfortable for his enemies. A keen presser who’s always on the lookout for triggers to arise such as an opponent receiving back to goal, in an open body posture, in wide areas or if they are inheriting a poor pass, Sissoko pounces to get at his targets. In doing so, this ensures they can’t easily turn him or enjoy much time on the ball, which impacts their ability to execute.

Factor in his hulking strength, speed and relentlessness to win back the ball, plus how he angles his pressure to cut off pass routes behind him, and it’s easy to see why he’s so competent here.

Image 1 - Sissoko's smartly angled pressing
Sissoko smartly angled pressing

The same goes for his counterpressing, where he hunts down the ball after Tottenham lose it. This subsequently gives the opponent minimal time to assess options while giving Tottenham a great chance of recovering possession high against spread out teams who are preparing for a transition of their own.

When it comes to settling back into a mid or low block, Sissoko’s shown how efficiently he stays in shape, shifts laterally, drops back in unison, marks opponents in his zone or steps out to press.

Image 2 - Great covering behind when his centre back steps out
Great covering behind when his centre back steps out

Moreover, by communicating with his colleagues, this has seen him crossover marking duties well when opposition players perform rotations around him.

A manful competitor in aerial duels too, the intimidating 187 cm enforcer acquits himself admirably in these duels by using his explosive leap, capacity to read the ball’s flight and balance.

Although he can sometimes be overzealous in his attempts to win back possession, with his timing being off on occasion, it’s been pleasing to see his intent to force turnovers and get stuck in.

Sissoko’s work on the attacking side of things accompanies his stopping efforts nicely. Catching the eye most keenly with his ball carrying prowess, his powerful forward surges are always a highlight, with these seeing him place backlines under pressure and lure opponents out of shape to get at backlines. So quick and hard to push off the ball, this means he often rides challenges sternly and draws fouls in key areas.

If inheriting possession in tight spaces, the way he protects the ball by getting his body between the man and the ball and uses his arms and shoulders, gives him a good platform to spin away or hold up the ball while he waits for a viable option.

To switch the focus over to his passing, and the French international typically keeps things simple most of the time to get the ball into the feet of Spurs’ more attackingly talented players. If the situation arises he can, however, play some more expansive passes, such as penetrative line breaking passes, crafty through balls or switches of play.

Image 3 - Wicked line breaking pass
Wicked line breaking pass

Tying everything together with his movement, Sissoko’s quality in this compartment allows him to make space for his colleagues and find openings for himself. In terms of manufacturing room for his teammates, he’s excellent at moving to open up passing lanes and pinning markers so his mates can exploit unoccupied spaces.

Image 4 - Sissoko neatly drawing two men
Sissoko neatly drawing two men

Image 5 - Sissoko pinning his man to help free up his teammate out wide
Sissoko pinning his man to help free up his teammate out wide

On an individual level, he embarks on some damaging runs into the channels and into the box, which are so hard to track, plus supports attacks in wider and central areas by forming 5v4 and 4v3 numerical superiorities to help bypass their foes.

Image 6 - Forming a 4v3 as he serves as the free man down the channel
Forming a 4v3 as he serves as the free man down the channel

Image 7 - Sissoko being the free man as Spurs form a 4v3
Sissoko being the free man as Spurs form a 4v3

Image 8 - Sissoko brilliant forward run to exploit the space
Sissoko brilliant forward run to exploit the space

Image 9 - Quality run in behind as he places huge pressure on the opposition
Quality run in behind as he places huge pressure on the opposition

Image 10 - Sissoko finding space well
Sissoko finding space well

By the numbers from the last five seasons, his 2.24 dribbles per game, 1.93 progressive runs pg, 1.65 touches inside the box pg, 4.14 accurate final third passes pg at 80%, 3.42 interceptions pg, 1.15 tackles pg, 4.1 free ball pick ups pg and 2.6 ball recoveries pg demonstrate his solid two-way contribution.

While it’ll be a tough ask to replicate his amazing form from Spurs’ memorable run to the Champions League final last campaign, it was encouraging to see him gain some minutes in his team’s 4-2 victory over Olympiakos this week.

Determined and always willing to do his part for the benefit of the team, the experienced 30-year-old will relish every chance to endear himself to Mourinho even if the Portuguese whizz may take some convincing.

Mauricio Pochettino is sacked as Tottenham manager- is it the right decision?

Tottenham have sacked Mauricio Pochettino after a nightmare start to the season has seen the club down in 14th place.

Fans have been left gutted by the decision even though it was clear that frustrations were growing with the Argentine coach. But this is still the same man that changed the clubs fortunes around where they finally stood out of rivals Arsenal shadow and became a proper top 4 side. It was a time where the club found consistency and had found a natural flow to their game. Finally they were not doing things in a ‘spursy’ way but in a way which frightened their opponents and it was clear that the club were playing their best football in a generation.

This all came to ahead when Tottenham made the Champions League final and for many fans they couldn’t have imagined this would happen in their wildest dreams and there was dreamlike Roy of the Rovers style matches to get them to the final. Who can forget the epic 2nd leg matches against Manchester City and Ajax were Spurs looked dead and buried but somehow came back?

The utter joy and glory of seeing Pochettino on the pitch in Amsterdam with club owner Daniel Levy will remain in the memory as Tottenham confirmed their participation in the final. At that point it was about reaching their own personal Everest. The problem was that there were many problems behind the scenes.

It is clear that Levy and Pochettino did not get along and other stories are bound to come out in the next few weeks and months, it’s quite possible that Pochettino had also fallen out with some players by this point. He also had the body language over the last few weeks that suggested his future lay elsewhere.

It didn’t help when on the eve of the Champions League final Pochettino spoke about leaving the club if they were to win the trophy. In truth this would have made Levy livid given that who leaves a club on £8.5m a year? And in sacking Pochettino with 3 years left on his contract Levy will be paying him out just over £25m.

Ex-Tottenham players such as Gary Lineker have spoken out about the decision and condemned it saying that the club will not find anyone better- and he could be right. Though at the end of the day for all of their good wins and wonderful football Spurs did not win a trophy and surely at the end of the day for progression you need a trophy.

Trophies is the reason that Jose Mourinho has been installed as the favourite to take over the club. Mourinho always brings silverware but as we’ve seen in the past few years he can also bring a very negative effect to players and coaching staff. His burn outs at both Chelsea and Manchester United have sadly become the stuff of legend. One can already see a relationship of friction between Mourinho the chequebook and Levy. Still before it went wrong for Mourinho at those clubs he had won the league for Chelsea and the Europa League for United- he has a winning mentality and maybe that is what Tottenham need in this moment.

As for Pochettino in all honesty he needs some time away from the game to readjust and get his hunger back.He is a good manager but seemed a little burnt out and maybe this decision will make sense in the long term. In solely footballing terms Pochettino seems to have done very little wrong and the decision to sack him in that case is bizarre if we look at his whole record for the club. But apart from the amazing run in the Champions League Tottenham have not had a good 2019, indeed they have not won away from home since January- a top 4 side cannot have such a record.

The next few weeks will be fascinating to see how it turns out for the club and the world will be watching.

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More Premier League action coming up? Check out our match previews here!

Round seven of the English Premier League season takes place this weekend.

Here’s a look at all the upcoming fixtures this weekend.

Sheffield United v Liverpool

Key men: John Egan (Sheffield United); Roberto Firmino (Liverpool)

Prediction: Sheffield United 0 – 2 Liverpool Continue reading

Predicted lineups for this weekend’s English Premier League fixtures

It’s time for gameweek six of the 2019/20 English Premier League season.

Here’s a look at all the predicted lineups for the ten fixtures over the coming weekend.

Southampton v Bournemouth

Southampton XI: Gunn, Bednarek, Yoshida, Vestergaard, Soares, Romeu, Hojbjerg, Djenepo, Ward-Prowse, Boufal, Adams Continue reading

A preview of round 3 of the Premier League

It’s already round 3 of Premier League action in the 2019/20 season.

Liverpool and Arsenal are the only two sides with a 100% record after just two matches! These two giants meet at Anfield in the Saturday evening game.

Elsewhere, both Manchester clubs should win comfortably while Spurs will most likely beat Newcastle but Chelsea could struggle at Norwich City.

Aston Villa v Everton

Key men: Grealish (Aston Villa); Richarlison (Everton)

Prediction: Aston Villa 1 – 2 Everton

It could be another tough day at Villa Park for the newly-promoted home side. Continue reading

Ndombele the great risk for Tottenham or a potential great?

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If relief had a sound then you could hear it amongst Tottenham fans as the club have agreed with Lyon to finally purchase Tanguy Ndombele for a reported £65m. The midfielder is understood to be signing this week for the club after having to pass a medical. The question is just who have Tottenham bought?

One has to remember that Ndombele was plying his trade with Amiens the season before and Lyon bought him last summer for just £7m- they have won nothing this season, and never looked like doing so- and his value has risen by almost £60m. That would suggest he is Lyon’s outstanding player? Not so.

Looking at how Ndombele performed statistically in the European Fantasy League rankings we can see that Ndombele wasn’t even Lyon’s best midfielder let alone being their best player.

In Ligue 1 midfielders alone Ndombele finished in 27th position. His ranking by position for all midfielders in major leagues was 177th with his overall ranking as a player at 449th. While it is true that stats can only get us so far, paying £65m for a player of Ndombele’s standing seems wrong, inflated and grotesque.

His achievements thus far have been zero, still he is young and at 22 Tottenham are hoping that is where his value lies. There has been talk that Tottenham are about to buy the next Michael Essien, perhaps they are and in an ideal world he will stay for six seasons, win trophies and become a club legend before being sold to Real Madrid for £200m. It could happen, and it could not.

Lyon’s value of the player is simply a joke, he has not improved by £60m over one season, but at the same time he has made the French squad four times albeit in friendlies. One has to wonder what Lyon’s valuation would be for Nebil Fekir, who did have a better season than Ndombele and is regarded as a huge player for Lyon even though he wasn’t deemed good enough to start for France at last summer’s World Cup.

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino will be hoping that Ndombele’s arrival will be the first of many, but does club owner Daniel Levy think that way? The good news is that the club are about to splash the cash after being linked too Giovani Lo Celso from Real Betis with a reported £60m deal on the cards, of course these figures fluctuate depending on who you believe. But that deal seems to have stalled. Then there was Bruno Fernandes from Sporting Club in Portugal but they could have a fight on their hands with Manchester United for his signature.

The club are at an important moment in their history, right dead bang on centre to moving on from the pretenders of yesteryear when an odd cup was good enough. There is a sense within the club that they can start winning important trophies and build a legacy on it. And it is all going to start this summer, that’s if Pochettino can get his players and Levy to open up his chequebook again.

Top Premier League Goalkeepers in 2018/19: Hugo Lloris

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Hugo Lloris completed his seventh season with Tottenham and even though it ended with no trophies there was no denying that his club had had a successful season. In the end Lloris helped Tottenham to a Champions League final, the clubs first final in their history and they also finished 4th in the Premier League and qualified for next years tournament as a result.

Lloris played 33 league games for Spurs and kept 12 clean sheets conceding 33 goals along the way. In the European Fantasy League rankings for the Premier League Lloris finished in 4th place with a total of 60 points. In the end he finished just 2 points behind Chelsea’s world record signing Kepa Arrizabalaga.

While Lloris can look back on the season as a good one it didn’t exactly start off well for him when he was arrested on suspicion of drink driving. He later pleaded guilty to the charge. Whilst this was a down point in Lloris’ season what was positive is that the Frenchman did not feel sorry for himself and quickly battled back to be in the team, missing only five games this season.

Because Tottenham conceded in their first two games of the season it meant that Llois started it with no points. He picked up his first points after the brilliant 3-0 win at Old Trafford against Manchester United. That game ended up being a catalyst for the team to continue their good form and Lloris kept another two clean sheets on a row as Spurs went on to beat Cardiff and West Ham. Llrois’ run ended in the next game when Tottenham were beaten 1-0 by champions Manchester City.

One of the best months for Lloris was in April when he did not concede a goal in the league that month and earned 21 points from 3 games played after Spurs claimed victories over Crystal Palace, Huddersfield and Brighton.

Lloris’ lowest point of the season came against eternal rivals Arsenal, it was a frantic day of football in the north London derby that saw Arsenal come out 4-2 winners. Conceding 4 goals is never good as a goalkeeper and on that day he ended up with -6 points. There was also the defeat against Wolves which ended 3-1 where Llrois ended up with -4 points.

With the season winding down and Tottenham clearly concentrating on the Champions League, so did their club form. Lloris finished his final three games this season earning no points and indeed finished with -2 over that period.

Had Tottenham finished a little stronger there is no doubt that Lloris would have beaten Kepa in the rankings.

Lloris looks set to keep his place at Tottenham for another season and if manager Mauricio Pochettino can identify the clubs problems with some shrewd summer signings this should be able to bolster the clubs fortunes once more and Lloris will be looking to put more clean sheets and more points on the board for next season.

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Tottenham’s Harry Kane could burn out if he doesn’t protect himself

kane

It was unfortunate to see such a lethargic display from Harry Kane in the Champions League final after the Tottenham striker returned from injury and was immediately put into the first team. Kane is one of the very best prospects in England but the player needs to be protected and mainly from himself.

We do not have to doubt Kane’s goal scoring abilities and his eye for goal and work rate in the area is brilliant. He is so precise and if anyone does want to doubt Kane’s abilities as a striker then his 164 goals in 253 appearances for Tottenham should put that to bed.

But here’s the problem and it cuts both ways with coaches and Kane himself- he needs to know and they need to know when the player needs rest.

Before the Champions League final Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino was asked why he brought Kane straight back into the team forcing Lucas Moura the hat trick hero in the semi-final win over Ajax to be dropped to the bench? Pochettino reacted as if the interviewer was pulling his leg, such is Kane’s importance to the team, but it was arguably wrong to think that and it was a genuine question. Had Moura been returning from injury, he still would have started the final from the bench, and yet Kane was brought in. True he is special to the club but he was still slightly rusty after having missed almost the last two months of football. It was the wrong choice to start him.

That was proven in a game where Kane was almost invisible. Again not his fault, this was the final and he wasn’t about to miss it but Kane’s inclusion actually helped Liverpool, because it felt for the most part that Tottenham were playing with 10 men, he was that quiet.

A few days later England were playing the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations Cup and England manager Gareth Southgate absolutely did the right thing in not starting Kane but bringing him on later in the game. No matter if England eventually lost the match, Kane’s presence or not wouldn’t have made the difference as he is still clearly recovering.

The problem was that after the game Kane was interviewed where he remained positive and upbeat and told journalists that he would get right back to fitness, go for a run on the beach and hit the gym.

Whilst Kane’s words would seem normal to any day footballer who is 25 remember the problem is that Kane doesn’t seem to be listening to his own body. He missed two chunks of the season because of injury and his quality is such that Tottenham cannot really afford to be without him for long periods. And when he gets injured his willingness to get fit quicker than expected seems to hamper his recovery time. So when he is ready to return, he actually really isn’t.

Southgate did the right thing Pochettino to a lesser extent didn’t. But Kane also needs to listen to his own body, the last thing anyone wants to see is a career where he keeps picking up injuries here and there and doesn’t get a good run of games under his belt. He is a special talent and he needs to be looked after.

Transfer News: Are Tottenham finally ready to spend money and buy Lo Celso?

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The transfer window in the Premier League opened up on May 16th and so far it hasn’t seen many players coming in but has seen quite a few leaving. There is a lot of work at Manchester United to be done and manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer realises this and has acted accordingly. Two players have already been released in Ander Herrera and Antonio Valencia and we should expect more in the coming weeks.

West Ham have been very active in juggling up their squad and have released 8 players which includes Andy Carroll and Samir Nasri. They have also got Roberto the goalkeeper from Espanyol on a free as a back up.

A couple of legends of the Premier League will play no more in England in Manchester City’s Vincent Kompany who will become player/manager of his boyhood club Anderlecht. Petr Cech’s last game was in the Europa League final for Arsenal and he will hang up his gloves and join Chelsea’s goalkeeping coaching team.

The big news this week regarded Tottenham and their reported pursuit of Giovani Lo Celso. The North Londoners have reportedly bid £53m for the midfielder who was on the books of PSG but was then loaned out at Spanish club Real Betis, who bought the player only in April.

With Tottenham buying no new players in the last two transfer windows this would signal the clubs first purchase in over a year. However whether Tottenham will get their man is up for debate given that Betis have him under a release clause for £88m. It is understood that the club would listen to offers though in the region  of £75m but that is still over £20m what Tottenham have bid. And to further make things complicated for the club other Premier League sides have shown an interest in the 23 year old.

The connection could be a good one though for Tottenham fans hoping that their manager Mauricio Pochettino stays at the club next season given that Lo Celso is Argentinian. But this could end up being a war of words between Pochettino and club chairman Daniel Levy. If we remember a few weeks ago Pochettino hinted that he needed assurances from the club in order to stay with them, and surely one will be to bring in quality players this summer in the form of Lo Celso.

For Real Betis they would be looking at massive profits. They purchased Lo Celso only in April for about £20m, and if they did accept Tottenham’s bid they would have made a massive £33m profit in one month. Though it looks likely they will hold out for more and Tottenham will need to make a bigger improved bid.

The good news even if Tottenham fail with Lo Celso is that the club have revealed their purchasing power and that they will be buying players this summer, which must come as a relief for any Tottenham fan.

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