PL Playback: Now or never for Tottenham?

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TOTTENHAM: PERENNIAL BRIDESMAIDS

Following their narrow 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on Saturday, I heard something which summed up Tottenham Hotspur over the past few years: they’re in danger of becoming Newcastle United from the mid 1990s.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Universally loved for Mauricio Pochettino‘s high-pressing style and their insistence on bringing through young talent, Spurs are the club many like to watch when their team isn’t playing. How can you not enjoy watching their young stars strut their stuff and keep overachieving?

Yet unless they win a trophy this season, will this team be forgotten about a decade from now?

That seems drastic, but let’s think about it. How many of Newcastle’s side from 1995-1996 can you rattle off? Ferdinand? Albert? Ginola? When you get past that, it gets harder to remember. But the Magpies were wowing everyone at the time, playing champagne soccer and, like Spurs are now, became appointment viewing. They won nothing though.

[ MORE: 3 things learned from Spurs’ loss at United

Pochettino’s masterplan was hampered on Saturday with no Harry Kane. Out injured with a left hamstring strain, Kane’s absence as the fulcrum of Tottenham’s attack was telling. Let’s face it, any team would miss Kane right now. The hottest striker on the planet has eight goals in nine Premier League games this season and 13 goals in all competitions.

Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen spurned good chances against United and one defensive slip cost Spurs dear. After a slow start they pressed United and controlled the tempo and put in another impressive display away at a team who have a 100 percent record on their home patch and are yet to concede a goal.

But they lost. They just came up short. United were more ruthless and Jose Mourinho’s pragmatism beat the panache of Pochettino. As our analysts discussed in the video above, time is running out for Pochettino and his players to deliver.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Kane’s absence was telling and that’s often the case when Spurs have a key defender, midfielder or striker out. The strength in depth just isn’t there and everyone says the same thing: “1 to 11, Spurs they probably have the best team in the Premier League over the past few years.”

They’re right. But that doesn’t win trophies. The final hurdle is the hardest one, no matter how good a job Pochettino has done on a smaller wage bill than the perennial big boys.

Kane’s importance to the way Spurs play is key but with words of admiration from Real Madrid’s hierarchy still ringing in his ears, how much longer will Kane stick around at Tottenham if they can’t win a trophy?

Unlike Newcastle this all comes down to one thing: money.

Newcastle spent big with Shearer arriving for a then world-record fee in 1996-97 and splashing the cash was one of the main reasons they managed to entice star players to St James’ Park for that glorious, runner up infested, period. Spurs are different. Daniel Levy, one of the finest chairman the soccer world has ever seen, doesn’t want to break the wage structure and doesn’t want to spend big on new players.

That’s why this Spurs team are stuck on the precipice of success.

How much longer will Pochettino, Kane or Dele Alli hang around if they keep coming up short in their quest for PL, domestic cup or European glory? Not that long is the harsh reality.

A new home at White Hart Lane, which is due to open next season, may keep them all around for one last go. Having already dropped 10 points this season and eight points off the rampant pace set by Man City atop the table, it’s tough to see Spurs challenging for the title this time around. That means 2018-19 may be the last chance for Pochettino and his stars to make their mark.

These are lofty goals which Spurs are trying to achieve. They are doing an incredible job in the UEFA Champions League this season and are likely to advance to the last 16. Yet finishing third and second in the PL in the last two seasons, as well as losing in the FA Cup semifinal last season, is as close as they’ve come to silverware. Last week they lost 3-2 at home to West Ham in the League Cup last 16 after leading 2-0.

Right now it’s all very Newcastle.

This Tottenham side is too good to be forgotten about in 10 years time. With Kane and Mousa Dembele returning from injury, plus Danny Rose also back in the frame, soon they will have no real excuses left when it comes to absentees. From this point of the season they need to kick on and try to finally win their first trophy since 2008 when they won a League Cup.

It’s time that the darlings of the Premier League delivered on their incredible potential.


EVERTON A MESS

This was supposed to be a breakout season for Everton Football Club. They’re in shambles.

Ronald Koeman was sacked after nine games. They’re in the relegation zone in the Premier League. The Toffees are on the verge of an embarrassing Europa League group stage exit.

As I said. Shambles.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings

Everton’s caretaker boss David Unsworth admitted that following their 2-0 defeat at Leicester City on Sunday the Toffees were in a relegation scrap.

“You have to be honest, we are where we are and if we continue like this then we are [in a relegation battle],” Unsworth said. “Sunday’s game against Watford is massive and it’s nothing that a couple of back-to-back wins won’t sort, to give the players that touch of confidence. We need three points quickly. Whoever gets the honor of being Everton manager, including me, needs time with this set of players.”

With Unsworth ridiculed by Joey Barton in the British media as a “glorified PE teacher” and two defeats from two in his games in charge, it seems likely Everton will look elsewhere for their next permanent manager. Unsworth has no experience managing in the senior game and surely now is not the time to take a massive gamble like this. Right?

Then who’s next for Everton?

Big names such as Carlo Ancelotti and Thomas Tuchel continued to be linked with the vacancy but it is believed the Everton board want Unsworth, their current U-23 head coach, to take charge.

That would be a huge gamble. Despite the fact that he enjoyed great success with their youth team over the past few seasons, the former Everton defender hasn’t shown much in his two games in charge to suggest much will change from Koeman’s era.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]  

Sean Dyche, Eddie Howe or dare I say Sam Allardyce would be better options for Everton. The former two to build something sustainable and the latter to simply save the Toffees from getting entrenched in the bottom three.

The biggest problem remains scoring goals. In six of their 10 PL games this season they’ve failed to score and Everton have scored just six goals in total. Only Crystal Palace and Bournemouth, the two teams below Everton, have scored less.

We all know the main reason for Koeman’s downfall was Romelu Lukaku being sold and no central striker brought in to replace him this summer. That said, Everton’s star attackers in Wayne Rooney and Gylfi Sigurdsson must step up in the coming month if they’re going to drag themselves away from relegation danger.

A favorable fixture list awaits between now and January 2018 but with Unsworth still in charge and both owner Farhad Moshiri and chairman Bill Kenwright seeming in no rush to appoint a new manager, the Toffees could find themselves in much more than a short-term sticky patch.


Premier League Playback comes out every week as PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at the action from the weekend. Read the full archive, here

VIDEO: 10 red cards in abandoned Brazilian game

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This is utterly bonkers.

There are plenty of derbies around the globe which put fans and players on edge, but this was different.

Vitoria and Bahia squared off in the Bahia State derby in Salvador, Brazil and the match was abandoned amid violent scenes on the pitch which saw 10 players sent off.

The first half saw eight yellows dished out, but it all kicked off in the 50th minute after Vinicius scored a penalty kick for Bahia and shall we say danced before appearing to hump mid-air in front of the Vitoria fans. Predictably, that didn’t go down well.

Chaos ensued (see the video clip below) as punches flew in and the referee ended up sending off eight players, which included substitutes nearby, as all hell broke loose behind the Vitoria goal.

After a lengthy break, eventually three Vitoria players were sent off and five from Bahia, but there was to be more drama as two more Vitoria players were sent off in the 79th minute to take their tally of players on the pitch to seven.

That meant the game was abandoned and Bahia will likely be awarded a 3-0 victory.

The next time someone tells you a derby game is particularly “feisty” just show them the video below…


Arsenal sign record-breaking deal with Emirates

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Arsenal have announced a new sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines which will run until 2024 and is said to be worth over $56 million per season.

In a statement released on the club website, they call the five-year extension to the current deal “largest sponsorship deal ever signed by the club” as Emirates will continue to appear on the shirts and training gear of all of the teams.

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis revealed the reason behind extending the relationship with Emirates.

“Our shirt partnership is the longest running in the Premier League and one of the longest relationships in world sport. This mutual commitment is testimony to the strength and depth of our unique relationship. Emirates are again demonstrating their great belief in our approach and ambition and their significantly increased investment will help us continue to compete for trophies and bring more success to the club and our fans around the world.”

The Gunners also confirmed that their home stadium will be known as the Emirates Stadium until at least 2028, as per the agreement reached in 2012.

Where do Arsenal rank in terms of shirt sponsorship deals?

Manchester United lead the way with their deal with Chevrolet said to be worth over $74.2 million per year, while Chelsea sit in second with a $56 million per year partnership with Yokohama but the Gunners are now alongside their London rivals.

Manchester City and Tottenham are just behind them when it comes to sponsorship deals, while Liverpool’s relationship with Standard Chartered runs until the end of next season.

Money from Wembley replay will ‘support Rochdale for two or three years’

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Worst-case scenario for Tottenham Hotspur: drawing League One side Rochdale in Sunday’s FA Cup fifth-round clash; best-case scenario for the Dale: drawing the Premier League giants and forcing a replay at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Man Utd draw Brighton in FA Cup QF; Chelsea get Leicester ]

For a club the size of Rochdale — 10,200-seat stadium, and never been above the third tier of English soccer — the financial impact of raking in half of the game’s gate receipts “will support the club for the next two or three years,” according to manager Keith Hill — quotes from the Guardian:

“I don’t know how much it is worth but a lot of money has gone into the new pitch. That was a heavy investment for us. Hopefully the money we make will support the club for the next two or three years. We will cut our cloth accordingly and we won’t be in debt.”

As for Steve Davies’ 93rd-minute equalizer, Hill was adamant that it was nothing short of what they “deserved”:

“It was a feeling of reward, not relief, because the performance deserved at least the opportunity for us to go to Wembley for a replay. I’ve always wanted to do that against a Premier League team and manager. Why not take them on and try to win? It could have been football suicide but I thought we gained their respect and to score the goal we did was tremendous. The players were magnificent.”

Tottenham Hotspur, soccer philanthropists.

Try, try again: Messi seeks 1st goal vs. Chelsea in 9th attempt

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LONDON (AP) As unlikely as it sounds, Lionel Messi is still waiting to score his first goal against Chelsea after drawing a blank in eight previous Champions League matches.

The five-time World Player of the Year is likely to get another chance to break his duck this week and Chelsea manager Antonio Conte believes the past will count for little when Barcelona visits Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

“I hope we maintain this tradition but we are speaking about a fantastic player,” Conte said ahead of the last-16, first-leg Champions League game. “The most important thing is the present.

“We must have great respect but at the same time we must be excited to play this type of game and take on this type of challenge. It won’t be easy because we know very well this player, we are talking about one of the best in the world.”

The teams have produced some epic games in the past although they have not met in the Champions League since Chelsea pulled off a remarkable backs-to-the-wall semifinal victory over Barcelona on the way to winning the trophy in 2012.

Messi missed a penalty in the second leg at the Nou Camp as the London club overcame the first-half dismissal of captain John Terry, and a 2-0 deficit, to draw the game 2-2 and secure an unforgettable 3-2 aggregate win.

Bayern Munich hosts Besiktas in Tuesday’s other game while the following day sees Manchester United traveling to Sevilla, and Shakhtar Donetsk playing host to Roma.

Two weeks ago, the prospect of a Chelsea win over Barca would have been unthinkable after Conte’s men had slumped to successive defeats by two of the Premier League’s lesser lights.

The London club was still smarting from a 3-0 home loss against Bournemouth when it traveled to Watford and succumbed to an embarrassing 4-1 reverse.

Chelsea has got back on track since then, though, easing past West Bromwich Albion 3-0 in the league last Monday before swatting aside second-tier Hull 4-0 in the FA Cup four days later.

Conte has several selection dilemmas. He must choose between captain Gary Cahill and Antonio Rudiger for a place at the back, and between Alvaro Morata and Olivier Giroud up front.

Cesc Fabregas will also be desperate to play against his former team but may have to settle for a spot on the bench.

Barca has lost only once in 38 matches this season since falling in the Spanish Super Cup to Real Madrid in August. It has a seven-point lead at the top of La Liga and has reached the final of the Copa del Rey.

Messi is having another stellar campaign, scoring 27 times in all competitions, and he helped set up two goals in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Eibar.

Philippe Coutinho is ineligible for Barca following his move from Liverpool.