Where did it all go awry for Spurs? Danny Rose’s injury is a significant reason for the defense’s struggles

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The Tottenham defense has been battered, bruised, and beaten into a shell of its former self.

With Spurs having gone from owning the Premier League’s best back four to conceding 15 goals in its last five matches. Andre Villas-Boas didn’t make it through with his job intact.

Where did it all go wrong?

For that answer, or part of it at least, you have to travel all the way back to September 19 – the day left-back Danny Rose broke his foot, and threw the Spurs defense completely out of whack.

Up to that point, Spurs had conceded just one goal in its first four matches, in a 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.  In fact, across the six matches he’d played up to that point including the Europa League, they’d still allowed just one goal.

With Rose going down, their cover at left-back is 25-year-old Kyle Naughton, and AVB knew he wasn’t the answer.  He certainly wasn’t this weekend, coming off at halftime, probably a good 20 minutes too late.

So what did the Portugese manager do to replace Danny Rose? At first he went with Naughton, and the results were decent.  They held Cardiff to a clean sheet and Chelsea to one score. But he is a right-footed player on the left wing, which doesn’t give the team good width in the attack.

Then the West Ham match, the beginning of the end for Villas-Boas.  Naughton was partly to blame as Mark Noble, Mohamed Diame, and Stewart Downing (the right side of West Ham’s attack) shredded the Spurs left flank, and they fell 3-0 to the Hammers at home.

So AVB made a change. He took his PFA Team of the Year center-back Jan Vertonghen and moved him to left-back. Again, initially the results were positive, and Spurs kept Aston Villa, Hull City, and Everton all to three consecutive clean sheets. But inside things were churning.

source: Getty Images
The injury to Rose has stuck Belgian CB Jan Vertonghen out wide, something he has publicly stated he hates.

The well-documented Spurs attack failed to score against Newcastle at home, and it began to boil over. Vertonghen publicly criticized Villas-Boas for playing him out of position.

“Tottenham pay my wages, so I have to accept it, but it doesn’t suit me,” said Vertonghen on November 19. “The club know how much I want to play centre-half. I think I have done enough to deserve a place there now, ideally for every game.”

With his gripes now out in the public eye, things officially unraveled. The Man City Massacre, we’ll call it. With Vertonghen at left-back and Vlad Chiriches and Yohan Kaboul forced into regular duty in the middle, Sergio Aguero and company shredded the Spurs back line for a 6-0 victory.

Spurs found a bit of form in the attack, but their defense continued to concede goals. Two against Manchester United. One against woeful Fulham (which probably should have been more). One against Sunderland, with Naughton back in the lineup thanks to an injury to Vertonghen.

Then the kill shot.

This past weekend’s 5-0 defeat was another blow to the team’s confidence, and Villas-Boas paid the price.

Sure, there are questions in the attack that still haven’t been answered. Sure, the oodles of purchased wingers and midfielders haven’t gotten on the same page, and a preferred lineup still is a mystery.

But for a team that began the season with one of the staunchest defenses in the league, they should not be taking such heavy defeats.

Not without Danny Rose in the lineup, anyways.

He returned to the lineup against Anzhi in the Europa League last week, but only played 45 minutes and spoke afterwards about how he’s barely trained with the club. He could return this coming weekend against Southampton, but most likely the following weekend against West Brom.

The sooner the better for Spurs, no doubt. Especially now that Vertonghen is injured until the new year and Chiriches is also missing out.

Top Premier League story lines – Week 2

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The Premier League hits its second match day on Saturday, beginning with Manchester United’s trip to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City.

That match isn’t even in our top five as a pair of Top Four battles await Sunday and Monday.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]


Can heated rivalry help Chelsea find its form?
Tottenham – Chelsea (Sunday, 11 a.m. ET, NBCSN) [ STREAM ] 

The Blues took a long time to recover from Gary Cahill‘s early red card as Chelsea lost 3-2 to Burnley on Opening Day, and know they could find themselves six points behind Tottenham after just two weeks of the Premier League season. The rivalry between Spurs and Chelsea has risen several notches in the past couple years, and Chelsea will also be hampered by suspensions to Cahill and Cesc Fabregas.

Everton starts murderer’s row of fixtures at the Etihad
Manchester City – Everton (Monday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN) STREAM ] 

Man City, Chelsea, Spurs, Manchester United: Those are Everton’s next three matches following a win over Stoke and Thursday’s Europa League win over Hajduk Split (The Toffees head to Croatia on Aug. 24). The good news, if there is any, is that Man City didn’t look terrific in its win over Brighton and Hove Albion. The bad news? Everton’s top men, aside from new boy Gylfi Sigurdsson, almost all played in the win over Hajduk.

Arsenal’s beleaguered defense heads to the road
Stoke City – Arsenal (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBC) – [STREAM]

The Gunners may boast wins over Chelsea and Leicester City this month, but Arsenal conceded thrice to the Foxes and needed drama to boost three points from Opening Day. Stoke fell 1-0 at Everton but was far from a pushover.

Can Town make it 2-for-2 versus the Toon?
Huddersfield Town vs. Newcastle United (Sunday, 8:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – STREAM ]

Rafa Benitez’s Opening Day plans were shuttered by Jonjo Shelvey‘s poor red card, and the Spaniard won’t have his best midfielder at The John Smith’s Stadium when Newcastle faces a Town team that won 3-0 at Crystal Palace. The road sides won when these two met in the Championship last season.

Liverpool’s stumbling defense meets old pal Benteke
Liverpool vs. Crystal Palace (Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, NBCSN) – STREAM ] 

Jurgen Klopp‘s men stumbled out of the gates, even if their last minute concession against Watford in a 3-3 draw arguably shouldn’t have stood up to the linesman’s view. Benteke scored twice as the Eagles won at Anfield last season, and will certainly be up for irking his old boss once more.

VIDEO: Giovanni Reyna stars for USYNT with goal, assists

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Seldom is a U-15 match truly worth national attention, but it certainly deserves eyes when the player who stars in the Stars and Stripes happens to be the son of USMNT royalty.

Giovanni Reyna is going to be known as Claudio Reyna’s son for some time, but if he keeps up starring roles like his goal and two assist performance against Panama in the CONCACAF U-15 Championship, Claudio will move into “Giovanni Reyna’s dad” status at some point.

[ MORE: Another American teen making Bundesliga name ]

That’s way down the line considering “Dad” is an American pioneer with 112 caps, eight goals and a career with Manchester City, Rangers, Sunderland, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, and New York Red Bulls, but worth noting nonetheless.

Reyna’s goal was an absolute stunner:

And here are his two assists, putting Mexico on notice for Saturday morning’s final.

Europa wrap: Milan runs riot; Everton wins; USMNT’s Horvath posts clean sheet

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The matches were plentiful as clubs from around Europe angled for a spot in the UEFA Europa League group stage in the first legs of playoff round ties.

[ MORE: Schalke’s American teenager ]


Panathinaikos 2-3 Athletic Bilbao

Ageless Aritz Aduriz just keeps scoring, and La Liga’s visitors erased a 2-0 deficit with a pair of goals from the 36-year-old — he’s not really ageless, guys and girls — sandwiched around a De Marcos tally.

Everton 2-0 Hajduk SplitRECAP

Stylish assists from Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney set-up Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye for rare goals, and Everton could’ve had many more in the first leg. Hajduk, however, showed some danger late and a raucous, disruptive, and even violent visiting crowd showed the second leg will be anything but simple for Ronald Koeman‘s men.

Club Brugge 0-0 AEK Athens

USMNT backstop Ethan Horvath kept a clean sheet with a two-save performance for Brugge, and the Greek visitors won’t take any away goals home for the second leg.

AC Milan 6-0 Shkendija

In another realm, Milan is still scoring goals. Andre Silva netted twice in the first 28 minutes, Fabio Borini and Luca Antonelli also scored. And how about Riccardo Montolivo?

 

UEFA Europa League playoff first legs
Utrecht 1-0 Zenit — Weds.
BATE Borisov 1-1 Oleksandriya
Apollon Limassol 3-2 Midtjylland
Krasnodar 3-2 Red Star Belgrade
Dinamo Zagreb 1-1 Skenderbeu
FH 1-2 Braga
PAOK 3-1 Ostersund
Vardar Skopje 2-0 Fenerbahce
Viktoria Plzen 3-1 AEK Lamaca
Altach 0-1 Maccabi Tel-Aviv
Ludogorets Razgrad 2-0 Suduva
Domzale 1-1 Marseille
Osijek 1-2 Austria Wien
Viitorul 1-3 Red Bull Salzburg — 2:45 p.m.
Ajax 0-1 Rosenborg
Legia Warsaw 1-1 Sheriff
Partizan 0-0  Videoton
Maritimo 0-0 Dynamo Kyiv

Everton 2-0 Hajduk Split: Toffees cruise in Europa League first leg

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  • Keane nabs first EFC goal
  • Baines, Rooney with classy assists
  • Gueye scores rare goal
  • Second leg Aug. 24 in Croatia

Michael Keane and Idrissa Gana Gueye scored as Everton took a 2-0 lead over HNK Hajduk Split in a UEFA Europa League playoff round first leg at Goodison Park on Thursday.

Leighton Baines and Wayne Rooney had assists for the Toffees, while Jordan Pickford, Ademola Lookman, and Davy Klaassen also posted lively performances for the hosts ahead of next week’s second leg.

The Toffees could’ve scored four or five if not for questionable offside calls alone, and the match was interrupted in the first half when the Hajduk support section got out of hand.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Ademola Lookman won an early corner for Everton that led to nothing, and played a terrific ball into the center of the box that Davy Klaassen just missed with a sliding effort.

Hajduk had a moment in two in transition, but the Toffees handled it well. Baines in particular broke up the earliest sign of danger.

The breakthrough goal was splendid, with Baines scooping up a punched corner kick and darting past a defender to dink an aesthetically-pleasing ball into traffic for Keane to head home. 1-0, 30′.

The match was stalled for 5-10 minutes after riotous behavior from visiting Hajduk Split supporters, who tossed bottles onto the field and charged at the stewards (one appeared to punch a security guard).

The Toffees went up 2-0 off a classy assist from Rooney, who was moving away from the defense when he cut a ball to a darting Gueye. The Senegalese engine provided a rare goal in the 45th minute.

[ MORE: Europa League schedule ]

The chances were at a premium for both sides in the second half, with Everton still having the better of play. But Jordan Pickford had to get horizontal to make an outstanding two-handed parry on a Hajduk rush in the 61st minute.

Hajduk really found its game late as Everton seemed to rest on its laurels. Pickford was livid, and called into duty to make some big stops and preserve an important home clean sheet.