Victor Wanyama

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Pochettino sends strong message to Spurs’ want-away stars

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Mauricio Pochettino sounds like a manager increasingly tired of answering questions about players who wish to leave Tottenham Hotspur.

[ MORE: Report: LAFC hot in pursuit of Juventus, Croatia star Mario Mandzukic ]

Tottenham’s summer transfer window saw three first-team players arrive, yet a whole host of want-away stars stole the majority of the headlines and have made the opening weeks of the Premier League season plenty difficult for Pochettino. Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose, Serge Aurier and Victor Wanyama all reached varying level of “close to leaving the club,” while Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen quietly declined to extend their current contracts with fewer than 12 months remaining.

Eriksen didn’t start the first two games of the season as Pochettino didn’t think he was in the right frame of mind to do so; Vertonghen has played just once; Rose has played 358 of 360 minutes, but has performed to a subpar standard; and the same goes for Alderweireld.

[ MORE: Lionel Messi still out injured, makes cryptic comments about future ]

To put it simply, it’s been a mess; also, a minor miracle that Spurs have five points from four games, including two away to Manchester City and Arsenal already. The European transfer window mercifully, and finally, closed last week, therefore Pochettino can finally look at his squad and know what everyone who is currently at the club will remain there until January at least. As such, the Argentine has demanded focus from everyone at the club, or else — quotes from the Guardian:

“Always it’s difficult [to sell players] and then I think we are all agreed that Tottenham have more rumors than other clubs. In one month I think the rumors will start again because the situation of the squad is going to help those rumors appear. Now it’s a time to be positive.”

“Victor Wanyama is in my plans. Christian is in my plans. Before I understood that they were in a difficult situation and, of course, we tried to help them, to help the club, to do their business. When it’s one player, then OK. But then it’s a few players, who start to make it difficult to create a good dynamic, a positive dynamic … Now we need to start to win games. Be refocused, and who is not refocused is going to be out.”

Is Pochettino the type of manager who’ll drop an irreplaceable player week after week just to prove a point or maintain a certain level of control over the team? You bet he is, and he’ll gladly prove it should any of the aforementioned players not meet level of focus required.

Eriksen made no bones about his desire to leave during the international break, and while Pochettino sympathizes with a player trying to do the best thing for his own career, he also trusts Eriksen will fall in line and see out his contract in a professional manner.

“When you sign the contract, like Christian who signed for five or six years, you need to be committed from day one to the last day. He isn’t not going to show the commitment because there’s only one year left,. The difference is whether he wants to extend the contract or not. Different players have different goals.

“No one is going to say, ‘I want to leave the club’ and, if no one wants you, then you say, ‘No, I love the club.’ You kill yourself then. The reality is that managers, players, coaching staff — sometimes they have one year left and they are happy; others need a different challenge.”

Four things learned: Man City v. Spurs

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Manchester City and Tottenham played out a dramatic 2-2 draw at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday, as Kevin De Bruyne impressed but Spurs pegged the reigning champions back and late VAR drama stole the show as Gabriel Jesus‘ strike was ruled out.

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Just like their clashes in the Premier League and UEFA Champions League last season, this was appointment viewing as Sergio Aguero and Pep Guardiola went at it on the sidelines and Spurs rode their luck with Jesus’ goal in stoppage time ruled out for handball.

Here’s what we learned from a heavyweight battle between two title contenders.


JUST LIKE UCL CLASH, VAR DECISION BURNS CITY

Gabriel Jesus thought he had won it in stoppage time as he curled home a beauty to make it 3-2, but VAR was used correctly and it was another dagger deep into the heart of Guardiola and City.

Aymeric Laporte flicked the ball off his arm towards Jesus and VAR quickly cleared up that it was a handball in the box. Incredible drama for the second time in three games for Spurs at Man City, and Guardiola, one of the biggest advocates for VAR, has been burned by it twice in damaging fashion.

Man City fans will point to Fernando Llorente’s handball in their UCL quarterfinal victory last season and why that wasn’t ruled out and that is a valid point. But under the PL’s laws with handballs in the box, Laporte handling the ball pushed it into the path of Jesus and without that knock off his arm, City don’t score. It is as simple as that.


CITY’S SHAKY DEFENSE WILL HOLD THEM BACK

There is a Vincent Kompany sized hole at the heart of Man City’s defense and Spurs made the most of it. Tottenham had two shots on target and scored with both, as Man City looked shaky with both Otamendi and Zinchenko caught out of position. Fernandinho‘s absence was also felt as Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri failed to stop Spurs’ counter attacks, especially in the second half.

City tried to sign Harry Maguire this summer and Virgil Van Dijk in the past and it is clear that Guardiola isn’t happy with John Stones, Otamendi and Laporte as his three first-choice center backs. City made live to regret not paying a little extra for Maguire this summer. It was an area they clearly needed to upgrade and they didn’t.


KEVIN DE BRUYNE RAN THE SHOW

Kevin de Bruyne’s return to full fitness is a massive boost for Man City this season. He grabbed two assists in the first half and absolutely ran the show with two moments of real quality.

The Belgian wizard had last season interrupted with two serious knee injuries, but he’s eager to make up for lost time after grabbing two assists last weekend and another two in Matchweek 2. De Bruyne’s pass to Sterling for the opener was brilliant but his cross for Aguero to double the lead was a thing of beauty.

De Bruyne’s precision was spot on, as usual, and he is coolness personified. The way he strokes the ball around is majestic.

It is absurd that Man City won three domestic trophies and racked up 98 points last season with De Bruyne only playing 19 PL games. Imagine what they can do, alongside David Silva, Bernando Silva, Raheem Sterling and Aguero, if he’s fit for the entire campaign.


SPURS FAIL TO FEED Harry Kane, AS AGUERO, GUARDIOLA FALL OUT

Christian Eriksen, Tanguy Ndombele and Erik Lamela failed to feed Harry Kane and their entire attacking unit faltered because in central midfield they were completely overrun. Harry Winks did his best to put out fires, but not having a true holding midfielder in the engine room hurts Spurs badly. Victor Wanyama, Eric Dier and even Moussa Sissoko aren’t the flashiest of players, but the balance of Spurs’ midfield was off and Kane was isolated for most of the game.

As for Man City’s top goalscorer and star striker, he may not be around for much longer. Aguero clashed with Guardiola as he was subbed off in the second half and there was a heated exchange between the two as they had to be separated.

You love to see the passion from both the manager and star striker, but with tension bubbling under the surface for years over Aguero’s playing style in a Pep side, this looked a lot more personal. In the coming weeks we will find out just how damaging this public spat will be for both Guardiola and Aguero.

Tottenham smash transfer record to sign Ndombele

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Tanguy Ndombele is now officially a Tottenham Hotspur player.

The French international, 22, completed his move to the Premier League on Tuesday as Spurs shattered their transfer record to sign the central midfield from Lyon.

Ndombele has reportedly cost Tottenham close to $82 million, which almost doubles their previous record transfer fee of $45 million for Davinson Sanchez in 2017.

With several top clubs across Europe chasing Ndombele, he has chosen to head to White Hart Lane on a contract until 2025, as Spurs will build their entire midfield around the exciting two-way player.

Ndombele has been superb for Lyon over the past two seasons and has broken into the French national team in recent months.

His distribution, reading of the game, dribbling and ability to intercept opponents have elevated him to the this level and he’s one of the best two-way central midfielders in the game right now.

After losing the silky skills of Mousa Dembele, this was an area where Spurs really needed to strengthen. Ndombele’s arrival means the likes of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama could well be on their way out this summer, with Moussa Sissoko and Harry Winks battling to start alongside him, while Christian Eriksen is likely heading out of the door with just one year left on his current contract.

Signing Ndombele is a massive coup in the transfer market for Tottenham.

Daniel Levy spending this much money on one player is a huge statement on its own, and it will also help to keep the likes of Harry Kane and Dele Alli enthused about the Spurs project as they continue to challenge in the Champions League and the top four of the Premier League.

After going 18 months without signing a single new player (517 days, if you were counting…), Tottenham signed two new players in one day as promising teenager Jack Clarke arrived from Leeds United just before Ndombele and the English winger was then loaned back to Leeds for the 2019-20 campaign.

Turns out it is true what they say about London buses…

Transfer rumor roundup: Zaha to Arsenal; Ndombele delay

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The transfer window is officially open again and that means one thing: transfer reports are kicking up a few notches between now and Aug. 8 when the window shuts for the 2019-20 season.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Here’s a look at some of the latest gossip from around the Premier League…


According to our partners at Sky Sports Wilfried Zaha has told Crystal Palace he wants to leave this summer for a fresh challenge.

The report states that he wants to sign for another club in London who play in Europe, which narrows it down to Arsenal, Tottenham and Chelsea. The latter have a transfer ban, so that’s not going to happen, so Zaha is eyeing north London.

He grew up as an Arsenal fan and per the report the Gunners have been sounded out about a deal and are going to be a bid in for Palace’s star who they value at $100 million. Zaha, 26, is currently away on international duty with the Ivory Coast but has started their two opening games on the bench, and would be a instant starter at either Arsenal or Spurs with his incredible pace and trickery out wide a nightmare to defend.

Zaha came through the ranks at Palace before being sold to Manchester United in 2013, but he then returned to Palace first on loan and then permanently in January 2015. It is believed United will receive 25 percent of any transfer fee Palace receive, as this is another huge blow for the Eagles who have already sold Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Man United this summer and Zaha scored  10 Premier League goals last season.

Despite signing a huge new contract last summer, Zaha spoke to the Daily Mail towards the end of last season about wanting to move on.

“For me to be better, to achieve what I know I am capable of, I have to aim to play at the very highest level, to win trophies,” Zaha said. “I’m blessed to have come this far in my playing career. But I feel like there is so much more I have to offer. I have to experience the Champions League. I just need the opportunity, that’s it. And I’ll do the rest.”

Now it’s about Arsenal putting up the cash to sign Zaha, and they’ll likely have to offload a few players to bring him in as Unai Emery reportedly has just $60 million to spend this summer after the Gunners failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.


Tottenham may be in for Zaha in the long run, but someone they are much closer to signing is Lyon and France central midfielder Tanguy Ndombele.

But they better hurry up.

A deal for Ndombele, 22, was said to be close as Spurs closed in on a significant signing after going 18 months without a new addition to their squad over the last three transfer windows.

But Jean-Michel Aulas, Lyon’s president, has revealed he will increase the price for Ndombele to $90 million unless Spurs crack on with negotiations.

“If I wait another eight days, it will be €80m. Tottenham made us an opening offer worth €45m. Then, we discussed more. Nothing is done, I can assure you. We are not in a hurry either. Tanguy has shown his qualities with the French national team. He is one of our best players. How much is he worth? I do not know, but not just €45m,” Aulas said.

“We had people speaking all night with Daniel Levy. He talks a lot and goes back on what we’ve agreed in writing. Agreements have not at all been respected. We had email exchanges which have been contradicted, so that’s made it very complicated. It’s difficult. The Tottenham board’s theory is to explain that the economic market is very hard and so we have to get used to renegotiating.

“It’s been very, very difficult. I’ve got 25 years of experience as a president of a club and it’s our 16th participation in a European competition in a row. But this is very rare in the football world. The negotiation with the Tottenham directors has been the hardest I have ever had to undergo in these 25 years.”

Now, Lyon’s president is known for being pretty outrageous with his public comments and this is no different. It also proves what everyone knows about Daniel Levy, that he is one of the top negotiators out there.

Spurs need someone to hold down central midfield, with Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier not really working out, while Moussa Sissoko has surprisingly been a revelation in a slightly different role in central midfield. Ndombele has been superb for Lyon over the past two seasons and has broken into the French national team in recent months. His distribution, reading of the game, dribbling and ability to intercept opponents have elevated him to the this level and he’s one of the best two-way central midfielders in the game right now.

This would be a massive coup in the transfer market for Tottenham.

With Christian Eriksen expected to move on this summer, Spurs will have some cash to spend and getting in Ndombele and perhaps improving their central defense with Toby Alderweireld also rumored to be leaving, has to be the priority.

LIVE, Africa Cup of Nations – Senegal v. Algeria headlines

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The Africa Cup of Nations group stage is getting very interesting indeed and things are heating up in Groups B and C in Egypt.

[ LIVE: Africa Cup of Nations scores ]

There’s no doubting that the game of the day, and perhaps the entire group stage of the 2019 tournament, sees Senegal clash with Algeria as Sadio Mane and Riyad Mahrez go head-to-head in Group C to book a spot in the Round of 16.

Elsewhere in Group C, Victor Wanyama‘s Kenya face Tanzania in a battle between two teams who are keen to reach the knockout round as one of the best third-place teams.

In Group B both Madagascar and Burundi have a huge clash, as Nigeria have already qualified from their group with two wins from two but the former two teams will battle it out with Guinea to get out of the group.

Below is the full schedule for the AFCON action on Thursday, while you can follow all of the action live by clicking on the link above.


2019 Africa Cup of Nations schedule – Thursday, June 27

Group B
Madagascar v. Burundi – 10:30 a.m. ET

Group C
Senegal v. Algeria – 1 p.m. ET
Kenya v. Tanzania – 4 p.m. ET