Three things we learned from West Ham v. Tottenham

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LONDON — West Ham beat Tottenham 1-0 under the London Stadium lights on Friday night to deal a hammer blow to Spurs’ Premier League title hopes.

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The only goal of the game arrived just after the hour mark as Manuel Lanzini pounced to finish and a sluggish Spurs side never recovered.

Here’s what we learned from the London derby which has put a huge dent in Spurs’ title hopes.


CRUCIAL PK CALL CORRECT

There’s been plenty of talk about the new video assistant referees (VARs) which are being trialed in many leagues around the world but I’m not sure an official watching 50 replays of a first half collision between Manuel Lanzini and Hugo Lloris would have been able to make the correct call.

Andre Ayew clipped the ball through to Lanzini but as he raced through on goal he didn’t get the first touch on the ball before Lloris clattered into him with a tackle. Referee Anthony Taylor waved play on but Cheikhou Kouyate‘s tame effort on goal was shanked wide and everyone stopped. Hammers fans, players and management expected a penalty kick. It never arrived.

If West Ham had not won, they would’ve pointed towards that call as costly. In the end it wasn’t, but it also pointed towards just how tough some of these penalty decisions are for referees and even VARs. Even with the technology in place, it’s hard to get these calls 100 percent correct.


TIRED TOTTENHAM LOSE GROUND

Spurs just didn’t look correct throughout this game. A sluggish start to both halves gave West Ham hope and Mauricio Pochettino‘s men weren’t energetic in attack of pressing high to win the ball back.

Much has been made of Spurs playing before Chelsea this weekend to try and cut their lead atop the PL table to one point, but there wasn’t much chatter about the three days less rest for Tottenham after their North London derby against Arsenal on Sunday.

Look at the stat below just before Lanzini put West Ham ahead. How often are Spurs, or any of Pochettino’s sides outrun?

Spurs were sluggish and even when three glorious chances arrived on the 21-minute mark they couldn’t make the most of it as Adrian denied Harry Kane brilliantly following Dele Alli‘s shot was blocked.

In the second half Heung-Min Son‘s shot was tipped wide by Adrian but it was Spurs who ran out of steam and looked under pressure. West Ham had several glorious chances to extend their lead with Jonathan Calleri forcing a wonderful stop from Lloris and Spurs’ usually watertight defense looked incredibly susceptible on the break.

Spurs lost at West Ham last March under the lights at Upton Park as their title bid took a huge hit. This time around a defeat to their fierce London rivals just about ended their title hopes.


LANZINI STEPS UP ON DERBY DAY, AGAIN

With Dimitri Payet gone in January, this was supposed to be Lanzini’s time to shine.

He’s cut a frustrated figure in recent weeks but he turned up when it mattered on Friday, buzzing around behind the energetic Calleri and reacting first to a loose ball in the box to slot home the winner.

The Argentine playmaker,  like most of West Ham’s current squad, had a fine campaign last season and despite glimpses of his genius in 2016-17, he’s struggled.

Lanzini will grow into this central role after playing second fiddle to Payet last season and the first half of this and often shunted out wide. He’s now scored eight goals in 33 appearances this season, surpassing his seven in 32 appearances last season.

He received a standing ovation and the man of the match award for his performance which led West Ham to safety as they cannot be relegated. This performance may have just saved Slaven Bilic his job, too.

Finally, West Ham’s new home at London Stadium has a marquee win as the Hammers momentarily rose to ninth place in the table.

Zouma signs new Chelsea contract, immediately is loaned to Stoke City

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Kurt Zouma‘s long-term future is secure at Chelsea, but his short-term future will be away from Stamford Bridge.

The France international centerback signed a new six-year contract with Chelsea and was promptly sent out on a season-long loan to Stoke City. Zouma made just three starts and nine total appearances last season as he came back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2016.

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“It is fantastic Kurt has chosen to commit his future to Chelsea,” Chelsea technical director Michael Emenalo said in a statement. “He has shown his talent since joining us three years ago, and has returned from a serious injury with a fantastic attitude.

“Now he has the opportunity to play regularly in the Premier League and we will be monitoring his progress closely while he is at Stoke.”

The move to Stoke will give Zouma a new experience, playing for a mid-table side in the Premier League, and it will be interesting to see where he fits in at centerback, battling with American Geoff Cameron and Englishman Ryan Shawcross.

Even with John Terry leaving the club, Zouma was likely to be second-choice in the back three for Chelsea and if he wants to make France’s squad for the 2018 World Cup, he’ll have to play regularly.

 

 

 

Morata signs five-year contract at Chelsea

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Chelsea FC will have another Spanish international leading the front line, with Diego Costa likely on his way out of town.

The club announced that Alvaro Morata has completed a transfer from Real Madrid, signing a five-year contract at Stamford Bridge. The BBC reports the transfer fee at nearly $78 million.

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“I am so happy to be here,” Morata said in a statement. “It’s an incredible emotion to be part of this big club. I am looking to work hard, score as many goals as I can and to win as many trophies as possible.”

Morata emerged as an option to replace Costa after Romelu Lukaku decided on joining Manchester United over his former club Chelsea. Morata, who was a Manchester United target at first, then turned his sights on London after becoming disillusioned in Madrid, playing second-fiddle to Karim Benzema.

Despite not being first-choice up top, Morata scored 15 goals in 26 La Liga games and another three in the UEFA Champions League, which Real Madrid went on to win over Morata’s former club Juventus. Morata started for Juventus the last time the club had been in the Champions League final.

Despite being just 24, Morata is emerging as one of the world’s top forwards. He has nine goals in 19 games for the Spanish National Team and now is the right time for him to experience the challenge of the Premier League, where the games come thick and fast and the pace of the game is a step up from what he’s experienced in Spain and Italy.

However, the tactical knowledge he’s learned in both places should help him in England, where he can position himself between the opposing centerbacks.

 

Report: Neymar tells Barcelona teammates he’s off to PSG

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Brazilian star Neymar isn’t keeping his future plans under wraps, at least when it comes to his current club teammates.

According to a report in French newspaper Le Parisien, Neymar has started telling his Barcelona teammates that he’s intends to join Paris Saint-Germain. Spanish publication Marca meanwhile is reporting that Neymar’s teammates are trying to persuade him to stay in Catalonia for the season.

The Le Parisien report adds that certain officials at Barcelona believe the transfer is imminent and are resigned to losing one of their stars this summer. The report also said that it was a “decisive step” that Neymar was on board with the deal, going along with his father and agent.

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Rumors intensified over the past few days as reports emerged in Spain that Neymar had agreed on a contract with PSG, and all that was awaiting was PSG exercising Neymar’s release clause, worth nearly $260 million (€222 million). On paper, PSG’s Qatari owners can probably afford that tremendous sum but it still remains to be seen whether PSG will see this move over the line.

Should Neymar move, it would break transfer records for the price of the deal as well as shock the world, as Neymar seemed settled and happy in Barcelona playing alongside the likes of fellow South Americans Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.

Neymar and Barcelona are currently in New York training ahead of the club’s friendly match in the International Champions Cup against Juventus Saturday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

Liverpool complete signing of Hull’s Robertson

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Liverpool has added to its defensive depth with the signing of one of Scotland’s bright young stars.

The club announced the signing of left back Andy Robertson for a reported $10.4 million, which can rise to $13 million with add-on clauses.

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Robertson made 33 appearances for Hull City last season in the Premier League, scoring a goal and assisting on two others. While Robertson is joining Liverpool, midfielder Kevin Stewart is heading the opposite direction, joining the Championship club for a reported $5.2 million.

Robertson will likely compete with Alberto Moreno for the starting left back position, and with Liverpool competing in the Premier League plus three cup competitions, depth at every position will be crucial when injuries and fatigue sets in.