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Kane, Rose: Stopping slump all about Spurs’ mentality

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Tottenham Hotspur had to look — and dig — deep within themselves in order to snap their three-game losing skid (losses to Watford, Liverpool and Inter Milan) with a 2-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion on Saturday, according to Harry Kane and Danny Rose.

[ MORE: Kane, Lamela propel Spurs to skid-snapping victory over Brighton ]

It wasn’t about tactics, it wasn’t about quality or transfers made (or not made); it was all about getting back to the right mentality — the one instilled by Mauricio Pochettino in guding the club to three straight top-four finishes. The level of commitment and application had dropped in recent weeks, Kane said after the game, which meant they had to get back to being themselves once again — quotes from the BBC:

“Today was about mentality, getting around the pitch, pressing high and harder and I think we did that.

“We could have put it to bed and won 3-0 or 4-0 but it’s good to get back to winning ways. The gaffer will be pleased and we can build on this.

“I didn’t see the penalty in real time, but I spoke to one of their players and they said it was handball. Sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t, but it was given and it worked well for us.”

Pochettino was delighted to get the three points, but to concede such an avoidable goal during stoppage time is clearly the part of the game which sticks out most in his mind — quotes also from the BBC:

“For everyone who watched the game, they were wondering what we were doing. The way we conceded was crazy. One minute from the end, we should be more vigilant and focused.

“To allow them in that position, it is painful to concede. We won but need to work and realize we can not concede this type of goal.”

As for the much-discussed fatigue which Spurs are said to be battling due to a summer of World Cup action, and a shallow squad combined with early-season injuries, Rose says no one at the club is buying it. Spurs’ left back even went so far as to say, “Fatigue is a bit of a myth” — quotes also from the BBC:

“We’re over the moon with the win. It was a sloppy goal at the end, and I’ll have to look at myself and my positioning.

“[On fatigue] The manager is a big believer that it’s all in your mind and he prepares us in the right way every week.

“He looks at how much we’ve done and how far we’ve run and he prepares us right for each game. Fatigue is a bit of a myth and we don’t pay a lot of attention to that.”

Well, that’s certainly one way to look at fatigue, even if it flies in the face of everything every scientist and medical professional has ever observed. That should work out perfectly for Spurs in the long run.

Key battles for Tottenham vs. Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) in a battle of last season’s third- and fourth-place finishers jockeying for the right to make a genuine challenge to Manchester City’s stranglehold on the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Premier League preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool ]

Tottenham were victorious at Wembley Stadium — site of Saturday’s clash — to the tune of 4-1 last October, courtesy of a Harry Kane brace and single goals from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, before the two sides played to a memorable 2-2 draw at Anfield in February.

Three points for the home side would see Spurs pull level to the Reds on 12 points, while an away win would open the gap between Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino‘s to six points.


Harry Kane vs. Virgil Van Dijk

It’s the world most expensive defender taking on the center forward who would likely command the largest transfer should he hit the market. That’s blockbuster stuff, and rightly so as both Kane and Van Dijk so nearly have every quality you’d expect to see from the ideal player in their respective positions. Kane possesses the size, strength, hold-up and passing ability, craftiness and finishing touch to put any half-chance into the back of the net. Van Dijk, on the other hand, can engage Kane in the kind of physical battle that’s most likely to wear him out over 90 minutes, while simultaneously sticking right alongside him in the open field. Kane won’t often find himself too far from Van Dijk on Saturday, which could mean he’s in for a long, hard day.


Danny Rose or Ben Davis vs. Mohamed Salah

Pochettino has a big choice to make at left (wing) back — as is the case nearly every time out. Typically blessed with a pair of options which offer a night-and-day contrast to one another, Salah is the rare instance of an opponent for whom the Spurs boss truly needs a more well-rounded option. Rose’s attacking tendencies fit part of one gameplan that says the best way to defend Salah is to pin him back by overlapping on his side, but his lack of defensive discipline will almost certainly see him caught out of position a number of times, for which Salah will surely punish him. Davies’ defensive discipline will keep him in the right spots to at least slow Salah and make him work, but his lack of range and inability to change direction won’t allow him to stay in front of the Egyptian — not to mention all of the wide attacking play Spurs lose when he’s picked over Rose, thus inviting constant pressure on the backline as a whole.


Mousa Dembele vs. Naby Keita

Dembele is the soccer equivalent of American football’s “downhill runner”: the type of player who needs the first step or two to be unimpeded in order to generate a bit of moment, who’s then nearly impossible to slow down or take the ball off him once he begins to barrel forward. In his six-plus seasons at Spurs, Dembele has singlehandedly dragged his side to victory on dozens of days, while he’s been rendered completely ineffective on just as many others. It’s tempting to make Eric Dier — who’s far less comfortable and dynamic with the ball at his feet — the target of a press, but it’s Dembele who can be slowed to a crawl and subsequently blunt the entire Spurs attack. Keita will again be the one tasked with triggering the Reds’ high press, and he should made to stick on Dembele from the first to final whistles.

Top Premier League Storylines for Week 4

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The Premier League has one last shout before the first international break of the season. There are four teams remaining who have yet to drop a point…Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham, and…Watford? Arsenal is in ninth, Manchester United in 13th. The early-season table is fun!

[ MORE: Premier League club power rankings ]

So, with a short break on the horizon, who will take control at the top of the table and who will slip? Who will rise from early-season doldrums, and who will head into the hiatus needing a lift? There’s plenty to break down, so here’s a good place to start.

Two teams with perfect starts clash
Watford vs. Tottenham — 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday on NBC Sports Gold [ STREAM ]

The ol’ Something Has To Give match. Tottenham has put to bed talks of its fruitless transfer window with a perfect 3-0-0 start, while Watford has surprised everyone without a slip to this point. Both sides can’t get three points from this match, so someone has to slip.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Last season, Watford did something similar, with just one loss to the eventual champions through its first eight league matches. Eventually they fell and fell and fell, finishing 14th, just eight points above the drop. Still, that big start helped them stay up, and this year could be the same.

It will be interesting to see how Mauricio Pochettino plays this one. Spurs won big last week against Manchester United, but they were shaky defensively in the first half. It’s possible he switches to a back-three with Davinson Sanchez, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen plus a pair of wing-backs in Kieran Trippier and either Danny Rose (who struggled last week) or Ben Davies.

Will Liverpool continue to take no prisoners?
Leicester City vs. Liverpool — 7:30 a.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

The Reds are blitzing the Premier League early on, and have taken a two-point lead over other Premier League title favorite Manchester City. Jurgen Klopp has the team firing on all cylinders and playing exactly as he instructs them to. Evidence to that fact is the team’s leading scorers in Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, who have combined for five of the team’s seven league goals thus far. In addition, they have remained the only Premier League side to have not conceded a single goal in league play.

Leicester City, meanwhile, has had a roller coaster start to the 2018/19 campaign. They have two wins in three Premier League matches, but have also seen two players sent off. If the Foxes suffer another red card on Saturday, they will surely be ripped to shreds by the visiting Reds.

Manchester City looks to bounce back against spunky Newcastle
Manchester City vs. Newcastle — 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC [ STREAM ]

Last week, Pep Guardiola and Manchester City dropped its first Premier League points since February with a disappointing draw against newly-promoted Wolves. Kevin De Bruyne isn’t walking back into that locker room for months, and the attack sputtered against a well-organized team that peppered off 11 shots despite having just 29% possession.

Now, they return home to host a Newcastle side that has come up just short against a pair of title contenders in Tottenham and Chelsea. First, they fell to Spurs 2-1 on opening day despite matching the visitors shot-for-shot. Then, they slipped to the Blues at home on an unlucky DeAndre Yedlin own-goal. Under Rafa Benitez, this is a team that can provide any top team a challenge on the right day. City will need to come up with answers to questions posed last weekend, especially if captain Jamaal Lascelles is set to return for the Magpies from injury.

How will Manchester United respond?
Burnley vs. Manchester United — 11:00 a.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN [ STREAM ]

Last weekend, after the final whistle doomed Manchester United to an embarrassing 3-0 defeat at home, Jose Mourinho looked like a man whose time is up. Yet here he is, set to take charge for another weekend with Manchester United sitting in 13th in the Premier League table. Does Mourinho deserve to still be at the helm, or has he earned the pink slip?

None of that matters for now, because he remains as the Red Devils’ boss, and he put in the work midweek as Burnley looked to progress in the Europa League.

Burnley had its fair share of upsets last season, including earning a point at Old Trafford last season thanks to a 2-2 draw on Boxing Day. This season, the Europa League has clearly sapped the team of some energy, as evident by the 4-2 result last weekend at Craven Cottage in a game that Fulham could well have scored three more, and Burnley missed chances of its own. So does Mourinho earn more time in charge, or do things truly come crashing down at Turf Moor?

Shaw, Gomez, McCarthy in latest England squad

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Gareth Southgate has called his first England roster since this summer’s successful World Cup run, with a few changes to the pack.

Manchester United left back Luke Shaw has earned his long-sought Three Lions recall, while Alex McCarthy of Southampton is the lone uncapped player on the 23-man list.

[ MORE: PL Club Power Rankings ]

James Tarkowski of Burnley is in the fold, taking the place of retired Gary Cahill. Manchester United’s Ashley Young and Phil Jones are absent, with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez among the defenders.

Southgate also had this very interesting quote regarding the challenges of an deeply international Premier League:

“I can’t rule out players in the Championship now as our pool is getting smaller and smaller.”

A wink to Jack Grealish or Nick Powell, perhaps, as well as an explanation for the inclusion of Stoke backstop Jack Butland.

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Jordan Pickford (Everton).

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City).

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea).

Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United),  Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal).

Pochettino: Spurs make “a big statement” with Man United win

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Mauricio Pochettino is fed up with Tottenham being overlooked among the other title contenders.

Manchester City is a favorite given their dominating performance last year. Liverpool looks like a dangerous juggernaut. Chelsea looks revived under Maurizio Sarri. With those three earning plenty of praise, Tottenham has been left out of the elite group, and Pochettino’s had enough.

“This can appear some big statement to say, ‘OK, we are here’ to show that we believe in ourselves,” Pochettino said in his post-match press conference. “[We showed] Good character.”

Tottenham is one of four teams atop the Premier League table on nine points through three matches, an unblemished record. It wasn’t exactly pretty at times, but the win over Manchester United in the end was comprehensive.

“I think it’s so important because it puts us in a very important position in the table,” Pochettino said. “Another negative result today and it’s open again, [people would say it’s] difficult for Tottenham to win away from home against the top six again.”

Spurs took a lot of flak after not signing a single player this past summer transfer window, the first Premier League team to do so. Still, they look a cohesive unit. There are still some things to sort out as Danny Rose looked shaky defensively, Toby Alderweireld had some nervy moments, and the team squandered a host of chances in the first half, but overall Spurs deserved the three points on Monday.

Pochettino said the true strength of the team showed through as they searched for a second goal after going ahead, instead of bunkering in and protecting the lead. “Manchester United is a great team and it’s not easy to play and come here,” he said. “Maybe it’s easy to score but after 1-0 you want to play safe and say, ‘OK, come on, let’s play safe and finish the game 1-0’. But I think the character and the personality of the team was to trying to find the second and the third. I think that is why we fully deserved the result and the players all the credit.”