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.

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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.

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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