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Is Manuel Lanzini emerging as top-six quality at West Ham United?

Jake Jackman

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Lanzini

Manuel Lanzini was expected to be the successor to Dimitri Payet after the Frenchman left West Ham United earlier this year. The Argentine midfielder has a lot of technical ability and is capable of running the game from the centre of the park. In addition to his classy contributions in possession, he has a knack of scoring important goals and he has stepped up his game since the arrival of David Moyes as manager. The new boss has focused on organising the Hammers at the back, but the solid foundations has provided the attacking players with a platform to express themselves. Marko Arnautovic has improved, but it is Lanzini that is looking to be the most influential in the final third.

After good displays against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, it was important that the Hammers maintained that intensity against the rest of the league. Although it is too early to suggest it has clicked after their 3-0 win away to Stoke City, due to the terrible form of the opposition, it does maintain their positive momentum. Lanzini played a significant role in the fixture, showing both the positive and negative sides to his game.

The Hammers took an early lead from the penalty spot. This was won by Lanzini as he carried the ball into the box and appeared to dive to win the spot-kick. It is likely that the midfielder will become the first Premier League player to be given retrospective punishment for diving and that will see him miss the next couple of matches at least. It was great work in the build-up to the penalty being awarded and underlined the threat posed by the midfielder, but he needs to eradicate that from his game.

Lanzini finished the match as the West Ham player with the most key passes as he completed four on Saturday. This included another assist as he set-up Diafra Sakho for the third goal to put the result beyond doubt. More impressively, the 24-year-old had a pass success rate of 90%, which is incredible considering a lot of his possession was in the final third. He looked to be approaching his classy best and that is why the likely suspension will frustrate Moyes and the supporters, as he will be a huge miss if banned as expected.

The display against Stoke City showed that Lanzini now had a free role in behind the front two and that he had been given encouragement to express himself. At every opportunity, he would run with the ball and try to beat opposition players. Several managers in the Premier League prefer their players to be regimented and stick to playing percentage football, but Moyes appears to have given license to the Argentine.

His dribbling caused a lot of problems for the home side as he completed five during the match at a success rate of 83%. West Ham were at their most dangerous when their attacking midfielder was running at the Stoke defence, as he created space for the other attackers to fill and exploit. Dribbling for dribbling’s sake can be a mistake, but Lanzini’s runs were purposeful and his decision making was close to perfect when it came to distribute the ball at the right time.

Moyes will want to see Lanzini express himself in the final third as he is the player most likely to create a clear-cut chance in the squad. However, every player will be required to work hard out of possession and contribute to the shape of the team. The Argentine may not be the best at doing this, but there was an obvious work rate to his game yesterday as he pressed from the front well. He completed his only attempted tackle and wasn’t dismissive of going back to defend when required.

This performance could have been the one to propel Lanzini to new heights over the Christmas period and it still might be. However, a cloud hangs over it due to the unnecessary dive. If given a ban, he may see it as one worth taking as it did result in West Ham taking an early lead and knocked the stuffing out of Stoke City. That said, it means that he could miss a couple of important fixtures, including next week’s winnable home match against Newcastle United. If he does have to sit out, it will be a major boost for the visiting team.

At the time of his arrival, Lanzini was an unknown quantity in England and there would have been few West Ham fans getting excited about his signing. He made an immediate impact and continued to improve with every first-team appearance. At the age of 24, he is now emerging as the leader of the Hammers’ attack. If he can deliver this level of performance on a consistent basis and eradicate the diving, he could become a player capable of playing for a top-six side.

Jake is a student based in the South East. He is a Newcastle fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

English Premier League

Exclusive: Milos Veljkovic – Sharing memories playing with Tottenham teammates Mason and Kane

The Werder Bremen defender spoke exclusively to The Boot Room about his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

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Milos Veljkovic
Photo: Getty Images

In the summer Tottenham Hotspur invested in two young central defenders. Juan Foyth arrived from Estudiantes in Argentina, whilst Davinson Sanchez became the club’s record signing from Ajax.

An incredibly daunting move for any young player to make, but imagine making the same move at the age of just 16. That was how Milos Veljkovic’s Tottenham Hotspur story started.

As just a 16-year-old boy, Veljkovic left his hometown club of Basel in Switzerland. The teenager made a bold move by heading to the Spurs academy to try and make a career for himself in England.

Speaking exclusively to The Boot Room, the Serbian international explained this month just how Tottenham helped him settle in:

“I have very good (memories),” said Veljkovic.

“My guest family in the first couple of years were really nice to me. The club also was really good to me. I started to play straight away, youth-team and reserves and also in the first-team a little bit.

“So I am quite happy to have had this experience.”

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Veljkovic was certainly keeping the right company to improve his game. The youngster was in a squad that contained a long list of future first-team players at White Hart Lane.

The likes of Ryan Mason, Nabil Bentaleb and Tom Carroll were all in the reserve picture during Veljkovic’s stay at Spurs. Others, such as Ryan Fredericks, Massimo Luongo and Alex Pritchard – to name a few – went on to be successful elsewhere.

Of course, the biggest example is Harry Kane. The England international has since developed into one of Tottenham’s greatest ever goalscorers, with 136 goals for Spurs and counting.

Such feats are no surprise to Veljkovic. The Serbian, speaking from Germany where he is now a starter with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, revealed how he was telling international team-mates just how talented the future Spurs and England phenomenon was:

“Well if you believe me or not I told a lot of players in the national team already, at a young age. As soon as I saw him, also Ryan Mason, also played with some other good players. Harry Kane, but also Ryan Mason, I thought he was also very good.

“But with Harry Kane I told the (Serbia) players ‘if he can’t become a top player Then I don’t know who can?’,” he claimed with a sheepish laugh.

“He scored a lot of goals, even in the reserves. Every game he would score three or four goals.

(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

What quickly becomes apparent is the high esteem in which Veljkovic holds his former team-mate Ryan Mason.

That was a popular trend amongst many of his former North London team-mates when he sadly retired in February.

The England international, who had joined Hull City in 2016, suffered a fractured skull in a collision with Chelsea’s Gary Cahill in January 2017.

After 13 months of recuperation and testing, Mason was told to put his playing career behind him.

Veljkovic spoke incredibly warmly of Mason. The Englishman, four years his senior, clearly was something of a mentor to the youngster:

“I was very, very, very sad. He is a good friend of mine,” echoing the sentiments of so many in February.

“I played with (him) also in the reserves. He was an unbelievable player and also a very unbelievable person because he was very nice and very helpful to young players.

“He worked very hard to get into the first-team. Finally, he played and then it happened. So I was really sad to hear this news. But this is football, it is really, really unfortunate.”

(Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

But when it comes to a career as a coach, something that Tottenham have left the door open to, Veljkovic simply cares about his friend simply enjoying the little things in life:

“I think he has a lot of knowledge of football. But this is not the only important thing, to coach. I think he is still very young. So I don’t know it depends on him what he wants to do.”

Like Mason and so many other top Tottenham talents, Veljkovic could never cement a place in the Tottenham first-team for long enough to justify staying.

With his talent, playing regular first-team football was at the forefront of his mind. In 2016, and at a cut-price, he headed to Europe – joining Werder Bremen.

This path has also been trodden by a former Spurs team-mate. Six months after his Bremen switch, Nabil Bentaleb headed to Germany.

The Algerian international once looked like being a future first-team regular at Spurs, but opportunities dried up under Mauricio Pochettino.

After an initial loan spell, he made a permanent switch to Schalke 04 and Veljkovic believes his old pal is doing a grand job in Gelsenkirchen:

“I was really excited to see him come to Germany and he started really well and played all the games,” commented Veljkovic.

“I like his game. He is a good friend of mine.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

“He had a little bit of difficulty, which is normal. Every player has some periods where they don’t play. Now he plays again and I am really happy to see him do well because we came nearly at the same time at Tottenham and we were really good friends.”

Veljkovic never quite got the opportunities his talent perhaps warranted at Spurs.

However, much like Mason, Bentaleb and so many others, it is clear how much working in the Tottenham youth set-up helped prepare him for life in the footballing world.

Werder Bremen are now reaping the benefits of that work, and Veljkovic will clearly remain grateful to Spurs for his experience at the club.

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English Premier League

Tottenham striker Fernando Llorente’s return to Athletic Bilbao would be a shock

The Spaniard was not popular at Athletic Bilbao when he decided to leave the club.

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Reports in Spain this week have been discussing the possibility of a return to the country for Tottenham Hotspur striker Fernando Llorente.

Marca has reported that Llorente is keen on a return to Spain, with former club Athletic Bilbao and their Basque rivals Real Sociedad mentioned.

They even highlight comments from Llorente from last summer, where he admitted he would like to return to San Mames:

“It’s my home, wonderful things happened to me that will never be forgotten and Athletic will always be there, if they ever propose to come back, I’m sure I’ll think about it.”

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Llorente’s first season at Tottenham Hotspur has been fairly disappointing. After impressing with Swansea City the former Juventus and Sevilla striker joined Spurs in the summer. The fee was reported by Sky Sports to be in the region of £12.1 million. However, he has not managed to be the secondary to Harry Kane that Tottenham were after. With just five goals in 30 appearances, he looks set to be on his way out of Tottenham this summer.

A move to Athletic Bilbao would, of course, be excellent for Llorente. The 33-year-old from Pamplona spent 17 years at the club from the age of 10.

However, whilst he might want a move back to the club, which also makes sense on paper, the move would be difficult.

When Llorente decided to leave Bilbao, and rejected a new deal, back in 2012 it caused an uproar in the local press. The Tottenham striker was forced to play back-up to Aritz Aduriz and publicly fell out with manager Marcelo Bielsa and president Josu Urrutia.

(Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images)

After a bit-part campaign, he joined Juventus on a free transfer in July 2013. It was a deal that infuriated the passionate Bilbao fans who felt Llorente had let the club down by his exit.

It was the manner of his departure that most irked Bilbao locals. The club, who only play Basque players, rely on the sale of their finer talents to continue growing. Llorente’s decision to leave on a free was considered a slight to the club.

The Tottenham man would, of course, love a return to Bilbao. For some fans, enough time has passed for such a deal to indeed be a possibility.

But, the fact remains, many would not welcome Llorente back to the club this summer. A Basque return would look more likely to be in San Sebastian and not Bilbao.

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Does Mauricio Pochettino need a trophy to be classed as a success at Tottenham?

The Lilywhites have undergone yet another trophyless campaign.

Martyn Cooke

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Mauricio Pochettino
Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

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.

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