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Are Tottenham Hotspur still in need of strengthening?

The Boot Room

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In what has been, down the years, a fixture to treat the neutrals on many occasions, Manchester and Tottenham Hotspur provided a limp opening fixture to the 2015/16 Premier League season. A Kyle Walker own goal in the first half settled things in favour of the Red Devils, not a lot else happened, and by full-time most viewers will have been happy enough it was over. The whole match was muted, especially considering the traditions of the teams involved, and neither forward line lit up the affair with a moment of supreme brilliance.

Most striking was the anonymity of last season’s superstar Harry Kane; the 22-year old barely got a sniff at United’s goal, registering just one shot of note went tamely wide from the edge of the box. Most of the forward’s touches came near the centre circle or wide right as he was forced to drift from position in order to collect possession – out of 43 touches on the ball Kane managed all through the match, just six were in the Manchester United penalty area, most of those wide and close to its fringes, and this was starkly apparent as the game unfolded. Under Tottenham’s 4-2-3-1 setup, the England international was so obviously isolated from the first whistle to the last, that what should have been a beatable Manchester United backline was able to look solid and comfortable.

The problem for Spurs was not Harry Kane – he showed potential in flashes but naturally grew frustrated and played sloppier passes as the match wore on – but the players playing behind him. Christian Eriksen delivered a steady enough performance, operating mostly in Manchester United’s defensive half and providing a supportive goal threat, but Mousa Dembele and Nacer Chadli provided minimal bite in attack. The Belgians were a virtual no-show offensively, confined mostly to possession in their own half as they failed to provide a vital link between defence and attack that Pochettino will have hoped for. Operating as wide attacking midfielders, the creativity and involvement necessary to cause Old Trafford’s unease was never forthcoming, as Dembele provided the solitary cross between them all match. Chadli was especially uninvolved, contributing less touches and passes than any other starting player on the pitch, so it was a surprise to see him last the full 90 minutes. When Dembele was replaced on 68 minutes by Erik Lamela, the Argentine flattered to deceive much in the same way the rest of his career in England has gone thus far.

Considering the wealth of attacking options Tottenham have enjoyed in recent years, their current squad looks a little blunt on paper. Kane and Eriksen aside, there are no thoroughly inspiring names to choose from, and if the former’s rumoured move to Manchester United materialises then Spurs fans will have legitimate cause for concern this season. Removing the Englishman leaves Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor as the remaining striker options – the former is a flop entering his third season, while the latter’s best days are most probably behind him now at 31-years old – so a late and likely expensive replacement would have to be lined up. Meanwhile, if the latter is injured for any considerable length of time, then the likes of Dembele, Chadli and Lamela have so far failed to show they can be suitable replacements to his central creative role.

To state the abundantly obvious: Tottenham must keep hold of Harry Kane this season. He is too vital to their ambitions going forward, while losing him to a rivals Manchester United would incense supporters almost beyond reason. While such a transfer for one of England’s hottest young talents would undoubtedly bring in a huge fee, much like Raheem Sterling’s move to Manchester City, Kane’s influence for Spurs has been far greater than Sterling’s was at Liverpool last season. Unless a world star like Karim Benzema could be tied up to replace the fans’ hero – and that is unlikely considering Spurs cannot offer Champions League football this season – then they have to do everything they can to keep potential United interest at bay.

Instead, Pochettino should be provided the resources to recruit another top striker or attacking midfielder to add to what he has rather than replace. Another striker would provide Kane with necessary support, either from the bench or as a compliment to his skills on the pitch. While he is strong in possession and a lethal finisher, Kane showed on Saturday that he will struggle as a target man on his own without capable players alongside him – as is to be expected of anyone. Messi or Ronaldo would have struggled to feed off the scraps Spurs provided their striker at Old Trafford.

A larger, physically dominant target man is required for Kane to play off of – and this is not Pochettino’s preference – or else more meaningful quality to bridge the midfield-forward divide, is ideally what Tottenham need to bring in while maintaining the core of their current squad. Players like Andros Townsend and Aaron Lennon may return to involvement, but with a gruelling Europa League schedule to heap on to league and cup fixtures, the current Spurs squad looks especially flimsy offensively. With progress being made by teams around them, what has been a comfortable top-seven team is in danger of slipping towards the lower reaches of mid-table.

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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.

Photo: Getty Images

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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.

Photo: Getty Images

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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