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Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen finally establishing himself among the Premier League elite

Jake Jackman

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Eriksen

The best player in the Premier League is a topic that is often discussed in pubs around the country and on social media. Kevin de Bruyne is a popular suggestion as he has been at the centre of Manchester City’s great start to the season. Eden Hazard, Paul Pogba, Sergio Aguero, Philippe Coutinho and Alexis Sanchez are other suggestions put forward by the various supporters of top-six clubs.

At Tottenham, Harry Kane and Dele Alli are regarded as the star players by the wider community. Christian Eriksen is underrated within the national media, but Spurs’ supporters will attest to his improvement and consistency during the last 12 months. The Danish international is now regularly influencing matches and has established himself as one of the best midfielders in the Premier League.

It was important that Tottenham beat Bournemouth at the weekend to post their first Premier League victory at Wembley. Although the hoodoo at their temporary home was perhaps overstated, it would have been playing on the minds of the players and it is good that they managed to get the three points on Saturday. Eriksen was key to their victory as he scored the only goal of the game. It wasn’t a pretty game, but he stepped up when the team needed him.

He was started on the right of the three attacking midfielders, but his intelligent movement allowed him to remain a constant threat to the Bournemouth defence. Alli and Eriksen have an almost-telepathic relationship, which was evident on Saturday as they interchanged positions effectively. The 25-year-old was a danger throughout the match as he attempted four shots and made three key passes.

Not only does Eriksen offer a huge threat going forward, but he is willing to put a shift in for the team. He won two aerial duels and won one of his two attempted tackles. However, his key defensive contribution can’t be quantified by a single statistic, as he is relentless in his pressing and has advanced a lot under the tutelage of Mauricio Pochettino.

This will be Eriksen’s fifth full season as a Tottenham player and he is now reaching the level that the club hoped he would at the time of signing. The Danish midfielder was regarded as one of the best players to come through the Ajax academy in a number of years and at the age of 25, he still has room to improve in the near future. He will benefit from playing in the Champions League and Tuesday’s match against Real Madrid will be a good opportunity to judge how far he has come.

His progression under Mauricio Pochettino

There were a number of doubters both within the media and the Spurs fan-base when it was Mauricio Pochettino who was appointed to succeed Tim Sherwood at White Hart Lane. The Argentine did a great job at Southampton, but it was a huge step up to manage in North London. Tottenham wanted to become regulars in the Champions League and for a manager without a major trophy to his name, that looked a big ask.

However, Pochettino has done that and the club are now considered as title contenders on a yearly basis. They have yet to win a trophy, but they are a side that continues to develop and Pochettino’s ability to develop young players is a major reason for that. Eriksen was 22 at the time that the Argentine was appointed as manager and at a crucial stage of his development process.

During his first season in England, the Danish international did well, contributing seven goals and eight assists. He was one of the better performers of the seven players signed in the summer of 2013. The likes of Paulinho, Erik Lamela and Robeto Soldado failed to make an impact, but the midfielder signed from Ajax did enough to prove that he had a big future at the club. That said, he was at an early stage of his career and he needed a coach that could get the best from him. Tim Sherwood wasn’t that man and he will have been delighted when Pochettino, known for his work with young players, came in at the beginning of the 2014/15 campaign.

Since Pochettino has been Tottenham manager, Eriksen has been one of his most trusted lieutenants, featuring in 117 of the 122 Premier League matches during that time. He is rarely injured and he has learned how to deal with the physical demands of the system being played by the Argentine manager. Throughout that period, Eriksen has contributed 27 goals and 33 assists, with a goal involvement every 165.3 minutes. That is very impressive, but it has been since the summer of 2015 that he has truly emerged as one of the best players in the division.

Eriksen has had a goal involvement every 144.2 minutes since the beginning of the 2015/16 campaign. To put this into context, Kevin de Bruyne has had a goal involvement of 154.5 minutes, while Eden Hazard’s stands at 168.2 minutes. Despite not being considered as the best player in the division, the Tottenham midfielder has been the best of the three during that time period and has displayed a consistency that the other two have yet to match.

His underlying stats back up his attacking contribution and suggest that he is likely to consolidate his position as one of the best in the Premier League during the coming years. Since the start of the 2015/16 season, Eriksen has averaged 3.25 chances created and 3.4 shots attempted per ninety minutes. This underlines the threat that he poses in the final third and his quality end product means that he regularly backs these up with goals and assists.

Pochettino has been central in bringing out the best in Eriksen as he is utilised in a role that suits him and gets him as involved in the game as possible. The 25-year-old is regularly at the centre of the side’s attacking play and is arguably more important than either Alli or Kane in terms of what he offers. He is the player that links up the build-up play and often plays the killer pass that opens up the opposition defence.

The fact that he has already scored three Premier League goals this season suggests he is becoming an even bigger goal threat on his own merit. That will take him to a whole new level. Although he hasn’t been widely discussed when it comes to being the best player in the Premier League, Eriksen certainly deserves to be based on his consistency and attacking contribution.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

FA Cup

Rochdale 2-2 Tottenham – Lucas Moura shines despite disappointing day for Spurs

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham are going to have to rely on a replay for the second successive round as they conceded a dramatic late equaliser to Rochdale. It was a reminder of the magic that the FA Cup still possesses and it will provide a useful cash injection for the League One club. Spurs opted to make several changes and rest key players, but they selected a team that should have progressed on the day.

Ian Henderson scored in the first-half to give Dale a first-half lead and it was deserved. Keith Hill’s team played good football and went toe-to-toe against their more illustrious opposition.

Lucas Moura and Harry Kane scored to put Tottenham into a 2-1 lead, but that wasn’t the end of the goal-scoring as Steve Davies scored to take the tie to a replay. Here are three talking points from Spotland:

Lucas Moura’s performance showed why Tottenham signed him

It was a signing that came out of left-field, as Tottenham prefer to do their transfer business in the summer. However, this opportunity was too good to turn down as they were given the chance to sign a proven Brazilian international. He had fallen on tough times at PSG and rarely featured this season, but he proved why the club signed him on Sunday.

The Brazilian wasn’t afraid of the fight and was up for the test offered by League One opposition. Every time he got on the ball, it looked like he could make something happen, as shown by his seven dribbles completed.

He had a touch of class that allowed him to stand out from the rest of the players on the pitch and if he can consistently perform at that level, he will turn out to be a great signing.

His movement was superb, as he regularly found pockets of space to exploit. Interestingly, he won five aerial duels and that shows that he has quickly adjusted to English football. It was Lucas that scored the equaliser mid-way through the second half with a confident finish. He will have played himself into Mauricio Pochettino’s plans for the coming weeks.

Rochdale impressed on their day in the spotlight

They were written off before a ball was kicked as they were facing one of the best teams in the country. Rochdale are currently rock-bottom of League One and 11 points from safety, albeit with four matches in hand. They laid a new pitch ahead of this match and the players adapted to it well, showing that they can play good football.

Callum Camps and Andrew Cannon impressed in the centre of the park, while their two wily experienced strikers got the goals. Ian Henderson was a tireless worker in the final third and put the Tottenham defenders under pressure.

He snatched at a couple of chances in the first-half, but he remained cool when another chance came his way and scored the opening goal.

It will be a tough ask for them to go to Wembley, but they can go there with no fear as they have nothing to lose. The tie will give them an injection of money that the club needs, especially if they are to suffer relegation this season.

Toby Alderweireld looks a long way from his best

The Tottenham defence didn’t look as assured as they usually do and both of their centre-backs struggled at times during the match.

Alderweireld was left out of the trip to Juventus and there were some supporters that questioned that decision. However, he looked short of match fitness against Rochdale and was arguably at fault for the late equaliser.

The Belgian international looked rusty and his decision making was not great. He picked up a yellow card for a rash tackle and that is one example of that. Juan Foyth played alongside Alderweireld and his inexperience showed when Rochdale did attack.

For Alderweireld, he wants to be back in the first-team and that is eventually where he will be, but he isn’t at the level required to be starting right now. Tottenham are fighting on multiple fronts and they can’t afford to have any players that aren’t at 100%. He is returning from a serious injury and he will need time to get back to his best.

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Tottenham Hotspur

Why Tottenham have proven they could afford to lose Toby Alderweireld this summer

With speculation surrounding Toby Alderweireld’s Tottenham future, recent performances have proven the club could cope without him, writes Jake Jackman.

Jake Jackman

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Toby Alderweireld
Photo: Reuters

Tottenham are facing another contract stalemate as Toby Alderweireld is thought to be considering his future with the club.

The Telegraph report that his future has been cast in fresh doubt after he was left behind and not selected for the Champions League match against Juventus.

The Belgian international didn’t make the trip to Turin and considering he returned to first-team action last week, he is unlikely to be pleased at his omission.

Although the article speculates on the centre-back’s future, there is no evidence to suggest Alderweireld is looking for a move.

However, he is yet to agree a new deal and given the interest in him, a transfer could be on his mind.

Tottenham play a dangerous game when it comes to their contracts, as they refuse to pay what their competition is offering.

That is one key reason why they are at risk of losing their best players and speculation is taken more seriously by supporters as a result.

The Express reported last summer that Kyle Walker doubled his wages when he joined Manchester City.

Although money won’t be the main motivating factor behind a player leaving Spurs, it is certainly a factor.

Mauricio Pochettino didn’t look too worried during his pre-match press-conference, suggesting Alderweireld needed time to recover from his serious injury.

He isn’t ready for a huge game yet and the club have made the decision to leave him behind to benefit all parties long-term.

The Telegraph report the following quotes from the Argentine:

“It was a massive injury that we needed to be cautious over because we cannot put at risk his career. We designed a plan from day one to provide him the best route to recovery and be stronger than before.

“Of course, we are sorry for him because when you miss some games like Arsenal or the Champions League that we have worked a lot to try to play… I can understand.

“And we are frustrated too, because when you cannot play it is difficult to accept. The player always thinks he is fit, but it is our responsibility to take the best decision.

“He will be part of the team next Sunday against Rochdale (in the FA Cup) and, again, we are going to assess him day by day.”

There is every chance that Pochettino is being honest, but as the defender played against Newport County, it is known that he is available.

The manager has been reluctant in the past to rush players back from serious injuries.

Erik Lamela has had to accept his role as a bench player while he builds up his fitness.

Meanwhile, Danny Rose wasn’t immediately restored to the starting eleven after his time out on the sidelines.

That said, the Alderweireld’s future has been reported on and that begs the question, could Tottenham afford to lose him?

Since moving to Tottenham, Toby Alderweireld has established himself as one of the best defenders in the Premier League, if not Europe.

There won’t be a shortage of options for him if he does decide to push for an exit from the club.

However, Spurs are now in a position in which they don’t need to cave at each and every one of the defender’s demands in the talks over a new contract.

Now, they have proved they are able to cope without him.

During their last three Premier League fixtures, wins against Manchester United and Arsenal sandwich a hard-fought draw against Liverpool at Anfield.

They have taken seven points from arguably three of their hardest fixtures of the season and conceded only two goals in the process.

That is hugely impressive and the absence of Alderweireld evidently was not felt, with their opponents managing a combined 21 shots across the three matches.

Considering they were playing three of the best attacks in the Premier League, that record is incredible.

There will be many taking the view that Tottenham will be even more formidable when Alderweireld returns to the line-up, but a more controversial stance would be that the team no longer need the Belgian.

Although the club will want to keep hold of him, it has been proven that he isn’t as integral to this Tottenham team as many previously considered him to be.

The progression of Davinson Sanchez and reliability of Jan Vertonghen means that Pochettino has two other quality options, while Eric Dier is an able deputy.

Alderweireld will be back in the starting eleven soon as he has too much quality to sit on the sidelines, but he can no longer go into these contract negotiations and talk up his worth as recent evidence proves that the team can thrive without him.

The departure of Kyle Walker last summer showed that Tottenham can be ruthless with players making ultimatums and progress without them.

It would be a shame if the Belgian defender did leave at the end of the season, but Spurs could recover from it.

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Champions League

Juventus 2-2 Tottenham: Mousa Dembele back to his very best in Juventus draw

Jake Jackman

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Tottenham

Tottenham earned an excellent result in the Champions League as they fought back from 2-0 down to earn a credible draw against Juventus. The Serie A team have a lot more experience in this competition, but they found wanting for game management on Tuesday, as they let a dominant position slip after an impressive opening 10 minutes.

They quickly went up by two goals after a Gonzalo Higuain brace, but the Argentine will feel disappointed at the end of the game as he could have reinstated the lead before half-time. However, his second penalty smashed against the bar. After the break, Spurs were very good and were deserving of their equaliser. Here are three talking points from the Allianz Stadium:

Tottenham have fight to go with their quality

If the team spirit of this Tottenham team was ever in doubt, it isn’t any longer as they showed great belief to fight back from 2-0 down against one of the biggest clubs in Europe. They couldn’t have had a worse start as lazy defending allowed Gonzalo Higuain to score an excellent goal. There was a hint of offside, but the visitors were switched off and not aware of the danger.

Another goal quickly followed and at that stage, it looked like it could be a thrashing. However, the players rallied and started to get back in the game by doing the simple things well. In previous seasons, their North London rivals Arsenal have been embarrassed at this stage of the competition and it looked like a similar fate was waiting for Tottenham, but they didn’t fall into the same state of paralysis.

Mousa Dembele was key to the turnaround, as he was distributing the ball well from the centre of the park. His ability to carry it forward five or ten yards was crucial in putting Juventus on the back foot. Christian Eriksen was displaying the creativity that he shows regularly in the Premier League and Harry Kane recovered from a poor miss to get on the score-sheet. Outside of the opening ten minutes, Tottenham were the better team and they have a great chance of progressing to the next round after this result.

Gonzalo Higuain’s career was summed up in 45 minutes

The Argentine international has been on the verge of being a world class player for a number of years, but he regularly fails to make it count on the big stage. It was shaping up to be his night early on as he scored a brace in the opening ten minutes. He looked in the mood and showed a clinical edge in front of goal that threatened to put the tie to bed.

However, as always with Higuain, he missed a crucial chance at an important moment of the game. Seconds before half-time, Douglas Costa did very well to win a penalty for his team with a superb run into the Tottenham box. After scoring from the spot earlier in the match, the former Napoli striker stepped up and smashed an effort against the bar.

It was a confident effort from the forward, as he put his foot through the ball, but the accuracy wasn’t there. If he scored the penalty, it likely put the match beyond Tottenham as they would have went in to half-time with low spirits. As it worked out, they went in with momentum and they used that to great effect in the second half. Higuain has had a habit of letting his team down when it matters most and that was true again on Tuesday night.

Mousa Dembele is back to his best

The central midfielder earned rave reviews at the weekend as he dominated the middle of the park in the North London derby. It was an excellent performance and Tottenham needed a similar display if they were to gain a positive result in Italy. Juventus are renowned for being well-organised and difficult to break down. If the visitors were to get anything from the game, they needed to compete in the central areas and Dembele was key to that objective.

The 30-year-old is able to deliver in both halves of the pitch and he did on Tuesday. He made five ball recoveries and was regularly seen breaking up the play high up the pitch. The midfielder’s best attribute is his power when running with the ball and that was on display at the Allianz Stadium. He completed six dribbles and was near impossible to dispossess when he was advancing up the pitch.

In addition to his ball-carrying, Dembele was effective in distributing the ball, as evidenced by his pass success rate of 95%. He made two key passes and showed a creativity that was perhaps lacking at the weekend. The Belgian international isn’t the perfect midfielder, but he is a well-rounded one and is crucial for Tottenham when he is in this vein of form. They will need him to deliver a similar performance in three weeks’ time at Wembley.

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