Højbjerg, Skipp & Ndombele. Tottenham’s new midfield three?

Nuno Espírito Santo has his feet now firmly under the table at Tottenham Hotspur, beginning pre-season with some members of the senior squad and the U21’s on the 7th of July.

Tottenham Hotspur will now tackle a set of friendly games against Chelsea, Arsenal and more in order to prepare for the coming Premier League season. Ensuing frantic debate amongst fans on how the Portuguese will tactically set out his first Spurs XI.

It’s fair to say fans are most curious about how Espírito Santo will work with the variety of midfield talent available at Tottenham.

Credit: Football365

At Wolves, Espírito Santo utilised the 3-4-2-1 formation in the Championship, but switched to a 3-5-2 once Wolves were promoted. The change in formation offered more solidity in the midfield and allowed Wolves to dominate possession centrally, with their added numbers.

The 3-5-2 featured a midfield three of Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves and Leander Dendoncker, flanked by wingbacks Matt Doherty and Jonny.

Neves was the deeper-lying midfielder who was tasked with screening the defence and progressing build-up play with short passes or long balls, with an impressive passing range.

Ruben Neves

Dendoncker featured on the right of the three, and his role was more of a box-to-box midfielder.

His versatility allowed him to drop and form a double pivot with Neves while Moutinho stayed high, resembling more of a 3-4-1-2 shape. Or play alongside Moutinho and make surging runs into the box to get onto the end of crosses from the wingbacks.

Lastly, Joao Moutinho was Wolves’ creator-in-chief. He was given the license to roam freely and occupy positions all over the midfield in order to dictate play.

Credit: Goal.com

At Tottenham, Espírito Santo has the opportunity to forge a midfield three that is similar to his Wolves setup, but will also have distinct features that the Portuguese can use to his advantage.

Pierre Emile-Højbjerg would fit perfectly in the deeper-lying midfield role that Neves played at Wolves.

We saw at the recent European Championships that Højbjerg possesses exceptional ability on the ball. According to whoscored.com, Højbjerg made 1.8 key passes and 1.7 dribbles per match playing central-midfield in Denmark’s 3-4-2-1 formation.

In comparison, Neves completed just 0.9 key passes and 0.3 dribbles per match for Wolves last season.

Højbjerg has shown exceptional endurance, leadership and consistency, so we can expect him to be one of the first names on the team sheet for Tottenham.

Credit: Eurosport

To take up the box-to-box role that Leander Dendoncker played, Espírito Santo should look no further than Tottenham’s very own; Oliver Skipp.

Skipp has returned to Tottenham after a phenomenal loan spell at newly-promoted Norwich City, where he gained much needed first-team action.

Daniel Farke even said, “We take it for granted Oliver Skipp plays nearly every game with so little mistakes.”

For Norwich, Skipp operated in a 4-2-3-1 double pivot role for most of the season. As the more offensive midfielder, the young Englishman would making driving runs from deep almost every week. He completed 0.6 dribbles and 0.6 key passes per match, while making 2.2 tackles and 1.1 interceptions.

Credit: Tottenham Insight

These metrics blow Leander Dendoncker off the park, even in his best season for Wolves. Where in 19/20, he completed only 1.8 tackles, 1 interception, 0.4 dribbles and 0.2 key passes a match.

Finally, onto Joao Moutinho’s role. We may see Tanguy Ndombele deployed here, however his impact on matches may be slightly different from the smaller Portuguese.

Moutinho is definitely more of a creator, completing two key passes a match in the 19/20 season, compared to Ndombele’s 0.4 in the 20/21 season.

Ndombele is more of a mazy, forward-first dribbler. He completed 74 take-ons in the 20/21 season, the seventh best in the league, averaging over two dribbles a game.

Credit: Planet Football

In essence, Ndombele will offer a more direct approach to ball progression with incisive dribbling, but he is not afraid to play line breaking passes either.

This will certainly help against teams that sit in a low block, as Ndombele has the ability to leave a defender for dead and open space up for his teammates.

Spurs obviously have a plethora of midfield talent, but it is up to Espirito Santo to utilise them correctly.

Three players that will shine under Nuno Espírito Santo at Tottenham

On the 30th of June, Tottenham Hotspur finally put an end to their 72-day search for a new manager after the sacking of José Mourinho in mid-April, appointing ex-Wolves boss Nuno Espírito Santo.

Credit: Tottenham Hotspur

It’s an appointment that has received mixed reception within the fanbase, many consider the new manager vastly underwhelming, as just a number of weeks ago Spurs were linked to managers such as Antonio Conte, Mauricio Pochettino and Erik ten Hag. 

Furthermore, many feel this is not in line with Daniel Levy’s aims of “reverting back to core DNA of playing attacking, entertaining football.”

As, in the season just passed, Wolves finished 13th scoring only 36 goals and accumulating an xG of just 38.62.

However during the season, Wolves suffered a plethora of adversities including injuries and losing players to direct rivals.

Despite his poor final campaign, Espírito did superbly in the Midlands, guiding Wolves from the Championship to a Premiere League side that regularly challenges in the Europa League and comfortably beats sides in the Top Six.

Credit: Goal.com

In terms of philosophy, Espírito has been influenced by several coaches.

He worked under José Mourinho and Jesualdo Ferreira at Porto, and even spent some time at Hotspur Way learning from ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, following his sacking at Valencia.

Simply put, the Portuguese values a solid defence, playing out from the back, aggressive transitions and counter-attacks whilst dominating the wide areas. He utilised both the 3-4-3 and the 3-5-2 in his time at Wolves, which will be the template for this analysis. 

That being said, here are three players that will shine under Nuno Espírito Santo at Tottenham Hotspur:

Matt Doherty

Doherty was signed by Tottenham from Wolves after three years of working with the Portuguese manager.

Nuno’s system complimented Doherty perfectly, as Wolves would usually begin build up play on the left-hand side, creating an overload and dragging their opposition with them, freeing up space on the right before switching the play to Doherty with a long diagonal pass or quick, short passes through the midfield.

He would then be isolated one versus one against the opponent’s left-back and could create a chance with a run to the byline and a cross. This could be a tactical facet that Nuno may use in his system at Tottenham.

Joe Rodon 

Rodon was signed by Tottenham from Swansea in the final stages of last summer’s transfer window. Despite barely starting under Mourinho, whenever Rodon did start, he impressed.

Notably his performance against Liverpool in the 3-1 loss at home, where despite the loss, his highlight was a last-ditch tackle to stop Sadio Mané. 

The Welshman is confident on the ball, and his height can make him a threat from set pieces, which Wolves put to good use regularly during their peak years under Espírito.

He is also just 23 years old, so has more than enough time to develop. 

Credit: Sky Sports

Giovani Lo Celso 

Lo Celso has had a difficult first two years at Spurs. Initially signing on loan, he did not experience much playing time under his fellow Argentine Mauricio Pochettino.

However under Mourinho, Lo Celso was the shining light in a frankly dreadful Tottenham side post-December 2019.

Last season Lo Celso started well, scoring a handful of goals in the Europa League qualifying and group stages. However, injuries and underwhelming performances have caused the Spurs fanbase to develop a resentment toward the Argentinian midfielder. 

A player who flourished under Espírito at Wolves was former Monaco midfielder, Joao Moutinho.

Moutinho offered a great passing range, good technical ability, a wicked delivery on set pieces and smart movement that allowed Wolves to create overloads all over the pitch.

These are all abilities that Lo Celso has showcased in the past, and it would not be far-fetched to assume that Nuno could bring the best out of the Argentine. 

Credit: Goal.com

In conclusion, Nuno Espírito Santo is a coach who is well known for improving players, working with youth and overachieving.

He has an extremely difficult task in front of him to try and bring Tottenham Hotspur back to the harmonious, passionate and entertaining football team it was in its peak years under Mauricio Pochettino.

Only time will tell if he can achieve this, but these three players could play a crucial role in his attempt to revitalise the sleeping giant that is Tottenham Hotspur.

Nuno Espírito Santo – The man to lead the rebuild?

Who would have thought that Tottenham’s decision to sack Jose Mourinho would result in a 70+ day search for a successor?

The decision to sack Mourinho six days before Spurs faced Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final was always going to be met with criticism. However, many still believed that the club had an idea of who they wanted to take the reins for the upcoming season. 

It was believed that RB Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann was the preferred choice to replace Mourinho at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but the vacant position at Bayern Munich was enough to tempt the German into becoming the new manager of the Bundesliga champions. 

Graham Potter, Roberto Martinez, Gareth Southgate and Erik ten Hag would later see their names heavily linked with the Spurs vacancy – the latter having held a meeting with Daniel Levy. 

Spurs target Nagelsmann to take over at Bayern this summer

Former manager and fan favourite Mauricio Pochettino was thought to be interested in a return having found it hard behind the scenes at PSG, despite winning the Coupe de France and Trophée des Champions in his first five months. 

Although interest seemed to be mutual, Spurs would once again fail to appoint a new manager as PSG’s determined stance to keep the Argentine at the Parc des Princes would stop talks from progressing any further.

According to Fabrizio Romano, Pochettino would have needed to make a ‘public statement’ if he wished to leave PSG, which was something he wasn’t likely to do.

Mauricio Pochettino: Any big player in the world welcome at French  champions Paris Saint-Germain - Eurosport

The following week would see Daniel Levy approach former Juventus, Chelsea and Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte.

Conte had recently left his position at Inter Milan, despite winning the clubs first league title in eleven years due to the Italian side’s financial troubles limiting his resources in the transfer market. 

The news of Conte’s potential arrival had created a sense of optimism among supporters and confidence in a deal being concluded was growing day by day. However, talks would later collapse with the self proclaimed ‘serial winner’ as he believed that the project pitched to him by Spurs didn’t match his own ambitions. 

Spurs offer manager 'pharaonic' deal amid incoming 'divorce' - Football365

Although the appointment of Conte was a failure, Spurs were able to secure the signature of another Italian as Fabio Paratici was appointed as the new Managing Director of Football.

Paratici began his non-playing career as Sampdoria’s Chief Observer/Head of Scouting in 2004 before becoming the Head of Technical Areas and Sporting Director at Juventus in 2010.

The Italian was immediately given the responsibility of putting an end to Spurs’ managerial saga.

Portuguese coach Paulo Fonseca was thought to be Paratici’s choice to replace Mourinho but tax complications caused the deal to collapse. Gennaro Guttuso had also agreed terms with the club but pressure from fans led to Spurs going in a different direction.

Tottenham appoint Fabio Paratici as new Managing Director of football

With preseason just around the corner Spurs were finally able to put an end to the longest running managerial search in Europe’s top five leagues as Nuno Espírito Santo was appointed as Tottenham Hotspur manager.

Espírito Santo is best known for his four years with Wolverhampton Wanderers, having guided the Wolves from the Championship to the Europa League quarter final. 

Espírito Santo’s first management gig was with Portuguese side Rio Ave in 2012. Nuno would reach both the Taço de Portugal Taça de Liga finals before leading them to the UEFA Europa League for the first time in the club’s history.

The success achieved at Rio Ave would be followed up by brief spells in La Liga with Valencia and a return to Portugal with Porto.

Championship side Wolverhampton Wanderers would be the next destination for the Portuguese coach, a move which would pay off for all parties. Wolves would return to the Premier League as champions after a six year absence from the top-flight of English football in 2017-18. 

The Wanderers experienced a rather pleasant first season in the Premier League as they finished 7th, the clubs highest top-flight finish since 1979-80 and qualified for the Europa League for the first time since 1980-01.  

The following season would see similar results for Wolves as they would once again finish 7th – with a record Premier League club points total of 59. 

Nuno and Wolves would agree to a mutual termination at the end of the 2020-21 season, having faced a disappointing and injury plagued season which resulted in a 13th placed finish.

Tottenham fans react as Wolves confirm Nuno Espirito Santo is leaving this  summer - The Boot Room

Espírito Santo is known for his trademark 3-4-3 formation, which relies on defenders being comfortable with the ball at their feet in order to build from the back. 

While at Wolves Conor Coady would be the catalyst for this system, as his range of passing allowed the full-backs to push high and wide when trying to attack. 

The willingness to engage in one-on-one’s with opponents is also a key component in how Espírito Santo’s system works. The team must be able to dictate the tempo and control of the game in order to isolate defenders and create these opportunities, something Wolves were able to do for the likes of Adama Traore and Pedro Neto.

Another key element to Nuno’s philosophy would be the counter-attack. It is essential for players in this system to overwhelm opposing defenders with runners once possession has been regained. Mexican striker Raul Jimenez was able to benefit immensely through the use of counter attacks, scoring 17 goals in his debut Premier League campaign.

Nuno Espirito Santo 'offered' to Tottenham as Portuguese 'replacement lined  up' for Wolves - Birmingham Live

While width is key to how Wolves attack, a compact shape is required on the defensive end.

Wolves’ shape defensively is routinely described as a back three that can be adjusted to a back five when the team is out of possession (5-4-1).

Pressing traps are employed by positioning players in the midfield and defence in a staggered arc in order to cover more distances. 

“We have to be compact, close to each other, knowing that the outside [space] is there but the moment it goes we are there to engage on our defensive process. But the main idea is to be compact when we defend and achieve maximum width when we attack” said Nuno in 2020.

Nuno Espirito Santo is on shaky ground at Tottenham from the off but his  record shows he could be a canny hire | Evening Standard

Spurs will be hoping that Espírito Santo can work alongside Paraciti and help rebuild a team that is in desperate need of a shake up.

Pochettinho once said that Spurs were in need of a “painful rebuild” and this may be their chance to do just that.

By Reece Coughlan

Relief, disappointment and international duty – A week in the life of Tottenham Hotspur (21st March – 28th March)

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Aston Villa – 21st March

After such a catastrophic performance against Dynamo Zagreb, Spurs travelled to Villa Park looking to save their season.

Jose Mourinho faced a fair amount of scrutiny following Spurs’ exit from Europe and made his feelings toward the squad known as seven changes were made from the starting eleven.

Aurier, Dier, Davies, Sissoko, Winks, Lamela and Dele would all miss out and be replaced by Tanganga, Rodon, Reguillon, Hojbjerg, Ndombele, Lo Celso and Vinicius. Kane, Moura and Lloris would be the only three to remain.

Academy products Dane Scarlett and Alfie Devine were also given places on the Tottenham bench.

Mourinho and Spurs fans alike certainly got the reaction that they were looking for after 29 minutes of action as Vinicius chased down a long ball from Reguilon forcing a mistake from Martinez, who raced off his line but failed to make a clearance. Allowing Moura to capitalise by playing a nice one-two with Kane before squaring the ball to Vinicius, who has an empty net in front of him.

Having scored his first Premier League goal, the on-loan Brazilian striker has now scored nine goals in nine starts for the North London club.

Tottenham beats Aston Villa 2-0 to keep CL spot in sight | Raleigh News &  Observer

The first half was a positive one for a new-look Spurs team, as the unfamiliar back-line was able to stop Aston Villa from registering a single shot towards the Tottenham goal in the opening 45 minutes.

The reliable Harry Kane would double the Lilywhites’ lead from the penalty spot in the 68th minute after a reckless challenge from Cash.

Kane has been on an absolute tear this season, currently leading the Premier League in both goals and assists with seventeen and thirteen respectively.

Aston Villa vs. Tottenham Hotspur - Football Match Summary - March 21, 2021  - ESPN

The win leaves Mourinho’s side in sixth place, only three points behind fourth place Chelsea going into the international break.

With the potential return of Heung-min Son looming and a place in the top four, Spurs still have it all to play for to end the season.

Gareth Bale’s comments – 23rd March

It’s fair to say that Gareth Bale’s comments caused quite a stir among Spurs fans this week.

The Welshman was asked about his current situation at Tottenham and where he expects to be next season during a press conference, ahead of Wales’ World Cup qualifier against Belgium.

“There’s no distraction for me,” said Bale.

“I think the main reason I came to Spurs this year was to play football first and foremost.

“Going into the Euros I wanted to be match-fit. The original plan was to do a season at Spurs and after the Euros still have a year left at Real Madrid.

“My plan is to go back, that’s as far I have planned.”

Jose Mourinho insists Gareth Bale and Dele Alli have futures at Tottenham  following loss to Man City - Eurosport

Many viewed Bale’s comments as a form of disrespect towards Spurs and questioned why he would want to return to Real Madrid, due to his tainted relationship with current manager Zinedine Zidane.

In reality this is a typical comment that loan players often give, Bale is still contracted to Real Madrid for another year once his loan with Spurs expires so for him to comment on his future elsewhere without anything being agreed shouldn’t be expected.

According to Marca, Bale is not in Real Madrid’s plans next season with the club keen to sell him before the expiration of his contract at the Santiago Bernabeu.

football.london reported that Spurs have the first option to bring Bale back next season, if he agrees. The terms of his loan would remain the same if triggered, meaning roughly 40 percent of the wingers wages would be paid by Spurs.

International break

With nineteen Spurs players representing their nations during the international break, it’s safe to say that the club will be well represented for the next two weeks.

The following players have been selected to participate in senior fixtures for their nation:

Gareth Bale, Joe Rodon (Wales), Toby Alderweireld (Belgium), Steven Bergwijn (Netherlands), Harry Kane, Eric Dier (England), Tanguy Ndombele, Moussa Sissoko, Hugo Lloris (France), Matt Doherty, Troy Parrott (Ireland), Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark), Serge Aurier (Ivory Coast) and academy centre-back Maksim Paskotsi (Estonia).

Following call-ups for the England U21 squad, on-loan pair Ryan Sessegnon and Oliver Skipp join Japhet Tangnga for UEFA Euro U21 action, while Alfie Devine and Dennis Cirkin link up with England’s U19 squad.

Ben Davies was forced to withdraw from Wales’ squad due to an injury that he picked up against Aston Villa. The left-back is expected to be sidelined for up to three weeks.

Dane Scarlett’s new deal – 28th March

Academy standout Dane Scarlett was rewarded with his first professional contract after breaking into Mourinho’s matchday squad at the age of sixteen.

The young striker’s contract will run until 2023, having been triggered following his 17th birthday.

Everything you need to know about Spurs record breaker Dane Scarlett -  PlanetFootball

Scarlett made his first team debut in Spurs’ Europa League victory against Ludogorets Razgrad in November 2020. He has currently racked up three appearances for the senior side, including a Premier League debut vs West Bromwich Albion.

The Hillingdon-born forward has scored 22 goals in 18 appearances for the U18 and U23 sides this season.

By Reece Coughlan

A week in the life of Tottenham Hotspur: 7th – 14th March

Tottenham Hotspur 4-1 Crystal Palace – 7th March (Alfie)

Sunday night saw Spurs pick up their third win in a week, leaving the most impressive display till last.

Following wins earlier in the week, Spurs completed a second-half rout against the South London side to take their aggregate scoreline of 13-1 for the week.

Pushing the Lilywhites’ goal tally for the season past 100, second only to Europe’s elite – Bayern Munich.

It was 90 minutes in dreamland once again, with Gareth Bale and Harry Kane running the show. A partnership fans could only dream about years ago, was unfolding in front of their eyes.

Spurs’ first two goals showed the duo’s prowess in full flow, Kane’s passing ability combined with Bale’s intelligent attacking positioning, allowed Spurs to score twice either side of a stooping Benteke header for the visitors.

Kane then produced one of the goals of the season, hitting a first time pass from Matt Doherty across the keeper, sailing into the far corner.

The win was then sealed after Heung-Min Son selflessly squared across to Kane for his second and Spurs’ fourth – breaking the 25 year-old record for most goal contributions by a partnership in a single season.

Jose Mourinho opted for his familiar 4-2-3-1 formation with three changes in the starting XI from the team that beat Fulham, with Tanguy Ndombele being handed a well-deserved rest.

Ben Davies & Dele Alli were replaced by Sergio Reguilon and Lucas Moura as the team was refreshed at the end of a busy week.

The changes in the side were awarded immediately, after Moura’s relentless pressing allowed Bale to tap in for his first goal of the night.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 Dinamo Zagreb – 11th March (@sheku_thfc42)

After Sunday’s thrashing of Crystal Palace, it was back to Europa League action for Tottenham against Dinamo Zagreb in the round of 16.

A fast start by the Croatian outfit put Spurs immediately on the back foot, with two great chances for them to take the lead early on.

However, Tottenham inevitably settled into the game, creating a few close chances but failing to capitalise.

But then, a skilful Erik Lamela solo run left five defenders in his wake, only for his left footed shot to come off the post for a Harry Kane tap in.

The start of the 2nd half brought more refereeing controversy, with Serdar Gözübüyük failing to award a clear penalty on Tanguy Ndombele.

The second half continued in the same vein as the majority of the first half with Tottenham creating lots of chances but failing to convert.

Gareth Bale and Steven Bergwijn nearly doubled the lead minutes after coming on, with the Dutchman narrowly missing the post.

The lead was eventually doubled in the 69th minute with Serge Aurier finding Harry Kane in the box for his 26th goal in all competitions.

Bale nearly made it 3-0 as the Zagreb keeper punched his swerving free-kick away from goal.

Next week sees the highly anticipated North London Derby and the second leg of Spurs’ Last 16 tie.

A week in the life of Tottenham Hotspur: 28th February – 6th March

Tottenham Hotspur 4-0 Burnley – 28th February

It was vintage Gareth Bale at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday, with a return to winning ways in the Premier League.

Sky Sports brought some pre-match entertainment, with Roy Keane effectively calling Bale “average.” Which he took personally.

It took just two minutes for Bale to be distinctly unaverage, latching on to a low in-swinging ball from Heung-Min Son to make it 1-0.

Spurs continued to bombard the Burnley defence with chance after chance. Then it was Harry Kane’s turn in front of goal.

After a fantastic start to the game, Bale picked the ball up well inside his own half and sent a long ball out to Kane, who came inside and smashed the ball past the breakdancing Nick Pope.

Before long, it was three. Sergio Reguilón floated a ball to Lucas Moura, who expertly put the ball into the back of the net.

Much of the same came early on in the second half. Serge Aurier looked good on the right, Kane was all over the park, and the midfield duo of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and Tanguy Ndombele were controlling the middle of the pitch.

Burnley slowly began to grow into the game, but then Spurs broke at lightning speed. Son found Bale with a cross-field through ball and without hesistation, the Welshman found the far corner to send Spurs four up.

Full time, a strong defensive display and the fourth time in a month scoring four goals… lots to be pleased about.

Loan Watch

Oliver Skipp (Norwich) vs Brentford – 3rd March

A huge clash at the top of the Championship saw Skippy help his side to an important three points, taking Norwich 10 points clear at the top.

Despite one over-ambitious attempt at a pass to Max Aarons, his clever play on and off the ball, commanding challenges, and fantastic block in stoppage time earned him yet another ‘Man of the Match’ award from Norwich’s Twitter page.

We’re sure the Spurs fans had nothing to do with his landslide victory…

Cameron Carter-Vickers (Bournemouth) vs Bristol City – 3rd March

‘CCV’ scored a late goal, courtesy of his backside, to earn Bournemouth three crucial points in their hunt for promotion.

No clean sheet for the American, but it was a decent enough overall performance, and his winning goal made it a thoroughly good evening.

Jack Clarke (Stoke) vs Swansea – 3rd March

A frustrating evening for Jack Clarke, as he conceded a penalty in the final seconds of injury time, which was converted, costing them a point. There was minimal contact, if any.

He certainly divided opinion after coming on as a substitute at half time, with his lively play on the ball, and his ability to draw fouls, causing the winger to trend on Twitter.

Ryan Sessegnon (Hoffenheim) vs Union Berlin – 28th February

Came on for a 23 minute cameo in a disappointing draw, after playing 20 in the Europa League that Thursday.

Before then, he had missed seven games through injury, so it was a much needed return to play for the Englishman.

Juan Foyth (Villarreal) vs Atlético de Madrid – 28th February

Villarreal succumbed to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of league-leaders Atlético, with Foyth playing in the role of right-back.

The Argentine was not at fault for either of the goals and it was a confident performance yet again, despite appearing in multiple positions this season for the Yellow Submarine.

Troy Parrott (Ipswich Town) vs Accrington Stanley – 2nd March

His spell at Millwall may not have been particularly successful, but Troy Parrott seems to be making a name for himself in East Anglia.

He didn’t have too many sights of goal, but he won a penalty and worked tirelessly in the victory for the Tractor Boys.

Harvey White (Portsmouth) vs Doncaster – 2nd March

He recently scored his first senior goal, but Harvey was unable to prevent his side from a poor 2-1 loss at the hands of Doncaster Rovers.

The loss will be a bitter blow to Pompey’s promotion hopes, as now they could fall out of the playoff spaces if games in hand don’t go their way.

Fulham 0-1 Tottenham – 5th March

After a cutting edge display of attacking prowess on Sunday, a more subdued affair was in store for Thursday’s midweek fixture.

Fulham had a lively start to the game, repeatedly driving at Spurs’ defence, dominating the first 10 minutes with 60% possession.

Hugo Lloris, fresh from receiving his 100th Premier League clean sheet, was eager to make it 101 against the London side.

A combination of him and Davinson Sanchez kept Fulham at bay. Then in the 19th minute, a pass from midfield by Dele found Son on the wing, who then returned the favour to an onrushing Dele into the box – meant Spurs took the lead.

However, de ja vu struck late into the first half, as Tottenham and Harry Kane especially, failed to capitalised on a few golden chances to double the lead.

This theme continued into the second half, where Spurs’ failure to kill the game off nearly resulted in the spoils being shared.

Josh Maja rightfully scored in the 62nd minute, only for VAR to dubiously rule the goal out for a handball in the build-up. Since that the decision, the law has already been changed.

Ultimately Tottenham’s defence stood strong, with the likes of Sanchez playing superbly once again, and showing many fans why he deserves to play every week.

Next week, Tottenham host Crystal Palace in the Premier League & Dinamo Zagreb in the Europa League.

Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 West Brom- “the Harry Kane team”

It was a return to winning ways for Tottenham Hotspur after a miserable three games for the Lilywhites, with Harry Kane back in the lineup and Heung-Min Son back amongst the goals.

The team news was met with shock from Spurs fans and rival fans alike: both Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela were playing, but the attention-grabbing inclusion was Harry Kane, injured a few weeks previously against Liverpool, but back in the side sooner than expected. Mourinho made four changes, while Sam Allardyce made five after his own disappointing defeat midweek.

The game got underway in snowy North London, with Spurs the side looking to make the early punches. Harry Kane’s passing clearly made a difference right from the start, and Lucas looked lively, making an early run through the West Brom defence, before Bartley made the most of a heavy touch round Ajayi.

The first few big chances of the game fell to Harry Kane. The first was a product of some excellent work down the right flank by Erik Lamela, playing the ball through to a surging Serge Aurier (pun intended) despite being on his way to the ground. Aurier played a beautiful square ball across to Harry Kane who, on his left foot, blazed agonisingly wide. The next one was a far bigger chance. Kane was somehow first to a wayward through ball from Tanguy Ndombele, after taking a deflection of a defender, and found himself in acres of space in front of the net. A fully fit Harry Kane is smashing it past the keeper, but his shot could only bobble past the post. Perhaps he was distracted by the tribute to Ronald McDonald that West Brom were wearing.

His ankle seemed to give him issues again minutes later. Not feeling that he could hit it first time, Kane shifted it to his right foot inside the box, before having his rather weak shot blocked by a defender. Another effort was palmed away by Johnstone soon after.

A big chance came from a corner, but neither Aurier’s header or Toby Alderweireld’s strike could beat a desperate defence as Lee Peltier and Robert Snodgrass threw everything at it.

After 45 minutes, West Brom created a big chance. Snodgrass sent a cross over to the back post, where Diagne had drifted away from Davinson Sánchez. His header was a solid one, but Hugo Lloris got behind it at the crucial moment. West Brom were adamant that it had crossed the line, but there was no buzz of the watch. It would have been the ultimate smash-and-grab half from West Brom, but the sides went in at half-time still level.

Heung-Min Son had the first chance of the second half, but his low effort was kicked away by Johnstone. Lamela followed it up with a slalom in the snow that most Olympic skiiers would have been proud of, but he couldn’t find the finish, a right-footed shot (or cross?) going off for a goal kick.

6 minutes later, BOOM! Harry Kane latched onto an incredible through ball from Pierre-Emile Højbjerg and slid it past the keeper. He still couldn’t quite hit it with the venom that we’ve come to expect of Tottenham, England and perhaps the world’s best striker, but it was placed with accuracy that more than made up for that.

His class was shown again with a sumptuous touch with his chest, sending Lucas through on the counter. The Brazilian obliged, surging right through the defence and sliding the ball into Heung-Min Son. He’d missed one opportunity today, and that was certainly not happening again. 2-0. Spurs were firmly in the driving seat.

Snodgrass sent a cross over to the back post, where Diagne had drifted away from Davinson Sánchez. His header was a solid one, and this time it was sent past Hugo Lloris, but it was deemed offside. A wake-up call.

At 64 minutes, Erik Lamela did what Erik Lamela does best (no, not making the most of minimal contact from Anthony Martial) and got booked for a lunge on Sam Gallagher.

Lively throughout, Lamela had a pretty good game. Sharp on the ball, dedicated in the challenge before he was replaced by Steven Bergwijn with 20 minutes left to go.

On 82 minutes, Pereira sent a cross over to the back post, where Diagne had drifted away from Davinson Sánchez. His finish was a solid one, but again, his goal was disallowed for offside. To his credit, it looked like very good defending from the Colombian, making sure the offside call would be given through clever use of his body.

16-year-old Dane Scarlett came on for a minute-long cameo, and became the only ever 16-year-old to take part in a Premier League game for Tottenham Hotspur. And that was about it. An uneventful final ten minutes culminated in three points for Tottenham Hotspur, and a thoroughly deserved win.

Attention now goes to an FA Cup clash against Carlo Ancelotti’s Everton, who we face for the first time since our inability to head the ball in defence cost us points in our first game of the season. Spurs are still in all the cup competitions this season, and it would be lovely if we could keep it that way. Come on you Spurs.

Tottenham 4-1 Wycombe – Misleading scoreline sees Spurs advance.

It may have felt like a lifetime ago, but Spurs returned to action eight days after defeating Sheffield United to face Wycombe Wanderers in the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The competition’s draw has been quite generous to Jose Mourinho’s team so far, putting them in a David vs Goliath match up with eight-tier Marine and then bottom of the Championship Wycombe. 

Bale, Winks and Ndombele ensure Spurs avoid Wycombe FA Cup shock | FA Cup |  The Guardian

Tottenham had made ten changes from the side that won 3-1 at Bramall Lane, with stand-in captain Ben Davies being the only player to remain. Gareth Bale was given the opportunity to start his first game in a month, having recovered from a calf injury sustained against Stoke in the Carabao Cup quarter final.

Gareth Bale should have given Spurs the lead in the opening five minutes, as the Welshman connected with Lucas Moura’s corner but his header was wide of the Wycombe post.

Only a couple minutes later and accomplished backup goalkeeper Joe Hart was all that stood in the way of the hosts taking the lead. A flicked header from Leicester City loanee, Admiral Muskwe looked destined for the top corner but the former England number one was able to claw the shot away for a corner.

Not long after regaining control of the fixture, another opportunity arose for Bale as the ball fell to him on the edge of the eighteen yard box but he failed to convert once again.

Despite having come close to conceding on multiple occasions, the Chairboys were able to take the lead in the 25th minute after Davinson Sanchez’ attempted block landed perfectly for an incoming Fred Onyedinma to slot into the bottom left corner.

Late show sees Spurs past Wycombe and into FA Cup fifth round

Shortly after going ahead, Gareth Ainsworth was forced into making a change due to injury. Joe Jacobson had tried to battle through the pain but was clearly not in any condition to continue and was subsequently substituted for Darius Charles.

It seemed as if it just wasn’t going to be Tottenham’s night in the closing stages of the first half, with efforts from Moussa Sissoko and Japhet Tanganga smacking the crossbar.

After trying to find a breakthrough all half, Spurs fans were able to take a sigh of relief. Gareth Bale finally took advantage of the lack of concentration from Wycombe’s defenders by getting on the end of a Lucas Moura cross before guiding the ball into the back of the net.

Wycombe Wanderers 1-4 Tottenham: Bale, Winks and Ndombele see Mourinho's  men through cup scare - myKhel

Jose Mourinho had decided to go with a new approach for the second half, as Japhet Tanganga made way for Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg. A move that would see Moussa Sissoko play the right-back position instead of his usual role in the heart of the midfield.

Not much had changed for the two sides after the restart, Spurs were unable to make their numerous chances count while Wycombe sat back and hoped to take advantage of the few chances that they had.

The sixty minute mark seemed to be when Mourinho had seen enough as superstars Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and Tanguy Ndombele entered the frame over the course of the next fifteen minutes in place of Carlos Vinicius, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela.

Gareth Ainsworth tried to counter the opposing substitutions by making a few of his own over the same time span. Matt Bloomfield, Admiral Muskwe and Uche Ikpeazu had their time cut short and were replaced by Garath McClary, Scott Kashket and fan-favourite Adebayo Akinfenwa.

Wycombe 1-4 Tottenham Hotspur: Late goal flurry power Spurs to FA Cup 5th  Round - Cartilage Free Captain

Harry Kane and Son Heung-min continued the Lilywhites’ streak of not finding the back of the net but a new sense of danger could be felt upon their arrival.

Harry Winks would break the hearts of many Wycombe fans in the 86th minute, as he broke the deadlock with a curling effort from twenty yards out. A goalmouth scramble had led to a poor clearance from the defender which eventually fell to the England international.

It seemed as if Spurs just needed that late goal to spring into action, as Tanguy Ndombele would increase the lead just a minute later with a calm one touch finish into the bottom eight corner.

With just a minute remaining in added time you would expect Spurs to just maintain possession and see the match through, but Ndombele had other ideas. The Frenchman would remind everyone that he is one of the most technically gifted footballers in the world by dancing his way into space, before using an outrageous piece of skill to split the two defenders and strike the ball between them for his second goal of the game.

Ndombele’s game consisted of two shots on target, two goals, sixteen touches, three duels won, two key passes, one big chance created and a 75% pass completion in only twenty-two minutes of action.

Wycombe vs Tottenham result, final score and FA Cup report | The Independent

Jose Mourinho admitted that he feared his side would be taken to extra time by the Championship outfit.

What can we do? We want to progress in the competition. We don’t want to throw it away. We don’t want to lose. We needed a good strong team and a good strong bench.

“It would be more of a problem with 30 minutes extra time because Kane’s 30 minutes becomes 60 and so on, but hopefully nothing. I didn’t see huge fatigue. Ben Davies, I hope just a bad feeling and not anything on his calf.

“But I knew that the game was going to be difficult. We prepared the game knowing it could be hard and it was. It’s not easy to handle their style of play.

“I showed the players clips of when we played them four years ago and it was a difficult game then and it was again.”

Jose Mourinho relieved after late show sees Tottenham past Wycombe in FA  Cup – YO1 radio

Everton will be Tottenham’s opponents in the fifth round of the FA Cup, having beaten Sheffield Wednesday on Sunday.

Spurs will now be looking to avenge their last minute defeat at the hands of Liverpool on Thursday. With only a point separating the two teams a win for the North London side would take them five points behind leaders Manchester City.

By Reece Coughlan