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Do Tottenham Hotspur have a fighting chance at Top 4?

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As the man at the helm for Tottenham Hotspur, Mauricio Pochettino knows that this is his year to truly prove himself at the top table of the Premier League. The Argentine led Spurs to a fifth placed finish in the league last time out – which is far from below par – and even a cup final at Wembley. However, he needs improvements this season and definitely sustainability if not growth. 

Tottenham have been clever in their transfer business and have so far addressed almost every area that needed strengthening at the beginning of the summer. They have brought in two centre backs; when it can be argued that only one was really required, and in fact the acquired players were of high quality – Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer. Clinton N’Jie has been brought in to support Harry Kane, a man who single-handedly secured the team a significant number of points last season. Saido Berahino has been a summer-long target but that deal may or may not materialize and; due to the signing of N’Jie, it not materializing might no longer be particularly disastrous. Dele Alli has the potential to become a big star for club and country in the future and I believe that Pochettino is the right man to guide and mentor the player. Kieran Trippier was extremely impressive for Burnley last season and securing his services for £3.5 million was particularly good business by the north London team.

However, arguably the biggest and best signing for Tottenham Hotspur has been the arrival of Son Heung-Min from Bayer Leverkusen for a hefty £18 million. The South Korean will wear the number 7 shirt for Spurs, a clear demonstration of faith by the manager. The club and its fans will be hoping the forward can play a crucial part in their quest for a Champions League berth next season.

Son joined Hamburg’s youth academy in 2008 as a 16-year-old and went on to score on his Bundesliga debut against Cologne in October 2010. He spent three years in the senior team at Hamburg and eventually notched up 20 goals in 73 Bundesliga matches for the German side before becoming the record signing for Bayer Leverkusen as he was snapped up for approximately €10 million. He became an integral part of Leverkusen’s team and has scored 21 goals in 62 matches in the last couple of campaigns.

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Over the last few years, he has undoubtedly improved and matured. Son has been a consistent goalscorer and it is remarkable that in each of the past three seasons, he is one of only four players to score 10 or more Bundesliga goals. He is in distinguished company in this regard, as the other three in this group are Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Müller and Max Kruse. Perhaps the best part about these figures is that scoring is not his greatest or only quality. He is a versatile player who can play anywhere across the attack. Upon signing on at White Hart Lane, Son himself has said; “I don’t care where I play. The main thing is I’m in the game. I can play right, left, as a forward or behind it. What the coach says, I’ll do. I don’t have a favourite position. I’ll be anywhere and always on the throttle.” 

This means that Pochettino has the option of fielding him as a striker if Harry Kane’s current goal drought is to continue for longer. Kane was in top form last season but is increasingly looking out of sorts at the moment. The Englishman has missed some glorious chances this season including a one-on-one against Everton where he astonishingly kicked the ball right at Tim Howard – an opportunity that he surely would have dispatched with consummate ease last season. Spurs would hope Kane can put this behind him after the international break but if this becomes more of a prolonged problem, Pochettino is now at least in a position where he is not limited entirely. 

However, the versatile South Korean could probably be utilized best in the middle of the pitch. If he is deployed on the wings, he tries to cut in and get more central. Son’s finesse and skill on the ball make him an enjoyable footballer to observe and watch and Spurs fans may have got a new favourite.

Son’s signing almost completes the puzzle for Spurs in my opinion. They now have plenty of quality in the squad, indeed with back-ups in place in the majority of roles. Against Everton, they were dominant and played attractive football in the most part if admittedly without a cutting edge. Some patience is needed because that team looks like once it clicks, it could be extremely threatening. Pochettino has shown us in the past that his tactical mind can obtain favourable results out of situations that appear decidedly grim. In simple terms, for wherever Tottenham Hotspur do not possess enough class, Pochettino can tinker and use his tactical mind to do something irregular which could pay dividends. Need we look any further than him deploying Eric Dier in the heart of the midfield.

According to International Business Times, “You just have to look to the investments made by Liverpool, Manchester City, [Manchester] United, Chelsea or Arsenal during this summer,” the Spurs boss told Spanish radio station Onda Cero earlier in August. This might well be mistaken for a defeatist mentality by some and Pochettino has perhaps rightly acknowledged that the top four is currently beyond their reach. Nevertheless, the club now has a solid team and I can see no reason to not be competing for Champions League qualification.


Featured image: All rights reserved by Tricia H. Kuhn

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

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Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

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The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash

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Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

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Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

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It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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