November 29, 2016

FREE KICKS: Time for Tottenham to get out the Spurs

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

While it would have been a little bit silly to expect a win at Stamford Bridge this weekend, what’s not a joke is the current slide that Tottenham is on.

After Saturday’s 2-1 loss to Chelsea, it has now been 26 years since the Spurs won at their London rival’s home ground. But, more importantly, it marks 10 games without a win in all competitions for the North London side.

It wasn’t like Spurs didn’t have their chances, either. In fact, it was the visitors that took the first lead of the game on Christian Eriksen’s brilliant strike. It was the first goal Chelsea had allowed in 600 minutes and snapped a run of 17 unanswered goals for the Blues. But from there, it was all Chelsea.

Pedro answered with a beauty of his own before Victor Moses scored the winner just six minutes later.

It ended Spurs’ run as the final undefeated team in the Premier League, which was at 12 games despite its winless streak.

Draws have been Tottenham’s downfall as they are tied with Middlesbrough for most in the league with six. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is going to have to open things up a bit more if he wants to gain ground on the top four teams, which his team now trails by four points.

Things aren’t looking great in Europe, either, as Tottenham has been eliminated from Champions League and needs a point against CSKA Moscow to get into the Europa League knockout stage.

While some may ponder if Spurs could tank that game to ease their fixture list this winter, winning Europa League might be the only way the club plays in Champions League next year – something you know that the owner sorely want.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

We could easily give the award this week to Swansea’s Fernando Llorente, but we’ll have more on him later.

No, this week it goes to Alexis Sanchez, who helped Arsenal end its typical terrible November run with a big win over Bournemouth. The Chilean bagged a brace while the Gunners ended a month that always gives them trouble with three points and fourth spot in the standings.

Arsenal  actually didn’t do too poorly this November, considering its opposition. Draws against Tottenham (of course), Manchester United (at Old Trafford) and PSG (a nice Champions League fixture) shouldn’t be laughed at.

Now, if Alexis and Co. can keep this up and avoid a typical late-season swoon, this side should be in the title picture.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Everton completed a winless November with just one point from three games. It seems that Romelu Lukaku is stuck with his switch on ‘cold’ right now … Liverpool may have beaten Sunderland 2-0, but they suffered a huge loss with midfield maestro Philippe Coutinho set to miss roughly five weeks after damaging some ankle ligaments. It’s a good thing they have some depth at the position, but even that will be tested around Christmas … Wait, a second straight clean sheet for the Reds? Unheard of! … Congrats to Burnley’s Dean Marney for scoring his first Premier League goal in seven years. Doing it against Manchester City is also quite the feat … So, who dropped Sergio Aguero from their fantasy team? The City striker made his doubters pay by netting a brace in his team’s win … Absolutely love the “Pride” theme for the weekend. With so much racism and homophobia in the soccer world, it is very much needed … Welcome back to the Premier League, Paul Robinson, as a Blackburn Rovers fan, wish we were there with you. The former England No. 1 made his first EPL start in 1,664 days with Burnley this weekend and could be line for a couple more with Tom Heaton ailing … A reddit commenter summed up Paul Pogba’s yellow card for diving best: “If he was any less talented, it would’ve been a foul.” The Manchester United midfielder hit the ground to avoid having his shin kicked against West Ham … United, by the way, is off to its worst Premier League start ever through 13 games with its 1-1 draw with the Irons … That’s also a four-game winless streak at Old Trafford for United, something that hasn’t happened in years … So wait, Juan Mata’s the captain now?

THE LAST WORD

If there’s one team in the Premier League that never fails to entertain, it’s Crystal Palace.

In their 13 games this season, there have been 47 goals scored by either side, one more than Liverpool. Palace itself is the fifth highest-scoring team in the Premier League with 21 goals, but sit 17th in the table because of its awful defending.

This week, they turned the excitement up to 11 – well, nine, actually.

Heading in to the 75th minute, the Eagles were down 3-1 to the host Swans, who were looking to get manager Bob Bradley his first win at the helm of the Welsh club. Within nine minutes, it was actually Palace in the lead.

Usually, this is where the story has ended for Swansea, but not on this day.

Fernando Llorente struck back with not one, but two goals in injury time as the crowd went wild.

It wasn’t as many goals as Borussia Dortmund and Legia Warsaw’s 8-4 thriller in Champions League, but this one was even more exciting.

And the fact that it was Bradley’s first win – and the first win in Premier League history by an American manager – made this all the better. A few more games like this and the Swans could hook quite the following on this side of the Atlantic.

Follow me on Twitter @danbilicki

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