Tottenham Hotspur manager Andre Villas Boas whistles to his players during their English Premier League soccer match against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in London

Andre Villas-Boas defends Tottenham’s lack of creativity after derby loss

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LONDON — Andre Villas-Boas was understandably upset following Tottenham’s narrow 1-0 defeat against Arsenal in the North London derby on Sunday.

And as the Portuguese manager oversees one of the biggest overhauls in Spurs’ recent history, there will be more days like this ahead.

For much of the second half Tottenham pinned the Gunners back as they desperately searched for an equalizer. Full of power, determination and speed, Spurs just couldn’t carve out a decent goalscoring opportunity.

AVB stood hands on hips on the edge of his technical area for most of the game. In stoppage time he ran down the touchline in desperation to instruct Kyle Walker to launch a long-throw into Arsenal’s box. But Spurs came up short, as that cutting edge and creativity that Gareth Bale often delivered late in games last season has vanished.

(MORE: Official; Gareth Bale joins Real Madrid in word record $132 million deal)

Spurs’ manager felt his side deserved more from the game.

“The second half was all ours,” Villas-Boas said. “Great credit to the players for putting them under pressure, for really pushing Arsenal against their goal. But there were not enough clear-cut chances to get that 1-1. There were some positives there for the determination, the ambition, the ability to come to a place like the Emirates and make Arsenal finish with four full backs on the pitch and three defensive midfielders.”

But it just wasn’t enough.

That final pass, a telling cross or extravagant link up play on the edge of the box was missing. In the first half Nacer Chadli and Andros Townsend showed promise down the flanks but Arsenal dealt with their crosses quite comfortably and Spurs hardly got in behind the Gunners defense.

But you know what, that’s okay. It’s to be expected. And there will be plenty more of that in the coming weeks and months as Villas-Boas tries to bed in the seven new signings he acquired after selling Bale to Real Madrid.

source: Reuters
How can AVB conjure more creativity from his new Spurs side?

Does AVB worry about bringing in so many new players at once? Arsene Wenger mentioned earlier this weekend that it could take time for so many new faces to gel…

“No, I’m not concerned,” Villas-Boas said. “But I do agree with his [Wenger] perspective. But it’s not a concern because when you have this quality individually it can only help you achieve things.”

However the former FC Porto and Chelsea manager conceded it will take time to work out the kinks which were evident in Tottenham’s attacking play.

“It’s not a concern but it’s something that we have to work on,” Villas-Boas added. “It’s very difficult with all the stops for international duty, most of our players will go away. But I think it will come through time, through matches and I’m very, very confident because the ability is there from all the players.”

In the post-game press conference I specifically asked AVB about the lack of cutting edge in the first few games of the season, as Tottenham have scored just twice in three games, with both goals coming from the penalty spot.

Is there a lack of creativity?

“I think that is a false question,” Villas-Boas replied. “I don’t think there is a good argument. We came to Arsenal and created lots of chances, obviously there are players that are different from others. There are players that are box-to-box, players that are more creative and have that ability to link up with others.”

(MORE: Tottenham’s sensational rebuild continues as Lamela, Chiriches arrive with others on the way)

AVB started with Moussa Dembele, Etienne Capoue and Paulinho in central midfield. Three imposing figures who were strong in the air, covered a huge amount of ground yet failed to have any real impact on the game going forward.

Tottenham’s 35-year-old manager acknowledged that he must adapt his team as he sees fit. But I can’t help but think were going to see a more robust psychical and powerful Spurs side this season.

Surely that results in reduced creativity in the offensive third?

“You saw two very different teams today with Arsenal and Tottenham but in another way you can reach success through different types of players,” Villas-Boas said. “So I think we have the ability in our squad. And we have both types of players… we just have to choose the right type of strategy for each game.”

One new addition could change Tottenham’s attacking outlook, with Danish international Christian Eriksen signing from Ajax on Friday. The 21-year-old midfielder plays in the number 10 role Spurs are actively experimenting with and AVB believes Eriksen could provide the answer.

“Eriksen is a wonderfully creative player,” Villas-Boas said. “He is a great solution for our number 10 position. I think Christian brings that flair and creativity that we saw at Ajax for these last few years, great ability to see a pass and a player that is used to playing in a high level in Europe. I am extremely pleased to have him.”

Tottenham’s rebuild needs a creative figure to help it flourish. Eriksen could be that man. And now that Bale has officially left… someone has to be.

VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week – Matchday 9

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There was some eye-popping moments in the Premier League this weekend, yet still very little debate who shone brightest.

Stoke City’s Xherdan Shaqiri scored a pair of Goal of the Month competitors in the same day in the Potters’ 2-0 win at Hull City on Monday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

The first was a curling wonder from distance, while the second came from a bit closer as the big-calfed Swiss attacker bamboozled the Hull wall and goalkeeper.

The Potters are up to 16th in the Premier League table with nine points.

Finnish fans celebrate surprise title for IFK Mariehamn

IFK Mariehamm
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HELSINKI (AP) Fans of IFK Mariehamn have gathered in the main square of the remote Finnish town to celebrate their team’s surprise league title.

“I feel very proud,” the club’s managing director, Peter Mattsson, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday, adding that “thousands” were expected to turn up for the party.

Watched by more than 4,000, Mariehamn clinched the Finnish title on Sunday with a 2-1 home victory over Ilves, from the industrial city of Tampere.

[ MORE: Full MLS Cup bracket ]

Mariehamn held off 11 other teams, including the traditionally strong Helsinki club, HJK, and defending champion SJK from western Finland. It ended three points clear of second-placed HJK for its first league title.

Local media dubbed the team “Leicester” after the surprise English Premier League champions last season.

Mariehamn, which has a population of 11,500, is the capital of the Aland islands off the southwestern Finnish coast

Kroenke: “Very high” on Wenger who is “very hard” to replace

Jeff Fisher
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LONDON — Arsenal remains “very high” on Arsene Wenger and it will be “very hard” replacing the manager who is in the final year of his contract, owner Stan Kroenke told The Associated Press on Monday.

Wenger this month celebrated 20 years in charge of Arsenal and has offered no indication whether he wants to sign a new deal into next season.

The 67-year-old Frenchman became the Premier League’s longest serving manager when Alex Ferguson retired from Manchester United in 2013. United is now on its third manager in three years and has not competed for the Premier League title since Ferguson’s departure.

In a rare interview about Arsenal, Kroenke noted the tricky post-Ferguson succession at United while discussing the challenge of eventually replacing Wenger.

“You see it (at United), you bring up a comment like that,” Kroenke told the AP after Arsenal’s annual general meeting. “It’s very hard. He’s a great manager.”

Wenger signed his last three-year contract extension in 2014.

“We will sit down and discuss the future at the appropriate time,” Arsenal chairman Chips Keswick told shareholders at a meeting where Wenger didn’t address his contract situation in his speech.

Although Wenger has won the Premier League three times, the last success came in 2004 – a drought which frustrates fans.

“He’s been a wonderful influence on the club,” Kroenke said. “We are all very high on Arsene. We are (joint) top of the table right now.”

Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool are only separated on goal difference at the summit. Despite Wenger only winning the FA Cup twice since 2004, the team is in the lucrative Champions League for the 19th successive year thanks to its runner-up finish last season. Wenger is yet to win European football’s top prize.

“I know a number of (sports team) owners that are very successful that say the same thing – the hardest thing to do is be consistently competitive at the top of the league,” said Kroenke, who also owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams. “Arsene has always done that and Arsenal has always been in that position. We have always been competitive.

“We may not always win the things we want to win. We are very focused on winning for sure the league. Arsene’s been consistently at the top and I will tell you – it’s very, very hard to do if you look around sports.”


2016 MLS Cup playoffs bracket in full

TORONTO, ON - MAY 07:  Michael Bradley #4 and Jozy Altidore #17 of Toronto FC celebrate a goal by teammate Tsubasa Endoh #9 during the first half of an MLS soccer game against FC Dallas at BMO Field on May 7, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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With Major League Soccer’s Decision Day 2016 in the books, we now know who will battle it out for MLS Cup.

[ MORE: Who will win MLS Cup? ]

Up first on Wednesday and Thursday are the four knockout round games, then the Conference semifinal first legs kick off this weekend.

We get into it thick and fast.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage

The PST crew already selected their picks for the postseason and filled out their bracket. You can see that by clicking on the link above. FWIW, I have Toronto FC beating the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup…

[ MORE: Ranking MLS playoff teams ]

Below is the MLS playoff bracket in full so you can make your picks and let us know who you went for in the comments section below.


MLS Playoff bracket, 2016

MLS Playoff bracket, 2016