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Author: mabbs

Swanning Around

Swanning Around

Tottenham are in desperate need of a big result. Back to back defeats at the hands of Monaco and Chelsea have dealt a serious blow to Spurs’ season, and while there is still a long way to go, a return to form prior to the all-important Christmas period is crucial. The victory over Manchester City aside, Mauricio Pochettino’s men are yet to hit the heights of last term, and I feel as though the unbeaten tag Spurs had in the league until last week was covering up a number of flaws. Don’t get me wrong, this is still a squad capable of challenging for the title, but the level of desire among the players appears to have dropped slightly, while the sloppy mistakes have most definitely increased. Spurs are still in a relatively healthy position of fifth in the Premier League table, the recent defeat at Stamford Bridge has left the club seven points off the top of the table and a victory this Saturday against a resurgent Swansea side is key.

The Champions League exit was unfortunate but expected by myself and the majority of Tottenham fans I have conversed with. Wembley was never going to work. This is a very young group of players with little to no Champions League experience. Critic can use the wages argument as much as they like, but expecting the team to be able to perform to the same levels in an alien environment was ludicrous. Having the home CL games at Wembley handicapped us massively and although the players have to take responsibility for the prospect of Europa league or possibly no European football for the remainder of the campaign, so do the hierarchy at the football club. We can take some positive from these group games however, should Tottenham manage to finish top four this term, the experience will have done the squad some good and this might well pay off at Wembley come next season.

Harry Kane signed a new long term deal at the club this week, the timing of which could really not have been any better. The presence of the Tottenham talisman makes this team so much stronger. Apart from the threat he provides in front of goal, Kane’s positive influence in the dressing room is particularly important. Mauricio Pochettino was critical of his players following the Monaco result, and did get an improved display as a result against Chelsea, even though Tottenham still can away defeated. Swansea gained a much needed win over relegation rivals Crystal Palace last weekend, but their defensive frailties were till apparent for all to see. I strongly fancy Tottenham Hotspur to put on a real show come 3pm Saturday and get back to winning ways in convincing fashion.

Leverlosing?

Leverlosing?

Tottenham return to Wembley this Wednesday evening for a crucial Champions League encounter with Bayer Leverkusen. The two sides fought out a 0-0 draw a fortnight ago in Germany, a match which was dominated for the most part by Bayer Leverkusen. It could be argued that Spurs were fortunate to come away with a point, but Mauricio Pochettino’s side defended well and still have the opportunity of qualifying for the latter stages of the competition. If Tottenham are going to achieve that, they will almost certainly need a positive result here against their German rivals, with Group E currently very finely balanced. Spurs are just a point in front of Leverkusen as things stand, but victory would increase that margin to four points, and make things very difficult indeed for Roger Schmidt’s men.

Having not been victorious since a 2-0 success over Manchester City on the 2nd of October, Tottenham Hotspur are desperate for a win. Tottenham haven’t played badly by any means during the past month, but they have been unable to turn their domination of matches into victories, drawing four and losing one of five games played. Goals have been at a premium, with Vincent Janssen only able to find the back of the net if it is from the penalty spot. Harry Kane is very close to a return, but is likely to be saved for the Arsenal game on Sunday, and Toby Alderweireld is also not quite ready to slot back into the Spurs eleven following injury. Mauricio Pochettino has assembled a squad which has plenty of strength in depth, but the players that have come in aren’t really firing on all cylinders.

A big positive for Spurs is the fact that Bayern Leverkusen aren’t the best when on the road, and this should be a very different match to the one which took place at the BayArena recently. The flip side of that is the fact that this encounter will be taking place at Wembley Stadium, and Tottenham didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory during their opening Champions League clash there with Monaco. While there was plenty of support for the so called home side, Tottenham definitely did not look as though they felt at home. Where the match taking place at White Hart Lane, I would agree with the bookies assessment of making Spurs around the even money mark, even with a few injuries to contend with. With Wembley as the venue however, Tottenham’s chances of all three points are reduced. Not many club sides get the opportunity to play at the home of English football, and it no doubt incentivises the teams Spurs are facing. I’m expecting another tight nervy affair, and the result really could go either way on Wednesday night.

Spurs Are on Their Way to Wembley….

Spurs Are on Their Way to Wembley….

….to play their first Champions League fixture since 2011. Tottenham’s third place finish in the Premier League last season meant the end of Thursday night football for the time being at least, and Spurs will now be in action on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, taking part in Europe’s elite football competition. Mauricio Pochettino’s men come into tonight’s clash with Monaco off the back of an impressive display away at Stoke this past weekend, a game where they ran out 4-0 victors. Spurs have begun the new season in relatively positive fashion, and have a return of eight points from their four games played thus far, meaning they currently sit in fifth spot in the Premier League table.

Harry Kane got off the mark at the Britannia Stadium, and that will hopefully do last season’s Golden Boot winner a boost in terms of confidence. Kane has looked rather lethargic in recent times, thanks in part to being involved in the pathetic national side. Harry will no doubt want to make an impact in the Champions League, and it would be no surprise to see him get on the scoresheet tonight. Mauricio Pochettino will no doubt be delighted to have Moussa Dembele back at his disposal, the talented midfielder having been banned since an altercation with Diego Costa at the back end of last term. That match against Chelsea appeared to have a real negative effect on the Tottenham squad, and impacted on the final few games of the season, which culminated in an embarrassing 5-1 defeat at the hands of Newcastle. The return of Dembele should finally put those demons to rest, and the Belgian international can play a crucial role in Spurs’ bid for glory this term.

The odds compilers at bet365 make Tottenham Hotspur the 4/5 favourites to win this CL encounter with Monaco, the French outfit are available at the 4/1 mark, while the draw is on offer at odds of 27/10. Although Spurs were comfortable 4-1 winners when the two sides met in the Europa League last December, there are different factors to consider this time around. How Tottenham are going to cope playing at Wembley for one? While the North London outfit will definitely have the bulk of the crowd support, there will likely also be a number of neutrals in attendance, with cheap tickets having been on offer for the past few weeks. I’d expect a lot of Monaco fans to also make the short journey across the water, so the Wembley atmosphere certainly won’t mirror that of White Hart Lane. That being said, I still fancy Tottenham to get their 2016/17 Champions League campaign off to a winning start, and the 4/5 available at bet365 makes a fair bit of appeal.

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In a World Full of City’s and United’s, There’s Only One Hotspur

In a World Full of City’s and United’s, There’s Only One Hotspur

A guest post from Mark Ede, life-long Spurs fan and writer of The Focus of my Attention

It was summer 1990, when I was seven years old, when I first fell in love. I fell in love with a game. I fell in love with football. There were two players in particular who held my affection that summer. Star striker Gary Lineker and the man the rest of the nation fell in love with – the supremely talented – Paul Gascoigne.

Unbeknown to me at the time, both players played for the same English club side – Tottenham Hotspur. Upon finding out this information, my seven year old mind was made up, I was to become a fan of Tottenham Hotspur Football club.

In a world full of City’s, Uniteds and Rover’s… There is only one Hotspur..

Living in South London, I should have been a fan of Millwall, Charlton or Crystal Palace, but Lineker and Gascoigne were at Tottenham, and therefore it was in North London that my allegiance belonged, and White Hart Lane where I wanted to go more than anything.

This season marks the last year that Tottenham will play at White Hart Lane, before we leave for a year to allow for our futuristic new stadium to be built on the site of the existing stadium. Although the prospect of moving into our new stadium is extremley exciting, it is also tinged with some sadness. It made me think of my first experience of the place we have called home.

In December 1990, my Dad took me to my first game at White Hart Lane. Despite not being a football fan himself, he had secretly managed to obtain two tickets to the upcoming Tottenham vs Sunderland match. I remember the day that my mum collected me from school, and during the walk home, told me that my Dad had bought us tickets. I don’t think I had ever been so excited.

I was up early, and we headed to Tottenham in the car. Dad parked around the corner from the ground, we were there early and we headed towards the stadium. I remember the feeling I felt as I saw White Hart Lane for the first time, and remember being scared of the turnstile as I handed my ticket across. Then that was it. I was in, and was part of it. I was in White Hart Lane and ready to cheer as loud as I could. As we took our seats in the second row of the East Stand Upper, I couldn’t believe it. There was Gary Lineker, Paul Gascoigne and the rest of the first team warming up below us on the pitch.

I still remember the sound of the crowd, the feel of the ticket in my hands, the smell of the stadium, and the buzz that I received from being among the 30,000 crowd. The game didn’t start well; we were two down within twenty minutes or so. We scored two in the second half, but going into the last minute we were losing 2-3, until my idol Gary Lineker popped up with a last gasp equalizer. The fans around us went crazy and I was picked up by someone who wasn’t my dad in the euphoria. Quickly back down to my feet, Dad decided it would be time to go to beat the crowd. 3-3! What a game! I was hooked.

Despite finishing mid table in the league, Tottenham ended that season with a trophy, after a great run in the FA Cup, beating Arsenal at Wembley en route to the final. Both of my heroes scored in that semi-final, Gazza with one of the best free kicks in the history of Wembley, and Lineker netting twice. The final against Nottingham Forest will be remembered for Gazza being stretchered off, but for me it was much more than that. It was the launch of our new Umbro kit, which led to ridicule for the long shorts, (which would soon become the norm) which would be the first Tottenham kit I would own, and it would be for our courageous captain Gary Mabbutt lifting the trophy, next to the late Princess Diana in her green jacket.

I had been spoilt with my first year of being a Spurs fan. But things were going to change. Little did I know that with I wouldn’t get close to the elation of that season again until some twenty five years on. Within twelve months of the FA Cup glory, we had finished 15th, Gazza had been out injured all year, and Lineker was on his way to finish his career in Japan. Soon Gascoigne signed for Lazio, and my heroes were no longer Spurs players.

Despite seeing my heroes depart, I was hooked on Spurs, and in the coming years Teddy Sheringham and Darren Anderton quickly became firm favourites of mine. Those years that followed the ’91 success were tough for Spurs fans. The new Premier League era had arrived, and Sky dishes became more popular, which meant I was able to watch more live football than ever before. But there wasn’t too much to get excited about. I occasionally got to go to White Hart Lane, usually during pre season where tickets were cheaper.

Since then Spurs fans had to endure years of disappointment, aside from two League cup victories, there hasn’t been too much to cheer. There was a brief resurgence under Harry Redknapp, who led us into the Champions League with a great team and style of football, Gareth Bale emerged as a superstar, and rose to prominence throughout Europe in a team that included stars such as Ledley King, Luka Modric and Rafael Van der Vaart.

It is not until last season, where Spurs had a run at the title before falling away in the last few weeks of the season, that fans felt a huge connection with the club in all aspects. With the new season in its infancy, Tottenham fans are once again optimistic, we are a young exciting team, who are working for eachother and it seems all involved including fans are pulling in the same direction. The young generation have new heroes, with Dele Alli and Harry Kane being at the forefront.

My dad and I didn’t attend many matches together over the years, and if we did go to watch football, we would go to the sporadic game or two at The Den or The Valley, due to the local proximity. I think we only went to one more match together at White Hart Lane in the intervening years, which was David Howells’ testimonial in 1997.

I doubt that I will get another chance to attend a match at White Hart Lane with my Dad, with this year being the final year at the ground and at a reduced capacity, and Dad’s lack of interest in the game. He only went to games in order to put a smile on my face as a child. As I grew older I was able to go on my own or with friends, so there wasn’t a need for him to attend with me. It is a shame, but he still went out of his way to ensure that I experienced something that i loved. Even if he wasn’t particularly interested himself. He enabled me to have that special day, which has lead to a lifetime memory. I will certainly do that for my son. As we prepare to say goodbye to White Hart Lane, I will do so thanking my dad for allowing me to be in that number!

With the new season, we are delighting to see Spurs returning to the Champions League, and returning to Wembley. For a minimum of three games, we will play at Wembley against elite level opposition. We can see the new and improved White Hart Lane starting to be built, and its completion is coming in the next few seasons, I am optimistic that I will be able to provide my son with the excitement and anticipation of taking him to see Spurs in action as he gets older.

Are The Odds Stacked Against Us?

Are The Odds Stacked Against Us?

The 2016/17 Premier League season gets underway in just three days time, and there are some very interesting prices available on a variety of markets involving Tottenham Hotspur over the course of the upcoming season. Although Spurs were involved in the title race for the bulk of last term and ultimately finished in third place in the Premier League, the bookies only rate Tottenham as the joint 5th favourites for the upcoming EPL crown.

With Arsenal having snatched 2nd spot from Tottenham at the death last season, the rivalry between both teams is likely to be at an all time high this term. The odds compilers at bet365 have put Spurs in at odds of 5/4 to finish above the Gunners, while Mauricio Pochettino’s men can be backed at the 2/1 mark to end the season as top London club.

Harry Kane to be top Spurs scorer would appear to be a no-brainer at 2/7, but top Premier League goalscorer at 7/1 could well be a bit of value. Having taken the Golden boot last season, there is no reason why Harry Kane won’t have every chance of being the top striker in the land once again. Harry is going to be keen to put the disappointment of Euro 2016 behind him, and I can see the Tottenham number ten really hitting the ground running.

Here are a selection of Tottenham Hotspur special from bet365 for the upcoming premier League season.

Spurs to win the Premier League @ 9/1
Harry Kane Top Scorer @ 7/1
Kane Top Spurs Scorer @ 2/7
Kane Over 18.5 Premier League Goals @ 4/5
Spurs-Arsenal Premier League Forecast @ 50/1
Spurs to finish Top 4 @ 11/10
Spurs Top at Xmas @ 9/1
Spurs to win a major trophy @ 2/1
Spurs to go unbeaten in the Premier League @ 200/1
Spurs Top London Club @ 2/1
Spurs to finish above Arsenal @ 5/4

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Click here to visit bet365 and take advantage of this great offer!

The Inexperience of Youth

The Inexperience of Youth

Ask the majority of Tottenham Hotspur fans prior to the start of last season, and they would have no doubt bitten your hand off for a 3rd place finish in the Premier League. Unfortunately, Spurs capitulated at the very end of the campaign, ultimately finishing a point behind bitter foes Arsenal. The rivalry between the two clubs is such that ending up below the Gunners will have hurt some of the Tottenham faithful more than missing out on the title itself. While it was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, I think we really need to be looking at the bigger picture and the fact that the club is now capable of being competitive at the upper echelon of the division. While the players clearly found it difficult to get motivated once Leicester City had secured the title, I feel the main reason why Spurs were unable to hang on to second spot is obvious.

Since the departure of Harry Redknapp, Tottenham have embraced a philosophy of buying younger players. While this has largely been a decision taken by the board so the personnel retain a sell on value, Mauricio Pochettino has used the same approach as he has reshaped the Spurs squad over the past couple of years. His motivation is not monetary however, but the Argentine manager does believe that youth is the way forward, with the Spurs squad now having an average age of just under 25 years. Clearly, Pochettino’s style of play requires men who are willing to run themselves into the ground, and who are capable of doing this on a regular basis. It makes sense therefore, that the bulk of the Tottenham Hotspur squad is made up of under 25’s.

I am happy with Mauricio Pochettino’s methodology, but a lack of an older head or two in the Spurs dressing room definitely had a negative effect at the end of last term. A leader or someone with a wealth of experience could well have given the rest of the team a much needed motivational speech, or just a kick up the backside to encourage them to keep going until the bitter end. As it was, the 2015/16 campaign ended on an unnecessary downer, and took a little of the shine off what should have been regarded as a remarkable achievement for Tottenham Hotspur. While I regard Hugo Lloris as a fantastic captain, I still feel that Tottenham are lacking slightly in the experience department, and another leader should certainly be on the Pochettino’s want list.

Mauricio’s Final Signing of the Summer Transfer Window

Mauricio’s Final Signing of the Summer Transfer Window

As is always the case at this time of year, Tottenham Hotspur are being linked with a number of players as the build up to the new Premier League season begins in earnest. Just the two new faces have come into the club thus far this summer, but both are high profile and definitely improve Mauricio Pochettino’s already healthy squad. Marseille’s Georges-Kevin Nkoudou is set to bring that number up to three in the coming days, and he also appears an exciting prospect. Pochettino is one of the smoothest operators around when it comes to bringing players into the football club. It is rare for the Spurs gaffer to sign a dud, and he always ensures that anyone coming in is a hard worker, adds quality, and that they will not upset the harmony in the Tottenham dressing room. As players meeting these criteria are few and far between, I don’t see more than one or two more additions before the end of the month. Let’s have a look at the potential targets.

Danny Drinkwater
One of the star men during Leicester City’s Premier League title success last season, Danny Drinkwater has been strongly linked with Spurs over the last few days. While there is no doubt that Drinkwater was instrumental in the Leicester City story, I’m not sure Tottenham are really in need of another centre midfielder. While he is more of a playmaker than Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier, his return of just two goals in the last two Premier League campaigns is not a great return and I just don’t know if Drinkwater is any better than what Tottenham already have available in the middle of the park. He was a player that will have been popular with punters that had Leicester City among their football accumulator tips last term.

Mattias Ginter
The Borussia Dortmund centre-half is another possible target for Spurs, but like the centre of midfield, I’m just not convinced that the club need more reinforcements in this position. Admittedly, Jan Vertonghen is currently out with ankle ligament damage sustained during training for Belgium prior to Euro 2016 but he should be back shortly after the start of the season. Mauricio Pochettino also has the likes of Today Alderweireld, Kevin Wimmer and even Eric Dier who can all play at the heart of the defence. While I rate Mattias Ginter highly, I don’t envisage us parting with £25m for the German’s services.

Rafa Silva
This looks like a better fit for Tottenham as far as I’m concerned. Portugal international Rafa Silva is reportedly very keen on a move to England, and at just 23 years of age, he has the sell on potential that Daniel Levy craves. Coming off the back of some impressive performances at the recent European Championships, Silva is a versatile player and proven goalscorer who would add something different to that which Mauricio Pochettino currently has at his disposal. Silva has been linked with a number of sides over the past few months including Porto, Everton and Leicester, but it could well be Tottenham who land the exciting young playmaker. Silva would definitely be an interesting addition, especially with Tottenham’s Champions League campaign on the horizon.

What We Learned From Juventus

What We Learned From Juventus

So Tottenham may have lost their opening game in the ICC Melbourne 2016, but I don’t feel that the fourth pre season friendly of the summer was a complete disaster. Let’s look at the important points from this interesting clash.

This was basically a second string squad
Mauricio Pochettino took the decision to give his players who featured at Euro 2016 a further rest, and not make them travel for this tournament in Australia. Bar new signings Wanyama and Janssen, the rest of yesterday’s starting eleven will be very unlikely to be involved come the clash with Everton on August 13th. When you consider just who Spurs had out there, a 2-1 defeat against Italy’s finest was not a bad result by any means. Hugo Loris, Harry Kane, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Kyle Walker are all have some much needed time out, and this should reap rewards come the start of the new campaign proper.

Erik Lamela is set to shine this season
The introduction of Erik Lamela at half time put some much needed life into the Tottenham performance and showed just how far the Argentine footballer has come under the guidance of fellow countryman Mauricio Pochettino. Lamela’s first season at the club was nothing short of shambolic when you consider the player’s price tag, and it had looked likely he would make a swift exit with Italy intact the rumoured destination. However, the move never materilaised and since the exit of André Villas-Boas, Erik Lamela’s stock has risen sharply. His assured presence on the pitch against Juve, not to mention his goal, is a timely reminder of just how important Erik Lamela can be for Tottenham this coming season.

Spurs have a rough diamond in Marcus Edwards
Having been involved in a contract wrangle with the club for a number of months, Marcus Edwards has now put pen to paper on a new deal and he showed exactly why that signature was so important to Tottenham with his display against Juve. Admittedly, Edwards wasn’t introduced until the 63 minute, but he acquitted himself so well when you consider he is just seventeen years of age. This experience will have done Marcus the world of good, and it would be no surprise to see the youngster establish himself as an integral part of the Spurs squad over the course of the upcoming campaign.

Is the Premier League Title There for the Taking?

Is the Premier League Title There for the Taking?

It certainly was last season, and Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester City took full advantage. For me, teams in the English top flight have forgotten the art of defending over the past few years, and the standard has definitely slipped. Although Manchester City made it to the semi final stages of the 2015/16 Champions League, the performances of English sides as a whole was very disappointing, and the previous year was even worse. This certainly supports the argument that top level English sides aren’t quite the force of years gone by, but it is a situation that makes for a much more interesting Premier League.

Last term, the dominance of the ‘big four’ finally came to an end, with both Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur securing places in the Champions League thanks to their performances over the course of the Premier League season. Chelsea and Manchester United have gone backwards over the course of the last twelve months and although both clubs have made moves to change that during the summer, including new high profile managers and a number of big name signings, there is no guarantee of instant results. The bookies believe that Utd are most likely to challenge for the title, with the odds compilers at bet365 putting Jose Mourinho’s men in as the 7/2 second favourites behind Manchester City who are the 9/4 market leaders. Mourinho didn’t have the best of times during his final months at Chelsea last season, and it will be interesting to see whether the Portuguese can hit the ground running at Old Trafford.

Tottenham are currently available at odds of 8/1, and I believe I’m right in saying that this is the shortest price Spurs have been prior to a Premier League season getting underway. Mauricio Pochettino’s side did capitulate once Leicester secured the 2015/16 crown, but Pochettino’s players will have definitely learnt from that experience and with two excellent additions to the Spurs squad with both Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen incoming, there is no reason why Tottenham can’t be competitive at the business end of the division once again. The Champions League schedule will likely take some getting used to, but is arguably easier on the players than the Europa League, with the matches taking place earlier in the week, meaning more recovery time prior to Premier League games.

Pep Guardiola Fancies Harry Kane

Pep Guardiola Fancies Harry Kane

Manchester City are bound to see some changes in personnel over the next few weeks, following the arrival of new manager Pep Guardiola, and there have been rumours over the past few days that the Spaniard is interested in the services of Tottenham’s own Harry Kane. The former Bayern Munich boss will be spending time with all his current crop of players now the European Championships have reached a conclusion, and it would be no surprise to see Guardiola add some men already proven at the highest level in the Premier League. Since Gareth Bale departed from White Hart Lane, Spurs seem to have stopped selling their biggest name each season, but there has arguably not been a player with the star quality of Harry since Bale was at the football club.

The Tottenham Hotspur board are currently thrashing out a deal with Kane’s agent which is set to push the striker’s wages into the region of £100,000 per week. While this is a huge sum of money, it does not reflect the going rate for a player who has achieved what Harry Kane has over the past couple of seasons. The 22 year old won the Premier League’s Golden Boot at the conclusion of the last campaign with 25 Premier League goals in 38 appearances, this coming off the back of 21 goals in his 2014/15 season. While the recent European Championship wasn’t a success for Harry, his performances for England in the build up to the tournament itself had been outstanding, and only go to enhance his reputation and value further still. I realise that Spurs have a relatively strict wage structure in place, but paying Harry Kane less than the going rate makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, and will do little to frighten off big spending clubs like Manchester City.

I don’t personally believe Harry Kane has an interesting in leaving Tottenham Hotspur, especially at this relatively early stage of his career. He will be able to compete against the very best Europe has to offer in the Champions League this season, and Spurs are definitely a club on the up under manager Mauricio Pochettino. The Spurs boss have given Kane a bit of time off before joining the rest of the squad for his gruelling pre-season training regime, and the front man will no doubt benefit from this having had a very strenuous couple of years. Euro 2016 won’t have done Kane any favours both physically and mentally, but a holiday will likely do him the world of good and I fully expect Kane to have another cracking season come 2016/17. I just hope it isn’t in a Manchester City shirt…