Giovani Lo Celso

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Pochettino ‘didn’t enjoy’ break as Spurs look to re-focus

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Tottenham Hotspur’s difficult start to the season had a fitting international break. Harry Kane and Troy Parrott delivered fine international performances and some injured players were able to heal up, but the club also lost big signing Giovani Lo Celso for some time.

[ MORE: Messi on Neymar situation ]

Manager Mauricio Pochettino, himself admittedly unsettled in August, sees the opportunity presented by the break. The club can regain solid footing and mount its Top Four challenge.

It will have to do it without Lo Celso, and both Davinson Sanchez and Juan Foyth remain out. Pochettino will be waiting on Tanguy Ndombele, Ryan Sessegnon, Eric Dier, and Kyle Walker-Peters ahead of Palace.

It hasn’t been a laugh riot around Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. From Sky Sports:

“I didn’t enjoy too much. We were preparing lots of things, we were working. We reviewed many things and we have been planning and talking. It is a strange period. It was about re-focusing again on the competition and make a plan for the team.”

Spurs lost to Newcastle, drew Man City away and Arsenal at home. They labored to find a comeback win against Aston VIlla, but were clearly the better side.

Re-organizing means taking care of business, and Spurs will be favored in every match this month. Crystal Palace visits Saturday before a Wednesday trip to stingy Olympiacos in the UEFA Champions League.

Then come trips to Leicester City (PL) and Colchester United (League Cup) before Saints come to town.

It’s all a build-up to Bayern Munich on Oct. 1.

The good news is that the club no longer has transfer uncertainty, which should help both Pochettino and want-away Christian Eriksen. He’s not going anywhere for at least four months.

“It is so important to re-focus,” Pochettino said. “This is the squad that we are going to have until January, when the rumors will appear again.The most important now is the collective. We must put aside the individual situations and be all together again.”

Tottenham new boy Lo Celso out injured

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When it rains, it pours.

Tottenham Hotspur will be without new signing Giovani Lo Celso for the next few months as the attacking midfielder was injured while on international duty with Argentina.

Lo Celso, 23, came off injured in the 53rd minute of Argentina’s 0-0 friendly draw with Chile on Thursday in LA.

The playmaker, on loan from Real Betis this season, has injured his hip and will not return until the end of October at the earliest.

“Giovani Lo Celso has returned early to Hotspur Way after being withdrawn from the Argentina squad due to a hip injury,” Tottenham said in a statement. “The attacking midfielder sustained the injury during his national team’s match against Chile. He will now undergo a period of rehabilitation and is expected to return to training with the first team towards the end of October.”

Lo Celso has yet to settle at Spurs after his deadline day arrival from Real Betis, and he is seen as the long-term replacement for Christian Eriksen.

Luckily for Spurs, Eriksen didn’t leave during the summer transfer window and he, along with Erik Lamela, Dele Alli, Lucas Moura and Heung-Min Son, will provide Mauricio Pochettino with plenty of options in the attacking midfield areas.

This is far from ideal for Lo Celso who obviously wants to hit the ground running in England, but it may give him some time to settle in, get to know the country and his new city and then focus on being a big player for Spurs in the second half of the season.

Chile, Argentina play to 0-0 dud in Los Angeles

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Chile and Argentina, in front of a crowd one writer described as “seventy-three people and a few dogs,” played to a 0-0 stinker at the LA Coliseum on Thursday night.

In what was billed as a matchup between two South American giants lost its luster when Lionel Messi, yet to play this season for Barcelona, withdrew from the Argentina squad days ago due to injury. No one was able to rescue the match, with the two teams combining for just two shots on target and 21 fouls in the first half. The second half was marred by mass substitutions commonplace in new-age friendlies, sapping the match of any flow it hoped to construct.

Both teams produced strong lineups, although Argentina rested a few first-teamers like Franco Armani, Marcos Rojo, and Manuel Lanzini. Still, the likes of Alexis Sanchez, Paulo Dybala, Giovani Lo Celso, and Charles Aranguiz were powerless to inject the game with any kind of cohesion or beauty.

All told, the two teams each shared 50% possession, there were four total shots on target, 39 fouls, and 10 yellow cards. There was one excitable moment in the final five minutes of the match as River Plate center-back Lucas Martinez – on his international debut – rose to head a corner off the crossbar, but that was as close as either side would come to an unlikely goal.

Next up for both teams, Chile takes on Honduras in San Pedro Sula, while Argentina meets Mexico in San Antonio on Tuesday.

Four Things from North London Derby

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Thrill-a-minute? Absolutely, but Sunday’s 2-2 draw between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal was probably more fun for the neutrals than supporters of the teams on the pitch at the Emirates Stadium.

[ MORE: Full recap ]

Arsenal somehow turned early dominance into a 2-0 deficit, but erased it and then some against a Spurs side which wobbled again in drawing top opposition at home.

Here are three things we took away from the pulsating encounter, which left more questions than answers for both teams.

We’ve now seen both Arsenal and Spurs look clearly second best over 90 minutes against Liverpool and Man City, respectively. It’s still super early, but maybe there are three distinct classes in the race for the Top Six places.

Luiz gonna Luiz, and Xhaka gonna Xhaka

No, that’s not a good thing. Arsenal’s twin time bombs turned a dominant first half into a 2-0 deficit.

David Luiz‘s lackadaisical life as a Gunner continues in the opening 10 minutes at the Emirates, as the ex-Chelsea man nearly gave away a free kick to Harry Kane with a silly challenge that went uncalled.

It was foreshadowing, as Luiz got caught in two minds when following Heung-Min Son. He was shook by a simple run behind him, and then didn’t bother to get in the path of Eriksen’s run to the back post to deposit a rebound for 1-0.

You’ll recall that Luiz got cooked by Mohamed Salah in similar fashion last week. Both matches were close, and both mistakes mattered to the score line.

As for Xhaka, he defies his statistics at every turn. Over 90 minutes, he’s going to be one of your best players (See his terrific vision to set-up of Pepe in the 85th minute). But in at least one moment, he’s going to absolutely short-circuit your goals.

In this case, the Swiss star slid into Son with the ball gone and only minuscule hope of anything positive. No miracle arrived, rather a penalty to Spurs and Harry Kane rarely misses those.

That was 2-0 Spurs despite Arsenal control of the match.

Pepe, Auba, Laca trident verdict = Pretty, pretty good

If Granit Xhaka‘s midfield madness showed the opposite, Arsenal’s first goal showed why every neutral on Earth wants to see Nicolas Pepe, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette on the field at the same time.

Unai Emery handed Arsenal’s best trident its first start, and Pepe’s otherworldly close-range pass allowed Lacazette to burst through the 18 to smash past Hugo Lloris.

Aubameyang would add a goal soon after Lacazette subbed out of the match, and it would be foolhardy to imagine that the hour-plus of dealing with the trident wore on Spurs defenders.

The performance wasn’t picture perfect — they did only score the one goal in 67 minutes together — but you have to think they’ll cook a lot of defenses that hold less quality than Spurs.

Spurs leave a lot to be desired

When you consider that Tottenham was given among the most fortunate 2-0 leads you’ll see, this was a poor result even given the venue. Outshot 26-15 and off-balance often, Spurs ought to give Harry Winks, as well as their center backs and goalkeeper, free dinner.

Yes, they were playing without Tanguy Ndombele. And yes, they deserve full credit for the Christian Eriksen goal, but it came via school boy errors by a half-dozen or so Arsenal players led by Sokratis Papastathopoulos and David Luiz.

The other goal came from Xhaka’s absurd challenge on Spurs MOTM Son, who was very very good. Late chances were there, but Harry Kane embellished to try and win a late penalty and Dele Alli‘s lone moment as a sub was also a headfirst baseball slide which went unheeded. The calm of Spurs’ last season was simply not there.

Still, Son was quite good, Winks again a wonderful engine — sometimes single-handedly willing the unit forward — and Hugo Lloris mostly up to the task. The defense did stop the bleeding and preserve an away point. There are things to like from the season’s slow start, but Sunday’s performance was entertaining but not encouraging.

How Mauricio Pochettino integrates Giovani Lo Celso and eventually Ryan Sessegnon will go a long way to settling Spurs down.

Emery pushes decent buttons in come back

It’s easy to forget that Unai Emery has turned average ingredients into silverware-winning dishes in his day, so it’s no surprise that Arsenal’s manager was able to adjust his side to get a point at home.

Yes, even against Spurs stingy defense.

It’s clear that Emery thinks the Aubameyang-Lacazette-Pepe trident won’t allow him to include more than one forward-thinking midfielder like Dani Ceballos or Henrikh Mkhitaryan in his midfield (Mkhitaryan was pedestrian if not poor off the bench). That’s presumably why he opted for Lucas Torreira and Xhaka with Guendouzi.

Emery’s men didn’t lose their nerve down 2-0 — a credit to him — and the comeback started before he made his subs, but Ceballos was a big part of the difference. Would playing Ceballos and Guendouzi with Torreira sacrifice too much size and grit in the middle? Probably, and that’s the hard bargain Emery will have to strike on a week-to-week basis: Is he better with his trident together, or with a necessary fourth midfielder?

La Liga roundup: Messi-less Barcelona halted by Osasuna

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Barcelona’s draw and Real Betis’ win highlight Saturday’s La Liga action.

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Osasuna 2-2 Barcelona

With Antoine Griezmann’s magic nowhere to be spotted, Barcelona felt every bit of Lionel Messi’s absence for a second time this season.

Messi has yet to feature for the defending champions this season. Without him, Barcelona are off to a their worst start since Pep Guardiola‘s treble-winning side 11 years ago, earning only four points throughout three matches.

Barcelona’s latest hiccup? A 2-2 draw against a persistent Osasuna.

Osasuna’s game-defining goal came in the late stages, following a penalty call on Gerard Pique. Roberto Morales’ brace concluded a triumphant draw for the home side, that despite being severely outpossessed, managed to create more chances than Ernesto Valverde’s side.

Although the numbers aren’t in their favor, there is a glaring break in the clouds for Barcelona: 16-year-old Ansu Fati, who became the club’s youngest player to score in La Liga. The highly-touted left winger was brought on in the second half, and proved to be pivotal in the Catalonian’s punctured frontline.

With or without Messi, Barcelona host Valencia next, while Osasuna hope to continue their positive run against Real Valladolid.

Real Betis 2-1 Leganes 

For the first time this season, Real Betis have won a game.

With back-to-back losses to start the new campaign, Los Verdiblancos were far from meeting the high expectations that had them bouncing back from a wobbly 2018/2019 season. The team’s transition following a plethora of departures didn’t help the cause.

That continues to be the case for Real Betis, but with players such as summer signing Nabil Fekir, who continues to become more influential with each passing day, things can be different for Rubi’s side this time around.

The 26-year-old Frenchman, who missed out on move to Liverpool last summer, scored the game-winner against Leganes. With Giovani Lo Celso in London with Tottenham, Fekir is seamlessly becoming the ideal replacement: scoring two goals in the first three games La Liga.

The Sevilla based side can benefit from it again with Getafe up next, while Leganes, who are dead last, can learn something from Betis’ perseverance ahead of their bout against Villareal.

Elsewhere in La Liga

Levante 2-0 Real Valladolid

Getafe 1-1 Alaves