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Pochettino says fatigue, not his new book, causing Spurs’ slump

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Tottenham Hotspur have lost their last three Premier League games away from home and won just one of their last five games in the league, thus Mauricio Pochettino has come under a bit of (justifiable) scrutiny.

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Pochettino, who guided Tottenham to third- and second-place finishes in the last two PL season, respectively, has seen his side slip from third to seventh in the league table in four weeks’ time. Spurs are currently one point behind Burnley.

Naturally, the inquest has begun, and one of the more interesting theories used to explain Spurs’ recent struggles is as follows: relationships between Pochettino and his players have been strained ahead of the release of “Brave New World,” a book written by Guillem Balague, who shadowed Pochettino for the entirety of the 2016-17 season. The first excerpts were released in mid-October. Pochettino insists the book has no bearing on his squad — quotes from the AP:

“I think my relationship with them is so strong and to find excuses about the book is wrong. It’s a great opportunity to get a better idea that it’s not only about playing football.

“When you are clear with everyone, the problem doesn’t exist. The problem is when you lie, no?”

As for the real reason his side slipped into a mid-season coma, Pochettino says it’s more to do with fatigue than a perceived sense of broken trust:

“A player like Christian Eriksen maybe can be a little bit tired, but mental more than physical, because in the last international duty he played two amazing games to try to qualify for the World Cup, and he cannot rest, he cannot stop.

“Maybe him and Eric Dier, that is playing a lot. Maybe Davinson Sanchez. It’s the same group, the players that travel a lot and were involved in nearly all the games. Maybe they can feel a little bit tired about competing.”

That’s all extremely well and reasonable — not to mention, a far more logical explanation than the book theory. That said, let’s take a moment to consider why players like Eriksen, Dier and Sanchez — as well as others, like Harry Kane and Dele Alli — might be “a little tired,” whether it be mental or physical exhaustion, with only a little more than one-third of the season complete.

[ MORE: Prince-Wright’s picks — Spurs to bounce back vs. Watford? ]

By mid-July and early August, it had become crystal clear that the likes of Manchester City ($293 million), Chelsea ($273 million) and Manchester United ($228 million) were going to spend until they had elevated their respective squads to title-contending quality. Spurs, on the other hand, waited until Aug. 23 — 12 days after the start of the PL season — to announce their first signing, Sanchez. No additional transfer business (of real consequence) was done until Aug. 31, deadline day, when Serge Aurier and 32-year-old Fernando Llorente arrived.

If Pochettino, Daniel Levy and Co. think Spurs can continue punching above the squad’s monetary weight and contend year after year for the PL title without a serious financial push to acquire players on par with those being signed by fellow top-six sides, they are sorely mistaken. Clearly the new stadium will be a financial burden for an unknown period of time, as was the case for Arsenal until recently, so Spurs fans might just have to make themselves comfortable with once again being the fifth- or sixth-best team in England with a chance to crack the top-four in especially strange seasons.

[ MORE: West Brom hire Pardew | Allardyce takes charge at Everton ]

That’s without considering the futures of Kane, Alli, Eriksen and Dier — all of whom will attract serious interest from other clubs this summer, should Spurs not get into the Champions League, and every ensuing summer — as well as Toby Aldeweireld (28 years old), Jan Vertonghen (30), Mousa Dembele (30) and Danny Rose (27) — all of whom will soon be on the wrong side of the primes of their respective careers.

Early-season injuries to Rose, Dembele and Victor Wanyama, and now Aldeweireld, have left Spurs without a great deal of room for rotation. Pochettino might appear to have worked miracles in recent seasons, but he’s finding life a bit more difficult now that two years of good injury fortune has quickly turned against him.

Transfer rumor roundup: Trippier to Real? Barca pursuit of Willian continues

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Pro Soccer Talk examines some of the biggest transfer stories on Saturday, including a young Three Lions star potentially on the move to La Liga.

[ MORE: Everton places massive bid for Watford’s Richarlison and more ]


Several England players did themselves big favors at the 2018 World Cup, and one of the biggest wins certainly resides with Tottenham.

Kieran Trippier has begun to draw interest from Spanish giants Real Madrid, and according to the Sun, a $66 million bid could be forthcoming for the young outside back.

Trippier signed a five-year contract with Spurs last summer, however, his meteoric rise at the World Cup could prevent Tottenham from holding onto their young stud.


Meanwhile, staying in Spain, Barcelona remains keen on signing Chelsea winger Willian.

The Catalan side has reportedly placed a third bid for the Brazil international, with a $72 million valuation placed on the player.

Willian could be one of several Chelsea stars to leave the club this summer, with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois and N'Golo Kante all linked with moves away from Stamford Bridge.


Finally, the Blues could be in the market for a new striker under manager Maurizio Sarri, and the former Napoli boss could turn to Serie A to fill the void.

Sky Italia is reporting that Chelsea has made contact with Juventus over Gonzalo Higuain’s services, and the club could be willing to sell the Argentina international in order to fend off Financial Fair Play implications that stem from signing Cristiano Ronaldo.

Croatian media: Forward Kalinic refused WCup medal

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ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) Croatian media say that forward Nikola Kalinic has not accepted the silver medal his team won at the World Cup in Russia because he was sent home early in the competition.

[ MORE: Everton make massive Richarlison bid and more transfer talk ]

Kalinic has reportedly said “thank you but I did not play in Russia.”

Coach Zlatko Dalic sent Kalinic home following the team’s 2-0 victory over Nigeria in their opening match.

Dalic said he wanted to use Kalinic as a substitute in the second half but the AC Milan forward, who was already warming up, told him he was not able to play because of a back problem.

Dalic said Kalinic did the same in a World Cup warmup against Brazil and during training.

Croatia lost 4-2 to France in the final.

Marseille signs Caleta-Car, Fonte joins Lille

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MARSEILLE, France (AP) Croatia defender Duje Caleta-Car has joined Marseille from Red Bull Salzburg, becoming the first offseason signing for the nine-time French champion.

Caleta-Car played a group game at the World Cup with Croatia, which lost 4-2 against France in the final last week.

[ MORE: Spurs sign Son to contract extension ]

He won four Austrian league titles and three national cups with Salzburg.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed but L’Equipe newspaper reported that Marseille agreed to a fee of 19 million euros for the 21-year-old player, who was also targeted by Spanish club Sevilla.

“He is a very good central defender, for now and for the future,” Marseille sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said. “He is a clever player, who understands football. His very physical skills make him very good in the air and has good passing abilities.”

Marseille finished fourth in the French league last season and lost 3-0 against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final, missing out on a Champions League berth.

FONTE JOINS LILLE

Portugal defender Jose Fonte is set to continue his much-traveled career in the north of France after agreeing to a two-year deal with Lille.

The 34-year-old Fonte started all four games at the World Cup in Russia as Portugal was eliminated by Uruguay in the round of 16.

Two years ago, he was a member of the squad which won the European championship in France.

Lille said in a statement Fonte will sign “in the coming days” following medical tests.

The former Crystal Palace, Southampton and West Ham center back played only a few matches with Chinese club Dalian Yifang this year before terminating his contract.

He is the second international to join Lille this summer after former France forward Loic Remy.

“I’m very proud to join Lille, which is a great French club,” Fonte said. “It’s a new challenge for me, hopefully it will be successful.”

Naby Keita emulated Gerrard growing up, and will now take on his role

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Naby Keita represents another new face in the next generation Liverpool regime, and he’s taking a page out of Anfield’s past in his approach at the Premier League club.

[ MORE: Neymar says he’s staying at PSG despite rumors “invented by the press” ]

When the 23-year-old finally completed his long-awaited move to the Reds in 2018, comparisons to N'Golo Kante quickly arose, a strong compliment for many.

However, for everything that Kante does well, it may actually be unfair to compare Keita to the now-World Cup winner with France.

Keita’s tireless ability to track up and down the pitch, complimented by his incredible skill on the ball and pace make him the ideal box-to-box midfielder, something his new club has been lacking for several years.

“My first mind-set is to defend well and not concede,” Keita told the Telegraph. “As a midfielder, when you have sealed things up at the back, my job is to provide the ammunition for the strikers and forwards, to create opportunities. Also, if I get a chance that comes my way, I want to take it and score. But I am a team player. I think about the team and the group always.”

That player is one Steven Gerrard.

And for Keita, the player that he once emulated as a child has now influenced him into the young star that drove manager Jurgen Klopp towards bringing him in to Anfield.

“When I came here that day I didn’t know Steven would be at Melwood,” says Keita. “It was a surprise to me. It was exciting. He said, ‘Everyone will be here for you, we’re all going to help you develop’.

“I had watched Steven Gerrard growing up as a kid and admired him so that was a special day.

“We used to play in the streets wearing a Liverpool shirt. My dad had a love of Liverpool back then when I was 11 or 12 years old.

“I wanted to be like him. It couldn’t be anyone else. He was always the boss of the team.”