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English Premier League

Pochettino’s lasting legacy



When Mauricio Pochettino arrived from the sunny south coast into the capital, people were wondering what methods he would bring with him. I think we all suggested his methodical passing game would fit in nicely at Spurs, his defensive solidity as a manager and tactician would probably work OK also, but curious thoughts were reserved for his transfer policy and how he handled the big personalities at Tottenham.

Tottenham seem to be forever in the back pages of any redtop newspaper, given that if any player is likely to move or someone has impressed overseas or in an international event, then some of these journalists play it easy. Maybe it’s something larger than that, maybe Levy and his cronies like the publicity and leak the information. Or maybe they just don’t keep hold off it as well as others around them, after all, publicity is the easiest form of marketing.

Of the splurge that pretty much symbolised Tottenham over two seasons ago, with the seven purchases that they signed on the back of Gareth Bale’s departure, only three(ish) now remain. Paulinho will now be setting up shop in Guangzhou, China – all the promise Spurs fans were expecting to see will be only visible in rerun footage on social media posts of his dismal miss against Burnley. Vlad Chiriches, if transfer rumours are anything to go by, is heading to Fiorentina and even if he doesn’t, he does have the look like he’s heading the way of Stefan Savic and Matija Nastasic. Ettiene Capoue has finally moved to another London club and seems most likely to succeed in England out of the three mentioned.

The mystery behind which club will be charitable enough to take anti-goal Soldado (I’d put money on it being a Turkish club) remains as a large question given they need another striker due to the over-reliance on Harry Kane and the disappearance of Adebayor’s talent and reappearance of his inflated ego. Erik Lamela was painted on the ceilings of White Hart Lane chapel’s as the divine successor of Bale, but given his injuries and lack of playing time he hasn’t shone in that time, at least not £26 million’s worth (yes, even that Rabona wasn’t worth it). But all is not lost, the signing of Christian Eriksen represents a brilliant coup. Like an exquisite Apple strudel, delicate, light and utterly excellent throughout the year has given Spurs’s transfer panel something to cling on to.

Nacer Chadli will inevitably become a sorry tale, possibly doing “a Capoue” by moving to another lesser English club which is likely to be renamed at some point in the near future “a Townsend”.  But Nacer and Eriksen’s signings have something of the Pochettino mould to them, signing from industrious, philosophy-built sides with not the weight of expectation on them to succeed Bale from the get go. Since Pochettino has come into the Spurs cauldron of rumours and publicity, he’s done a cracking job in keeping it simmering and not boiling over. He’s steadily got rid of deadwood in the ranks, overseeing the departures of Sandro, Dawson, Naughton and Sigurdsson (not deadwood, just unfortunate) in his first season. The bloom of some bloke called Harry Kane was seen as a masterstroke and people soon forgot about some other bloke from Wales.

Erik Lamela will be hoping to stay injury free next season.

Clever purchases all individually under £8 million (which is completely bizarre in the world of Spurs) in goal-keeper cover in Vorm, industrious Welsh left back in Davies, raw but talented Dier and Yedlin and Stambouli who they’ve made a profit on a year later. Moving on a year and similar neat signings in Trippier and Wimmer, who is in the same mould as Vertonghen (left footed, strong and 6ft2) gives them depth at the back and could play a larger part in the Europa League and League cups as opposed to the League.

Rolling into this season, more is expected from Pochettino I gather. He’s building a strong and hungry young squad in which he’s cautious with his purchases, given the team is already settled, but he’s deemed it needs solidifying around the back, giving Vertonghen a much needed respite. Alderweireld at £16 million could be conceived at being a large transfer, but given that both came from Germinal Beerschot and Ajax together and partner each other in the national squad, gives the instinct that they’ll become an excellent centre back pairing in the league. If you have you’re doubts then check this visual.

You still every footballing site and newspaper linking you to who Spurs are after next, uttering worlds like “Spurs set to pip such and such” or “Tottenham leading the pack on …”, but with Poch in charge, they seem calm and collected. Like I said earlier, they’re a bit short up front given that they’re likely to see the back of Soldado and Adebayor, so maybe we’re destined to see there transfer panel kick up a fuss soon, but I wouldn’t be expecting the a large transfer fee on a huge, mercurial Spursy signing. Maybe another Kane will pop out of the bag.

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FA Cup

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

Jake Jackman




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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Roberto Firmino: His performances will shape the end to Liverpool’s season

Martyn Cooke



On Sunday afternoon at St Mary’s Stadium the returning Virgil Van Dijk took centre stage and assumed the role of pantomime villain for the day.

However, whilst much of the pre-game build up was centred on the former Southampton defender, who was making his first return to the club since signing for Liverpool in January, the post-match conversations were focused on the brilliance of the Dutchman’s attacking teammate.

Roberto Firmino is one of the most under-rated players in the Premier League and his performance last weekend reaffirmed that he is one of the most effective forward players in the top-flight of English football.

The Brazilian has rarely been the centre of attention since arriving at Anfield in the summer of 2015 for £29 million and the media have often overlooked his significant contributions on the pitch.

Roberto Firmino

At Liverpool he has been forced to be content playing in the shadow of Philippe Coutinho, prior to his move to Barcelona, and Mohamed Salah, who has been a revelation since joining the club in the summer.

But Firmino is now emerging as one of the most creative, innovative and exciting forwards in the Premier League and he is undoubtedly one of the most improved players of the season.

The 26-year-old is both a creator and a goal scorer, as Southampton discovered to their cost at the weekend, when he opened the scoring with a neat finish within the opening six minutes before providing the assist for Salah’s goal with an ingenious flick.

The goal was his 20th of the campaign, which was shortly followed by his 21st of the season against Porto in the Reds’ midweek Champions League fixture, and he is now only nine short of becoming the Premier League’s all-time highest Brazilian goal scorer.

Firmino is a unique mixture of technical brilliance, creativity, innovation and an intelligence that makes him unpredictable, difficult to mark and a constant threat, regardless of where he pops up on the pitch.

However, whilst his Brazilian flair may catch the eye it is his willingness to pressurise opponents and work hard off the ball that is genuinely impressive.

He is certainly a favourite of Jurgen Klopp, who admires his hard running, work rate and pressing that often sets the tone for the rest of the team.

The 26-year-old has still gone somewhat unnoticed this campaign despite his consistency and performances on the pitch and the fact that he has missed only one league game all season.

But that is set to change.

Firmino’s performances and form have proven that there is still a bright future at Anfield despite the departure of Coutinho in January.

Deployed as an unconventional number nine, the Brazilian is the centre of a dynamic attacking forward line that sees him flanked by Salah on one side and Sadio Mane on the other.

The trio possess the pace, intelligence and creativity to threaten any team in Europe, as demonstrated by the mid-week five-goal demolition of Porto in the Champions League, and central to their effectiveness is the link up play of Firmino.

Still only 26, the Brazilian is about to reach the peak of his prowess and his continued development under Klopp poses the exciting question of how much better the forward might become in the forthcoming two or three years.

He certainly possesses all of the characteristics to become a legend at the club, should he choose to remain at Anfield long term, and he now has the opportunity to step out of Coutinho’s shadow and enjoy the limelight for himself.

Liverpool supporters will be hoping that Firmino can maintain his current run of form over the coming months and his performances will shape the club’s season.

His creativity and knack for scoring goals will be an invaluable commodity as Klopp goes in search of a top four place and potential silverware.

Firmino my have been underrated in the past, but he is now taking centre stage as the focal point of Liverpool’s attack.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech



Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion…

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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