Premier League Game of the Week: Tottenham 2-0 Manchester City

These are the games that Tottenham must win if they are to achieve something great this season. A 2-0 win over a quality side such as Manchester City is huge for the London club. There was also the added spice of the great rivalry between Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, and Mourinho yet again goes away from this weekend with the bragging rights.

After Heung-Min Son put Tottenham 1-0 win up as early as the 5th minute, one could tell how the game would play out. We’ve seen it before when Mourinho was manager of Inter Milan when they had to face Guardiola’s Barcelona in the Champions League. An early goal is great but from then on in its back to the walls.

While City dominated in possession that doesn’t mean that Tottenham didn’t have their chances to punish Guardiola’s team even more, but City could ill afford to lose this game and created most of the chances throughout the game.

In the first half alone City had 11 attempts on goal, Tottenham’s sole opportunity ended in a goal, which just underlined how the club seem transformed this season with more of a killer instinct. The second half was much like the first in that City controlled the ball and Tottenham defended well and looked for the counter attack.

Though he didn’t score at the weekend special mention should be given to Harry Kane who was all over the field, sprinting down the wings, looking to distribute the ball and even getting back, what a display the England international put in. But this was collective hard work from every player, Tottenham were that good and despite the riches on show from City the truth is that the club just ran out of ideas.

The game was effectively over just past the hour mark when Kane set up Giovani Lo Celso for Tottenham’s second. What was incredible is that Lo Celso had only been on the pitch for just over 30 seconds as a second half substitute.

City remained a threat but as the time went by it was clear that Tottenham had done their home work and the 2019 champions had become quite predictable in the process.

Tottenham are top of the league and unlike the last time they reached the summit, this counts more as the full weekend’s games have been completed.

It seems fitting that Tottenham reached 1st place by beating a great team in Manchester City, and it was a game that the home side bossed for the majority of the match. It also felt like a turning point. For Tottenham a new beginning filled with dreams under Jose Mourinho and for Manchester City perhaps the beginning of the end under Pep Guardiola.

Despite the many problems that Mourinho has faced in the last four years- failing at Chelsea in his 2nd season comeback with the club, then his nightmarish ending to his Manchester United managerial position, he seems to have come out the other end, and Tottenham could well be his last big hurrah before taking over on the international stage. Something special seems to be brewing at the club and one is reminded of Mourinho’s time a decade ago at Inter Milan. In Italy he took a well known club and turned them into serial winners.

At Tottenham the dream remains to be competitive and under former manager Mauricio Pochettino the club were heading in that direction, nobody can fault reaching the Champions League final. But something was just missing, a winning dynamic that for some reason couldn’t be achieved under Pochettino who left the club filling the hearts of many but not filling the trophy department.

This is why Mourinho was brought in to install that winning mentality. Forget Liverpool having to wait 30 years for a league title that ended last season and spare a thought for Tottenham who have had to wait since 1961. True it is early days and the Premier League is so hard to win, but there is hope at least, and Tottenham do have an uncanny ability to win trophies when the year ends in a 1. We will have to wait and see.

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Why Jamie Vardy and Harry Kane are England’s best strikers in a generation

Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy has finished the Premier League season as top goalscorer notching 23 goals. This is the first time that Vardy has earned the reward despite constantly banging in goals for the Foxes for a good few seasons now. Not even when Leicester won the league in 2016 was he able to finish on top of the pile. The man who stopped him was Harry Kane for Tottenham who claimed 25 goals that season.

Vardy’s success story is still extraordinary given that a decade ago he was playing non league football and rose through the ranks to not only play for Leicester but win the league with them, score plenty of goals and play in the Champions League- Hollywood would be hard pressed to have come up with that success story.

Vardy is 33 and still has a good few seasons left in him. He is a goal scoring machine that there is little doubt and he has scored 61 goals in the league for Leicester in his last 106 games. He just has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time and can read the game so well. It’s true that some fans and pundits will never see him as world class because despite winning the league he isn’t playing for one of the top 4 clubs, but yet again he has proven his worth to Leicester this season. There is little doubt that when Vardy decides to leave the club, he will go as a legend.

This season Harry Kane blew hot and cold but the cold spells were mostly due to him picking up injuries. Still Kane who is England’s number 1 striker for the international team presently was able to score 18 goals he also assisted in a further 2, and all of this was achieved by playing 29 games, that’s an impressive return by all accounts.

Kane simply didn’t have enough games under him to be top scorer this season, but it is something that he has achieved on 2 previous occasions in 2016 and 2017 where he netted a combined 54 goals.

In Vardy winning the top goalscorer award this season he became the first Englishman to do so since Kane. And here is a fact, the only Englishmen to finish top of the goalscoring charts in the past 19 years are Vardy and Kane. Not even Wayne Rooney was able to achieve that. Still in his hey day he had to complete with world class players such as Thierry Henry and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Still it is something to be celebrated especially for Vardy, who sometimes takes unfair criticism. It’s not another official piece of silverware for his club, but it is another personal badge of honour for the player.

Did you have either Kane or Vardy in your fantasy team this season? If not you might want to consider them in a months time when the Premier League kicks off the 2020/21 season. The official date is September 12th and you can check out the stats and all you need to know at the link below.

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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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What has Wilfried Zaha done to justify his £80m price tag?

At the beginning of the season Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha was being mooted for a move to another club. Everton had become the favourites to sign the talented player and then Crystal Palace announced his transfer fee….£80 million.

Everton went quietly when the fee was announced and Zaha stayed with Palace. But now the January transfer window is open, only for another week and the Zaha story is back, and Palace still want £80m. But what has Zaha done to justify the transfer fee? Is he truly worth such a price. True you can understand why Palace would demand a huge fee, the player is an integral part of the team plus a small percentage would have to go to Zaha’s former club Manchester United, but it seems as though Palace are out pricing themselves.

For example if a team abroad showed their interest could Palace keep that same price? How many team supporters of say Juventus or Real Madrid have even heard of Zaha? That is not meant to be shown as a lack of respect to Zaha who has been a constant presence in the Premier League but surely you have to have done something in your career to highlight and warrant such a fee? It feels like Palace’s valuation of the player is based on the money they would lose to Manchester United as part of the agreement of Zaha being sold to them a few seasons ago.

Let’s look at Zaha’s stats: The first is that he is 27 years old and still has not made the impact which changes a team, he does of course have time on his side. If he is sold to a ‘bigger’ team they would get at least 6 good years out of him. But after the fee of £80m Zaha would also demand a very good wage at least £200,000 a week, over six years that would cost the club a further £60m with bonuses. Now we are talking about a transfer in excess of £140m, really, for Zaha?

Though Zaha is classified as a winger, he is an attacking one and manager Roy Hodgson has used the player as a striker, thus he is there to score goals. But in the league he has never scored more than 10 in a season. He currently has 3 goals from 24 games.

In the fantasy rankings Zaha is in 22nd place for Premier League midfielders and also has 2 assists. That means he has been involved in 5 of Crystal Palace’s 22 goals so far, which represents about 25% of their goals.

One also has to remember that Zaha was born in the Ivory Coast but qualified to play for England, but could not make an impact with the national side enough to become a regular. He was able to represent the Ivory Coast and in the end had no choice but to do so if he wanted to play international football.

In conclusion, Zaha is a good player- you don’t get to spend your career in the Premier League if you’re not. But his club are over valuing him for their own financial benefits, and the price being asked for him feels like a joke in truth. Premier League teams when transferring players within the league seem to add on premiums that don’t exist in Serie A or La Liga and one certainly has to question his transfer which would be the equal 10th best in the history of football.

True, where Zaha ends up he could well be a success for his team, but as said above including his wages would cost a new employer £140m. The same player that doesn’t score enough goals, doesn’t provide enough assists and has only won one trophy, the Community Shield.

Palace need a reality check.

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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