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.

FA Cup to trial using a fourth substitute this season

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 21:  Manchester United players celebrate victory with the trophy after The Emirates FA Cup Final match between Manchester United and Crystal Palace at Wembley Stadium on May 21, 2016 in London, England. Man Utd won 2-1 after extra time.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
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A fourth substitute will be made available for FA Cup games which go into extra time in the quarterfinals, semifinals or final during the 2016-17 season.

The English FA announced the change on Wednesday with the new method used for the first time to try and see if it helps teams combat fatigue during extra time periods.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

Another change to the 2016-17 FA Cup is that there will be no replays in the quarterfinal stage, meaning the games will finish on the day with extra time and penalties to take place if required.

In a statement on the FA’s website the governing body of English soccer revealed the proposal is subject to IFAB approval but will be used to test the effectiveness of one extra sub.

[ MORE: EFL Trophy includes 10 PL teams ]

The format was used in the Copa America Centenario this summer and FA chief executive Martin Glenn is intrigued to see how it works.

“With The Cup now adopting a straight knockout format from the quarter finals onwards, the introduction of a fourth substitute in extra time will bring extra intrigue and interest. Also, from a technical point of view, it will be interesting to see how managers use the chance to make an additional substitution in such high-profile games and the impact it has on the final result.

“Player welfare and being mindful of the number of games people play at the elite level has also been a consideration.”

This may spice plenty of extra time periods which usually peter out and become a warm of attrition with both teams unwilling to take risks and clinging on for penalty kicks.

Having an extra sub may help spark added energy to proceedings but with both teams having a sub, they may just cancel each other out.

Anyways, kudos to the FA for trying something new.

Marko Arnautovic signs new contract at Stoke City

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Marko Arnautovic (C) of Stoke City celebrates scoring his team's first goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Aston Villa at Britannia Stadium on February 27, 2016 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Dave Thompson/Getty Images)
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The man bun will be sticking around at Stoke City.

Marko Arnautovic, 27, has signed a new four-year contract with the Potters with the team announcing the deal on Wednesday from Orlando, Florida.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza ]  

The Austrian international forward was Stoke’s leading scorer in the Premier League last season with 11 goals and he came up clutch in several big wins over Manchester City and Chelsea.

Everton were rumored to be interested in Arnautovic with the layer having just one year left on his deal but he’s moved to end all of that speculation by signing a new contract.

Via his Instagram page, Arnautovic had the following message after signing a new deal.

“I am proud and thrilled to finally let you know that I am going to stay a Potter and will continue playing with my team and for my fantastic fans. I suppose some times it takes a bit longer to make the right decision and this one comes from my heart. My family and I could not be happier. Can’t wait for the season to begin!”

“Arnie” was seen as a difficult character in the past but he seems to be maturing with his work rate unquestioned for much of last season as he often battled hard up front on his own with little support away from home.

[ MORE: Real Madrid in for Pogba? ]

Alongside Bojan Krkic, Xherdan Shaqiri and Ibrahim Affelay he seemed to come into his own as a new-look Stoke recorded yet another impressive ninth-place finish in the Premier League.

With Mark Hughes signing Joe Allen and promising Egyptian attacker Ramadan Sobhi this summer, plus looking to seal a deal for Saido Berahino from West Brom, the Potters are looking strong going into the new campaign.

The news that Arnautovic has committed his future to the club means Stoke will now push on with their plans to try and recruit a central striker. The trio of Arnautovic, Bojan and Shaqiri behind a lone forward will bamboozle most defenses in the PL.

Hughes’ team will play Orlando City in two friendlies on Wednesday and later this week in Florida before facing Hamburg SV in Germany on Aug. 6 in their final preseason friendly before kicking off the new season at newly-promoted Middlesbrough on Aug. 13.

And, oh yeah, looks like that man bun is now blonde…

10 Premier League teams enter Football League trophy

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 15:  Sesc Fabregas (L) of Chelsea celebrates scoring his team's first goal with his team mates Gary Cahill (C) and Tammy Abraham (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Leicester City at Stamford Bridge on May 15, 2016 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
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10 Premier League teams have accepted an invitation to play in a revamped version of the Football League Trophy during the 2016-17 season.

Relaunched as the “EFL Trophy” the competition was previously only open to teams in League One and League Two, the second and third tiers in the English soccer pyramid, but in a one-off trial the Football League has included 16 Category A academy teams from both the Premier League and English Championship to participate.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza

Chelsea, Leicester City, West Ham United, Everton, Southampton, Stoke City, Swansea City, Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion and Middlesbrough are the 10 PL teams who have decided to enter the competition.

A number of other Premier League clubs declined the invite and some purists in England are concerned that essentially “B teams” from the top two tiers will run away with the competition and easily win it. For example, PL side Southampton won the Football League Trophy in 2010 when they were in the third tier but now their U-21 side will be competing in the competition.

Shaun Harvey, chief executive of the Football League, explained the reason to mix things up as member clubs in the Football League voted in favor of the changes this summer.

“When opting to make these innovative changes to the competition, at the very heart of our thinking was to ensure younger players got an opportunity to test themselves in competitive games against experienced professionals. By involving them much earlier at senior level, we have a real chance of developing more and better home grown players.”

A regional group stage draw took place on Wednesday with eight groups in the south and eight in the north. Each team will play three games and the top two teams from each group will then compete in a knockout tournament with the final at Wembley Stadium in April.

The full schedule for the upcoming tournament can be found in the link below.


Zidane suggests Real Madrid in the hunt to sign Paul Pogba

Real Madrid's headcoach Zinedine Zidane follows a Champions League, round of 16, first-leg soccer match between Roma and Real Madrid, at the Rome Olympic stadium, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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Zinedine Zidane is a mischievous so and so.

With Juventus sealing a $98.7 million move for Gonzalo Higuain on Tuesday, everybody is expecting the Italian champs to sell Paul Pogba to Manchester United in the next few days for a fee in excess of $130 million.

[ MORE: Guardiola bans pizza ]

Well, hold your horses. Real Madrid could be back in for Pogba.

Speaking to the media ahead of Real’s opening 2016 International Champions Cup game against Paris Saint-Germain in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday, Zidane has

“I do not know if he’ll come. Until August 31 anything can happen,” Zidane said. “Pogba is a great player and when you’re with Madrid you always want the best. But today he is not a Madrid player, he is with Juventus. I cannot say anything else.”

Zinedine, my friend, quickly try and screw the lid back on that can of worms you’ve just opened.

[ MORE: How did Yedlin, CCV do for Spurs? ]

Pogba, 23, is currently on vacation in Florida with his agent Mino Raiola and it has been reported that his potential world-record transfer to Manchester United has hit a snag. Raiola is in line to make over $22 million on the deal but reports suggest Juve and United are at odds over who pays Pogba’s agent that fee.

All of that aside, do Real really need Pogba?

Yes, he’s a fine player but as we’ve already discussed at PST, is he really worth over $130 million? As his up and down form at EURO 2016 proved, he may still not be the complete player but his athletic ability combined with his deft touches and penchant for taking over games with his lung-bursting runs are his biggest assets. The lure of working with Zidane, a French national team legend, could be strong for Pogba and of course Zizou knows all about switching Juve for Real Madrid as he made the same move during his playing days for a then world record fee.

Zidane already has Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Casemiro and Mateo Kovacic in central midfield but maybe the reigning European champs will look to strengthen further by adding yet another glittering star to their ranks.

If Pogba does head to Real Madrid, then surely the Los Galacticos nickname will be back in full force.