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First team

Media view: Expert insight on Spurs

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth will be hoping for a repeat of last season’s victory when they host Premier League rivals Tottenham at Vitality Stadium on Thursday (6pm kick-off).

Nathan Ake’s dramatic injury-time goal earned the Cherries a 1-0 win in their final home game of 2018/19 as the visitors finished the contest with nine men.

A change of manager at Spurs saw Jose Mourinho replace Mauricio Pochettino in November with the Portuguese celebrating his 200th Premier League win on Monday.

Michael Keane’s own goal earned Spurs a 1-0 victory over Everton at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as Mourinho’s team bounced back following a 3-1 defeat at Sheffield United.

Mourinho became the fifth manager to reach a double century of Premier League victories, joining Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Harry Redknapp and David Moyes.

The win helped Spurs remain in contention for the top six – where they have finished in the past 10 seasons – and saw them keep only their fifth clean sheet in 30 games under Mourinho.

Ahead of the clash, afcb.co.uk caught up with Dan Kilpatrick, who covers the fortunes of Tottenham for the London Evening Standard.

afcb.co.uk: Briefly summarise Tottenham’s form since the season restarted?

DK: It’s been very patchy. In hindsight, the point against Manchester United looks a decent one given how United have been playing recently.

But I think Spurs will still view it as a missed opportunity given they threw away a 1-0 lead late in the game.

They were solid if unspectacular when gaining home wins against West Ham and Everton. They got clean sheets in both games which is rare as they have been in short supply this season.

They were absolutely dreadful in a 3-1 defeat by Sheffield United at Bramall Lane. The defending was abysmal, they collapsed after a VAR decision went against them and it felt like a real nadir of their season, at least since Mourinho took charge in November.

Their form has been really patchy and the team has been inconsistent. There are a few reasons for encouragement but, equally, reasons to be concerned as well. 

afcb.co.uk: How has Harry Kane (pictured above) looked since he returned from his lengthy injury layoff?

DK: He has looked fit and I don’t think there are too many concerns about his fitness post-injury. But he has cut a really marginalised and quite frustrated figure.

I saw a statistic about how many touches he’s had in the box in the four games since the restart and it was something like 14 or 15. He had 12 on the opening day alone against Aston Villa.

He’s not been getting into goalscoring positions, although he did score against West Ham and Sheffield United. He’s doing a lot of defensive work, he’s dropping a lot deeper and playing as an average position deeper than say Lucas Moura and Heung-min Son.

But Spurs still look at their best when they get him in space on the counter-attack. Ironically, Kane is now Spurs’ most creative midfielder since Christian Eriksen left so he’s doing a different kind of job.

But knowing Harry Kane and his insatiable appetite for goals, I don’t think it’s a job he will particularly relish because he wants to be up there finishing moves. But, at the moment, Spurs just aren’t creating enough chances for him to be doing that.

afcb.co.uk: If you were penning a school report on Jose Mourinho’s tenure to date, how would it read?

DK: I think you would have to say Mourinho deserves something like a B-minus at the moment.

Every manager deserves time and a few transfer windows and he hasn’t had either of those things yet so it’s still too early to cast judgement on him.

The problem with Mourinho is his reputation will always precede him and he joined Spurs after two very difficult jobs that suggested he perhaps wasn’t at the cutting edge of modern management.

He hasn’t shown a great deal so far to suggest that has changed at Tottenham. It’s been a fairly difficult start but the big problem with Mourinho and Spurs is that they were struggling before he took charge. It’s very difficult to say he inherited a team full of problems or whether he comes with a lot of baggage.

The answer is probably somewhere in the middle but clearly it’s not an easy job although perhaps he has made it look harder than it should be at times as well.

afcb.co.uk: Who has been Tottenham’s standout performer since the restart?

DK: Giovani Lo Celso (pictured above).

That’s been the case for months. He was the standout player before lockdown and he still is now. He’s by far and away Tottenham’s best player in the system Mourinho wants to play.

That’s not to say he’s a better player than Son or Kane but they have just not be able to get into the positions they want to so far whereas Lo Celso is Tottenham’s beating heart.

He keeps the ball moving, he can run with it, he’s tenacious and creative. If you shut him down, you have a good chance of shutting down Spurs.

afcb.co.uk: Is European football next season still a realistic aim?

DK: I think the Europa League is still a realistic aim. With the greatest respect, I think Spurs should be looking to beat Bournemouth and then the game against Arsenal on Sunday might be something of a Europa League play-off as depressing as that is for both clubs.

There’s still a chance. I don’t think they will be too defeatist yet. They are still well in with a chance of finishing in the top six or seven which should be enough for the Europa League.

As Hugo Lloris said after the Everton win, the Champions League is going to be really tough but the Europa League is still on the table.

afcb.co.uk: Do you think Mourinho will have one eye on Sunday’s North London derby when he picks his team against the Cherries?

DK: I think he definitely will. He will be aware Arsenal played on Tuesday so will have had two days’ extra rest.

He hasn’t made wholesale changes since the restart. Despite the awful defeat by Sheffield United, he only made two against Everton.

I think he will look at the Bournemouth game as one where he perhaps can and has to give minutes to players like Tanguy NDombele, Ryan Sessegnon, Gedson Fernandes and Oliver Skipp.

afcb.co.uk: Do Tottenham have any first-choice players either injured or suspended against the Cherries?

DK: There are no suspensions. Dele Alli (pictured above) will be a doubt because he missed the Everton game with a hamstring problem.

Apart from that, it’s a fully-fit squad aside from Juan Foyth and Japhet Tanganga who are two young defenders who probably wouldn’t be in the starting line-up anyway. Spurs can’t have too many complaints on the injury and suspension front at the moment.

afcb.co.uk: What’s your score prediction?

DK: I have to say I can see Bournemouth conceding so I’ll go for 2-0 to Spurs. I think it will be dull and not particularly exciting but I think Spurs will find a way to get over the line.

You can follow Dan on Twitter – @Dan_KP

Match officials: Paul Tierney (referee), Simon Long (assistant), Marc Perry (assistant), Steve Martin (fourth official), Michael Oliver (VAR), Sian Massey-Ellis (assistant VAR), Graham Kane (replacement official).

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