Spurs vs Liverpool Preview

There are some big selection headaches for Mr Pochettino at Wembley today, after a great tactical display in Madrid. Alli and Davies back in the fold, Reckless but at times impressive Aurier or more reliable Trippier? Winksy or powerhouse Sissoko? Reward for Llorente or return for underperforming Alli? Too soon for Rose or throw him back in to the firing line to deal with Mo Salah’s pace. Rose was Spurs’s best player at White Hart Lane last season in the 1-1 draw Liverpool dominated.

Liverpool have caused Spurs the most problems consistently of any team over the last 3 seasons due to their speed and frequency of attacks. A lot of joy may be on the break where we can pick them off, but we need to be as solid Defensively as we were in the Bernabau.

Team I’d start with today:

 

Would give us the opportunity to break fast as I expect Liverpool to try and dictate the pace of the game in the early stages, with some steady hands on the bench should they be needed and still different attacking options like Llorente and Son to try and change the game if needed later on.
Still a bit early for Rose, but some players that didn’t feature or start on Wednesday to hopefully keep the side fresh where a tough night at the Bernabau may have taken its toll.

Prediction: 2-1 Spurs.

Spurs break the Wembley curse

Harry Kane’s brace handed Spurs their first win at Wembley and ensured their Champions League campaign got off to a flyer. The 3-1 victory over Peter Bosz’s Borussia Dortmund side means Spurs have a real strong chance of progressing from undoubtedly one of the competitions toughest groups. Heung Min Son opened the scoring inside five minutes when his effort beat Roman Burki at his near post, the Korean international scoring his 7th goal versus Dortmund in 9 fixtures. However it wasn’t long before Yarmolenko leveled things for the away side with a stunning curling effort.

Dortmund to their dismay were only level for 4 minutes before Spurs restored their lead through Harry Kane. The England striker escaped the challenge of Sokratis and fired past Roman Burki who was beaten for a second time at his near post. No doubt some questionable goalkeeping from the Swiss international who arguably should have saved both efforts.

The German side posed a constant threat throughout the game and will be disappointed with the Italian official’s decision to rule out a perfectly good goal from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Tottenham Hotspur once again turned to their talisman to put the game beyond doubt and Harry Kane’s low effort on the hour mark found the bottom corner and sealed the points.

Perhaps the only disappointment on a great night for the hosts was the late red card shown to Jan Vertonghen who was adjudged to have caught Mario Gotze with an arm.

Elsewhere, Real Madrid cruised to a 3-0 victory over APOEL Nicosia of Cyprus meaning they lead the group with Spurs in second.

@HarrySymeou

@sofasportsnews_

Spurs: To spend & sell, or not to spend & still sell?

“Football has gone mad” is what most non millennials bellow every time a player is linked with a big money move. “The new TV deal is to blame for all this” is what usually follows. Notice the key word in that sentence. “New”. The “new” TV deal is to blame. It’s almost as if the domino effect that was Sky’s 5 year, £191M deal with the Premier League back in 1992 didn’t happen. Fake news, apparently.

Tottenham Hotspur’s Chairman Daniel Levy today (26th July 2017) defended his club’s lack of transfer activity this summer, claiming the spending by other Premier League clubs is unsustainable.

When you take into consideration the timing (redevelopment of White Hart Lane and the surrounding area, plus a year at the “home of football” – Wembley Stadium) Mr Levy’s choice of words deserve the **scratching chin**/”hmmmm” emoji. Is this another point to add to the list of reasons for the lack of spending? A member of the Shoot The Defence Facebook group page wrote:

“I’ve been telling Spurs fans since the stadium was granted planning that they were going to face a decade of financial restraint. Just like Arsenal – Spurs are a self-sustaining club which means they have to generate the money before they can spend it.”

A fair point, no question about that. This leads to a question that’s been asked over and over – have Spurs become, or have they always been a selling club? Looking at the last 10-15 seasons, there’s little evidence to suggest they aren’t a selling side. This summer alone is a clear indicator that our resident poster is onto something.

England international Kyle Walker, Tottenham’s 27 year old first choice right back (for the best part of 5-6 years) was sold to Manchester City for a whopping £45M – yes, a right back has been sold for £45M, deal with it.

While it’s fair to say this is a great bit of business given the emergence of Kieran Trippier, Levy’s frugality leaves another bitter taste in the mouths of Spurs fans. In Levy’s defence, Opta stats (as of 2nd May 2017) show Spurs top the Premier League table over 2 years, despite a NET spend of £7M. Incidentally, the sale of Kyle Walker has made the club’s NET spend over the last 5 years MINUS £44M.

There’s no denying the club has moved in the right direction. Their youth academy is one of the best in the country and in Pochettino they have a Head Coach who isn’t afraid to trust a young group of players. whilst the other “big clubs” smashed transfer records left, right and centre, the Argentinian guided Spurs to their highest Premier League position, finishing above the big spending Manchester clubs two seasons in a row, surpassing people’s expectations in the process.

Nevertheless, titles, trophies and medals are the be all and end all, and unfortunately (or fortunately if you’re from the red half of North London), the trophy cabinet has been bare since 2008. A top 4 league finish has gone from being desirable to imperative in the clubs continued growth, development and future.

That being said, it goes back to the aforementioned “be all and end all” – trophy victories. Many Spurs fans would argue that, for now, obtaining Champions League football equates to a successful season given their size, spending power compared to others and recent history. More often than not, the follow up questions lead to more questions than answers.

How long will the sought after Dele Alli, Toby Alderweireld, Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier wait for the trophy drought to end before wanting out? Is Harry “one of our own” Kane going to honour his £80,000 a week contract extension that ends in 2022 if the club fails to win some silverware soon? Let’s not forget the other sticking point – wages. Spurs only recently restructured their wage policy to make Kane the highest paid player to fend off interest from the elite clubs. While Levy is lauded for running a tight ship, Spurs are a Champions League club paying like a mid table club.

Tight ship or not, rumour has it the ship on the outside may not be what it is on the inside.

Stel

@OnAMadness

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The Race for the Title – You get what you pay for!

The transfer market has gone bananas.  Cast your mind back to 2006 and the sum of £38m could buy you one of the world’s most prolific strikers – Andriy Shevchenko.  Fast forward to the 2010/11 season and that kind of money would bring you…Andy Carroll!

The latest Premier League TV deals and an influx of wealthy foreign ownership have contributed to a transformation in the football landscape nobody could have foreseen.  July 2017, and the previously mentioned sum of £38m isn’t even enough to sign half of Romelu Lukaku.

The money men at City have spent in the region of £133m on full backs, Romans Chelsea have laid out a further £119m and the idea of FFP (Financial Fair Play) is beginning to seem like a fairy tale.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…You get what you pay for.

Arsenal smashed their transfer record this summer with the acquisition of French striker Alexander Lacazette.  The Gunners are known for keeping their cards close to their chest and although the fee was officially undisclosed it was believed to be around the £50m mark.

Having splashed the cash on Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi before him, the Gunners are still not competing financially with the likes of Manchester City, United and Chelsea.

To put it bluntly, the Arsenal specialize in second rate signings. The game’s elite players demand the kind of wages that would blow the Gunners wage structure apart.  The power is with the seller and Arsenal’s reluctance to be held to ransom and pay a premium means they’re being left behind.

The same can be said for Liverpool.  Another club who’s fan base are desperate for premier league success.  Ownership who seemingly won’t pay the top dollar and a manager who’s inability to defend will ultimately cost them.

Tottenham Hotspur have exceeded expectations for two seasons now, but that won’t continue.  The financial burden of a new stadium and the move to Wembley will see Mauricio Pochettino’s side struggle to compete on all fronts and I’ve yet to mention their lack of transfer activity.

Throughout recent history, with a few anomalies of course, there has been a clear correlation between the title winners and the most dominant in the transfer market.   The title race will be between the top 3 spenders and the sooner the Arsenal, Liverpool and Spurs fans accept this, the better.

So you can rest assure, the Arsenal Fan TV melt downs will be back next season, the Spuds will end up heartbroken and the Scousers will still be talking about 2005!

@HarrySymeou

sofasportsnews.com

Check out the latest episode of the SSN Podcast!

Steven Caldwell Interview

Micky Hazard Interview

We had the pleasure of talking with Spurs legend Micky Hazard about his fantastic career. Micky spoke to us regarding his FA & UEFA cup triumphs, a play-off final win, promotion, some of the games current issues and his emotional farewell to White Hart Lane.
An absolute gentleman!

Thanks to our partners:
Shoot the Defence, FNX, Elite Editorial Services, Tagpay, GreekBeat Radio and Perfect Radio UK

Micky Hazard Interview

Title won, Hull face the drop & the FA’s plans to make diving stop!

Harry is joined by sofasportsnews.com blogger Dan De Luca & Shoot the Defence host Stel. The lads discuss how the current Chelsea side compare to past champions, Spurs’ imminent move to Wembley, the Championship play off’s, the futures of Marco Silva, Walter Mazzari, Craig Shakespeare, The FA’s plans to introduce a punishment for diving and the usual European Round-up!

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Has The Power Shifted in North London?

No, is the short answer to ‘has the power shifted in North London’ but the theory that this is ‘only one season’ is a quite common Arsenal rhetoric this week. It’s not one season, the ‘shift’ has commenced a while ago and really came to light last season when a title challenge was sustained by one side and not the other. It’s not uncommon for Arsenal to accept trouble when it’s too late (Monsieur Wenger) almost a natural denial mechanism.

So the long answer to ‘has the power shifted’ follows now. No one can say what Power shift means for sure but the answer to me should still be, no, not yet.

Power in modern football consists of various new things, and whilst I don’t think you’ll see a dominant era between the two clubs either way again like the one that has just ended on Sunday in terms of league position, There will unlikely ever be an opportunity for one to capitalise on the financial incentives of success to the extent that they can pull that far clear of the other that Arsenal benefitted from in the late 90s, the lie of the land is certainly changing

On the pitch, there is no gap anymore, I don’t think there has been for 3-4 seasons but if finishing above the rival at the end of the season was what was needed then that box has now been ticked. Indeed since redknapp joined Tottenham in 2008, Spurs have a marginally better head to head record against their neighbours in the league. That’s over a 9 season period. So not a flash in the pan.

A good period as a comparator as Spurs once went 9 years without even beating Arsenal once in the league. The dominance has ended quite clearly and arguably shifted slightly in Spurs’ favour when you consider that Arsenal haven’t beaten Spurs in the league for 3 seasons, and also a couple of the performances Spurs have put in away from home in drawing have been pretty dominant (one in particular), and the 2 home victories have again been more dominant displays than the eventual score lines reflected.

So are Spurs now ‘North London’s premier club’?

Well no, not yet. There are other factors that need to considered and other gaps to be closed.

A big impressive landmark stadium is a factor and an area that Arsenal could point to as a mark of their supremacy as a football club, in a similar way a mansion indicates wealth more than a terraced house, but Spurs are addressing that too and will have the advantage of over a decade of further innovations when the doors open in 2018, equal in size to their rivals too, possibly even deliberately 1000 seats extra capacity. Petty. But I’m sure a statement of intent.

Incoming revenue is another modern factor of power, and between stadium naming rights and shirt sponsorship, Arsenal benefit from £30m a year of income, when compared to AIA contributions to Tottenham of just £14m. Again though, that criteria is being addressed. Nike have signed a kit deal with Spurs for £25m-a-year. The benefit of he shirt being manufactured by the largest sports brand in the world will have huge secondary benefits. Whether it stretches as far to help with signing bigger players, I don’t know, but a player sponsored by Nike in a big stadium wearing a Nike kit is a lot more likely in 2 years time than it is now.

The naming rights to the new stadium will supplement the shirt deal and I haven’t seen the financial structure of the relationship with the NFL but I can only imagine it’s a handsome deal. Lucrative enough to warrant investing in the design and installation of a sliding pitch to be used just twice a season.

Champions League football has always been a measure of a clubs power, and Arsenal’s proud record of qualifying for 20 consecutive seasons will firmly have them in the driving seat and considered more of major club thanks to this exposure. Spurs have now secured successive campaigns for the first time and whilst they will need to at least progress beyond the group stages to start to warrant being considered part of the club, the gap to bridge to their rivals in terms of tournament progression is not a huge one to bridge.

However whilst Arsenal have continually featured for two decades its fair to say that they will rightly be perceived North London’s premier club across the continent, and of course they still haven’t missed out on qualifying this year just yet. That needs to happen once or twice for a shift in this category to be considered, or of course Spurs progress further than expected. I’d say currently though the situation is that the teams are more likely to meet in the middle than Spurs overtake, and the co-efficient supremacy Arsenal hold over their neighbours I’d expect to remain intact for the foreseeable future.

Champions League qualification has been wrongly in my view considered a trophy in recent years and the two North London clubs perhaps the biggest culprits of supporting this ideology, but in the quest for achieving this Arsenal have managed to pick up a couple of FA Cup wins and Spurs haven’t added a trophy to their cabinet since Pochettino took the reins or indeed since February 2008, the run is now as long as Arsene Wenger’s infamous trophy drought. The team need a trophy to consolidate their era of excellence, both in terms of style, financial sustainability and of course points on the pitch, over the last two seasons Spurs have amassed at least FIFTEEN POINTS more than any other side.

No teams deserve trophies, but their play, style and endeavour over the last two years would certainly make them worthy of one. Not a necessity in terms of a power shift as the opponent could well slip backwards, and having mounted a challenge to the league leader twice in two years when the more likely club to do so were their North London neighbours is another pointer to the swing that has clearly occurred.

Because of that form and the uncertainty around Arsenal’s managerial position, bookmakers have Tottenham down as more likely to win the Premier League Title next season than the gunners, and if that doesn’t change between now and August then that would certainly be the first time the gambling industry has felt that way since I was old enough to place a bet. That’s significant. The people / companies who could lose money would prefer to take a bet on Arsenal than Tottenham. How many seasons of that would constitute a complete power shift in that field?

The last area that has been overlooked largely in the media is the pulling power of buying / keeping players. Both clubs recent record of keeping key players has been pretty poor, and with Arsenal’s most expensive assets still to sign new deals, 5 of Spurs’ six most significant players have penned new deals in the last year tying them to the club until into the next decade. More power and control over the destiny of their players, or their next destinations should they demand to move on.

Significant to note also, is the spread of talent, in past eras Arsenal have had several talented players whilst Spurs have been devastated by the loss of their one star man. That scenario has flipped and you wonder what Arsenal would do if they couldn’t adequately replace Sanchez whereas Tottenham would certainly miss one or two players but the supporting talent feels a lot more equipped to manage if one should leave, indeed the title challenge has been sustained despite spells on the sideline for almost every player at some point over the season, and there’s also the feeling that the coach could improve a lesser player to help fill a gap.

All that said, just 2 years ago Arsenal were able to lure one of the World Cups stars to the club, after just one champions league group stage elimination is that situation likely to have flipped in Tottenham’s favour? Doubtful.

MOTD covered the topic on Sunday night at whilst the studio reluctantly agreed that Spurs would be the choice destination of a prime 24 year old, I’d still like to see some evidence of that before declaring that part of the shift complete. A young English player absolutely no doubt, maybe even an established player leaving a Premier league club, a top player from another European Club will still remain to be seen.

Spurs may say their philosophy doesn’t lead them down that path, but in reality it’s more of a case that club haven’t been able to attract the top players ahead of other clubs, and the second rate players that the club have signed have invariably been flops. 7 out of the top 10 most expensive transfers into Tottenham Hotspur have been complete disasters or at least failed to warrant the money spent. Sissoko, Soldado, Lamela, Bent, Janssen, Bentley & Paulinho have all on that top 10 fees paid list that have delivered less than their transfer fees warranted. Interestingly though Xhaka and Mustafi indicate to me the first signs that Arsenal are slipping into that pattern of having to pay big but for the types of players who are not top level. There record transfer of Ozil Failure to win a champions league knockout tie for 7 years will now be taking its toll. Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, Leicester City and, you guessed it, Tottenham have all won a knockout game more recently.

As mentioned, Spurs need to repeat that achievement in the next couple of season and maybe beat a big European name on the way. This transfer window will be a good indicator of if things have changed at Spurs, and if Arsenal do miss out on that champions league spot how will they be affected in terms of what they can bring in. Not much has come through the academy in recent years, a far cry of a decade ago where the production line at Arsenal was seemingly well oiled and functioning well. Iwobi is a demonstration that it is still producing players capable of joining a first team. Spurs had only really promoted Ledley King throughout the first decade of the century, but in the last few years a glut of players have featured in the first team and the ones not quite title chasing standard have been sold on for substantial transfer fees, good enough to play for other premier league clubs. An academy has snuck up at Tottenham and is taking effect in a hugely positive way.

So back to the question of power shift. Whatever you think, depending on what side of the fence you sit or what the term means to you as a neutral. Has your mind changed at all after all of that? Is a shift further along or less so that what you first thought? How many of the boxes need to be ticked for you to declare it complete. A few more probably for it to become undisputed.

Whatever your answer it shouldn’t stop Spurs from celebrating another fantastic season of progress, rubber stamped with the league position above Arsenal that so many demanded. And whatever your answer it doesn’t alter the fact that the shift is at the very least well underway, and although I expect Tottenham to suffer setbacks in coming seasons that may not halt it  unless Arsenal can do something to stem the indecision and uncertainty that has overcome the football club. Becoming a premier club can be as much about teams falling than teams improving, the two simultaneously will speed up the process.

For now though, shift or no shift? Does it even matter?

For this season after 21 years, North London is undoubtedly white. And it’s been more than one year in the making.

De Luca

sofasportsnews.com

 

5 Things That Should Worry Spurs Fans About The NLD

Spurs go into the NLD Derby as odds on favourites with the bookies for the first time in the premier league era. In awesome form at home and playing some exciting free flowing football, and expected to win, there is still plenty to be wary of to avoid upsetting the apple-cart.

1. Chelsea win – Spurs are aiming for bigger things in the league this season than Arsenal. That’s not a dig, that’s just the reality of how it is. Any slim chance of winning the title relies on Chelsea dropping points today at Everton. If Chelsea win ahead of Spurs kicking off that could easily affect the players. With the title race over last season Spurs lost their last two matches to slip behind the gunners at the by the end of the season.

2. Over Confidence – confidence has been a feature of Spurs’ home performances of late, and whilst we want more of the same, this isn’t Bournemouth or Watford, this is Arsenal so some extra caution will be needed. Arsenal are one of the 6 clubs picked out to challenge for the title and whilst their season hasn’t been the best it’s not as bad as Arsenal Fan TV will have you believe. There are still good players, it’s still a NLD and they will be extra hungry to prove a point. They have had an upturn in form and momentum and a new formation that will make them hard to beat. Similar to last season anyone expecting a stroll may be disappointed. Patience will be needed. Maybe even coming from behind.

3. No Dembele – When the media hype up Spurs players this guy seems to be regularly missed. He’s our best player, and is undergoing a late fitness test to make today’s line up. The formation may switch from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1 if he doesn’t make it, and whilst Spurs should be able to shuffle and cope, having the big guy in there breaking up play and controlling the territory will be a massive plus.

4. Lloris error – Hugo is often subject to the old World Class debate. Is he? Isn’t He? The thing in the minus column would be his big match status. He doesn’t make many errors, or put in many bad displays but when he does it tends to be a big game. One in this fixture last year, to add to one at the Emirates, a couple against Chelsea last week, and a couple away at City. His mentality in big games is certainly a cause for concern and we’ll be hoping for no repeats.

And finally….

5. Theo Walcott – he may not be the best player in Arsenals squad, but he loves playing against Tottenham, and with Rose out may enjoy it even more than if he was available. Spurs have always struggled against his pace and whilst a far better side now, minus Rose the left back side is the area of weakness matched worryingly with Walcott who has always enjoyed plenty of action on the right wing in this fixture. Combine with the overconfidence factor, Walcott could have plenty of opportunity to stretch Tottenham on the break if they do not box it clever.

PREDICTION –
A fast and frantic start from Tottenham who may need an early-ish goal to stop nerves setting in as Arsenal play their way into the game and push forward more in the second half.

I always say if you back 1-1 in the NLD and the home side to win 2-1 you won’t be far wrong.
Or if you can’t decide, back each team to have 2 or more corners in each half at 5/2

Dan De Luca

sofasportsnews.com

Reffing Hell!

There are 3 key components of every good side…

A strong spine. A 20-Goal a season striker. And a well chosen referee at key points of the season.

Barcelona and Real Madrid have both had hands in progressing in the Champions League (again), Arsenal have been able to use their hands to avoid Arsenal Fan TVs server reaching capacity, and with Chelsea having a little wobble, well, it’s time for the FA to bring out the A team.

With the Spurs – Chelsea semi final neatly poised in 2012 ref Martin Atkinson decided the game could do with a goal, so… he gave one. Marvellous. Thankfully goal-line technology will prevent any such repeats but there is still no technology to prevent you from being a cheating attention seeking bellend. So with that it mind, who would you not appoint to handle the 2017 reunion of the two sides in the semi final? And who have the FA chosen from their pool of miscreants? Yeah, Martin Atkinson.

Who knows what will happen this time, will he subconsciously try to even things out? will he try so hard not to be seen to even things out and go the other way? Why even appoint him and crank the pressure up more with a crowd that won’t forget? You stupid stupid stupid organisation. Apart from Diego Costa being allowed 17 bookable offences before his first warning instead of his usual 12 expect this to end in tears and controversy and a ref at the centre of it all in the aftermath. Maybe that’s what he wants, but it makes you wonder what the FA know about common bloody sense. What does FA stand for again?

That was De Luca’s 2 pence #2pDDL

sofasportsnews.com

Spurs 4-3 Wycombe: A Wake Up Call!

A wake up call and time now to take the cup seriously.

At full time it was heartbreak for Wycombe, and when you come from league 2, away to a top premier league side and you’re never trailing until the 97th minute it’s desperately unfortunate not to get at least a money spinning replay. At times it looked like they would get more. Leading 2-0 at half-time is never a given for a lower league team away at a big side, but once going back 3-2 in front in the final ten minutes against 10 men with the game in the minutes up to that point had started to descend into a lull the travelling support wouldn’t have even settled for a replay. The performance should be a platform for Wycombe to secure the playoff place they currently occupy.

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As for Tottenham, a big scare and an opportunity for Pochettino to re-assess the selection policy for the rest of the tournament. In truth, Tottenham on the day weren’t THAT bad. They’ve scored 4 at the end of the day, 2 of those with 10 men, and dominated completely between goals 1 and 2. There is though quite rightly an expectation to see off lower league teams comfortably and that didn’t happen. The problems were defensively, and a change of the entire back 5 plus protector victor Wanyama may have contributed, but it’s alarming how weak the squad players appear when facing a spirited opposition who can mix up their attacks with a combination of wide play and high balls.

Last year was a great chance for Spurs to win their first FA Cup in a quarter of a century, when they fell in the 5th round to Crystal Palace. The onward route to the cup would have been Reading-Watford-Manchester United.
That day the team that played was weakened but a lot stronger than yesterday’s, but the common factor was an injured Vertonghen and a rested Alderweireld. Resting of players yesterday was perfectly understandable against a team you’d expect the squad players to be able to handle, and with a premier league game 3 days later.

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The truth though, the Spurs squad does not have the strength in depth to make it much further in the competition if the changes are wholesale, the same can be said for most teams, and Toby Alderweireld has to play going forward. While it’s understandable leaving him out yesterday having missed long periods recently with injury, for me to be happy we are taking the tournament seriously he needs to feature and the players rested count must decrease from 9 to somewhere closer to 3.

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It’s difficult to prioritise everything, and currently stuck between a title challenge and a top 4 scrap makes the temptation to rest players great for a home game against Wycombe, but now the wake up call has been landed I’d like to see us take heed and give our best shot at delivering a trophy as reward what has been a great team performance over 2 seasons. The competition will be tougher than it might have been last season unfortunately but whilst the draw hasn’t been made yet it’s not unusual for draws to open up after the 5th rounds.

It will be shame in years to come to look back on the Pochettino era and not see a trophy to reflect it. Hopefully the efforts are spread across all fronts rather than prioritising and potentially ending up with nothing but plaudits and Champions League eliminations, because at the end of the day, those are soon forgotten.

Dan De Luca

#DDL

sofasportsnews.com

Spurs vs City (Preview) – sofasportsnews.com

It’s the game of the weekend at the Etihad when in form Tottenham visit Manchester City. Spurs are looking to record their 4th win in a row against Manchester City, the type of run they have not enjoyed since pre Sheikh Mansour’s Millions.

It’s fair to say that Man City are struggling for form but it would be silly to overlook them given the attacking players at their disposal. Pep Guardiola conceded the title in his post match press conference last week but I don’t believe a man with such resolute faith in his playing style would really accept that hope of turning things around to be top of the pile at the end of this season is gone. City players will know what this game means, and I’m not expecting them to have thrown in the towel.

From a Tottenham perspective, this game has a sense of de ja vu from the corresponding fixture last year. It falls a couple of weeks earlier in the schedule but comes off of the back of an impressive Christmas period and a win would mean being strongly considered as part of the title race for the second half of the season.

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That day Spurs came away with a 2-1 win via a late Eriksen winner which prompted a full length Klinsmann dive across my living room. The subsequent title challenge lasted longer than bruises and the Spurs camp will be confident in igniting another attempt at chasing down the league leaders into the latter weeks of the season.

They have every right to be confident given their recent form, and will buoyed further by City’s comparative struggles. You look at the Spurs team really right now and there is no obvious weakness in terms of the individuals filling spots 1-11.

Manchester City are still favourites for the game and I would not expect them to be as impotent with their possession as they were at Goodison Park last week. Spurs’s job will be to frustrate City and I thoroughly expect Spurs to take the game to their opponents.

Danny Rose and Kyle Walker have received a large share of the plaudits for their performances this season and are responsible for a high proportion of Tottenham’s attacks. Their average positions in the West Brom victory were so advanced they were in line with Harry Kane, but they’ll need to be a lot more wary of the attacking threat posed by City’s front four and may need to be more selective about when to maraud forward.

For City, it’s true they’ve had some poor results lately, but it’s also fair to say certain things haven’t quite gone their way. Narrowly missing a couple of chances in the Chelsea game and being denied a penalty last week at key times in the game that could have made things simpler. Writing them off at home would be foolish. It would not be surprising at all if it all came together on Saturday and they pick up the time of win that I’m about to predict for Tottenham.

Spurs must feel though they can snuff out the attacking threat as they did against Chelsea recently and exploit the clear weaknesses in defense. If the first goal goes to Spurs you could easily see the confidence drain away from the back line, particularly Stones who looks like he wants to be anywhere else but the spotlight. The key to this game could be how courageous Spurs are in committing the full backs forward.

Getting them into the attack could see them overpower Cities ageing counterparts, whilst in doing so could play into City’s hands and support their counter attack which is the strongest part of their game currently. Big performances again from Wanyama and Dembele should allow Spurs to take this gamble and play their own game despite being away from home. Fernandinho will be a big loss for City in the middle of the park, and the immobile if still talented Toure could struggle for the required intensity levels.

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I expect Fernandinho to be missed a lot more than Vertonghen and suspect Dier and Wimmer may be assigned to double up on Aguero when City play their intricate short passes around the box to make up for the Belgians absence.

Despite City’s breathtaking best still being better than Tottenham’s it has not been seen too often this season, and in the league it has not been produced against a side of Spurs’ quality. If Spurs play to their best I expect them to win this game  as it will both nullify City and still pose a threat to the struggling back line, whilst City will not be able to outclass Tottenham for 90 minutes without those defenders coming under some spells of pressure. There is no reason to suspect Spurs will not turn up for this game.

Weighing it up, given the form of the two sides and their respective strengths it’s too good an opportunity for Tottenham to pass up, and there’s not enough current grounds for me to not suggest a Tottenham win away. Especially if that first goal goes Spurs’ way. The crowd could silence, the defence will get nervy and Spurs are in rampant mood to punish any indecision.

If City do lose this, then the white flag Pep offered last week will be waving faster than before, and there will be no further doubt that Spurs will be marching on to another exciting title chase.

I’m not overly confident but there is absolutely no reason not to be hopeful and a lot less to fear for Spurs than they can offer themselves.

Prediction: 1-3 Tottenham 22/1

Dan De Luca

sofasportsnews.com

Tottenham: A Steady But Unspectacular Start to the Season

Tottenham: A Steady But Unspectacular Start to the Season…

It’s been a steady but unspectacular start to Tottenham’s season which was summed up perfectly in a 24hr period at the beginning of the week.
A frustrating 1-0 defeat to Manchester United on the Sunday afternoon that highlighted the impotency going forward that has quelled any pre-season dreams of repeating a proper title challenge. It was followed up on Monday by the Champions League 2nd round draw where there was no ball in the hat for Tottenham Hotspur, that ball was spared for the Europa league draw that followed shortly after and that moment is a fair representation of where Tottenham are after 4 months – not quite there.

The toughness to beat, in the league at least, has been there to see again, and under normal circumstances if the only two defeats of a season so far were at Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge you’d probably accept that, but it’s the manner of those defeats are what should cause the most concern.

Plenty of ball, but a constant struggle to carve out clear cut opportunities. In the current situation a defeat to Manchester United has to go down as a disappointment, and when the best and maybe only chance of the day for all of the possession falls to Victor Wanyama the issues Tottenham have are clear. In the Chelsea game for the first 45 minutes it was more than possession, it was a complete dominance of a half of a football match against the league leaders on their own patch and still not once did a forward player find himself bearing down on the Chelsea goalkeeper.

The goal came from long range and the rest was probing and poking with style and no substance before Chelsea turned up and highlighted the difference. The same lack of creativity has been evident throughout most of the season and has been more costly in contributing to some of the draws earlier in the season. The 2points dropped in games soon add up and render unbeaten runs irrelevant when it comes to a league table. 5th place is a fair position so far for the season for Tottenham but there are still positives to build on if Pochettino can work out the balance between defence and attack for the second half of the season. It was there last year. Some evidence of those changes coming into play already have been apparent in the last fortnight too.

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Tottenham’s Harry Kane

Harry Kane being back from injury is a huge boost for Tottenham and the goals return has gone up markedly since his return. 17 in 8 all competitions since his return from injury versus 4 from 7 whilst he was sidelined. Harry Kane is the obvious focal point and needs to be marked properly and that means a little more freedom for everyone else. Plus the obvious advantage of when he does get a chance it’s more likely to end in the net bustling. Ironically the only two league defeats have come since Kane’s return, but there have been no draws since the Arsenal game either, and again, it’s the totals of the 2 points dropped that are doing the damage.
The biggest problems for Spurs have come with the 3 behind the striker. Struggling to create clear cut chances as has been mentioned, but not contributing to attacks by running in behind which has been a lot more disappointing. Alli has had a quiet season compared to last season which doesn’t really need to be overreacted to and Eriksen has been ordinary at best. I’m not sure the team can accommodate both players and still expect them to play at their best levels, Alli needs to be central, that’s the only place he can go to affect a game positively. His impeccably timed late runs into the box can’t really be initiated from wide positions.

Eriksen has the type of attributes that make him the natural selection for one of the wider berths, but when the benchmark for doing this successfully is Hazard, Silva and Cazorla you can see the difference in quality to do it at title challenging level. Eriksen is not as good as those players, and more tellingly doesn’t have that same acceleration required to shift either inwards or around the outside to create danger. Hence the sideways pass. Eriksen dropping deeper to dictate games from the ‘pirlo’ position is something that may accommodate both, that’s how he lined up against Hull, but there’s still a long way to go in terms of quality to justify replacing Dembele or Wanyama in a bigger game.

Both though have struggled in the attacking roles and a factor has been a lack of space to operate, with Janssen dropping deep in Kane’s absence and the likes of son playing further infield and bringing defenders with him, there has been few gaps for Alli to make his runs into or Eriksen to thread a pass.
It’s been encouraging to see that situation gradually changing over the last fortnight despite the Old Trafford Set back.
Alli was superb against Swansea and a shame his performance was overshadowed by a dive. Then against CSKA Moscow at Wembley he had a hatful of chances created by darting into the box, missing plenty, but scoring one and a half goals in the process.
Eriksen has started to contribute too, 5 goals in 3 games when he hadn’t scored before that all season. The most encouraging thing for me is that 3 of those have come from within the 6 yard box – highlighting at last a desire to get forward and run in behind.
My worry with Tottenham this season has been that changing an attacking mentality takes a lot longer than changing a defensive one, you can organise bad defenders to improve short-term but to alter attacking mentalities is a difficult kettle of fish.
The signs of last few games, albeit against weak opposition, seems to demonstrate that Pochettino is making the changes on the training ground to improve the fortunes.

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Such is the state of English football right now that the scramble instantly begins to qualify for the tournament you’ve just been knocked out of. Whether we like it or not that’s how it is, and Spurs are behind in the chase.
A performing number 10 is key to that challenge, and with two starting to show form coming into a tempting Xmas fixture list there’s still plenty of hope for positive season starting with a 4th consecutive home win today against Burnley.

Dan De Luca

sofasportsnews.com

Spurs vs Swansea – Preview

It feels like a must win game for Tottenham on Saturday at the Lane against Swansea. Win and everything is still ok, lose and the vultures will circle.

Spurs have struggled for points this season, but more worryingly haven’t been able to replicate any of the many free flowing performances of last season.

An away defeat against Chelsea isn’t a problem, but when you’ve drawn with West Brom, Bournemouth & Leicester in a row the month before it becomes a defeat that can’t be afforded in trying to keep tabs with the summit of the division.

In terms of points though, Spurs are only 2 points worse off than against the same opponents last season. The home record of 4-2-0 is respectful enough, and even Kane who is widely perceived to be having a quiet season has 5 in his last 5 in the league. So maybe the post-mortem of both Spurs and their talisman are still a little premature.

It is true though that 5th place is fair reflection of Tottenhams performances this season and some improvement going forward is desperately needed. Only two or three times this season have we seen the aggressive confident displays we were treated too last season on a weekly basis.

Spurs will be boosted by the new long term contract signed on Thursday by their star man and Swansea is a the perfect opportunity for him to celebrate with a goal and for the struggling attack to return to the form of last term. Swansea have been disastrous at the back, no more so than in their comical display in the 5-4 win against Palace last time out.

Momentum is the thing Spurs have struggled with this season, both in terms of team selection through injuries, and results thanks to defeats in Europe and a string of drawn matches, so with 3 winnable home games in the next 4, but a tough trip to Old Trafford next, the importance of beating the struggling swans tomorrow to kick start that period of fixtures cannot be understated. Biggest game of the season so far in terms of the significance of a negative result.

I expect to see a buoyed refreshed Tottenham, quick out of the blocks, and keen to expose Swansea’s shaky back line, and have too much for their struggling opponents.

There can be no excuse for anything less than 3 home points, and crisis put on ice (for now at least).

Prediction: 2-0 Spurs 13/2

EPL Round up – Week 13

Burnley 1-2 Man City

Another exciting weekend of EPL action kicked off with Burnley hosting title chasers Manchester City at Turf Moor.  Sean Dyche’s side took an early lead through the former Spurs midfielder Dean Marney, a lead the home side fully deserved having made an impressive start to the game.  It wasn’t long before the EPL’s hottest striker Sergio Aguero arrived at the party and with goals on 37 & 60 minutes his brace proved to be the difference.

Liverpool 2-0 Sunderland 

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool faced a stubborn Sunderland side at Anfield this weekend and 75 minutes passed before they finally broke the deadlock.  Belgian striker and substitute Divock Origi broke the Sunderland resistance with around about 15 minutes to go and a late penalty sealed the victory as James Milner calmly dispatched.

Chelsea 2-1 Spurs

In the days late kick off, in-form Chelsea entertained a Spurs side fresh off the back of their Champions League exit midweek.  Many predicted Chelsea to cruise through this one but that certainly wasn’t the case.  An impressive first half performance from Spurs capped by a fine strike from Christian Eriksen had Antonio Conte’s men with their backs to the wall.  Pedro’s curling effort leveled it on the stroke of half time and from then on Chelsea’s superiority was clear for all to see.  Victor Moses’ goal just after the break proved to be the winner and propelled the West Londoners back to the top of the pile.  With Spurs having suffered defeat there are no longer any unbeaten teams in the division.

Arsenal 3-1 Bournemouth

The Gunners ended their run of three straight draws with a far from convincing win at the Emirates.  Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth side will feel hard done by and probably deserved at least a point from the game.  Some contentious refereeing decisions left the cherries feeling aggrieved, Alexis Sanchez’s brace and Theo Walcott’s header were enough to seal the points for the Gunners and ensure they kept in touch with the leaders.  This Bournemouth performance was further evidence that Eddie Howe is a fine manager and has a bright future in the game.

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Man Utd 1-1 West Ham

Jose Mourinho stole the headlines once again when he appeared to lose it on the touchline and was subsequently sent to the stands for the second time this season.  Man Utd got off to the worst possible start when Diafra Sakho gave the hammers the lead just 2 minutes in.  Summer signings Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic combined to draw the home side level around about 20 minutes later but neither side were able to take all three points.  Yet another frustrating result for Jose’s side who now find themselves 8 points behind the current top 4.

Game of the Week:

Swansea 5-4 Crystal Palace

Bob Bradley celebrated his first win as Swansea manager but oh boy did they leave it late!  Two goals in stoppage time from Spanish striker Fernando Llorente turned the game on its head and ultimately decided this 9 goal thriller.  It looked as though Palace were going to return to South London with all 3 points when Benteke netted on 84 minutes but sadly for Alan Pardew it just wasn’t to be.  Having invested heavily in the squad over the summer there is no doubt Alan Pardew will now be under immense pressure.  Both sides find themselves in the midst of a relegation dogfight and it’s no surprise with that sort of defending!

Elsewhere…

Watford suffered a home defeat at the hands of Stoke.  A Gomes own goal and Mazzari’s refusal to shake Mark Hughes hand post game were the major talking points.  Ronald Koeman’s return to St Mary’s was an unhappy one as his Everton side suffered a 1-0 defeat.  Debutant Josh Sims impressed for the Saints and he may be a player to keep your eye on for the future.  Hull City managed to salvage a draw versus an in-form West Brom side leaving both slightly frustrated.  Champions Leicester City  needed a couple of penalties to deny Middlesbrough a win at the King Power.  Leicester’s form may have completely changed this season but the dodgy penalty awards they were getting certainly haven’t, check that out on MOTD.

Click on the image below to listen to the latest episode of the sofasportsnews.com official podcast.

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Harry

sofasportsnews.com

Juggling the Champions League & A New Stadium

Transition…

It’s no secret that Arsenal’s move to the Emirates stadium was a painful one.  During a tough period stretching over a number of seasons Arsenal were a club under great financial strain, struggling to build a competitive squad on limited funds and facing a constant battle to keep their own star players due to them not consistently challenging for the games major honors.

Recent years have seen the Arsenal splash the cash on the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil and Granit Xhaka.  This is now possible at Arsenal due to the stabilization of the clubs finances.  Arsene Wenger managed to steer Arsenal through a turbulent and challenging time and now the club are reaping the rewards.  One of the countries biggest clubs, a talented squad, state of the art stadium/facilites and the ability to compete financially with MOST clubs.

During that period Champions League qualification was an absolute MUST and the financial reward of that is essentially what got the Gunners through this challenging period relatively quickly.  Arsene Wenger deserves a lot of credit for that.

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History repeating itself?

Now, ten years later we are seeing the same cycle just a few miles down the road.  Spurs find themselves fighting for Champions League Qualification whilst battling with the financial implications of redeveloping White Hart Lane.

Last night saw Spurs crash out of Europe’s premier competition in the group stages and it seemed to me as though Pochettino’s eyes were firmly on their EPL clash with Chelsea this weekend.

My view prior to the start of this years Premier League campaign was that Spurs’ squad did not possess the depth nor quality to maintain a title challenge whilst participating competitively in the Champions League.

That view hasn’t changed and based on Pochettino’s selection last night you would have to question whether he believes in his fringe players as much as some of the supporters do.

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He is a smart, innovative and brave young manager but by the same token he is fully aware of his squads limitations and thankfully for the club he recognizes the longevity of this project.

Spurs will have to remain patient and understand that they too will face similar challenges to those overcome by their fiercest rivals.  A lack of funds will be compensated by the promotion of youth and their lack of strength in depth will be compensated by prioritizing certain competitions.

A development as costly as a stadium expansion can be a long and painful transition but without this period of suffering the club will never progress to the level of Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool etc.

Pochettino will be kicking himself.  I’m sure hes beginning to recognize the squad required further strengthening over the summer, given the step up in European competition.

Perhaps with the stadium coming the funds just simply were not available?  Remind you of another club in North London?

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Football is a business…

Spurs supporters have often accused Arsenal of turning into a business. The reality of it is that Spurs will have to focus all of their efforts on making the Champions League year in year out because the financial reward and the status of being a Champions League club is the foundation on which the club can grow.

The buzz of travelling with your team to places like the Bernabeu, the San Siro, the Allianz Arena etc and competing with the worlds best teams is what the Champions League is all about.  To say you don’t crave that as a fan is to disbelieve in the magic of the game.

The sad thing is, a clubs objectives are set out in line with their business interests as opposed to achieving just their footballing goals.  Spurs may have gone out of the group stages with a whimper but their only real goal is to qualify for next years competition.

Harry

sofasportsnews.com

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