Tottenham’s Harry Kane should win Premier League Player of the Year

 

Last Saturday, I was in the Park Lane end at White Hart Lane, watching Spurs play Leicester. It finished 4-3 and any match with that scoreline, to get all @footballcliches, obligatorily has to be labelled a ‘seven goal thriller’ by commentators and match report writers.

This match wasn’t really a thriller though, more a series of ever increasing defensive cock ups. Leicester gave away a daft penalty and one, possibly two own goals. Spurs conceded thrice, to respectively a forward who hadn’t scored in five months, a lumpy centre half who’d never scored a Premier League goal and David Nugent who at kick off had the lethal goalscoring rate of eleven goals in eighty one Premier League games.

 

Phil Tufnell, fielding on the boundary once in Australia, was asked by a wag in the crowd to ‘lend me your brain, I’m building an idiot’. Any idiot builders would have loved to have got their hands on Kyle Walker’s brain, such was his performance. Somehow, it was rewarded with an England call-up. Does that make Roy Hodgson an idiot builder?

It was a weird game generally – odd goals, abnormal levels of cold for this time of year and most surprising of all, a good performance from Paulinho coming off the bench. A vast change from the man who for most of his time at Spurs looked no more likely to pen a bestselling novel than put in a  performance that would get more than 6.9 on Football Manager.

The game was memorable for a hat-trick by Harry Kane. At the ground, the reception to his hat-trick was warm but it wasn’t overwhelming. The ‘he’s one of our own chants’ struggled to get going, the volume was muted. It was akin more to nods of approval at a decent support act than crazed moshing at the chorus of a band’s best song.

 

Premier League Top Scorer Betting Odds:

Harry Kane 13/10

Diego Costa 8/5

Sergio Aguero 5/2

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

There were a few reasons for this. Firstly, for Spurs at least, the game didn’t mean a whole lot. The top four’s a distant hope, they’re out of the cup competitions and all a strong end to the season does is make it more likely Spurs end up in football purgatory (the Europa League) again next season. Also, Kane’s triumvirate of goals were not especially thrilling. A tap-in from a corner, a heavily deflected shot and a penalty. Dennis Bergkamp v Leicester or Tony Yeboah v Wimbledon it wasn’t.

Plus, the game lacked quality, there were long stoppages in play for knocks to Hugo Lloris and Eric Dier and it was bloody cold. By the seventy five minute mark any observer who walked into White Hart Lane would have seen fans with their coats zipped up to the neck, hands in pockets, shaking in their seats, trying to retain their last vestiges of warmth.

Perhaps more than anything though, Harry Kane scoring a hat-trick wasn’t remotely surprising. Such are his achievements at the moment that the ridiculous becomes plausible on a weekly basis.

 

The stats are ridiculous. Kane didn’t start a Premier League game till November 9th against Stoke. His first league goal of the season only came the week before, a deflected free kick winner at Villa Park.

Since then, he’s scored nineteen league goals. Nineteen! That includes five goals in his last three, eleven goals in his last eight. In four months, he’s gone from not scoring a league goal to being the league’s top scorer. For the season, he has twenty nine goals in forty three games.

While that rate of goalscoring is not uncommon, I doubt anyone in the Premier League era has had such a good season with so few expectations. He started off the season as Tottenham’s third choice striker, in a team that only plays with one forward. His role was as backup for league games, perhaps making occasional appearances off the bench. Cup games were to be his bread and butter. Some decent performances under Tim Sherwood at the fag end of last season had cemented his role as a squad player.

 

Two games this season were pivotal to his development, as he morphed from just another squad player to this superhero figure he’s become lately.

The first  was the Europa League group fixture versus Asteras of Greece. It had all the makings of a dull encounter – Europa League group games tend to be about as exciting as an episode of Fred Dibnah’s World of Steam.

Not this one though. Erik Lamela scored one of the most outrageously brilliant goals of all time and Kane scored a hat-trick, his first for Spurs.

His hat-trick though wasn’t the most memorable thing he did that night. In the match’s dying embers, Hugo Lloris got sent off for taking out an Asteras forward who was through on goal. All substitutions had been used up. So we got to witness one of football’s underrated pleasures, an outfield player going in goal.

And who volunteered to put on the purple goalkeeping jersey and don the gloves? Super Harry Kane of course! It didn’t even matter he let in the resultant free kick. Scoring a hat-trick and going in goal, voluntarily, in the same game endeared him to the Spurs support, who perhaps witnessed in this Chingford-born, lumpy forward with an unorthodox gait and hangdog facial expressions, a kindred spirit. Who hasn’t fancied going in goal for the lols occasionally?

 

With consistently good cup performances and increasing calls for his place in the starting XI from the stands, aided by Emmanuel Adebayor’s Emmanuel Adebayor-ness and Roberto Soldado’s continued hopelessness, he got into the first team. He did well – four goals in his first nine starts, with his workrate making him an excellent fit with the high pressing style Mauricio Pochettino has imposed at Spurs.

But it was the game against Chelsea on New Year’s Day where he morphed again, this time from decent Premier League forward to fully fledged superhero. With Spurs 1-0 down, struggling against the usual robotic display from Mourinho’s players he scored a ridiculously good equaliser. He got the ball on the touchline, worked his way past three or four defenders into the middle of the pitch, then unleashed a scuttling shot that beat Thibaut Courtois at the near post from twenty five yards out.

Chelsea seemed stunned. They played like it too, coming apart at the seams under increasing Spurs pressure. What looked like another humdrum victory for the league leaders became a 5-3 rout for Spurs, in spite of Eden Hazard playing like a sober, Belgian Maradona. Kane didn’t stop running, doing things to Gary Cahill’s confidence that could take years to rebuild. His second goal that night too was outrageously good. A wonderfully dextrous touch and turn, then a lovely side footed finish. A touch of genius.

 

After that, he’s been this superhero figure that football watchers are still grappling to come to terms with. He scored twice against Arsenal, the second goal being one of the best headers I’ve ever seen. Leaning backwards, from a good twelve yards out, to power a looping a header over Ospina in the Arsenal like he did almost defied physics. And a homegrown product scoring to win the game over the local rivals too, just amazing. He did something that day that kids dream of doing. In real life.

What he’s achieved is remarkable. What adds to this is how he looks and often acts like the antithesis of the modern day superstar footballer. He has this gangly gait, more befitting a spotty teenager than a Premier League player. His default facial expression is that of a gormless farmhand. He talks like his tongue’s too big. West Ham fans got in trouble for a chant about him recently.

But that makes him all the more loveable. He’s not some super-athlete with muscles the size of watermelons, jet heels and a lingerie model girlfriend. He looks like you and me. He even plays like faintly you and me, with his boundless energy and chasing of lost causes. Judging from his social media output, he has a very nice life where he plays football, scores goals, goes for celebratory drinks afterwards then goes home to his childhood sweetheart girlfriend and their dogs. He even wears naff Christmas jumpers.

He’s an ordinary guy who just happens to be extraordinarily good at football. A film about him wouldn’t be a glossy, stage managed product but a gritty, documentary style drama. More This Sporting Life than GoalIndeed, with his incredible achievements against all the odds, he’s like a footballing Forrest Gump.

 

Where does he go from here? He’ll make his England debut for a start and those that still give two hoots about the England team can only hope that he doesn’t get sucked into the vortex of mediocrity that seemingly envelopes all the young talent that wears the three lions on it’s chest.

Also, he’s a shoo-in for Young Player of the Year with his goalscoring output and all round performances. No one comes to him for that award.

But what about Player of the Year? The natural reaction is to laugh off such talk. Harry Kane does not exactly fit the mould of a serial award winner. He’s not marketable, doesn’t get linked with ridiculous transfer rumours to PSG or Real Madrid on websites’ gossip columns. He doesn’t sound like a star either, with the speech impediment he has.

 

But who deserves to beat him then? Alexis Sanchez was perhaps the early favourite but has tailed off since Christmas. Aguero missed time with an injury. Diego Costa has looked tired recently, plus his all-round villainy will surely, rightly or wrongly, count against him.

It surely comes down to Kane or Eden Hazard. Hazard’s been, very very good. He’s allied his talent and skill with increased work rate and more end product. The Mourinho effect in Hazard especially, of all of Chelsea’s players, has been noticeable.

Hazard has done that in a star studded outfit, though. He has Cesc Fabregas feeding him the ball with Diego Costa ahead of him. Kane gets his help from Andros Townsend and Ryan Mason. And aside from a brief Christian Eriksen purple patch, he’s had to carry the Spurs goalscoring burden almost single-handedly.

He gets less help than Hazard and does just as much, if not more in terms of end product. Notwithstanding that a reserve forward coming from football’s metaphorical tundra regions to shock the footballing public would be an amazing story. Kane already had consecutive Player of the Month awards before his hat-trick against Leicester.

 

As Harry himself would say, “Never fucking give up.”

 

Betting Instinct tip Harry Kane is 10/3 to open the scoring for England against Lithuania tonight with Coral.co.uk. He is second-favourite for Premier League Player of the Year with most sportsbooks.

 

avatar-jackhowes-50JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.

Kane and Eriksen can give Spurs a first-leg advantage against Fiorentina

 

Impressive as Tottenham were against Arsenal two weeks ago, the post-match analysis of a “North London power shift” once again looks premature. Three days later and a 3-2 defeat to Liverpool – coupled with an Arsenal victory against Leicester – saw the Gunners overtake their rivals again in the table. The continuing form of Harry Kane and the establishment of Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason in midfield are both important factors in Spurs’ recent form but as the table proves, they are up against some decent sides with a track record of finishing in the top four.

With this is mind, it is imperative that they maintain their Europa League run as this year’s winner will receive a place next season’s Champions League. Bar Liverpool, they are perhaps the best side still in the competition and their tie against Fiorentina presents a viable opportunity of reaching the last 16.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Fiorentina Betting Odds:

Tottenham win 11/10

Fiorentina win 47/20

Draw 9/4

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Indeed, the Europa League has already proved to be a blessing in disguise for Spurs. Leaving to one side the FA Cup exit to Leicester, the large number of fixtures this season has allowed Mauricio Pochettino to experiment with line-ups and eventually find a strong system. European football has also allowed Kane to cut his teeth, giving him the playing time he needed to find his feet as a first team player at Tottenham. 7 of his first 10 goals this season came in the Europa League, the sort of form he has translated to the Premier League in emphatic fashion.

The most interesting question concerning Kane now is no longer whether he is good enough, but what will happen once the goals inevitably dry up. So much of being a top class striker goes on in the head and he can’t keep running on adrenaline forever. There is a real talent there, as shown by the variety of goals he has scored this season. However, a large part of what makes Kane so effective is his work rate and enthusiasm. He’s never had to deal with a goal drought before and when it comes, that will be Kane’s real mental test. In this instance, the other strikers at the club may not serve as the best mentors. Roberto Soldado and Emmanuel Adebayor have just six goals between them this season.

 

As such, Spurs’ other star performer has come from midfield – Christian Eriksen. His transfer fee of 12 million euros looks by far and away the best use of the Gareth Bale money, his appetite for a late goal proving key in his side’s success so far. He continues to be a threat from freekicks from the most unlikely of angles and after Kane is the club’s second top goalscorer this season with 11 goals, although he is yet to score in the Europa League.

Kane and Eriksen can now launch their attacks from a more solid foundation, with Bentaleb and Mason helping to shore up the midfield. While the pair were a little off the pace against Liverpool, no doubt overexerted after their Derby Day performances, they will have over a week’s preparation for the Fiorentina game. With all four of these players in their early twenties, it’s important for Pochettino to manage their youthful effervescence as he did so effectively with his young charges at Southampton.

 

Thursday night’s Italian opponents Fiorentina are currently 4th in Serie A and earlier this month claimed a 2-0 win at Roma in the Coppa Italia. Their manager Vincenzo Montella had a brief foray into English football when he joined Fulham on loan in 2007; incidentally, his first goal was a penalty against Spurs. Having lost Juan Cuadrado to Chelsea in January, Montella will be looking to strikers Mario Gomez and Khouma Babacar to replicate his feat.

With the opening leg taking place at White Hart Lane, it is vital for Spurs to establish a grip on the tie. Tottenham don’t travel particularly well in Europe – they haven’t won a knockout game away since February 2011, when Peter Crouch’s goal earned a 1-0 win against Milan at the San Siro. Four years on and it appears the pressure falls on another Englishman, Harry Kane, to deliver the goods for Spurs.

 

Betting Instinct tip Spurs to qualify over the two legs is 3/4 with Intertops.eu

Hugo avatarHUGO GREENHALGH is co-founder and editor of The False Nine and a contributor to Eurosport and When Saturday Comes. He can be found following his favourite clubs: Arsenal and Dulwich Hamlet. Follow Hugo on Twitter.

Chelsea to continue their march to the title with victory over Spurs

 

Tottenham may need another man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

Tottenham may need another man-of-the-match performance from goalkeeper Hugo Lloris

First, a disclaimer: this preview was written in 2014 – that’s right, an entire year before Tottenham and Chelsea will play on New Years’ Day of 2015. And who knows what 2015 has in store for the world, much less this football match? I’ll go for drones with better stability, an iPhone 7 and, if we’re lucky, an iPhone 7S. We can hope for something space-related, too, but it’ll probably only be a robot finding ice particles on Mars, which I doubt really excites the scientists who launched the thing to begin with. A man on the moon would be better and, all jokes aside, is probably our best shot at achieving world peace – you can’t aim a gun if you’re staring up at the sky (not well, anyway).

 

No, 2015 will roll right on from 2014, as years tend to do, and Chelsea will still be the immovable force that everyone knew would win the Premier League after the first two or three games of the season. Worse than the inevitability of it all is that they’re threatening to be likeable, too. Roman Abramovich found an oily £85 million to spend on Diego Costa, Cesc Fabregas, Felipe Luis and Loic Remy over the summer, but Jose Mourinho has his team playing consistently watchable football despite John Terry’s continued involvement, and has instilled in them a work ethic bordering on Germanic. Ruthless, efficient, and pretty damn focused on the finish line, Chelsea have the mentality and depth to swat aside any half-decent side with relative ease.

 

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea Betting Odds:

Tottenham win 7/2

Chelsea win 3/4

Draw 5/2

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Seemingly incapable of achieving anything better or worse than top-half mediocrity, Tottenham are the epitome of half-decency. It makes sense that they drew with Manchester United, a team balanced out to half-decency by a very good forward line and a terrible defense, and so it makes sense that Chelsea should swat them aside with relative ease.

Tottenham have maintained typically indifferent home form this season (four wins and four losses in ten) while Chelsea have been impressive on the road (the recent loss to Newcastle their only defeat in ten), though records might point to a closer game than current form: Chelsea have won only once at White Hart Lane since the 2005/06 season, a 4-2 win in late 2012. Take from that what you will – it’s a statistic stretched out over nine years, taking in a time when Andre Villas-Boas, Avram Grant and Juande Ramos were still relevant – and the 3-0 loss Spurs suffered at Stamford Bridge less than a month ago seems to be a better indicator of the way this match might go.

 

This match is Chelsea’s to lose, and they don’t lose often – only once this season, and four times in the league in all of 2014. Even then, they’ve been losses that can only really be described as straight up weird: 1-0 to Aston Villa, 1-0 to Crystal Palace, 2-1 to Sunderland, and then this season’s sole defeat, 2-1 to Newcastle – they’re anomalies more than anything. It’s harder to pick that kind of pattern with Spurs, and easier to say that they lose whenever the mood takes them: Liverpool, West Brom, Newcastle and Stoke have all won at White Hart Lane this season. That goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was named man of the match in the 0-0 draw with Manchester United on Sunday is as good an indication as any that they should’ve lost that match, too, and Chelsea are unlikely to be as forgiving in front of goal.

Eden Hazard and Diego Costa are the obvious threats for the away side; Hazard having opened the scoring in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Spurs at Stamford Bridge at the start of December, and Diego Costa having been able to stick a leg out and score at a rate of nearly a goal a game to date. Spurs have struggled for clean sheets, having only recorded five this season so far, and Lloris will need to be at his unassumingly competent best, as he was against United, to keep Spurs from falling behind – they have come from behind to win three times this season, but Chelsea have only twice dropped points from a winning position in the league, in 1-1 draws with the two sides from Manchester.

 

What does it all mean? Both sides have had unbeaten runs over the Christmas period, and while a draw would probably suit Spurs just fine, Chelsea will be wary of Manchester City behind them, chasing down their lead at the top of the league. Jose Mourinho will know that he can’t rely on Manuel Pellegrini’s side to throw away 2-0 leads against Burnley every week (and rightly so, given that they only play each other twice a season). I’ll go for a 3-1 Chelsea win.

 

Betting Instinct tip Tottenham 1-3 Chelsea is 12/1 with AllYouBet.ag

Max avatar MAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though  has  given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is    ashamed for doing so. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Weakened Man City look to pour misery on Spurs

Yaya Touré has sometimes struggled to find his form after international duty

Yaya Touré has sometimes struggled to find his form after international duty

Thirteen seconds. That’s all it took. Manchester City required no more time. Giant flags adorning the golden eagle motif were still being hauled over the crowd as the ball crossed the line; chants ditched mid-chorus for euphoric celebrations. A Hugo Lloris miskick here, a palmed Sergio Agüero shot there, and Jesus Navas sent the rebound exquisitely over the French goalkeeper to give City the lead.  The goal, less than a quarter of a minute into the game, was the joint quickest in Premier League history. Manager André Villas Boas watched on, unable to motivate his Spurs side, who eventually conceded another five.

 

Manchester City v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Manchester City win 1.45

Spurs win 6.5

Draw 4.15

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

That high-tempo, destructive dismantling by Manuel Pellergrini’s team last November was uncharacteristic in nature for the previously rational coach.

After a summer of defensive reinforcements, though, he looks to have returned to type. An average of 2.68 goals a game in 2013/14 has now dropped to 2, as City stumbled through the opening barrages of the season. A home defeat to Stoke preceded draws against Arsenal and Chelsea, before victories over Hull and Aston Villa put them second before the international break.

Although already five points behind Chelsea, City are realistically the London side’s only title rivals. Considering they are yet to ‘click’, it bodes well they are still in a position to chase. The Champions League, however, is once again proving a chastising experience for City, where they currently sit third in Group E on one point. Injuries and energy consuming continental trips, combined with the late return of Yaya Touré from Ivory Coast duties, have caused selection problems for Pellegrini.

 

Part of the side to lose 4-3 in their Africa Cup of Nations Qualifier to the D.R. Congo, Touré continued his goal-scoring form, drawing level early on for The Elephants through a thunderous 25-yard strike. But with his arrival back in Manchester possibly as close as 24 hours before Saturday’s midday kick-off, and then a trip to Russia for Tuesday’s match against CSKA Moscow, Pellegrini will have to deliberate whether to rest the midfielder or not.

After a slow start, following a difficult summer, Touré began to show glimpses of his previous best away to Villa, bursting forward late on and disrupting tired back lines. It is a role that’s proved rewarding against Tottenham this season, as Liverpool exploited in August, highlighting Spurs’ defensive weaknesses when facing two upfront, using quick transitions and overlaps from an advancing midfielder.

City’s preferred 4-4-2 formation gives them the advantage of being able to run directly at the centre-backs, and with Fernando expected to be fit they do not have to worry about leaving space in the centre of midfield. The ability to adapt, though, especially in the closing stages, moving to a 4-3-3, has been one of City’s great traits. Pellegrini’s side have scored nine of their 14 Premier League tally in the second half so far this season, seven coming in the final ten minutes.

 

For Tottenham, the match 11 months ago propelled the calls for Villas-Boas’s dismissal, and within three weeks he was out, sacked following another shellacking, on this occasion 5-0 to Liverpool. Tim Sherwood’s gilet-inspired tenure turned out as expected, hindering the club and slowing the integration of so many new players.

More is predicted of Mauricio Pochettino, however. While the football has not been to everyone’s liking, and at times as turgid as that played previously, the high-pressing, possession-based philosophy he wants to set down will take time. Injuries to goalkeeper-cum-sweeper Lloris and top-scorer Nacer Chadli, who are both possible absentees on Saturday, may slow that progress even further.

But as we reach a busy section of fixtures for City, and injuries of their own accumulate, Spurs have the chance to build on their nerve-wracking 1-0 win at home to Southampton. If they are to achieve their top four dream, then this is the best opportunity to prove they’re capable of overcoming like-minded opposition.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Draw half-time and Manchester City to win full-time is 4.25 with AllYouBet.ag

 

FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

 

Arsenal look to keep up strong start in North London Derby

Will Younes Kaboul's North London Derby experience be enough against Arsenal's fluid frontline?

Will Younes Kaboul’s North London Derby experience be enough against Arsenal’s fluid frontline?

Thankfully, the Premier League’s fixture computer has this weekend provided the perfect antidote to the frankly disgusting spectacle that occurred the weekend before. Frank Lampard was almost in tears after his goal drew Manchester City level with Chelsea in the 85th minute of their tie, and explained afterwards to Sky Sports that, ‘I woke up this morning and didn’t know what I wanted from today.’ Four years earlier, as Emmanuel Adebayor’s Man City prepared to face his former club Arsenal, the Togolese knew exactly what he wanted. Angry at having been written off as a top-level striker and hurting after being subjected to a racist chant on the morning of the match, he proceeded to score and, well, do this. Now leading the line for Tottenham, he has the chance to repeat the feat in Saturday’s North London derby.

Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Arsenal win 7/10

Spurs win 7/2

Draw 53/20

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Both sides have had strange starts to the season. Arsenal find themselves right at home in their familiar fourth place, while Tottenham lie five places and two points behind, in ninth. But despite Arsenal’s strong-ish start, the bulk of their play has been stilted and lacking in imagination. They scraped a win at home to Crystal Palace on the opening day, found themselves 2-0 down at Everton a week later before rescuing a point, and then struggled again in a 1-1 draw with Leicester. They looked better against City, but still seemed to lack that cutting edge, both Arsenal goals in the 2-2 draw the result of individual brilliance (Sanchez’s sublime volley, Wilshere’s lovely dinked finish) rather than, as is more typical of Arsene Wenger’s sides, the strength of the collective.

There is good reason to believe, however, that things are starting to ‘click’ into place. These early season performances have coincided with an experimental 4-1-4-1 formation that seemed to suit precisely none of the club’s most talented players. Alexis Sanchez has been largely impressive, but there remained a question mark over just where he would be picked; Aaron Ramsey, despite two important goals against Palace and Everton, has looked well short of his best; and Mesut Ozil, to put it kindly, has cut a peripheral figure out wide on the left.

But last weekend’s convincing away win at Villa Park saw the return of what most Arsenal fans wanted to see from the off: a 4-2-3-1 with Ozil at the centre of the three. Suddenly, the Danny Welbeck-Ozil-Sanchez axis looked unstoppable, even against Aston Villa’s rightful heirs to Paul McGrath and Shaun Teale (ahem), Ron Vlaar and Philippe Senderos. There now appears to be an air of optimism around the Emirates, one that Tuesday’s League Cup loss to Southampton has done little to dampen. (‘Bellerin, Chambers, Hayden, Coquelin’, Arsenal’s back four ominously read that evening.) They go into Saturday’s derby with confidence.

The same can’t be said for Spurs. Like Arsenal, their start to the season has been marked by ups and downs. Spurs’ downs, however, are both more worrying and more recent. Mauricio Pochettino looked to have settled in nicely at White Hart Lane, a spirited ten-man win away at West Ham being followed up by a routine dispatching of QPR. As Manchester United fans learned last week, however, 4-0 wins against Harry Redknapp sides mean diddlysquat in the longer term. Subsequent results have been disappointing to say the least: a 3-0 loss to Liverpool at Anfield (fair enough), a 2-2 draw with Sunderland at the Stadium of Light (not great), and a 1-0 loss to West Brom at White Hart Lane (a ‘big hit in the face’, to quote Pochettino).

The manager is fortunate that the West Brom loss came on one of the most brilliant, and certainly bizarre, Super Sundays™ in recent memory – with apologies to James Morrison, Esteban Cambiasso scoring for Leicester in a 5-3 win over Man United trumps every goal the Scottish midfielder will ever score – and that few will remember just how turgid his team’s performance was. The pressing style that so characterised Pochettino’s Southampton was nowhere to be seen, and the defence again looked shaky.

The manager told reporters this week that no member of his squad should feel secure in their place – ‘if you need to change, you change’, as he succinctly put it – and fans must be hoping that he proves as good as his word. Replacing both centre backs would be a radical move, and is unlikely to happen in time for the derby, but it wouldn’t be an unpopular one. Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches aren’t working as a partnership; Jan Vertonghen and Federico Fazio just might. Benjamin Stambouli, a player whose timing in the tackle is matched by his leadership qualities, could also come in alongside Etienne Capoue in an effort to shore up the Spurs midfield.

Even that might not save them. It’s not that there is any sort of crisis; this is a slump, at worst. One must bear in mind, however, that Spurs are a side recovering from the management of Tim Sherwood, a man more renowned for his ‘banter’ than his tactics. Things will improve, and Pochettino deserves time to negotiate that process, but in the short term it appears that they lack both the cohesion and the quality to get one over on their rivals. Arsenal will likely continue their fine North London derby record – only two losses at home in the Premier League era – and, alas, Adebayor will likely depart his old stomping ground looking miserable.

Betting Instinct tipArsenal to be winning at half-time and full-time is 8/5 with AllYouBet.ag

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS  is a master’s student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and others. Follow Kieran on Twitter.

Race for Premier League Golden Boot is wide open

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

Will we see a new name atop the Premier League goalscoring charts this season?

As is often the case in the summer following a World Cup, the clubs at the top of the Premier League have been busy in the transfer market.

Last year’s top four have each made a high-profile purchase or two, while some interesting business has taken place involving clubs further down the table. And with last season’s top goalscorer Luis Suárez now plying his trade abroad (well he will be once his worldwide ban is over), the stage is set for a new name to lay claim to the Golden Boot.

 

Premier League Outright Betting Odds:

Chelsea – 37/20

Manchester City – 2/1

Manchester United – 19/4

Arsenal – 6/1

Liverpool – 9/1

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Will one of the big names top the charts in 2014/15, or will an unlikely contender rise to the top? Here are just a few in with a shot at the Golden Boot (all odds courtesy of Coral are accurate as of today and subject to change).

 

Sergio Agüero (Manchester City) – 7/2

The Argentinean forward struggled with injuries last season but still managed to score 17 goals in 23 league appearances. After heartbreak in the World Cup final, Agüero will look to reignite the partnership with Álvaro Negredo which played a huge part in Manuel Pellegrini’s side winning the Premier League last season.

 

Robin van Persie (Manchester United) – 9/2

Van Persie endured a frustrating campaign under David Moyes last season, but looked reinvigorated at the World Cup under incoming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal. With a coach who may be prepared to play to the 30-year-old’s strengths rather than marginalising him to accommodate Wayne Rooney, van Persie could be on course for a third Golden Boot in four years.

 

Diego Costa (Chelsea) – 11/2

Many believe Chelsea would have won the Premier League last season with a prolific striker, and indeed Costa’s 27 goals helped fire Atlético Madrid to an unlikely La Liga title. With Romelu Lukaku and Samuel Eto’o both departing, responsibility will lie with the Spain international to justify José Mourinho’s decision to meet the striker’s £32m release clause.

 

Daniel Sturridge (Liverpool) – 11/2

With Suárez moving to Barcelona, there will be more pressure than ever on the man who finished second in the goalscoring charts in the last campaign. Sturridge looked like the complete forward at times last season, but time will tell whether the exit of his strike partner and the added pressure of Champions League football will take their toll.

 

Romelu Lukaku (Everton) – 18/1

Lukaku became Everton’s record signing after completing his £28m move last night, and will look to build on the 15 goals he scored on loan at the Merseyside club last season. With fellow frontman Arouna Koné returning from injury, Belgian international Lukaku could benefit from not needing to carry goalscoring responsibility all on his own.

 

Roberto Soldado (Tottenham) – 50/1

Much was expected of Soldado when he briefly became Tottenham’s record signing last summer, but the Spaniard struggled in the league under both André Villas-Boas and Tim Sherwood. The former Real Madrid youngster will hope this season has more in common with his final year in Spain with Valencia, as new coach Mauricio Pochettino looks to mount a challenge for the top four.

 

Graziano Pellè (Southampton) – 80/1

While much of the talk this summer has surrounded the players leaving Southampton, one of the new arrivals at St Mary’s could make a transitional season a whole lot easier. Italian striker Pellè scored 50 goals in the last two seasons for Feyenoord, and it is no surprise that his Eredivisie coash Ronald Koeman brought the 29-year-old with him to the south coast.

 —

This season Coral has introduced a new way to bet, SuperLive by Metric Gaming. Bet on hundreds of new in-play micro markets such as whether a player will score from the next free-kick, or whether there will be a goal within 60 seconds of the next set piece.

Unfamiliar with fractional odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Can Liverpool see off a second Tottenham manager?

 

Raheem Sterling was among the goals as Liverpool beat Tottenham 5-0 in December

Raheem Sterling was among the goals as Liverpool beat Tottenham 5-0 in December

How times can change – for some – in the Premier League.

 

Without a doubt, this has been the most enthralling season in recent years and that doesn’t look set to change any time soon. Liverpool have already won 4 more games than in the whole previous league campaign and are – and please, leave your pants on for this one Liverpool fans – genuinely in with a chance of winning the league.

Tottenham on the other hand, are very much in a similar position to how they ended up last season. They currently sit in 6th, a solitary point being the 5th position they found themselves in last year, albeit with 5th place Everton having a game in hand over them.

 

Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds:

Liverpool win – 1.45

Tottenham win – 6.40

Draw – 4.40

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

After their promising finish last year, breaking their record points tally for a single Premier League campaign Spurs have struggled to consistently look like real contenders for the top four. While a change in management has brought in a more attack minded brand of football, the results and league position haven’t really altered all that much.

Much was expected of Spurs after they spent a lot of money on new recruits over the summer, but – other than brief flashes – the new arrivals haven’t really hit the ground running. Roberto Soldado has probably drawn the most attention for this, the £26M signing having only scored 6 league goals with the majority of these goals coming from the penalty spot. However midfielder Christian Eriksen has looked a tidy player with some great technical ability, and Spurs will be hoping he can show some more of that promise against Liverpool – a club he was linked with earlier in his career – this coming Sunday.

With the arrival of new manager Tim Sherwood, Emmanuel Adebayor has had one of those spells which makes you wonder why he couldn’t produce the same form over the previous 18 months. When he is in the right frame of mind, Adebayor is absolutely unplayable and Liverpool’s defence has struggled to deal with physicality in recent years. Spurs are likely to pack out the midfield with 5 men in an effort to combat Liverpool’s energetic midfield, while still keeping the back-line busy with Adebayor’s strength and pace. Spurs haven’t beaten any of the current top four in the league this year and have lost three of their last five games.

They were embarrassed by Liverpool at White Hart Lane in a 5-0 hammering which brought about Andre Villas-Boas’ exit, and another defeat of a similar magnitude will hardly help Sherwood as he tries to make his case for being given the managerial position on a full-time basis. Still, Spurs may take heart from the fact that no team has more league away wins than the London club this campaign.

 

Liverpool, meanwhile, have improved dramatically this season under Brendan Rodgers. After limping to 7th place last year, they look an entirely new team, suggeting last season’s squad needed time to gel. Whilst some defensive frailties remain, they’ve now looked comfortable against the best teams in the league whilst also starting to exert more control over those towards the bottom of the table.

They’re in a great run of form at the moment – putting 6 past Cardiff and beating Manchester United at Old Trafford – so will be full of confidence, especially considering how easily they brushed Spurs aside in December. Liverpool’s success this year has come from several places: the obvious attacking threat of the front 3 (Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez being the two highest scorers in the league thus far), the emergence of Jordan Henderson’s and Steven Gerrard’s understanding in the middle of the park, and Rodgers’ tactical nous.

 

They haven’t made many changes to the system as the season has continued, sticking with a successful formula that is as entertaining as it is effective.   If Spurs play with the same high line they did in the reverse fixture – something AVB saw as an ostensibly useful system – they will no doubt suffer another defeat. I’d expect Raheem Sterling to play in anticipation of this, though Liverpool have plenty of other options in midfield, and the passing range of Philippe Coutinho could also be put to good use.

All things considered, I think Liverpool will get the win they need to keep pace with Chelsea at the top of the table. Tottenham have enough technical ability in their locker but they are conceding too many goals and don’t have two prolific forwards like Liverpool do. My prediction is a 3-1 Liverpool win, with Adebayor scoring a goal for Spurs after bench-pressing Martin Skrtel.

 

Betting Instinct Tip Liverpool to win 3-1 is 9.60 with GR88.com. Odds on Adebayor bench-pressing Skrtel are unavailable at the time of writing.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog.

Down Memory Lane – Premier League Derbies

Aaron Lennon has fond memories of at least one North London Derby

Aaron Lennon has fond memories of at least one North London Derby

 

This weekend the Premier League fixture list has thrown up two appetising games on Sunday afternoon, as Manchester United’s home tie against Liverpool is followed by the North London Derby between Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal.

One thing about derby rivalries (and I’m counting United v Liverpool as a derby, even though the former have another very prominent local rival) is that they provide something of a leveller. League position and form often goes out the window, and attrition takes over.

Often that will lead to a tense game between two teams afraid to lose, however these fixtures have recently seen some rather surprising outcomes. Below I go into detail about some of my favourites.

 

Arsenal 4-4 Tottenham, October 2008

Arsène Wenger’s side have had a habit of shooting themselves in the foot in the nine years since they last won a trophy (no, fourth place doesn’t count, and don’t even try to bring up the Emirates Cup). While few examples stand out more than the one-two punch in February 2011 when Arsenal surrendered a 4-0 lead to Newcastle in the league before losing a cup final to a goal scored by someone who came on as a substitute for Keith Fahey (I can’t stress this point enough), the midweek draw at home to Spurs runs it close.

After responding surprisingly competently to an early long-range strike from Spurs’ then record signing (!) David Bentley, the Gunners entered the 89th minute 4-2 in front and on course for a third straight win in the league. However against the might of a Spurs team who had started the game with two points and a Harry Redknapp catchphrase from their eight games, Arsenal somehow contrived to let Jermaine Jenas and then Aaron Lennon fire past Manuel Almunia to earn the visitors a point.

Arsenal proceeded to lose three of their next four league games, finishing the season some distance behind a runaway top three, and the following years would see Spurs move closer and closer to their neighbours in league form.

 

Could another thriller be on the cards? Seven goals or more is 30.00 with GR88.com

 

 

Liverpool 3-1 Manchester United, March 2011

What’s your favourite Premier League hat-trick? Dennis Bergkamp’s sublime treble for Arsenal at Leicester? Shinji Kagawa’s effortless performance against Norwich last season? Maybe it was Robbie Fowler’s five-minute special back in 1994. Whatever you said, your answer probably wasn’t Dirk Kuyt against Manchester United in 2011.

Loved by Liverpool fans and perhaps underappreciated by opposition supporters, Dutch forward Kuyt was a master of perseverance and stick-to-itiveness long before his finest moment. A 31-minute hat-trick, none of the strikes coming from more than six yards out, represented a masterclass in the unremarkable and meant United’s title bid hit a stumbling block against a team whose substitutes included Peter Gulacsi, Sotirios Kyrgiakos, Christian Poulsen, Jay Spearing and David Ngog.

A lot has changed in the intervening period, and indeed it is now the visitors that day whose midfield is a punchline to a joke that no one asked. What a difference three years makes.

 

Liverpool to win 3-1 at Old Trafford on Sunday is 21.00 with GR88.com

This weekend GR88.com’s Late Goal Refund means you don’t have to worry about a last-gasp goal ruining your bet. If a goal is scored in the 88th minute or later, all losing match result, last goalscorer or correct score bets which were winning before the goal went in will be refunded.

 

TOM VICTOR (editor) tv is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot.

Arsenal Need to Rebound Quickly in North London Derby

Tottenham will be grateful to welcome back Younes Kaboul after his suspension was overturned

Tottenham will be grateful to welcome back Younes Kaboul after his suspension was overturned

Tottenham welcome Arsenal to White Hart Lane for the second Premier League edition of the North London Derby this Sunday. The stories of both teams have changed dramatically since Arsenal’s statement-making one-nil win at the beginning of the season. Arsenal had managed a prolonged run at the top of the table for most of the season before a rash of injuries and bad form to key players have brought them down to third, tied with Liverpool in points.

Tottenham on the other hand have enjoyed a tough season after their 100 million shopping spree in the summer. The Lilywhites have suffered their fair share of injuries, most noticeably to midfielder Sandro and record signing Erik Lamela, hindering their top four ambitions. They have also managed to sack  André Villas-Boas and replace him with Tim Sherwood, who tip-toes the line between able manager and insane chancer much too often.

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal Betting Odds

Tottenham win – 2.84

Arsenal win – 2.36

Draw – 3.15

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Both teams enter the game in the back of poor results, though in different circumstances. Arsenal managed a 1-1 draw away at Bayern Munich for the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal after losing 2-0 in the first leg. The game was not without consequence as not only were they knocked out of the competition but they have lost marquee signing Mesut Özil for several weeks to a hamstring injury. Spurs themselves suffered a heavy 4-nil defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this past weekend, as the team capitulated and handed Chelsea goal after goal. Younes Kaboul was handed a three match ban after receiving a red card in the game but it has since been appealed and rescinded and the defender should be available for the derby.

Though the injury list is extensive for both teams, the game should be as competitive as history has suggested. Not only will Özil be unavailable for Arsenal but Aaron Ramsey looks unlikely to be fit in time for the match, while Jack Wilshere, Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal also remain on the sidelines. Tottenham will be without Vlad Chiriches, Étienne Capoue, Erik Lamela and Michael Dawson. Danny Rose, Christian Eriksen, and Mousa Dembélé will go through late fitness tests before the match. There is good news for the teams though, Tomáš Rosický of Arsenal who was just handed an extension on his contract and should replace Ozil in the starting line-up, while the inclusion of Kaboul will be a big boost to a Spurs defense stretched thin.

Arsenal should be motivated by their draw at Bayern as they were last year after their second leg win, and will look to finish the season off strongly despite facing difficult upcoming fixtures. The Gunners still boast incredible midfield options in Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who will pose a difficult problem for a Spurs defence that has conceded 1.18 goals per game under Sherwood compared to 0.92 under previous manager Villas-Boas. Tottenham will be also looking to end the campaign on a high and defeating their rivals could boost their confidence and propel them to Champions League football, if their manager doesn’t lose his mind before then (that ship might have sailed – ed.).

Tim Sherwood has noted that he doesn’t want his players to be out-hustled and out-desired on the field, lambasting his side for their failings in recent games. Hustle and desire might prove not to be enough as Arsenal still have the superior squad and will be confident of dispatching Spurs once again this season as they fight to catch Chelsea at the top of the table.

Betting Instinct Tip – Arsenal to win after being level at half-time is 5.50 with Intertops.eu

______________________________________________

BdykNApCQAEQ_-tZITO MADU (zitov2) is a writer for SBnation, and has written for Surreal Football, LiveBreatheFutbol, and numerous other sports sites. Follow him on Twitter.

Tottenham Need A Miracle At The Bridge

André Schürrle will look to build on last week's hat-trick against Fulham

André Schürrle will look to build on last week’s hat-trick against Fulham

Saturday evening will see Chelsea play Tottenham Hotspur in what at least has the look of a tasty Premier League encounter. Chelsea will be seeking to increase their lead at the top of the table on a weekend where none of the other top five sides are playing. And frankly, it’s hard to see anything other than this occurring.

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur Betting Odds

Chelsea win – 1.55

Tottenham win – 6.00

Draw – 3.75

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

This is because Spurs, in spite of decent results, are playing dreadfully at the moment. Under Tim Sherwood, they have no structure, no plan and no cohesion. They are essentially eleven strangers sent out to a football field, left to fend for themselves with little guidance or tactical know-how.

A lack of structure in a team is bad, but there are other things of deep concern for Spurs followers too. The lack of movement in the team is deeply worrying. On and off the ball, there is a painful lack of movement, making the passing slow, aimless and cumbersome. They are for the most part an easy side to defend against, as they are so slow on the ball that the opposition defence has plenty of time to get in position. They are left to rely on individual brilliance to create and score goals. Luckily, in Emmanuel Adebayor they have a striker in top form. Without him, Spurs would be nowhere.

Along with a lack of movement, there is an alarming lack of balance in this Spurs side, especially in midfield. Reading Jonathan Wilson’s biography of Brian Clough, Wilson points out how Clough always sought to have a balanced side, often having lopsided formations to attain this balance. Tim Sherwood could do with understanding this. At the weekend, he put Mousa Dembélé and Paulinho next to each other in midfield. This was always going to fail – both are players who like to start in a deep position and make roaming runs forward. Neither are equipped to stay back and protect the defence. In the end, they ended up like Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard did for England, neither sure of when to attack and when to defend.

What Spurs need to do is drop one of these players for a defensive player – Sandro or Etienne Capoue – so that the midfield has a balance and has each player comfortable in their role. Nabil Bentaleb has been used as a holding midfielder when he’s simply not comfortable in that role, preferring to play further forward where he can more easily showcase his range of passing and dictate the game. A Sandro-Bentaleb-Paulinho midfield would have a nice mix of defence and attack and might just get the best out of Paulinho, who has been anonymous in recent weeks. Doing this while accommodating Dembélé by playing him on the wing, another of Sherwood’s ‘masterplans’ recently, is another bad idea. Only one of he and Paulinho should play.

Away from the midfield, Spurs are actually fairly strong. Adebayor is a goals and assists machine up front, while Hugo Lloris’s superb form means they’re not conceding many goals. The bulk of the team may be underperforming, but having their two best players in both goalmouths is allowing them to rack up a battery of unconvincing, scrappy wins which is just about keeping them in the hunt for Champions League qualification.

While they have accrued a number of these scrappy wins recently, you can’t see them doing this against Chelsea. For a start, their record at Stamford Bridge is dreadful, not having won their in any competition since 1990. Even when Chelsea were rubbish, Tottenham didn’t win there.

Right now, Chelsea are most definitely not rubbish. They are playing more and more like a José Mourinho side – being stingy in defence, lethal on the break and with just enough gamesmanship to rile footballing purists. In defence and midfield especially, they are showing themselves to be a top side. It’s only their lack of an in form striker that is preventing them running away from this season’s Premier League. If they had one, regularly scoring and creating (Romelu Lukaku perhaps?) you wouldn’t see anyone stopping them. As it is, Man City will still go ahead of them if they win their games in hand while Liverpool are scoring enough hatfuls of goals to still be a threat.

On Saturday night, it’s hard to see them not winning. Forgetting the players on display – this is Jose Mourinho against Tim Sherwood. In managerial stakes this is the equivalent of Drederick Tatum taking on Homer Simpson. And that’s before you look at the better players Chelsea have at their disposal and the fact they have home advantage. Eden Hazard is amazing, the defence is strong while in Willian and now André  Schürrle they have players who can atone for the lack of a good front man.

Chelsea should win. And barring a miracle, they will win.

Betting Instinct Tip – Chelsea to win to nil is 2.60 with GR88.com

______________________________________________

avatar-jackhowes-50JACK HOWES (debaser92) is an avid sports fan who writes about football and Asperger’s Syndrome. The only things he loves more than Mars Bars are his family and Tottenham Hotspur FC.