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Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Huddersfield Town: Three talking points from Wembley

Son Heung-min was the star of the show as Tottenham Hotspur overcame Huddersfield Town.

Rob Meech

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Tottenham
Photo: Getty Images

A double from Son Heung-min extended Tottenham Hotspur‘s unbeaten run to 11 Premier League games and consolidated their position in the top four.

The South Korean international took his tally to 10 for the season with a goal in each half, as Spurs swept past Huddersfield Town at Wembley Stadium.

It was the ideal way for Mauricio Pochettino‘s men to warm up for their crunch Champions League last 16 second-leg tie at home to Juventus on Wednesday night.

The Terriers had come into this fixture following timely back-to-back victories that had invigorated their survival bid, but they were completely outplayed and succumbed to a 2-0 defeat.

Here are three talking points…

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Son underlines his growing importance to Spurs

It’s no secret that Tottenham rely heavily on Harry Kane to provide the goalscoring threat.

The England international has spearheaded the attack with distinction in the past few years, but on the rare occasions he doesn’t find the net it’s important that another Spurs player stands up.

This season, that man has invariably been Son.

Despite not being deployed as an out-and-out-striker, the former Bayer Leverkusen star, who signed for just £22 million, has chipped in with important goals that have sustained Tottenham’s charge.

After a blistering start to the campaign, Son found himself out of the side for a period. However, he has fought his way back in, contributing with goals and assists.

In all competitions he now has 15 goals this season – that’s six more than Dele Alli – at a strike rate of better than one every two games.

Son’s reliability is one of his strengths and a reason why he is becoming a vital component of the squad under Pochettino.

(Photo by Ian Kington/AFP/Getty Images)

Bigger battles ahead for below-par Huddersfield

After their recent upturn in form, Huddersfield supporters would have travelled to the national stadium with hope that their side could spring a surprise.

Victories over Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion had helped the Terriers escape from the drop-zone, in what is a fascinating battle for Premier League survival.

But it was not to be at Wembley, as Spurs flexed their muscles and carried on from where they left off in the second half against Rochdale in midweek.

It sounds obvious, but Huddersfield’s hopes do not rest on results against the likes of Tottenham – it’s the games against their rivals in the lower half of the table that matter.

With that in mind, the next four fixtures could be key to determining the fate of David Wagner’s side.

Next up is a home clash with Swansea City, swiftly followed by matches against Crystal Palace, Newcastle United and Brighton & Hove Albion.

Make or break? It very much could be for Huddersfield.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Spurs’ attentions turn to the Champions League

Professional footballers though they may be, it would have been understandable if Spurs already had one eye on their mouth-watering Champions League encounter with Italian giants Juventus on Wednesday.

At 2-2 the tie is evenly poised, but with home advantage and two away goals in the bank, Tottenham have a realistic opportunity to progress to the last eight of the competition, knocking out last year’s runners-up in the progress.

Spurs are more than capable of reaching the quarter-finals and Pochettino, who celebrated his 46th birthday on Friday, will be buoyed by their recent endeavours.

Their unbeaten sequence, which stretches back to December, is the longest of any top-flight club.

Kane and Son are in prolific form in front of goal, while at the back, only two sides have better defensive records in the Premier League.

Juventus will put up stern resistance, but Tottenham are equipped to overcome the challenge.

Rob is a freelance writer, specialising in football, who previously worked as a sports journalist at the Dorset Echo. A long-standing AFC Bournemouth supporter, Rob can often be found on the terraces at the Vitality Stadium. Follow him on Twitter - @RobMeech

Huddersfield Town

Newcastle United toxicity means Rafa Benitez should move to West Ham

The Spaniard is being linked with a move to London.

Max Cohen

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Benitez
Photo: Getty Images

After West Ham United announced David Moyes would be leaving the club this summer, Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez has been heavily linked with the position by Sky Sports.

Although Benitez has worked wonders at St. James’ Park and enjoys life in the Northeast, he should make the switch to east London to finally enjoy the transfer budget he deserves.

There can be no questioning the Spaniard’s tremendous accomplishments at Newcastle. Benitez was appointed too late to save the club from relegation in 2015/16, yet achieved promotion at the first time of asking in 2016/17.

Even more impressive, the ex-Liverpool boss steered the Magpies to a tenth-placed finish this season.

The team was largely the same squad that won the Championship the previous year, and it is a testament to Benitez’s skills as a manager that he led Newcastle to the top half of the table despite minimal investment.

(Photo credit should read IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images)

In particular, the manager craved a top-class goalscoring striker, yet was never given the funds to pursue a centre-forward that could effectively lead the line for the Magpies.

But it is simply unacceptable that a manager of Benitez’s quality is denied access to substantial transfer funds to strengthen his squad. In December, the Spaniard publicly aired his frustration at the uncertainty surrounding his transfer budget, due to the frugal nature of owner Mike Ashley.

There had been hopes that a takeover would occur at Newcastle, but recent reports claim that the move is off after Ashley increased his valuation of the club.

Unfortunately for Benitez, this seems to signal another offseason of limited funds and missed transfer targets. Ultimately, conditions such as these are unacceptable for a manager who has brought so much success to Newcastle.

A move to the London Stadium would allow Benitez to truly shape his squad with a generous transfer budget, a luxury that the Spaniard must be craving after several barren years under Mike Ashley.

Rafa Benitez would do well to leave behind the toxic reign of Ashley and move to West Ham, where he would be appreciated and rewarded by a supportive ownership.

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English Premier League

David Wagner wouldn’t be a good appointment for Leicester City

Leicester look likely to replace their current manager before the 2018/19 season.

Jake Jackman

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Photo: Getty Images

The upcoming summer will be interesting to follow in England, as the Premier League has chosen to close the transfer window before the season starts.

With that in mind, it is important for clubs to get their business done early and there will be no room for hesitancy in the market.

Leicester City have had a trouble-free campaign, but they have lost four of their last five games and failed to score in their last three.

Claude Puel made an impact after taking over, but he may not be given the chance to lead the club into the 2018/19 season.

Last season, the Frenchman led Southampton to a top-half finish, but he was relieved of his duties due to a concern over the playing style.

A similar fate could be waiting for him once the season ends next weekend.

A couple of weeks ago, the Guardian reported that Puel was fighting to keep his job and the performances since wouldn’t have done him any favours.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

It doesn’t bode well for Puel that potential replacements are being touted in the media. The Daily Mail reported over the weekend that Leicester want David Wagner as their next manager.

The Huddersfield Town manager has done well in English football since taking over at the John Smith’s Stadium. He managed to get them promoted against the odds and is now in a good position to stay up in the top-flight.

Considering his increasing profile in the game, Wagner would be regarded as an exciting appointment by Leicester supporters. If he had been able to get Huddersfield to punch above their weight as a club, he could be the right man to take the Foxes forward and challenge for European football.

However, these reports need to be treated with caution as there are reasons why an appointment would be a bad move by Leicester.

One of the reasons why Puel has been unpopular with both Southampton and Foxes’ fans has been his style of football. It can be laboured at times and the creativity is lacking in the final third. Although his teams are mostly solid, they aren’t going to get you off your feet very often.

His Huddersfield team have scored only 27 Premier League goals, which is the joint-fewest of any club in the division.

Their goal difference is the second-worst after Stoke City. The size of the club has meant that a relegation fight was inevitable, but Wagner has hardly set the league alight with his coaching.

(Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)

There has been a lot written about Wagner’s connection with Jurgen Klopp, but his style of play differs from that of his good friend.

The Terriers have averaged 9.4 shots per game, which is the third worst of any team in the division. He likes his teams to play a passing brand of football, but their pass success rate of 74.3% ranks in the bottom six. At times, the Terriers would have benefitted from a more functional style.

This season has been a year of learning for Wagner. If he manages to keep Huddersfield in the top-flight, it will be considered a great campaign for him.

However, it has been clear that he isn’t the finished article yet and there is nothing to suggest that he would be an upgrade on Puel.

Leicester may decide to make a managerial change, but if they do, the current Terriers’ boss isn’t the right appointment for them.

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Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town 0-2 Manchester United: Three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium

Rob Meech brings us three talking points from the John Smith’s Stadium as Manchester United overcame Huddersfield Town in their FA Cup 5th Round contest.

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

A brace from sharpshooter Romelu Lukaku fired Manchester United into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup at the expense of Huddersfield Town.

Lukaku opened his account in the third minute before netting his second of the evening shortly after the second-half resumption.

Victory was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested. However, as the Terriers produced a spirited display after the early setback.

There was also controversy involving the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

Juan Mata saw an effort ruled out for offside after a review, but confusion abounded about whether it had been the correct decision.

Here are three talking points from an eventful encounter, as United set up a last-eight tie with Brighton & Hove Albion

Lukaku’s goals are a fillip for Jose Mourinho

The Belgian has come in for criticism from some quarters for his goal return since last summer’s big-money transfer from Everton.

While he may not have reached the levels of Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah, Lukaku has now scored 21 times in all competitions for United this season.

That tally was boosted by his double against Huddersfield, which showed off his best attributes.

Lukaku was too strong and clever for Huddersfield’s defence as he latched on to Mata’s through ball for the first, before putting the finishing touch to an Alexis Sanchez pass for his second.

The former Chelsea man’s performance will be the biggest plus for United boss Jose Mourinho, who is relying on him to spearhead the attack for the remainder of the campaign.

Lukaku is a confidence player, so this was a timely boost ahead of a crucial run of fixtures both domestically and in Europe.

VAR under the microscope yet again

The introduction of technology to any sport usually results in teething problems.

It is fair to say VAR has experienced more than its fair share in football this season.

Employed in some FA and League Cup matches, controversy has never been far away. This was again the case at Huddersfield.

Mata appeared to have doubled United’s lead just before half-time, but referee Kevin Friend waited for confirmation from VAR that he had been onside.

After about a minute, Friend disallowed the goal when it was judged that Mata had been fractionally offside as the ball was played.

Contention emerged when viewers saw the incident on TV, where the guidelines were clearly not straight.

In fact, they were embarrassingly wonky.

Further replays suggested – with parallel lines correctly in place – that Mata’s knee had indeed been offside, but it was a very close call and certainly not an obvious mistake by the referee’s assistant.

These technical hitches will need to be ironed out before VAR is brought in universally.

Huddersfield can be positive despite FA Cup exit

With their Premier League status hanging in the balance, it would have been understandable if Huddersfield manager David Wagner had seen this fixture as an unwanted distraction.

But there was absolutely no suggestion that they were trying not to win the match, or prepared to exit the competition without a fight.

The Terriers, who famously beat United at home in the Premier League last October, carried on from where they left off last weekend in the impressive 4-1 victory over Bournemouth.

Conceding so early to United had not been in the script, but the hosts regrouped quickly and caused their opponents plenty of problems.

Ultimately, the difference between the two sides was the quality of finishing.

Whereas the visitors scored with their only two shots on target, Huddersfield wasted numerous openings as they slipped to defeat.

Nevertheless, attention can be turned back to their bid for survival, without their confidence dented.

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