Tag Archives: Tottenham Hotspur

The crazy Christmas schedule needs to end

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Southampton have a crazy Christmas schedule that has shown it’s toughness in the last two games. Source: The Mirror

Southampton play Everton today at 3pm.

They lost 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion in the 3pm kick-offs on New Year’s Eve. They played three nights before that in a 4-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur at 7:45pm.

Then the Saints go marching into Carrow Road to face Norwich City in the FA Cup before a midweek League Cup semi-final against Liverpool on the 11th. Burnely are then their foes at Turf Moor on the 14th of the first month of 2017.

6 games in seventeen days. A game every 2.8 days. Doesn’t that sound a little absurd to you?

Many will cry out that Christmas football is sacred and cannot be touched. Some will say that English football is a tough man’s game and doesn’t need the siesta seen by those less worthy on the continent.

When you a see a schedule like that for a team, it can’t be excused. In fact, every single team in the Premier League has at least an extra day’s rest than Southampton over the three games this week, a distinct disadvantage both for the now and for the future.

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Premier League executive chairman Richard Scudamore doesn’t care as long as that truck of money doesn’t stop pulling up at his house. Source: chelseafootballnews.com

That goes for any team in the top flight who could have faced this kind of issue. To those that want to win the Premier League to those fighting to stay in it, they want to play at their full potential each game and that simply isn’t possible with so many games over a short period of time.

This also has a detrimental effect to the product you are watching. Is it any wonder that there will be a few lethargic, uninspiring displays and some terrible mental errors that could cost any team valuable points when they simply could have played them further apart?

What is even more absurd is how spread the games are this year through the period. There isn’t one day where every team is playing, all bowing to the whims of the ever-powerful TV deals that force them to move to their will to cater for their viewing public.

Injuries occur more often when playing in such a short space of time, which must put a real panic in teams that are already short-handed. Fatigue could also set in towards March, when regular internationals have been playing week-in, week-out since August or even since the summer for some, which is only amplified for those from South America who have had long flights on top of that.

Then there’s also the blame that this affects English players in major tournaments. With most of the national squad playing in the Premier League, the tiredness and lack of mental strength shown in the summer at least on the surface looks like it could be down to a long, arduous season, especially with most playing for a Tottenham Hotspur side that had to fight tooth and nail until the very end.

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Can a break really help the international side as well? Or is that just more hope than anything? Source: nytimes.com

So, what is the real answer to fixing the clogging of games at this time of year? Lifting the 3pm kick-off ban so that we can have more teams play on one day without a fuss? Or take a few weeks off either after the traditional Boxing Day fixture or after New Year’s Day to refresh the batteries?

I’d actually like for some real hard evidence to be conducted to prove how much it can affect a player and how important a short-term midseason break can be. It’s easy to point at international tournaments and the fact there’s been no English side in the Champions League final for four years, but before then there was at least one representative on eight out of nine occasions.

It’s true that the players and coaches would absolutely welcome a break, which for many on the continent actually means a week off then more preparation for the restart rather than three weeks dossing. It will give them a chance to restart themselves, for coaches to work their ideas into their teams and get ready for the second half of the season.

Whether it will happen any time in the future is the real question. With the TV companies and the Premier League big-wigs probably seeing it as a great opportunity to take advantage of no overseas competition, it would be difficult to see it coming to fruition any time soon.

But seriously, Southampton’s schedule over the next month is a joke. That can and should be changed next year, it’s isn’t fair in the slightest.

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No one has an answer for Chelsea’s dominant 3-4-3

Watford v Chelsea - Premier League

Conte has turned Chelsea into a ruthless offensive machine. Source: The Indian Express

After a muddling start to the season, people began to question whether Chelsea could recover from an abysmal season. With the same failings, as last year happening again, doubting that Antonio Conte really the savior and looked more like just another pretender to the throne.

However, five games on, five wins and everyone is purring at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea are a roaring lion that are putting everyone else in the division to the sword at the moment, so what has changed?

First of all, the 3-4-3 formation has really brought the best out of this group of players. The favoured formation of Conte back at Juventus, it allows both attacking full-backs and wide players without too much danger of being caught on the counter attack.

How it works like that should be pretty clear from the setup, three centre-backs and two defensive-minded central midfielders hold the fort. The two wing-backs are encouraged to join in with attacking play, allowing a former winger like Victor Moses to be a success as almost an extra wide player rather than some tasked with simply defending and joining in when they can.

With that behind them, it allows the three forwards to sit high up the pitch without any stringent defensive responsibilities. Keeping the likes of Eden Hazard and Pedro up the field has caused defences nightmares, freeing them to counter-attack and run at will, with devastating results.

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Hazard has rediscovered his devastating form. Source: The Telegraph

Especially in Hazard, who has been reborn under Conte and this formation. Five goals and an assist in his last four fixtures shows how being further up the pitch more often has affected him and with his confidence flowing back in his veins, he has returned to his scarily impressive best.

That attacking ability combined with a strong core has been a force no one has worked out how to unlock. Teams seem to allow Chelsea to push further and further up field, overloading four and even five man defences with too many bodies as they recycle possession in your half to start it all over again.

It was good against Hull City and Leicester City but the real statement of intent came against Manchester United. After an early goal, they absolutely dominated the Red Devils by keeping possession and the two wingers in narrow positions bamboozled a four-man defence.

Forced to bring their wingers back to help, United were essentially left with a six-man back line that could not counter attack in fear of giving Chelsea too much space in the final third. The Blues never let up, continuously pushed and repeatedly found space in dangerous attacking areas to grab four well deserved goals.

Worryingly for everyone else, they seemed to do even more in their 5-0 thumping of Everton at the weekend. As they continue to settle and find a rhythm in the new formation, they are finding even more exploits against teams that are even looking to set up as a counter.

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Moses has really blossomed in his new role and has finally found a home at Stamford Bridge. Source: The Telegraph

With Ronald Koeman playing a 5-3-2, he looked to match Chelsea in the key areas and make sure his team were not overloaded when Chelsea were in possession. Instead, the slick interchanging of passing in the final third killed them off, Conte’s men have simply created a great understanding quickly of this formation and add confidence to that, you can see the results.

It was fast-flowing, unselfish football at its best. All they did was shock and awe Everton with their passing play, not allowing them a moment’s rest and without an outlet to get the Toffees further up the pitch, Chelsea simply picked them off at will.

So how do you solve the riddle? Do you attack at will, hoping to overpower them? Do you defend like your lives depend on it? Do you try to counter through the wide areas left exposed when Chelsea push too far forward?

It’s quite possibly a mixture of them all but much like anything in world football, eventually someone will work a worthy counter. The two-game run against Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City will be the biggest test that will really show if this formation makes Chelsea title front-runners or just another within an ever-increasing pack.

What it has been is a breath of fresh air. It’s always interesting to see something a little different in the Premier League and Conte has done that, with a thoroughly interesting formation that has left his opponents perplexed, at least for now.

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The slow growth of the Europa League

It's great to see the competition finally get a little more recognition.  Source: YouTube

It’s great to see the competition finally get a little more recognition. Source: YouTube

Lambasted for years as being a punishment for teams who dropped out of the Champions League and a burden for those who had to play on a Thursday night but in the last year or so, the Europa League has really grown into an interesting and stronger competition.

The real change has been the reward for winning, with the victors gaining an automatic spot in next season’s Champions League. It’s an added incentive not just to those who qualify for the Europa League but to those who fall out of the main competition too, knowing that winning isn’t just a trophy but a place back at the big table for next season.

The quality of teams entering the competition has also gone up as teams across Europe become a little more competitive. The likes of Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Lazio, Fiorentina, Valencia, Villarreal, Marseille, Monaco, Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Schalke, Ajax, Sporting Lisbon, Besiktas and Fenerbahce were all in the first round and some even failed to qualify for the knockout stages.

Then you also look at the sides that failed to make the next round last night. Teams such as Galatasaray, FC Porto and Napoli, who all fell from the Champions League, lost out on a place in the next round along with a number of strong sides.

It’s then highlighted by the good games we shall see in the Last 16. Liverpool against Manchester United, Spurs versus Dortmund, Villarreal facing Bayer Leverkusen, Athletic Bilbao opposite Valencia all showcase the strength that the Europa League has started to boast.

Admittedly, it still doesn’t compete with the might of the Champions League’s teams but at the same time, there are plenty of prestigious clubs that all would like to lift the trophy at the end. Some, like Liverpool or United, could see this as their best opportunity of reaching next season’s Champions League and adding some silverware to that is enough incentive for teams to play stronger teams.

As the competition keeps going, it will hopefully become something a little more than it has been. Less of playing youth products, more a place to use the strength of a good squad or simply to use as momentum like teams had used European competitions in the past.

If anything, it’s great to watch a good competition full of teams that always come up with a little surprise. Seeing a player like Pione Sisto for FC Midtjylland step up against good competition is excellent to see and for any obsessive football fan, the fact they get to see more talent from different corners of Europe is only a good thing.

It will never fully step out of the shadow of the Champions League but at the same time, it doesn’t have to. What is good is that it’s starting to gain more respect, more viewership and probably the most important thing, more teams want to win it.

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Tottenham Hotspur – The Barcelona of the Premier League

Pochettino has created a top team in North London.  Source: ibtimes.com

Pochettino has created a top team in North London. Source: ibtimes.com

Yes you read that title correctly. No, I haven’t suffered a mental breakdown and yes, I have been watching the Premier League this season.

The fact of the matter is Tottenham Hotspur are the club in England that play the closest to the Spanish giants everyone holds up as one of the most impressive teams in football. However, it may not necessarily be for the reasons you usually associate with the Catalan side.

Spurs’ best attribute this season has been their stern defence. They’ve conceded just 20 goals this season in the league and despite just nine clean sheets in 26 games, they have only allowed more than one goal twice.

It’s pretty impressive and while some will pin it down to their Belgian centre-back pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, along with their world class goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, the real difference has been in front of them. It’s the manager Mauricio Pochettino’s use of Eric Dier that has really helped them become a sterner unit at the back.

The defender-cum-defensive midfielder had been utilised in a number of positions last season but it’s his role as the protector that has pushed his game to the next level. He doesn’t venture too far forward and even slots in as an extra defender as the full-backs push on.

Dier's positional move has really improved the team.  Source: Sky Sports

Dier’s positional move has really improved the team. Source: Sky Sports

That movement, although simple, gives them an extra body against counter attacks and allows his centre-backs to close down the space as he uses his defensive instincts to cover. Much like Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano do at Barcelona, they almost create a 3-5-2 as the full backs push on to give them the width that allows their creative players more space in more dangerous areas.

The two CBs also act in a similar way to what Gerard Pique does, as they are both quick on the ground and proficient with the ball. Both Vertonghen and Alderweireld are capable passers, even switching play on occasion and it’s a real asset to the team.

Speaking of the full-backs, the club’s use of their four players in those positions on both wings has been very impressive. They rotate them when they can to keep them fit, which keeps things competitive and has pushed four solid players to become even better, as well as becoming a real important part of their attacking play.

In an even stranger stat, both right backs (Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier) have a goal and an assist while both left-backs (Danny Rose and Ben Davies) have two assists. They are allowed to get forward and create chances in Pochettino’s team, with Trippier showing a few weeks ago how much freedom they have.

Even with possession on the opposite flank, Trippier found himself in the opposition box to score. It was reminicent of Dani Alves or Jordi Alba at Barcelona, who are more advanced more often that most full-backs for any team, contributing mainly in an attacking sense with the knowledge that they have cover from those three defenders behind them.

Rose, along with the other full backs, have been key for Spurs this season.  Source: The Express

Rose, along with the other full backs, have been key for Spurs this season. Source: The Express

Pochettino does come from that class of Marcelo Bielsa pupils, along with the likes of Pep Guardiola, which is probably why his style emulates Barcelona. They like to win the ball high up if they can, they like their full-backs to provide the width and their defensive midfielder to have the discipline to stay back.

And while they don’t have the attacking potency of Barcelona, their forward players have been allowed to create and cause havok. Harry Kane is no one-season wonder, Dele Alli has been a revelation, Christian Eriksen has continued to grow and Erik Lamela no longer looks like an expensive mistake.

All that is gelled by quietly one of their best players in Mousa Dembele. The Belgian is a real workhorse, going from box to box and be involved as much as he can on both sides of the ball. He keeps them ticking with his 89.5% pass completion, he’s added three goals and he’s the perfect foil to the balance that any side needs.

When rotation is needed, the likes of Heung Min Son and Nacer Chadli have contributed as well and along with the full-back depth and the form of Kevin Wimmer in Vertonghen’s absence, they have plenty of talent in their squad. It means they’ve sneaked games they used to lose and it’s a great credit to the side that Pochettino has created in his just-under two seasons there.

Tottenham can absolutely win the league, they have enough to do it but the real thing here is they can really build something here. The one issue is keeping every single piece they can in the summer, or at the very least finding the right replacements and the little additions, with a move to a new stadium on the way along with the influx of TV money, they could make themselves a permanent top four fixture.

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What do Manchester City’s rivals do to react to Pep Guardiola’s arrival?

Now that Pep Guardiola’s arrival at Manchester City has been announced, what do his opponents have to do to match his clout? How do they deny the Spaniard from gaining glory in his first season? Here’s a look at their main competition (yes, for the time being, I’m excluding Leicester City) and what they need to improve.

Manchester United

Will it be Van Gaal? Or Giggs? Or even Mourinho?   Source: The Guardian

Will it be Van Gaal? Or Giggs? Or even Mourinho? Source: The Guardian

Old Trafford will have eyes on them all summer as they could go in a number of directions but the best advice is to go one way as soon as possible and back them to the hills.

If Louis van Gaal remains, which is the most unlikely outcome it seems, allow him to complete the process and build a very strong team for next year. If it’s Jose Mourinho, give him the funds to make the moves needed and allow him to have some control as to not restrict him completely and hinder any positives he could make.

Should Ryan Giggs be promoted, which should be their manner of thinking, give him the keys. Allow him to express his tactical ideals, allow his passion for the club to come out in every game and watch the squad quickly rally around him. From then, improve the youth set-up again to match City’s and while it’s a risk, if Giggs performs well, it could set up a great city rivalry for years to come.

Chelsea

Hiddink will likely not stay, his successor is a vital decision.  Source: Sky Sports

Hiddink will likely not stay, his successor is a vital decision. Source: Sky Sports

It is vital for Chelsea to find the right man to succeed Jose Mourinho, back him to make the right moves and get them back on track.

Whether that be Guus Hiddink, someone like Antonio Conte or a Diego Simeone, they need to make sure he has enough clout to get this team back to where it should be. Some will need to be moved on, there will be a need for another defender as well as potentially a centre midfielder and even an extra attacker.

Get him in place early so he can plan out, which is a worry if Conte is the choice as he has Euro 2016 to deal with. Bring through some of their interesting youth talent, get the squad playing football again and get back to challenging for Champions League football at a very minimum. They have the financial ability to compete with City, they just need to bring through their own players to get a little ahead.

Arsenal

Wenger will need to spend a little and make up a lot.  Source: UEFA

Wenger will need to spend a little and make up a lot. Source: UEFA

This one is maybe the toughest to judge but with a few key players, they should be able to challenge Guardiola’s City.

Wenger can’t sit down on this one and not buy an outfield player again. They desperately need a quality defensive midfielder with the ability to begin attacks, someone like William Carvalho would be ideal but there are a few more out there.

Buy a more reliable partner next to Laurent Koscielny as well as an extra young forward behind Olivier Giroud and they should contend again. He then simply needs to keep them running all season long, fix some injury issues and make sure they can stay the course. They have more in place than anyone, therefore they should be the one’s able to compete on the pitch the quickest.

Liverpool

Klopp needs to geggenpress the club into backing him and him alone.  Source: The Telegraph

Klopp needs to geggenpress the club into backing him and him alone. Source: The Telegraph

The Anfield club need to back Jurgen Klopp all the way in the summer to make the squad fully competitive next season.

It has been pretty clear since the German’s arrival that the squad does not have enough quality or depth to really challenge on a number of fronts. A cup victory will give them European football but should they miss out at all, it could give them another false image of a squad just about good enough to cope.

Back his ideas, allow him and only him to clear the squad while bringing in what he needs to make Liverpool at least challenge for the top four again. From there, if he has a nice solid base, he could certainly challenge for the Premier League and be a real threat to Guardiola’s Manchester City, we could be in for some exciting encounters between the two again. Don’t expect too much too soon, Klopp needs the time to turn the ship around.

Tottenham Hotspur

Spurs, hold on to this man. Tightly.  Source: ibtimes.com

Spurs, hold on to this man. Tightly. Source: ibtimes.com

The memo for Tottenham should be hold on to everything you have as the vultures will begin to circle in the summer.

There is no doubt that they have a quality manager, who looks likely to stay unless a Spanish giant has a vacancy, a good first-team squad that actually has a surprising amount of depth. They have some very good young, English players mixed with some solid foreign exports with Premier League experience, which is invaluable.

Unfortunately for them, that means that other clubs will be looking, especially with the home grown quota in mind. The likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and Eric Dier are not only quality players but big commodities that those struggling to meet them on their own will pay a tidy price for them. Keep them if they can, or at least get plenty for them, but regardless of that, keep searching and growing until they don’t struggle to hold onto that calibre of player, because they can compete.

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