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

Bayern Munich fans pay tribute to Jupp Heynckes, again

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MUNICH (AP) Bayern Munich fans turned up in their thousands to bid farewell to Jupp Heynckes for a second time on Sunday.

The veteran coach is going back into retirement after leading Bayern to another league title. The side was five points adrift when he returned in October, but rebounded to wrap up the title with five rounds to spare.

[ MORE: Pellegrini to WHU inches closer ]

It might have been more for Heynckes, but Eintracht Frankfurt stunned the side to win the German Cup final on Saturday and Real Madrid emerged triumphant from the sides’ Champions League semifinal.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge paid tribute to the 73-year-old Heynckes for bringing “old values” such as “humanity and empathy” back to the side.

“The little downside for us is that we would have liked to give our Jupp, our coach, the nearly perfect finish, but it didn’t quite work out,” Rummenigge said of the shock defeat to Frankfurt.

Heynckes led Bayern to the Champions League, Bundesliga and German Cup titles in his previous stint in 2013, before he retired for the first time.

Bayern’s players were clearly still disappointed over Saturday’s cup defeat as they celebrated the league win on the Munich town hall balcony.

“It feels really bad, how the season ended,” said Thomas Mueller, who added that the team would try to “put a brave face on it.”

WORLD CUP: France wins, but what happened to Ronaldo?

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Despite playing a central role in the establishment of the World Cup, France had always fallen short at the tournament. That changed on one glorious night in Paris in 1998.

[ MORE: PST chats with Vincent Kompany after Man City’s title ]

After a strong start to the tournament it was hosting for the second time, France struggled in the knockout stages. It only managed to make the final after defender Lilian Thuram scored the only two goals of his 142-match international career to give France a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Croatia.

The prevailing view was that beating defending champion Brazil would prove to be beyond Les Bleus. After all, Brazil had Ronaldo, the undoubted player of the tournament.

But France strolled to its maiden title , two first-half headers from the great Zinedine Zidane easing the nerves in the Stade de France. A third goal from Emmanuel Petit in injury time was the cue for wild celebrations across the country, with the team hailed for its multi-ethnic heritage.

In scenes reminiscent of Paris’ liberation from Nazi occupation in 1944, more than 1 million people stormed the Champs-Elysees to celebrate.

For Brazil, the final remains a mystery.

The team just never got going, its underperformance blamed on the health of Ronaldo. To the shock of just about everyone, coach Mario Zagallo left his main striker out of his starting line-up, apparently for health reasons. Years later, Ronaldo said he had a seizure earlier in the day.

However, just before the match, another team sheet was submitted, this time with Ronaldo’s name on it. Whatever happened, Ronaldo was a very different player that night and Brazil was a very different team.

Ronaldo would get another chance four years later to put the ghosts of Paris behind him.

He did just that.

For more, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmjFa9LB7Pg

AP World Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup

Transfer rumor roundup: Vardy to Atleti? Fekir close to Liverpool move

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With the Premier League transfer window set to close early this summer, we’ve already begun moving season for players.

Below, Pro Soccer Talk looks at several of the day’s biggest transfer rumors, including another attacking move for UEFA Champions League finalists Liverpool.

[ MORE: Vincent Kompany talks third PL title, Belgium and more ]

Leicester City has had to fend off significant interest in its players for some time, and the Foxes could be in line to lose several quality pieces this transfer window.

The attention is focused on striker Jamie Vardy at the moment though, as the Leicester front man is being targeted by Spanish side Atletico Madrid.

Atleti manager Diego Simeone is inevitably preparing for Antoine Griezmann’s post-World Cup move to Barcelona, which would leave the Spanish runners’ up in desperate need to find another option up front alongside Diego Costa.

Vardy could be a logical solution for Simeone, after scoring 57 PL goals in the last three seasons at the King Power Stadium.


Jurgen Klopp has built something special at Anfield, and with his side nearing a Champions League final appearance next weekend against giants Real Madrid, it appears the German manager isn’t done adding to his brilliant front line just yet.

French TV station Canal+ is reporting that the Reds are “99 percent done” on a move that would bring Lyon attacker Nabil Fekir to Liverpool next season.

The 24-year-old Frenchman will likely command a significant sum, estimated at over $81 million, after the Ligue 1 star notched 23 goals in all competitions this season for the third-place club.


The Wayne Rooney saga at Everton has brought up great doubt that the veteran Englishman will be playing in the PL next season, and it appears the Toffees don’t want the former Manchester United striker back.

The 32-year-old has been strongly linked with a transfer to MLS side D.C. United over recent weeks, however, when Everton manager Sam Allardyce was sacked, that appeared to leave the door open for a Rooney return.

Now, that doesn’t seem to be the case though.

The Toffees are believed to be willing to part ways with Rooney, who totaled 10 goals in 31 appearances for the club in 2017/18.


Finally, Everton could be looking to add another attacking spark, particularly if Rooney exits Goodison Park this summer.

The Sun is reporting that the Toffees are eyeing up a move for Wilfried Zaha of Crystal Palace, who has caught the attention of many PL sides over recent years.

Zaha is coming off of his best season as a professional, having scored nine goals in England’s top flight and guides the Eagles to an 11th-place finish.

Olosunde, Parks headline newcomers in latest USMNT roster

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The U.S. Men’s National Team will have three good opportunities to assess talents over the coming weeks, and a number of new faces to get closer glances at.

On Sunday, the USMNT announced its 22-man roster ahead of the country’s friendlies against Bolivia, Ireland and France.

Among the notable names to be included by manager Dave Sarachan are Matthew Olosunde of Manchester United, Benfica’s Keaton Parks and Julian Green, who hasn’t made a national team appearance since 2016.

Meanwhile, the selection of forwards from Sarachan features a lot of youth, including Werder Bremen’s Josh Sargent, Paris Saint-Germain’s Tim Weah and Andrija Novakovich — who has been on a goalscoring tear in 2017/18 with Dutch side Telstar.


Goalkeepers: Alex Bono, Bill Hamid, Ethan Horvath

Defenders: Cameron Carter-Vickers, Eric Lichaj, Matt Miazga, Matthew Olosunde, Erik Palmer-Brown, Antonee Robinson, Jorge Villafana, Walker Zimmerman

Midfielders: Joe Corona, Julian Green, Weston McKennie, Keaton Parks, Christian Pulisic, Rubio Rubin, Tim Weah

Forwards: Andrija Novakovich, Josh Sargent