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.

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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

CCL wrap: Atlanta United, Cruz Azul advance

CONCACAF Champions League
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The underdogs did not have their days on Tuesday in the CONCACAF Champions League.

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MLS side Atlanta United and Liga MX mainstays Cruz Azul cruised to second legs win at home to clinch places in the quarterfinals.

Cruz Azul 4-0 (6-1 agg.) Portmore United

Bringing a pair of away goals from Jamaica, the Liga MX hosts just needed to put this one on ice early.

Orbelin Pineda did that in the 22nd minute, and Cruz Azul struck thrice in the second half to win in a landslide.

Atlanta United 3-0 (4-1 agg.) Montagua

It was all about the Martinezes in Georgia, as Pity sandwiched a pair of goals around Josef’s 61st minute tally to send the Five Stripes into the next stage.

All the goals showed calm under pressure, but Pity’s first was gorgeous football. He also assisted Josef’s goal in Honduras during the first leg.

Remaining Round of 16 second legs

NYCFC v. San Carlos (5-3) — 6 p.m. Wednesday
Montreal Impact v. Deportivo Saprissa (2-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Tigres UANL v. Alianza (1-2) — 8 p.m. Wednesday
Club America v. Comunicaciones (1-1) — 10 p.m. Wednesday
Seattle Sounders v. Olimpia (2-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday
LAFC v Leon (0-2) — 10 p.m. Thursday

Coronavirus: Italy may lift ban on sporting events by Monday

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MILAN (AP) The Italian government could lift its ban on sporting events by Monday in areas affected by the coronavirus if the number of cases stabilizes.

The outbreak forced a number of sporting events to be called off throughout the country this past weekend, including four Serie A matches in the north of Italy.

This week, the ban on sporting events was extended from Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont – the areas hardest hit by the outbreak – to also include the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, until March 1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“If, as I hope, the statistics don’t give us different signs then maybe already by Monday these measures won’t be continued,” Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said. “But it’s only Tuesday today and we have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. The health of the Italian citizens is the most important thing.”

Italy reported a 45% increase in the number of coronavirus cases Tuesday, from 222 to 300. Ten people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments.

“Obviously, I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” Premier Giuseppe Conte said before meeting with visiting World Health Organization representatives. “But we trust that with the measures we have implemented, there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Serie A matches this weekend are set to be played behind closed doors, including Juventus’ key match against Inter Milan. That game is not only potentially crucial to the title race but also sees the return of former Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets on Thursday will also take place without any fans allowed in.

Serie C canceled all games in two leagues which have teams in the north. Volleyball and rugby games were also suspended nationwide through next weekend.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation suspended all of its events throughout the country for an entire week, although it said that “for now” next weekend’s World Cup ski races in La Thuile in the Valle d’Aosta region were still set to go ahead. Those races are operated by the International Ski Federation, which has already canceled races this season in China that were slated to test the course for the 2022 Beijing Games.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

El Tri winger Jurgen Damm headed for MLS this summer

Jurgen Damm
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This season’s Liga MX invasion of MLS continues with Jurgen Damm announcing that he’ll leave UANL Tigres this summer after five years with the club.

TUDN has the destination as Atlanta, though previous reports have linked Damm to the LA Galaxy is the spot.

And MLSSoccer.com scribe Tom Bogert says the Houston Dynamo have his “discovery rights” (which remains the worst concept in the entire league).

Reports emerged over the past 48 hours that the El Tri man was headed for an MLS club.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

The 12-times capped winger has one goal for Mexico, but has not been capped since Oct. 2018. He has spent his entire career in Liga MX.

Damm spent the early part of his career with Tecos and Pachuca, but has been with UANL Tigres since 2015.

He won four league titles with UANL, as well as the 2018 Campeones Cup.

Ex-Arsenal man Gnabry: “London’s still red” after Bayern beats Chelsea

Serge Gnabry
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Ex-Arsenal man Serge Gnabry still has love for the club.

Gnabry tweeted that “London is still red” after he scored twice for Bayern Munich in a 3-0 beating of Chelsea on Tuesday in the first leg of a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie.

This after scoring four times against Spurs in a previous Champions League group stage match and Tweeting that “North London is Red.”

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

So what’s with the London form?

“I’ve got a lot of friends here,” Gnabry said after the game. “A lot of them were in the stands tonight, and it seems they give me a lot of good power.”

Gnabry only scored once during his time in England with Arsenal and West Brom but is a bona fide star in the Bundesliga.

With a three-goal advantage over Chelsea heading to Munich for a second leg, however, he’s not got his head in the clouds.

“Three goals ahead gives us a little bit of confidence, but we need to be prepared for the second leg. We can’t take it not seriously enough. … We’ve seen it last year with Liverpool beating Barcelona, so we have to be careful. We have to go into the second leg with all of our focus.”

Gnabry now has 51 goals and 29 assists in four seasons since returning to Germany from Arsenal. Not terrible production for a player the Gunners offloaded to Werder Bremen for under $6 million in 2016.

What color will London be when Chelsea buys him next year? We kid, we kid…