Diving: The Latest Stick to beat Spurs with

FeaturedDiving: The Latest Stick to beat Spurs with

Tottenham are a strange team. The first side to break into Sky’s ‘big four’ despite having no right to have risen from their mid-table obscurity of the previous two decades or so. They were the side to really threaten the comfort that Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal had in that top four.

Whilst City did the same, at around the same time, their rise was expected. Having spent millions on players since their takeover in 2008, people were prepared for them to inevitably make it to the top. People were prepared for that. However, what people weren’t prepared for was a Redknapp-led Spurs side, filled with players such as Alan Hutton, Sebastian Bassong and David Bentley to pip that City side to a top four place, taking Liverpool’s spot in the process.

Maybe this is why those clubs seem to have such a hatred towards us. The Tottenham side that they had previously deemed to nothing more than an average, mid table club doing their best to reach a European spot, was now a genuine threat to them. And it doesn’t appear as though they took well to that.

What the following years revealed was that Tottenham would consistently finish in the top six, but usually, for one reason or another would miss out on the top four. This, of course, was met with some obvious jokes from other clubs’ fans’, which was entirely understandable. Tottenham were the side that dreamed of the Champions League, only to fall short year after year. But it was only when Tottenham managed to shake their ‘Europa League club’ status, that a few rival fanbases’ insecurities became obvious.

After the departure of Bale, the ‘one man team’ narrative died. In came the seven replacements, and despite some mixed initial success, five of them eventually failed. There was unsurprisingly a lot of criticism as to how the Bale money was spent, but after a season this would be forgotten, as Pochettino arrived, delivering better results than any Spurs manager in recent history. With things looking positive for Spurs, people needed to create new narratives in which to mock them.

After bringing through and developing a whole host of young English players, Pochettino had created a side worthy of breaking into the top four once again, and that they did. However, a Champions League place and  a record high league finish wasn’t celebrated like it was in 2010, as the season came to a disappointing end with a crushing 5-1 defeat to already relegated Newcastle allowing closest rivals Arsenal to finish ahead of them once again, whilst Leicester’s league title came as comfortably as it was surprising.

Despite a disappointing end, the season had been a good one for Spurs, especially the second half where their positive, stylistic football brought them plenty of results before they eventually ran out of steam. However, despite outperforming most clubs that season, Tottenham became the butt of the joke for ‘bottling the league’ to Leicester. People believed that despite never actually leading, Tottenham had somehow thrown the league away. Even Arsenal fans mocked Spurs for this, and they actually led the league at the halfway point, before finishing second to Leicester. If anyone bottled the 2015-16 League title, it was Arsenal.

Nevertheless, the bottling narrative continued.

After a second place finish to Chelsea, Tottenham seemed to be mocked even harder than the previous year. People laughed about Spurs ‘putting the pressure’ on Chelsea, whatever this meant. Chelsea won 30 of their 38 games to take the title, the most wins in any Premier League season. Spurs on the other hand bettered their previous league finishes and set a new club record for points in a Premier League season, with 86. Both clubs enjoyed good seasons, but Spurs were once again a figure of ridicule.

Never before had second place been seen so strongly as ‘the first loser’. Even if a team had been favourites for the league, only to lose it in the very last minute like United in 2011-12, they were never laughed at for their finish. Spurs won 12 of their last 13 league games in the 16-17 season, and played some quality football throughout it with a core of English talent, yet people were desperate to put them down. Spurs were being laughed by clubs’ below them for not being able to catch the team above them. They were being laughed at for things that had never been mocked before.

This brings us to diving. The most recent narrative to take shape. Fans of rival clubs are now heavily criticising and mocking Spurs for being cheats. Dele Alli has undoubtedly built his own reputation for this, it’s impossible to deny that. But he is probably the only one. It is now reaching the point where neither Dele, nor any other member of the squad can get fouled without sparking outrage at all. This is becoming evermore obvious.

Tottenham’s trip to Anfield was had enough drama and controversies to last a whole season, however when the final whistle was blown, the general consensus was that referee Jon Moss (and assistant Edward Smart) between them, got all the big calls right. But Liverpool fans were not happy. Van Dijk (along with many others) accused Kane of diving for Tottenham’s first penalty, which was subsequently missed. This view is an understandable one, as whilst there was contact, it was entirely initiated by Kane who planted his leg long enough to be caught by the onrushing Karius.

Whilst this is technically an attempt to con the referee, it is not uncommon. Strikers such as Jamie Vardy, Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero have all performed this act of deceit on numerous occasions, and have either been branded as ‘clever’, or have been given a yellow card only for the offence to be very quickly forgotten about. So, considering the sheer volume of high profile players trying this, why has it suddenly become an issue criticised so heavily?

Well, it’s because the masses needed a new narrative in which they could join together to convince themselves that Tottenham aren’t worthy of whatever praises or success they’re getting. Diving takes place week in, week out in football. Not only in the foreign leagues, but in the Premier League too. Raheem Sterling, Chris Smalling, Jamie Vardy, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Jack Wilshere, Duncan Watmore, Ashley Young, James Milner, Danny Welbeck, Adam Smith, Daniel Sturridge, Marcus Rashford, Aaron Cresswell, Ross Barkley, Theo Walcott and Wilfred Zaha are all English (well, Zaha was) players that have been guilty of simulation over recent years. It isn’t just foreign players anymore, our home-grown stars are just as bad.

Yet, diving has only become a massive issue over the last few weeks apparently. “Kane and Alli will get away with it, because they’re English.” Forget nationality, Alli and Kane are being given a harder time for it than anyone else.

There were plenty of calls for the duo to receive bans for their actions. Calls from fans whose own players dive most weeks. Liverpool, who were furious with Kane and even Lamela (who went down after being kicked in the back of the calf from Virgil Van Dijk, which I’d assume hurts quite a bit), saw Firmino (a player who looked to have bought a penalty himself against Spurs last season) dive in their very next game against West Brom. Where were the calls to ban Firmino? Klopp wasn’t complaining about it then.

The fact of the matter is that when it comes to diving, every team has its culprits. It’s hypocritical of any manager to call out another team for diving, because it’s likely that their team has benefitted from it at some point too. Sam Allardyce, Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger are all guilty of this. Criticising opposition players when their side happens to be on the wrong end of one of these decisions, yet constantly fielding players who are prepared to do the same. You’re either against it, or for it.

Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino got a bit of stick for seemingly being ‘for’ it. Pochettino claimed that trying to trick the referee is just a part of the game “Twenty, thirty years ago, we all congratulated a player when he tricks the referee like this.” The comments were, of course met with rival fans screeching ‘BAN HIM!’, or ‘FINE HIM!’ or ‘HE’S A DISGRACE TO FOOTBALL!’, but is the acceptance of simulation being a part of the game really any worse than only condemning it when it goes against you?

Last season, the balance of an FA Cup semi-final was swung in Chelsea’s favour when Victor Moses (who went on to get sent off in the final, for diving against Arsenal) threw himself over Son’s challenge. It was clearly a dive, despite Son’s poor decision to go to ground, but Pochettino refused to be drawn in and comment on this, as many managers would have. This is clear evidence that he accepts diving even when it costs his team a place in a cup final. His opinion on diving may not be the same as yours, but at least it isn’t riddled with inconsistencies and faux-rage, like many other managers’.

In fact, when you look at yellow cards issued for diving in the Premier League since the 2011-12 season, Chelsea, Liverpool, Sunderland and Man City have all received more than Spurs (who had Gareth Bale for two of those seasons), meaning that there is a clearly disproportional hatred for diving when it involves Tottenham player’s.

But is it right to criticise ALL diving? Or should it be accepted as a part of the modern game? The answer really isn’t clear. We all want the beautiful game to be fair and just. There’s nothing worse than when games are decided by incorrect calls or clear cases of cheating, after all, that’s why VAR has been brought in. But at the same time, those who have watched teams such as Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid will have seen how big European clubs are extremely adept at conning referees and have used this to their advantage for many seasons.

Juventus (Chiellini especially) are masters of the dark arts of football. They prey on the weaknesses of referees, going down while defending set pieces, constantly appealling decisions and accusing the opposition of every footballing crime under the sun in such manors that leave the referee no choice but to believe them. They do this because they exist within a footballing culture that allows them to, which in turn, gives them the advantages when they come up against teams who don’t. Potentially partly explaining their run in last season’s Champions League. We can demand nothing but honesty from English clubs, but it’s quite possible that it could require a somewhat less honest approach if we expect more European success for the country’s top teams.

Whatever the general consensus on diving is though, one thing is for sure: Once the whole debate dies down, a new one will form, with Spurs undoubtedly in the centre. Whether it’s the continued overemphasis on silverware, the failure of the England National team, or the re-emergence of the notion that Spurs are nothing more than a selling club, a new narrative will certainly take shape.

Teams are frightened of the big club that Tottenham are becoming, but no matter how many times they move the goalposts, it seems as though they’ll just keep on scoring.

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Top Five Moments of 2017

FeaturedTop Five Moments of 2017

What a year it has been.

Our best finish in the Premier League with a club-record 86 points helped us comfortably finish second in the table. Not only that, but 2017 saw us go an entire season unbeaten on home soil – providing the fitting farewell for the Lane. From the dazzling heights of beating the back-to-back European champions at Wembley, to the terrifying lows of Heung-Min Son starting at left-back in the FA Cup semi-final; I will now pick out five of my favourite moments from a very memorable year for the club. This won’t be easy.

5. Ending Chelsea’s Winning Streak at the Lane – January 1st, 2017:

Chelsea travelled to White Hart Lane on the back of thirteen successive league wins – being on the cusp of making Premier League history by becoming the first side to win fourteen consecutive league fixtures. Two identical headers on either side of half-time from Dele Alli ensured that Chelsea were given a beating on their final trip to the Lane. So much for ‘three point Lane’, ay?

The perfect start to the new year.

4. Beating Arsenal and Securing First Finish Above Them in 21 Years – April 30th, 2017:

The final North London Derby at the Lane and an opportunity beckoned to end our hoodoo of finishing below Arsene Wenger’s side for the first time in over two decades – although that hoodoo should have been ended several times from down the years, we always managed to fail at the final hurdle.

Not this time.

Two goals from Alli and Kane in the second half saw us win one of the most comfortable and one sided North London Derbies in recent history and maintain our unbeaten streak at the Lane; edging ever closer to giving it the most perfect of farewell’s.

3. Harry Kane ending Alan Shearer’s Premier League record for most goals in a calendar year and ending 2017 as the highest goalscorer from the top five European leagues – December 26th, 2017:

Boxing Day 2017. A day of Premier League history. Harry Kane’s hat-trick against Burnley took him levelled with Shearer’s record on 36 league goals for the year. All eyes were on him on Boxing Day – could he end a 22-year-old record? You’d bet your life he would.

Back-to-back hat-tricks for our number 10 saw him break Alan Shearer’s record with ease. And not only that, but he surpassed Lionel Messi and ended the year as top scorer from the top five European leagues – in a considerable amount of fewer games too. Not bad for a one season wonder, ay?

This wasn’t a club achievement for sure, but Harry Kane is Tottenham. The boy lives and breathes Spurs and watching him break the record was remarkable. You wouldn’t bet against him to go ahead and break his own record by scoring 40 league goals in the coming year.

Well and truly, one of our own.

2. Ripping Apart Real Madrid at Wembley – November 1st, 2017:

The twelve times European champions came to Wembley levelled with us on points at the top of our group. If you asked Spurs fans if they’d have taken a point from this game when the groups were drawn, an overwhelming majority would have bitten your arm off for it.

What happened instead was absolutely spectactular.

Dele Alli came back into the side for the first time in the Champions League and marked his return with two goals before Christian Eriksen got Spurs’ third of the night. It felt like a dream. I’m convinced it still is. Ronaldo and co were outclassed by little old Tottenham Hotspur on the biggest stage of European football at Wembley Stadium. We went on to top our group with five wins and one draw.

Group of death? Completed it.

1. The Perfect Farewell to the Lane – May 14th, 2017:

This had to be first. No question about it. The most perfect of goodbye’s to our amazing old stadium. And beating Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United made it that much sweeter.

A 2-1 win over United saw us complete an entire season unbeaten at White Hart Lane; with only two sides being able to leave our fortress with a point. Harry Kane got the final Spurs goal at the Lane and his first against Manchester United – which topped the day off.

The pitch invasion which followed was memorable.

The day couldn’t have possibly shaped into a better ending for a stadium where thousands grew up supporting, loving and watching the famous Tottenham Hotspur.

2017 has been a record breaking, memorable, and fantastic year for us. Here is to a much better 2018 (preferably a cup winning year!) and some more life-lasting memories.

Up the Spurs.

Honourable mentions: 1-3 vs. Swansea City, 1-6 vs. Leicester City, Harry Kane winning his second consecutive Golden Boot, 3-1 vs. Borussia Dortmund.

Dele Alli and Harry Kane: ‘Talentless Frauds Who Are Too Good For Tottenham’

FeaturedDele Alli and Harry Kane: ‘Talentless Frauds Who Are Too Good For Tottenham’

For those of you wise enough to listen to the loud (and by no means deluded) minority, you’ll now know that Dele Alli is nothing more than an average, hot-headed footballer who happens to get extremely lucky when it comes to scoring goals, and that Harry Kane’s footballing ability is completely limited to simply converting tap-ins and penalties, and having a slight speech impediment.

Having plenty of individual awards, European goals and match-winning derby performances between them, the pair are known for not being able to withstand pressure of any kind, and will ‘bottle it’ at every opportunity. Examples of this include Euro 2016, where the failure to perform in four games under the management of tactical genius Roy Hodgson apparently defines them far more accurately than their other 300-odd career appearances, as well as the way both of these players ‘bottled’ the title, by only helping Spurs to collect 36 out of a possible 39 points at the back end of last season.

Their losing mentality isn’t their only downfall however. Alli’s uncontrollably fiery temperament has also drawn many criticisms, as the 21 year old is known to occasionally ‘lash out’ by pushing, or squaring up to opponents. Despite such behaviour sometimes being a sign of fight or leadership, when coming from captains such as Mark Noble or Jordan Henderson, Alli’s isn’t. Due to Alli not being captain, and happening to be considerably younger, it’s clear that his acts are unacceptable, petulant acts of spite, unseen in any other footballer.

Another problem with this, is that despite Alli just has no control over his bad temper. Despite dealing weekly with opposition players who base their games around provoking the attacking midfielder, Alli has no ability to manage his vicious streak. Apart from the times where he doesn’t react, of course.

Kane, on the other hand, has many flaws of his own. The ex ‘one season wonder’ is cursed with an inability to actually play football. The 24 year old, who has received praise for his strength, speed, hold-up play, passing ability and positional intelligence, is actually just an extremely limited, one-dimensional centre forward. The England International’s abilities stretch as far as putting the ball in the back of the net, and that’s it. Things get even worse for Kane, as although he appears to offer a wide range of finishes, from all angles and distances, he still seemingly only scores tap ins and penalties.

What’s even more worrying is that Kane can only ever score against ‘tinpot’, or at best mediocre sides. Forget his seven goals and two assists in his five Champions League appearances, forget the fact that he reached double figures for international goals quicker than Messi and Ronaldo and forget his impressive records against Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham. He can’t do it against the best. People can argue that his goals in wins over teams such as Man United and Man City disprove this theory, but it doesn’t.

Even his nine career hat tricks count for nothing, because despite looking impressive on paper, they were actually against teams such as Stoke, Leicester and West Brom, so they don’t count. Even his Champions League hat trick was against Apoel Nicosia, so it’s basically just a Europa League hat trick, right? (Oh, and he keeps his mouth open a bit.)

Now despite being as talentless as they are trophy-less, the pair actually shouldn’t be at Tottenham anymore. As the columnists and pundits in the media have suggested, they need to move to Real Madrid. Both of them. Or Manchester United. It doesn’t really matter, they just need to push for a move away. It isn’t quite clear why the best teams in Europe would want a cheating 21 year old with no first touch and anger-issues, or a limited old-fashioned striker with a lisp, but bizarrely they do. Or maybe they don’t, either way the media will try to push them there, because that’s the first action a journalist should take when a player who’s happily under contract at Spurs hits a good run of form.

Despite the media’s go-to plan of berating young, English players who seek a move away from their current club to increase their wage, they still get annoyed when players don’t do exactly that, it appears. Harry Kane needs to be earning more than he’s on at Spurs, and therefore he needs to leave, or at the very least demand a pay-rise. And of course, once he goes through with this, the media will be completely understanding, just as they were with that greedy prima donna Raheem Sterling.

This blatantly un-hypocritical view that the media has taken has made things very simple for the Tottenham duo. All they need to do is leave the club they’re happy at, to join a team that they couldn’t possibly be good enough for in order for the media to reinforce this partially constructed idea that there’s no loyalty left in football.

And once people are done with mocking or slating the pair for this, maybe they’ll finally consider them to be world class.

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Everybody Wants a Harry Kane

FeaturedEverybody Wants a Harry Kane

As the ball bulged the back of Wembley’s net after a determined run and inch-perfect left-footed finish from Harry Kane, I couldn’t help myself but celebrate and cheer at the the top of my lungs. Spurs were 2–1 up against Borussia Dortmund in the first match of their Champions League campaign, thanks to an exquisite strike by our beloved number ten.

I had a brief rush of thought in between the adrenaline-filled seconds of emotion – how lucky are we to have Harry Kane?

There is a consensus among Spurs supporters that nobody ever expected him to evolve as he has done. But this consensus is not often spoken of in the footballing world, nor the importance, on and off the pitch, that Harry now represents to Tottenham.

Kane’s rise from academy outcast to Premier League golden boot winner is somewhat one of the most remarkable stories to be seen in recent times. The attention this gets, though, is surprisingly low. As much as the Spurs striker’s prolific goalscoring ability is spoken of in the general media, the truth is hardly ever mentioned: Harry Kane is much more than just a prolific striker – and every football team in the world would kill to have one of his kind.

What does this mean, “one of his kind”? Harry is a professional role-model. Determined, charismatic, light-hearted and believes in his team as much as he believes in himself. At the age of just twenty four, he displays the leadership and responsibility qualities mostly associated with veteran players in their early thirties. It’s no coincidence that Kane has held the position of Tottenham’s vice-captain since the start of the 2015/16 campaign.

Unlike other recent fan favourites, such Gareth Bale or Luka Modric, Kane was born and bred into Tottenham. A Spurs supporter himself, Harry made his way to the first-team from the club’s academy, breaking through in the 2014/15 season thanks to Mauricio Pochettino’s vote of confidence. This association to the club means that every Tottenham fan can connect and identify with Harry, and any goal scored by him has twice the amount of importance to the fanbase.

When Kane pulls the Lilywhite shirt on and sprints around the pitch, the supporters feel something that is quite hard to grasp in modern footballing times: representativity. The football club, its spirit, its culture and philosophy is entirely embodied by Harry – a comparison can be drawn with Francesco Totti and his synonymous meaning to Italy’s AS Roma.

There is a feeling of indescribable amounts of pride that Spurs fans take in Kane. In last night’s European triumph against Borussia Dortmund, there was a subtle instance which caught my eye. Harry received the ball about forty yards away from the opposition goal, and as he charged forward, the supporters in the stands around him were already standing up. All he has to do to get Spurs fans’ heart racing is to drive forward with the ball, no matter how far he is from goal – that’s the kind of player he is.

Last Sunday, Tottenham’s number ten reached the mark of a hundred goals for his club, seventy nine of them coming in the Premier League. Right footed, left footed, header, inside or outside the box, you name it. Harry Kane can do it. Against any opposition. And he especially loves scoring in London derbies.

With last night’s brace, Kane continues his impressive goal record in 2017, amassing a total of 29 goals in 27 appearances in all competitions – a better record than the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo.

And as he showed yesterday with a vintage performance, only the sky is the limit for the London-born boy, who undoubtedly will be looking to reach his hundredth Premier League goal this season, as well as helping Tottenham in their push for glory in all fronts.

As for us Spurs supporters, I can only ask once again – how lucky are we to have Harry Kane? I believe our luck is the kind you get once in a lifetime, and we can only stand up and drink in every single second of thrill and joy that he brings to us.

Kane is truly one of our own, so it is our unequivocal job to savour the experience for as long as we are able to.

Everybody wants a Harry Kane – but only we have Harry Kane.

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Jan Vertonghen: Why The Best Is Still To Come

FeaturedJan Vertonghen: Why The Best Is Still To Come

Jan Vertonghen quickly became a fan favourite upon his arrival from Ajax in 2012, with his composed defending, adventurous forward-play and a knack of scoring goals earning him a place in the PFA Team of the Season.

Despite his special debut year for Spurs, the Belgian’s form dipped in the second season. Two separate Malleolar injuries and a knee injury meant he only featured in 23 League games, and when he was fit, he had no consistent partner (partly down to injuries, partly down to AVB’s rotational centre back method). A rapidly declining Younes Kaboul, an ageing Michael Dawson and extravagant new signing Vlad Chiriches all played alongside Vertonghen during the 2013-14 season, and this inconsistency affected Jan’s game.

Dawson was no longer as mobile as he once was, Chiriches was error-prone and Kaboul, after a year out with injury, looked to be way past his best. Vertonghen had to contain his adventurous style in order to prioritise covering his partner in defence, who always seemed to have a mistake in him no matter who it was. The marauding forward runs, both on and off the ball were cut from his game, and he no longer stepped into midfield to help create chances as often as he did in his previous season. Jan’s ball playing abilities were going to waste.

The following Summer not only saw new manager, Mauricio Pochettino arrive, but also saw the club go out and sign another central defender. Federico Fazio signed from Sevilla having just captained his side to the Europa League trophy. As a tall, strong, no-nonsense defender coming off the back of a good individual season, Fazio seemed to fit the bill as Jan’s partner. A sturdy, solid and reliable lynchpin to enhance Vertonghen’s creativity and inventiveness.

Despite this, newly appointed club captain, Younes Kaboul started the season as Pochettino’s first choice centre back, and Fazio didn’t get a Premier League start until October against Man City, where he got sent off for a foul on Aguero. Fazio picked up another red in the Europa League, but managed to find himself on the team-sheet more regularly due to Kaboul’s poor form. Things picked up from here, as Vertonghen and Fazio formed a consistent partnership.

The pair’s first 12 Premier League games saw an improvement in Spurs’ form, with eight wins, two draws and two defeats (one of which was to Chelsea). Vertonghen spoke in interviews about the benefits of having Federico as a consistent partner, claiming that “He [Fazio] is a beast in the air and I’m less strong in the air than him, but we compensate for each other in that way.” aswell as praising Fazio’s English, noting how it made for good communication between the two.

However, Fazio’s flaws became evermore apparent as the season played through, and it became clear that he wasn’t going to be in Pochettino’s plans for next year. This saw the club go out and bring in another central defender, the talented Toby Alderweireld. His arrival was exciting for Spurs fans, and as Jan’s compatriot and former Ajax teammate, it will have certainly been good news for Vertonghen too.

The pair had the potential to become the strongest partnership in the league, and by the end of the season, it certainly looked like they’d achieved this. Despite missing two months through injury, Vertonghen still managed 29 League appearances alongside Toby, keeping nine clean sheets in that time, whilst Alderweireld helped the side keep a further four clean sheets in the nine games Vertonghen missed.

The Belgian duo just seemed to click. Both of them were extremely competent, physically adept defenders, with an abundance of quality on the ball and a large amount of chemistry. Almost always on the same wavelength, they helped Spurs achieve a record 3rd place finish in 2015-16, and Jan was arguably back to his best.

For all the good Alderweireld brought with him though, there was one minor downfall to his arrival. Vertonghen’s partner, for the first time in his career was now just as good as, if not better than him. This largely wasn’t an issue, but there were a couple of occasions where it seemed as though Jan was allowing himself to become complacent. For one of the first times in his Premier League career, he had the freedom to play his natural game without the need to constantly be ready to cover his partners mistakes.

There are few things in football rarer than an Alderweireld error, and Vertonghen knew this. It lead to him switching off at times and losing concentration on occasion. Vertonghen’s general play may have now been at its best, but he was now also more prone to an error than ever before. Having Toby alongside him meant that not many of these errors lead to goals, but Tottenham were punished for his complacency a couple of times.

These times include Leicester away, when he inexplicably allowed Riyad Mahrez to cut onto his left foot inside Tottenham’s area, as the Algerian subsequently bent one into the far corner, and Palace away, when his poor clearance found Joel Ward out wide, as he prodded thee resulting cross into his own net. These moments weren’t common at all, but it was still worrying to see them creep into his game.

The following season saw Jan and Toby’s partnership reach another level. Now undoubtedly the best defensive partnership in the league, the two managed to help Spurs to another record points tally, allowing them to finish second, keeping a resounding 17 clean sheets along the way and conceding just 26 goals all season. This defensive record is even more impressive when considering the fact that Alderweireld and Vertonghen both picked up injuries at separate times, meaning Tottenham went around two months of the season without their strongest defensive pairing.

In fact, Alderweireld’s knee injury in October was quite possibly a blessing in disguise. Although this saw him miss almost two months of action, it allowed Vertonghen time in the side without his ever-consistent defensive partner. Jan had to step up. Already one off the senior players in the squad, and vice-captain of the club, Vertonghen displayed further leadership by shrugging off any potential complacency and taking on the responsibility of playing alongside a rather shaky looking Dier who seemed to be unfamiliar in defence after a season at holding midfield.

These games threw Jan into a situation where he could no longer switch off due to the quality of his other centre back, and he didn’t. Spurs maintained their promising defensive record through this period, and Vertonghen proved that he is a more than capable centre back, and isn’t carried by Toby at all.

Another factor in Jan’s improvement was the decision made by Pochettino to switch to a back three. Playing on the left of the three, he suddenly found himself in an even more expansive system than before. He operated almost as a midfielder in possession, keeping possession inside the opposition half and pushing forward when possible. The system almost added another layer of composure to his game, allowing him space and time on the ball, aswell as giving him extra cover in defence. Vertonghen seemed almost tailor-made for this role.

Now, following an impressive opening day clean sheet at St James’ Park, Vertonghen faces potentially the biggest season of his career. At 30 years old, he will be desperate to add trophies to his time at Spurs, and as vice-captain, will likely do all he can to make that happen. In a system that relies on confident, relaxed, ball-playing defenders, Vertonghen ticks all the boxes to continue to thrive in the system, and alongside like-minded defenders like Alderweireld and potentially Davinson Sanchez, Spurs’ defence shows no sign of weakening.

Now more reliable when fit, Vertonghen will be hoping to stay injury free this season as he’s had his fair share of problems recently. If he does manage this however, Spurs fans should expect a great season from the Belgian. One that could quite possibly be his best ever.

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The Evolution of Son Heung-Min

FeaturedThe Evolution of Son Heung-Min

Son Heung-Min has just enjoyed his best individual season to date, scoring 21 times in all competitions (his best ever tally), and picking up two Premier League Player of the Month awards (and plenty more handshakes) along the way.

Despite a fairly unremarkable first year in English football, the South Korean really hit form in his second, becoming a key part of Tottenham’s attack and finishing the season as their third highest goalscorer. His skill, drive and versatility made him a tough player to handle, with his direct style troubling defenders throughout the season and his ability to produce spectacular goals from anywhere making him a danger all over the pitch.

Sonny, as he is now known as by teammates, left FC Seoul’s youth academy at just 16 to join Bundesliga side Hamburger SC back in 2008. After spending some time developing in their youth academy, Son spent the 2009-10 season in the reserve side, where he made six appearances, scoring in his third against Hertha Berlin’s reserves. His performances earned him a promotion to the first team, and things looked very promising as he scored 9 in pre-season and signed his first professional contract on his 18th birthday, however he would miss the start of the season after picking up a foot injury.

After two months out, Son returned to the side, scoring in his first game back against FC Cologne. This made him Hamburg’s youngest ever Bundesliga scorer, also earning him an improved contract which would keep him at the club until 2014. Due to numerous injuries at the club, keeping players such as Ruud Van Nistelrooy, Eric Choupo-Moting and Mladen Petric out of action, Son enjoyed a run in the side, and scored a brace against Hannover 96 just a few weeks later. This meant Son ended his first professional season with three goals in 14 appearances, and his contribution had earned him many plaudits, including comparisons to compatriot Cha Bum-Kun, who scored 98 Bundesliga goals in 308 appearances.

The following season saw a bright start for Sonny, scoring two in his first three games. However it was in his third appearance that he picked up an ankle injury and was set to miss six weeks of action. Despite this initial projection, he returned just three weeks later and went on to play 27 games over the course of the 2011-12 season, scoring five times.

It wasn’t until the 2012-13 season that Sonny truly showed what he was capable of however. The loss of strikers Mladen Petric and Paolo Guerrero in the Summer transfer window saw manager Thorsten Frink put his faith in Heung-Min Son to partner Artjoms Rudņevs up front in a 4-4-2. Son repaid the faith shown in him by his manager by notching 12 goals in 33 games, including 4 goals in his two appearances against Borussia Dortmund.

Son’s movement and pace became a major factor in the side’s playing style, as he linked up with Rudņevs, a centre forward more in the mould of a target man, to create a strike force that other sides struggled to deal with. It was partly due to Son’s form that Hamburg finished 7th after finishing 15th the previous season.

On the 13th of June 2013, Bayer Leverkusen confirmed the signing of Son Heung-Min for a club record of €10 million. It didn’t take long for the South Korean to settle in either, as he scored on his debut against Freiburg, after scoring three in his first three friendly appearances in pre-season. Son’s role at Leverkusen was less clear than at Hamburg. At Hamburg Sonny was mainly used as a supporting striker (mainly in a 4-4-2), however, under Sami Hyypiä at Leverkusen, he was switched between the main striker in a 4-3-3, or a wide forward, often from the left.

Son’s ability to use both feet equally well meant he looked comfortable on the left wing, as he could take on his man down the wing almost aswell as he cut inside, making him unpredictable. This new wide role also meant he had more opportunities to shoot from distance, which was already one of his strengths. He finished his first season at his new club with 12 goals in all competitions, including a hat trick in a 5-3 win over his former club, Hamburg and another goal against Dortmund, as the club finished in 4th place.

The 2013-14 season saw the arrival of Roger Schmidt following Hyypiä’s sacking. Schmidt had a distinctive style, focusing heavily on quick attacking movement and high pressing. Leverkusen’s style was compared to the gegenpressing of Borussia Dortmund, and Heung-Min Son played a big role in this. He had now fully established himself as a wide forward, and despite players like Hakan Calhanoglu and Karim Bellarabi joining the club in the Summer, Sonny maintained his place on the left of a front three.

Sonny flourished in this system, scoring 11 league goals and five Champions League goals. The hard-working nature of Son allowed him to easily adapt to the high press, and the team’s aim to attack and shoot as quickly as possible once they’ve won the ball also matched the style of the wide attacker. With 17 goals and 5 assists, Sonny had just enjoyed his best season yet, finishing as the club’s joint top scorer for the season as they ended up in 4th once more.

Despite only playing under him for a season before his £22 million mover to Spurs, it can be argued that Roger Schmidt had the most influence on Sonny’s style upon his arrival in North London. The pacey, relentless style of Son Heung-Min meant he had all the attributes to become a key player in a Pochettino side, and a season under Schmidt undoubtedly went some way towards preparing him for his next challenge. Although it might have taken him a year or so to adjust to the physical nature of the Premier League, he has certainly found his feet in the league now, and Spurs fans will be hoping he can continue this form for years to come.

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Farewell White Hart Lane

FeaturedFarewell White Hart Lane

We knew it was coming all season. With every visit to the Lane, the new stadium rapidly grew faster and faster next door. It hadn’t dawned upon me for so long just how difficult it would be to wave goodbye to this place once and for all. A place which many of us call our home; our real home. A place where we grew up watching the team and players we passionately adore. A place where we were given memories to cherish for a lifetime.

A place that very soon will cease to exist.

As I sit typing this, I’m dreading the arrival of the 14th. I prefer to refer to tomorrow by the date instead of simply saying ‘tomorrow’ because it helps me believe it’s a little further away than how agonisingly close it actually is. Sitting by the clock and knowing that in under 48 hours’ time, the construction workers will move into our home and start knocking it down – it’s a soul crushing feeling.

The good news out of this, I guess, is that we’re only moving next door and not miles away from where our original roots are. And as much as I say that to cheer me up, nothing will ever be more of a ‘home’ to me than White Hart Lane has been – at least not for a very, very long time.

I still remember the sheer excitement of visiting the Lane for the first time – jumping out of bed at quarter past seven on a Saturday morning, putting on the famous Lilywhite colours and rushing to my parents’ bedroom to wake my dad up; only for him to remind me that we had eight hours left before the game. That dampened the mood down just a little bit!

The tingling feeling of walking through the turnstiles in the South Stand, shoving my way through a crowd of Spurs fans with a firm grip on my dad’s hand just in case I got lost in the concourse, before finally running up the stairs leading into the stands and embracing the beautiful turf for the first time in my life – an indescribable moment.

I must have spent at least ten minutes in complete awe of my new surroundings. The pre-match atmosphere took a while to soak completely in. This place certainly felt a lot like home straight away. A cry of ‘Come on you Spurs!’ was echoed from all corners of the ground as the game kicked off.

And since then, I was hooked right in.

As a relatively younger supporter, it feels extremely tough to even contemplate the idea of White Hart Lane being completely destroyed in the coming weeks and months; therefore I can’t even begin to imagine how devastating it must feel for supporters who have been regularly visiting for decades.

As much as I’m dreading that final goodbye, the future does bring a lot of excitement in itself. The new stadium will hold more than 60,000 fans under one roof and 17,000 in a single stand. The fact that it will also be built on top of our current home helps a lot in making me feel that White Hart Lane will always be there with us in spirit – rather than having it completely torn down just to build a bunch of flats over it.

Whether Spurs are playing down at the Lane, Wembley or anywhere else in the country, we will follow them wherever they go. We did so then, we do it today and we’ll do it tomorrow.

Long live Tottenham Hotspur.

Long live White Hart Lane.

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