Erik Lamela, Louis van Gaal and Spurs’ future title prospects all feature in the talking points from Tottenham’s 3-0 victory over Manchester United at White Hart Lane.
Lamela’s transformation encapsulates Pochettino’s impact
After a solid, if unspectacular, first season in charge at White Hart Lane, Mauricio Pochettino has managed to inspire remarkable performances out of a number of players somewhat written off by many supporters.
Danny Rose has finally lived up to his early promise and is now in pole position to be England’s left-back at Euro 2016. Likewise, Kyle Walker has regained the form which saw him beat the likes of Sergio Aguero, Gareth Bale and Daniel Sturridge to the Young Player of the Year award in 2012. Mousa Dembele, meanwhile, has awoken from a slumber to return to the powerful midfielder who won so many admirers at Fulham.
However, the revival of Erik Lamela is arguably one of Pochettino’s greatest achievements.
The former Roma winger – Tottenham’s most expensive ever signing – was on course to be one of the biggest flops in Premier League history after struggling to adapt to English football, and a return to Serie A was seemingly on the cards. And yet under the guidance of his compatriot, the Argentina international has developed into a player who now appears perfectly suited to the Premier League.
Despite a disappointing first-half miss, the 24-year-old refused to be deterred, and shone in both attack and defence. Toby Alderweireld may have turned his good cross into a great one with a thumping header for Spurs’ second, but few could begrudge Lamela adding the icing on the cake for the hosts with an excellent finish from the edge of the area.
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 10, 2016
Van Gaal fails to put forward a case he should remain in charge
Many fans would suggest it is astonishing Louis van Gaal is still Manchester United manager after a season in which he has been reportedly been one defeat away from the sack on a number of occasions.
Daily Telegraph chief football writer Sam Wallace suggested on Sky Sports’ Sunday Supplement that the Old Trafford hierarchy were “desperate” for Van Gaal to remain in charge next season. And with speculation Jose Mourinho will take charge in the summer somewhat easing – and perhaps more importantly with Ed Woodward calling the shots at United – it is not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine the Dutchman still in the dugout come the opening fixture of next term.
Whatever Woodward is thinking, United’s executive vice-chairman should be hugely alarmed at the ease in which the Red Devils folded after Dele Alli put Tottenham ahead.
A draw in north London would have been an impressive result, and with 70 minutes played Van Gaal might have been fairly pleased with himself with the score at 0-0. His side were set to be only three points off the top four.
Five minutes and 46 seconds later his team had shipped three goals.
Former United winger Nani recently slammed Van Gaal for stripping the club of its once fearsome reputation. On the evidence of Sunday’s display it’s hard to disagree. The club are unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League, and running out of excuses to keep faith with Van Gaal.
Tottenham won’t win the title this season – but there is no reason why they can’t next term
Leicester edged ever close to the Premier League title with a 2-0 win at Southampton on Sunday and with Jamie Vardy back among the goals and their defence continuing to keep clean sheets, Spurs are likely going to have to settle for second spot this season.
There seems to be a sense that after a such a turbulent campaign this year, the league will revert to type in 2016/17, as surely Manchester City and Chelsea cannot muscle their way back to the top under new managers Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte, respectively.
However, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal have proven that it is in fact quite difficult to return to the summit of English football. Furthermore, neither Guardiola or Conte have previously managed in the Premier League, and their methods are likely to take time be put into practice on the field.
Even if City and Chelsea are back to their best, it is hugely disrespectful to this Spurs team to suggest they will not be able to match their rivals.
Pochettino is going to have another summer to mould the squad, while the likes of Harry Kane, Eric Dier and most excitingly, Dele Alli, are all going to improve.
Expect another expensive summer at Old Trafford
Van Gaal has been able to spend in excess of £250million on new players, the majority of which has been largely squandered.
Whether it is the Dutchman, Mourinho, or even Ryan Giggs in charge come the summer, expect the Red Devils to invest heavily in their playing squad yet again.
While United may have been unlucky with injuries this season, and clearly have a promising crop of youngsters, the squad is awash with players simply not good enough to return the club to past glories.
Marcos Rojo, Phil Jones, Marouane Fellaini, Morgan Schneiderlin and Ashley Young are among those to have failed to make a meaningful impact at the club, and plenty more names can be added to that list.
Woodward needs to forget his obsession with signing a marquee name and instead back a manager to build his own squad. It’s going to take a lot of money.
Kane gives Spurs and England a worry
It is laughable to think now that Harry Kane was being dubbed a one-season wonder at the start of the season. The 22-year-old has proven himself to be one of the deadliest strikers in Europe with 28 goals for club and country this term.
The sight of the striker limping towards the end of the match will have been a huge worry to both Pochettino and England boss Roy Hodgson, and serves as a reminder of the extraordinary physical demands Kane has been under this campaign.
Pochettino has had no alternative available this season, meaning Kane has made a total of 52 appearances. It is no exaggeration to suggest Tottenham would have struggled to make the top four without their talisman.
Kane is likely to play five more matches for the north Londoners before reporting for England duty ahead of Euro 2016. Hodgson will be praying the forward isn’t burnt out by then.