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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League, German Bundesliga, Portuguese Liga NOS, UEFA

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has defended his tetchy interview in the aftermath of the Reds’ 4-0 loss to Manchester City.

Liverpool were thrashed by Manchester City on Thursday in their first match since securing the Premier League title.

It was a sobering night for the newly-crowned champions but, with a 20-point lead at the top of the table, it had no damaging impact.

MAILBOX: Don’t f*cking worry, Liverpool fans, it’s ‘cheat day’…

However, Klopp was still worked up going into his post-match interview with the line of questioning from Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves not doing anything to cheer him up.

An irritable Klopp said: “That’s the second time you ask about attitude.

“If you want to lead this story that we are not focused in this game then do it, but I am pleased with the attitude of our team.”


Speaking about his post-match interview, Klopp told journalists: “I was not in a good mood after the game. I was not in a good mood when I went to bed or when I woke up and then at Melwood I said: ‘I’m in a really good mood’.

“Why? Because we changed things. If you lose a game, you lose a game. You never take it easy but we’ve had a bit more time to think about it.

“The problem with post-match interviews it that you have a minute go inside and then you have all the interviews.

“This game we lost in the key moments. In these moments City was better than us.

“We gave a penalty away, we conceded after a throw in, we left Joe [Gomez] alone in a situation that no player should be alone in against [Raheem] Sterling.

“We were good apart from that – good situations but we didn’t finish them off.”


The post Klopp defends bad-tempered interview after Liverpool defeat appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

1.  Guard of honour? Don’t care and nor should you. On we go…


2. Fair play to Jurgen Klopp. The only prize on offer to Manchester City tonight was momentum ahead of next season and Klopp could have taken even that off the table by naming an understrength side. A Harvey Elliott here, a Curtis Jones there and, all of a sudden, the game would have had a very different look and significance.

But he resisted that urge. One to eleven, this was a proper Liverpool without an asterisk, without proper motivation and – superficially at least – without any excuses.


3. And good to see Pep Guardiola play Phil Foden in a game of consequence, and in this more advanced role which increasingly seems like it might become his permanent home.

One of the theories about Foden is that City are too good to facilitate his development. That in the situations in which he’s typically used, their superiority is such as to provide no sort of useful context. Who knows if that’s right, but it sounds logical enough, and so seeing him in this kind of game – dead rubber or otherwise– felt like it actually served a purpose and a function.


4. Tonight was just Benjamin Mendy’s fiftieth Premier League appearance for Manchester City. There lies a problem which needs addressing this summer/autumn/winter/whenever the transfer market opens.


5. Penalty? Initially no, then yes. The first bits of contact were fine, because that was the kind of standard penalty box grappling that referees pretend not to see. But after Sterling had shifted the ball out of his feet and created an angle to cross or shoot, Gomez kept hold of him, denying him the opportunity to exploit the space he’d manufactured.

He probably did go down quite easily, but the game has created a situation whereby players feel the need to do that to get the decisions to which they’re entitled.


6. Gomez was culpable again for the second. He was left exposed as that move unfolded, finding himself one-on-one with a player capable of shifting and shooting with lightning speed, but Sterling was only scoring in one way and Gomez failed to protect that route to goal.

Don’t let him cut inside, don’t let him cut inside, don’t let him cut inside. 

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big deal – it barely warrants a conclusion – but, while obviously talented and deservedly Virgil van Dijk’s first-choice partner, Gomez isn’t one of those players who’s guaranteed a starting place and neither is he in such substantial credit that bad moments occurring back-to-back can just be shrugged off.

That isn’t a prompt to re-categorise him, that would be absurd, but this was a reminder that van Dijk’s shadow is a forgiving place and that, when he’s not quite himself, there are still imperfections in Liverpool’s backline.


7. Defensive issues aside, the movement from Kevin De Bruyne for City’s second was exemplary. Most of the time, it’s De Bruyne’s talent which draws praise and quite rightly so, because that dynamic playmaker category – that floating position he plays – is a territory almost all of his own.

But that second goal was about workrate: his run drew Andrew Robertson away from the ball, creating the time and opportunity for Foden to play Sterling in on Gomez. Simple, but superb. The goal doesn’t happen without him and his industry is just something else of virtue to admire.


8. That goal isn’t scored without Phil Foden, either. There are lots of young players who are pretty on the ball and who can play with one or two touches in tight spaces, but not nearly as many who know when to release possession. Foden seems to have that instinct and – at a guess – that’s probably why Guardiola currently sees him as a credible attacking option.

It’s a fine art. Having the timing to draw players in and then exploit the space created by that displacement is a real skill and Foden has it.


9. …and he can finish. That much we knew – or are starting to know – but the intricate build-up also made him look like a player born to play for Guardiola. The finish was comprehensive, a lovely lift over Alisson and high into the net, but it was the awareness for where the defenders were and where the space to drive into would be that made it such a charming bit of play.

Admittedly, it had become obvious by that point that Liverpool weren’t themselves and that one team was considerably more committed to their task than the other. But what a good goal and it’s rare that Andy Robertson is made to look that silly by anyone, let alone a player still searching for a permanent place in a first-team.


10. Let’s put Rodri in the ‘maybe’ pile. As time goes on and a replacement becomes increasingly hard to find, it’s becoming obvious – if it wasn’t before – just how unique Fernandinho is. Even now, at 34, City just aren’t the same without his tranche of abilities at the base of their midfield. Understandably so, because how many players with his quiver of passes also possess such sturdy defensive attributes too?

Put in another way: Could Luka Modric also play centre-half? Could Toni Kroos or Casemiro?

It’s not just a question of being able to sit and pass – see Jorginho’s issues at Chelsea for proof of that – because Guardiola’s teams not only need to be armed with knifing precision from deep midfield, they also require the player in that role to perform the defensive duties of a small army without possession.

Can Rodri do that? Let’s see. The positions he receives the ball in are smart enough and he seems composed in possession, but there isn’t an overwhelming case for him yet.


11. That’s going to be a long-term argument, isn’t it? You can feel it coming. On the basis that City have other priorities this summer and whatever money they do spend will be used to reinforced the centre of defence and the full-back positions, Rodri will presumably have at least another season to make this role his own – during which, naturally, his supporters and apologists will clash after every game.

He’s going to be one of ‘those’. Nice ball over the top for the fourth goal, mind. Lovely. He’s a good player. Unfortunately, the man he’s tasked with replacing was an extraordinarily rare one.


12. How do Liverpool work Naby Keita into this midfield?

It seems necessary for the sake of the side’s evolution. That seems absurdly harsh given everything the Henderson-Fabinho-Wijnaldum trio has achieved but, on a technical basis, Keita is probably better than all of them. People forget how he was viewed during his time at RB Leipzig. Temperamental and occasionally difficult, but also absolutely brilliant – shades of Iniesta, even, in the way that he’d carry and create.

That’s heady praise, possibly even hyperbole, but there’s no question that if his abilities were woven into this side properly, then its midfield would become a protagonist in games in a way that it currently isn’t and probably unlock different ways of winning games. It might also move away from some of its current dependencies, too, and the difficulties it experiences without Sadio Mane or one of the full-backs.

What’s the answer? Fabinho’s the best defender of the lot, he has to play. Henderson has also been deified on Merseyside in a way that makes his technical shortcomings essentially irrelevant. He’s not going anywhere. Is it Wijnaldum – is he going to have to be the necessary sacrifice if Keita is to have the impact he should?


13. Just to revisit the point about Benjamin Mendy. He actually played well this evening and, because he did, that first point seems really harsh. But isn’t the problem his fragility? His running style seems changed from what it was two years ago, and he seems a more clunky, clumsy player.

It’s like the difference between a young Jack Wilshere and the older incarnation, the version most recently seen limping about against Chelsea on Wednesday night. An injury and another interruption never seems very far away and, on the basis of the points raised in this article about the differences between Liverpool and City, that doesn’t seem like an uncertainty which can be left unaddressed for much longer.


14. The VAR intervention in the Sheffield United-Tottenham game remains the silliest of the night, but the decision to disallow Riyad Mahrez’s goal gave it some competition. Yes, it’s the rule, but when goals are being chalked off for handball when that handball has only occurred because of a foul, then it’s time to have a rethink about some of these mechanics.

If Fabinho doesn’t go through the back of Phil Foden, then Mahrez would probably still have run through to score. At the very least, it’s worth acknowledging that the literal way in which some of these laws are being applied is not really in the interests of the sport.


15. This game isn’t going to have any long-term worth, but it’s testament to how finely tuned football teams are. Liverpool probably didn’t have the most arduous week of training and, most likely, dietary and nutritional standards were allowed to slip over the last few days too. That’s putting it mildly, even though they probably didn’t spend the last 72 hours living like they were on a stag-do at the darts.

But it’s amazing how different they were. The energy levels were down, but not nearly as much or as noticeably as the general focus. Some of the positioning in defence was absolutely wild and, within the space of a week, all the little cohesions and understandings which make this Liverpool side so great had dissolved.

No big deal, they’re champions, but it’s a reminder of how elite teams need to be perpetually maintained to retain their advantages and also how dependent on their chemistry they ultimately are. It’s only been a few days and yet – despite probably living well and basking in the post-title glory a bit too much – that slight decrease in competitive tension reduced one of the most dominant sides of any Premier League season to generic cannon fodder.


16. For City, this wasn’t meaningless. It’s not some grand triumph which redefines their league season or disguises the fact that they remain a team with flaws. But it was good enough to continue the changing discussion around them; they’ve been excellent since the restart, playing like a side who are beginning to recover some lost ground.

They seem very fresh. Even in the Premier League, where they have nothing to play for and only injuries to avoid, there’s a life to their football which they didn’t have before the lockdown. Not domestically, at least. Whereas previously everything had felt as if it was reaching the end of a cycle, now it’s the opposite. Maybe it’s the appointment of Juanma Lillo as an assistant, perhaps it’s Guardiola’s infectious intensity, or maybe it’s a simple as a refocusing in response to having to sit and stew during lockdown, and these players seeing a thousand Liverpool victory laps in their mind.

Who knows, but they’re different. The football is bright and sharp, and inventive in a way which suggests a new degree of fertility. Even with six games left, they look like a side who can’t wait for next season to begin.

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter

The post 16 Conclusions: Manchester City 4-0 Liverpool appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Just the four players linked with Arsenal this morning, including a Man Utd flop and a 35-year-old centre-back…


It’s not been a bad 24 hours or so for Arsenal. After Bukayo Saka signed a new deal, the Gunners humped Norwich before Mikel Arteta made positive noises over Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang signing a new contract.

If Aubameyang doesn’t commit, however, then Le10 Sport reckon they have an idea of who Arsenal might sign to replace their captain. Apparently, Memphis Depay is chief among the Gunners’ targets if Aubameyang and/or Alexandre Lacazette decide they’ve had enough of this sh*t.

According to the report, no concrete move has yet been made, but Mikel Arteta is said to rate Depay’s talent and personality. Presumably he hasn’t yet sought any references from Manchester United or Wayne Rooney.

Depay is in a strong position since he is a year from the end of his contract. Lyon still hope to persuade the Dutchman to sign new terms but a return to the Premier League supposedly appeals to Depay, as would living in London.


Depay is just one of the names being whispered in relation to Arsenal…

The Athletic claims the Gunners have stepped up their interest in Thomas Partey but not to the point of showing any willingness to pay the Atletico Madrid midfielder’s £45million release clause. Partey fancies the move but Arsenal are said to expect a hefty discount.

Antoine Griezmann might be up for a switch this summer too. The Daily Express reckons Arsenal and Inter Milan are waiting to rescue Griezmann from his Nou Camp nightmare, but Barcelona won’t just give away a player they bought for £100million a year ago. They’re already resigned to taking a massive hit on Philippe Coutinho, while Griezmann is presumably hoping that he’ll outlast Quique Setien and a new coach – Ronald Koeman, perhaps? – might give him the time of day.

Lastly, Le10 Sport recycle another whisper coming from The Emirates. Word is, the Gunners are hoping David Luiz can have a word in Thiago Silva’s shell-like and convince the PSG defender to join them as a free agent this summer. Which would at least offer one reason for giving Luiz a new contract.


Speaking of defenders who scare the living sh*t out of their supporters, Serge Aurier could be heading out of Tottenham this summer, with Monaco said to be keen to take the right-back.

Sky Sports says Aurier could be a target for new Monaco sporting director Paul Mitchell, who used to oversee Spurs’ recruitment. Mitchell moved to Monaco earlier this month from RB Leipzig, where he enhanced his reputation as one of the most sought-after transfer gurus in the game. Which presumably he achieved by showing a little more imagination than simply returning to one of his old clubs for one of their cast-offs.


Manchester City have made signing David Alaba a priority… Alaba wants a massive pay rise to sign a new deal at Bayern… Andreas Christensen is open to a new deal at Chelsea… A swap deal between Arsenal and Roma involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Justin Kluivert is unlikely but Mkhitaryan still appears set to complete a permanent move to the Italian capital… Ronald Koeman is again being linked with the Barcelona job… Manchester United youngster Largie Ramazani is set to join Almeria after turning down a new contract at Old Trafford… Rennes have no intention of selling Eduardo Camavinga to Real Madrid.

The post Gossip: Depay and Griezmann among quartet lined with Arsenal appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta insists Mesut Ozil’s club-record wage packet is never taken into consideration when it comes to picking his team.

Ozil has become an increasingly divisive character in recent years, with many Arsenal fans believing he is unworthy of being the highest-paid player in the history of the club.

The former Germany international collects a reported weekly salary of £350,000 – but has yet to play a minute of football for the Gunners since the season resumed.

Arteta stressed a “tactical decision” had kept Ozil out until the FA Cup win at Sheffield United, when it was reported the 31-year-old was injured.

He will be assessed ahead of tomorrow’s Premier League game against Norwich following back soreness, but Arteta has stressed he only ever picks his team on footballing merit.

Asked if Ozil’s wages had any impact when it comes to team selection, Arteta replied: “Never.

“That (Ozil’s contract) is an agreement that the player and club were happy to do, to move ahead and it is never something that I question.

“I think players are paid whatever they deserve because there are two parties here and that should never be something I have to judge.”

Arteta also admitted Ozil is unhappy at being sidelined – but said he would expect nothing less from a player wanting to play their part.

“I believe that he’s not very happy because he’s not playing,” he said.

“But as well he picked up an injury the other day and we have to wait and see how he evolves.

“I’m expecting a player that is not playing to feel hurt and disappointed.

“I want all my players at their best and to have the ability to be able to pick them to help the squad as much as possible and that’s the only intention I have.”

Arteta played alongside Ozil at the Emirates Stadium for three years before hanging up his boots.

The Spaniard therefore is in one of the best positions to judge Ozil’s ability and what he can offer to the current team.

“I know him really well because I played with him,” he added.

“Mesut has unique qualities. He is a very special player for the position he plays, how specific he is in the qualities that he has and what he can bring to the team. I don’t think much has changed.

“Obviously he adapted to the league and he needed some time but he started to perform pretty quickly and he established himself in this league for a long time, something that is not easy to do.”

The post Arteta claims he never questions Ozil’s wages appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Man City are making headway in their defender search, while Liverpool know how much Brighton expect for one of theirs…


However Manchester City prioritise their to-do list this summer, it’s a bloody long list.

Close to the top of it, as it should have been a year ago, is the need to find a centre-back fit to partner Aymeric Laporte. City have been heavily linked with Kalidou Koulibaly – last week it was reported that the Napoli defender felt it a strong possibility that he’ll end up at the Etihad next season – but Pep Guardiola has other irons in the fire.

The Athletic reckons City have discussed a part-exchange deal with Bayern Munich that would see David Alaba bring a load of cash with him in return for Leroy Sane but apparently the Bundesliga champions feel the Austria defender is too important to lose this summer. Borussia Dortmund’s Dan-Axel Zagadou has also come under consideration, but David Ornstein suggests City are making most progress with Nathan Ake.

The Bournemouth defender will surely be up for grabs if and when the Cherries are relegated and it is claimed ‘early discussions have taken place’. Chelsea’s interest hasn’t died either, but City appear to be at the front of the queue.


Read: Champions League qualification: why they will, why they won’t…


The Sane issue also needs sorting as a matter of urgency. It seems increasingly likely that the Germany winger won’t sign a new deal so with exactly a year left on his contract, City will have to sell unless they want to risk losing a major asset for nothing next summer.

They’ve made it clear to Bayern that they won’t be anyone’s patsy and if The Telegraph is right, City will want top dollar to fund their splurge on a replacement. Because it seems Pep is particularly keen on Jack Grealish.

The City boss needed little encouragement to gush over Grealish prior to the Carabao Cup final – “I’m a big fan of him,” Guardiola said – and it matters not that the Aston Villa captain is a different type of player to Sane. Grealish’s ability to operate centrally as well as wide is seen as a major plus.

The prospect of a bidding war between City and Manchester United would certainly suit Villa if they tumble back into the Championship.


Read: Jack the lad – how much is Best-esque Grealish worth?


Coming the other way are likely to be Leeds. But Ben White probably won’t be with them.

Brighton are highly unlikely to sanction another loan move for the centre-back, who has been one of the Championship’s best performers this season. If they cannot use him, then there are plenty of clubs willing to buy him.

Liverpool are among the 22-year-old’s suitors. The Reds’ scouts have kept a very close eye on White this season and their interest hasn’t escaped Brighton’s notice. Football Insider says the Seagulls have made it known that they want £35million for the defender who has played every minute in the league for Marcelo Bielsa this term.


Chelsea are ready to sign Angel Gomes when the youngster walks away from Manchester United upon the expiry of his contract today… Gomes also has offers from abroad, with Hamburg, Benfica and Valencia said to be leading the chase… Newcastle and Arsenal are among the Premier League clubs keen on Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst… Newcastle are also monitoring Thomas Robert, the 19-year-old son of Laurent Robert currently playing for Montpellier… Southampton are eyeing Arsenal forward Folarin Balogun… Chelsea targets Andre Onana and Nicolas Tagliafico have both been told they can leave Ajax.

The post Gossip: City eye Ake while fighting Man Utd for Grealish; Liverpool to pay £35m? appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Pep Guardiola spoke of a ‘struggle to focus’ on the Premier League after Liverpool broke their grasp midweek, revealing what his side will now focus on for the remainder of the season.

Man City relinquished their stranglehold on the Premier League on Wednesday night, but still maintain a firm hold on the domestic cups after cruising to a 2-0 victory over Newcastle.

The win sets up an enticing clash with Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-finals, and Guardiola revealed his side’s attentions will no longer be on the Premier League for the remainder of the season.

Speaking to the BBC following the win, Pep said: “We are in the semi-finals.

“It was not easy to attack against a team defending so deep but it was a good performance. I am happy to go back to London, to Wembley.

“After the defeat against Chelsea, now in the Premier League we are struggling to focus.

“We are close in the Champions League and there is a gap. We are at Wembley again and were winners last season so that is so good.

“We are of course preparing for Madrid now.”

The opening goal came via the ever-reliable boot of Kevin De Bruyne, who was also celebrating his 29th birthday.

“We started really well,” said the midfield ace. “We were sharp and put them under pressure.

“We should have scored more. We had a few problems with penaltes this year. The gaffer asked me to step up and I have scored a couple now.

“In my career I have played lots of positions and the gaffer asked me to try something new because Newcastle play with a back five. I just work for the team.

On playing behind closed doors, the Belgian added: “We know it is really weird and it is not something I enjoy, but we are professionals and we need to keep going.”


The post Guardiola reveals what Man City will now focus on after Prem submission appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Liverpool have some amazing set piece specialists and Herbie Kane showcased his dead ball credentials with a brilliant goal for Hull City.

Kane joined the Championship side on a temporary deal in January and made his sixth league appearance of the season against Birmingham City.

The 21-year-old stepped up to take a free-kick from the edge of the box and everybody assumed that he would try to curl the ball into the top corner.

Watch the video here.

The post Watch: Liverpool’s Herbie Kane scores clever free-kick for Hull appeared first on Football365.

Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Ralph Hasenhuttl will give Alex McCarthy time to redeem himself rather than “kill” the Southampton goalkeeper following an error as inexplicable as it was awful against Arsenal.

Having returned from the coronavirus suspension with a bang at Norwich, that 3-0 away win was followed by an all too familiar failing at St Mary’s on Thursday evening.

The Premier League’s worst performing home side fell to a 2-0 loss to the out-of-sorts Gunners, with McCarthy’s atrocious pass into the path of Eddie Nketiah putting Mikel Arteta’s side on course for victory.

Hasenhuttl’s frustration at the error remained palpable the following day, but the Saints boss vowed to give McCarthy another chance with Angus Gunn waiting in the wings ahead of Sunday’s trip to Watford.

“Let’s have a look (how it goes),” the Austrian said when asked if Gunn could get a chance between the sticks before the season is out.

“I don’t want to kill one goalkeeper because he makes a mistake when we want to play out a little bit more.

“Although this mistake yesterday was an awful one because it was not really pressure then at that moment, so it was too easy how he gave it away. So easy, can’t do it.

“There were a few other moments where he can have a better positioning in the pitch, but I see now also a progress in his game so let’s give him time and we will do this.”

FEATURE: Big Weekend: Leicester v Chelsea, Saint-Maximin, Wilder, Man Utd

As well as that howler, McCarthy could not get hold of a second-half Alexandre Lacazette attempt as Joe Willock rounded things off for Arsenal.

That strike came from the free-kick that followed Jack Stephens’ sending off for taking down Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, with the Saints defender played into trouble by Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg’s terrible pass.



Such errors have punctuated Saints’ season and seen them regularly take a step back when things had been looking up.

“If you listen yesterday evening to Jurgen Klopp, what is the big change they made in the last years it was exactly this part of consistency,” Hasenhuttl said.

“In the first two, three years when he was there, they had always terms where they were not hungry anymore.

“I think it’s the type of character you must implement in a team and it’s sometimes only possible if you change a few guys in the future and then create a new spirit, a new character in the team.

“It’s definitely that every time we want to make the next step to come maybe in the top 10, we are failing.

“This is definitely something we will have an eye on in the summer.”

Stephens will miss the trip to Vicarage Road following his sending off against Arsenal – a match Sofiane Boufal missed with a thigh complaint.

Moussa Djenepo this weekend serves the final match of a three-game ban for his March red card against Newcastle.


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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

Jurgen Klopp hailed Liverpool’s victory against Crystal Palace as the “best counter-pressing game” he has ever seen.

Liverpool are within touching distance of the title after their 4-0 win over Crystal Palace. In fact, they may not even need to kick a ball again to be confirmed as champions, if Manchester City fail to beat Chelsea.

Klopp’s coaching style is largely based on a counter-pressing style, so he was visibly delighted at how well his team carried out his orders upon their return to Anfield.

No fans were present to witness it, and that was the only downside for Klopp, as he dreamed of what it would have been like with everyone there.

“Imagine if this stadium would have been full today and all the people could have experienced it live,” Klopp told Sky Sports.

“My boys played like everyone was in the stadium. The atmosphere on the pitch was incredible.

“It was for sure the best counter-pressing game I have ever seen behind closed doors.

“[Before the restart] I said I would like to see the best games behind closed doors ever because, hopefully, we won’t have to see them again.

“That was the best counter-pressing game I have ever seen. Palace didn’t change their approach but we felt free.

“We tried hard to tell the boys how good the Everton game was apart from the last third. Today was a reaction and I liked the game so much.

“4-0 up in the 87th minute and four players chasing one Crystal Palace player like it’s the only ball in the world, I like it so much, wonderful result and a wonderful game.

“The boys are in good shape and in a good mood and it was important we showed our supporters we are still here and we do not want to wait.”

With Liverpool potentially winning the title as early as Thursday, Klopp denied claims from Pep Guardiola that Manchester City would be focusing on the FA Cup.

“They are brilliant,” Klopp added. “Pep should play poker and the football they play is unbelievable.

“We are different and we have to be, but we are good as well. There are different ways of playing football and I like them both.”

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Posted in EPL, FA Premier League

1. What’s the best way to treat Tanguy Ndombele? There probably isn’t a right answer, but Jose Mourinho’s reticence towards the midfielder is still understandable. If his aim is to tease a better attitude from the club’s record signing, then giving him a free pass into the side wouldn’t make any sense.

He left him out again here and with good reason. He needs to be properly conditioned for Premier League football, but he also needs to earn his right to play. Mourinho has had a funny week, but this was an entirely logical decision, even if it forced him to field a less than balanced midfield.


2. …’less than balanced’ being euphemistic. Giovani Lo Celso and Dele Alli, with Moussa Sissoko as the only insurance? If Tottenham were guilty of being over cautious against Manchester United, then this signalled their intention to be much more bold. Sissoko isn’t really a holding player. Lo Celso is too aggressive to be an orthodox central midfielder. At his best, Alli just plays free and spare and pretty much wherever he wants.


3. Fortunately, David Moyes just circled the wagons. If Mourinho had picked a midfield without a backwards gear, then Moyes responded with one incapable of driving forward. Mark Noble’s box-to-box days are long in the past, Declan Rice is cut from that modern, deep-lying playmaker cloth, and Tomas Soucek looks more like a holder, too.


4. Perhaps with due cause. While West Ham have been fairly adequate at defending set-pieces and preventing counter-attacking situations, only Southampton have conceded more goals from open play than their 35. It suggests a few things: difficulties in front of defence, issues protecting their full-backs and a general, team-wide porousness through the middle.

Maybe that’s the kind of midfield you have to pick when nearly all of your players are playing beneath themselves and when you can’t count on any protection from your forwards. Felipe Anderson gave one of ‘those’ performances against Wolves, offering only a 70-minute shrug in front of a two-man midfield, and he was rightly dropped so that the department could be reconfigured. At least Moyes is being reactive.

And for a long time it worked too, because West Ham defended well as a block, preventing Spurs from working any angles or triangles or manufacturing any sort of attacking momentum.


5. That wasn’t just about West Ham sitting deep, though. Tottenham’s early issues could be tied to that midfield. With Harry Winks rested and Ndombele not included, Sissoko was typically the deepest of the three and charged with taking the ball off the defence.

One nice rake to (an offside) Serge Aurier aside, the difficulties were predictable: you need a bit of subtlety in that role, a bit of passing variation, and that isn’t among Sissoko’s strengths. He would ultimately have a good game, covering ground well and carrying the ball nicely on occasion, but that was the wrong kind of responsibility for him and, as a result, Tottenham plodded in those early stages.


6. Still, it was hard to see the opening half-hour as anything other than a reminder of where Tottenham are ideologically. They’re still able to field a lot of good players, especially in attack, but the understandings just aren’t quite there. Harry Kane is being tempted deep, in search of involvement, and their most dynamic players – Son and Moura this evening – are generally stood still when they receive the ball. It’s still chalkboard football, rather than anything of any instinct.

In fact, the only real chance of the first half came from a little Moura ad lib, when he shimmied out of a tackle and brought a good save from Lukasz Fabianski from distance. It summed them up: their system isn’t yet ready to force any fractures, it still has to be off-the-cuff.


7. One of Moyes’s strategies was for his players to sit off the ball. Even deep in their own half, it was rare to see a West Ham player offer a tackle. Instead, they’d invite the Spurs ball-carriers either to take them on – which few of them had the confidence to do – or otherwise just encourage them to push a pass into a safe, wide position.

Negative it may have been, but it was also smart. Moyes knew what his team would be facing at White Hart Lane. As a result, the midfield didn’t lunge or commit, forcing Spurs to play around a block that they didn’t have the precision to pass through – and on the one occasion they did before half-time, VAR came to the rescue.


8. A half-time statistic: Giovani Lo Celso had 61 touches of the ball, Harry Kane just 19. He’s not fit, that’s plain to see, but he won’t enjoy being marginalised like that on his own pitch and, as a statement of how disconnected he currently is from this team, that’s hard to ignore.

He’s been here before, battling for fitness and clunking awkwardly around the pitch. In the past, though, he’s survived through those periods while still scoring important goals. Now, he isn’t even getting chances. Occasionally a ball breaks to him – as it did shortly after the restart – but at his best he manufactures them for himself, with a quick couple of touches to set up an angle, or something spectacular.

He would find a way onto the scoresheet eventually, yes, but only after the game had broken open and it’s not typical for Kane to have to rely on circumstantial opportunity.


9. Do we blame Mourinho for this? No, that’s harsh – at least it is if it’s not mitigated with the recognition that Kane’s whole demeanour is of a player who has been relentlessly overplayed. He stays on the pitch because his contract is so incentive-based and always has been. If he’s not playing, he has no chance of getting paid as someone of his standing should. At the same time, though, his injury troubles and his gentle decline over the past eighteen months is very obviously a legacy of Spurs’ lack of depth in his position.


10. The own-goal was really too comedic to dwell upon, but – having spent years watching Christian Eriksen hit the first man – Tottenham fans will at least have enjoyed the sight of a whipped corner being put in a dangerous position. Good height, good pace. Good luck? Of course, but the delivery warranted it.


11. What could Michail Antonio do if he played for a really good side? He turned 30 in March, so we’ll never know now, but his utility abilities surely could have been applied to greater use further up the table. In this team, with the way they attack, the only chance to really appreciate what he does is through the prism of those barrelling runs from deep or when he takes on three defenders at the same time and somehow still retains possession. He does that really, really well.

But what if he was surrounded by players who could do that kind of running for him? If he played from a proper attacking platform, rather than in single bursts forward? He wouldn’t be a world-beater, but it’s an interesting thought; he’s a much better player than many seem to assume and this was another night when he didn’t get the chance to show it.


12. Giovani Lo Celso showed exactly how good a player he is. He was rightly Man of the Match and, in amongst Tottenham’s frail, fragile systems, he gave a performance of probing intent, full of self-belief and the determination to change the game.

And he did change the game. It was his corner which spun in off Soucek and, if not for VAR, he would have had a sly assist for Son’s goal in the first half. And a second, had Kane not pulled a second-half shot beyond the far-post.

But what happened between those moments and after them was more important. Spurs are a fearful team at the moment and he, by contrast, is fearless. He wants the ball. He’s not afraid to fail. And no matter what the state of the game or the score, those characteristics never change.

He’s a man on an island in many ways. In a lot of Tottenham’s games since the turn of the year, he’s been the sole attraction and the only functioning player. Often the only reason to speak positively about the side. That was the case in Burnley, again in Leipzig and for long periods, true again tonight. But his abilities aren’t just being exaggerated by context. Every time he touches the ball the mind wanders to a time when he might be part of something more competent and – without question – that really will be worth watching.


13. Kane did get his goal in the end. The finish was smart, neat and familiar and the fifty-yard run to break free certainly tested that surgically repaired hamstrung. A good moment, then, and one which – from his reaction – he badly needed.

The points above stand, though, because while it was a goal Kane took well – at the end of a half during which, admittedly, his shot volume grew and his involvement rose – it didn’t dispel any of the concerns about the functionality of the attack or his role within it. It doesn’t look right. His control is awkward, his touches in the box aren’t what they were and the connection with his teammates isn’t quite right.

Part of that will be the injury. Some of it will be the general problems at Tottenham and the difficulties of adjusting to a new head coach. But an element of this struggle is about Kane himself and the reassurance over that is yet to arrive.

14. Top marks for Erik Lamela. He’s a yappy little pain and one of the snidest players in the division, but he was the one who retrieved the ball on the edge of his own box, who then fed Son Heung-min, and when Kane slide the ball home for the second goal, was the only Tottenham player who had made a supporting run.

He has critics, he always will, but if you like him, you love him and you’ll always forgive the turnovers, the self-indulgence and all the other frills.


15. There was a moment in that second half which summed up modern West Ham, because it’s rare indeed that a team in their position has the chance to bring players like Manuel Lanzini and Felipe Anderson off the bench. Or that, in their desperation, they don’t even bother to bring Andriy Yarmolenko or Jack Wilshere onto the pitch.

But this is the club that Sullivan and Gold have built; that’s what it looks like. It’s become about names, reputations, big deals, big wages and lots of attention. And invariably also about other fans pointing and laughing, mocking all the hubris.

No matter how many times these transfer lunges fail, the lesson is never learned and those in power retain their belief that if they could just get things right, if the stars align for just a few summer months, they’ll be able to parlay that ludicrous stadium lease and the broadcasting contract into some kind of London relevance.

It’s not going to happen. Not while these people own the club. West Ham are circling the Premier League drain yet again, and that’s not a legacy of this season or even last, but of a culture of superficiality which never seems to be replaced by anything more substantial.


16. Declan Rice has a problem, too. If this is the club’s midfield future under Moyes, then he can’t be part of it. For the sake of his own development, Rice has got to play for a club who operate from the front foot, because otherwise his evolution will be very one-dimensional. He’ll stop being a credible deep-lying playmaker and just become one of those generic stoppers, known purely for what they do without the ball.

Tonight, he touched the ball 55 times and completed 85% of his passes. But does anyone remember a single one of them?

That’s the problem. Footballers become their surroundings over time and, if he’s to stay, Rice needs West Ham to be a better forum for his abilities.

Seb Stafford-Bloor is on Twitter

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