Arsenal And Spurs Face Identical Task

Date published: Monday 24th August 2015 1:08

Arsenal And Spurs Face Identical Task

Liverpool
Brendan Rodgers’ side keep on finding a way to win, two goals in the final five minutes squeaking out victory against Bolton on Wednesday. Whilst last season’s success was based on fast starts and quick leads, recently the opposite has been true. Liverpool’s last six goals were scored after half-time.
Rodgers this week again talked of Liverpool’s recent growth: “Our best football is yet to come. For us, we needed to find a way to get back to our identity again and we have got that and our best football is ahead of us.” Without p**sing on his chips, has their recent run not been entirely predictable? Let me explain further.
Since the end of August, Liverpool have beaten Ludogorets, West Brom, QPR, Swansea (twice), Stoke, Leicester, Bournemouth, Burnley, AFC Wimbledon, Sunderland, Aston Villa, West Ham and Bolton. Not one of those teams are ranked above Liverpool (although West Ham were at the time).
Conversely, games against Real Madrid, Chelsea (twice), Basel and Manchester United have been lost. Each time Rodgers’ side have faced a tough opponent they have come off second best, with the exception of the 2-2 home draw with Arsenal in December. That was achieved via a 97th-minute equaliser from Martin Skrtel.
There is nothing catastrophic about beating lesser teams and losing to better teams, but it does make Liverpool’s forthcoming matches extremely intriguing. Everton, Tottenham, Southampton and Manchester City are their Premier League opponents before Burnley arrive at Anfield on March 4. Now is the time to test Rodgers’ promise of re-found “identity”.

Jose Mourinho
Before this season, Jose Mourinho had endured a dreadful record at St James’ Park: P4, W0, D2, L2. They went to Newcastle in December and lost 2-1.
Before this season, Jose Mourinho had endured a dreadful record at Villa Park: P5, W0, D3, L2. They go there on Saturday.
I’ll be honest, I’m just trying to find reasons for Aston Villa fans to be positive.

Arsenal
This is it. This is the big one. This is the test.
Winning three of your last four league games is excellent, of course. Winning your last match to nil against a struggling team is not to be sniffed at, but these are not the battles that win the war. Talk of recent improvement is far from cheap, but it can only be deemed sustainable if they avoid slip-up in the north London derby.
Saturday’s match presents not only an opportunity to continue their own rejuvenation and bid for a top-four place, but also the chance to destroy the buoyant mood of their greatest rivals. I can’t bloody wait (and there will be 16 Conclusions).

Spurs
This is it. This is the big one. This is the test.
Winning three of your last four league games is excellent, of course. Winning your last match to nil against a struggling team is not to be sniffed at, but these are not the battles that win the war. Talk of recent improvement is far from cheap, but it can only be deemed sustainable if they avoid slip-up in the north London derby.
Saturday’s match presents not only an opportunity to continue their own rejuvenation and bid for a top-four place, but also the chance to destroy the buoyant mood of their greatest rivals. I can’t bloody wait (and there will be 16 Conclusions).

Harry Kane
Emmanuel Adebayor appeared demotivated even before his deadline day move to West Ham failed to materialise, so heaven knows what his demeanour will be like now.
“The club decided to send me out on loan which I was pleased with,” the striker said on Wednesday. “There were five good clubs who were interested and I narrowed that down to three and then one that I wanted to go. But Mr Levy was against that because it was a rival club. So I am staying here, and I am happy to stay at the club and do my job.” I believe that all of that until the last line.
Add to that issue the problem of Roberto Soldado looking like a pile of dust where a footballer once stood, and it’s fair to say that Spurs are a touch reliant on Harry Kane. Mauricio Pochettino would be forgiven for wrapping his young striker in cotton wool, bubble wrap and a 15 tog duvet between matches.
Kane has already far surpassed his expectations for the season, but has yet to play against Arsenal, the team who rejected him as a boy. The final chapter of cult hero status could be written on Saturday.

Graziano Pelle
Googling Graziano Pelle is a difficult business. It used to be easy, but since the search engine began to offer you a selection of images, one finds themselves low on confidence, muttering the words “why can’t I be beautiful like you?” under your breath. I have the same problem when searching for chicken kievs.
Thankfully, some websites don’t have images of players on their profile pages, so I can reveal that Pelle has now gone 547 minutes without a Premier League goal, and 1077 minutes without an assist.
It gets worse. Pelle has had three shots on target in his last 715 PL minutes and has created only three chances in his last 526 minutes. He is currently a fake Michelangelo statue, aesthetically rewarding but ultimately worth very little.
This is a season in which showering Southampton in anything other than glowing praise seems crass, but Koeman’s side have scored more than once in only six of their last 16 games. If their unlikely bid to break into the top four is to be maintained, Pelle must rediscover his scoring touch.

QPR
And so the post-Harry era begins at Loftus Road.
Whether or not (it will be) it is Tim Sherwood who is given the task of saving QPR’s season, there is a feeling that, actually, this is a great gig to land. Such was the complete under-performance of the departing manager, it is almost assumed that this is a club heading for the Championship. Even if relegation does occur, the seeds were sown, watered and nurtured by his predecessor.
Moreover, this is a squad with obvious room for improvement. Charlie Austin, Mauro Zarate, Leroy Fer, Edu Vargas, Mauricio Isla, Steven Caulker and Joey Barton – the list goes on. QPR’s squad is packed with players that would walk into Sean Dyche’s Burnley side, for example. Now the task is to get them playing as a team. Confidence needs transforming, and Sherwood would consider that his forte.

West Brom
Last week brought a notable setback for Tony Pulis. West Brom registered as many shots on target as Spurs, but conceded two early goals to pierce through the mood of jubilation following the arrival of a survival expert more famous than Bear Grylls. They eventually lost 0-3.
It was very un-Pulis result. It took five matches for Crystal Palace to concede three goals in total after Pulis’ appointment at Selhurst Park in November 2013, and Palace conceded more than twice in only two of his 29 games in charge. Clean sheets against Everton and Hull were persuasive evidence that a similar pattern would follow at the Hawthorns.
Of course West Brom’s survival bid will not be significantly harmed by that one defeat, but it did offer a stark reminder of the task Pulis faces. There is nothing as simple as ‘managerial appointment = avoiding relegation’, a message Pulis is presumably preaching. Complacency would be foolish only three points outside the relegation zone.
West Brom travel to Burnley this weekend. The return of the tight defence and grounded-out victory would eliminate any notions of doubt following the comprehensive loss to Spurs. Lose, and the Baggies could be back in the bottom three by the end of the weekend.

Charlie Austin
One goal in six matches since Boxing Day for Charlie Austin, and 634 minutes since he last scored from open play.
Austin is the one QPR player to be absolved of any blame for this season’s woes, but their Premier League survival probably depends on his rediscovering his pre-Christmas form.

Saido Berahino
“I’m taking care of my short-terms right now and if I keep scoring the goals and if I keep doing well for West Bromwich Albion, I know the future will be bright for me and I know that I’ll go a long way,” said Saido Berahino this week, an interview which West Brom were unaware was taking place. “If I can keep them in the Premier League and score as many goals as I can, I’m pretty sure the fans wouldn’t mind me pushing on and moving on to bigger things.”
There is a nagging sense that Berahino has started to believe his own hype a touch, but the striker would be advised to walk before he can run. A reminder that Berahino has two non-penalty league goals since October, and ten career PL goals in total. As the cliché goes, it’s time for him to do his talking on the pitch.
Daniel Storey

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