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.

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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

Burning Question: Who is the best player in North America right now?

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It’s a question many have tried to answer recently, and now it’s ProSoccerTalk’s chance to give a verdict of their own: Who is the best player in North America right now.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Knowing the loyalty of the devout Liga MX fan, the following statement may make a few onlookers cringe, or become enraged: Carlos Vela is currently the best player in North America. Period.

Truthfully, it shouldn’t take more than 15 seconds to generate such an answer. The question should instead be: What player comes at a touching distance from 31-year-old Vela?

Carlos Vela has been on a legendary streak since arriving in Los Angeles from San Sebastian, scoring for fun. Literally, scoring for fun – when he wants, how he wants: long or short range chips, stunning volleys, headers, from the spot, 30-yard runs leading to gentle tap-ins, free kicks, you name it. In numbers, it reads more like a humble 57 goals in 71 appearances.

That’s a healthy goal-per-game-ratio.

And to be clear, goalscorers aren’t the only type of players that qualify for the sweepstakes – supreme talent doesn’t discriminate. But in this case it just happens to be that an inverted winger, with a penchant for goal, happens to outdo not only every player in MLS, but in every other North American top-flight contest, including Liga MX.

And perhaps scoring goals isn’t his ultimate quality – Vela’s dynamism, agility and tenacity are at the core of his magic. There’s a reason why he’s considered the most talented Mexican player of his generation.

Still tough to accept? Ask yourself this: Who was the last player in North America that Josep Maria Bartomeu and Barcelona went after?

You guessed right – Vela. The Spanish giants know a thing or two about scouting elite talent, don’t they?

Transfer news: Kane to Real Madrid, Alexis Sanchez to West Ham

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The latest transfer news continues across the Premier League and here’s a look at some of the juiciest rumors.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

According to Sport, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has his sights set on signing Tottenham striker Harry Kane this summer.

With Luka Jovic failing to impress at the Santiago Bernabeu, Los Blancos are set to make some moves to consolidate the presence up top. Kane, 26, and Wolves striker Raul Jimenez are some of the few names to have been mentioned thus far.

Kane, who has a running contract with Spurs until 2024, recently mentioned that he wouldn’t rule out a move out of north London, if Tottenham were unable to capitalize on winning silverware.

“I’m an ambitious player, I want to improve, I want to get better, I want to become one of the top, top players,” Kane said earlier this month. “It all depends on what happens as a team and how we progress as a team. So it’s not a definite I’m going to stay there forever – but it’s not a no either.”

As far as transfers go, nothing gets bigger and more “ambitious” than a summer blockbuster move to Real Madrid. Kane has a promising project spearheaded by Jose Mourinho himself at his boyhood club, but the opportunity to represent Real Madrid – at such a prime age, with an astronomical amount of hype – may only come around once.


Alexis Sanchez’s time at Inter Milan is coming to a close, and his next destination may be a Premier League team not named Manchester United, according to FC Inter News.

The 31-year-old Chilean’s agent, Fernando Felicevich, has reportedly been inquired by West Ham, who are considering placing a bid to lure the winger out of Old Trafford.

Sanchez arrived at Inter last summer on loan but has failed to impress when healthy, recording a mere goal and three assist in 15 appearances this season. With the possibilities of Sanchez remaining at Manchester United past the summer getting slimmer by the day, the Hammers are hoping to land the South American at a reduced price.

Sanchez, one of United’s highest earners, is reportedly also gathering interest from other unnamed Premier League and Bundesliga sides.

Belarusian Premier League roundup: FC Energetik-BGU edge FC Minsk, moves to top of league

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The Belarusian Premier League – the only active European top-flight league at the moment – continued on Sunday despite the coronavirus pandemic.

FC Energetik-BGU 2-0 FC Minsk 

FC Energetik-BGU are the new leaders of the Belarusian Premier League, following a 2-0 victory over FC Minsk, who were atop of the table prior to Sunday’s bout.

Aleksey Nosko broke the deadlock in the 21st minute, while winger Jasurbek Yakhshiboev sealed the victory for the hosts in stoppage time.

With the victory, Energetik-BGU are the only unbeaten team in the league after three matchweeks, winning all three matches. The positive spell began with a 3-1 against Belarus giants BATE Boristov. Since, Energetik-BGU have scored three goals, while managing to concede none.

Slutsk, who also featured on Sunday, moved up to second on the table following a hard-earned 3-2 victory over Isloch, which saw them play the final minutes of the match with 10 players.

Elsewhere in Belarusian Premier League 

Smolevichi-STI 0-0 Vitebsk

Isloch 2-3 Slutsk

Spanish players criticize league’s call for furloughs

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MADRID (AP) Soccer players in Spain on Sunday criticized the Spanish league’s decision to ask clubs to put the footballers on government furloughs during the coronavirus crisis.

The league on Friday said the furloughs were needed because there was no agreement on the size of the salary cuts players must take to reduce the financial impact of the pandemic.

“It is strange that the Liga supports (the furloughs),” Spain’s players’ association said in a statement.

It said the league should have created a financial cushion for this period considering it always boasted about its “economic control measures” and the “well-balanced economy” of the Spanish clubs. The association said it also should be taken into account that the league has been temporarily suspended and not yet canceled.

The league and the players’ association have been in talks to try to find ways to mitigate losses that could reach nearly 1 billion euros ($1.08 billion) if the season cannot be restarted because of the pandemic.

The players said they agree with a salary reduction to help the clubs during the crisis, but not to the extent the league wants, which could amount to nearly half of the total losses if the competition is not resumed.

Players said they want to keep negotiating directly with the clubs instead of being forced into furloughs.

“The clubs and the players have been reaching agreements regarding the salaries,” the players’ association said. “What footballers are not going to do is relinquish labor rights.”

Barcelona and Atlético Madrid are among the Spanish clubs requesting furloughs, but both directly negotiated the amount of the salary reduction with players — 70% in both cases. Both clubs and their players are contributing to guarantee the wages of non-playing employees being furloughed.

The government furloughs help reduce the clubs’ labor costs while also guaranteeing players their jobs once the crisis is over.

Spain has more than 130,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with nearly 12,500 deaths. The nation is expected to remain in a lockdown until April 26.

There is no timetable for the return of the Spanish league.

Players maintained their position to only resume competing when health authorities deem it safe for everyone’s heath, a view also shared by the Spanish league.

The league has suggested it will recommend teams start mini-camp while the lockdown is still in place, if it’s possible to do so within the restrictions imposed by authorities.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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