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Tottenham Hotspur

Five reasons why Tottenham can have mixed feelings about their start to the Premier League season

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After falling narrowly short of a title challenge for the second season in a row, Tottenham will be praying that the old cliché of ‘third time lucky’ comes true in the 2017-18 Premier League season.

However, they haven’t quite managed to hit the ground running this year, with their form at their temporary ‘home’ Wembley stumbling out of the blocks and leaving them five points off the top.

But their away form has been flawless until now, and combine this with two wins from two in the Champions League group stages and there have been plenty of positives for Mauricio Pochettino.

The Boot Room assesses Tottenham’s start to the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.

Harry Kane continues to defy ‘one season wonder’ claims

What a remarkable start to the year it’s been for Harry Kane.

The 24-year-old couldn’t buy a goal in August, having 24 shots on goal in three matches against Newcastle, Burnley and Chelsea, striking the post three times in a turgid run of luck in front of goal.

This only served to carry on his infamous August goal-drought, with the England striker still incredibly without a goal in 898 minutes of action in the opening month of the Premier League season, and his critics started to creep out of the woodwork as Tottenham endured a stumbling start to the year.

Yet this drastically turned around once September came, with Kane scoring 13 goals in 30 days for club and country and making a very big statement about his world-class credentials whilst doing so.

To put it into perspective, his goal tally last month (13) matched the highest ever return from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for their respective clubs – and that’s not exactly bad company to keep.

The unlikely redemption of Moussa Sissoko

Whilst Kane’s performances may have been expected, the sudden redemption of Moussa Sissoko this year has surprised almost everyone – including Sissoko himself – after a string of good displays.

The £30 million signing from Newcastle was nothing more than a laughing stock at Tottenham during his debut season, failing to re-produce his sparkling form for France in their 2016 European Championship triumph, and he seemed destined to leave London over the summer transfer window.

But Mauricio Pochettino has admirably stuck by the 28-year-old despite the heavy criticism he has faced and it seems that Sissoko has turned a corner, finding consistent performances so far this year.

The long-term absence of both Mousa Dembele and Victor Wanyama has helped his cause a lot, slotting into a more central midfield role alongside Eric Dier, and he’s started to thrive in a deeper position by offering support to the likes of Dele Alli – rather than having the creative onus on his shoulders.

He would have been incredibly relieved to notch his first Premier League goal for Tottenham in the 4-0 win at Huddersfield and it’ll only help him continue to build his confidence back up after a bright start.

Davinson Sanchez adds new dynamic in defence

Moussa Sissoko may have failed to hit the ground running in his debut season at Tottenham but Pochettino got his recruitment spot on over the summer, particularly with young Davinson Sanchez.

It’s not the easiest task to come to the Premier League as a 21-year-old and make a name for yourself straight away but that’s exactly what the former Ajax man has done, and he’s made quite the impression.

He is a completely different style of player to his fellow centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, who both like the ball at their feet and time on the ball, and Sanchez has well and truly stamped his mark on this Spurs side with a combination of brute strength, power and raw pace.

The Colombian is the definition of a gritty, battling centre-back, being strong and reliable in one-on-one situations, and the frightening thing is he already looks like a top-flight veteran after just five games.

To put it simply Sanchez is a brick wall in the heart of the Tottenham defence and no attacker will relish coming up against him, and expect him to be a huge part of this Spurs squad for many years.

Wembley hoodoo is hard to escape

Yet it hasn’t all been plain sailing in north London this season, and Tottenham’s infamous recent record at Wembley Stadium has seemingly continued into the 2017-18 Premier League campaign.

Continuous construction on White Hart Lane means that the Lilywhites are playing their ‘home’ matches at the home of English football for the immediate future, but whichever way you look at it there’s simply no way to escape that Tottenham have found it hard to secure results at Wembley in the league.

In their three Premier League matches there this season they’ve lost to rivals Chelsea, been held dramatically by Burnley and failed to grind down Swansea City, going without a home win until now.

It’s a far cry from their invincible home form at White Hart Lane last year, where Spurs went all 19 matches without defeat – winning 17 – and they need to turn it around to be serious title contenders.

Dele Alli hits the headlines for wrong reasons

One worrying factor that will be becoming a growing concern for Pochettino is the form of midfield talisman Dele Alli, with the England star struggling to hit top stride in Spurs’ opening seven matches.

The 21-year-old seems to be finding the headlines for all of the wrong reasons at the minute, whether that be for obscene gestures whilst on international duties or picking up a yellow card for simulation in the win at Huddersfield, and the youngster could do with responding with displays on the pitch.

He has found it hard to influence games as much so far this season, with Christian Eriksen taking on much of the creative burden, and Alli has only earnt one assist in comparison to his teammates two.

It is a far cry from the level that he was playing at last season when he scored 18 times, assisted seven and created 51 chances in 37 Premier League games, and he’ll know he needs to improve his current form.

With it confirmed on Thursday night that England will take their spot at the 2018 World Cup, Alli should be looking to fight for his starting role – and that starts with putting in displays domestically for Tottenham.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @willypearson.

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Tottenham Hotspur

How influential has Son Heung-min become at Tottenham Hotspur?

Jake Jackman

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Son Heung-min
Photo: Reuters

Son Heung-min is enjoying a breakout season at Tottenham, having finally emerged from the shadows of the rest of the club’s attacking talent, which has allowed him to secure a regular starting position in Mauricio Pochettino’s team.

Since signing in the summer of 2015, the former Bayer Leverkusen forward has been a supporting player in the squad. He has contributed at times, but he hasn’t been able to break into the starting eleven. That is until now and his consistency during the last couple of months proves that he is ready to take up such a role.

Following the club’s recent 4-0 victory over Everton, the South Korean international was named man-of-the-match and received praise from Mauricio Pochettino, as reported by the Evening Standard:

“It was a great performance, but it’s not only today. It’s three months we’ve been talking about Sonny’s performance. He’s showing he’s more mature than last season and his performances are helping the team a lot.

“He, today, everyone can see that he’s on more of a level, the belief and confidence that show in every game is fantastic. He’s been doing so well this season of course.”

One of the main reasons for Tottenham’s development into a Champions League team is the coaching of Mauricio Pochettino. The Argentine is very good at getting the best out of his squad and helping his players reach the next level. Other clubs rely on spending a lot of money to maintain a high standard, while Spurs’ success is more natural.

Son is a great example of a player that arrived with potential and flourished under the management in North London. They may not be challenging for the title, but the club continue to move forward and it is crucial that they keep this group of players together.

It was a quality performance from the South Korean on Saturday and he was a constant threat, showing a good understanding of the rest of his side’s attack through clever interchanging movement.

Son scored the opening goal, ghosting into the box before finishing from Serge Aurier’s cross. He was the player to have the greatest impact in the attacking half, as he attempted seven shots, more than any other player on the pitch.

He showed his great instincts in the final third, with his movement proving key to the Lilywhite’s success going forward. He is direct in the final third and that makes him a dangerous weapon to have in the team. The Tottenham number seven came close to doubling his tally with an excellent effort from range, but he was denied by the woodwork.

The 25-year-old is more than a goal-scorer, as he showed for the club’s second of the evening. Displaying great skill to beat the defender, he laid a pass on a plate for the in-form Harry Kane.

In addition to a direct threat, Son was reliable in possession and ended the match with a pass success rate of 84%. This was the highest of the Tottenham front four and showed another string to his bow.

Creatively, the South Korean international made two key passes. The 25-year-old is an effective player in transition as he can carry the ball with good speed.

Against Everton, he completed five dribbles, which was joint-most of the match tied with Mousa Dembele. He is playing with a lot of confidence at the moment and is a joy to watch.

The next challenge for Son will be to maintain this form for the rest of the season and avoid being relegated back to the bench. The match against Everton was his ninth consecutive start in the Premier League and this run of games has been his most successful period as a Tottenham player.

As things stand, he has contributed eight goals and four assists in the Premier League, with his goal involvement standing as one every 116.25 minutes. To put this into context, Dele Alli’s is 153.4 minutes and Christian Eriksen’s is 163.8 minutes.

Harry Kane is a crucial player for Tottenham, due to his goal-scoring record. However, they aren’t as reliant on him as they were 18 months ago and a huge reason for that has been the progression of Son.

He is now the main supporting actor to the Tottenham number 10 and his recent promotion to a regular starter is well deserved. He has been used in a variety of positions and always managed to contribute, which is a testament to his commitment.

Now he is in a settled role, Spurs are seeing the best of what he has to offer and they will be hoping that it can continue for a long time.

2018 promises to be another huge year for Son. He is already the top-scoring South Korean in Premier League history and that record will be improved on over the next 12 months. His country will be at the forefront of his mind as he is set to go to the World Cup in the summer after they were drawn to face Sweden, Mexico and Germany.

Although he won’t be considering it, he has the potential to be the best player in the history of South Korean football and he could cement that legacy in Russia. Given his current form, it is difficult to back against him from making the step up to the next level during this calendar year.

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Champions League

Are Tottenham Hotspur potential 2017/18 Champions League winners?

Rob Meech

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Tottenham
Photo: Reuters

Of the five Premier League clubs that have progress to the last 16 of the Champions League,  Tottenham Hotspur are the surprise package.

Their lacklustre domestic form, coupled with a devilishly difficult group that featured European heavyweights Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund, meant few expected Spurs to be in the draw for the knockout stages.

But Mauricio Pochettino’s charges, playing their home matches at Wembley Stadium while they await the completion of their brand-new stadium at White Hart Lane, exceeded all expectations.

Their reward is a daunting two-legged tie with last season’s runners-up, Italian powerhouse Juventus. Here, The Boot Room assesses Tottenham’s chances of lifting the trophy.

Performances so far

When the groups were announced, the odds were stacked massively against Spurs finishing in the top two.

Although Cypriot outfit Apoel Nicosia appeared on paper to be favourable opposition, the presence of two clubs with an enviable Champions League pedigree, in Real and Dortmund, looked to be too big a challenge to overcome.

So for Tottenham to remain unbeaten and qualify as group winners was a huge fillip for Pochettino. The victory at home to Real on a magical night at Wembley will live long in the memory, as will the hard-earned point they earned in the corresponding fixture at the Santiago Bernabeu.

That was the only match in which they dropped points, having completed noteworthy doubles over Dortmund and Apoel.

Squad strength

Although Tottenham finished second in the Premier League last season, questions continue to be asked about their strength in depth.

In Harry Kane, the north London club boast arguably the most in-form striker in world football, while the likes of Dele Alli, Cristian Eriksen and Toby Alderweireld are regularly rated among the elite footballers in Europe.

Beyond that, however, Spurs have some issues.

Despite signing Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier and Fernando Llorente last summer in an effort to bolster his resources, the suspicion remains that Pochettino is over-reliant on a few individuals – especially Kane. If he were to get injured for a prolonged period, then Tottenham’s goal scoring potency and their effectiveness would be severely diminished.

Manager

Pochettino has been a revelation since swapping the Southampton hot-seat for Tottenham’s in 2014, taking the club to the next level.

The Champions League was not new territory for Spurs, who had qualified for a single season under Harry Redknapp’s stewardship, but the Argentinian manager has made their presence in the competition commonplace.

One criticism often aimed at Pochettino is that, for all his good work in transforming Spurs into a genuine force to rival the very best in the Premier League, he is yet to win any silverware.

He twice lifted the Copa del Rey with Espanyol, but his time in England has so far proved fruitless. With such a talented squad at his disposal, it is high time he saw tangible reward.

Chances of winning

Despite their magnificent effort to top Group H, Spurs are one of the outsiders to win the Champions League this season.

Their potential path to the final has already been complicated after being drawn against Juventus in the last 16. However, should they achieve the not-so-small matter of knocking out last year’s finalists, who would bet against them going all the way?

Domestically, Tottenham have struggled to reproduce last season’s form and have dropped far too many points, particularly at home. But this has been in stark contrast to their performances in Europe.

They can take great heart from their displays against Real and Dortmund and should believe they belong at this rarefied level. And with a striker as prolific as Kane in their team, anything can happen.

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Match Reaction

Tottenham 1–1 West Ham: Three talking points from Wembley Stadium

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Tottenham

Heung-min Son’s thunderous late drive cancelled out Pedro Obiang’s equally sensational effort for West Ham to salvage a point for Tottenham on a frustrating night for the hosts at Wembley Stadium.

Heading into the match on the back of three consecutive Premier League wins, Mauricio Pochettino’s side started expectedly strong against a West Ham outfit depleted by injuries.

Harry Kane saw an effort ruled out for offside before having a drive pushed away by Adrian whilst Christian Eriksen’s powerful drive was tipped over by the Spaniard to keep things level at half-time.

And it was the hosts who came out strongest after the break too, with Kane having a strong penalty appeal waved away by referee Mike Dean after appearing to be hauled down by a clumsy Pablo Zabaleta at the back post, before the England man was denied by last-ditch defending seconds later.

It seemed that Tottenham’s wastefulness in front of goal would come back to haunt them when Pedro Obiang struck a blistering 30-yard drive into the roof of the net to give West Ham the lead.

But Heung-Min Son replied in equally eye-catching style with seven minutes to go, rocketing a 25-yard strike past a helpless Adrian to salvage a point for the hosts in a game they should have won.

A frustrating derby draw sees Spurs miss out on the chance to close the gap to fourth-placed Liverpool to just one point, now three adrift, whilst West Ham move two away from relegation.

Two wonder goals light up Wembley Stadium

For 70 minutes on Thursday night it was something of a turgid affair.

The attack vs defence nature of the game was clear for all to see, with West Ham more than happy sitting deep and holding out for a draw, and it was little more than a training exercise for Tottenham.

Aside from a few Adrian saves there was little to get excited about as the hosts tried to find a way to unlock the visitors’ defence, but as time ticked on it began to seem more and more likely that the Hammers would frustrate Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

That was, until Pedro Obiang turned the game on its head with a moment of utter individual brilliance.

With his side’s first shot on goal all match – in the 70th minute – he thumped a piledriver from 30-yards into the roof of the net and past Hugo Lloris, giving West Ham supporters hope of a shock win.

Yet Tottenham continued to knock at the door and they replied with an equally stunning effort courtesy of the in-form Heung-min Son, who rifled home a 25-yard strike to restore some parity.

There may have been a lot of Premier League football played over the past fortnight but it seemed that the best was saved until last, and Wembley played host to two of the best goals of the season.

Moyes’ top-six blueprint works once again

Despite winning on just one of their previous 15 Premier League visits to Tottenham, David Moyes’ side would have gone into Thursday’s London derby in good spirits and believing that they could cause another upset after coming from behind to beat Spurs in the Carabao Cup earlier this season.

On that occasion they came from 2-0 down at half-time to complete a remarkable 3-2 turnaround in what proved to be Slaven Bilic’s final victory as manager, but any hope of a similar result a few months down the line seemed unlikely prior to kick-off considering the Hammers’ lengthy injury list.

Both Aaron Cresswell and Marko Arnautovic were left out of the matchday squad after picking up injuries during the 2-1 win over West Brom whilst two-goal hero Andy Carroll also missed out again.

These fresh injuries meant that West Ham’s bench was down to the bare minimum, with their substitutes against Spurs including 18-year-old Domingos Quina, fellow youngsters Moses Makasi and Sead Haksabanovic and the far from fully fit Carroll.

But despite having a stretched squad at his disposal it was yet another inspired and magnificent defensive effort from David Moyes’ side, reminiscent of recent games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

They were tight and compact and offered the hosts little in the way of glaring opportunities, being more than happy to allow them the ball on the edge of the area and limit them to long-range shots.

The Hammers’ application was summed up perfectly in the dying seconds when Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli and Son all had shots blocked by some desperate, last-ditch defending, and although people will complain about their negative tactics away from home they deserve credit for executing them.

Since Moyes has come in he’s seen his side beat Chelsea, take a point off of Arsenal, push Manchester City to the very end and now earn a point against Spurs, all with similarly defensive displays, and if they can translate these performances into games against bottom-half sides then there’s enough to suggest they’ll be fine when May comes around.

Spurs momentum stalls with derby draw

After a limping start to the 2017/18 season earnt talks of a ‘Wembley Hoodoo’, it seemed that Tottenham had been starting to build up some momentum in their pursuit of their top four rivals.

Over the hectic festive period Mauricio Pochettino’s side had won three Premier League matches out of three, including an impressively convincing win away at Burnley, and there wouldn’t have been many predicting anything other than a routine win on Thursday against struggling West Ham.

Yet, for all of their domination of possession and for all of their shots on goal, Tottenham were brought back down to earth in disappointing fashion as they missed the chance to close the gap on Liverpool to a single point.

In all truth it could have been a lot worse for Pochettino’s side had Heung-min Son’s brilliant strike not nestled into the net in the 83rd minute but it will be two points dropped rather than one gained.

The hosts were in control from the first whistle, almost exclusively playing their football inside the Hammers’ territory, and the fact that the home side had 31 shots to West Ham’s 3 and made 42 touches in the penalty area compared to just 4 tells its own story of how dominant Tottenham were.

Yet statistics count for nothing if you can’t translate territory into goals and Pochettino will be left ruing his side’s wastefulness ahead of a tough run of games at the end of the month, with Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and a European trip to Juventus approaching on the horizon.

It’s this run of back-to-back matches that will be a true test of their top-four credentials, and Pochettino will know that his side can’t afford to be as wasteful in front of goal against better sides.

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