Why this summer could be one of the most important in Tottenham’s history, Manchester United’s away win at Sunderland is scrutinised and Ross Barkley’s form all feature in the Monday Verdict.
No more false dawns, this has to be a new Tottenham legacy
A club mixing it with English football’s so-called hierarchy, arguably the strongest starting XI in the country and one of the most sought-after managers in world football. Did I ever really think I would be saying this about Tottenham, almost definitely not, but that is how things roll down at White Hart Lane these days.
Spurs are also closing in on a move to the biggest club stadium in London which, by the way, will be utterly magnificent if the promotional videos and the work that has been done so far are anything to go by.
The starting line-up is the best I’ve seen in 30 years, yes even better than King, Bale, Modric et al. and in Mauricio Pochettino they have a young manager that is on Barcelona’s radar, if you believe what is written in the papers.
Okay so this is likely to be the second season in a row that the Premier League title will elude them and Europe has been a major disappointment but this is Tottenham I’m on about, the club that are only supposed to win a cup when the year ends in one, not the team that slogs it out regularly with the big boys for this country’s top football honour.
Not only that but Tottenham have the top flight’s best defensive record and a goal difference of +42 with seven games to go. Are you kidding me! This is not what I signed up for when my dad told me I WAS a Spurs fan at the age of six. It was meant to be great football, woeful defending, the odd trophy, a new manager every couple of years and fresh optimism followed by ultimate disappointment, followed by fresh optimism – you catch my drift.
I’ve still foolishly bought in to plenty of feel-good factors at Spurs down the years but they only tend to last a couple of seasons, at best, before the club’s top players are sold and we end up starting all over again.
This has to be different though, this is when Daniel Levy and the Spurs board have to stand firm and not play summer ‘will they or won’t they be sold’ games with the White Hart Lane faithful, caving in when massive offers flood in for their brightest stars.
I’d like to believe that dishing out new, improved deals to the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, Danny Rose, Kyle Walker and Eric Dier means the club are serious about dining at the top table of English football for years to come but I’ve seen this happen before and sometimes the temptation to sell gets a bit too much – particularly when costs for your new/redeveloped stadium have risen to a reported £800million!
If Spurs are able to keep this team together, and add to the overall squad strength, then the sky really is the limit for what could become one of Europe’s top clubs – the potential is certainly there. But what happens when Manchester United come calling for skipper Hugo Lloris and top marksman Kane, when Real Madrid bid stupid money for Dele Alli and when Manchester City’s millions try to lure full-backs Rose and Walker?
That’s when Levy needs to be robust from the outset and let the Tottenham fans know that the club are building a legacy, something harking back to those glory, glory days of the early 1960s when the likes of Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones, Bobby Smith and Jimmy Greaves turned Spurs into something extra special – led of course by the mighty (Sir) Bill Nic.
This CANNOT be allowed to be another false dawn!
When Spurs kick-off the 2018-19 campaign, all being well in their sparkly new ‘Nike Stadium’ (or whatever it will be called) it has to be with a team that is respected and feared throughout the land, one that has kept all their best players and one that is ultimately led out by the man that has manufactured the style, grit and guile of this special bunch of players.
One can only dream after all.
Papering over the cracks
It might seem strange to some (especially Manchester United fans) to be writing about something negative after a 3-0 win at Sunderland. However, with this being a weekly feature here at TEAMtalk, it’s important to reflect on the past week at United.
The fact is, even with a comfortable win on Sunday, it has not been a perfect week. The Red Devils were lucky to get a point in midweek against Everton, that coming after a 0-0 stalemate against West Brom.
The same old problems crept up in those last two games at Old Trafford; the play was slow and predictable, some fans complained about a lack of passion, and once again an inability to break teams down cost them valuable points in the race for the top four.
Going up to Sunderland presented an opportunity to pick up three points of course, but it was the kind of game where a win is not a result to get carried away about. Jose Mourinho described their situation fairly adequately…
“The result was good,” Mourinho said. “We resisted the results of yesterday when Manchester City and Liverpool won, they left us in a position of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It was ‘yes’.
“We got three points and it was a solid display. It was against a team that is sad, it’s normal. Against a team that is sad, if you score before then it’s difficult for them to react.
“You could feel the negative feeling around the team. That is felt with a team close to relegation.”
It was a great piece of opportunism from Mourinho. While the team would have been wrong to disrespect David Moyes’ side, especially given that they are also scrapping for every point, the game plan was obvious from the start.
The way things had been in the previous two games for United, they had to get the first goal early or risk the nerves creeping in once again. It came through a fabulous solo effort from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a man who’s back must be tiring from having to carry the team through performances.
Then, it was a case of acknowledging that Sunderland had to take the game to them, so they sat back and waited patiently to counter. A second and third goal followed in the second half, but it would be generous to call the game exciting.
⚽️ Played 1
? Won 1
❤️ Captain. Leader. Legend. pic.twitter.com/kGD0tX30MO
— bet365 (@bet365) April 9, 2017
Making Marouane Fellaini captain is perhaps a perfect example of the limbo that Manchester United are in. A real absence of leaders on the park has them lacking in confidence, and the decision to make the big Belgian captain is one that drew more laughs than anything else.
The fact is that Jose Mourinho hasn’t got United playing the way they should, contrary to the song they sing. A lot has been made about the amount of money that has been spent, but it’s the way it has been spent that should be worrying.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan came in; three players who guarantee creativity and productivity. Yet still the words “boring” and “passionless” get used.
A win at the Stadium of Light should not paper over the cracks.
It will be make or break for Ross Barkley this summer as he ponders a move away from Everton.
After a man-of-the-match performance in the 4-2 win over in-form Leicester yesterday boss Ronald Koeman laid it on the line for Barkley. The Dutchman laid it out in simple terms.
“We offer him a new contract, and then (there are) two possibilities,” said Koeman. “One, he signs that contract, if he doesn’t sign that contract then we need to sell the player. It’s simple, it’s not so difficult in my opinion.”
The 23-year-old, who has come through the ranks at Everton, will have just 12 months remaining on the four-year deal he signed in July 2014 when the season comes to an end and Koeman will not let him walk away for free in 2018.
Barkley claimed he had “never thought about leaving” after penning that £60,000 a week deal, but three years on and things have changed.
“I realise the importance of signing because I remember how I felt when Wayne left,” said Barkley in 2014.
“He was one of the best players in the team and we thought we could push on with him at Everton. When he left we were all down as Evertonians.”
Now though Barkley, who has been in sparkling form for the last three months, is delivering what he has promised for the last three years.
A peach of a cross, probably the best you will see all season handed Romelu Lukaku the simplest of tasks to head home, while a superb jinking run was capped off early on by Tom Davies.
The cynics will say he is now playing for a move to the big boys. Both Chelsea and Man Utd are reportedly tracking his situation and a move to either club would be a fantastic step for Barkley, who was left out of last month’s England squad.
— Sky Sports Statto (@SkySportsStatto) April 9, 2017
Just how Gareth Southgate managed to overlook England’s leading assist maker is probably his only mistake to date in charge of the Three Lions. But when England face Scotland and France in June I think we can expect Barkley to be involved.
He has eight assists this season and 16 from the start of last term, and when you consider that Dele Alli, who is being touted as the next Gazza, only has five assists, then Barkley should be a gimme in the England 23.
His performance against the resurgent champions yesterday was brilliant. Two chances created, his eighth Premier League assist, an 89% pass accuracy, three shots and 89 touches and only denied a goal by a quite exceptional save from Kasper Schmeichel.
Barkley is ready to move on. Whether he was stung into life from criticism from his old team-mate Leon Osman last week, only he knows. But he was at his classy best and suggestions from Osman that “he has never kicked on since he was 18” were rammed well and truly back down the 35-year-old’s throat.
Brilliant from Barkley, too much criticism after the Derby been in fine form for 2/3 months.
— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) April 9, 2017
In truth though Barkley has been “at it” all year and although he most definitely needs to up the five goals he is currently on this season, a step up to Chelsea or United could well be the platform Barkley needs to continue his improvement.
Xavi insisted a young Barkley had the ability to play in La Liga and if the opportunity arose for him to make the move to Spain then he should grasp it with both hands.
If Phil Neville can learn Spanish then Barkley can follow suit and ply his technical ability in a league that would see him flourish and get closer to realising the talent that likened him to Gazza in his early days.