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Tottenham round-up: Three Europe-based players linked with club; Mauricio Pochettino contingency plan lined-up

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They left it late, but Tottenham Hotspur got the job done at the Liberty Stadium with an eventual 3-1 win over Swansea City to ensure the gap between themselves and Chelsea remained at seven points, after the Blues ground out a hard-fought win over Manchester City at Stamford Bridge.

For long periods though, it looked like it could be the final nail in the coffin of Spurs’ faint title hopes, as they trailed up until the 88th minute to former Spur Wayne Routledge’s early opener for the Swans. But Spurs, as Pochettino warned title rivals Chelsea in recent days, have a newfound resilience, and a Dele Alli equaliser plus stoppage-time strikes from Son Heung-Min and Christian Eriksen will send out a strong message that the North Londoners are not prepared to give up the ghost just yet.

Despite this, the wheels are already in motion off the field ahead of next season to help strengthen Spurs into a side that can contest the title even more closely, and to this end, reports from Italian outlet Tutto Mercato and the Daily Mirror claim that the club have been scouting players from the Serie A and the Bundesliga in search for talent to add to the ranks over the summer. The players believed to be under the watchful eye of the White Hart Lane outfit are Inter Milan duo Geoffrey Kondogbia and Gerson Murillo, plus RB Leipzig midfielder Naby Keita.

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Tutto Mercato claim that Spurs scouts were at the San Siro having been tasked with watching Kondogbia and Murillo during Inter’s 2-1 defeat to Sampdoria on Monday night, though their endeavour hit a snag when Murillo finished up an unused substitute, with Kondogbia also starting on the bench before coming on at half-time.

France international Kondogbia has struggled to recapture the form he showed before his switch from Monaco in 2015 during his stint with the Nerazzurri, and the report claims that Spurs are particularly keen on an acquisition.

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Meanwhile, 22-year-old Keita has shot to prominence with Bundesliga newcomers Leipzig this season, with six goals and eight assists for the side currently second in the German top-flight, with his impressive performances arousing interest from around Europe according to the Mirror’s report. This has reportedly proved enough to tempt Spurs into the chase for the Guinea international, who joined Leipzig from fellow Red Bull franchise Salzburg of the Austrian Bundesliga over the summer.

His contract with Leipzig is set to run until 2020, but Spurs will be eyeing up the midfielder ahead of their Champions League group campaign next season, on the basis that they qualify, after Dele Alli’s red card in the Europa League against Genk ensured he will miss the first three games of Spurs’ European adventure, whenever it resumes.

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Whether the moves materialise or not, the pursuit of the players concerned would occur under the watchful eye of manager Mauricio Pochettino, with the Argentine having hinted he will remain at the club after distancing himself from the Barcelona job, which will become vacant this summer with current Nou Camp boss Luis Enrique set to step down at the end of the season.

There may still be concern over the future of Pochettino, however, regarding the current situation surrounding the Argentina manager’s post. Current boss Edgardo Bauza is under fire with the Albiceleste struggling in World Cup qualifying, and Express Sport believes that the current Spurs boss may be in the reckoning to replace beleaguered boss Bauza, should the Argentine Football Association opt to oust him.

Were the unthinkable to happen though, and Pochettino be prised away from White Hart Lane in a shock move, Italian outlet Tutto Mercato believe that Tottenham have lined-up current Roma boss Luciano Spalletti to become the next Spurs chief, as a contingency plan.

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The report claims the club would prefer the Roma boss as Pochettino’s successor were the Argentine to leave, and have apparently already drawn up a three-year contract worth £3.9million in the event of a Pochettino departure. Spalletti’s future at the Stadio Olimpico is very much in doubt, with the side second in Serie A but with little chance of overhauling Juventus at the top, and it is thought the Italian may depart the club this summer if the club fails to secure the Coppa Italia, the last realistic opportunity for silverware that the club has on the agenda this campaign, having already exited Europe.

Featured Image: All Rights Reserved by JuveBalkan Portal.

Scott is a Port Vale fan who writes regularly for The Boot Room as a freelancer. He is a fan of several sports but most of his experience in journalism comes from football and volleyball. He has produced several works on major Championships for both the FIVB and CEV in the volleyball world out in Switzerland, and is currently studying for a BA Hons in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford.

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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