5 things Mourinho must do at Tottenham

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Right or wrong, Daniel Levy has replaced Mauricio Pochettino with Jose Mourinho in North London, and now the real work begins for Tottenham Hotspur.

[ MORE: Is Mourinho the right man for Spurs? ]

With the club sitting 14th in the Premier League table and on a run of five league matches without a win, owning just three Premier League victories all season, there is a clear sense of urgency at Spurs that Mourinho has come in to fix as soon as possible. So what are the keys to Mourinho’s success at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium? A breakdown of what he must do to pull Spurs out of the doldrums.

1) Commit to an identity

Mauricio Pochettino’s success at Spurs came from a clear identity – a ragged high-press that put opponents under pressure and caused turnovers in midfield. He committed to a style of play and never wavered. Things began to fall apart only when the players began to struggle with the tactics and results spiraled, causing the locker room to drop ever so slightly in its commitment to the cause.

[ MORE: Pochettino pays for Levy’s mistakes ]

Mourinho must restore that full level of player commitment, choosing whatever identity he feels will fit the club best. Mourinho’s best years at Chelsea, Real Madrid, and Inter came when he installed a preferred approach and doubled down. Things went wrong at Manchester United when Mourinho couldn’t seem to commit to a preferred starting lineup and supporters never truly bought into the style of play. He must develop an all-in approach as quickly as possible.

2) Sort out Christian Eriksen

The biggest player conundrum for Mourinho to unlock is Christian Eriksen. The 27-year-old attacking midfielder has been a shell of his former self this season, unable to contribute consistently in the Tottenham build-up. Mourinho has two choices: commit to fixing the Danish playmaker, or get rid of him and move on. Either choice has its positives and negatives, but he must commit to one and soon.

Eriksen has just one goal and one assist so far this season, a paltry haul from his previous contributions, including just last season when he bagged eight goals and 12 assists in Spurs’ push towards a top four finish. If Mourinho thinks his best days are behind him, that decision must be made soon to develop a plan forward. If Mourinho thinks Eriksen is just in a funk, getting him out of the rut is of the utmost importance.

3) Restore order

The club is in true crisis mode. If it wasn’t there already with the lack of results, Daniel Levy made sure to reach panic mode by choosing the nuclear option at manager. Mourinho’s biggest task ahead will be to return the club to a sense of calm. Even if the top four is already out of reach – Spurs sit 11 points back of fourth-placed Manchester City but just four points behind fifth-placed Sheffield United – order can be restored with a few solid results.

While the Premier League table might already be a lost cause, the Champions League is most certainly not. Sitting second in Group B, the remaining two fixtures with Olympiakos and Bayern Munich are absolutely critical to Mourinho’s early tenure. Crashing out of the Champions League will give supporters little choice but to focus on the Premier League disaster, while another Champions League run could call back echoes of last year’s miracle charge. European play is now more important than league results once the initial panic has been relieved.

4) Reinstate tenacity

To put it plainly, Spurs has been soft all season.

In a former strength turned glaring weakness, Tottenham has been putrid defensively this season. While the numbers aren’t exactly damning – 17 goals conceded is the exact same amount as third-placed Chelsea – they have conceded goals at the worst possible times. The club threw away winning positions in each of their last two matches, slumping to 1-1 draws with Everton and Sheffield United after going in front. They had a first-minute lead on Liverpool only to watch it slip away. They capitulated early to Watford and had to fight from behind. They conceded three to Brighton on the road. They tossed away a first-half lead in a loss to Leicester City. Mourinho must return the Spurs defense to its tenacious former self, keeping them from giving away cheap goals in critical moments of matches.

But that’s not all that Spurs has struggled with – they have also wilted in front of net with the opportunity to put games away or turn results on their head. The fact that Tottenham took so long to turn Watford’s early 1-0 lead around was troubling, while they failed to build on leads in the Everton and Sheffield draws. Since the start of September, Tottenham has scored more than one goal in a match just twice – both wins.

This team needs some teeth, and Mourinho is the right man for that job.

5) Establish a transfer market plan

Tottenham has a small squad crisis on its hands, as a whopping five players will see their contracts expire this summer, plus another four whose deals are out in the summer of 2021. Toby Alderweireld and Christian Eriksen have fought back against new contracts for years now and seem happy to run out their deals. Jan Vertonghen‘s contract is up at the end of the season. Danny Rose and Eric Dier are approaching the final year of their contracts.

Mourinho has never been one to work together on a transfer market plan, but he absolutely must be on the same page as Daniel Levy to help guide this club through to the next generation of players. Whether the plan is to usher a mass exodus and navigate a full squad overhaul, or to broker new contracts where previously there was no hope, he must quickly work to shore up the festering wound.

Many of the players who are struggling this season can be tied to those in contract limbo. The performance on the field will be directly linked to what goes on behind the scenes. Is he up to the task?

LASK Linz loses Austrian league lead for team training

LASK docked points
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LINZ, Austria — Austrian league leader LASK Linz has been deducted six points for conducting team training sessions in violation of pandemic restrictions, a decision that could have a big impact on the title race.

The points deduction means LASK slipped from first place to second, three points behind defending champion Salzburg. There are 10 rounds left to play in the Austrian Bundesliga, which is due to resume on June 2.

The Austrian soccer league said Thursday its also fined the club 75,000 euros ($83,000) for breaking “the basic idea of fair play.”

[ MORE: German Bundesliga Week 29 predictions, preview ]

LASK said it will appeal the verdict.

The proceedings against LASK were started on May 14, when videos were shown to the league of the team training together instead of in small groups as permitted.

The club later acknowledged it held four team training sessions. Both LASK coach Valérien Ismaël and vice-president Jürgen Werner apologized during a press conference.

LASK has 14 days to lodge its appeal.

Bundesliga Week 29 predictions, preview, schedule

Bundesliga Week 29 predictions
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The Bundesliga title is all but Bayern Munich’s following a midweek which saw the Bavarians beat Borussia Dortmund and all other chasers drop points, but the fight for Champions League places remains fierce.

[ MORE: Key issues ahead of Premier League restart ]

Dortmund now must turn its attention from a title fight that isn’t quite over to holding and building upon its four-point advantage on fifth.

RB Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach sit third and fourth, the latter ahead of Bayer Leverkusen on just two goals of differential.

[ BUNDESLIGA: Week 28 takeaways, Team of the Week ]

So, yes, there will be plenty of drama moving forward. And we’ll start this week’s preview and predictions with a Friday match-up of two teams who took a step out of the catbird seat at midweek and will hope to firm up European plans with a win in Freiburg.

Friday

Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen: The scrappy hosts tossed away a 2-goal lead in drawing Eintracht, while Bayer saw its red-hot form cooled off with an exclamation point in a 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg. Freiburg’s now four points out of sixth and Bayer’s outside the top four on goal difference. That said, Kai Havertz’s Bayer has weapons for days and the creativity to get through the compact, physical Freiburg formation. Will the trip down south hamper them? 2-0 Bayer.

Kai Havertz
Kai Havertz (Photo by Jörg Schüler/Getty Images)

Saturday

Hertha Berlin v. Augsburg: Bruno Labbadia has Hertha playing as well as it has since the brief bump the club saw under Jurgen Klinsmann in December. The draw against RB Leipzig is enough to think that they’ll be able to keep it up against a game but undermanned Augsburg. 2-1 Hertha.

Mainz v. Hoffenheim: Led by Christoph Baumgartner’s Player of the Week performance, Hoffenheim finally looked itself at midweek. Mainz has a chance to move clear of the bottom three with a win, as the trio below them all face traditional powers. It’s not a long trip for the visitors, who should really come away with a win. Mainz’s defending is poor. Hoffenheim 2-0 is more an indicator of not being able to rely on the visitors’ consistency.

Schalke v. Werder Bremen: If you’d only watched the Bundesliga since the restart, you’d think these sides would be flipped in the table. Bremen has ground out results and has hope of avoiding its first relegation in 40 years, while ninth-place Schalke has looked like, frankly, one of the worst teams in the league. Winless in 10 with just three goals — two from USMNT mid Weston McKennie — there’s no guarantee David Wagner’s men show up with any vigor and that’s a problem. Bremen still isn’t a potent attack, though, so this one has 0-0 written all over it. We’ll aim for positivity and desperation: a 1-1 draw.

Wolfsburg v. Eintracht Frankfurt: Eintracht would love a match against a bottom-half side given its four-match winless streak, which has included only top eight sides. Enter sixth-place Wolfsburg, who looked dynamite in blowing out in-form Bayer. It’s been difficult to break down the defense of Wolfsburg, who hasn’t lost since the calendar turned to February. That doesn’t change Saturday, as Wolfsburg wins 1-0.

Bayern Munich v. Fortuna Dusseldorf: Sixteenth-place Fortuna kicks off a four-match run against top four contenders with the need for a surprise or two along the way to the two winnable fixtures at the end of the season. Bayern has pretty much quit losing under Hansi Flick, and its 15-match losing streak isn’t going to end here. Robert Lewandowski didn’t score in a league match for just the sixth time this season in Tuesday’s Der Klassiker win. Figure that changes at home. Bayern 3-1.

Bundesliga team of the week
Robert Lewandowski (Photo by Federico Gambarini/Pool via Getty Images)

Sunday

Borussia Monchengladbach v. Union Berlin: Union heads across the country to meet a Gladbach side who’s disappointed in consecutive matches. It would be surprising if that extended into a third match, especially with second place a realistic goal and so many talented attackers including Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea. Given a terrible performance versus Bremen, they wake up. Gladbach 2-0.

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund: Paderborn has been playing well for a last-place side, and Dortmund might be reeling a bit after performing well enough to get a result from Bayern but losing on a Joshua Kimmich wondergoal and wondering what would’ve been if VAR reviewed an apparent Jerome Boateng handball in the box. Still, there’s too much talent here even at a desperate host. In a non-coronavirus world the home crowd changes our opinion a little on the score line. Dortmund 4-0.

Monday

Koln v. RB Leipzig: Alright, so anything could happen here, really. Leipzig is unbeaten in nine since a Feb. 1 draw with Gladbach, but only three wins have kept them from embracing their place in the title fight. Now out of the picture, they meet a Koln who was the worst team in the league for four months, then the hottest for three, and is now winless in four. In the end, the Dayot Upamecano-led Leipzig back line is too strong and will be enough. Leipzig 3-0.

LISTEN: NBC’s crew discusses the Premier League’s June 17 return

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Rebecca Lowe, Arlo White, Lee Dixon, Robbie Earle, Graeme Le Saux, Kyle Martino, and Robbie Mustoe react to the announcement that the Premier League has agreed to a provisional restart date of June 17.

The state of play for England’s top-flight is live as Liverpool closes in on its first domestic title of the PL era and the European and relegation pictures are anything but settled.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

To listen to more lively conversations and passionate debate from Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe, subscribe to The 2 Robbies Podcast on NBC via Apple Podcasts or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

And you can follow them on Twitter @The2RobbiesNBC here.

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ] 

Transfer news: Tagliafico to Chelsea; Osimhen to Arsenal

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In the latest transfer news Chelsea have been linked with a move for Nicolas Tagliafico, while Arsenal are said to be keen on Victor Osimhen.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

Starting in west London, Chelsea are said to be interested in Ajax left back Nicolas Tagliafico as the Argentine defender will be available this summer.

According to The Telegraph, Tagliafico, 27, will be available to buy for $28 million and he’s been linked with Arsenal in the Premier League and plenty of top clubs in Europe. Per the report, Tagliafico would be a much cheaper option than Leicester City’s Ben Chilwell.

Tagliafico is a solid, reliable defender who is calm on the ball and versatile. That is exactly what Frank Lampard wants at left back as his two current options Marcos Alonso and Emerson have been inconsistent with Alonso better going forward and Emerson slightly better defensively. Chelsea need to improve defensively and be it in a 3-4-3 formation or a 4-3-3 system, Tagliafico will slot in well.

At $28 million, Tagliafico would be a very shrewd signing and he’s been influential in the Ajax side which has impressed in Europe over the last two seasons, including in their run to the 2018-19 UEFA Champions League semifinals. With Ajax winger Hakim Ziyech already joining Ajax from Chelsea, the Blues could do a lot worse than picking up Tagliafico to solve their left back problem.

Osimhen
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Switching from west London to north London, Arsenal have been linked with plenty of attacking players in recent weeks, even though it appears Mikel Arteta will be strapped for cash in the upcoming transfer windows.

A report from La Replubblica says that Arsenal are battling with Napoli for 21-year-old Lille forward Victor Osimhen.

Osimhen has flourished at Lille over the past few years and Arsenal are looking to sign young, hungry, pacy forwards and the Nigerian international fits the bill.

Nicolas Pepe joined Arsenal from Lille last summer in a club-record deal of close to $88 million and per the report, Arsenal already owe Lille plenty of monthly payments on the deal for Pepe so maybe Osimhen’s transfer fee could be built into that payment plan?

Still, his price tag of over $60 million seems way too high for an Arsenal side who are looking at swap and loan deals galore, plus have agreed to a long-term wage cut with players and staff.

Is up front an area they are looking to strengthen? With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang maybe leaving, plus Alexandre Lacazette also said to be keen on a move, that leaves Arteta with youngsters Eddie Nketiah and Gabriel Martinelli who have both impressed. Osimhen scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and 18 this season and Lille are said to be willing to sell on some of their best young stars as they did not qualify for the UEFA Champions League next season due to the Ligue 1 season being canceled in France and a points-per-game model used to determine the final table.

Osimhen could be available but could Arsenal afford him? Surely only if Auba and Laca both leave.