This is the first season in a long time at Tottenham Hotspur where expectations are low, days of finishing in the top half being heralded as a good result are long gone and were replaced by a challenge for Champions League football and then a demand for it came. However, after finishing outside the top four the last two seasons and not playing in the top European competition since 10/11 because of Chelsea’s win in Munich’s back yard it seems Spurs must start again and not get left behind.
Last season was probably one of the best disaster seasons a club has gone through. Tottenham finished 6th with 69 points, only 3 points off their record league points total and two seasons previously that would have been enough to finish 4th. That does though highlight Tottenham’s biggest issue; those around them are getter better and are overtaking them.
Harry Redknapp’s Spurs guaranteed 4th back in 2010 with a 1-0 win against a Manchester City who hadn’t felt the full impact of their new Dubai money and a previous top four guarantee, Liverpool, were floundering in 6th. Now, City are defending champions, Liverpool pushed them to the final day and Arsenal, Chelsea and United have all strengthened with big names signing on the pitch or in the dugout. Tottenham, however, have just signed three players, two of which are likely to be back ups. Yet there is a cautious optimism because of their biggest signing of the summer and that is of the new man at the helm, Mauricio Pochettino.
Pochettino has a reputation of playing a Bielsa-inspired tactic of playing high pressing traps with quick transitions and an organised defensive structure while blooding through youth. On paper he seems the perfect Spurs man as fans crave to play like they did in their glory days in the 50s and 60s under Rowe and Nicholson, ‘the right way’.
After the defensive, slow style of AVB was criticised even when it got results and then became unforgivable after heavy defeats to West Ham, Manchester City and Liverpool it was followed by Tim Sherwood, a man with no managerial experience, a not so closet Woolwich fan and a subject of the 4-4-2 in which he used to play back in the 90s. There was certainly a naivety to his tactics and many reports of unhappy senior plays such a Vertonghen, Sandro and Paulinho, something which is unlikely to be a problem under the Argentine. Apparent Spurs target Jay Rodriguez has said that ‘Poch’ “brought the best out of me and gave me self-belief…You can talk to him. The players respected him so much.”
There is no doubt that Pochettino is walking into the biggest club he has managed but expectation is at a real low, however, there will be a demand. Any finish in the top 7 will be acceptable although fans will definitely want to finish above Everton but what is important is how they play. If Tottenham play like Southampton but with a technical improvement, bringing back the respect of the club, no longer being a joke, having some of last summer’s signings come good and no humiliating defeats while making a good game of it against the top 5 then fans will see a positive progress and get behind the man with a five year contract.
Ben Davies: Last season it was clear that the biggest gap in Tottenham’s squad was at left back. The previous season Danny Rose had excelled at Sunderland, however last campaign he was injury prone and his position had to be filled by players out of position, Vertonghen and Naughton and it showed. The performances of Rose themselves were highly ridiculed, scattered with too many individual errors. Davies adds competition and will most likely be first choice, forcing Rose to raise his game. Davies is solid and used to playing in a team under a modern manager with good attacking play with full backs pushed forward and defensive stability under Laudrup. The straight swap with Sigurdsson, a fringe player is also great business and at 21 he can make the left back spot his own for the next 8-10 years.
Eric Dier: The foreign Englishman. The Under 21 international from Sporting Lisbon made his Spurs debut at White Hart Lane against Schalke on Saturday, and looked solid, assured and overall very promising. Some fans would even be happy to see him start alongside Vertonghen at Upton Park. He has a solid technique and has even been deployed as a defensive midfielder; however, there is a question over his concentration. He is most likely to be a back up, but there is still plenty of uncertainty regarding which centre backs will be at the club, whoever is there, there is little doubt that Pochettino will have few worries about playing Dier.
Michel Vorm: With Chelsea aside, Tottenham now have the best back up keeper in the league, after a few outstanding seasons at Swansea, he was linked with the likes of Arsenal but his form was inconsistent last campaign and the arrival of Fabianski is clearly enough for Vorm to try and ‘challenge’ Lloris for number one spot. Vorm will most likely play all the cup games but will not unseat one of the world’s best keepers but is a great backup should the Frenchman be injured or suspended.
Christian Eriksen: The Dane was voted Spurs player of the year last season and made 7 assists in 2014 the joint highest in the league alongside Gerrard and Suarez. He was given a freer role under Sherwood and his technical ability was out for all to see. He is a great set piece taker and has showed this against Celtic in pre-season and his link up play with Lamela and Lennon has got fans excited. At only 22, there is still so much to come from Eriksen, who could well go on and be as good as his hero Laudrup, however, there are doubts on how he will adapt to the high pressing style of Pochettino but if he links well with Lamela and Soldado then he will truly become one of the biggest bargains at only £11million.
Erik Lamela: A real disappointment last season, the ‘new Bale’ only made three league starts and never settled in a new country with a new language and a new physical element to the league. Injury finished his season in December but the arrival of compatriot Pochettino has fans excited of Lamela being again a ‘new signing’. Pre-season has only heighted the expectations as he looks like the man Roma fans saw, playing in a fluid three behind the striker, he has scored 3 times and linked well with Eriksen and Lennon. Against Schalke though, he again looked lightweight and has worried a few fans, but could well score 15+ this season.
Jan Vertonghen: There is talk of a new five year contract on the table and ‘Super Jan’ has said he wants to stay at Spurs but he didn’t look like he did at times last season. The one that sticks out for Spurs fans is the image of him just casually leaning against the wall down the tunnel against Liverpool. 50 seconds into the game and Spurs are one down via a Kaboul own goal. However, the Belgian was obviously unhappy under Sherwood but following his recent comments he is likely to be the main man at the back and should get back to his form of being one the best centre halves in the league.
Possible Starting Line Up
Despite the arrival of Dutchman, Vorm there is no doubt that Lloris is the number one. Kyle Walker is a clear favourite to start at right back with most fans not particularly impressed with Kyle Naughton despite his performances on the right being far superior to those on the left. Likely signing American, DeAndre Yedlin, will probably join in January leaving many speculating Naughton will leave then. Walker has been injured since March meaning Naughton will start against West Ham. On the other side Davies probably has the edge but Rose put in a very strong performance against Schalke and could well start at Upton Park.
No-one knows what is going on at centre half with it looking increasingly unlikely that Musacchio will be joining from Villarreal. Pochettino doesn’t seem to fancy Dawson who can’t seem to keep up to pace of the high defensive line of the ever evolving game. Kaboul could well start the season alongside Vertonghen with Dier and Chiriches as back up.
Capoue seems to have taken hold of the defensive midfielder slot in the double pivot ahead of Sandro where there are questions over his technical abilities. However, if Schneiderlin joins he will surely take the spot. Perhaps the most up for grabs spot is the one alongside Capoue. Dembele, Paulinho, Bentaleb and Holtby are all looking to make the spot their own. There is clearly more to come from Brazilian Paulinho and the technically outstanding Dembele but Bentaleb is showing maturity beyond his years and Holtby has had a strong pre-season which will most likely see him start, it is however, likely we will see all four play a big part as Spurs look to challenge on four fronts.
Two of three attacking midfielder roles are set with Eriksen and Lamela but it seems a battle between Lennon and Townsend for the other. Townsend will be looking to improve on his reputation from last year which saw him become an England hero. Tottenham fans though are frustrated with his poor decision making and persistent shooting from long range. If that can be toned down and he improves that aspect of his game he really could set the league alight. For Lennon it is now or never at 27, he has had a strong pre-season working well with Eriksen and Lamela and looks to start the first game but Townsend will likely make many sub appearances trying to stake his claim.
Up front is hard to call, Adebayor probably deserves it following his great return of 14 goals in 25 games last season but Soldado’s obvious ability to link up the play with a sublime Spanish touch may fit into Pochettino’s new style. Harry Kane will likely start a few cup games and make sub appearances. The new manager has a job on his hands to get the best out of at least one of these but if he does Tottenham will already have what they think they may be missing.
Predicted League Finish
There will be some who want nothing less than top four. They are now in the minority with many expecting Spurs to fall short because of the way those around them have strengthened. Tottenham will most likely be battling with Everton to finish 6th and get a Europa League place, which now has the added bonus of the winners gaining a Champions League place. Many would like to see a strong Europa League run and see that as a more realistic way of getting Champions League football next season. Everton have only slightly improved on last season and Pochettino should be the difference as Spurs have the far superior squad, they just need the right man to lead them. The expectation is for Tottenham to finish in 6th.
Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract
The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.
Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.
He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.
Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.
It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.
Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.
“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.
“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.
“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”
Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.
It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.
Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.
They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.
There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.
This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.
Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.
Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.
This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.
He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.
A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.
Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line
The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.
The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.
Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”
The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.
Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.
Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.
From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.
Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.
Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.
Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.
This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.
But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.
In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.
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.
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