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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 - @96PearsonW.

FA Cup

Three musts for Tottenham to achieve victory in their FA Cup semi-final

FA Cup success will be key to Tottenham’s season.

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Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur face off against Manchester United in a high-profile FA Cup semifinal on Saturday, undoubtedly marking their biggest match of the season.

Here are three things Spurs must do to secure their place in the May 19 final.

Get Eriksen involved

Christian Eriksen has perhaps been Spurs’ standout player this season, delivering consistently superb performances and chipping in with crucial goals.

In order for Spurs to gain the upper hand against the Red Devils, the Danish midfielder must control the game and be at the heart of every Spurs attack.

If Eriksen is at his unplayable best, he can combine effortlessly with the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli, and break down the United backline with ease.

Keep Lukaku quiet

Romelu Lukaku presents United’s most potent goalscoring threat, and with 27 goals to his name this season, is enjoying a career-best year.

Lukaku came off the bench against Bournemouth on Wednesday and slotted home an assured finish, marking his eighth goal in his last ten appearances for club and country.

The Belgian’s red-hot form will give Tottenham’s centre-backs cause for concern, but his Belgian international teammates will have to be more than up to the fight to nullify Lukaku.

Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld will know Lukaku’s strengths all too well and must be strong and resolute to deny the striker any whiff of goal.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Stop the feared United comeback

If Spurs end up taking the lead at Wembley, they must be vigilant of letting Manchester United back into the match.

The Red Devils have shown an incredible knack for getting back into matches; their 3-2 come-from-behind win at the Etihad is a prime example of that. United have also recently beat Crystal Palace after trailing 2-0, and clearly never consider themselves out of a match.

Tottenham must be mindful to not let their concentration slip when ahead, as Manchester United will surely make them pay.

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Arsenal

Who is best-placed to challenge Manchester City next season?

Pep Guardiola’s side will be looking to defend their title during the 2018/19 campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Photo: Getty Images

Manchester City were crowned as Premier League champions on Sunday afternoon after Manchester United suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of struggling West Bromwich Albion.

Pep Guardiola’s team have ripped apart the top-flight of English football this season with a devastatingly effective style of play that has left their rivals struggling to hold on to their coattails.

City are currently 16 points clear of second place with five games still to play and now have the opportunity to break the 100-point barrier as the season comes to a conclusion.

Here, The Boot Room evaluate which top-six team is best placed to challenge Manchester City’s dominance next year.

(Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Manchester United

There are currently mixed feelings around Old Trafford regarding how Manchester United have performed this season and the long-term direction of the club under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho.

A failure to maintain the astonishing pace set by Manchester City has left supporters having to be content with a top-four finish and FA Cup semi-final whilst there has been a deluge of criticism aimed at the pragmatic style of play utilised.

Mourinho remains one of the best managers in world football and he is still in the process of moulding a team in his own image.

The Portuguese maestro has already spent big in the transfer market, as demonstrated by the arrivals of Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku over the past two years, and the club are expected to make further significant investments in the summer.

He needs to find the missing piece to the Manchester United jigsaw and that will mean addressing the lop-sided defence, demonstrated by Ashley Young’s emergence as first-choice left-back.

Mourinho has overcome Guardiola in the past but there will be no room for excuses next season if, after two years of building a team, Manchester United are unable to challenge their cross-city rivals.

(Photo by Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Tottenham Hotspur

Tottenham Hotspur have continuously improved year-on-year under the stewardship of Mauricio Pochettino but you still feel that the club is some way behind their rivals in terms of winning the Premier League.

Spurs have a young, dynamic squad of players that play fast, attacking football and, in Harry Kane, they possess one of the best strikers in the world right now. However, something is still missing and it is hard to put your finger on exactly what it is.

Perhaps it is simply a mental issue? Tottenham have not won a league title since 1960 and last secured silverware of any kind almost a decade ago – do the current group of players have the right mentality or experience to enable them to maintain performances over the course of a full campaign? Their upcoming FA Cup semi-final may provide an insight later this month.

Whilst you feel that Tottenham will always be in and around the top spots next season, it is difficult to see them overcoming Manchester City without significant investment or Pochettino uncovering the magic formula.

(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea

Chelsea have offered a feeble and limp defence of their title this year and still face a scramble to secure a place in the top-four.

Things have clearly not been right behind the scenes at Stamford Bridge and Antonio Conte is expected to depart the club in the summer after spending much of the season snipping at the Chelsea hierarchy.

Regardless of who the Italian’s successor is, it is widely expected that the club will bounce back.

Under the ownership of Roman Abramovich, the Blues have continuously maintained their standing as one of the leading side’s in the country and you would imagine that the Russian oligarch will be keen to reclaim their crown next season.

Chelsea will spend big in the summer to ensure that they build a squad capable of challenging Manchester City and a striker will be top of the new manager’s wish list. Alvaro Morata made a positive start to the campaign but has struggled for form and fitness in the second half of the season.

If the Blues can make the right appointment in the dugout and strengthen significantly on the pitch then history suggests they will be in and around the top spots.

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Liverpool

Since arriving at Anfield in October 2015 Jurgen Klopp thrown himself into the task of restoring Liverpool’s status as one of the leading club’s in Europe.

Each transfer window has seen the squad steadily improve and you now feel that the German has built a team that is capable of challenging for both domestic and European silverware.

Liverpool have a reputation for producing attacking, dynamic and exciting football and the attacking trio of Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino possess an abundance of pace, power and creativity.

Under the stewardship of Klopp, the team have always looked capable of scoring goals but have regularly been criticised for being undermined by defensive fragile and frail.

However, the signing of Virgil Van Dijk in January, the emergence of John Robertson and the new-found confidence of Loris Karius appears to have put some of those concerns to bed – Liverpool have kept eight clean sheets in their last 12 matches in all competitions.

Klopp will continue to develop the squad during the summer and, as proven by their historic victory over Manchester City, the Reds are certainly heading in the right direction.

(Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Arsenal

There has continued to be a degree of frustration and dissatisfaction around the Emirates Stadium this season as Arsenal have continued to fall behind their rivals on the pitch.

The Gunners are currently 33 points behind Manchester City in the Premier League are relying on winning the Europa League in order to qualify for the Champions League next year.

The club under-performed last season, failing to qualify for Europe’s premier competition, and the decline has continued over the following twelve months with supporters becoming increasingly frustrated with Arsene Wenger’s failure to consistently secure positive results.

The same old problems persist – there is a lack of leaders, a lack of quality in central defence and no commanding midfield player.

Wenger has brought together an exciting forward line that possesses pace, power and experience with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan arriving in January to complement the likes of Mesut Ozil, Alexandre Lacazette and a fit-again Danny Welbeck.

However, Arsenal continue to be undermined by prevalent weaknesses throughout the remainder of the team and there are currently a world away from competing with Manchester City.

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PSG

Tottenham should learn Aurier lesson and resist buying Layvin Kurzawa

The Frenchman is being linked with a summer move to the Lilywhites.

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Layvin Kurzawa
Photo: Getty Images

Reports this week in France from RMC Sport have linked Paris Saint Germain left-back Layvin Kurzawa with a summer move to Tottenham Hotspur, as Mauricio Pochettino looks to strengthen his side after the anticipated departure of Danny Rose.

But the purchase of the French fullback would prove to be an expensive mistake, just like the signing of Serge Aurier was last summer.

Tottenham already have a brilliant left-sided fullback in the form of Welshman Ben Davies, a player who was desperately unlucky to miss out on the PFA Team of the Year after an outstanding season.

Davies has contributed two goals and six assists for Spurs this season, an impressive attacking outlay for a defender.

Perhaps more importantly, he has stood out with his solid defensive performances, which have led the north London club to concede the third-fewest goals in the Premier League.

(Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

It is clear that Spurs already possess a top quality left back; there is no need to splash unnecessary funds to secure Kurzawa in the offseason.

Tottenham should have learned their lesson from the poor signing of Serge Aurier from the French champions in August 2017. The Ivory Coast international has been limited to just 16 first team league appearances thus far, often playing second fiddle to Kieran Trippier.

And when Aurier has played, he has been erratic and inconsistent. He has picked up a multitude of bookings and has been sent off once, as well as conceding numerous penalties with poorly-timed challenges.

Aurier cost Spurs a hefty £23 million in the summer, and it is to be expected Kurzawa will be in a similar price range. Tottenham would be wise to learn from their previous mistake and pass on the transfer of the French fullback.

Already retaining the services of a world-class defender in the same position, the multimillion-pound signing of the PSG man would prove to be a pricey waste that would only disrupt team chemistry.

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