So Tottenham Hotspurs’ FA Cup curse continues.
Goals from Alexis Sanchez and Ander Herrera consigned Mauricio Pochettino’s side to a narrow defeat against Manchester United on Saturday and means that Spurs have lost all of their last eight FA Cup semi-finals. It is a bizarre statistic that underlines the club’s struggle to secure regular silverware in the modern era.
Furthermore, defeat at Wembley consigns Tottenham to another season without a trophy. It is now a decade since the club last won a major honour, the 2007/08 League Cup under the stewardship of Juande Ramos, and over half a century since they last secured a top-flight championship.
However, more importantly, the lack of success is now threatening to undermine Pochettino’s reign.
There is little doubt that the Argentinian has overseen a significant improvement in the club’s standing since being appointed as manager in summer of 2014.
He has built a young, dynamic squad that produces fast, pacey, attacking football which, at times, is exhilarating watch whilst also cementing Tottenham’s place as one of the four leading team’s in England.
One of Pochettino’s strengths is his ability to find solutions and bounce back from setbacks.
A couple of years ago, it was widely claimed that Tottenham could not finish above Arsenal, yet this will be the second successive season that they have finished above their North London rivals.
Furthermore, it was only twelve months ago that Pochettino was criticised for overseeing Spurs’ poor Champions League campaign, yet this year the team have proven the doubters wrong by beating Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund whilst progressing to the knock out stages of the competition.
However, the Argentinian now needs to find a solution to Tottenham’s inability to secure silverware.
There is a danger that all of the good work that Pochettino has done will be slowly eroded away with each season that the club fails to secure a major honour. He needs a trophy not only to validate his own achievements at the club but also to keep the current squad of players together.
The warning signs were there for all to see in the summer.
The departure of Kyle Walker could be an early precursor to the dismantling of the current Tottenham side. The defender opted to join Manchester City in search of silverware and it will not have gone unnoticed in the Spurs’ dressing room that he has won both the Premier League and League Cup in his debut season at the Etihad.
Big-name players want to be challenging for major honours and when their career culminates they want to have a trophy cabinet full of winners’ medals rather than a loose claim of finishing in the top-four on a regular basis.
Walker’s success may already be raising questions in the back of the minds of some of Tottenham’s star names. At 24 years of age Harry Kane has already scored over 100 goals for Spurs and has emerged as one of the best strikers in European football, yet he has no trophies or winner medals to show for it.
However, Kane does have a natural connection and affinity with the club and he is unlikely to leave any time soon, but others, such as Mousa Dembele and Christian Eriksen, may not be so patient. If one of European football’s ‘big-hitters’ come knocking then it will be incredibly difficult for Tottenham to keep hold of their star names.
What is certain is that Pochettino needs to find a way of securing silverware, otherwise he may run the risk of the squad, that he has done incredibly well to build, begin to crumble as players go in search of trophies.
It could be argued that winning silverware is not the be all and end all for Tottenham – you would struggle to find any supporters who would believe that Ramos’ spell at the club was more successful than Pochettino’s reign, simply because he was able to win the League Cup.
However, Spurs can produce all of the exhilarating football that they want, but it loses its impact when it fails to culminate in a trophy.
Is Erik Lamela about to have his best season yet as a Tottenham player?
The Argentine made a real impact against Fulham.
Erik Lamela impressed as Tottenham recorded a 2-1 victory over London rivals Fulham on Saturday.
The Argentine international hasn’t quite lived up to the reputation that accompanied his £25.7 million price when he moved from Roma in August 2013.
While he has threatened to show his true potential at times, he has never been able to achieve the level of consistency that warrants a regular starting spot for Spurs.
Nonetheless, fans were treated to the Argentine at his very best when he broke from his own half, dribbling past the entire Fulham midfield, before laying off the ball to Harry Kane for his goal at the weekend.
He complemented this moment with a confident cameo display from the bench, in which he threatened the opponents’ goal on two occasions, while fulfilling his role defensively, breaking up several Fulham counter-attacks.
Despite not getting as many minutes as he would have liked, Lamela was hugely influential in turning the course of the tie for the Lilywhites, and this could see him rewarded with his first start of the campaign in the not too distant future.
Having a fit and firing Erik Lamela gives Pochettino another excellent option for rotation in attack. After his cameo at Wembley, there is a feeling that the 26-year-old is well prepared for his best season as a Tottenham player.
Tottenham’s Anthony Martial decision looked justified against Brighton
The Frenchman was poor against Brighton after summer in which Tottenham tried to sign him.
There were plenty of poor performances from the Manchester United players. The likes of Eric Bailly, Victor Lindelof and even David De Gea did not cover themselves in glory. But Anthony Martial might have been the pick of the bunch.
With Alexis Sanchez missing the Frenchman got a surprise start but failed to take his opportunity. He looked disinterested at times and was anonymous throughout, before being hauled off by Mourinho.
“After thinking about all the factors and possibilities, Anthony wants to leave Manchester United. There are lots of factors, and right now it’s too early to talk about them…”
It comes at the end of a summer in which it seemed he would leave. The player wanted to go, as confirmed by his agent.
Tottenham Hotspur were heavily linked with his signature. However, as reported by the Evening Standard, Spurs were never going to pay the asking price for the French international – set at a cool £80 million by the Old Trafford hierarchy.
At one point toward the end of the transfer window, it appeared that things have softened and a deal might go through. But Tottenham did not get their man.
Based on the evidence on display this afternoon, Tottenham fans might be pleased. But his display today shows exactly why he should have been allowed to join Tottenham this summer.
Clearly, he is not happy. Because on his day the 21-year-old is a devastating forward with the ability to leave even the best defences in tatters.
A move to Tottenham could have reinvigorated his spirit and career. As it is, he is stuck at United where he looks set to cut a destitute figure until January at least. If he carries on this form, then Tottenham are unlikely to come knocking on the door again.
Three selection headaches Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino faces ahead of Manchester United trip
The Argentinian made two changes against Fulham having beaten Newcastle and despite the impressive win at Wembley, could make more before heading to the north-west with several doubts over key men in the team.
Here are some of the biggest decisions he will have to make over the week ahead…
Ben Davies or Danny Rose?
Ben Davies has had a poor pre-season and a disappointing start to the Premier League season, potentially opening the door for a return for Danny Rose. Linked with an exit in the summer, Rose was on the bench against Fulham and could be applying the pressure on the Welshman who took his place last season.
It seems unlikely that Pochettino would make such a change for such an important fixture, but equally he may not want to gamble on Davies costing his team with an error.
Lucas Moura in attack?
One of the best performers throughout pre-season and, in particular, against Fulham, has been Lucas Moura. The Brazilian has played as a second striker and been impressive, creating and finishing chances and posing an alternative threat to Harry Kane.
Yet, selecting Moura means that Pochettino must sacrifice a midfielder such as Moussa Dembele, which he may be reluctant to do going to Old Trafford. This decision will be a clear reflection of how confident Pochettino feels about his team’s chances of a win.
Is it right to play Toby Alderweireld?
Goal were among many sources to claim that the Belgian was close to joining Jose Mourinho’s side this summer as speculation continued throughout the transfer window. Alderweireld returned to the line-up for only his sixth appearance for the club in 2018 against Fulham, but Pochettino may have doubts.
The coach could question whether Alderweireld’s mentality would be correct to face a club he reportedly wanted to sign for in only his second appearance of the season, and with the likes of Eric Dier ready to step in, he may opt to be cautious.
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