COR­NER KICKS

Rough week for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur sheds light on deeper prob­lems … Ti­tle race is a marathon, not a sprint — and it’s far from over … Red Devils lack­ing in the de­tails

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS - DAN BILICKI gets you up to date on the English Premier League dbil­[email protected]­media.com Twit­ter: @dan­bil­icki

To say that it has been a bad week for Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur would be vastly un­der­stat­ing things.

In fact, things have been rot­ten for Spurs for a lot longer, but it seems to be reach­ing a boil­ing point.

That’s what hap­pens when you lose 7-2 at home mid­week in Cham­pi­ons League, then go on the road and lose to a team in the rel­e­ga­tion zone 3-0.

Just how bad are these two losses? Well, Bay­ern Mu­nich’s de­mo­li­tion of Spurs was the first time in history that a con­ti­nen­tal team scored seven goals on English soil in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion. To make mat­ters worse, the man who scored four of those goals, Serge Gnabry, is a for­mer Arse­nal player and no doubt en­joyed rub­bing salt in the wound of his ex-north Lon­don ri­val.

Then, on Sat­ur­day morn­ing, things only got worse. Brighton’s win wasn’t a lucky one — the Gulls out­shot Spurs 17-8 and had six on tar­get com­pared to three. Posses­sion was fairly close, too, 52%-48% for the vis­i­tors. Against an op­po­nent of equal foot­ing, you could ex­pect some­thing like this. But these two teams should by no means be on the same level.

Head­ing into the game, Brighton had scored just five goals this season, with three com­ing against Wat­ford on the open­ing week­end. This Brighton side scored the fourth-fewest goals in the league last season with 35 and still man­aged to pot three against Spurs. Even worse, the Seag­ulls had just one win at home in all of 2019 — and that came against Hud­der­s­field Town!

This is an on­go­ing dis­as­ter for Tot­ten­ham: In the cal­en­dar year of 2019, Spurs have now lost as many games as they have won with 17 in all com­pe­ti­tions — that’s more losses than any English top-flight side.

Since Feb. 26, Spurs have 19 points in Premier League com­pe­ti­tion, which is third-worst out of any non-rel­e­gated team.

Man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino no longer seems like the ge­nius that he once was. The play­ers aren’t play­ing up to the stan­dards that have been set for them and looked lack­adaisi­cal. Many are re­port­edly ques­tion­ing the man­ager’s tac­tics and there is seem­ingly even more dis­con­tent in the locker room.

All that the club’s ul­ti­mately un­suc­cess­ful run to the Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal did was hide the very real prob­lems. Maybe we should have thought more about the man­ager’s quotes about leav­ing the club if it had won the fi­nal against Liver­pool.

Sports books have Po­chet­tino as the third-most likely man­ager to leave his post right now and, if things don’t change — and quickly — the Ar­gen­tine might not make it to Christ­mas, where he wants to or not, which is up for de­bate.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Who else but the man who con­quered Man City?

Adama Traore’s brace pro­pelled Wolves to stun­ning up­set at the Eti­had and were his first two goals of the season.

The Span­ish winger is one of the fastest play­ers in the league and used that burst to his ad­van­tage on the counter-at­tack for both of his tal­lies.

We don’t think this per­for­mance will launch him to star­dom — Traore now has just three ca­reer EPL goals — but his pace will help Wolves un­lock teams on the counter and could push them to­wards a re­turn to last year’s form.

ABOUT CITY ...

It’s hard not to buy into the nar­ra­tive that the ti­tle race is over af­ter Manch­ester City suf­fered an­other shock up­set while Liver­pool scored a stun­ning in­jury-time goal to keep its 100% record in­tact.

But here’s the re­al­ity: There are still 30 games to be played.

The gap be­tween the two clubs is now at eight point, which seems like a daunt­ing task. But, rest as­sured, Liver­pool will drop points even­tu­ally — even if it feels like it won’t.

And City will re­cover from this loss and go on a win­ning streak of its own.

Re­mem­ber that the season is long and that Liver­pool lost only one game last season, but still fell short of the ti­tle. There’s still a lot of foot­ball left to be played.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Things aren’t about to get eas­ier for the Spurs’ back line — cap­tain and goal­keeper Hugo Lloris is out un­til 2020 af­ter dis­lo­cat­ing his el­bow ... Tammy Abra­ham now has eight goals this season for Chelsea. Mar­cus Rash­ford’s ca­reer-best for goals in a season is 10 ... Frank Lam­pard’s Blues have now scored at least three goals in three straight away matches. It’s the first time that Chelsea has man­aged that feat since 2009 ... The Chris­tian Pulisic sign­ing is look­ing like a gi­gan­tic waste of money for the Blues. The Amer­i­can winger has played just 90 min­utes in the team’s past six matches and that was all against Grimsby in a Carabao Cup tie. Pulisic didn’t even make the match­day squad against Lille last week. Think that Chelsea would like a re­fund on the $91 mil­lion they spent on him? ... Le­ices­ter City was cer­tainly up for the chal­lenge against Liver­pool. One of the hottest teams of 2019, the Foxes were fairly even with the Premier League lead­ers and it all came down to an in­jury-time penalty. Bren­dan Rodgers’ boys should feel good about this game, if not a lit­tle cheated by drop­ping the point so late ... Manch­ester United is go­ing to be with­out Paul Pogba for a bit longer. Re­ports are the star mid­fielder needs more rest and treat­ment on his lin­ger­ing foot in­jury ... Ever­ton is in the rel­e­ga­tion zone af­ter los­ing its fourth straight game. Bet you didn’t see that com­ing.

THE LAST WORD

An­other week, an­other dis­as­ter from Ole Gun­nar Sol­sk­jaer’s Manch­ester United.

While it wasn’t on par with Spurs’ aw­ful week, United did next to noth­ing on the pitch. Two games, zero goals. It started with a mid­week 0-0 draw against AZ Alk­maar, which sits third in Ere­di­visie, in a game in which United didn’t even reg­is­ter a shot on tar­get. It con­tin­ued with a 1-0 loss to New­cas­tle, a club which is in the midst of its own tur­moil.

We men­tioned that Po­chet­tino has the thirdbest odds to be the next man­ager fired, well, Sol­sk­jaer is sec­ond on that list.

And if the ru­mour mill is any in­di­ca­tion, Po­chet­tino would be a prime tar­get for the United job if there was a move made at Old Traf­ford.

It seems that ev­ery week we’re see­ing new stats about how this on­ce­great club is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing its worst start in years.

How it can turn things around re­mains to be seen, but some­thing cer­tainly has to change.

AN­DREW COULDRIDGE/REUTERS

Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur man­ager Mauri­cio Po­chet­tino re­acts dur­ing his team’s 3-0 loss to Brighton & Hove Al­bion on Sat­ur­day.

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