Gareth Bale to Tottenham – The full picture

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Gareth Bale is on the verge of making a shock return to Tottenham Hotspur.

Almost seven-years on from his record breaking departure, a route back to London seems like the Welsh wonder’s best escape from limbo at Real Madrid.

Despite his obvious talents, Bale & Real have become a poor fit as they years have gone by, and now he’s set for the exit door, with Spurs waiting to pounce

Bale to Spurs – What we know


 It is time for Tottenham Hotspur fans to get excited.

Gareth Bale is coming home. And not only that, but he will be joined by Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon too.

Talks over a double deal have ramped up in the last couple of days and the transfer negotiations have reached such a stage that Spurs are preparing to announce both deals before the end of this week.

football.london understands that the club hope to announce the transfers on Friday, ahead of this weekend’s Premier League game against Southampton.

Bale has been linked with a return to Tottenham almost every transfer window since leaving N17 to become the then most expensive player in the world in 2013.

Reguilon has also had suitors from other Premier League clubs, namely Chelsea and Manchester United, but it is Spurs who have won the race for his signature.

The 23-year-old will move to north London on a permanent deal, thought to be in the region of £27million, although Real Madrid have insisted on having a buy-back option in the deal.

Reports have suggested that buyback clause is for around £10million more than the initial fee, so £37million and it has been reported that it will remain in place for two years.

Having buyback clauses in deals is not something Daniel Levy or the club like doing, but they were so intent on securing the services of one of Europe’s most promising full-backs that they accepted Real Madrid’s terms.

Bale, on the other hand, is a loan deal and there have been plenty of negotiations between the two clubs and Bale’s agent Jonathan Barnett over the terms of that loan.

His salary at the Bernabeu has always been the sticking point when it came to hopes of Bale returning to Tottenham, but the clubs have no come to an agreement whereby Los Blancos subsidise some of his wages during his loan spell.

That split is understood to be 60-40 in favour of Madrid, with Spurs paying around 40% of his wages while on loan.

Tottenham are preparing to unveil both players on Friday, with the duo having completed MRI scans and the majority of their medicals in Spain.

Bale was at Real Madrid’s training ground on Thursday as the deal between the two clubs reaches its conclusion.

That is not likely to be the end of Tottenham’s transfer window business, with Jose Mourinho still focused on adding another striker to his ranks, while a new centre-back also remains a priority.

Dier: Bale move ‘exciting’


 Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier says the signing Gareth Bale is “exciting” for supporters, but admits Spurs’ players have not discussed the move.

Speaking ahead of Spurs’ Europa League qualifier against Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Dier was asked about the Bale news from the dressing room’s perspective.

“No, nothing on the WhatsApp group,” Dier told reporters, when asked how Tottenham’s players reacted to the reports. “Obviously there’s a lot of speculation and it’s not for me to speculate on.

“I’m sure from the fans’ point of view it’s very exciting to be linked with a player of that level. It doesn’t affect me personally. It’s not the first time there’s been a player linked with going here or there.”

When does Bale need to be registered by?

The pair of arrivals are set to be announced on Friday, football.london understands, with the aim of getting both Bale & Reguilon through the door in time for Sunday’s game at Southampton.

Spurs travel to the south coast for their second game of the Premier League season.

Mourinho’s side began the campaign with a 1-0 defeat at home to Everton so will be looking to bounce back from that disappointing result.

According to Premier League rules, players must be registered by 12pm on the Friday if they want to participate in the matches over the weekend.

It means Spurs are in a race against time to get both Bale and Reguilon signed on the dotted line by midday on Friday, September 18, if they want them to feature against Saints.

How a new-look Spurs could line up

Spurs will confirm both Bale and his Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Reguilon before the end of the transfer window.

Jose Mourinho’s double swoop will bring back Bale, and add Reguilon to the side for the 20/21 season.

Manchester United were also potentially tracking Reguilon, but Spurs leapt ahead of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side in the race to sign the Spanish international.

The return of Bale would be a major boost for Spurs ahead of the 2020/21 season getting into full flight, and the arrival of Reguilon could signal a change in approach from Mourinho as part of a full-back partnership with summer signing Matt Doherty.

Spurs could be set for a new look, and at football.london we’ve got you covered. CLICK HERE to see how we think Spurs 2020 will shape-up as the deadline approaches.

A Bale return makes sense!

Barely a transfer window has passed since Gareth Bale left Tottenham in 2013 that the Welshman has not been linked with a return to N17 – but a 2020 return makes a lot of sense, writes Graham Ruthven.

The Welshman was Spurs’ best player in a generation and one of the best to have ever played in the Premier League.

But is there a chance he could return this summer? Football.london understands that Spurs are set to secure a return.

The 31-year-old is a peripheral figure at Real Madrid, with Zinedine Zidane making clear the Welshman has no real future in the Spanish capital.

Until recently, though, it appeared that Bale would simply sit out his lucrative €15 million-a-year contract on the bench. The winger is said to enjoy the lifestyle in Spain and was in no rush to make a move elsewhere. The situation, however, has changed with the news Real Madrid would be willing to pay 50% of Bale’s wages just to get him out the door (as per the Telegraph).

This makes the 31-year-old a much more realistic target for Spurs, who without this subsidy wouldn’t have been able to pay Bale’s £600,000 weekly wage. They might still struggle to pay half that, but at least a loan move, as is most likely, is now within the realms of possibility. A return could be on the cards.

Bale’s return would undeniably come attached with a certain sentimental element. As already referenced, the Welshman was Tottenham’s best player in a generation. It hurt to watch someone of his quality leave so early in his career and so his return would be a public relations victory for Daniel Levy and the club hierarchy.

His signing would also serve a tactical purpose for Jose Mourinho too. While Lucas Moura has been favoured on the right side of the Spurs attack since the arrival of the Portuguese coach last season, it is widely seen as the team’s weakest position. While Tottenham have a number of options on the left side, their depth on the right is lacking.

Moura’s efforts in Amsterdam made him a Tottenham legend, but it’s reasonable to question whether the Brazilian is producing enough on a regular basis. Last season saw him score four times and assist a further four in 35 Premier League appearances. Compare that to some of his peers in the same division (Mohamed Salah, Raheem Sterling, Mason Greenwood) and Moura’s output is lacking.

As a physical force, Bale has faded in recent seasons, with injuries a persistent issue. But if Spurs could get the Welshman fit and firing, he would be a clear upgrade on Moura on the right side of Mourinho’s attack. This is a player who, despite everything, has still managed to score 80 times in 171 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid.

Bale is a different sort of player now to the one that left Spurs in 2013. Back then he was a mercurial winger capable of scoring stunning long-range strikes. Those long-range strikes still occur from time to time, but the Welshman isn’t as explosive as he used to be. It’s debatable whether he could even be described as a winger anymore, morphing into more of a wide forward over time.

Nonetheless, the addition of Bale to Mourinho’s squad, even on a short term loan basis, would be a good one. The Welshman would provide goal threat from the edge of the box, not to mention set piece potency and a threat in the air. It just so happens to be a bonus that Tottenham would probably sell an unprecedented number of shirts with his name on the back too.

Gareth Bale: Tottenham in talks to sign Real Madrid winger on loan

By Tom Kershaw, The Sun

Tottenham Hotspur are in talks to sign Real Madrid winger Gareth Bale on loan.

Madrid are desperate to offload Bale’s exorbitant wages and are willing to partially subsidise a deal in order to facilitate the 31-year-old’s return to the Premier League.

Speaking to BBC Sport, Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, said: “Gareth still loves Spurs. We are talking [Spurs, Real and Bale’s camp]. It’s where he wants to be.”

Bale joined Madrid from Spurs in 2013 for a then-world record £85m fee and has since gone on to win four Champions League titles. However, his relationship with manager Zinedine Zidane is all but broken and the Welsh international barely featured following the lockdown.

While on international duty with Wales at the start of the month, Bale admitted that he was open to returning to England but that Madrid were making any move “difficult”.

“I tried to leave last year but they [Real Madrid] blocked everything at the last second,” Bale told Sky Sports.

“It was a project I was excited for last year but it didn’t materialise. And there have been other instances but the club won’t allow it or something, so it’s up to the club.

“I want to play football. I’m still motivated to play football. I’m 31 but I’m in great shape still and I feel I’ve got a lot to give.

“We’ll see what happens. It’s in the club’s hands and they make things very difficult to be honest.”

Spurs are also in talks to sign Madrid full-back Sergio Reguilon, who had attracted interest from Manchester United, too.

Reguilon, who won the Europa League while on loan at Sevilla last season, is also out of favour under Zidane, although Madrid are thought to want to include a buy-back clause in a deal worth around £25m.

PREMIER LEAGUE PLAYER WATCH: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Profile
With two and a half years spent as a youngster at Bayern Munich, where in the final 18 months he learned from Pep Guardiola, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg enjoyed a footballing education that is comparable with the best. Guardiola took a shine to the teenage Hojbjerg and wondered if the Dane could become Bayern’s answer to Sergio Busquets – who Guardiola coached at Barcelona – in defensive midfield.

Tactical Analysis


Hojbjerg has proved versatile throughout his career, playing in a variety of midfield positions for Bayern and even filling in at both right-back and left-back on two occasions for Southampton in 2019/20. However, his best position – and where he has naturally settled – has always been in defensive midfield.

He has not developed, as Guardiola had once hoped, into a player of Busquets’ ability. Far from it, in fact – the Spaniard controls entire games by winning the ball and playing passes that dictate the pace of the match. Fizzed, direct balls to attackers that instantly increase the tempo of play; or a turn away from trouble and a pass to a teammate in space that can slow proceedings to a near-halt when looking to see out a win.

Hojbjerg has not been able to do that at Southampton, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t an effective defensive midfielder. He consistently breaks up play, with both good positioning and active attempts to win the ball. His reading of the game is his biggest strength, and he could still become a player capable of dominating games – something that would be far more achievable at a team that controls possession more than Hassenhüttl’s Southampton.

The Dane does his best work sitting in front of defence, protecting the centre-backs and waiting for his chance to eliminate danger. Guardiola was particularly impressed with the young Hojbjerg’s anticipation and his natural ability to foresee opportunities to win the ball, and that is a significant part of what makes him so useful at Southampton. Only three midfielders, Wilfred Ndidi, Oliver Norwood and teammate James Ward-Prowse, made more regains in the 2019/20 Premier League than Hojbjerg, who also started just 30 of Southampton’s 38 matches.

He makes intelligent decisions when anticipating the opposition’s threat, both when judging when to leave the midfield line to press (above) and when to hold his position to protect the middle of the pitch. He also does a similarly effective job during defensive transitions, in deciding when to counter-press and when to drop back into position. He prefers defending on the front foot in those scenarios to try and stop a counter-attack early on, and he is largely successful, though he has also occasionally left his team a little too open after pressing too enthusiastically.

Role at Southampton


Hojbjerg is capable of playing in a midfield two, having spent much of 2019/20 alongside Ward-Prowse in Southampton’s 4-4-2 formation. He is very disciplined with his positioning, and sits deep to free up his central midfield partner and their wide players to roam forward. He marshals Southampton’s midfield, keeping them compact and narrow when out of possession (below) before playing passes that allow that midfield to expand once the ball has been won.

There are also numerous occasions when Southampton’s central midfielders swap roles during games, in what is a more traditional way of playing with a 4-4-2 – the two alternate between going forward and sitting deep. Hojbjerg is an intelligent player who can adapt, depending on the opponent and what is asked of him by his manager, and he supports Southampton’s attacks when needed – even if he got forward less in 2019/20 than in previous seasons.

In possession, he shows a good sense of awareness and is regularly seen directing his teammates’ movements – his leadership qualities will have contributed to Hughes’ decision to make him Southampton’s captain. Receiving possession in defensive midfield means he rarely does so free from pressure, but he uses this to his advantage. He looks to receive vertical passes from central defence, to entice an opposition midfielder out of position, before bouncing a pass back into a defender. He then moves beyond his opponent, hoping to receive the next pass goal-side of that opponent and providing a crucial method for Southampton to progress play through central areas.

He has always been a tidy ball-player, but in 2019/20 was challenged by Hassenhüttl to be more adventurous, contributing to his pass completion rate dropping significantly compared to previously at Southampton, and even further from his time at Bayern. When Southampton have the ball they line up in a 2-4-4 structure in which their full-backs and wide midfielders push forwards. Hojbjerg holds his position, picks up possession from defence in front of the opposition’s midfield, and looks to progress play to their front four.

He therefore provides support to attacks and rarely moves ahead of play, offering a pass through which to recycle possession (above). This discipline allows their full-backs to advance and provide width to Southampton’s attacks, means he regularly receives passes while facing forwards, and, like Busquets, can maintain the pace of an attack by moving the ball quickly.

Clearly, comparisons with Busquets are a stretch – Hojbjerg is a good quality central midfielder who has some similar attributes to the Spaniard, but he has neither fulfilled his potential nor come close to achieving what Guardiola had hoped.

What Daniel Levy’s Tottenham restructuring means for transfers and everyday operations

By Alasdair Gold, Football.London

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has continued the club’s summer overhaul behind the scenes with the belief that it will improve how they operate on and off the pitch in the future.

Last month the club announced structural changes to their youth section following the departure of long-time academy head John McDermott.

Academy manager Dean Rastrick has taken charge, flanked by the experienced former Charlton boss Chris Powell and ex-Spurs player Ryan Mason.

Now the club have finalised the transformation of what happens above with the first team and football operations.

Steve Hitchen, who has worked closely with Jose Mourinho since the Portuguese’s arrival in November, takes the step up from chief scout into what is an expanded form of a classic director of football role.

The 43-year-old has essentially been performing in a director of football capacity at Tottenham for some time, but his appointment on Tuesday as Technical Performance Director makes it official in a role with wide-ranging duties.

Hitchen will have increased responsibility across both the first team and academy when it comes to scouting, performance and recruitment.

It continues the journey of Hitchen at Spurs where, after hanging up his boots as a player, he began to work as a European scout, while living in France, before moving with Damien Comolli to Liverpool.

He is credited with scouting both the young Luka Modric and Luis Suarez extensively and encouraging Spurs and Liverpool respectively to sign them.

After taking key recruitment roles at QPR and then Derby, he returned to Spurs in 2017 as chief scout in the wake of head of recruitment Paul Mitchell’s resignation.

Over the coming years Hitchen’s role morphed more and more into a director of football one and he enjoyed a strong relationship with Mauricio Pochettino.

Mourinho has been impressed with the recruitment man and has been working closely with him and Levy in securing his and the club’s targets.

The Portuguese has admitted enjoying working with the former Macclesfield Town defender and praised him and the chairman at the weekend for the bargain £13.4million capture of right-back Matt Doherty from Wolves.

The club also announced a key new arrival on Tuesday in former Swansea City chairman and Chelsea, Leeds and Everton CEO Trevor Birch.

As a former Shrewsbury Town midfielder and chartered accountant, the 62-year-old will bring his unique football know-how and experience to a role that will see him take charge of operations at the club’s Hotspur Way training complex.

In his position as Director of Football Operations, Spurs believe Birch will add extra resources with his knowledge of the industry to the newly-formed Football Board.

Levy will chair the board, which will be made up of Birch, Hitchen and the club’s former Director of Football Operations Rebecca Caplehorn

Nutty Spurs Fantasy Football League

ffl

Dust off your sheepskin coats and get back in the management game
The Nutty Spurs Fantasy Football League is back

Joining the league couldn’t be easier. Simply use the link below and you’ll be added automatically after you’ve entered the game

https://fantasy.premierleague.com/leagues/auto-join/na9hmd
League Code: na9hmd

Only one rule – No gooners in your squad at any time!

The truth behind document that claims Daniel Levy is in talks to sell Tottenham

By Alasdair Gold Football.London

A document claiming to be an indication that Tottenham Hotspur is up for sale has been getting the fans talking, but is there any truth behind it?

The emailed takeover document, which has been circulating around social media and WhatsApp groups, is titled Project London, and labelled as ‘strictly confidential’ and speaks about buying into a Premier League club.

It is presented as a document from Strategic Growth Investments, a real firm that “acts as a constructive intermediary between collaborative capital sources and compelling investment opportunities”.

The detailed sheet of paper claims: “Strategic Growth Investments has the unique opportunity to invest in, or acquire a controlling interest in, a top performing English Premier League club in London.

“SGI is currently in direct discussions with the decision-makers of the team in regards to a private sale of the majority ownership position (75 per cent) at a valuation between £1.25billion ($1.65billion) and £1.5billion ($2billion).

“This is a compelling, rarely available opportunity to invest in a well-managed, profitable team with the ability to generate returns via current income as well as long-term capital appreciation.”

While the club is never named throughout, there are enough obvious clues to suggest which one it is.

This include: “The club has one of today’s most popular English footballers, along with one of the most recognizable (sic) Asian footballers the world has seen to date, creating great brand appeal and further sponsorship opportunities in a large global market.”

The document also explains that “the club’s world class stadium hosts international sports events, including NFL and rugby games in Europe, as well as non-sporting events.”

It adds: “This transaction includes prime real estate, already with approval plans, for luxury real estate, including retail, sports complexes, museums and hotel development of the adjacent lands.”

It also speaks about “a large marketing opportunity for investor, including naming rights to the stadium and other sponsorship”.

The document asks for indications of interesting from potential limited partners by Sunday August 30 with a letter of intent submitted by Monday August 31.

Tottenham are owned by ENIC, who are part of the Bahamas-based private investment organisation Tavistock Group owned by billionaire Joe Lewis.

Chairman Daniel Levy said back in March at a meeting with the Supporters’ Trust that there was “no intention to sell and that no valuation had been made of the equity value” of the club.

DOH!!

Amid reports of interest from Tottenham, Adam Bate analyses Matt Doherty’s unique role as a wing-back and a goal poacher for Wolves. Assessing how he would fit in under Jose Mourinho and why he would be a difficult player to replace at Molineux… 

Last Updated: 27/08/20 10:21am

Wolves' Matt Doherty is a wing-back unlike any other in the Premier League

Matt Doherty plays as a right wing-back for Wolves but he interprets that position in an unusual way.

He does not just hug the touchline and provide width but acts as a genuine penalty box threat. Freeze the frame and he can appear to be Raul Jimenez’s strike partner at times. Doherty is reinventing the role. He is Wolves’ defender-turned-poacher extraordinaire.

This is not news to any fantasy football aficionado. Doherty has scored eight goals for club and country in each of the past two seasons – numbers that owe little to good fortune and lots to the Republic of Ireland international’s ability to raid forward from the right flank.

In fact, four Premier League goals was a slightly underwhelming return last term given his threat. Doherty’s expected goals tally, based on quality of chances, was closer to seven. That was more than every Wolves midfielder combined. He was almost twice as likely to score as Adama Traore – the man ahead of him in the line-up graphic but rarely so on the pitch itself.

Doherty has more touches in the box than any other Premier League defender

The key to Doherty’s success is his willingness to drive into the box like no other so-called defender in the Premier League. He has had over 200 touches in the opposition area over the past two seasons. Among defenders, that puts him out on his own, but it is rarefied air regardless. Doherty has had more touches in the box than Kevin De Bruyne in that time.

For Wolves, in particular, the importance of his appetite to push forwards cannot be overstated given their otherwise rigid structure. Joao Moutinho and Ruben Neves rarely make it that high up the pitch. Traore prefers to stay wide to isolate the full-back. It is essential for Nuno Espirito Santo’s system that Doherty provides that option in the box.

Doherty's run was the catalyst for Daniel Podence's goal against Palace

Consider Daniel Podence’s opening goal against Crystal Palace in Wolves’ final home game of last season. Much of the focus in the immediate aftermath was on Moutinho’s exquisite lofted pass through to Doherty that set up the goal. But the ball could not happen without the run from the 28-year-old Irishman – expertly timed to break the defensive line.

Watch Wolves regularly and it is noticeable how often the ball does not come. Doherty, head bowed, returns to his position with that languid stride of his and prepares to go again. It is a routine more akin to that of a striker trying to beat the offside trap than a wing-back.

He summed up his thought process in a recent interview in which he discussed his 94th-minute winner at Newcastle in 2018. “It was the last minute of the game, give it one more run and see what happens. If it came out and I wasn’t there, I would have regretted it.”

Doherty was Wolves' most advanced player when scoring against Man City

Doherty had his reward again in the closing stages of the dramatic win over Manchester City in December. Again, it was the final moments of the match. Again, it was Doherty with the decisive impact, rushing forward to score. At the moment that he struck the ball left-footed into the net, he was Wolves’ most advanced player – the only one inside the penalty box.

He is not the only wide defender in the Premier League with a pivotal attacking role to play but, as the numbers suggest, his is unique. The principle offensive threat provided by Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson is from their crossing. Doherty makes underlapping runs instead. He is less of a creator, much more of a goal poacher.

Doherty's shot map for Wolves for the 2019/20 Premier League season

Examine his shot locations since Wolves returned to the Premier League and they help to tell the tale. There are some impressive finishes in there but the most obvious point is that there have been plenty of tap-ins too. The opportunities that come to those who find themselves in the right place at the right time.

His equaliser at Tottenham in March was a prime example. Japhet Tanganga’s clearance from Ruben Vinagre’s low left-wing cross was a poor one, but who was there to slot home from six yards out? Doherty had little right to be there. It was a counter-attack. But there he was, nevertheless.

It is natural to wonder how much of that skill is learned and how much of it is down to Doherty’s own instincts. “He never says no to a challenge,” says Nuno. But is this just a man exploiting his licence to attack or is there an innate ability to sense where the ball will drop?

Perhaps the best clue to the answer comes on the other wing for Wolves. Jonny Otto and Ruben Vinagre are players with gifts of their own. The former is a tidy and diligent defender, the latter has the tricks to beat his opponent. Neither has the scoring record of Doherty. Neither has been able to find themselves in the positions that their counterpart takes up.

Doherty's touch map for the 2019/20 Premier League season with Wolves

As Wolves reflect on their first two seasons back in the Premier League, thoughts inevitably turn to how they might be able to improve. Given the top-class players elsewhere in the team, there could be a temptation to think wing-back offers the potential for an upgrade.

But the three years of work that Nuno has done with Doherty – converting him from the left side of defence, remember – should not be underestimated and would certainly not be quick to replicate. How do Wolves even begin to scout for the replacement?

The relationship that Doherty has forged with Traore has been just as important to the team’s success as the more celebrated one between Traore and Jimenez. His understanding with others such as Conor Coady provides the basis for plenty of Wolves’ build-up play.

Wolves' passing networks under Nuno Espirito Santo in the 2019/20 season

The Wolves captain is credited with completing more long-range passes than any other outfield player over the past two seasons, but he needs a target to hit. Doherty is the outlet, making the most of those passes with a sure touch or by competing in the air. It is worth noting that he also won more aerial duels than any other wide defender last season.

“It is not just about me practising the pass,” says Coady. “It is about knowing where your runners are going to be. I have to make sure that I know what run Doc or Adama will do to make sure that the pass lands in their path. Sometimes they can drop back or sometimes they can go forward with it more. Everybody knows their role and how to play it.”

In Doherty’s case, that is especially significant because his role is truly unique right now in the Premier League. Wolves’ wing-back-cum-poacher has made the position his very own.

How would he fit in at Tottenham?

On the face of it, Tottenham might not seem an obvious fit given Jose Mourinho has favoured a nominal back-four for much of his career. However, in practice, his deployment of Serge Aurier as an advanced right-back means that his attacking responsibilities have been more akin to that of a wing-back than a full-back anyway.

Mourinho has preferred an asymmetrical formation with Ben Davies sweeping to provide greater defensive cover on the left side. This has given Aurier licence to go forward.

The result is that the majority of Tottenham’s openings originate from moves on that right flank. The threat has been high but the end product from Aurier has not always been there.

Tottenham have been more threatening when attacking down the right flank

His effectiveness in that role has been a subject of much debate among Spurs supporters.

The statistics show Aurier he puts in a lot of crosses – the fourth most of any Premier League defender last season, behind only the Liverpool duo and Everton’s Lucas Digne. The statistics also reveal that he has one of the worst cross completion rates of any defender in the competition – failing to find his man with 85.4 per cent of his deliveries into the box.

Aurier actually succeeded in provided more assists than Doherty last season. But there is still the suspicion that another player could have used the time and space more efficiently. Perhaps it is time for another way.

Doherty’s off-the-ball movement and aerial ability in both boxes would appeal to Mourinho. There are prettier players but few in his position who can impact the game quite so much. A move to London in this transfer window would solve a problem for Spurs – and create one for Wolves.


Tottenham may be presented with a chance to solve their right-back problem thanks to Arsenal

ByGraham Ruthven, Football.London

The Gunners are prepared to let Ainsley Maitland-Niles leave the Emirates and that could be the opportunity that Spurs need to sign their own new right-back

Tottenham Hotspur’s desperate need for a new right-back has been apparent since Kieran Trippier was offloaded to Atletico Madrid with no replacement signed.

Jose Mourinho favoured Serge Aurier in the position last term, but the Ivorian was something of a liability due to the sheer number of blunders made and could be sold to AC Milan this summer.

A number of potential right-back options for Spurs have been mooted over the past few weeks, with Arsenal’s Ainsley Maitland-Niles recently named as a target.

The 22-year-old is versatile and believed to be a favourite of Mourinho’s. But Arsenal slapped a £20 million asking price on the player, as per the Daily Mail.

Now, however, it seems Maitland-Niles is on the brink of spurning Tottenham’s supposed interest to sign for Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Athletic’s David Ornstein claims Maitland-Niles will join for the Molineux outfit this week as he searches for the regular first-team football he is currently being denied at the Emirates Stadium.

Wolves’ signing of Maitland-Niles from Arsenal may free up Matt Doherty to leave Molineux this summer, with the Republic of Ireland international potentially an even better fit for Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur side.

Doherty has been a revelation for Wolves since their promotion to the Premier League two years ago. Last season saw the 28-year-old make 49 appearances in all competitions for Nuno Espirito Santo’s side, scoring six goals and recording four assists.

It’s now difficult to imagine a Wolves team without Doherty down the right flank.

While Mourinho is renowned for his defensive and conservative tendencies, he likes his full-backs to push high up the pitch to provide an outlet.

Aurier does this, explaining why the Spurs manager has stood by the Ivorian even as the crescendo for him to be dropped grew louder.

Doherty plays even higher up the pitch than Aurier, with the Irishman a fully-fledged wing-back in Nuno’s system which frequently sees Wolves play with a back three.

Doherty is one of the reasons Wolves are able to play this way. A back three is a difficult thing to master, but in the Irishman, they have someone who suits this system perfectly.

Last season, Doherty averaged 0.8 dribbles per Premier League match, as per WhoScored, as well as one shot per game.

This reveals the goal threat the right wing-back carries, explaining his goal tally for the 2019/20 season – there aren’t many in Doherty’s position who can claim to be so dangerous in front of goal.

Wolves’ game is very dependent on spinning their attacking players in behind defences and Doherty helped in this respect by playing 1.3 long balls per game last season.

Mourinho has shown a willingness to get his wide men, in particular, to play in this way, with Harry Kane dropping deep to release space in behind. Doherty could help with the implementation of this specific game plan.

Mourinho has a lot of work to do in reshaping the squad at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to his liking.

There are a number of areas where his team are currently lacking and with the noises out of Spurs that any transfers will have to be done on a shoestring budget.

In Doherty, though, Mourinho would find a player to solve one of his biggest problems. The only issue may be the price.

We don’t do Stubbed Toes…

Modern day footballers aren’t just natural athletes; they are assets, they are vessels, ready to be filled up and poured out, they are specimens.

Premier League players are engineered to hit the heights, fill up trophy cabinets and etch smiles onto thousands of faces every time they do their day job.

And they certainly aren’t left to their own devices. The future direction of a club does not merely lie in its current stable of talent, it is dependant on an environment designed to unlock potential and optimise the function of every cell – literally – in a player’s body to succeed.

That’s where The Lodge comes in.

RadioTimes.com was invited along to The Lodge for a behind-the-scenes taste of life as an elite Premier League footballer to witness first-hand the processes a player must enjoy and endure in equal measures to achieve footballing glory.

We were put through our paces in a gruelling workout session led by Jose Mourinho’s right-hand man, fuelled up by a crack team of nutritionists and chefs, before expending those calories in a training session led by Spurs legend Ledley King.

Work hard

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur

Carlos works his subjects hard in fitness sessions Tottenham Hotspur

A whisper of the name ‘Carlos’ around The Lodge is always greeted with the same reaction, a smile, a grin, a intake of breath.

Carlos Lalín, Venezuelan-born, Madrid-educated. He has followed Mourinho from Real Madrid to Chelsea, from the Bridge to Manchester United, from Old Trafford to Tottenham.

He is a demanding figure, the type of man who feeds on the look of fear on your face as he outlines his plans for the next hour.

Whether you’re a collection of the world’s finest footballers or a rabble of less-than-shredded sports writers fresh from five months on the sofa, Carlos does not make concessions.

He name-checks every individual in the room, you are not one of many, you are a student of his regime, his infectious enthusiasm fuels a series of drills ranging from press-ups to lunges.

That was only the warm-up. He is a muscle-clad smiler whose goal is to end you.

Carlos’ routines are quick, sharp and logical. His latest plan – approved by Mourinho himself – involves a series of short, intense bursts designed with footballer movements in mind.

Every movement is crafted to replicate a natural position a player is likely to find themselves in during a game situation. No time is wasted, no drop of sweat oozed in vain. His job is to stretch his subjects to the limits.

Once that has been achieved, The Lodge itself becomes more than a building, it becomes an environment in which to grow.

Rest well

Upon leaving Carlos’ underground abode, players have the option of sliding into hot or cold pools, a session in each is the preferred routine.

A range of jets and gizmos will automatically massage players in targeted areas to prevent seizing up or soreness in the aftermath of a fitness session.

A theme from the day is that absolute rest is a pillar of success.

The Lodge building is centred around a main farmhouse in which Mourinho himself occupies the upstairs quarters, his zone for the most confidential discussions between his most trusted inner circle.

Downstairs, a cosy living room complete with a resplendent fireplace, a space befitting of the most luxurious cottages.

It’s a world away from the rest of the state of the art facilities, but there’s a purpose. And the purpose is simple: rest.

There are just two Tottenham badges in the entire Lodge complex, purposefully so. This is to put players and staff at ease, to take their minds away from the rigours of the day job, and to simply allow them to switch off. Recovery is crucial.

Each player is assigned a bedroom in a two-floor wing of the complex. Each is designed down to the microscopic details.

Bedroom phones cannot reach other bedroom phones to cut down on prank calls and unexpected disturbances, while lights automatically dull or brighten to a certain percentage depending on the schedule of the day. (Immediately post-workout the light is ambient to inspire rest.)

A sofa is included in every room to provide protractor-perfect angles so that a player’s posture isn’t ruined by a Fortnite binge. The rooms are also equipped with 100 per cent noise cancellation to avoid waking others up when a player actually does win round of Battle Royale.

The club don’t want their assets crumpled in half binging on a PlayStation in bed. Downtime is for recuperation, not further stress on the body.

Bedding is bought to replicate a player’s bed at home for consistency purposes. In some cases, players have conversely ordered training ground beds to be installed in their own homes, thus is the level of comfort.

The beds themselves don’t even come with legs or bases to prevent a toe-stubbing injury. Every detail, every inch, every millimetre of a player’s bedroom is designed to enhance the chances of beating X, Y or Z on any given matchday.

The corridors are dimly lit, restful, and adorned with constellations. Only on a third or fourth pass did the true meaning behind the star map become apparent.

Small touchscreens at the start of each wing contain a selection of 37 goals cherry-picked by former boss Mauricio Pochettino.

The installation is named ‘The Universal Game’. Each constellation is a visual representation of a goal, the lines between ‘stars’ represent passes between players and the eventual strike.

First on the list? Maradona’s 1986 wondergoal for Argentina against England. Pochettino had also included clips of Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne, Lionel Messi, former Arsenal star Robin Van Persie’s header against Spain and Erik Lamela’s outrageous rabona effort against Asteras Tripoli.

The Lodge is more than a hotel, it’s an immersive world designed to wrap its arms around you and keep you from looking back out into the world. You’re there to rest, relax, recover and go again.

Fuel up

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur

The food is designed to fuel, energise and revitalise players at all times Tottenham Hotspur

Before we go again, it’s fuel time. This is where The Lodge really does feel like a return to its farming heritage.

Food is not lazily served up, it is considered down to a molecular level and portioned up to the optimum amount required for a footballer to find the balance between gaining energy, battling fatigue and keeping the fat at bay.

Players burn up to 5,000 calories on a matchday, that’s double the recommended intake for an adult male.

Head chef Ted Turner is tasked with overseeing the preparation of food under the orders of Performance Nutritionist Craig Umenyi.

Umenyi has experience behind the scenes at Everton, Arsenal and now Tottenham, and his entire role revolves around making sure every cell in a footballer’s body is in the best shape possible to win.

“With the intensity of the Premier League and different cup competitions, recovery is so much more important. You really have to focus on the stuff a lot of people overlook, like micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, other compounds and properties in food. We’re fortunate science has really progressed,” he said.

“We’re aware of how things work at a cellular level, we have that knowledge of exercise and biochemistry so it’s quite nice to think of it as science but then actually be creative with food.

“The big thing for me is the longer-term well-being of the players. If we can help players healthy and fit and available for selection or if they are injured help with their rehab process and reducing those recovery times, that to me is the big thing.

“Of course we always want to see them perform because that’s the name of the game, we like to think we do that as standard, but I take a lot of pride from allowing players to maximise their training and playing availability.”

Craig speaks as though he and the team are fuelling a car, fine-tuning their engines to perfection with each passing day, or developing livestock, as The Lodge did once upon a time.

A range of green juices, collagen – usually found in cosmetic surgery, and even the humble banana bread are all given a place in the dietary schedule of players, each with a specific purpose, deployed at a specific time.

Like a parent trying to feed a reluctant child, small bite-sized snacks are created to provide vast quantities of nutrients with minimal effort of actually eating the things.

After defeats, traditional meals are scrapped in place of ‘finger food’ as players won’t be in the mood to sit at a table with tensions boiling hotter than the meal they’ve been served.

Fuelled up and ready to roll, we actually saw our first football of the day.

Train hard

All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur

Ledley King leads a training session Tottenham Hotspur

It speaks volumes that the actual ‘training with a football at your feet’ part of the day took up a relatively small portion of the Premier League footballer routine.

These elite athletes have played with a ball at their feet for as long as they can remember, they will not simply lose their touch, but the various luxuries and lavishness of The Lodge haven’t been known to many for long.

Football has moved on from being simply about the game itself, and Tottenham are deeply invested in priming their stars throughout every minute of the day.

Fitness regimes are designed to develop players’ mobility, core, strength and explosiveness.

Rest is designed to reduce stress – both physical and mental – to promote and build on the platform laid by working out.

Nutrition plans are crafted to further advance on the previous steps, to energise, fuel and activate players’ potential.

And then it’s time to play.

Spurs legend Ledley King – who has since been appointed to the club’s coaching staff – was on hand to inspire a session.

(Taking a deep swig of indulgence here, splitting two defenders with a backheel pass to the approval of King felt like some form of life goal completion.)

The coaches’ logic is simple. They want the ball at the players’ feet as much as possible, to be an extension of the body, not a separate entity.

The grass carpet is kept in typically sublime condition, another nod to the world-leading base Tottenham Hotspur now call home.

Success may have been muted, even backtracked, in 2019/20, but in The Lodge, the north London side have a facility that will engineer success in the long-term.

Skriniar talks, Winks to Man City, Willian admission

ByConnor O’NeillSports Wire Writer Football. London

Plenty of rumours are circling as to what business Tottenham Hotspur could look to do this summer

Jose Mourinho has a big job on his hands as he looks to put his stamp on his squad, following what was a somewhat disappointing campaign.

And with Spurs set to go through qualification for next season’s Europa League, the Portuguese will need to add some reinforcements soon.

Here are the latest transfer rumours and gossip coming from north London.

Willian admission

Tottenham Hotspur never actually made contact to sign Willian before his move to Arsenal, ESPN have reported.

Spurs were heavily linked with the Brazilian for large parts of this year given his relationship with Jose Mourinho.

And although the former Chelsea winger opted to join Arsenal last week, it is now believed there was never no interest from Spurs in the 32-year-old.

Tuttosport claim that Spurs have intensified their talks with Inter Milan over a deal for Milan Skriniar.

Any potential deal is still some way off but talks are said to be ongoing between the two clubs.

Inter are reportedly open to allowing the 25-year-old to leave provided they can find a replacement.

Winks backed for City move

Former Tottenham midfielder Michael Brown believes Harry Winks would be an “excellent addition” for Manchester City this summer.

A recent report claimed Pep Guardiola is a big fan of the £40million-rated 24-year-old and has told the club to make a move for him this summer.

“It could help him improve as a player, the way Manchester City play, he’s a great link player and is really talented – in possession we’ve seen how he protects the back-four, how he can move the ball around,” Brown told Football Insider.

“I think he’d be a great addition for Manchester City.

“We don’t know what the price will be, he’s a talented footballer and I think one, Spurs won’t want to let him go and two, he would be an excellent addition, something slightly different to Manchester City.”

You woz only Supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!

What is the point of having FFP when club losses can be wiped out by pumping money into a club via personnel loans. Why doesn’t the PL and UEFA stipulate that personnel loans must be approved (on a case by case basis), and subject to certain conditions before being allowed. If there is a genuine need to inject money into a club, that club should be required to show why (via financial records) it is eligible for such a dispensation.

I find it difficult to see how Chelsea can afford the players they have signed so far, not to mention the other players they are linked with this summer, despite supposedly saving money due to the clubs recent transfer ban.

Accounts for the year ending 30/06/19 showed Chelsea made a loss of £96m, which means they would have been in breach of FFP, therefor they would have needed to sell players to balance the books which they did by selling Hazard (not that it was their choice to do so though). It also highlights the clubs need in the longer term reduce the clubs turnover to wage ratio (64%) in order to run the club in a sustainable manner. But instead Abramovich is free to pump in an additional £247m (last summer) into the club to cover the clubs inability to operate within its means.

It appears we have the same scenario as it was before FFP was introduced, with clubs being able to spend heavily on players, and no doubt offer considerable wages without facing the consequences most businesses have to deal with, which is operating within financial means.

It seems unrealistic to think Chelsea’s finances haven’t been effected due to the pandemic, yet they appear (if reports are true) to be willing to spend big, which could potentially allow the club to challenge for honours where it may have otherwise struggled to do so without recieving an injecting finances into a club via personnel loans.

My objection isn’t with Chelsea or Abramovich in particular, he and other owners are just taking advantage of a system which currently permits owners to continue to run a football club beyond it’s economic means, but it does have a knock on effect of potentially denying other clubs who operate within their means the opportunity to gain relative success, whether that be final league position or winning silverware, it effectively further distorts an already lopsided (the big clubs) playing field.

Everton are another club where it’s owner Farhad Moshiri has put in £350m since 2016 in a bid to return the club to the top of the league. in addition to Moshiri’s injection of money, the club has seen it’s revenue to wage ratio rise to a staggeringly dangerous 85%.

Allowing wealthy club owners such as Abramovich at Chelsea to inject money into a club only serves to add pressure to clubs with aspirations of somehow reaching the top four joining the lucrative spoils on offer. Getting their is easier said than done, with clubs (the big six) being able to pump in cash to already wealthy clubs, that goal can be even more difficult and potentially dangerous (financially) to achieve.

There is nothing wrong with having provisions for clubs to receive personnel loans from wealthy owners, but surely the onus must be on the club and it’s owner to demonstrate a legitimate reason for needing to do so.

Simply because a club has chosen to operate (financially) beyond its means by overpaying players should not permit an owner to prop up the club, nor should owners be allowed to provide clubs with additional funds merely to sign new players. depending on the circumstances of each case, clubs should have to agree to a realistic repayment plan to ensure a club doesn’t benefit at the expense of others.

FFP made a great song and dance about how it was shutting the door on reckless spending by clubs, yet they conveniently left the back door (personnel loans) wide ajar. Go figure?

Sorry chaps, it’s been a bittova slow day…

Jose has finally found his perfect player to make his Tottenham vision become a reality

By Rob Guest, Football.London

The former Southampton man has penned a five-year deal at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium after completing his move on Tuesday evening.

It was on Tuesday evening when Tottenham finally confirmed the long-awaited arrival of Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton.

Heavily tipped to seal a move to the capital since January, the 25-year-old, amid interest from Everton, penned a five-year contract to commit his long-term future to the Lilywhites.

Perhaps not the most glamorous signing and one fans may not have been very enthusiastic about, the Dane won many over with his first words after joining forces with Jose Mourinho.

“I like to bring energy, I like to bring wins – hopefully! I just think you get me, 100 per cent. I love to be the best team player I can be and I like to make people better, I like to make the team better and I think it’s important to be aware of what your role is, who you’re playing against and what is demanded from you. Many of the small details all go into one big important thing.

“From the first moment I got to speak to the people at the club, the coach, I think it was very clear to me that Spurs is a very big club but also a club with even more potential to reach the ultimate, and I wanted so much to be a part of that. I think there is a fantastic future ahead for the club and hopefully for me as well.”

Rated incredibly highly by Pep Guardiola following their time together at Bayern Munich before the midfielder moved to Southampton in 2016, Spurs have signed a winner.

Despite his tender year after only turning 25 one week ago, Hojbjerg leads by example on the pitch and that is exactly why Ralph Hasenhuttl made him captain shortly after taking on the job in December 2018.

The ex-Schalke loanee’s leadership skills will undoubtedly appeal to the head coach given Spurs’ lack of natural commanders in the squad, as well as the fact that he is a typical Mourinho player.

The 57-year-old adores players who give their all and make huge sacrifices for the team, and Hojbjerg will do exactly that.

As he mentioned in his first interview with the club, he loves to be the best team player he can be and also make people and the team better.

It was literally music to the ears of Mourinho and Tottenham fans, with those initially sceptical about his arrival no doubt extremely impressed with what he had to say.

Hojbjerg also waxed lyrical about the coaching staff and his new teammates during his interview, as well as mentioning his desire to improve and become an even better player following his exploits at Southampton.

“I think Spurs have fantastic players, a fantastic manager, a fantastic set-up and I feel lucky and proud to be a part of it,” explained the Danish international.

“I want to give my everything but I also want to learn a lot. I want to be better and what was very important for me is that I wanted to play at a club where I could see myself for many years – and Tottenham was just the one. So I’m very happy and proud to be here.

Alasdair Gold latest email

Hello everyone,

The summer transfer window is when Daniel Levy comes alive.

That’s not to say he’s a vampire who only emerges the moment that window (rather than the coffin lid) opens, but plenty of those who have worked with him say the 58-year-old thrives on the buzz of the trading nature of the summer window.

January is a tough time to do deals, coming in mid-season when most of the clubs Spurs target players from aren’t looking to unsettle their squads for fear of the consequences come the end of the campaign.

The summer – this one in particular – presents 10 weeks for Levy to do what he enjoys more than anything – conduct business.

The Essex-born chairman is a workaholic. The staff members who answer to him are not surprised when their phone pings at 2am or 3am with an email from Levy about an idea he’s had or something he wants to check on.

They expect it and they also know that after the briefest of breaks those emails will start again at 5am or 6am when he starts the next day.

Levy has a mentality of leading from the front. If he works harder than anyone else then they can only follow his example or come out with excuses.

He takes it all personally and he suffered when the stadium construction fell behind schedule, because it was something he had been so hands-on with, involved day in, day out, but the problems were outside of his control.

His standards and work ethic can make him a difficult person to work with and Mauricio Pochettino, who had a closer relationship with Levy than any other Spurs manager of the 20 years of his chairmanship, admitted he’s not an easy man to get close to.

“We have shared a lot of different moments,” said the Argentine. “He is not an easy man, but he is so passionate to create some things for the fans and the staff and the players.

“It is not for him. One example – he built the hotel here. The Lodge. It’s a five-star boutique hotel. I asked him when he is going to sleep there and he said: ‘No, no, no. Not for me. That is for you and the players’.

“He is always thinking to do things for other people, and of course, for the fans. That is a fantastic thing but the people sometimes struggle to understand.

“When the team wins the praise is for the players, the coaching staff or the manager. When it loses, the first person is him that the people blame. 

“Sometimes deserved! Sometimes, no. I think he deserves fantastic recognition because what he’s doing, him and the board, is a fantastic thing for the club and it’s going to be there forever.”

With Tottenham’s mess of a season on the pitch, with Pochettino’s departure and Jose Mourinho’s arrival, so that spotlight continues to be thrust upon Levy.

There’s a feeling among some Spurs fans that Levy is always looking to save a buck, providing the club with the budget version of transfers rather than the real deal.

Ironically that’s at odds with how those on the stadium project spoke about Levy, saying that he would often go the other way too much, complaining that things looked tacky and plastic and needed replacing with higher quality products and materials.

Tottenham fans want Levy to show that same kind of attitude with on-pitch matters, but ultimately his decisions will always be dictated by those budgets the club is placed under.

Forget Joe Lewis and his billions. Tottenham Hotspur not a billionaire’s play thing. It’s a company found within a large portfolio of ENIC investments and it’s run as a self-sustaining business.

Levy as a Spurs fan himself has declared that he is merely the current custodian of the football club and that his sole aim is to make sure Tottenham Hotspur grows and exists for future fans.

With his first class honours degree in Economics and Land Economy, gained back in 1985 from Cambridge University, ensuring a business is properly run is what Levy has been trained for since the beginning.

The way he runs Spurs frustrates the fans and at times his staff. He’s portrayed by some supporters as a Dr Evil-type character, sitting in a chair, stroking his cat as he ruminates over the newest dastardly scheme he’s hatched.

Yet in a year when many football clubs are facing real problems from the shutdown, making redundancies and cutting their costs, Tottenham will be better placed than others to bounce back from their estimated £200million in lost revenue over the next 12 months in the years to come, particularly when the increased stadium revenue can kick back in.

Levy takes the criticism directed at him and he also listens to more of it than you would think.

He once said at a supporters’ trust meeting that he has broad shoulders and can take the anger that comes his way.

However, it’s also known within Spurs that he does keep a close eye on social media, many at the club do.

Social media is where you will find the most extreme views going about any subject and it’s an unpleasant place at times, but Levy is well aware of what’s being said about him and the club.

He’s also well aware of what is written by the media. This reporter in particular has been chastised indirectly a couple of times for articles that caught his eye over the years, but that’s journalism.

As long as it’s accurate, you have to accept that you’re not going to please everybody and nor should you try to.

Ultimately Levy does what he believes is best for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club.

The current deal for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Southampton is indicative of that. Jose Mourinho wants the player and the player wants Spurs.

Spurs first enquired about the Dane back in January but they waited until the price was right and now they have moved.

While it’s not a swap deal for accountancy reasons, Kyle Walker-Peters’ separate move in the other direction means that, whatever fees you read in the days to come, ultimately Mourinho will get a player he wants in a problem position for a cash outlay of just £3million. You can find the full details by clicking here.

Levy has always had a soft spot for Walker-Peters, a homegrown academy product, but in a year when transfer funds have to be managed more tightly than ever the 23-year-old, having loved his time with the Saints, became a willing pawn in the ‘trade’.

Spurs will make more signings this summer and players will leave the club, all in keeping with the detailed and frequent reports Mourinho sends to Levy and others each week.

The Portuguese is well aware of the limitations and believes the club’s top targets for each position are all realistic and within the budgets. It’s down to Levy to get them.

Tottenham need to be better, they need to bounce back and Levy will want to deliver for Mourinho and you know he will relish the challenge. 

Unlike Daniel Levy I’ve got a couple of weeks off coming up now, but this newsletter and I will return with a vengeance later this month, timing nicely with Spurs getting into the nitty gritty of pre-season and the transfer window.

I’ll catch you then,

Alasdair

Championship play-off final: Brentford and Fulham set for richest game
By Rob Stevens
BBC Sport

Brentford play Fulham on Tuesday for the chance to return to the English top flight for the first time in 73 years – and earn about £160m in the process.

The west London rivals, separated by just four miles, meet in the Championship play-off final at Wembley.

Fulham could seal an immediate return to the Premier League.

Victory in the match, often dubbed the richest game in football, would be worth £135m to Fulham and about £160m to Brentford over the next three years.

Brentford finished third in the table, one place above Fulham on goal difference, and won both league meetings during the regular campaign.

If they fail to win, the Bees will have taken part in more unsuccessful play-off campaigns in the English Football League than any other club, with this their ninth attempt.

Free-flowing Bees eye historic promotion
Brentford recorded eight straight victories either side of the coronavirus lockdown to give themselves a chance of automatic promotion, but narrowly missed out on a place in the top two following defeats in their final two matches of the season.

Head coach Thomas Frank, who was appointed in October 2018, has moulded an attacking side which finished as the top scorers in the Championship this season.

Including their play-off semi-final win over Swansea, their forward line of Said Benrahma, Bryan Mbeumo and Ollie Watkins have scored 59 goals between them – but the Bees also have the second-best defensive record in the division.

“We have big ambitions and big dreams,” Frank said. “We believe in ourselves but need to go to Wembley confident but humble.”

The Bees have enjoyed their best campaign since suffering relegation from the top flight in 1946-47 and will move into a new 17,500-capacity stadium before next season.

Opponents Fulham spent 13 consecutive seasons in the top flight before dropping back into the Championship in 2014, and Slavisa Jokanovic led the Craven Cottage outfit to promotion via the play-off final two years ago.

“They are a bigger club than us,” Frank said. “This is not a mind-game, this is a fact.

“They got relegated from the Premier League last year and have the parachute money.

“They have experience from the final two years ago and they have more experience in their squad to play a game like this than us.

“Yes, we beat them twice [this season] and that can maybe give us a bit of confidence. But the final is another story.”

Parker revives Fulham fortunes

When Scott Parker took over Fulham in February 2019, initially on a caretaker basis after the sacking of Claudio Ranieri, the Whites were heading for relegation from the Premier League.

He lost his first five games in charge, and the club had suffered 27 defeats and conceded 81 goals by the end of the top-flight campaign.

“I realised that this season was going to be a massive challenge for us,” Parker said.

“When teams get relegated there are big wounds, and we were in a low spell.

“The biggest challenge was obviously trying to implement a philosophy and install a real identity on the pitch.

“It’s been a rocky road this season because you can’t just have a magic wand to go from a weak mentality to fighting to win the division you are in.

“I see a massive improvement from where we were, and a team that is progressing and resilient.”

Whites have Wembley experience, Bees only play-off woes
Fulham have their 1-0 victory over Aston Villa at Wembley in 2018 to draw on, with captain Tom Cairney and 26-goal striker Aleksandar Mitrovic among nine members of the matchday squad that day who remain at Craven Cottage.

“We have got lads who have experienced it, been there with the pressure and got the job done,” Fulham midfielder Harrison Reed said.

“We can certainly use that to our advantage.”

However, Brentford captain Pontus Jansson thinks the fact the national stadium will be largely empty because of social distancing measures will level the playing field.

“If it was a full Wembley, it would be a little bit of an advantage for them,” the Swedish centre-back said.

“I can’t see any advantage for them, even if they have been there before. It will be a normal corona game.”

Brentford have never won promotion in their eight previous play-off campaigns, losing three finals.

Two of those defeats came at Wembley, with the most recent being the League One play-off final in 2012-13 – but there are no survivors from that team left in the Bees squad.

“I don’t know any results in the past that Brentford have had in the play-offs,” Jansson said.

“We have a lot of new players and none of those played in the play-offs with Brentford before.

“We just focus on this one. This is a game which lives its own life.”

Team news
Fulham striker Mitrovic won the Championship’s golden boot this season, but the Serbia international missed both legs of the semi-final win over Cardiff City through injury.

However, Parker says he has a fully fit squad for the final.

Whether Mitrovic and forward Neeskens Kebano, who was withdrawn in the second leg against the Bluebirds with a hamstring issue, are fit enough to start remains to be seen.

Bees boss Frank has chosen a largely settled side during the run-in, with his biggest decision seeming to be a choice between Emiliano Marcondes and Josh Dasilva over who will start in midfield.

The Parrott has flown the Coop

Parrott: “I want to be a part of something at Millwall”

Troy Parrott is ready to “work hard and give everything for the fans” after signing a season-long loan deal with Millwall.

The 18-year-old striker will spend the 2020/21 campaign in SE16 after making the temporary move from Tottenham Hotspur, and has bolstered The Lions’ attacking options ahead of the new season.

After the signature of Ryan Woods, Parrott becomes Gary Rowett’s second summer signing – and the Irishman credited the club’s fanbase as one of the reasons behind his decision to make the transfer from North to South London.

“I’m buzzing to get straight into things, I’m really looking forward to it,” Parrott told millwallfc.co.uk. “The crowd, the club itself – I’ve heard a lot of good things. When I’ve watched games, the littlest of things gets them going, and I want to be a part of something like that.

“It’s not hard to see from the outside that all [the fans] are looking for is someone to give 100% every game. When I was growing up playing football, that was the player I always was, so I feel as though I can fit it very well. I’m really excited to get going, work hard and give everything for the fans.”

Parrott hopes to follow in the footsteps of successful former Lions loanee Harry Kane, who spent time at The Den in 2011/12.

“I’m really grateful to Spurs for letting me go out on loan and get some regular football. Hopefully I can improve a lot whilst at Millwall.”

Rowett on “important” Parrott capture

Gary Rowett has expressed his pleasure at getting a season-long loan deal for Troy Parrott over the line – and is looking forward to the striker showing “a little bit of everything” on the pitch during the 2020/21 campaign.

The exciting prospect arrives at The Den with Premier League and international experience and adds to the manager’s striking options ahead of the new season.

Speaking to millwallfc.co.uk, the boss explained how securing the signature of the youngster was an important one “for a number of reasons.”

“I’m really happy to get the deal over the line,” he said. “It took a lot of work, and Alex [Aldridge] and Steve [Kavanagh] have worked really hard to get it done.

“There were a lot of clubs in The Championship, and beyond, who wanted Troy – that’s how highly he is regarded. We’re pleased that Tottenham, and Troy himself, chose us as the preferred option. I think that shows what we think we’ve got to offer, a) as a club, b) with fans, when they’re back, and c) the way the team is developing.

“For a number of reasons, it’s a really important signing for us and I’m pleased to get it over the line.”

When describing what the frontman will bring to The Lions’ squad, Rowett explaned Parrott’s attributes, but also added caution to the age of the loanee and subsequent dips in form.

“He’s got lots of ability, that extra bit of quality we’re looking for – especially in his finishing – and he is mobile, hungry, aggressive and athletic. I think he’s got a little bit of everything. But, he’s a young player, and like any, you might not see that straight away.

“We’ll have to work with him throughout the season. He can play anywhere in the front three areas, which is important to us to add goals, flexibility and options in those types of positions. We’ll have to be patient with him, though – he’ll have some really strong parts but also some dips. We’ll do our work and see him through it. Hopefully he can have a real impact.”

Good luck to Troy Parrott, I hope he has a fantastic season in Bandit Country!

Inside Spurs with Alasdair Gold – Talking Tanguy

Good evening everyone,

Today we’re going to talk about Tanguy Ndombele and settling in at Tottenham Hotspur.

A week rarely goes by without the Frenchman being linked to a new club. This week, it’s Inter Milan with claims that Spurs are in talks with the Serie A outfit over the young midfielder’s departure.

Those inside Tottenham are bewildered by all the speculation, claiming that not only are talks not on the agenda but the club is well aware that the player needs time to adapt to a new country, moving away from his family and an understanding that he’s been beset by injury issues.

There’s a real belief inside the club that Ndombele can become a superstar and that initial teething problems were always anticipated, which is why he was handed a six-year deal with the intention of him being a long-term signing for the club.

It’s easy to forget that the young Frenchman is only 23, having arrived a year ago to a fast and physical league that is very different to Ligue 1. 

He has also had to pick up the language. I was in a group of three journalists who conducted the first interview with Ndombele last July, during the first few days of the pre-season tour in Singapore.

With the new club record signing still uncomfortable with his use of the English language, we roped in Moussa Sissoko to help with the translation.

It worked well – the two enjoy a brotherly relationship which kept things light – and I managed to get the only two words of English Ndombele has uttered all season to the British media.

“Very hard”, he said with a laugh when I asked how he was finding Mauricio Pochettino’s infamous pre-season training sessions.

While he was perfectly amiable with us on a baking hot afternoon in Singapore, Ndombele does not appear to be a fan of interviews or the media.

Unless I’ve missed one, he has not spoken to the English press since that day a year ago and only stopped once or twice for French journalists in the mixed zone in the stadium during Pochettino’s era.

Even interviews with the club’s in-house media channels are rare, one he did midway through the season came again with Sissoko by his side.

That quiet persona, away from the limelight, perhaps adds to the enigma that is Ndombele.

Those within the club believe that, unlike the midfielder, the people around him are quick to go to the media in France whenever the opportunity arises, often when he’s left out of a starting line-up, which results in all of the speculation surrounding his future.

At the end of the day though it comes down to a young player settling in and adapting to a new country.

There’s a belief – we’re all guilty of it – that the bigger the fee, the more likely a new signing should hit the ground running.

Maybe it’s governed by us all playing games like FIFA or Football Manager or perhaps it’s just a by-product of the excitement a club record signing brings.

However, in the real world it just doesn’t work like that and a large number of new signings need varying lengths of times to settle and show their best.

Spurs know that very well. Son Heung-min asked to leave the club at the end of his first season to return to Germany after struggling to get in the team regularly and adapting to the country. It was only a chat with Pochettino that changed his mind.

At Tottenham, the likes of Luka Modric, Hugo Lloris. Erik Lamela, Davinson Sanchez and Sissoko have all been high profile signings given time to adapt, the latter coming with Premier League experience.

That’s because there’s also an adaptation period for new signings who aren’t coming from foreign climes.

Players from abroad have the culture adaptation on top of it, and often have to do it without their family.

Even a Welshman in Gareth Bale took a while to settle at Spurs, holding a record in his first year or so of having never played in a winning team before eventually becoming one of the world’s best.

Ultimately it’s down to that word ‘patience’, one that can be hard to find in football.
It’s not only the fans and the clubs that lose sight of it, but often also the players.

They’re young and they think things won’t change, they won’t get better and they’ll never feel at home but as Son found out, it happens as long as you commit to it.

Pochettino knew it about Ndombele just two months into the season, even if it was something the fans did not want to hear.

“We cannot assess him enough to say he is doing well or not so well,” said the Argentine.

“For me it’s fantastic the things he adds to the team, I am so happy with him like I am so happy with different players.

“Still for me, when you sign a player, despite the amount you pay, with the profile of Tanguy Ndombele or Giovani Lo Celso or Ryan Sessegnon you need minimum one year and a half, or two years.

“Look at what happened with Son or Sissoko, they started to perform in year two, year three. That is why when you are so young, today the market is the market, you cannot judge the player because you paid some kind of amount.

“He played two years in Lyon and moved to England where everything is new, but the quality is there. They need time to show their real quality.”

Tottenham believe they have a potential world class talent in Tanguy Ndombele and that he will come good. Hopefully the young Frenchman realises it as well.

Catch you next week,

Alasdair

Palace v Spurs, Match report

By Steve Sutcliffe

BBC Sport

Jose Mourinho says he intends to get Tottenham back “where we belong” after they qualified for the Europa League with a hard-fought draw at Crystal Palace.

The result saw Spurs leapfrog into sixth place above Wolves, who lost at Chelsea.

“When all the players are available, we showed in this last period where we belong,” Mourinho said.

“I don’t know, maybe in this period, after lockdown, we finished third or fourth in the table. So that’s where we belong.

“I want to have my team, my players, not a medical room full of players. I want a pitch full of players.

“Of course as a squad, the main thing is to keep our very good players and after that improve the squad.

“Are we going to buy 10 players? No. Are we going to buy players for £100m? No. We are going to improve.”

Harry Kane opened the scoring for Spurs, dispatching a low finish into the bottom left corner after collecting Giovani lo Celso’s pass.

However, Jeffrey Schlupp levelled for Palace with a close-range finish after some poor Tottenham marking at a corner.

It was no more than Roy Hodgson’s side deserved, as they ended a run of seven straight defeats.

They matched their London rivals for endeavour and could have snatched all three points, with Scott Dann heading a late effort wide.

Mission accomplished for Spurs

It appeared to be a case of mission accomplished for Mourinho and his staff at the final whistle as they celebrated the prospect of playing in Europe next term.

The result means that Spurs are guaranteed to earn a minimum of around £10m for their involvement in European competition next season.

However, few Tottenham supporters could have imagined such a difficult campaign – or that the Portuguese boss would take charge less than six months on from their appearance in last season’s Champions League final.

When Mourinho succeeded Mauricio Pochettino as manager, the club were languishing in 14th in the table.

“Of course everybody that one day plays Champions League doesn’t want to go back and play Europa League – but it was the only thing possible after such a difficult season for the club,” Mourinho added.

“Arriving 14th and handling things is not bad at all. I am quite happy that next season we play in the Europa League and it’s just a question to motivate ourselves for that competition and try to motivate the fans to support us and do something beautiful.”

While Mourinho has overseen an upturn in results and the number of goals they have scored, he is yet to remedy their problems in defence.

Eric Dier put in an accomplished performance alongside Toby Alderweireld on his return from suspension, but Palace’s equaliser is likely to have infuriated the Spurs boss.

His defenders stood like statues as Dann headed a deep corner back across goal, with Schlupp converting after Ayew had diverted the ball into his path.

Until then, Tottenham had looked capable of extending their lead via the pace and power of Son Heung-min and Lucas Moura, on the break.

Man of the match – Lucas Moura (Tottenham)

Capital joy for Kane – the stats

  • Crystal Palace are unbeaten in their past five final-day Premier League games played at home (W4 D1).
  • Tottenham Hotspur registered just eight clean sheets in their 38 Premier League games in 2019-20, their lowest tally of shutouts in the competition since 2010-11 (also eight).
  • Crystal Palace have become just the eighth team to go through an entire Premier League season without scoring more than twice in a match and are the first side to do so without being relegated.
  • Tottenham have finished the Premier League campaign in the top six for the 11th consecutive season, after managing to do so just twice in their previous 17 seasons in the competition.
  • Only Andy Cole (nine), Les Ferdinand (nine) and Matt Le Tissier (eight) have scored more Premier League goals on the final day than Tottenham striker Harry Kane (seven in six final-day games).
  • Giovani lo Celso’s two Premier League assists for Tottenham have come in his past three appearances in the competition (28 games in total).
  • Tottenham striker Harry Kane netted his 31st goal in Premier League London derbies, with only three players managing more (Thierry Henry got 43, Teddy Sheringham and Frank Lampard each got 32).

The Longish Bloeug Goodbye to This Longest of Seasons

Although I’m the first to admit that parts of this season have felt about as interesting as watching Blur fall asleep, there’s an element of frustration that we face our final game just as Mourinho seems to have found a way to make the most of the talent at our disposal. Continue reading “The Longish Bloeug Goodbye to This Longest of Seasons”

Latest email from Alasdair Golding, Football.London

Hi everyone,

Sometimes you just know that a manager wants to say something publicly but they need the chance to do so.

Mauricio Pochettino used to do it all the time. Sometimes you’d end up in a press conference with an answer from the Argentine that barely connected with the question you asked him.

Most managers do it. They come in with something they want to get off their chest and they crowbar it into one of their answers.

To be fair to Jose Mourinho, while it wasn’t what I asked he managed to find the perfect place in his answer to my question for his big reveal that he would be appointing a former Spurs man to his coaching staff. 

He also managed to predict exactly what my follow-up question would be anyway with the answer, while revealing that little something extra.

I’d long been keen to ask him at the end of the season about his relationship with his assistant head coach Joao Sacramento because it’s one that fascinates me.

Sacramento is just 31, studied Mourinho’s methods religiously and is now widely regarded as one of the foremost students of tactical analysis in Europe.

For me, I was intrigued to know how this young coach worked as the right-hand man to one of the world’s most successful, experienced and single-minded managers and what that dynamic is like.

I’d also been told that another member of the coaching staff, Ricardo Formosinho, had informed Mourinho of his intention to leave the club this summer. So that was going to be my follow-up question, asking whether he was looking to reshape his coaching staff for next season.

Mourinho answered it all in one go and then some. 

Not only did he talk about how talented Sacramento is and how he had been working with his young compatriot long before he came to Tottenham, but he also confirmed Formosinho was leaving to become a head coach elsewhere and then that slipped in that news that he would be replaced by someone from Tottenham’s history.

All indications are that Ledley King will be joining Mourinho’s first team coaching staff ahead of next season. 

I’ve been told he was asked by the Portuguese to come in to Hotspur Way before lockdown to do a little work with the defenders.

Bringing him in to work with Mourinho works on every level. The Spurs fans would love to see him involved and the thought of arguably the most talent defender in Tottenham’s history and Mourinho working with the club’s young defenders like Japhet Tanganga, Davinson Sanchez and Malachi Fagan-Walcott is an exciting one.

I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to Ledley on many occasions and I’ve seen the way he’s developed off the pitch. 

After he retired in 2012, as that chronic knee injury just became too difficult to manage, he initially began working part-time in the academy, coaching Spurs’ U18 players.

However, he wasn’t quite ready at that point to go into that in a full-time capacity and instead Spurs made him a club ambassador, flying him around the world to be the face of Tottenham Hotspur and wheeling him out at every event possible.

That’s given me plenty of opportunities to interview him in recent years, whether it’s at a stadium event or in the baking heat of the USA or Asia on the pre-season tours.
When Ledley first retired he was shy and he would probably be the first to admit that he wasn’t one of the world’s greatest public talkers.

The ambassador role, coupled with a bit of early punditry work, has really brought out the confidence in the former Spurs captain in getting out what he wanted to say. 

Even 18 months made such a difference. I spoke to him at the stadium once during the time Sol Campbell first got into management at Macclesfield Town.

Ledley admitted he wasn’t sure if he would go back into coaching himself and didn’t expand too much on his former Spurs team-mate’s career. He didn’t seem too confident in the direction his own life was heading.

Fast forward to a balmy night in Shanghai last summer, where after Ledley had taken part in a coaching session with a group of young Chinese children, he spoke like a man recharged and one who had developed off the pitch.

He said he was looking to get back into coaching and eventually management, and that he wanted to be the best otherwise why bother.

He had a plan to work through his badges and spoke eloquently about the difficulties with racism in the game and that he might face as a new coach. There was a real confidence in himself again, similar to the kind he had as a player.

You only had to watch the 39-year-old hold court in the supporters’ evenings he’s now done probably hundreds off around the world, so see just how comfortable he is now inside his skin as a former footballer ready for what comes next in his career.

He is a modern-day Tottenham legend, he’s respected by players and staff within the club and he could have meant even more to those outside Spurs had it not been for that knee.

Thierry Henry still maintains he was the best defender he ever faced in his career. That incredible tackle on Arjen Robben is still one of the finest moments of defending in a London derby.

The former Tottenham skipper becoming part of Mourinho’s coaching staff would be a great PR move to win over some of the disenchanted Spurs fans.

However, he can become so much more than that. 

Mourinho has a long history of producing managerial disciples at the very top of the game and if one day Ledley King became the latest of those and manager of Tottenham Hotspur it would bring the house down.

Catch you next week after the final game of the season as we look ahead to the summer and next season,

Alasdair