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)

Dominant Dane sparkles as Tottenham topple United

Sports

It took Christian Eriksen less than 11 seconds to make an unforgettable statement on his return to the lineup, showing how much Spurs have missed his presence of late. 

Eriksen is the lone Tottenham starter blessed with an artist’s creativity and an entrepreneur’s vision.

Though his opening goal, the third fastest in Premier League history, had more to do with anticipation, canniness and, as his gaffer put it, a teachable sense of belief. Talking about belief, his goal – which he finished with the killer’s instinct – injected Tottenham with exactly that.

Eriksen’s goal, taken in context with his overall performance, was a mere drop in the ocean. The masterful maestro made six key passes according to Who Scored, but it felt like he was ripping apart Manchester United’s defence like a butcher’s blade through bone every time he had possession.

Eriksen played a first-time ball to Harry Kane in the first half, delivered a stunning free kick that Eric Dier headed over and threaded the needle in the second half, putting Son Heung-Min through on what should have been Spurs’ third.

Eriksen, back to his inspirational best

It reminded me of his performance against Ireland in the World Cup playoff qualifier, when he scored a hat trick while concurrently breaking a nation’s collective heart. Sure, he didn’t score against United, but his performance had the same creative spark, youthful energy and decisive dominance.

But last night’s showcase came against one of the world’s best clubs, not a mediocre nation whose hopes of making the World Cup were more aspirational than realistic.

United, even after being exploited by Spurs, still lay claim to the stingiest defence in the Premier League, having kept a clean sheet in four straight encounters before last evening’s match. Only their Manchester counterparts have conceded as few goals.

The dazzling Dane, after two weeks off through illness, looked fresh and full of life. Maybe it was burnout that weakened his immune system and led to him contracting the flu. Regardless of what caused the sickness, it looks like a case – based on his supernatural display against the Red Devils – of short-term pain for long-term gain.

If Eriksen continues in this rich vein of form, Spurs will be guaranteed a top four spot to go along with a deep run in the Champions League.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by Julian Finney/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)

Lambasting Arsenal is good for Spurs’ supporters souls

Opinion, Videos

The only thing comparable to watching Tottenham dismantle Everton on Saturday occurred the very next day, when Arsenal walked away from Bournemouth dejected and despondent. 

Maybe you most enjoyed watching Granit Xhaka, Arsenal’s supposed defensive central midfielder, mosey back on Bournemouth’s winner, altogether losing his mark and disregarding his responsibilities.

Or did you find the most gratifying aspect of the match watching Arsene Wenger stew on the sideline?

Or, perhaps seeing Alexis Sanchez withdrawn from the Gunners’ lineup sent you into a state of euphoria. How about Alexandre Lacazette not scoring for over 10 hours?

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)

Son Heung-Min is most underrated player, not most improved

Sports

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.

The affable Korean is his nation’s top scorer in the Premier League; he is one of the primary reasons Spurs were in the title race for most of the 2016-17 season and bagged his momentous 20th goal in a Tottenham shirt earlier this season.

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)

Son Heung-Min’s standout performance spearheads Spurs win

Sports

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.

In the lead up to this match, I pointed out the importance of players like Son, Alli and Eriksen lessening Kane’s goal-scoring burden. Secondary scoring could be the difference between Spurs clinching a top four spot and finishing on the outside looking in.

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)

Tottenham vs. Everton: tale of the Premier League tape

Sports

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)

Arsenal may have inadvertently done Tottenham a favour as Spurs target Kondogbia

Sports

Ordinarily, I care less about Francis Coquelin and any related Arsenal transfer news than I do about impressionist dance. 

And I didn’t even know impressionist dance was an actual dance until recently. Don’t even think about asking how I heard about the unorthodox, mystifying art form. The point is, Coquelin’s impending move to Valencia, regardless of how unintended, could actually benefited Spurs.

How you ask?

Adding the feisty – and, in my opinion, highly overrated French defensive midfielder – to their squad, Valencia now have enough strength, guile and cover in midfield to relinquish their tight grip on Geoffrey Kondogbia.

Is Kondogbia worth the hype?

Why should we care about Kondogbia?

Because he’s rumoured as a Spurs transfer target, a possible replacement for the aging and intermittently ailing Mousa Dembele. Mind you, nobody can truly replace Dembele, but acquiring the services of a strong, mobile defensive midfielder like Kondogbia would a great start.

While many people compare the 24-year-old Frenchman to Dembele, I see more of a likeness to Victor Wanyama, who made his return to Tottenham’s lineup against Wimbledon in the FA Cup last weekend.

Although his proficient dribbling ability is definitely more Dembele-esque. The tower of midfield power is on loan from Inter Milan, which could slightly compliment a possible transfer; I’ll let Spurs top brass solve that minor issue.

According to Who Scored, Kondogbia’s only discernible blemish in an otherwise flawless CV is his ill-tempered discipline. But other than a few minor indiscretions, there’s no other red herrings when it comes to the Frenchman’s disciplinary record; he is a saint compared to Serge Aurier.

You won’t catch me thanking Arsenal for their unintended good deed, but I will offer my appreciation to Valencia and Inter Milan if they’re able to work out a way to see it through and send Kondogbia to North London.

(This piece originally featured on Tottenham HQ. Photo by David Ramos/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)