From Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – First of all, let’s make one thing clear – every squad is flawed some way or another, every squad will have players a level above the rest, every squad will have dips.
Spurs’ problems have come racing to the surface in recent weeks, however. Fortunate draws at rivals Chelsea and West Ham showed a team shrinking on the big occasion, wins against Wolves and Marseille papered over the cracks of stagnant and stodgy performances.
Their unbeaten start to the season ended on Tuesday with a very late 2-0 loss at Sporting CP in the Champions League. It was one game too many where Tottenham managed to just hang around instead of landing a killer blow.
Therein lies a big part of the problem. Son Heung-min was yet to score this season until Saturday (don’t worry, I’ll get to that) and while Harry Kane is firing, he doesn’t look as sharp as he did even months ago. Every team in the world is much worse if their two best players – forwards who grab goals at a ridiculous rate, no less – aren’t quite there.
During the 2020/21 season, then-head coach Jose Mourinho was asked about Liverpool’s struggles once Virgil van Dijk (and about 12 other defenders) became injured.
“A team very stable defensively is a team with much better conditions to attack and vice-versa. They lost Van Dijk. It’s very, very important for them,” he quipped.
Essentially, an elite football team works in tandem at both ends of the pitch, and this has notably been true of Antonio Conte’s Tottenham.
Spurs raced to a top-four finish last year because they were able to blow past teams with ease. Son, Kane and Dejan Kulusevski’s numbers have featured on every football graphic from television to Twitter. Everything else became secondary.
For the first time this season, Tottenham leant on that cut-throat attacking brilliance to nerf their other deficiencies.
Conte’s men looked off the pace for long stretches of what was an eventual 6-2 win at home to Leicester. The first half was a particular lowlight in what’s been a decent season so far.
After what must have been a furious team talk, Tottenham upped the intensity and were much, much improved after the break.
The needle really moved after a) Son’s introduction from the bench and b) once he found his scoring touch again.
His first and second were typically gorgeous curling strikes, while his third showed his trademark break-neck pace leading the counter-attack.
It’s a sight that Spurs fans have missed for too long. About a month, but still.
Tottenham head into the September international break unbeaten domestically and with clearly another gear to click into. If Son manages to keep himself from having such a goal drought again, if Kane can match his goals with all-round performances, then Conte and his men will be fine after all.
Jorghino insists Italy’s rebuild has ‘already begun’ following win over England
Jorginho has spoken positively about the Italian national team’s future following their victory over England, using a new formation.
Italy saw off England in a 1-0 victory in matchday five of the 2022/23 Nations League group stages and did so using a 3-5-2 system, earning a deserved win after a difficult period following their Euro 2020 triumph.
Victory over the Three Lions gives Italy an outside chance of still making the Nations League finals in 2023 as they face group leaders Hungary in the final matchday, with a win enough to see them move into top spot.
Speaking to media ahead of the vital clash, Jorginho was very confident about his national team’s new approach: “After everything that happened, it was a struggle, but the game against England really fired us up and gave us more motivation. I try to learn from past mistakes and disappointment, which is also what the coach is passing on to the players he calls up.
“I felt something different in that game and I think the reconstruction process has already begun. Now we’ve got to continue along this path,” and added, discussing the tactical tweaks: “It’s good to have an alternative that we can change to during the game or during a tournament.
“Some of our players have 4-3-3 at club level, others with three defenders, so I think this system is certainly doable. It’s interesting for the present and the future, I got along well with it.”
The Chelsea midfielder explained that victory over England has been crucial for the squad heading into the final matchday: “We have this opportunity to win the group and it’s up to us to take it.
“Hungary have proved themselves to be tough opponents and they’ll have passionate support from the crowd tomorrow.”
Pierre-Emerick discusses Thomas Tuchel sacking & opens up on early career struggles
Forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has admitted it was ‘sad’ to see Thomas Tuchel sacked by Chelsea.
Aubameyang left Barcelona after only signing in January of this year to return to the Premier League with Chelsea, having left Arsenal at the beginning of the year following disciplinary issues.
The move saw him reunite with Tuchel, who he thrived under while the pair worked together at Borussia Dortmund.
However, Tuchel was sacked in September, just weeks after the transfer window had shut and the 33-year-old had sealed his transfer to Stamford Bridge.
Speaking to Chelsea’s official YouTube channel, Aubameyang opened up: “It’s obviously sad when someone leaves the club and obviously, I only saw him for a few days. But this is football and when you play football you have to adapt quickly and in some moments in the season, this can happen.
“I think he [Tuchel] was a bit frustrated and sad. Obviously, I will try to talk to him as soon as possible,” he added, before giving his verdict on Tuchel’s replacement Graham Potter:
“I think he [Potter] is a really positive person and a great character. We will try to learn with him and to win as soon as possible. I think his ideas are very clear so I think it’s going to be easy. It takes time to adapt to each other but I think it’s going to be ok.”
Aubameyang also touched on the earlier years of his career during the interview and confessed how he had been through a lot of ‘bad moments’ unrelated to injuries: “I was okay but at the beginning of my career everyone was talking about me as a sprinter only.
“This hurts sometimes because you know where you’ve come from, you know you went through a lot of stuff and you always try your best and some people, even from your club say you’re not good at playing football.”
He praised current Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier for lighting a fire beneath him during their time together at St-Etienne, stating: “When I arrived in Saint-Etienne, I was happy because Christophe Galtier gave me confidence and it changed everything in my career. This is where I started scoring goals.”
Gareth Taylor insists Man City’s tough WSL start has still offered ‘something to build on’
Gareth Taylor has insisted Manchester City’s performances have provided ‘something to build on’ despite suffering a pair of defeats in their opening two fixtures of the 2022/23 WSL campaign.
City have gone through a summer of high squad turnover, with seven new arrivals and eight permanent exits, and have begun the new season with a surprise 4-3 loss to Aston Villa and a 2-0 defeat to Chelsea.
“It’s not great but it is what it is,” said Taylor. “We’ve had two away games, two tough away games. We’ve gone to Villa who are a new team and have done tremendously well on the day, and coming here was always going to be difficult.
“They don’t really give much away, Chelsea – they lost last week, something was going to give today but I think the reaction and the levels that we showed today was really impressive and gives us something to build on.”
City endured a similarly tough start to last season after contending with an injury crisis, but made up ground with a stunning second half of the campaign to secure a Champions League spot at the expense of rivals Manchester United.
Taylor admitted the lack of margin for error due to the size of the WSL – with just 12 teams and 22 games – makes early slip ups even more costly.
“That’s the nature of the league,” the City boss added. “I’ve always been negative about that. 22 games is nothing. It is what it is. Unless teams keep beating each other, you can probably get away with maybe four defeats in a season and still win the league.
“We can’t do much about that; the rules are the rules, the teams are the teams. It wasn’t hard last season when we won 13 on the bounce – it was actually a lot easier when we had all of our players fit.
“Our situation now is slightly different to what we had last season – it’s not injuries, it’s just a new team and new players to bed in. These will be really good players and this will be a really good team. Unfortunately at the moment we’ve had a couple of defeats which are tough to take but I think there were really positive signs there today.”
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