He burst onto the scene in October last year and took the Premier League by storm after waiting six years to become an overnight success, but this season Harry Kane is off to a stuttering start, this should be no surprise, however.
Kane scored 21 goals in 34 matches last season, finishing the season as the top English goalscorer as Tottenham ended the campaign in 5th.
Spurs’ star striker was rewarded for his fine form in March with his first senior England call-up and repaid the faith Roy Hodgson showed in him by scoring on his Three Lions debut in the 4-0 win over Lithuania within 80 seconds of replacing captain Wayne Rooney.
Goals dried up for Kane after April, with his hat-trick in the 4-3 win over Leicester on March 21 ironically seeming to be the start of a downfall before his strike at Everton on the last day of the season.
As soon as Tottenham’s season ended, they jetted off to Malaysia to play a local League XI, who Mauricio Pochettino’s men beat 2-1 with Kane scoring both for the English side before they were clocking up the air miles once more, this time flying to Australia to beat Sydney FC 1-0 where Kane again.
Kane scores in Malaysia as he impresses in pre-season
The U21 European Championship followed three weeks later which Kane, a first-teamer for England, refreshingly put himself forward for where others have felt the under-21s have been beneath them.
England and Kane were lackluster, however, only two goals were scored in the three games played with Kane failing to find the back of the net.
Tottenham’s pre-season friendlies for 2015-16 started on July 29 with a 2-1 defeat to MLS All-Stars (Kane scored Tottenham’s goal), but more travelling for the north Londoners, this time to Munich for the Audi Cup, took its toll on the 22-year-old.
Real Madrid beat last year’s League Cup runners up 2-0, but they responded with a 2-0 win of their own against AC Milan, with Kane failing to score in both games.
Pochettino has already admitted the long pre-season has left his star “tired”, and his failure to sign a striker over the summer has led to him rushing Kane back.
Two bids for West Brom’s Saido Berahino have already been rejected and if Tottenham do not secure his, or someone else’s signature soon, they could be forced to keep burn out a talent whose career is only just starting.
The 2015-16 Premier League season is slowly dawning upon us and, soon enough, so will the dreaded “sack race”. Here are five managers that will need a good start this season to prevent themselves being dragged into the mire.
1) Steve McClaren – Newcastle United
Newcastle’s murky issues off-the-pitch seem to finally look like they are coming to an end. Alan Pardew resigning as manager to take over at Crystal Palace in December 2014 was the beginning of the end of the “Cockney Mafia” and now owner Mike Ashley is set to step down to much fanfare from the Newcastle faithful.
New manager McClaren hopefully signifies a new dawn at St.James’ Park, however he arrives in Tyneside having twice failed to gain promotion from the Championship with Derby County following a brief stint as a coach at QPR, a failed return to FC Twente where he previously won the Eredivisie, a four month spell at Nottingham Forest and a dismal period at Wolfsburg where he was sacked after less than a year.
McClaren has defiantly announced his intentions to be the first man to bring a major honour to Newcastle since Stan Steymour who won the FA Cup in 1955 while in charge, which could suggest the Magpies’ league position could be sacrificed in order to pick up some shiny silverware.
A home match against Southampton offers McClaren a decent prospect of a promising start as Newcastle boss where he will be backed by a 50,000-plus capacity crowd, but defeat will only remind his new fans that he was once a man leading arch-rivals Middlesbrough to a 2004 League Cup win and a 2006 UEFA Cup final.
Man About Toon: McClaren is the new Newcastle boss.
2) Brendan Rodgers – Liverpool
What a year for Rodgers – and not in a good way. He finished May 2014 by signing a four-year extension to his Liverpool contract after winning the LMA Manager of the Year award a few weeks earlier having guided the Reds to 2nd place in the Premier League scoring 101 goals in the process – the club’s most since the 1895-96 season and the third highest in Premier League history. He finished May 2015 with Liverpool in sixth and his job under scrutiny.
Raheem Sterling’s likely departure gives him another headache, as for already the second time in his tenure, he has to find a replacement for his top goalscorer – although Daniel Sturridge missed most of last season through injury.
That ultimately made his job a lot more difficult, as did £15 million man Mario “the postman does not celebrate when he posts a letter” Balotelli failing to deliver.
The Northern Irishman has wasted no time in recruiting for next season, already bringing in six new faces at the time of writing.
Charlton’s Joe Gomez (£3.5 million), Roberto Firmino of Hoffenheim (£21.3 million), Manchester City’s James Milner (free), Burnley striker Danny Ings (tribunal), Bolton’s Adam Bogdan (free) and Southampton right-back Nathaniel Clyne (£10 million) are the early Anfield arrivals to bolster what was a small side that struggled to cope with both Champions League and Premier League matches last season.
It is not a problem they will have this time around, which could work in their favour like it did two seasons ago, but with Arsenal, Manchester United, Everton, Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester City being seven of Liverpool’s first eight away games and Jurgen Klopp still as yet being unemployed, Rodgers could well be soon nervously looking over his shoulder.
3) Arsene Wenger – Arsenal
Two successive FA Cup triumphs has certainly relieved some pressure on Arsene Wenger – it has silenced a few doubters, anyway – but this needs to be the season the Gunners finally start firing on all fronts.
The blow-your-socks-off signing of Alexis Sanchez for £35 million around this time last summer was the second sign of intent after the £42.5 million capture of Mesut Ozil the previous season from a manager who had attracted a reputation of being a bit stingy in the transfer market.
Sanchez swiftly showed with his performances why his manager paid the big bucks and the Chilean would later be named Arsenal Player of the Year.
Other signings Danny Welbeck, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, David Ospina, and January buy Gabriel Paulista did not quite have the same impact though – with unexpected progress coming from academy players Hector Bellerin and Francis “Le Coq” Coquelin.
Whether Coquelin really is the rock-solid holding role midfielder Arsenal have been craving for years remains to be truly seen, but for now it has filled a reasonably large gap in the “how far are Arsenal away from being Premier League champions?” puzzle.
One piece of the jigsaw has definitely been found, however with the acquisition of goalkeeper Petr Cech from London and title foes Chelsea for £10.9 million.
While the Czech Republic international was no longer the main man between the sticks for the Blues, he is still clearly a top stopper and a definite upgrade on both Wojciech Szczesny and Ospina with Jose Mourinho openly reluctant to sell Cech to a Premier League rival.
Unlike McClaren and Rodgers, Wenger is not wary of an early sacking, but only picking up six points from their opening 12 last season opened the door for Chelsea to romp to the title. A better start this August, and we may just see a first Arsenal triumph since that “Invincibles” team of 2004.
4) Mauricio Pochettino – Tottenham Hotspur
Despite failing to reach the much-coveted Champions League places, Pochettino’s first year as Tottenham boss was a success, finishing fifth and guiding the north Londoners to a League Cup final, but some fans are still not totally sold on him due to a lack of plan B.
The Argentine has wasted no time in planning for next season though, bolstering what was an, at best, dodgy defense with the proven Premier League buys of Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld (both undisclosed fee) who enjoyed successful seasons with Burnley and Southampton respectively in addition to FC Koln’s Kevin Wimmer (also undisclosed fee).
Spurs may attract some neutral admirers this season too with the English core that has the potential to develop in the coming years. Harry Kane had a phenomenal rise last season, going from third choice at Tottenham to most prolific English marksman in the Premier League in the space of seven months.
Ryan Mason, who has spent the majority of his seven-year Tottenham career out on loan to clubs such as Yeovil, Doncaster, Millwall and France’s Lorient ended the 2014-15 season as a once capped England international just a year after spending time on-loan at League One Swindon Town.
Eric Dier also found himself in the spotlight and the new additions of the aforementioned Trippier and Dele Alli (£5 million from MK Dons) join a rejuvenated Danny Rose, Three Lions regular Andros Townsend and Alex Pritchard who returns to White Hart Lane after two successful loan spells at Brentford and Swindon while, although Algerian, academy graduate Nabil Bentaleb will generate admirers from those who love a home-grown player.
This is similar to when he was at Southampton with Luke Shaw, Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert all getting England recognition as well as Calum Chambers, James Ward-Prowse, Nathaniel Clyne and Jay Rodriguez all earning plaudits while Pochettino was in charge at St.Mary’s.
Pochettino will get a good opportunity to get some early points on the board once the difficult task of Manchester United away is chalked off with Stoke at home, Leicester away, Everton at home, Sunderland away and Crystal Palace at home following that as they look to go one step further and finally reach the promised land of the top four.
Maur of the same please, Poch: Pochettino with rising star Harry Kane.
5) Manuel Pellegrini – Manchester City
It is fair to say that Manuel Pellegrini starting the 2015-16 season at the helm of the Citizens a little surprising.
His pedigree of taking Villarreal to the semi-final of the 2005-06 Champions League and fellow Spanish side Malaga to the same stage five seasons later got him the Manchester City job with the target of making them in a force in Europe, which he has so far failed to do so.
Winning the league title in 2014 did Pellegrini’s reputation no harm, but a trophy-less season where City did not really challenge for the title, only made the last 16 of the Champions League and round four of both the FA and League Cup was underwhelming to say the least.
A huge rebuilding is expected at the Etihad this summer with young talents Sterling, Kevin de Bruyne, Jack Wilshere and Fabian Delph all linked with a move to the blue side of Manchester in order to give them a new lease of life and restore them as champions of England, and finally get them to worry Europe’s elite.
Failure to do so, however, may just result in the Engineer Pellegrini needing a servicing.
At 23-years-old, Nathan Thompson is the second youngest captain in League One leading the youngest side in the division, Swindon Town – a team with an average age of just 22, but while experience at the County Ground may be low, the ambitions are high.
“I look at the talent and potential we have in our team and I think the Championship is where we belong”, Thompson insists.
“The ethos of football we play is different to any team in League One, and arguably the Championship and Premier League too. In my opinion it is the way ‘the beautiful game’ should be played and, when we are in form, the opposition can’t compete with us.”
It is big talk from the sprightly Swindon skipper who seems completely unfazed at the task of captaining such a youthful side.
“The fact I’m the longest serving player (at the club) helped me take to the role and my team mates have been extremely supportive of me, so I’m grateful they’ve helped make the transition a smooth one”.
His team mates may well be the secret to his success but it was Thompson that took the plaudits after Town’s 0-3 win at Chesterfield last Tuesday night.
Swindon’s two games previous had ended in a 2-3 loss and a 2-2 draw on their own patch to Rochdale and Colchester respectively in what were disappointing results considering the Robins were the fourth best team at home in League One last season.
Thompson missed those two games due to a suspension but his return match ended with Swindon securing their first clean sheet since September 27 where they beat Barnsley by the same score at Oakwell.
This is even more impressive given the fact that Thompson is now playing a sweeper role in a three man defence instead of his favoured full-back position.
Nathan Byrne, arguably Town’s stand out performer so far this season, is occupying Thompson’s right wing-back spot while the left has been covered by former loanee from Liverpool Brad Smith and now Amari’i Bell who has joined temporarily from Birmingham City.
“Throughout pre season I trained in the wing-back position and I only switched to centre back a couple of training sessions before our first game”, Town’s back-to-back Player of the Year explains.
“It was a shock but I didn’t have time to dwell on it – which I think has helped me. As time’s gone on and I’m learning more about the position, my confidence has grown and I enjoy the new role I play during games”.
This attitude is a testament to Thompson’s character who genuinely gives his all for the club he has been at since the age of 12.
When asked how he felt about being awarded Swindon’s Player of the Year award for two years running he responded:
“What makes this award so special is that it’s voted for by the fans, and each game I try to give 100% for them and the club, so to be recognised in this way is very humbling indeed.
Top of the Tree: Rockin’ Robin Thompson with the first of his Player of the Year awards
“It goes without saying I’m immensely proud to captain a club that I’ve been at not just for my professional career, but for my Centre of Excellence years and youth development too. I take the role extremely seriously – working hard to ensure the team morale is high – so that this team gives back to the fans and the club.”
Giving back, as he puts it, is clearly very much at the forefront of the man’s mind as he is also an ambassador for the girls’ Centre of Excellence as he “feel(s) it’s important to show them I was in a similar position once, and with perseverance they could be in my boots one day too”.
Said perseverance and more importantly hard work have reaped the awards for “Thommo”, something he did not forget as he recalled the time he first put pen to paper on a professional deal for the Wiltshire side in 2009.
“When I think back to to when I first signed my professional deal this club had a very different ethos in developing young players. The average age of the first team was around 26 and not many players remained at the club past their scholar.
“While there were occasions of concern and anxiety (that he would never get his chance at Swindon), I had a very strong support network around me and that helped me to keep focused and determined to break into the Swindon Town first team.
Interest from Premier League teams Arsenal, Everton, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur around that time did not distract him either.
“One thing I have learned is to keep attention focused on my game and, at that point in particular, leave off-field discussions to my parents and third parties.
“It’s often seen where youngsters leave lower league teams to join top flight clubs and too often it’s unsuccessful. Therefore, while it’s always flattering to have interest from these sorts of clubs, the last thing I wanted to do was get carried away so I was committed to establishing myself at Swindon.”
That sort of attitude will be music to the ears of many a Swindon Town fan I’m sure. The future of SN1 is in a safe pair of feet with Nathan Thompson with a wise and selfless head on those young shoulders too.
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Tottenham finally earned their first win of their Europa League campaign this season, a five star performance thanks to a Harry Kane hat-trick and a delightful double from Erik Lamela.
Argentinian Lamela curled in a stunning Rabona effort from the edge of the box after 28 minutes for his first goal of the contest as he tries to justify his £30 million price tag.
His second, a volley from a tight angle, squirmed under Goalkeeper Tomas Kosicky at his near post to extend Spurs’ lead to three.
It was a home-grown product that gave the hosts the lead though as Kane scored his second goal in his third Europa League game this term with 13 minutes played.
The England under 21 striker struck home the opener from distance with his right foot into the bottom corner, leaving Kosicky grasping thin air as the underdogs went behind early on.
Kane tapped home his and Tottenham’s fourth with 14 minutes left on the clock, turning home a rebounded Moussa Dembele effort that gave Kosicky trouble, swerving away from the once capped Slovakia keeper and into the path of Kane who couldn’t miss.
He had his third six minutes after, provided by Federico Fazio’s cross, was headed home for 5-0. A triple against Tripolis capping off a successful night for Kane and his side.
An eventful night for Kane ended with him having to go in goal with Hugo Lloris being sent off for fouling an Asteris attacker. Substitute Jeronimo Barrales took the resulting free-kick which squirmed under the makeshift Goalkeeper.
Roy Hodgson has named his 23 man squad for England’s upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Estonia and San Marino and while some promising players have made the squad, there are some still waiting in the wings.
England fans are growing ever more impatient with their national side following a poor World Cup and have shown that with their feet. Just over 40,000 turned up for a home friendly against Norway, in which England limped to a 1-0 win via a penalty against a side then 33 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings.
Saido Berahino is the top English scorer in the early stages of this Premier League season with four goals in six games but will not be joining up with the Three Lions despite Daniel Sturridge’s absence from the squad with injury.
Nathan Dyer of Swansea, who are flying high in fifth, also misses out, being snubbed by Tottenham’s Andros Townsend. Dyer has netted three goals in three games this season while Townsend has zero in two.
Curtis Davies and Tom Huddlestone, FA Cup finalists with Hull City last season, find themselves without a spot in the squad again as well.
Positive steps have been made however with the inclusions of Nathaniel Clyne, Kieran Gibbs and Jonjo Shelvey.
However, the inclusion of Rickie Lambert may have annoyed a few as he is mostly used as a substitute now he is at Liverpool and the former Southampton striker will be 34 when it is time to jet off to France.
England squad in full:
Goalkeepers: Fraser Forster (Southampton), Ben Foster (West Bromwich Albion), Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Defenders: Leighton Baines (Everton), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Nathaniel Clyne (Southampton), Kieran Gibbs (Arsenal), Phil Jagielka (Everton), John Stones (Everton)
Midfielders: Fabian Delph (Aston Villa), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Adam Lallana (Liverpool), James Milner (Manchester City), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal), Jonjo Shelvey (Swansea City), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Andros Townsend (Tottenham Hotspur), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal)
Forwards: Rickie Lambert (Liverpool), Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Welbeck (Arsenal)
A Raheem Sterling strike, a spot kick from Steven Gerrard and a magnificent individual goal by Alberto Moreno earned Liverpool a 0-3 win over Tottenham at White Hart Lane.
Sterling tapped Liverpool in front after eight minutes and Gerrard’s penalty ensured that his team would be going back to Anfield with three points.
Alberto Moreno’s marauding run and finish ended any Tottenham hopes of a comeback.
Liverpool began the game in typically dynamic fashion, new signing Mario Balotelli had a header saved after just two minutes.
They did not have to wait long for their opener however as Sterling converted from Jordan Henderson’s squared ball just six minutes later.
The Reds began the second half much like they did the first, scoring three minutes after the interval with a Gerrard penalty. Joe Allen was bundled over in the box by Eric Dier who failed to win the ball but the contact was minimal.
Spot on: Gerrard’s converts his penalty.
Moreno’s first goal in England sealed the win, a powerful unchallenged sprint down the left flank which culmiated in the Spaniard lashing the ball off the inside of the post and in. Lightly reminiscing the sort of goals Gareth Bale scored in the same stadium once upon a time.
Brendan Rodgers’ boys should have made it four after a jinking run but did too much and his final product was a tame shot straight at Hugo Lloris when it was arguably easier to score.
It could have been a totally different game though had firstly Emmanuel Adebayor flick over Simon Mignolet gone under the bar rather than over sixty seconds after Sterling’s opener.
Nacer Chadli also had a half volley superbly saved by Mignolet just before half time.
Tottenham’s game was summed up in second half stoppage time, being denied a penalty for a shirt tug on Adebayor.
Tottenham Hotspur: Lloris, Dier, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Rose (Davies ’72), Bentaleb (Dembele ’59), Capoue, Chadli, Eriksen (Townsend ’59), Lamela, Adebayor
Capital One Cup holders Manchester City host Championship side Sheffield Wednesday in the third round while last year’s runners up Sunderland have been drawn at home to Stoke City.
The most frequent winners of the League Cup Liverpool will play Middlesbrough at Anfield as they hope to win the competition for a ninth time while Arsenal have to face Southampton in one of the five all Premier League face-offs.
Elsewhere MK Dons’ 4-0 win over Manchester United has been rewarded with a home tie against fellow League One side Bradford City who defeated Yorkshire rivals Leeds.
Draw in full:
Chelsea vs Bolton
Arsenal vs Southampton
West Brom vs Hull City
Crystal Palace vs Newcastle United
Leyton Orient vs Sheffield United
Cardiff City vs AFC Bournemouth
Sunderland vs Stoke
Derby County vs Reading
Liverpool vs Middlesbrough
MK Dons vs Bradford City
Manchester City vs Sheffield Wednesday
Burton Albion vs Brighton and Hove Albion
Swansea City vs Everton
Shrewsbury Town vs Norwich City
Fulham vs Doncaster Rovers
Tottenham vs Nottingham Forest
Michael Essien, John Obi Mikel, Oriol Romeu. Chelsea have tried and failed to find the man to fill Claude Makelele’s boots since his 2008 departure. While the trio have had relative success in the heart of Chelsea’s midfield, none of them have come close to having the influence Makelele did. In Nemanja Matic though, Chelsea may have found the solution.
Claude Makelele arrived at Stamford Bridge in the Summer of 2003 for a fee of £16.8 million after being outcast by Real Madrid as they denied his request of a better contract and continued building their “Galacticos” squad without him. The defining mistake by Florentino Perez and possibly the main reason why Real failed to add to their ninth Champions League win in 2002 where Makelele was a regular.
“We will not miss Makélelé. His technique is average, he lacks the speed and skill to take the ball past opponents, and 90% percent of his distribution either goes backwards or sideways. He wasn’t a header of the ball and he rarely passed the ball more than three metres. Younger players will arrive who will cause Makélelé to be forgotten.” – Perez (2003)
On arriving in West London, then Chelsea coach Claudio Ranieri said of Makelele that he would be “the battery” of the Chelsea side, and right he was too. Thanks to the Frenchman, and Chelsea’s other signings that year in the first season under Roman Abramovich’s era, Chelsea finished Premiership runners up and reached the Champions League semi finals for the first time ever, losing to Monaco who would go on to be beat by Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the final.
Mourinho was appointed Chelsea manager the following season of course and under him, Chelsea would transform into the European superpower we know them as today. Makelele blossomed in Mourinho’s style of play, his defensive work, along with a solid back five of Petr Cech, Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho, John Terry and William Gallas, meant that Chelsea conceded just 15 goals all season while his passing ability allowed players such as Frank Lampard, Arjen Robben, Joe Cole, Damien Duff and Didier Drogba to attack the opposition at will. “The Makelele role”, as it would be known, was born.
Every team across the land it seemed was after their very own Claude Makelele. Liverpool signed Javier Mascherano, Arsenal opted for Alex Song, Manchester United acquired Michael Carrick while Tottenham snapped up Didier Zokora. Although three quarters of these signings were no doubt successful (Zokora being the exception), none of them were, or are, as good as Makelele.
The role has been adapted slightly in modern times with the fancy named “Deep Lying Playmaker” or “Regista” role being the latest fashionable term. Well known “DLPs” are Cesc Fabregas, Luka Modric and Jack Wilshere while Sergio Busquets is regarded as an efficient Regista.
Makelele continued to shine in a Chelsea shirt for the next three seasons but his last game was to come, aptly in Chelsea’s first ever Champions League final, the 2008 clash with Manchester United. It would only have been more fitting if Chelsea had won that night in Moscow’s Red City, to give the mercurial Frenchman the greatest of send offs, much like Drogba’s in 2012.
Chelsea’s number four departed West London for Paris Saint Germain where he spent three seasons, won a Coupe de France in 09/10 and retired the following year to become Assistant Manager, which he remains as today.
Nemanja Matic put pen to paper on a four year deal at Chelsea in 2009 for a £1.5 million fee having spent time on trial at Middlesbrough and he was clearly signed as 2006 World Cup runner up Makelele’s long term replacement. Matic made two appearances in his first spell as a Chelsea player before joining feeder club Vitesse Arnhem on loan where he scored twice in 27 games for the Eridivisie club. Having failed to make a mark on the Premier League though he was sold to Benfica in a player plus cash deal worth £21 million plus David Luiz.
Matic announced himself onto the European stage in the Portuguese Capital, scoring six goals in 56 games over the course of three seasons, including one strike against Porto that finished second in the Puskas Award (given to the year’s best goal) of last season, losing out to Zlatan Ibrahimovich’s acrobatic effort against England before rejoining the 2012 Champions League winners for £21 million in January of this year.
Like Makelele, Matic has the ability to break down the play and slow down the midfield to tire the opposition with accurate passing to support his pinpoint tackles, and what’s more intimidating for his rivals is that Matic might even become better than his predecessor. He’s more dynamic than Makelele was and at a younger age too, and more impressively, is a larger threat going forward making him a more versatile player than his French counterpart. Already this season we’ve seen the Serbian crack the woodwork from long range against Manchester City at the Etihad and have a goal disallowed against Aston Villa for a questionable handball. Makelele only scored two goals in a Chelsea shirt, a rebounded Penalty against Charlton (which he originally had saved) and an 18 yard curler against Tottenham, which as great as it was, was his only shot of the entire season.
With Nemanja Matic the latest man being given the job of controlling the Blues’ midfield and so far looking more in control than anyone has in a good while, Chelsea seem to have finally found the man who has filled the Claude Makelele shaped void in the centre of the pitch.