Is that down to the boring, defence-first system Jose Mourinho employs on a weekly basis?
de Gea deserves all the credit in the world for keeping United within striking distance of Man City, though they would need a miracle to overhaul the runaway leaders. Could Alexis Sanchez be the miracle United are searching for?
At the very least, Sanchez’s presence in the attacking third should help increase United’s possession statistics, which could correlate into a lighter workload for de Gea.
So, where would the Red Devils be positioned devoid of their world-class goalkeeper? Rather than sitting pretty in second place, I wager to guess they’d be on the outside of the top four looking in.
It’s not a particularly farfetched presumption, especially considering de Gea’s consistent heroics. One match that springs immediately to mind is United’s 3-1 away win at Arsenal: de Gea was magisterial, making a number of otherworldly saves to secure all three points.
Premier League match day 25 predictions
The Wingman gives Everton one more chance to redeem themselves after drawing West Brom at home, with the Toffees looking to win their first in six against Leicester at Goodison.
Elsewhere, West Ham host Crystal Palace in a crucial London derby. Separated by a single point in the standings, neither team can afford to lose this match. Back the draw in this one, and expect a low-scoring, somewhat cagey affair.
A number of issues contributed to Spurs’ draw with Southampton, none of which having as much impact as the lack of offensive support for Harry Kane.
Christian Eriksen’s absence certainly hampered Tottenham’s usually fluid attack, and so too did the wet and boggy conditions on the south coast. But those factors alone shouldn’t be enough to derail a side of Tottenham’s credence and quality.
Whether we like to admit it or not, our beloved Lilywhites would be in a dire state without Kane’s prolific offensive output. The elephant in the room reared its ugly head on Sunday, and not for the first time.
Kane, who scored Tottenham’s sole tally against Southampton, has 45 percent of his team’s Premier League goals this season.
No other club in England relies on an individual as much as Tottenham count on Kane: Wayne Rooney, with 10 goals, has scored 38 percent of Everton’s goals while Mohamed Salah has a 33 percent share of Liverpool’s markers.
Nobody else comes close to scoring at Kane’s alarmingly disproportionate rate.
And as impressive as that is, it’s also gravely disconcerting.
While a winger like Bordeaux’s Malcolm would help, he’s not the solution to all that ails Spurs. Mauricio Pochettino needs a shifty, speedy, creative forward to support, supplement and partner Kane. I’m not disillusioned enough to think the gaffer will transform entirely his tactics to accommodate a new signing, all of a sudden altering his philosophy by deploying two men up front.
Another top striker is needed
But there is scope, particularly in matches like the one at St. Mary’s, that would lend itself to playing two up front. Debilitated by Eriksen’s illness, Pochettino opted to start with Mousa Sissoko, Mousa Dembele and Eric Dier as the trifecta patrolling the midfield, playing directly into Southampton’s rough-and-tumble persona.
The partnership of Dier and Dembele have more than enough to cope with Southampton’s physical prowess. Starting Sissoko, who didn’t necessarily perform poorly, was overkill, his position made redundant on a day tailor-fitted for a bit of craft from a skilled second striker. Seeing Pochettino bring Erik Lamela for an added attacking threat instead of Fernando Llorente says it all.
Pundits reckon no striker wants to play second fiddle to Kane, a logical and reasonable excuse for Tottenham’s inability to lure another top frontman to North London. Surely, though, any proficient forward can see the merit in suiting up beside Kane, whether to play alongside or in support of the club’s sniper.
But the rightful suitor cannot share similar attributes or physicality traits with our top marksman. He must be the polar opposite in playing style and character, while still having the desired complementary effect.
Not taking anything away from Fernando Llorente, but a move for an élite secondary striker is well overdue, and until Spurs solve this unrelenting bugbear, they’ll find winning the Premier League just beyond their outstretched reach.
(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Comparisons between professional hockey players and mixed martial artists aren’t often made, but there are more similarities among the top five UFC fighters and current NHLers than you might realize.
Can you envision Conor McGregor or Daniel Cormier strapping on a pair of skates and hitting the open ice? Nor can I.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t share some skills and character traits of prominent NHLers.
Altogether dubious of their skating abilities, I’m going to focus on attributes that are necessary, transferrable and advantageous assets across both sports from the top five pound-for-pound fighters. The fighter rankings are provided by UFC.ca
5. Daniel Cormier would be Jarome Iginla
Light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and free agent Jarome Iginla share numerous commonalities: both, at one time or another, were at the peak of their sports.
Unlike Iginla, Cormier is still at the top of his sport, looking ahead to defending his title against Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220 on Jan. 20. However, that could change in the blink of an eye if the Swiss challenger upends Cormier in Boston on Saturday. The pair of powerhouses are of almost identical builds, with Iginla two inches taller and five pounds heavier than Cormier.
They are highly respected in their respective sports, both of whom usually avoid running their mouths, preferring their skills do the talking. The wily veterans are only two years apart, with Iginla, 40, two years Cormier’s elder.
And both have represented their nation at the Olympics. More forebodingly, If Cormier loses his belt on Saturday, his career, like Iginla’s, will take a downward turn.
4. Max Holloway would be Patrick Kane
American idols – please, excuse the pun – Patrick Kane and Max Holloway are dominant forces in their corresponding sports. Both are relentless in attack and lethal finishers.
Kane has won three Stanley Cups and Holloway is the undisputed featherweight champion. They share the same height and are ranked first in their specific fields: Kane sits atop EA’s NHL 2018 right winger rankings, while Holloway, until March at the very soonest, rests on his pedestal as the featherweight’s apex predator.
3. Georges St-Pierre would be Sidney Crosby
Two of the most decorated Canadian athletes, Sidney Crosby and Georges St-Pierre are idolized and lionized in the Great White North. Crosby has won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins and two Olympic golds, while St-Pierre is one of the only UFC fighters to win belts in different weight classes. St-Pierre is unbeaten in 13 bouts and Crosby has won back-to-back Stanley Cups.
Physically, there’s not too much to choose between the two legends. Crosby weighs 15 pounds more than St-Pierre while both are 5 ft 11 in.
While St-Pierre’s nickname is Captain Canada, Crosby is Canada’s captain. The uncanny list of similarities doesn’t end there, as both superstars have been plagued by a litany of injuries throughout their illustrious careers.
Finally, they way they present themselves maybe their most impressive shared trait. True ambassadors of their respective sports, the venerable duo are well spoken, humble and forever respectful, the polar opposite of the following featured pair.
2. Conor McGregor would be Brad Marchand
The bad boys of both sports certainly know how to backup their bellicose trash talking. Conor McGregor and Brad Marchand have reached the pinnacle of their sports, and both are controversial figures who draw a large, cult following.
Marchand has won the Stanley Cup and Olympics; McGregor is the only UFC fighter to hold two titles, featherweight and lightweight, simultaneously. The polarizing stars stand at 5 ft 9 in, and both are 29 years old. And it goes without saying that The Notorious and The Nose Face Killah love an old fashioned, no-holds-barred street brawl.
1. Demetrious Johnson would be Johnny Gaudreau
Despite defending his flyweight title a record 11 times, the top ranked pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC is under hyped, still fighting under the radar. He is indisputably the most talented fighter in the UFC, continuously showcasing his exceptional agility, quickness, creativity and technique.
All of the aforementioned attributes apply to Johnny Gaudreau, who plies his trade for the Calgary Flames. The diminutive left winger certainly hasn’t enjoyed the unparalleled success of his UFC counterpart, but Johnny Hockey is blessed with a comparably impressive skill set.
The 24-year-old is also undervalued, but that’s slowly changing as Gaudreau’s unique, highlight-reel playing style can only be passed over for so long. Sound like a certain UFC flyweight champion?
(Photo by David Becker/Getty Images for Wynn Nightlife)
Regardless of which Arsenal calamity brings you the most joy, it was an all-round joyous weekend of Premier League football as far as Tottenham are concerned.
Sure, Spurs supporters would have loved to see Manchester United trip up against Stoke or Liverpool throw away a three-goal lead, but Arsenal’s catastrophic display on the south coast provided enough cause for celebration.
Wenger’s is in disarray yet again, and the Wingman doesn’t mince his words about the club’s current state of disrepair. If it feels like you’ve heard that before, you assuredly have, but never to this abject level. Arsenal are ensnared in a state of free fall, evinced by their locker room unrest and dismal away results. The Gunners have taken 13 points from 12 away matches, their lowest return in over a decade, since 2005-2006.
Their lack of guile and toughness in midfield is laughable, factors that guarantee perpetual road misery.
Oh, and if you haven’t heard, Sánchez is booking his one-way ticket out of the Emirates. No player is bigger than a club, but Sánchez is unarguably Arsenal’s best player. The Gunners have lost three in a row without the diminutive, petulant Chilean.
And what’s more reinforcing for Tottenham is knowing things are going to get a lot worse at Arsenal. Some say Wenger has lost the locker room. I believe it by the discernible and disrespectful lack of commitment Wenger’s side play with.
Not usually one to harbour malevolent feelings or wish ill-will toward an opponent, I’m amenable to making an exception in Arsenal’s case.
That’s what 22 consecutive years of inferiority will do to a man.
However, those years are well and truly behind us, as either side of North London couldn’t be on more opposite trajectories.
(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Garth Crooks says that Son Heung-Min is the Premier League’s most improved player, but the former Tottenham man has completely missed the mark with evaluation of the South Korean.
Your performances must get substantially better over the course of a moderate time period to be considered the most improved player. That is certainly not the case for Son, who has played at the same élite level since the start of the 2016-17 season.
Son definitely has a strong claim as the league’s most underrated player, though.
Crooks, who played for Spurs between 1980-1985, said in an interview with the Evening Standard, “I have said before that I think Son is one of the most improved players in the Premier League and against Everton he proved it once again.”
I’m not sure what version of Son he’s been watching over the last two seasons, but the 25-year-old South Korean is one of Spurs most consistent players, and has been for almost two seasons.
Sure, he took a while to adapt and acclimate to the Premier League, scoring four goals in 28 appearances during his début season with Tottenham.
Since, though, Son is producing at a consistently high rate, and is usually on Mauricio Pochettino’s team sheet, appearing in 22 of 23 league games this season.
Son’s consistent contributions
In 2016-17, Son scored 14 goals and added six assists in 34 appearances. And it’s not just the number of goals he scores, but the importance of them. He’s a clutch performer who elicits the best from his teammates.
After a trivial blip at the start of this season, Son has picked up where he left off in May. He didn’t score in the first seven matches of the 2017-18 campaign, but has bagged eight goals while adding four assists in the 15 games since. Oh, and Son has scored in five consecutive home Premier League matches, matching Jermain Defoe as the only other Tottenham player to achieve that feat.
To further emphasize my point, Son has won the Premier League Player of the Month award twice in less than two seasons – in September 2016 and April 2017.
Surely those numbers reflect his unerring consistency, contradicting totally Crooks’ most-improved-player assertion. If anything, his viewpoint confirms just how underrated and undervalued Son is across the league.
But the gaffer, teammates and supporters understand acutely his importance to the side, and it’s time the rest of the Premier League sees the light when it comes to our favourite Son.
(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
In Canada Sports Betting’s second NHL Back to the Futures segment, the Wingman focusses on Canadian ongoings, with a particular focus on the Calgary Flames.
The Wingman also presents the first award for Canadian of the Week, or #COW. The Canadian of the Week is a prize given to our home and native land’s most recent standout performer.
You’ll have to watch the segment to find out who wins the first award of its kind, but Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Bernier are all in the running after exceptional weeks.
The Wingman then delves into which Canadian teams have a viable shot of winning the 2018 Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, four Canadian outfits – Canucks, Oilers, Senators, Canadiens – are all but out of futures contention.
That leaves the Maple Leafs, Jets and Flames vying for the Holy Grail, and Canadian supremacy. Headlining Calgary for this edition, the Wingman goes into what chance the Flames have of making a playoff run, where they’ve been successful and what needs to improve in the latter stages of the season.
Are the Flames viable Stanley Cup underdog picks?
He surmises that the Flames are a superb underdog futures pick if Mike Smith continues standing on his head, particularly in unfriendly confines. Calgary’s number one has the best save percentage (.945) on the road in the NHL and was just named one of the league’s stars of the week.
Teammate Johnny Gaudreau, who led the league with eight points in four games, also earned the plaudit, joining Smith as a star of the week.
Defenceman Dougie Hamilton is tearing through the opposition like a sharp skate rips apart soft ice. A major part of Calgary’s recent success, Hamilton has scored three game winners during the current winning streak.
If Hamilton and Gaudreau, both of whom endured a miserable series against Anaheim in the 2016-17 playoffs, maintain their current level of play, Calgary is an excellent outsider pick going into the postseason.
Even more important, though, is Smith’s performances between the pipes. Brian Elliott failed the organization by conceding suspect goals at the most inopportune times in the four-game Anaheim sweep.
Smith was acquired from Phoenix to ensure stability at the most important position, and the veteran is thus far exceeding expectations.
He could turn out to be the piece of the puzzle Calgary has been searching for since Miikka Kiprusoff retired in 2013.
If so, the Flames could make an improbable run, one that resembles their 2004 journey to the Stanley Cup Final, hopefully though with an altogether different outcome.
Son Heung-Min, claiming man of the match ahead of Harry Kane, put in a flawless performance in Tottenham’s 4-0 win over Everton.
Son should bursting with pride this evening; he was that good against the Toffees. I’ve seen a lot of fantastic Son performances since the South Korean joined Spurs in 2015, few of which better than his near perfect display this evening.
His flicked header in the 15th minute flew inches over the bar, the South Korean making clear his intent from the start. Son was the benefactor of a whipped in Serge Aurier cross eleven minutes later, easily dispatching for Tottenham’s opener. While tapping in was a simple task, it was the movement beforehand that offered Aurier a clear target.
Son has scored in five consecutive home Premier League matches, matching Jermain Defoe as the only other Tottenham player to achieve the feat. If his first half was a display worth writing home about, Son’s second half performance was of an otherworldly variety.
Son shines brighter in second half
Spinning on a dime in the 47th minute to embarrass Jonjoe Kenny, Son intelligently zipped the ball into Kane’s path, providing Spurs the springboard from which to launch. People can debate whether Son meant to pass or shoot until the cows come home, but his intention matters little as the move came off to double the home side’s advantage.
Later in the second half Son smashed a left-footed effort flush off the post from just beyond the box, taking Jordan Pickford entirely out of the play. Son was unlucky not to have scored a brace.
And he wasn’t quite finished, the 25-year-old also playing a part in Spurs’ fourth. Son drove at Everton’s fragile and vulnerable defence, laying off to Dele Alli, whose astonishing back heel set Christian Eriksen up on a platter.
Like an overloaded locomotive, it took a while for Son to find top gear this season. He didn’t score in the first seven matches of the 2017-18 campaign, but has scored eight goals while adding four assists in the 15 games since.
From what I saw today from Son and company, if things continue on this trajectory, Spurs won’t have any trouble pipping either Liverpool, Chelsea or Manchester United for an all-coveted Champions League berth.
(Piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Donald Trump, by claiming he’s a “stable genius” in one of his latest Twitter tirades, provided hope for everyone who thought their unfulfilled dreams were dead and buried.
I’m not going to dive into the far-reaching political implications or the absurdity of his irresponsible, petulant Tourette-style tweets.
Instead, I’m going to focus on a silver lining, the fact that Trump’s comical defence of his questionable mental state has instilled me with the belief that it’s not too late to fulfil my childhood dream of making the NHL.
Sure, I’m two months shy of my 35th birthday, a touch too old by most sane people’s reckoning. Rustiness might also be a slightly hamstringing factor, as I haven’t laced up my skates for almost a decade.
But, like Trump, my mental stability is beyond reproach, so the physical impediments are mere blips to overcome on my journey to NHL glory.
It’s going to be a long, arduous journey but I’m up for the challenge. I must be strategic, though. Figuring that knocking on Brad Treliving’s door, or showing up to the Saddledome with a pair of skates in hand wouldn’t render desirable results, I’ve ruminated ad nauseam about how best to make an unforgettable impression.
To begin what will assuredly be a lengthy, gruelling training regime, I’ve decided to start on the mental side of things. To become an NHLer, I must think like one, and to do that there is only one place to start: EA Sports’ NHL 2018.
NHL 2018 Training Camp
To loosen up and learn the basics, after a decade hiatus from playing EA’s hockey series, I suited up and hit the ice for training camp. I’d like to say it was akin to riding a bike, but that would be bald-faced lie; there were, admittedly, a few teething problems, namely learning how to tie-up an opponent on the draw. It’s slightly embarrassing, I know.
And don’t get me started on the dekes.
After a few slight hiccups, I proficiently passed all training camp requirements. Confidence brimming, it was time to showcase my newfound talent by pitting my skills against an online opponent.
My first NHL 2018 online test
I realized quickly that, like the real thing, there is absolutely no tolerance for off-puck hits. A constant stream to the penalty box eventually ended up costing me, as my opponent, the name of whom I don’t recall, scored on one of his numerous man advantages.
That halted my original game plan, inspired by the brutes and enforcers in Slap Shot, the 1977 cult hockey classic.
But I was confident that training camp fitted me with the skills needed to compete in the online NHL 2018 world without running roughshod. I was sorely mistaken. Thoroughly outplayed for the lion’s share of the game, I managed to somehow score the equalizer. The goal, as you can imagine, wasn’t pretty, but they all count.
Tied at one, I managed to take Anaheim to overtime. Like an out-of-shape athlete coming out of retirement, I started to prematurely fatigue. My sore fingers were the most immediate concern. Like an NHLer playing through injury in the Stanley Cup playoffs, I battled on, the prospect of glory increasing my pain threshold.
More surprisingly than some of Trumps’s most ridiculous tweets, I potted the winner in double overtime. I leapt off the couch, celebrating like I’d won the Stanley Cup.
After some time to reflect, I’m deathly scared of putting my 1-0 record on the line. I know a loss isn’t far away, but quitting isn’t an option.
If I’m going to eventually make the NHL, I must re-enter NHL 2018’s online universe and take on all comers.
My NHL 2018 username is New_Age_Journo, so please have mercy if we happen to meet head-to-head online.
Just keep in mind that I’m NHL-bound and on a transcendent journey, largely in part because of a single, utterly laughable Trump tweet.
After a brief holiday hiatus, the Wingman is back with his December Premier League recap along with a prediction for this week’s top flight matches.
December in retrsopect
He hits on many of the main talking points from December while also focussing on the best pick of the week for match day 23. Mark Hughes joined the litany of other managers – Paul Clement, Ronald Koeman, Slaven Bilic, Frank De Boer – who have been given the cold shoulder by their clubs this season.
In other news, Manchester City actually dropped points, to Crystal Palace of all teams. While there is little doubt as to where the Premier League title will end up at season’s end, it’s nice to see the indomitable Manchester side aren’t completely unflappable.
Oh, and Jose Mourinho, like a severely wounded cat, is still whining, this time saying Manchester United need to spend more money to win their first Premier League title since 2013. Mourinho has splurged £300 million since arriving at Old Trafford, underpinning how unwarranted his outrageous claim is.
He’ll get absolutely no sympathy from me.
We’ve become more accustomed to watching Harry Kane’s celebration than watching Donald Trump make up words, and that’s saying something. Kane is the hottest property in world football, touted to be worth about £300 million on the transfer market.
Only a few teams – Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester City, PSG – have the financial clout to afford that kind of astronomical sum.
Premier League prediction of the week
Swansea travel to Newcastle with the Welsh outfit hoping to get back to winning ways. The odds are stacked against them, though, with Newcastle pegged as sizeable favourites in the build up to the match. Take a look at what the Wingman thinks and place your bets accordingly.
Tottenham look to make it 11 Premier League matches on the bounce without losing to Everton, a streak that goes back more than five years.
Coming off a disappointing home draw with West Ham, Spurs are once again in need of a bounce-back performance as they close in on Liverpool for the last available Champions League spot.
Current Tottenham ongoings
Spurs go into the match with the sixth best home record in the top flight, with only a single loss on their 2017-18 Wembley CV. You’d have to scroll back over four months to source Tottenham’s last home defeat, a 1-2 loss to Chelsea on Aug. 20. And, if you’re blessed with an elephant’s memory, you’ll recall Spurs dominating that particular fixture, too.
However, Tottenham’s almost unblemished home record is flawed by four draws, all of which against teams far the Lilywhites’ inferior. Just when you think Tottenham have reclaimed consistency expected of top teams, a result like the draw against Hammers brings Mauricio Pochettino’s men back down to Earth. Then again, the West Ham result would have been worse had it not been for Son Heung-Min’s heroics.
Suffering a single loss in eight matches, there are ostensible signs of Tottenham reaching their peak level. Son and Dele Alli are scoring again, crucial elements to a concerted Spurs resurgence.
Harry Kane, who is a goal shy of tying the Teddy Sheringham’s 97 for a share of the club record, is scoring at an otherworldly rate. His goals are assured, but Spurs’ continued success depends on the prodigiousness of the supporting cast.
According to PremierLeague.com, Son will become the second Tottenham player to score in five consecutive top flight matches with a goal against Everton; only Jermain Defoe can boast of that Spurs’ goal-scoring achievement.
Current Everton Premier League ongoings
Big Sam stormed in and righted an off-course, wayward Everton vessel destined to be shipwrecked. Initially, that is. Everton are winless in five matches since their unbeaten run under Sam Allardyce’s tenure. Reality is often a menacing thing to cope with, as Big Sam can attest.
But in classic Big Sam fashion, Everton’s once porous defence has seen a drastic improvement, both in the number of conceded goals and their shape on the pitch. More organized and disciplined, the Toffees defence is more compact and extremely difficult to penetrate.
But with the good comes the bad, and Everton’s offence is garishly bad. Kept off the score sheet in three of four matches, Everton mustered a single goal during that anemic stretch, scored by Idrissa Gueye in a 2-1 loss to Bournemouth.
Accentuating those scoring dilemmas is Everton’s abysmal away Premier League record. One win in their last 19 away outings underpins how miserable the Toffees perform away from Goodison. Everton, with a single victory on their travels this season, make identifying their away misgivings easier than pointing out Allardyce’s fixation on defence-first football.
While you’re not supposed to knock a man when he’s down, this is the top flight, an unforgiving league where merciful behaviour is a sign of weakness.
Spurs are a lot of things, but being weak is most certainly not among them. Look for Tottenham to add to Big Sam’s away misery on Saturday afternoon.
(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)