For Tottenham fans it will be probably be as fresh and vivid in the memory as last night’s tea, but the Peter Crouch goal that brought Champions League football to White Hart Lane was scored over five years ago. The 1-0 victory over Manchester City secured a fourth place finish for Harry Redknapp’s talented side and paved the way for the club’s first adventure in the top European competition since 1962.
Half a decade and three managers later, the club has generally spent the last five years stuttering and flittering –suspended between the top four and lower reaches of the table’s top half. Last season Pochettino led the club to another respectable fifth place finish and recorded some memorable results on the way, and with the new season already less than a month away, the club will have its gaze cast on the top end of the table and a sincere assault on the top four in mind. However, as long as Daniel Levy’s style of chairing continues and the club remains a junior force in the market, it is difficult to envisage a short-term future for Tottenham that offers anything other than a Europa league finish.
The white side of North London is stuck in footballing limbo. Proven producers of superstar talents yet unable to attract them from elsewhere, Spurs face a huge challenge in becoming a top four side once again as long as continue to be a stepping-stone club. With the big(ger) boys already circling around striker Harry Kane, one would not be surprised in the slightest to see the destiny of the young Englishman follow a strikingly similar path to that of previous wonder-kid Gareth Bale. Daniel Levy is renowned for playing hard-ball yet the games he plays usually produce the same outcome – Tottenham losing their most precious player and having to rebuild once more. In Lloris, Vertonghen and Eriksen too the club has three hugely important players who currently have no real reason to remain at the Lane if bigger clubs come calling – something that could well unfold in this window if not the next.
Here lies the elephant in the room: in the context of the market, Tottenham Hotspur is not a top four club. The re-investment project that followed the departure of Bale was able to guarantee quantity but fell short of providing quality – with many of the incomers making very little to absolutely no notable impact on the pitch. Again, this can be traced back to the club’s status. The sale of Bale gained a remarkable amount of money but nothing was altered in regards to the prestige and allure of Tottenham Hotspur. The recent acquisition of Toby Alderweireld is certainly a handy signing but like others in the past – such as Dier, Chadli and Davies – he is a player absolutely tailored to Spurs’ de facto status as a Europa League outfit and nothing more. The club isn’t making forward strides, however, isn’t shuffling backwards either. Instead it adheres to formula whereby a top eight finish is all but guaranteed yet no convincing ascent towards the glamorous end of the table is forthcoming.
If this is the case, then how much can a manager realistically expect to achieve at today’s Tottenham? Pochettino has quickly earned his stripes as a promising young manager and enjoyed a credible debut season in North London but will he be able to the team to the next level? The current squad certainly won’t reach that level, and unless Levy pulls a dozen or so rabbits from his proverbial hat then Champions League standard players probably won’t be coming through the door two by two. Perhaps a more pressing and intriguing question is what does Daniel Levy expect of Pochettino? Tim Sherwood was shown the door despite boasting the best win percentage for a Spurs manager in the Premier League era, and Villas Boas suffered the same fate despite recording a relatively-successful win rate of nearly 54 per cent. If Pochettino fails to build on last season’s finish and take the team closer to the top four will he receive the same punishment? The six point margin that separated Spurs and fourth placed United last season isn’t likely to narrow while Van Gaal continues to bring in international talent and as Chelsea, City and Arsenal continue to recruit with intent it is difficult to suggest where a route into the top four for wannabes to exploit will become available. In reality, Spurs’ current business lies with jostling for position with Liverpool and Southampton rather than bringing Champions League football back to the Lane.
So, what is next for Tottenham Hotspur? The cynic will suggest more of the same: Kane to be sold for big money in the next few years, the re-investment to be made on a bunch of largely forgettable names bar the odd exception and the club to be enjoy another five years of life as a comfortable top eight team at arms-length from the top four. This forecast may not fill the hearts of Spurs fans with optimism and joy, but given the cyclical nature of the club’ recent history, the line between cynicism and realism is incredibly fine when it comes to the fortunes of their club.[interaction id=”55a02d75529840a30ebb0603"] [s[separator type=”thin”]a href="http://bit.ly/1CSHHj7">
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Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week
The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.
With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.
Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.
In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.
Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.
One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.
The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.
Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.
This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.
If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.
It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.
Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.
Despite improvement, Everton should not rekindle Thomas Vermaelen interest
The Belgian defender has been in better form for Barcelona this season.
Rumours have emerged today suggesting Everton could be back in for Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen.
Catalan newspaper Sport has reported that the 32-year-old could be offered a new deal by Barcelona, with a team from the Premier League interested in signing him.
Sport Witness has openly hypothesised that Everton could be that team. Whilst there is no confirmation or substantiated report that is the case, the boot certainly fits.
Last summer Everton tried to sign Vermaelen.
As reported by the Liverpool Echo, at the time Barcelona vetoed a loan move to Everton as they felt the defender could be a useful asset.
The Belgian certainly has. After struggling with injuries and form throughout most of his Barcelona tenure the former Arsenal man has enjoyed a good season.
The 32-year-old has been a genuine asset to the Catalans, despite still being used sparingly, and such form has even seen him win back a place in Roberto Martinez’s national selection for Belgium.
If it is Everton interested in Vermaelen it is easy to see why. Centre-back has been a major problem for the club this season.
However, Vermaelen, or a player of his ilk, is not the answer to the Toffees’ woes.
The Belgian is obviously a talented player with plenty of experience, but Everton need to freshen up their back-line.
Ashley Williams and Phil Jagielka’s age has shown in recent months.
The pair have been, at the best, inconsistent for the past 18 months and Everton need fresh young talent in the heart of defence if they are to succeed.
Vermaelen is not only 32 but also immensely injury prone. Everton need reliable figures to plug their leaky defences and the Belgian can simply not be relied upon.
Whilst on paper it seems a good deal, and one Everton could certainly turn to their benefit.
The truth is supporters of the Goodison Park outfit will hope they are not the club reportedly keen on bringing Vermaelen back to the Premier League.
Have West Ham United found the next Mark Noble in Alfie Lewis?
The 18-year-old put in a fine performance against Dagenham and Redbridge this week.
West Ham United took on Dagenham and Redbridge in a friendly yesterday, in a match to raise funds for the National League side.
It was no surprise to see West Ham come out victorious. They won 3-1, with Michail Antonio at the double and Jordan Hugill scoring his first goal for the club.
It was, however, a Hammers team depleted by international selection.
With that in mind, David Moyes’ side fielded some of their younger players. Plenty of them caught the eye, but none more so than central midfielder Alfie Lewis.
The 18-year-old put in a fine display for 90 minutes which left West Ham fans very excited on social media.
It was an even more special achievement given Lewis spent most of last year on the sidelines with a serious knee injury.
Lewis himself told the official West Ham website after the game: “I’m delighted.
“It was a good experience for me tonight, to play with the likes of Patrice Evra, and Mark Noble in midfield. It was a good challenge and a good test for us as well, and I think I did well.”
He spoke of it being an honour playing alongside Mark Noble, but is he the successor to the throne?
Whilst Noble has had his critics in recent times there is no doubt he has been a long-term hero at West Ham.
Fans of the club have often wondered why Noble has never received England recognition given his consistent form in the Premier League.
Noble has gone on to play over 400 games for West Ham since his debut for the club back in 2004.
Lewis certainly has the ability to follow in his footsteps. An energetic midfield creator, West Ham look to have another midfield gem in their ranks and one that can hopefully progress into the first-team soon.
The Hammers have a fine record of bringing through young players.
Noble is one current example and Lewis could not be at a better club if he is to find his way into the West Ham first-team.
This season, with a relegation battle raging, might come a little too soon for the teenager.
Nonetheless, in 2018-19 it will not be a surprise if Lewis finds himself playing alongside Noble in the West Ham midfield once again.
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