Category Archives: Tottenham Hotspur

Alex Neil labels Wolverhampton Wanderers’s foreign players “soft”

alex-neil

Preston North End manager Alex Neil has called out Wolverhampton Wanderers foreign players for being “too soft” after the 1-1 draw between the two clubs on Saturday.

Things were going well for Preston at Deepdale after they took a 52nd minute lead against the runaway Championship leaders Wolves, courtesy of Alan Browne’s strike. Things quickly turned into Wolves favour, however, when Preston midfielder John Welsh was sent off for a second bookable offence and then just two minutes later, Helder Costa equalised.

Former Norwich City boss Neil did criticise Welsh for pulling back Ivan Cavaleiro to get sent off, but he felt Wolves players were going down to easy all game and he particularly zeroed in on their foreign contingent when he told the Birmingham Live after the match: “Against the likes of Wolves they’ve got a lot of soft players haven’t they?”

Neil continued: “I think a lot of them go down and look as if they’re really hurt, which makes the referee think a challenge is worse than it actually is when in actual fact it was an honest attempt to get the ball.”

The Preston boss concluded by acknowledging that Welsh was to blame for his sending off: “John got himself sent off, but I thought the two bookings were soft to be honest.”

“The way the Wolves players go down and roll around it looks like they are really hurt, making the referee think it was a really bad tackle when in actual fact it was an honest attempt to get the ball.

“I thought John had a good game up to that point.”

These types of comments are hardly a surprise coming from a physical ex-Scottish defender that Neil was in his playing days, but is it fair for him to single out foreign players for diving in an era of football now where most players are capable of taking an easy fall to the ground no matter their nationality?

Neil’s comments are timely in that aspect a lot of England’s top players have been clouded in controversies surrounding the concept of diving. Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane just a couple of weeks ago was seen diving after a challenge from Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius in the club’s dramatic 2-2 draw at Anfield.

Also, there appeared to be controversy on whether Dele Alli was looking for the penalty that was awarded for Spurs late on in their 2-2 FA Cup fifth round draw away to League One side Rochdale.

The Rochdale manager Keith Hill certainly felt like Alli was looking for a penalty, but then in an interesting comment, he said he hoped the Spurs midfielder would do the same for England at the World Cup in the summer.

Alex Neil’s comments on Wolves’ foreign players were specific to that match and the frustration reflected from his side’s failure to win the game.

The Scotsman has a point, though, about players going down too easily in today’s game, but his comments aimed at only foreign players diving in the English game are completely naïve.

Top 50 Young Footballers Final Part – (10-1)

kylian-mbappe

Top 50 Young Footballers Final Part – (10-1)

To round off our countdown of the Top 50 young stars in the world of football at present, we now have our ultimate top ten list which includes some of the brightest and sharpest talents across leagues. It is definitely not easy to be a rising starlet at a time when football teams are chasing after superstars but now and then we see a truly exceptional player break through.

With that in mind, here is our list of the top ten.

10. Harry Winks – Tottenham Hotspur

At 22 years of age, Winks is rightfully regarded as one of the most promising young talents in the Premier League. He usually plays as a midfielder alongside Moussa Dembele or Eric Dier but he has been missing from action lately after picking up an injury. However, for a good majority of the current season and the previous one, Winks has impressed quite a lot of people and for all the right reasons. Blessed with a mature understanding of the game, Winks can contribute equally to the attack and defence and often acts as a glue to hold the two aspects of the team together.

9. Renato Sanches – Swansea- on loan from Bayern Munich

Currently serving a loan spell with Swansea City, the 20-year-old sensation is earmarked for a bright future and after taking a look at his performances, it does not come as a surprise. Known for his energetic performances, Sanches is quite a top-quality box-to-box midfielder and he does have an eye for scoring goals as well. He rose to prominence playing an important role for Portugal in their journey to securing the Euro 2016 title, which eventually earned him the Young Player of the Tournament award.

8. Dele Alli – Tottenham Hotspur

Alli is often at the receiving end of criticism for being too aggressive at times but the fact is that he is one of the brightest English talents at present. Having struck up quite a solid understanding with Harry Kane, Alli is a creative hub for goals and boasts of excellent attacking intent. Blessed with quick feet and efficient ball control, the young star has only gone from strength-to-strength for Spurs. In fact, he put in a particularly sublime performance when they played Real Madrid in a Champions League encounter this season and there seems to be no end to his potential.

7. Matthijs De Ligt – Ajax

Ajax are renowned for producing some of the best talents in the world of football currently and De Ligt is no different. He is quite the epitome of a true-blue ball-playing central defender and at 18 years of age, he has attracted quite a lot of attention from some of the biggest clubs across the world. He can make some important interceptions while also displaying some gutsy blocks and tackles and he is quite a key part of the Ajax team. The player also boasts of a penchant for finding the back of the net and he is quite a package.

6. Marcus Rashford – Manchester United

Rashford burst onto the scene with the Red Devils at a time when they were terribly struggling for pace and attacking intent. He got the goals and assists and immediately became a fan favourite at Old Trafford. Since then, he has managed to establish himself in the first-team and has retained his spot even though the club boasts of having some excellent attackers in the team. At just 20 years of age, he can truly reach great heights if he continues this way.

5. Leroy Sane – Manchester City

Anybody who has followed the Premier League season will be aware of the kind of brilliance Manchester City have displayed to rise to the top. And the 22-year-old attacker has played quite a hand at helping them reach where they are. Pep Guardiola’s men have been renowned for their blistering attack and Sane has simply been sensational for the club. He has already smashed 11 goals and provided 12 assists for the club and he looks set to finish the season on a strong note.

4. Gabriel Jesus – Manchester City

Jesus came into the team as a young, raw talent but currently, he plays like a top-class striker. One of Guardiola’s most trusted players, the 20-year-old has been in impeccable form for the Sky Blues and his performances were strong enough to keep City veteran Sergio Aguero out of regular action. Even now, the player continues to maintain his stronghold on his spot and he has even worked well with Aguero whenever Guardiola employed a two-striker formation. He has a long way ahead of him and he truly has the potential to become a lethal force to be reckoned with.

3. Ousmane Dembele – Barcelona

The 20-year-old is yet to make a name for himself at Barcelona due to injury troubles and all that but anybody who has seen him play for Borussia Dortmund will know that he is a dangerous player – for all the right reasons. He has quick feet and is very fast but boasts of excellent ball control at the same time. His crossing skills are absolutely top-notch and from what we have seen, he never backs down from a challenge. His passion and skill will take him far and it will be interesting to see how he fares for the Catalan giants.

2. Justin Kluivert – Ajax

Son of Patrick Kluivert, the 18-year-old has been a true revelation for the Dutch giants. He is a winger by trade and can play on either flank and is quite a threat despite being so young. Kluivert can capitalize even on the tiniest of gaps provided by the opposition and exploit the same relentlessly. The Dutchman can prove to be a nightmare for even the best defenders and he continues to get linked to a host of top-level clubs across Europe. Whether he chooses to move or not remains to be seen but there is no doubt that he is earmarked for a dazzling future.

1. Kylian Mbappe – Paris Saint-Germain

Mbappe rose to fame after AS Monaco’s spectacular Ligue 1 victory last season and his shine has not dulled even after completing a sensational, big-money move to Paris Saint-Germain at the start of the season. He is composed in front of the goal and is tactically intelligent as well, which is quite commendable since he is so young. At just 19 years of age, he can dribble and boss his way through the toughest of defences and he is already a force to be reckoned with. The young Frenchman has already scored 15 goals and provided 11 assists for PSG this season and he looks unstoppable.

Can Harry Winks Handle And Rise Above The Jack Wilshere-Esque Hype?

The world of Premier League football can be a harsh place for any youngster striving to achieve their dreams. More than anything else, it is tough to even get the chance to make a mark but even after you do that, there are very little chances of maintaining that momentum due to lack of opportunities. And then there are some youngsters who are immediately thrust into the spotlight and are dubbed ‘the next so-and-so’, even as they struggle to get used to the glare of the harsh lights.

Harry Winks
Harry Winks

Players like Marcus Rashford, Harry Winks and Jack Wilshere are few of such examples in modern times. While Rashford has managed to stay grounded and cement his position, Winks rose to prominence for Tottenham Hotspur this season after a series of spell-binding performances, which saw him earn appreciation from fans and critics alike. What truly catapulted him to centre-stage was his brave performance against reigning European champions Real Madrid. While all the praise he is receiving is well-warranted, this does seem similar to a time when another English youth went through the same – only to fizzle out in the end.

When the world first got a taste of Jack Wilshere at Arsenal, he was immediately dubbed ‘the English Iniesta’ or ‘the English Xavi’. Very few English midfielders are able to replicate – if not better – the form shown by most midfielders in Spain. Intricacy, technical knowledge, pace and physicality are some of the attributes associated with them but not many in England are able to play in a similar fashion. However, there are times when the mould is broken and a youngster comes up with the promise of playing beautiful football in the middle of the park.

Wilshere was a product like that for Arsenal. He rose through the ranks rapidly and became a sensational figure for the North London club. The fans loved him and so did the pundits. In fact, the player’s then-fledgling career rose to greater heights after he had the last laugh against Barcelona when he had to play against Xavi and Iniesta. It seemed like a mighty task for a 19-year-old but Wilshere stood up to the challenge and dominated the famed Catalan duo, much to the astonishment of everybody watching. He was destined for greatness and the English fans and media were delighted with this new maestro.

Unfortunately for the player, the sweet taste of success did not last very long. A dip in form coupled with a slew of injuries ate up all his time on the field. Considering how intense the Premier League is, there’s no scope to take risks when it comes to awaiting a return from injury. The Gunners had to find out the hard way and they eventually moved on to different players while Wilshere got stuck far behind. Despite being one of Arsenal’s most celebrated young players, it might be best for him to move on from the club to avoid stagnating his career.

It is indeed a tragic end to his time with Arsenal but it is these unavoidable circumstances that make every minute on the field so precious. And now, it does seem like Winks is the latest player to be subjected to such pressure and hype. He did gain recognition in the Premier League after his exploits for Spurs but Winks received far greater appreciation after he stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the likes of Luka Modric, Casemiro and Isco in a Champions League encounter. The first leg ended in a draw but the second leg was his ticket to fame. He completely dominated the midfield area and played a splendid game of football that was astounding to watch. Real Madrid’s midfield greats were left baffled by the wizardry of Winks.

Tottenham ultimately won that game and one can majorly attribute their successes to the 21-year-old. What makes his display all the more impressive is the fact that he seemed like the only one in the middle to ward off threats posed by the midfielders while his partners Eric Dier and Mousa Dembele seemed pre-occupied with either supporting the attack or guarding the defence.

The road from here on for Winks can go in any direction but he must be vigilant enough to differentiate between what he should do and what people expect him to do. More often than not, these lofty expectations are the reason behind the decline in players’ forms. Wilshere succumbed to the pressure and failed to live up to the immense hype surrounding his every move but it will be of utmost priority for Mauricio Pochettino to ensure Winks does not endure a similar fate. Shielding Winks from the harsh glare of the spotlight might be tough but it is necessary to salvage his career.

It has been ages since an English midfielder has caught the fancy of the footballing world. Yes, Harry Kane is clearly doing wonders for the national team but he is a striker. Even in the game against Real Madrid, Kane was dependent on Winks to create spaces to ease himself into the play. That said, there is no undermining Kane’s brilliance. They are more like a co-existent pair of players right now and to succeed in the front, the Spurs hitman can benefit from having a player like Winks in the English team.

It will be quite a task but perhaps Pochettino and the English media can prevent Winks from turning into a Wilshere. There is a certain amount of pressure on the youngster right now but he is a bit more mature than what the Arsenal man was back then. Knowing that all of this can vanish in an instant is likely to keep him grounded. At the same time, it is also important for people around him to feed his talent and not his ego.

For Spurs, The Truth is in Black and White

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Come May, it will be fifty-six years and counting, since Tottenham Hotspur were crowned champions. Match of the Day wasn’t even conceived at that point and when it was, the highlights programme was first broadcast in black and white. The United Kingdom didn’t introduce colour television programmes until 1967.

Spurs really haven’t won the title since the world was in black and white.

The Premier League was still thirty years from being formed and foreign ownership of English football clubs wasn’t going to happen. These were the fiefdoms of the local industrialist, the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. Manchester United’s scion Louis Edwards genuinely was a butcher and so was Bob Lord, Burnley’s owner at the time, lest you think I was being flippant.

The question is why Spurs failed to build on their success of 1960/61, particularly as they became the first club in the twentieth century to complete the league and cup double. The following year, they almost repeated the feat – which would have been an incredible achievement. Instead they settled on third in League Division One and winning the FA Cup.

If clubs are ascribed decades as their ‘Golden Age’, Tottenham’s was the sixties. It was during this decade that they officially became a London club, having previously been resident in Middlesex. Not a new ground, simply a restructuring of local boundaries by the Labour government of the time.

Spurs weren’t affected on the pitch. Their lowest finish in the decade came as it ended in 1969/70; they followed that eleventh place with third and seemed to be moving back to the top of the table, even if they suffered the ignominy of seeing Arsenal win the title at White Hart Lane. Their bitter rivals would rub salt into the wounds a week later when they won the FA Cup and emulated Tottenham’s double.

But the rest of the 1970s went from bad to worse, culminating in a relegation to the then-Second Division. Despite a swift return, they only managed one genuine title challenge before the formation of the Premier League. That, in 1984/85 ended in April when Arsenal won 2 – 0 at White Hart Lane.

Since then – up until last season – they haven’t been in the final shake-up when the title has been decided. Given the club was one of the ‘movers and shakers’ in the formation of the Premier League, it’s a staggeringly poor record. Arsenal’s glory in that time has been harder than normal to bear. And their north London rivals have been a continuous thorn in their side since Arsene Wenger’s arrival. It’s been 21 years since they last finished above their neighbours, a baffling record when you consider the number of occasions they have threatened to take the Gunners place in the top four.

There’s a sense of incredulity that the record remains intact, with Arsenal stealing second place as Spurs were humiliated on Tyneside as already-relegated Newcastle United thrashed them 5 – 1.

The question is why should this season be any different? Speaking after the fortunate 2 – 2 draw at the Etihad, Hugo Lloris argued that the current squad was mentally stronger than their predecessors and the point against Manchester City proved it.

It’s a fair observation but given their record over the past fifty years, a hollow one. The Spurs faithful has witnessed some outstanding teams during that time but typically, they have saved their best performances for the one-off occasion of cup-ties. Providing the consistency required to win the title has almost inexplicably been missing.

Crystal Palace were labelled the ‘Dream Team’ in the early 1980s but Tottenham had a squad whose talent individually, was comparable with Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, the all-conquering times of the era. Yet, they didn’t win the honours – two FA Cups is hardly recompense for the likes of Hoddle, Ardiles, Archibald and Perryman.

Tottenham’s problem has always been moulding the individuals into a team. Bill Nicholson’s greatest talent teambuilding but since then, they haven’t been able to find a combination which exuded confidence and consistency.

A procession of stars has turned out on the White Hart Lane turf, all of them flattering to deceive. There’s some in the air around that part of north London; Arsenal, their closest rivals, have enjoyed success beyond Tottenham’s dreams, before and during Arsene Wenger’s reign.

Is it something in the culture of the club, a lack of self-belief which is woven into the fabric of the training ground and dressing room. If that seems fanciful, what other explanation is there for the years of failure: collapsing title challenges, overtaken by Arsenal despite huge points advantages and missing out on the Champions League. By any measure, they are habitual.

The question is whether, as Lloris claimed, Spurs are stronger this season. Certainly, Victor Wanyama in the centre of midfield has added strength which wasn’t always apparent last season.

After their wobble, which followed the end of their unbeaten run, Spurs recovered well. They claim to be the only genuine contenders to Chelsea’s title charge; they need others to disprove them to have a chance. Despite beating the Blues on 4th January, they remain nine points behind Antonio Conte’s men.

Unsurprisingly, Arsenal sit second, with one point more than Spurs.

After pushing Leicester, this season is turning into a disappointment. It shouldn’t be a familiar feeling for the Shelf but it is. And disconcertingly, Mauricio Pochettino is showing no signs of breaking that pattern.

It isn’t through lack of money, there is something more insidious at play. Unless the Argentine can break that cycle, Spurs world remains tinged with sepia tones.