Category: Premiership

Tottenham: Spurs Race Into Premier League Contention

Tottenham proved on Sunday that whilst other sides are grabbing the headlines, their own threat is real and growing. A dismantling of Manchester City at White Hart Lane brought glowing reviews.

We take a look at the best responses, opinion and reactions to Spurs’ blistering form in their push for Premier League success, starting with manager Mauricio Pochettino.

Pochettino: “A Complete Performance”

Describing Tottenham’s display as, “nearly perfect,” Pochettino was clearly more than satisfied with the showing.

“I feel very pleased and proud of the performance. We worked very hard…all the players were fantastic…the mentality was to go forward, play football and try to win the game. Our players showed commitment to the philosophy and the way we played was fantastic. Today was an example of how we work and want to play. If we play with the passion we showed today, we have enough quality to fight against the big teams.

Our mentality was to be aggressive and play in the opposition’s half. It’s the commitment of the team, and their belief in the way we play.”

On the altercation between Erik Lamela and Son Heung-Min leading up to Lamela’s penalty shot that was saved by Claudio Bravo: “Lamela, Sonny, Eriksen, it’s the moment and whoever feels better (able) to shoot. It is better that two players want to shoot than nobody wants to take the ball. Maybe Son takes the next, but it is not an issue.”

Full Pochettino press conference:

Thierry Henry on Sky Sports had this appraisal of the second goal:

“What vision, what a pass from Son, what a finish from Dele Alli. They deserved to be 2-0 up. The pressure was too much, that’s what we want to see and that’s how you have to play against Man City.

Jermaine Jenas on BBC highlighted the intensity with which Spurs play:

“It was not just the result that was impressive, it was how they got their 2-0 win. Right from the start, the intensity of their play was frightening, and they carried out Pochettino’s game plan to perfection.

Gary Neville on Sky Sports was glowing in his appraisal of Spurs’ defence:

“I’ve not seen many teams run at the speed and with the level of tackling Spurs did. They were incessantly relentless, they put their foot in, they risked giving fouls away and being beaten but then they knew their mate was going to be behind them.

Pochettino for me is an absolutely brilliant coach, there is no doubt…

To watch Rose, Walker, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld – their covering positions, their detail and attentiveness in the last 25 minutes when Iheanacho came on was brilliant. Sensing danger, awareness, getting their foot in, blocking shots, even the full-backs blocking crosses.

Their way of playing in the first hour, pushing up the pitch, contributed enormously to how Tottenham played. Every time the ball shifts back they shifted with it aggressively and did it really quickly. To get a team to do that every time is tough, they make it really easy for the midfield players in front of them, who also put in a real shift in. It’s a dream back four and that’s Pochettino’s work.

There is no way if you’re a Pochettino defender that you can see the ball get passed back and just stand, you have to shift with the ball. To get a back four drilled is very difficult and Pochettino is building a back four which is probably as consistent as any in the Premier League.”

Dele Alli on the result and performance post-game:

“It’s massive. I think it’s a big statement from us. We knew what we’re capable of, we knew we’d have chances if we stuck to our game plan and took it to them…we showed what we’re made of.”

Victor Wanyama, arguably man of the match, on hard work:

“I’m happy to take three points. We knew we had to work hard, we enjoy working hard, when it comes to games we have to work extra hard. The hard work paid off.”

Tottenham head into the international break as the only undefeated side in the Premier League, just one point off City in top spot.

Premier League: Top 4 Contenders Reviewed

Can we rule out Chelsea after the efforts (or lack thereof) in recent weeks and particularly on Saturday? Is the top 4 set just 6 weeks into the season? We take a look at each of the current team’s chances of reaching the Champions League next term. Note to clubs: You need ten points minimum to qualify for our analysis after match day 6, and conveniently that is a top 8.

Manchester City – Current Position: 1st
Don’t they start seasons well? Reminiscent of last year, but seem to have a fair bit more about them this time around. Look the real deal, and it’s disingenuous to include them in discussions about the top 4 when it seems they will win the league comfortably. Kevin de Bruyne’s injury on the weekend may hamper them for games against Tottenham and Everton, but Pep Guardiola has flagged Raheem Sterling as the man to step up. And with 4 goals in 6 games so far, you wouldn’t put it past him. If Vincent Kompany can stay injury-free, and Sergio Aguero continue scoring for fun, it’s a matter of how far City. Predicted Finish: 1st.

Tottenham – Current Position: 2nd
The only other undefeated team, and despite a slow start with two draws in three games to open the season. Certainly have added more depth this season. The risk is that Champions League football is too draining, but maintain current form and they are every chance of pushing City next weekend, as well as throughout the season. Don’t rely on one or two players anymore and have barely missed a beat since Harry Kane’s unfortunate injury. The next few weeks will be crucial if they hope to hang to both the unbeaten streak and top 4 chances. Predicted Finish: 4th.

Arsenal – Current Position: 3rd
A 3-0 belting of London rivals Chelsea on Saturday was quite the statement. Any questions over Arsene Wenger have been put to bed, at least for the time being. Shkodran Mustafi looks a class defender and forms a back pair with Koscielny that the Gunners have been desperate for. Shouldn’t concede as they have in the past if these two stay on the pitch. At times they looked far too good for the Premier League at the weekend, let alone too good for Chelsea. Maintain their best form and a top 2 finish beckons. Predicted Finish: 2nd.

Liverpool – Current Position: 4th
With so many goal scoring options and Jurgen Klopp at the helm, it’s been a sight to behold with Liverpool in full flight. Save for a poor loss at Burnley, they have been nothing short of electrifying in the front half. Yet the defence and consistency appears the difference between a potential top 4 finish and just missing. We think they have too many threats up front though, and that this will cover for any failings at the back. Predicted Finish: 3rd.

Everton – Current Position: 5th
Potentially the biggest manager move in the off-season was Ronald Koeman coming in at Everton. What an effect he has had, turning a talented yet severely underperforming Everton squad into one that now actually plays. Came back to Earth on the weekend, and may not quite have the depth of talent to finish in the four. But they’re a massive threat, and will push hard at least for a Europa League return. Predicted Finish: 7th

Manchester United – Current Position: 6th
It was back to the Manchester United of old on the weekend. Consistency is an issue though, not to mention what Mourinho will do with Rooney. Half an hour of football produced in the first half on Saturday was the best we’ve witnessed in 12 months. At their best, and with such weapons of Ibra and Rashford up front, they could be unstoppable. At their best, they can rival the best of Arsenal and Liverpool. But the soft underbelly remains. We think they might just miss the 4. Predicted Finish: 5th.

Crystal Palace – Current Position: 7th
Another strong start to the season for Alan Pardew’s men with ten points. Three wins in a row will prove crucial as we’ve seen what happens when Palace or Pardew teams get on a poor run. Should definitely avoid relegation, and aim for a top half finish. The Townsend and Benteke combination will be crucial for goals, if they can develop an understanding then the bottom three will be out of the equation. Predicted Finish: 11th

Chelsea – Current Position: 8th
From what we’ve seen so far, Conte’s Chelsea is not too much better than the Mourinho/Hiddink’s equivalent. It’s hard to see them making up enough ground to finish in the top four, when it had seemed a possibility early. Glimpses of improvement early have been replaced by a shocking performance against a rampant Arsenal. Until the Blues bring in defensive reinforcements, it seems impossible for them to challenge for anything other than the Europa League. Predicted Finish: 6th

Opinion: Alarm Bells for Antonio Conte and Chelsea Defence

Antonio Conte must now realise just how challenging is his task of resurrecting Chelsea. After an even enough opening at the Emirates, Chelsea were slow of both mind and body, looking incredibly laboured against Arsenal. The defensive lapses are truly astonishing, coming that they have from senior players, and is the key aspect that Conte must turn around quickly.

Gary Cahill’s offending continued as he gifted yet another opportunity in his own half. This time it was to Alexis Sanchez, who was only too willing to accept. With glee. How can a player of such experience and apparent skill continue to make these horrific and costly errors? Cahill is indecisive and almost aloof at times. This season and last he has often seemed to lack any awareness of the danger that opposition attacking players pose. These are not the character traits of a professional defender.

The failure to bring in a viable option as either a replacement or to play alongside Cahill and John Terry is hobbling. It is costing goals and points every week. Terry was missing and is still clearly the best option in defence at Chelsea. That is alarming given his prime was half a decade ago. Chelsea have had two summers to fix this problem, and the best they could come up with is the return of David Luiz. Luiz was never a solution. A fan favourite yes, a good footballer yes. A top defender, no.

Luiz and Cahill at the back is a disaster waiting to happen. And happening it is. We saw it against Liverpool and now we have seen it against Arsenal. It is as if they have never before laid eyes on each other, and suddenly been thrust onto a football field and asked to play. There is no understanding or chemistry between the pair on the pitch. Apparently they played together a few years ago?

The failure to pursue and purchase top-level talent is seeing Chelsea plummet down the Premier League standings. This squad needed addressing over Summer. A bright start to the league season briefly papered over some cracks, but those cracks are the now the same gaping holes as this time last year.

On a day of utter Chelsea gloom against their London rivals, perhaps there is a modicum of hope for Conte. He is left with this squad until at least January, and now it is time to work his magic on the likes of Luiz and Marcos Alonso. Reverting after half time to the favoured 3-5-2 formation that served him so well with Juventus and the Italian national team, this could be the way out. Teach, coach and manage this squad to play his system. And play it now.

The system will take time, surely too much time to see Chelsea flourish this season. Famously Conte was able to ingrain his methods within the Italian team despite only sporadic interaction with his players. But many of that squad had experienced his ways with Juventus, so this is very different.

There are no guarantees that Conte’s methods will work in the Premier League, but playing that way seems the best option right now. It limited the damage in the second half, the 3-5-2 did not concede any goals. It’s a small sample size and admittedly the game was already over, but things couldn’t get any worse than the first half. So why not play this system in the league now, and fast track the player learning and development.

Tottenham 2 v 1 Middlesborough: 5 Key Spurs Talking Points

Tottenham have recorded their best start in the top flight for 51 years, going a point clear in second place with 4 wins and 2 draws from their opening 6 fixtures. Following a 2-1 away victory of Middlesborough, we look at the key take-aways from this match.

1. Just how good is Heung-Min Son?
Very good. 6 goals from his last 6 premier league games, with 4 in 3 this season is an outstanding return. In reality he probably could have had more, failing to net despite create ample opportunities against Sunderland last week. His second goal on Saturday, dribbling through a series of Borough defenders before unleashing on his right, is surely one of the best pieces of individual brilliance witnessed in 2016. Capable of an unstoppable finish, perhaps only the consistency of this finishing is lacking a little. But when he gets it right, it just goes in. A real weapon on the left for Spurs.

2. What was the deal with the refereeing?
Graham Scott had a shocker. Missed a clear yellow card early when Kyle Walker dived tackled erratically in on George Friend. Missed a clear penalty at 2-0 when Dele Alli was blatantly shoved forward in the box. Arguably missed one or two other Spurs penalty claims, and overall did not really see to have a hand on the art of applying yellow cards. Only his sixth Premier League game, so deserves some slack, but may not get his seventh for a while yet.

3. Vincent Janssen.
Reminiscent of Mark Viduka in his pomp at Leeds United. His strength and hold up ability is top class. Backs into defenders and keeps them at bay yet allows the ball to continue moving forward. His lay off to Son for 1-0 was evidence of just how important those skills are. Would no doubt like a goal from open play, and needs to work on his tendency to blast the ball way over the net. Looks too good a player for the goals not to come, and is influencing the play in Harry Kane’s absence. Just needs to get a greater percentage of his shots on target.

4. Room for improvement in front of goal.
We saw time and again last season that a young Tottenham side was made to pay at 1-0 or 2-0 up for failing to put away chances. Spurs suffered up the most lost points from winning positions last term. They have managed to avoid that ignominy thus far, but Dele Alli’s miss from close range, one from Son and Janssen’s inability to work the keeper almost came back to prove very costly at the end of the match. Mauricio Pochettino even acknowledged this fact post-game.

5. Set Pieces.
Ben Gibson’s 65th minute header was just the third goal Spurs have conceded in the league this season. They are yet to concede from open play, but Gibson’s effort made for a nervous final 15 minutes for Tottenham that they could have avoided. Goals from stoppages were an issue last season, and they still are now. If they can find a way to prevent goals from aerial balls into the box, their formidability as a unit and miserly defence will improve even further.

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