What impressed most about Tottenham’s 2-2 draw at Anfield?

Opinion, Sports

It was by no means a perfect away performance but Mauricio Pochettino can be proud of his side for the way they refused to capitulate in unsavoury conditions. 

Firstly, I’ll talk about the elephant in the room, getting the negative aspects of the draw off my chest.

Spurs have won a single match at Anfield in their last 24 visits; that win came back in May 2011.

Tottenham haven’t kept a clean sheet against a top-six side in 30 matches on their travels and have a single win to show from 21 away contests versus the élite six.

Some disconcerting trends from the match also reared their ugly head. Eric Dier and Davinson Sánchez endured miserable matches, akin to the weather on Merseyside. But Sánchez is still only 21 and is bound to have uncomfortable outings, while Dier’s performance can be considered a mere blip for the time being.

On to the positive for Tottenham

But overall, Mauricio Pochettino is probably walking some extra pep in his step today after watching his side thoroughly outplay one of only two teams in England who remain unbeaten at home.

Speaking of Pep, Manchester City is the only other unbeaten home side.

Jurgen Klopp’s game plan was effective in the first half. Liverpool’s relentless high press disturbed Tottenham’s flow, stifling their ability to play enterprising football for which they’re renowned. But Spurs didn’t bat an eyelid, steadfast and defiant in their approach.

While the first half was fairly evenly played, the exact opposite is true of the second 45 minutes. Tottenham bossed proceedings, knocking the ball around like they were in a Sunday training session.

It’s one thing to enjoy the lion’s share of possession against Liverpool, but it’s altogether different to accomplish that feat at Anfield, one of the most difficult places to play in Europe. Overall, Spurs enjoyed 66 percent of possession. Those numbers underpin just how comprehensively the away side outshined their Merseyside counterparts.

Spurs received their just deserts when Victor Wanyama scored what will certainly be the goal of the season to level the score.

Harry Kane then had a chance to put Spurs ahead, but the marksman, usually a sure thing from the spot, missed his penalty.

And then the unthinkable happened: against the run of play, Mohamad Salah came up with a genius moment, scoring to put the Reds up late in injury time.

My nerves totally shot, I was consigned to defeat.

But then Tottenham displayed in a few minutes how far they’ve come as a unified collective. A never-say-die attitude, combined with the skill, gumption and bit of good fortune, pulled off the grandest escape against all odds.

I’m not going to analyze whether it was a penalty. That matters little at this point. What does matter is how Tottenham reacted to Salah’s goal, a moment that would have killed off permanently most other sides.

But Tottenham are not most other sides.

They have a fortified togetherness other teams can only dream of. While the point Spurs left Anfield with is invaluable, the resilience the team showed is far more important in the long-term.

Wanyama’s wonder goal and Erik Lamela’s contribution on the second penalty also mark the first time all season Pochettino’s substitutes have affected decisively the outcome of a match. It’s yet another good omen to take away from Merseyside.

It was exactly the type of away performance that should spur Tottenham on, and, with Juventus beckoning in the Champions League, it came at the most opportune time.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pochettino’s side use this result as a springboard, lofting the team to eminent heights on all three remaining fronts.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Tottenham’s Mauricio Pochettino playing a dangerous game with Kane

Opinion, Sports

Mauricio Pochettino, by starting Harry Kane unremittingly regardless of the occasion, is a playing an exceedingly dangerous, yet necessary game.     

Pochettino’s decision to start Harry Kane was once again proven correct, with Spurs’ precious asset scoring Spurs’ only goal against Newport County, delivering an FA Cup stay of execution. One question, unanswerable in nature, is whether Kane would have come up with the goods had he come on from the bench.

It’s a question that could stoke an endless debate among Spurs supporters. The more meaningful question, though, is when, if ever, will Pochettino rest his leading man.

If Pochettino can’t afford to rest him against a team of Newport County’s negligible pedigree, then when will Kane be able to recharge a battery that will, sooner or later, start to deplete.

It’s obvious the gaffer has no trust in Fernando Llorente, and who can blame him? The Spaniard has been an abomination since signing for Spurs in the summer. The argument that Llorente hasn’t been provided the platform to succeed is no longer valid. That ship has long since left the dock.

His listless, beggared performance against Newport is further proof of his inadequacy. Which leaves Pochettino with an unrelenting quagmire. While youthful and vibrant, Kane, like any other professional footballer, is not entirely indefatigable. And with compounding wear and tear comes increased susceptibility to injury.

Regarding Kane, I’m not sold on Pochettino’s ride-it-until-the-wheels-come-off mantra. The overt lack of strategy is palpable, caused solely because of an absence of viable alternatives.

No rest forthcoming for Kane

I can’t envision Kane being rested any time soon, so hopefully he’s able to maintain his present otherworldly form devoid of a rest in the run in. Jostling for a top four spot in the Premier League, combined with a Champions League round of 16 tie with Juventus, guarantees Kane’s interminable on-field presence.

The potential of burnout, with playing two games a week, even for a 24-year-old at peak fitness, increases considerably.

But maybe Pochettino knows something the rest of us don’t. If Kane starts in the Wembley replay against Newport on Feb. 7, a match sandwiched between playing Liverpool and Arsenal and less than a week before facing Juventus, my suspicions of him being from another planet will be confirmed.

And if that’s the case, Gareth Southgate can rest easy knowing England’s only hope of winning the World Cup is immune to a human’s imperfections.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Could every Tottenham supporters’ worst nightmare become reality?

Opinion, Sports

Loyal, long-term Tottenham supporters waited for what seems like eons to see their team transform into a contender, so try imagine what it would feel like if everything came crashing down in an unbearable foul swoop.

My mum, in my formative, impressionable years, always told me to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst. The worst-case scenario for Tottenham, though, makes me wish I never thought in a prudent way, as it would resemble a scene from the Day After Tomorrow.

It includes Mauricio Pochettino being poached my Real Madrid, with Harry Kane as the Argentinian’s first purchase for the Galácticos. The thought of that catastrophic moment causes recurring, lucid nightmares.

While improbable, pessimists will direct you to the irrefutable and persuasive arguments as evidence of the armageddon-like moment becoming an eventuality. And those arguments shouldn’t be ignored, or overlooked: Mauricio Pochettino spent the peak of his playing career in Spain with Espanyol; he returned to Espanyol for his first managerial job, coaching the La Liga side from 2009-2012; Espanyol is to Barcelona what Arsenal is to Tottenham; Real Madrid is Barcelona’s main competition, and other than Espanyol, their fiercest rival. Real Madrid are back-to-back Champions League holders; and, as blatantly obvious as it might sound, Spanish is Pochettino’s native tongue.

Have the involuntary sweats started yet?

I won’t fire off the reasons Kane could be enticed to the Bernabeu. However, suffice to say that if Pochettino goes, so too does Kane.

You hear it all the time; no player is bigger than the club they play for.

Pochettino and Kane’s club

But what about the world’s most valuable forward and sought after coach, together as one?

That venerable, superstar package comes close to vetoing the rule. Pochettino and Kane, even in tandem, still aren’t bigger than Tottenham Hotspur Football Club; though it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say the pair, particularly Pochettino, are the glue that holds the squad together.

Pochettino is the primary reason Spurs were able to sign Dele Alli, Davinson Sanchez, Juan Foyth, Fernando Llorente, Victor Wanyama and Toby Alderweireld.

He is the principle reason Tottenham have been able to hold on to Hugo Lloris, Eric Dier, Christian Eriksen, Jan Vertonghen, and to this point, Alderweireld.

And the Argentinian is also the main reason Harry Winks, Kane, Alli, Eriksen, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Dier, Wanyama, Ben Davies, Son Heung-Min and Kieran Trippier have fulfilled their respective potentials.

It doesn’t take a neurosurgeon to foresee a potential player exodus if Tottenham’s charismatic boss leaves for pastures anew.

Would Tottenham recover if the duo leave for Madrid?

The club, knowing Spurs as I do, is, as a collective, blessed with the resilience and never-die persona to recover from such a disaster. But, like in the aftermath of a Category-5 hurricane, that recovery certainly wouldn’t happen overnight.

Some might consider the comparison of Pochettino and Kane departing for sunny Spain and the world coming to a violent, cataclysmic end as sensationalistic, even dramatic.

You obviously haven’t been a Spurs supporter long enough if that’s the case.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

What would constitute a successful Tottenham campaign?

Sports

On the back of a decisive 3-0 FA Cup win over Wimbledon, and with the turn of the new year, many people are weighing in about what would constitute a successful Tottenham campaign. 

After about a decade – or 3,607 days according to Last Won a Trophy – without a trophy, it’s high time Spurs lifted some silverware aloft.

The current options are limited, with Spurs vying for either domestic or European cup success. Or, if we’re lucky, both.

The Premier League title, thanks to Manchester City’s indomitable dominance, is all but out of the question. But a top four finish accompanied by domestic or European cup success would leave Spurs supporters giddy and elated.

Most people reckon the FA Cup is Tottenham’s best chance at glory in 2018. With Arsenal already out in the cold after losing 4-2 to Nottingham Forest, Spurs will feel confident they can lift their first FA Cup trophy since 1990-91.

However, Tottenham, drawn in the group of death, enjoyed an unbeaten start to their Champions League campaign, dismantling Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund – two of Europe’s most prestigious clubs – on their way to first place in Group H. Spurs, playing Juventus, last season’s runners up, didn’t get an iota of luck for their round of 16 draw.

While Juventus will provide another stern test, Europe’s most prestigious competition plays right into Tottenham’s strengths. More often than not, Spurs won’t boss possession, instead relying on a lethal – and lightning quick – counter to mesmerize their highly experienced opponents.

On occasion in the Premier League, Spurs struggle to find an incisive moment against inferior teams who barely get a touch. That isn’t the case when Tottenham suit up against top European sides who prefer to possess the ball.

Mauricio Pochettino’s team is fit, well drilled and ready to counter any side who thinks they can wear them down by knocking the ball around for extended periods. This Spurs side is built for executing on the break, after absorbing consistent spells of territorial pressure.  To be the best you have to beat the best, and Spurs are a couple of strong performances away from putting Europe on notice.

I’d sacrifice it all for a taste of European glory

Of course a Champions League crown, a proposition many assume is out of the question, is the aspirational goal for Spurs and Pochettino. I’m a firm believer that Spurs, with a little bit of luck, can make a run at European supremacy.

But an FA Cup trophy isn’t a bad consolation prize. Spurs supporters are parched and in dire need of a taste of glory, even if it comes in the form of an FA Cup, which will just be enough to whet our bone-dry whistles.

The season, even with an FA Cup win, won’t be a complete success without securing a top-four finish.

If given the option of Spurs somehow pulling off the improbable and winning the Champions League, I’d be completely fine with the Lilywhites finishing out of the top four and losing to a lesser opponent in the next round of the FA Cup.

I’d endure that all-encompassing heartbreak just for one taste of European supremacy.

(This piece originally appeared on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Five things on Tottenham’s New Year’s resolution wish list

Sports

Reminiscing on 2017, Tottenham will feel pretty satisfied about an accomplished calendar year of football, but, unless you’re Hugh Jackman in the Greatest Showman, there’s always room for improvement. 

Here are Tottenham’s top five New Year’s resolutions for 2018:

5. Improve their record away from Wembley

Spurs, before manhandling Burnley at Turf Moor before Christmas, hadn’t won away from home in almost three months. Before Harry Kane put on another monstrous hat-trick performance vs. Burnley, Spurs hadn’t won since beating Huddersfield 4-0 on Sept. 30.

This one is a bit of a juxtaposition, as Tottenham were firing on all cylinders away from home until travelling to Old Trafford on Oct. 28, where they lost by the narrowest of margins.

4. Drop fewer points to inferior opponents

Tottenham have made a habit of making life particularly difficult for themselves against teams where three points should be guaranteed. Granted, there are no easy matches in the Premier League. But Spurs are an elite team and must, if they are to win the Premier League in the next few seasons, dispatch inferior teams without fail.

Spurs drew Burnley 1-1 at Wembley earlier in the season, thanks to a dreadful Kieran Trippier miscalculation. Two weeks later Spurs were shutout at home against Swansea, probably the top flight’s favoured team to make the drop at season’s end. On Nov. 25, dropped points at home against a manager-less West Brom side cost Spurs dearly in the standings.

The Lilywhites then endured another miserable afternoon in Watford thanks to a Davinson Sanchez red card. Tottenham were up against it for the entire second half, showing strong resilience to take a share of the spoils. Spurs have bundles of trouble scoring early and putting matches to bed against teams known for their defensive resilience. That must change in 2018.

3. A clean bill of health

Anyone who knows anything about Spurs understands how good Pochettino’s squad is. However, injuries to key players have severely hampered Tottenahm’s chances of winning the Premier League, most notably to Toby Alderweireld and Victor Wanyama. While other injuries – Erik Lamela, Harry Winks, Harry Kane (ever so briefly), Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose – haven’t helped matters, it’s the absence of Wanyama and Alderweireld that have proven most devastating.

2. Man City to be hit with the bubonic plague

Begrudgingly, we’ve all come to the conclusion that Manchester City is going to win the Premier League this season. Unless they’re hit with the bubonic plague, that is. I’m not proud of wishing ill will on others, but drastic times call for drastic measures.

City will probably be 16 points adrift at the turn of the New Year, basically crushing every other team’s title aspirations.  A caveat, however, asks that they’re quarantined quickly enough to make sure the disease doesn’t spread.

1.  Support for Harry Kane

We’re all thinking it; we’ve all been saying it and we all know it’s something Spurs desperately need to connect the last piece of the puzzle. Harry Kane needs a partner to lessen his ever-growing goal-scoring burden.

Daniel Levy needs to open his clamped wallet, allowing Pochettino free rein to procure suitable cover for Kane. A necessary and long overdue requirement, obtaining a strong secondary striker will go a long way in making all Spurs fans have a fruitful, happy and stress-free 2018.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Feature image by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)