Put Those Blades Away!

It’s starting to feel as if rather than bother to write a bloeug today I could just cut and paste major parts of bloeugs written after points were dropped late against Newcastle, West Ham, Palace, Liverpool and Wolves, though this latest stumble against Fulham felt more like the West Ham game than the others, in that we could well have been three goals to the good early on and still wouldn’t have looked completely in control of our own fate.

Continue reading “Put Those Blades Away!”

De Ja Vu

All rather predictable

Tottenham Hotspur fans could have at least earned some money to balance their frustration had they placed a bet on the incredibly predictable outcome of their club’s latest match.

As Jose Mourinho’s men failed to build on their first half lead on Wednesday night, with Fulham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola pulling off a couple of reflex saves and Son Heung-min hitting the right-hand post, this result was only heading in one direction.

Tottenham’s defence would eventually flick off the concentration switch, as they have done on numerous occasions this season.

Only Brighton and Sheffield United have dropped more points from winning positions, 12 and 11 respectively, than Spurs, with 10, in the Premier League this season.

Mourinho’s teams are known for being able to fall back upon their solid defences, safe in the knowledge that even if they aren’t firing up front so they can rely on the backline to hold firm at the other end.

This Mourinho team cannot do that. The only surprise about Ivan Cavaleiro’s 74th minute goal was that it came from open play.

Spurs have only conceded four goals from open play in their 17 Premier League games, the other 12 coming from set pieces.

Tottenham still have the joint second best defensive record in the English top flight but much of that has come from the defensive set-up employed by Mourinho to protect the defence.

Once the backline has been exposed to danger it has struggled, set pieces proving that point in particular.

Against Fulham, Mourinho would have been left shaking his head as Serge Aurier was caught out of position, Davinson Sanchez turned too easily and Eric Dier out-jumped as if he wasn’t there.

There was a certain irony in the fact that Mourinho filled his team with central midfielders, four of them taking to the pitch or five if you count the former man in the middle Dier, yet Spurs looked more open than ever.

Sergio Reguilon and Aurier were unshackled somewhat in the system and meant to provide the width, but also left plenty of space in behind them, particularly down the Ivorian’s flank.

Hugo Lloris only made a couple of saves but much of that was to do with the visitors not having real firepower up front in the absence of Aleksandar Mitrovic. A team with more attacking threat would have gratefully accepted Tottenham’s open and giving nature.

“I understand that in the first half we had chances to kill the game,” said Mourinho.

“Some of them are Areola’s responsibility. In the second half we had the biggest chance to kill the game but when you don’t do it you cannot concede goals the way we did do it.

“This is the same story basically since the beginning of the season. We can talk about not killing the game yes, we can speak about that, and today was a clear situation where we could and should have killed the game in the first half but then you go back to the goals that we concede and it’s not also easy to assimilate that.”

Mourinho must be bored of saying the same things and the fans are growing tired of hearing them.

Mourinho and the fans

The relationship between Jose Mourinho and Tottenham Hotspur fans will likely always be a fragile and turbulent one.

Some will never forget that he managed their London rivals across two spells and some of the things he said. Some don’t like the way his teams play football. Some don’t like the way he acts or speaks.

Others simply see a winner who knows what has to be done and can bring a silverware-starved club what it has craved for far too long.

When Spurs are winning games and Mourinho is coming out with zinging one liners in his press conferences, the reservations about him can be ushered into a dark corner.

When Tottenham stutter and stumble and bore, so those grievances come out to play.

You can’t help but wonder what 62,000 fans inside the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would have made of some of the home matches this season.

On one side the players might well have been more inspired by the roar of the crowd, not least that south stand, and pushed on in their efforts.

Spurs won both matches 2-0 in front of just 2,000 supporters last month before fans were locked out again, so you can only imagine how they might have performed with 30 times that number behind them.

However, there would have also been 62,000 groans and sounds of frustrations at some of the football on offer, likely boos at some of the halves of football.

On Wednesday night the fans would have witnessed their team share almost the same amount of possession and have the same amount of shots on goal as a promoted team in the bottom three of the Premier League.

“Not good enough, but good enough to win,” the Spurs boss told football.london afterwards.

“Not good enough because I think we have to play better in a more consistent way, but good enough to create four or five big chances, good enough to give Hugo in a very quiet evening.

“Good enough to win the game but not good enough because we have to play better than we did.”

He’s right of course, in that had Tottenham taken some of their chances they could have had the game won by half-time.

They didn’t though and the blame must fall somewhere between Mourinho and the players.

The players were all fresh and should have had no tiredness. Only Sissoko started on Sunday at Marine and he played just 45 minutes that day.

Yet they huffed and puffed and struggled to impose their game on Fulham, with Scott Parker letting everyone know that his team only had 48 hours to prepare for the match.

On Mourinho’s part he put out a team lacking inspiration and creativity, with too much pressure placed on Tanguy Ndombele to create and just two players able to finish in Kane and Son.

All of which brings us to the bench.

Dele, Bale and the wasted bench

Look at Tottenham’s bench on Wednesday night and you have to wonder what’s going on.

Gareth Bale, a player Tottenham have been desperate to bring back to the club for years and a four-time Champions League winner, left unused.

Dele Alli, a player who has scored goals from midfield at a rate that outstripped the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Scholes, left unused.

Even Lucas Moura, a man known for his ability to bag a late goal on the biggest of stages, left unused.

On the night, Mourinho brought on just two substitutes, Erik Lamela and Carlos Vinicius. Lamela made a slight impact, Vinicius barely touched the ball.

Right now, the Bale deal is looking like an utter dud. More than £200,000 a week spent on a player who either doesn’t trust himself to fully let loose on the pitch or doesn’t have the trust of Mourinho to do so.

That the Portuguese choose to play Moussa Sissoko as a right winger ahead of Bale and then brought on two other players instead of the man long heralded as one of the world’s best players is not a good look and makes a mockery of a transfer deal his chairman Daniel Levy longed for ever since the Welshman left for Madrid in 2013.

Bale could yet come good, if the 31-year-old can restore some confidence in his body and get a run of games under his belt. Against Fulham, he didn’t even warm up down the touchline until the latter stages of the game.

Spurs have an option for a second season of the Bale loan, having expected him to take some time to get back to full speed following a season marked by injury and inaction, but now back from his most recent injury he needs to start showing what a man at the top of the earnings ladder at the club should be.

As for Dele, the 24-year-old posted a caption-less image on his Instagram Story on the journey back from the match, looking simply bored and frustrated, with his hand on his face.

Mourinho’s lack of game time for the young midfielder can be explained away when things are going well for Spurs.

When he’s left unused once again in a game like this, when Spurs needed to create more chances and they needed to put them away, it raises questions over his Premier League exile, especially after being praised for his attitude and professionalism just days earlier in the FA Cup match at Marine.

Dele Alli makes goals happen. Even last season, when his form was questioned, he scored eight goals and laid on four assists in the Premier League, meaning a direction involvement in 12 goals in 25 matches.

Spurs are reluctant to let him leave permanently because all he needs is to find his mojo again and a player who might not fetch a big price now could be worth mega money again within a year.

Right now Kane and Son need help. Kane’s headed goal from Reguilon’s perfect cross was from the top drawer and it was his 25th headed Premier League goal, making him just the third player to score 25 or more goals with his left foot, right foot and head, netting 34, 94 and 25 respectively in the English top flight.

Son had an off day in front of goal, a rarity in a clinical season for him but it shows that if the duo are not firing then neither are Tottenham.

Kane’s goal meant the pair have now scored 23 of Tottenham’s 30 goals in the Premier League this term.

A two-man team is better than a one-man one but Spurs cannot afford to be so reliant on them.

Others need to step up and help out, but they have to be given the chance to do so first.

Mourinho’s message to Levy

Jose Mourinho has made it very clear that he does not expect Tottenham to make any signings during the transfer window.

That’s not because he doesn’t want them but because he doesn’t “feel the right to ask for something” after the club’s efforts during the summer in bringing in seven players amid a financial mess of a year.

“One thing is to analyse, which of course I do, one thing is to analyse and commit to that analyse and to write a report and be committed to that report, which of course of which I did as I have to be professional,” he said this month.

“Another thing is to demand something which I never do. Another thing is to ask for and I’m not going to ask for anything because I respect the effort the club makes.”

However, when asked what he would say to his defenders after another poorly conceded goal on Wednesday night, Mourinho’s frustrations with the ability of some members of his backline shone through in what seemed like a message to Levy and the powers that be.

“I think there are things that have to be with the characteristics of players. There are things that are difficult too,” he said.

“There are some things they have to do with organisation of the team, but other things they have to do with individual skills, individual ability, and its as simple as that.”

The problem for Mourinho is that finances for transfers have not improved. Clubs still have no idea when they might get fans back in stadiums, and with them the accompanying gate receipts, food and drink and merchandise sales. Tottenham are losing millions as their state-of-the-art home remains empty.

They are not alone in a transfer window that is expected to be a quiet one for most of the Premier League clubs, particularly for many of those in the top half of the table.

Spurs are furthered hampered by their problems with foreign players and their squad size.

Their Europa League squad is bloated, with Paulo Gazzaniga, Gedson Fernandes and Joe Rodon outside of the 17 non-locally trained players already registered in the 25-man squad.

In the Premier League, Rodon took up the final spot in the 25-man squad when he joined from Swansea. Just to get the Welshman into the Europa League squad for the knockout stages, Mourinho would have to leave out someone else other than than Gedson and Gazzaniga.

Whether they are homegrown or foreign, ultimately a Premier League club can only have 25 players in their squad, although they can have as many U21 players as they like in a separate list. In the Europa League, any young player needs to have been at the club for two years to get on a similar bonus list.

So for Tottenham to bring anyone in, they would need to move someone on.

Gedson has been linked with a return to Benfica, but cutting his loan short changes nothing really for Spurs, with the young Portuguese outside the Europa League squad and on that separate U21 list in the Premier League squad. His exit would not affect the main squad numbers in either competition.

Tottenham need to sell non-vital squad players at a time when nobody is looking to spend decent sums of money.

Selling while values are low is also not the best way to operate from a business point of view and most clubs are only looking at loan deals.

football.london understands that unless something unexpected happens, this window is set to be one of simply moving out players on loan, such as Jack Clarke’s imminent move to Stoke City.

Links with Real Madrid defender Eder Militao, who turns 23 this week, are wide of the mark for all of the above reasons, a good player but also not believed to be near the top of Tottenham’s list of targets should money or squad places magically free up.

The situation makes it difficult to move for someone like RB Leipzig’s Marcel Sabitzer.

The versatile 26-year-old Austrian is a player Spurs like but, on top of the other restrictions in their ability to sign players, it makes more financial sense to go for Sabitzer in the summer window when he hits the final years of his contract, similar to how they moved for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg last year.

Mourinho’s only slim hope of bringing in a new face in the next fortnight or so would be if someone came in with an offer for a squad player that was just too tempting to turn down.

In that scenario Spurs would move for a like-for-like replacement, but clubs are not queuing up for the players Mourinho would allow to leave.

For now Mourinho must work with the squad he has, one with plenty of depth after the summer transfer work done, and then look to further refine it in the summer when the income in football may have returned to something nearer its previous norm.

Mourinho praised the squad and the tools he was provided with following the summer business. Now he needs to work out how to get the best out of it and that might just involve trusting more of the players within it.

Fulfilling Fulham

“Hello? Hello? Scotty? That you? Hi. Yes, Gary Hoffman here. Premier League Chairman. Listen, mate, you and the boys up to much Wednesday evening?”

Thankfully we come to this hurriedly rearranged fixture against furloughed Fulham in better mood than when the game first should have taken place, having just seen off Leeds, Brentford and Marine rather than having just taken two points from twelve and witnessing Jose being beastly to Dele after the EFL Cup win over Stoke.

Continue reading “Fulfilling Fulham”

It’ll all End in Tiers.

Exclusive 360˚ view of tomorra’s game.

When were you first made aware about the possibility of playing Spurs on Wednesday night?

The possibility of playing Spurs came at the weekend, Saturday afternoon. Obviously, didn’t think that would be realistic to be fair. Then got told Monday morning at 9.30 that we now fill in for Aston Villa.

As you can imagine from my point of view, I think I realise and we all realise we live in an unpredictable time and you will have to move things that you’re used to. Certainly as a manager, we live in that climate everyday and I probably speak for a lot of managers, it’s not ideal.

I’m normally the last one to moan or whine about anything because I realise that it’s tough out there and it’s the way it is. What has happened to us, to confirm the game, a Premier League game, one of the best leagues in the world. To confirm that at 9.30 on Monday morning is scandalous.

It’s not about the fixture, the fixture, that’s fine, I accept we have to play. It’s the notice. Maybe the people in these places don’t understand how you manage teams or how you manage players. You’re constantly working out well in advance. The decisions I would have made, whether that’s against QPR or players that are just coming back. We’ve had it tough with COVID, we’ve not been out there with numbers publically but we’ve had it tough. Working those players over a weekend thinking you’ve got six or seven days to get them up to speed – that’s quickly changed on Monday morning. Madness really.

What do you think of Jose Mourinho’s comments? Do you think this wouldn’t have happened to the big boys?

To answer your question, regarding being told the game is being called off two hours before, it’s really an irrelevance. It’s disappointing you’ve had it called off but to have a game called on with 48 hours notice… I don’t want to get into that regarding Jose but I think he’ll know to well you plan physical elements for the players, what you do in the week or play a game.

Tottenham knew they had this fixture in, Jose team’s selection at the weekend suggested that he’s probably planned for however many games they’ve got, they’ve got a lot of games granted.

Do I see this would happen if it was a top of the title clash with two of the biggest teams and managers who are constantly here speaking? Probably not, and rightly so. For me this is not acceptable, the integrity of the game, teh welfare of players. We’re putting them into a position after two days of training.

You haven’t got to work it out – we had a game called off with Spurs 13 days agao and the reason that was called off is we had numerous outbreaks of COVID. In 13 days, we now sit here and with two days notice you have to put some of these players in the position to play the game.

Did you have a say in the matter?

I had a say over the weekend. I was initially told this was a thought process, this was something in the pipeline of what may happen and from Saturday to Sunday, people in this football club spent numerous hours trying to explain surely this can’t be feasible. It gives us hardly any time in terms of what we’ve done.

My frustration is I can’t turn back the last five days, I can’t turn back the weekend and then officially told by my CEO at 9.30 on Monday morning that the game was official.

The next stumbling block was that maybe we would have to play on the Friday against Chelsea, at which point I thought there was a chance they would do that as well. That game has now been moved.

Some people feeling the after-effects of the virus or fully recovered?

None of my players are feeling the after-effects but we all know the protocols. 13 days ago the game was called off, the protocols are 10 days. Three days and there are players that are coming back who have been stuck in their houses for the last 10 days and done no work and now we sit here.

A week, say this game doesn’t exisit on Wednesday, even a week is some ask really. To think we chuck a game in the middle of the week when it wasn;t there initially is another story.

My players are fine and will be fine. I sit here angry because I don’t think it’s right and that’s the reason. Do I believe we’ll go tomorrow as best prepared as we can? Yeah I believe we’ll give Spurs a game. I’m disappointed and angry because I think this is wrong, I don’t think it’s right for numerous reason.

Jose Mourinho has just discovered the player who will be integral to his future Tottenham plans

By Rob Guest, Football.London

Alfie Devine found himself in the history books on Sunday evening after becoming Tottenham’s youngest ever goalscorer with a goal in the 5-0 FA Cup third round victory over Marine.

Add the likes of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele to the mix and you can see exactly why fans believe the future is looking very bright for the club.

Mourinho also has a number of talented youngsters such as Japhet Tanganga, Dennis Cirkin, Harvey White and Dane Scarlett who can play a big role for the club over the coming years.

However, it could be Alfie Devine of the academy players who potentially has the biggest part to play.

Signed from Wigan Athletic last summer, Spurs and Mourinho have incredibly high hopes for the player.

Joining up with the club’s U18s following his move to the capital, Devine clearly made an instant impression in his first few weeks at Hotspur Way as Mourinho decided to include him in his plans and give him pitch time in the pre-season friendly against Ipswich Town.

As the rest of the first team prepared for the new season following their friendly games, the Warrington-born player returned to Matty Taylor’s U18s but he was soon on the move again.

Alfie Devine has the potential to be a big player for Jose Mourinho at Tottenham (Image: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

Starting in their first six games of the campaign, Devine had wowed many in his first few appearances and subsequently found himself promoted to the development squad.

Netting on his first start in the 2-1 defeat at home to Derby County, the midfielder was not there just to make the numbers up as he was named in the starting XI from the off in his first four games for the team.

His last one, a 3-2 defeat against Chelsea, saw him hit the headlines as his tackle on Premier League winner Danny Drinkwater sparked a melee between the players.

A few days later and it soon became clear to many how highly Spurs regard the player as he trained alongside the rest of the first team at the club’s Enfield base.

Three weeks on from his session alongside the likes of Gareth Bale and Co and Devine has now etched his name into the Tottenham history books.

Named as part of the 20-man squad for Sunday’s FA Cup tie away at eighth-tier side Marine, the ex-Wigan starlet became the club’s youngest ever player in a competitive game when he replaced Moussa Sissoko at the break at the Marine Travel Arena.

One record clearly just wasn’t enough for him, however, as 15 minutes later he became the club’s youngest ever goalscorer with a terrific finish to net Spurs’ fifth of the afternoon and round off the scoring.

Already showing in the U18s and development squad that he knows where the net is after hitting three goals, he beat Bayleigh Passant at his near post with a low drive after collecting the ball in the area.

His face said it all when he netted and his Spurs teammates came over to celebrate with him.

Not looking out of place one bit in his 45 minutes on the pitch as he kept the ball well and looked to push on, he almost finished with an assist to his name but Carlos Vinicius shot wide after Devine had picked him out in the box in stoppage time.

Asked about the summer signing after the FA Cup win, Mourinho waxed lyrical about Devine and opened up on his potential in the game.

“He’s a kid with good potential that came to the club only this summer,” explained the 57-year-old. “He was lucky enough to have pre-season with us because we were short of players, so he had pre-season with us and played a few friendlies.

“Which of course gave him close contact with the first team. He’s not a stranger, and then working in the academy, playing in different teams in the academy.

“Coming to us sometimes to train so a nice process for him. Also some experience in the youth teams and in the national team so step by step he’s going.

“He’s a kid that basically is a midfield player but with an instinct to appear in finishing zones and to score goals. We like him and of course for him today is a special day.”

Signed to play for the U18s and seventh months later he’s scoring for the first team, Devine quite clearly is an extremely talented player going on his start to life in N17.

At 16-years-old the player is only just getting started in his career and there is so much more to come from him.

It’s actually scary how good he can become as he already looks so accomplished but he still has so many more levels he can go up and that will happen working under Mourinho and the rest of the club’s talented coaching staff.

Add to that learning his craft off midfielders such as Hojbjerg, Ndombele and Sissoko, as well as training regularly with Kane and Co, and the sky is the limit for him if he continues to progress at the rate he currently is.

The talented player still has such a long way to go in his quest to become a Tottenham regular but fans got a tantalising glimpse of what the future could hold with Devine in the middle of the park on Sunday evening.

Mourinho is building a very good team at Tottenham and Devine quite clearly has a part to play at some point in the future going on the huge impression he’s made at all levels of the club in his first seven months.

FA Cup third round: Inside non-league Marine before their tie with Tottenham

Venue: Marine Travel Arena Date: Sunday, 10 January Kick-off: 17:00 GMT Coverage: Live on BBC One – build-up starts 16:30. Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live plus text commentary on the BBC Sport website

At non-league Marine they are not just rolling out the red carpet for Tottenham’s FA Cup visit, they’re also bringing in the carpet cleaners.

Paul Leary, chairman of the club that plays in the eighth tier of English football, is determined the boardroom floor at the Marine Travel Arena is spotless for Sunday’s third-round tie with the eight-time winners.

While Spurs, fourth in the Premier League, can call on the services of World Cup winner Hugo Lloris and England captain Harry Kane if needed, Northern Premier League Division One North West Marine will feature NHS workers, teachers and a refuse collector.

It is the biggest gulf at this stage of the famous competition’s history.

“It’s like a dream. We were two minutes from going out to Barnoldswick Town in the preliminary round,” says life-long Marine fan Barry Lenton.

“Four months on and we’re getting ready to welcome Tottenham. It’s surreal.”

Although there is an overwhelming sense of sadness that the biggest occasion in Marine’s 127-year history will take place without fans, excitement is building in the town of Crosby, seven miles north of Liverpool city centre, where the Mariners are located.

So what can Jose Mourinho and his players expect when they arrive at the intimate 3,185-capacity Marine Travel Arena, a world away from English football’s top flight?

From wedding party to dressing room

Spurs players are used to stylish down-lighting, leather seats and personalised locker areas to hang their kit in at their £1bn Tottenham Hotspur Stadium home.

This weekend they will get changed in a room which has a bar and, in normal times, is hired out for wedding receptions and birthday parties.

Mourinho will deliver his team talk in the Arriva Suite instead of the away dressing room due to social distancing rules and the size of Tottenham’s travelling contingent.

The function room, which seats up to 150, was closed for most of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Including disco and security, it costs £220 for an all-day wedding in the room.

It has been transformed into a dressing room for the visitors, who could include England midfielder Dele Alli and club-record £55m signing Tanguy Ndombele.

“Marine is a volunteer-run community club full of character and history,” says Leary, a qualified accountant who describes his role at the club as a “labour of love”.

“We will make sure everything is right and proper for Tottenham.”

‘Five-star’ lunch boxes

Marine were managed by Roly Howard between 1972-2005 – recorded in the Guinness World Records book as the longest reign in football – and the history of the club, founded in 1894, is proudly on display in the boardroom at the back of the main stand.

Before the pandemic, visiting directors could help themselves to a buffet in the boardroom. “You’re not allowed to do that these days,” adds Leary.

Instead, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and his travelling party will be presented with “five-star” lunch boxes individually prepared and packed.

“We’ll get the carpet cleaned as well,” says Leary pointing to the grey flooring in the boardroom.

“To be able to say to Tottenham ‘welcome to the Marine Travel Arena’ will be very special not only for myself, but for our committee and many volunteers who work tremendously hard.

“There will never be another moment like it.”

‘Fancy a glass of red, Jose?’

The compact Marine Travel Arena is located about one mile from the beach, home to Sir Antony Gormley’s iron men statues, on College Road and is surrounded by shops, cafes and businesses, many of whom advertise in the club programme.

Marine are at the heart of the community, organising and delivering food boxes to vulnerable people.

Inside the tidy three-sided ground is a main stand with 389 seats.

Both dugouts are down a narrow stretch of pitch directly behind houses on Rossett Road, with fencing numbered along the side so ball boys and girls know which door to knock on if the ball lands in a garden.

For the last round against Havant & Waterlooville, which was also played behind closed doors, several home owners were seen climbing trees and peering over walls and fences to watch.

“They are only a couple of metres away, close enough to hand Jose a glass of red wine,” laughs Leary.

Lenton, who has watched more than 2,000 Marine matches since 1964 and put together the club’s 125th anniversary book, adds: “It’ll be very different to what Tottenham are used to but I think they will be impressed by the facilities.

“We are well-known in non-league circles and well loved. People like Marine because it is a friendly club.”

‘It’s not far from me’

Tottenham fans have set up several GoFundMe pages to help raise money for Marine, who have launched a £10 virtual match ticket with a raffle to recoup some of the potential £100,000 they stand to lose from having no fans present and lost sponsorship.

By Wednesday they had sold more than 5,400 virtual tickets, while a US-based Spurs fans blog has raised enough money to sponsor the shorts for the tie.

Hundreds of souvenir half-and-half scarves, designed by Crosby-born fashion entrepreneur George Davies, have been sold online. Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher, who lives in the town, is sponsoring the dugouts and pre-match warm-up tops through his JC23 Foundation.

Despite the absence of supporters, Leary hopes global interest in the tie will attract new followers to the club, whose average league attendance in 2019-20 was 446.

Since drawing Spurs, Marine have fielded media enquiries from Russia, Australia and Thailand, while Everton boss and Crosby resident Carlo Ancelotti has sent his local team a good luck message – as well as an invitation to Mourinho.

“I have to invite Mourinho for a drink after the game if it will be possible – it is not far from me,” said the former AC Milan, Real Madrid, Paris St-Germain and Bayern Munich boss.

“I have to talk to him about the beach and the nice area that Crosby is.”

By Neil Johnston

BBC Sport

Tottenham v Brentford EFL Cup

Jose Mourinho says Tuesday’s Carabao Cup semi-final against Brentford is the biggest game he has faced since taking charge of Tottenham.

Mourinho, appointed in November 2019, is hoping to lead Spurs to their first major trophy since 2008.

“After more than one decade, every competition becomes more important – and if we win two matches, we win a trophy,” Mourinho said.

The Portuguese manager has previously won the competition four times.

It provided him with his first trophy in English football at Chelsea in 2005 and he won it twice more with them before a further success as Manchester United manager in 2017.

Asked if this was the most important game of his tenure so far, Mourinho said: “In the perspective of the club chasing silverware for many years, I would say so.

“Of course, we always have important matches – last season we had a match at Crystal Palace that would give us participation in this season’s Europa League or not.

“The match against Leeds [last Saturday] was very important as we went a few games without a victory in the Premier League. But I would say a semi-final is always a very important match. The only one more important is a final.”

Mourinho is bidding to become the third manager to reach an EFL Cup final with three different clubs.

And should Spurs overcome the Bees, they will face either Manchester City or his former employers United next.

“Two difficult matches, of course, but if we win we get a trophy, which I think would be a very good thing for the club and for the players,” the 57-year-old added.

“It is about my club, it is about the players who want trophies, it is about fans who want trophies and this one is the one where we just need two victories.

“Of course, [we face] difficult opponents but we need two victories and need to look at this semi-final with this ambition, respecting a very, very good team who kicked a few very good Premier League teams out of the competition.”

Championship side Brentford have beaten four Premier League clubs to reach their first ever domestic semi-final.

And while Danish boss Thomas Frank respects his opposite number, he does not appear to be overawed by the challenge posed.

“I have studied football for many years and Jose is one of the greatest of all time so it’s a privilege to play against his team,” he said.

“I admire him a lot for having that fantastic career. But when the whistle blows it’s just another bloke standing in the dug-out. I’m still pretty sure he also goes to the toilet sometimes!”

Meanwhile, Frank has called for consistent Covid-19 guidelines across the professional game in England to help resolve the scheduling problems associated with postponed matches.

“I think it’s very important that we have guidelines the same across all the games,” he said. “We are going to play so many games already, when will they find the time for the remaining games?

“If you don’t have consistency, it will add up either extending the season again, then we are into the Euros. A strict guideline would really be helpful.”

TEAM NEWS

Tottenham will be without right-back Matt Doherty, who is suspended after being sent off against Leeds, while fellow defender Joe Rodon is cup-tied.

Giovani lo Celso (hamstring) and Gareth Bale (calf) will also be absent along with winger Erik Lamela who broke coronavirus rules with two team-mates over the Christmas period.

Brentford are likely to be without midfielders Shandon Baptiste (knee) and Christian Norgaard (ankle).

However, the Bees have no other injury concerns and all of their players have tested negative for coronavirus.

MATCH FACTS

Head-to-head

  • This is the fourth time Spurs and Brentford will meet in the League Cup, with all previous three meetings coming across two legs in the second round in 1992-93, 1998-99 and 2000-01, with Spurs going through each time.
  • In all competitions, Brentford have never won an away match against Spurs in seven attempts (D2 L5). Their last win over Spurs was in March 1948 in a league match at Griffin Park.

Tottenham

  • Spurs are participating in their 16th League Cup semi-final, progressing from eight of their previous 15 attempts, most recently in 2014/15. They have always progressed when facing a non-top-flight side (1970-71 vs Bristol City, 2008-09 vs Burnley, 2014-15 vs Sheffield United).
  • Spurs boss Jose Mourinho has won 15 of his 17 home League/FA Cup matches as manager against non-Premier League sides (D1 L1). His only failures were against Bradford City in January 2015 with Chelsea in the FA Cup and against Derby County while with Manchester United in September 2018 in the League Cup.
  • Jose Mourinho is looking to become the third manager to reach the League Cup final with three different clubs, after Ron Atkinson (Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday and Aston Villa) and Ron Saunders (Norwich, Manchester City and Aston Villa).

Brentford

  • Brentford are featuring in their first ever League Cup semi-final, becoming the 59th team to reach this stage. The last time a team reached this stage for the first time and progressed to the final was in 2012-13 (Bradford City and Swansea City).
  • Brentford are looking to register three consecutive wins in the League Cup for the first time in their history.
  • Brentford have already eliminated four Premier League teams in this season’s League Cup, only the second non-Premier League side to do so in a season, after Bristol City in 2017-18 who were eventually beaten in the semi-final by Manchester City

BBC Sport

More Dare or More Do, Please

Just a short(ish) one today as there are rumours the game against Fulham this afternoon is going to be postponed due to COVID-19, joining Manchester City’s game against Everton in falling by the wayside. There’s also talk of the Premier League being suspended for a couple of weeks as cases spike across the UK. Time will tell, and I’m sure everyone will do what is best for the integrity of the competition and the players’ safety without clubs’ own best interests or money featuring in decision making at all.

Continue reading “More Dare or More Do, Please”

Spurs: The Pretenders’ Pretender?

As with most Christmases for many people, it’s been a massive disappointment following Spurs these past few games: Since deservedly holding us to a low-scoring draw, Palace have failed to score and shipped ten goals in two games – two of which were conceded while playing against ten men for 45 minutes – Liverpool have enjoyed their usual slice of last minute good fortune to send us packing with nothing and then had a right old romp against the team we’d failed to beat the previous weekend, and we then slipped on the clown-shoes for Leicester’s visit last Sunday, a game which made me wonder if anything Spurs-wise has actually changed across these last twelve tumultuous months.

Continue reading “Spurs: The Pretenders’ Pretender?”

Stoke v Tottenham EFL Cup

Jose Mourinho says he will field a mixed side for Tottenham’s Carabao Cup quarter-final against Stoke City.

Spurs are two wins away from reaching the final as they chase a first major trophy since 2008.

Mourinho intends to send out a side containing Premier League regulars and players who have featured in the Europa League.

“I think a mixture,” he said when asked what sort of team he would be fielding against Championship side Stoke.

Mourinho, whose side have qualified for the last 32 of the Europa League, added: “I think we need some players who need to play and deserve to play.

“From the ones that are playing more times, others where we don’t have great options to make changes and have to keep them, but I will try to give a little bit of a rest to two or three.”

Argentine midfielder Giovani Lo Celso is a doubt after suffering a hamstring injury in the 2-0 defeat to Leicester at the weekend, with fellow countryman Erik Lamela (Achilles) and defender Japhet Tanganga (shoulder) out.

With the semi-finals one-legged games, Spurs are three victories from winning the competition for the first time since 2008, when they beat Chelsea 2-1 after extra time.

But Mourinho, whose side are on a three-match run without a win, is not taking anything for granted.

“The difference between Championship and Premier League is minimal,” added the Portuguese.

“The teams are very good, they have very good players and have very good coaches.

“So even the fact we play Stoke, or Newcastle play Brentford, does not give us easier matches than the others.

“It is a difficult competition to win. We need to win three matches.”

BBC Sport

He’s no Pusk’over no more!

(Here’s a nice little 30 second read, and now you don’t have to see Wednesdays scoreline in the title anymore! What’s not to like?)

Tottenham midfielder Son Heung-min won the Puskas Award for best goal of the year on Thursday at the Best Fifa Football Awards, for his stunning solo effort against Burnley in December 2019.

The South Korea international received the ball on the edge of his own box before running through almost the entire Burnley team and finishing past goalkeeper Nick Pope.

The goal came during a 5-0 Premier League victory at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

Son beat out goals from Luiz Suarez – during his time with Barcelona – and Flamengo’s Giorgian De Arrascaeta to win the prize.

The award, first established in 2009, is named after former Real Madrid striker Ferenc Puskas.

Son followed in the footsteps of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mohamed Salah in claiming the award.

Son beat out goals from Luiz Suarez – during his time with Barcelona – and Flamengo’s Giorgian De Arrascaeta to win the prize.

The award, first established in 2009, is named after former Real Madrid striker Ferenc Puskas.

Son followed in the footsteps of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mohamed Salah in claiming the award.

Liverpool 2-1 Spurs: Mourinho back to his feisty best, Klopp just keeps winning

The last time Jose Mourinho managed a team at Anfield, he beat a hasty retreat after Manchester United were outclassed by Liverpool before receiving the long brown envelope of dismissal from Old Trafford executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward.

Here, a bristling and defiant Mourinho exchanged words with Reds manager Jurgen Klopp after another defeat, Roberto Firmino’s last-gasp header giving the champions a 2-1 win that enabled them to leapfrog Spurs at the top of the table.

Mourinho was apparently telling Klopp that the better team lost – or at least that is what Liverpool’s manager thought, a claim that would have been a long stretch – but this was a different, defiant manager in a different place to the one he occupied after United were swept aside in December 2018.

It was a vignette that showed Mourinho has that spiky feeling again, even in defeat, the dog days of misery at United behind him. This was only Spurs’ second league defeat of the season, the first since the opening weekend home loss to Everton – a sign of their rapid and impressive progress under a revitalised manager.

The problem Mourinho has is that Liverpool are still in the same place they occupied that dismal day (for him at least) in December 2018, when the win lifted them over Manchester City into top spot.

And, despite being stripped of Virgil van Dijk, Joe Gomez, Thiago Alcantara and Diogo Jota, Liverpool just roll along. They displayed everything here that makes them the obstacle Mourinho and any other pretenders must navigate around if they are to win the title.

Klopp’s side simply refuse to lose Premier League games at Anfield. It is now 66 games since they last tasted defeat and the problem for opponents, even those as efficient as Spurs, is that they refuse to draw either.

Liverpool’s delight at this win was illustrated by the reaction of Klopp at the final whistle. He had spent much of the night raging at officials, who turned a blind eye to his theatrics, before exploding in joy after the final whistle, chest-bumping with his staff before fist-pumping in front of the Kop.

He has built Liverpool into a winning machine and no amount of absentees appear to change that habit.

This was the meeting between the two top sides in the country, based on current league placings – and it showed in an intriguing game of quality and tactical discipline.

Liverpool threatened to sweep Spurs away in the first 30 minutes, their only fault being an unerring tendency to shoot straight at Spurs keeper Hugo Lloris.

Mohamed Salah’s fortunate goal was deserved but Spurs’ status as “a counter-attacking monster”, as Klopp described them, was demonstrated when Son Heung-min caught the hosts cold with a swift equaliser.

And then the game was really on.

There will be the usual jibes about parking the bus, but what was Mourinho supposed to do? Throw everything at Liverpool in a manner that would ensure defeat? It is a fine tactical balance that invites criticism when it ends in defeat but would be labelled a masterclass in victory.

If Spurs had taken the better chances they created in the second half, with Steven Bergwijn missing the target and hitting a post when clean through and Harry Kane somehow heading down and over the bar from eight yards, then this could have been classic Mourinho.

It was not – and if Spurs had won it would have been harsh on Liverpool, who made the running and spent long spells camped in their opponents half – but Mourinho’s team is a growing force and the return of the feisty one suggests he knows that, even while suffering the pain of this late loss.

Spurs defend with steel and block crosses with relish, then have the blistering counter-attacking threat of Son and Kane, who also had Alisson scrambling to save after the keeper’s misplaced clearance.

And yet Mourinho will know that against this current Liverpool side, especially at Anfield, the chances they missed simply must be taken because there is the very high risk you will pay the heaviest price. So it proved.

It was high-quality stuff that was only ever going to be decided by the finest margin. The difference in the end was Firmino’s towering header at the start of four minutes of stoppage time, the Brazilian running almost the length of Anfield to celebrate with supporters gathered on the Kop, who had earlier paid a moving tribute to former manager Gerard Houllier, who died earlier this week aged 73.

Klopp will take even more confidence – not that he appears to require it – from this win. There is a remarkable winning mentality in this Liverpool side to complement world-class talent.

Spurs, meanwhile, are growing under a manager who has never been to everyone’s taste but is the master of efficiency and tactical wisdom – priceless qualities when he also has the likes of Son and Kane at his disposal.

BBC Sport

Phil McNulty

Chief football writer

Time To…

Whether you’re adamant the result against Palace is two crucial points dropped or one crucial point gained, at least Liverpool’s stutter against Fulham means the nightmare scenario of last season’s runaway champions opening up a five point gap at the top of the table with a win tonight having already been to Stamford Bridge, Goodison Park and The Etihad has been avoided/postponed.

Continue reading “Time To…”

Au Palias

That dreaded word ‘pivotal’ just won’t leave us alone at the moment, with the potential importance of well won points against Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal under threat from what, on paper, looked as if it would be our easiest Premier League fixture this side of Christmas way back in early November, when we first topped the table after beating West Brom.

Continue reading “Au Palias”

Tottenham v Royal Antwerp

Manchester United will be “one of the top favourites” for the Europa League, says Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho.

United won the Europa League in 2017 under Mourinho, who has guided Spurs to this season’s last 32.

“The teams that drop down are always strong teams, teams that normally don’t belong to that level,” he said.

“Manchester United are one of the top teams. The group was very hard – Paris St-Germain, Manchester and Leipzig, very hard.

“We all knew it was not going to be easy for any one of them and we all knew from that group a top team would drop into the Europa League.

The Portuguese took charge of Manchester United in 2016 and, as well as success in Europe, he also guided the Old Trafford club to victory in the Carabao Cup the same year.

But he was sacked in December 2018 after a string of poor results, before taking over at Tottenham the following November.

Mourinho has taken the north London side to the top of the Premier League and victory in Thursday’s final Europa League group match at home to Royal Antwerp will guarantee first place.

“When you have eight new teams in the competition, and eight teams that belong to another level and they drop to the Europa League, of course the level of the competition is going to improve,” added Mourinho.

“The quality improves, the intensity improves and it’s a good thing for the competition.

“But from the sports point of view, I think it’s not fair that a team that doesn’t succeed in one competition drops to another.”

Team news

Spurs will be without full-back Serge Aurier who suffered a knock in Sunday’s 2-0 Premier League victory over north London rivals Arsenal.

Midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will be rested, but Frenchman Tanguy Ndombele is fit enough to return.

Match stats

  • Tottenham lost 1-0 to Royal Antwerp on matchday two of this season’s Europa League in their first encounter with the Belgians.
  • Royal Antwerp’s last away European match in England was back in September 1994, a 5-2 defeat at Newcastle United in the Uefa Cup.
  • Including qualifiers, none of Spurs’ past 17 home European matches have ended as a draw and they have won 12 of them, including the past three.
  • Including qualifiers, Mourinho has won 14 of his past 16 home matches in the competition.

BBC Sport

It’s No Loss or Draw Day

Thursday’s Tottenham & Arteta’s Arse

I’ll keep this one brief, as no one ever seems to have the stomach for being on the bloeug all that much pre an NLD, let alone reading my ramblings about what might or might not happen, but we’ve not got too bad a record at home against Arsenal in the ENIC era, having faced them 23 times and only lost five.

Across the more recent past, it’s been six years and one Tim Sherwood since our wandering enemies from Woolwich last won three points in any part of North London we’ve called home.

Continue reading “It’s No Loss or Draw Day”

LASK v Tottenham

Harry Kane will miss the Europa League trip to LASK because of injury but the Tottenham striker is tipped to be fit for Sunday’s derby against Arsenal.

Forward Carlos Vinicius, midfielder Erik Lamela and left-back Sergio Regulion are also doubts for Thursday’s match in Austria (17:55 GMT kick-off).

Kane, 27, has seven goals and nine assists in 10 Premier League games.

“I’m not going to tell you the nature of his injury,” said Spurs manager Jose Mourinho.

“He has a good chance [against Arsenal]. I don’t want to lie, I don’t want to hide anything in relation to is he going to play or not. I think he’s going to play. My feeling is that he’s going to play.”

The Premier League leaders are tied on nine points at the top of Group J but second to Antwerp because of an inferior head-to-head record. They can seal qualification with a draw at LASK.

Mourinho said he would not field a weakened side – despite hosting Arsenal in the first north London derby of the season at the weekend.

“The priority is always to try to win the next match,” he said. “The next match is a Europa League match. If at the end of the match we have a draw that’s fine and we’ve qualified before the last match – but we’re not going to play for that.

“Arsenal doesn’t come into our thinking. When you make changes, you make changes based on problems we had. When we do that, we put trust on the players we have. We don’t weaken the team because the Premier League match is next.”

BBC Sport