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English Premier League

Why keeping Nabil Bentaleb is a necessity for Tottenham



It’s now over a year since Tottenham appointed manager Mauricio Pochettino, and whilst he missed out on a top four finish in his first season, there is plenty to be pleased about for Spurs fans.

The Argentine managed to land fifth place in the Premier League table, notched a win over rivals Arsenal at White Hart Lane and, most importantly, gave Tottenham fans a glimpse of the future by bedding in a number of talented youngsters.

Striker Harry Kane, of course, grabbed all the headlines by hitting 31 goals in all competitions, but Danny Rose established himself as one of the Premier League’s top left backs, whilst midfielder Ryan Mason became an England international less than a year after featuring on loan for Swindon Town.

Yet, outside of Kane, the most promising player of Tottenham’s youth movement is Algerian international midfielder Nabil Bentaleb.

A January 2012 signing from French side Dunkerque, Bentaleb has been fast-tracked into the Tottenham first team, and supporters can actually thank former manager Tim Sherwood for that. If there is anything Spurs fans can look fondly upon from Sherwood’s reign, it’s the emergence of Bentaleb.

The 20-year-old player 35 games in all competitions this past season, becoming the heartbeat of the Tottenham midfield and a key player under Pochettino despite his relative inexperience. Week by week, Bentaleb proved that that he has what it takes to be a future star for club and country having impressed in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations as well as in the Premier League.

This is all great for Tottenham. They’ve unearthed a gem, and that’s certainly something fans needed after the failed signings of Vlad Chiriches, Etienne Capoue, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado in 2013. Yet, somehow, Spurs are managing to cause themselves problems with Bentaleb.

In the last year, those aforementioned prospects have been rewarded for their performances; Rose, Mason and Kane all signed new and improved contracts to keep themselves tied to the club until 2020. Unsurprisingly, Bentaleb now wants the same courtesy. Only, chairman Daniel Levy appears reluctant to do so.

Bentaleb aired his frustrations to The Telegraph last week, admitting that he had been in talks over a new contract with Spurs since September. In nearly nine months of negotiations, Tottenham still haven’t been able to strike a deal with Bentaleb – and now they could risk losing their disgruntled star.

In terms of the next generation of world-class midfielders, the likes of Marco Verratti, Paul Pogba and Mateo Kovacic steal the limelight on a regular basis. Yet at White Hart Lane, Spurs have a player who could rival all three in the future – because he can be used in a variety of ways.

His range of passing is good enough to be able to dictate play as a deep-lying playmaker, he’s physical enough to break up play in front of the back four, and he has enough athleticism and energy to work from box-to-box. Bentaleb already has all the tools to become one of the finest all-round midfielders in Europe, and he can become anything Spurs want him to be – so why the confusion over his future?

Bentaleb has been just as good as, if not better than the likes of Rose and Mason this past season, and deserves to be rewarded accordingly – especially given that his team-mates have already been handed new deals in the last 12 months.

If Tottenham don’t believe that Bentaleb is worth a new and improved contract, then it’s almost certain that another team, possibly a Premier League rival, would be more than willing to pay good money for an up-and-coming midfielder. With Pochettino keen to build a great Tottenham side not only for now but also for the future, there is no logical reason why Spurs and Levy should be putting Bentaleb’s future in doubt when he could be a hero at White Hart Lane for years to come.

Allowing Bentaleb to leave could be a mistake reminiscent of Manchester United losing the aforementioned Pogba to Juventus in 2012, with the Frenchman harnessing his potential away from Old Trafford whilst United desperately scramble for a midfielder they had all along.

Pogba’s story should serve as a cautionary tale to Tottenham, with potential replacements costing exponentially more than keeping existing young talent at the club; and having forked out for the likes of Paulinho, Capoue and Mousa Dembele with little reward in recent years, this is an avenue Tottenham can’t afford to journey down.

Whilst Pochettino will look to add more signings this summer after the arrival of Austrian defender Kevin Wimmer from FC Koln, the most important deal would be securing Bentaleb’s future in North London as he looks to keep his young core in place ahead of another top four push next season – and they stand a better chance of achieving that by keeping Bentaleb rather than letting him leave.



Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

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.

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English Premier League

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.



Photo: Getty Images

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.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

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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