EPL

Spurs still 'fighting' for Pochettino, insists Alderweireld

By Sports Desk October 20, 2019

Tottenham defender Toby Alderweireld insisted Spurs are still "fighting" for manager Mauricio Pochettino amid the club's struggles.

Spurs were held to a disappointing 1-1 Premier League draw by Watford on Saturday, leaving Tottenham without a win in three matches in all competitions.

Pochettino's future has come into question as Tottenham languish in seventh position, while they were humiliated 7-2 by Bayern Munich in the Champions League prior to the international break.

However, Alderweireld said Spurs are behind Pochettino, who led Tottenham to the Champions League final last season.

"There is a team on the pitch and you see us fighting," Belgium international Alderweireld said.

"Everyone is behind the club and the manager otherwise we could not have put the effort we put in."

Alderweireld added: "I think we didn't make the right decisions. At the end they had one long ball and they scored. It's difficult, not positive, but in the second half we changed the game.

"We did a lot better. We could have scored a lot more goals. We need to improve and improve and improve. It's the same players [as last season] and we have to get out of this."

Tottenham host Red Star Belgrade on matchday three in the Champions League on Tuesday.

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  • 'Incredible' De Bruyne the perfect cure for Pep's patched-up City 'Incredible' De Bruyne the perfect cure for Pep's patched-up City

    Pep Guardiola hailed Kevin De Bruyne's influence upon an injury-ravaged Manchester City squad after he starred in Monday's 3-1 win over Wolves.

    Guardiola headed to Molineux with seven senior players unavailable but his team turned in a sparkling display against opponents who beat them twice last season.

    De Bruyne was City's star man, winning and converting a 20th-minute penalty before having a hand in goals for Phil Foden and Gabriel Jesus.

    "Since we came back after the games for the national teams, every training session he has incredible commitment," Guardiola, who saw Raul Jimenez briefly reduce the deficit in the 78th-minute, told a post-match news conference.

    "Right now he is an incredibly important player for us. He always was, but in the situation we are in right now, it is so important.

    "He took an incredible penalty, he took it perfectly. Then there is the amount of assists, how he runs. He played really well, like all the team.

    "He likes to play football, he doesn't feel the pressure and likes to compete at a high standard."

    Ilkay Gundogan's positive test for coronavirus compounded Guardiola's selection problems heading into City's opening Premier League game of the season, with Sergio Aguero, Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Eric Garcia all injury absentees.

    Aymeric Laporte only returned to training last Friday following his own COVID-19 positive, although John Stones and new signing Nathan Ake were assured for the most part in the centre of defence.

    Guardiola confirmed a team predominantly made up of academy players will launch City's bid for a fourth consecutive EFL Cup against Bournemouth on Thursday, with Leicester City up next in the Premier League on Sunday.

    "Most of them are for after the [October] international break," he said when considering when asked when the injured players might return. "After that they’ll be ready.

    "Laporte is not injured but he had just one training session in two months. Eric Garcia had 16 stitches, that is why he is not here but maybe for the next game he will be fit.

    "The others I think after the international break – Joao, Bernardo, Oleks and Sergio will be longer.

    "This is the situation. Maybe in the next days it will change a little bit."

    The strain of those considerations appeared to be weighing upon Guardiola during a largely terse briefing, but he still found time to praise Foden, who made a goalscoring return to club action after being banished from the England squad earlier this month for breaching coronavirus protocols in Iceland.

    "He played really well," he added.

    "Apart from scoring the goal, in the first half he was not much involved. In the second half he played incredibly well.

    "Since day one he trained really well. In all the time he played with us, if we decide to play five minutes or 90 minutes it doesn’t matter.

    "He has a big impact and makes great contributions to the team. Today was not an exception."

  • De Bruyne up for title fight after City's winning start at Wolves De Bruyne up for title fight after City's winning start at Wolves

    Kevin De Bruyne was already looking towards another title tussle with Liverpool after Manchester City won at Wolves, adding that team glory ranks above his personal exploits despite a standout performance.

    City won the Premier League in 2017-18 and 2018-19, holding off the Reds down the home stretch in the latter season, but then relinquished their crown to Jurgen Klopp's team last term.

    Liverpool registered six points from the opening two matches of their title defence before Pep Guardiola's men even took to the field, with City making a late start due to their involvement in the Champions League in August.

    However, De Bruyne broke the deadlock at Wolves on Monday, had a hand in Phil Foden's second and then, after Raul Jimenez halved the deficit, supplied an assist for Gabriel Jesus in stoppage time.

    The reigning PFA Players' Player of the Year, who created six chances in all, did not shy away from the challenge before City.

    "It's obviously hard," De Bruyne told Sky Sports. "It's a little bit of a weird season, but we know we have to start well.

    "Wolves have been a bit of a bogey team for us in the last couple of seasons, so to come here and do this performance is encouraging, because we're missing a few players.

    "I think the team played really well. The only thing we really can do is play game by game. We know Thursday [Bournemouth in the EFL Cup] is another one and we'll try to do our best.

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    De Bruyne had 20 league assists last season, tying Thierry Henry's record, and was awarded his first of the new campaign after tackling Willy Boly before Jesus netted.

    Yet individual statistics are of little concern to the midfielder, who has also scored 14 times since the start of last season - his 35 goal involvements the most of any Premier League player in that time.

    "I don't know if my output is going to be more," he said. "I'm perfectly happy with the way the second goal goes. That's why we have so many attacking players - so I can slot them in and they can do the rest.

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  • City's dazzling De Bruyne reality eases memories of the Messi dream City's dazzling De Bruyne reality eases memories of the Messi dream

    Speaking to Radio Catalunya in 2017, Pep Guardiola took a self-deprecating tone when considering his feted coaching reputation.

    You see, life is easy with Lionel Messi in your dressing room.

    "The greatest advantage of having Leo is that the other 10 players know they have Leo on their team and that sooner or later he will do it," he said.

    "I was his coach and we were planning and I thought, 'We will get the ball to Messi and that's that, we will score.'"

    At the start of this month, it briefly looked like Guardiola would be able to unfurl this approach at Molineux in Manchester City's Premier League season opener against Wolves.

    Of course, Messi concluded an exit from Camp Nou was not viable and a fantasy football tonic to a dispiriting 2019-20 in east Manchester was taken off the table.

    Nevertheless, during Monday's impressive 3-1 win over opponents that have tended to give his team fits, Guardiola settled on an update of his old template.

    Get the ball to Kevin De Bruyne and that's that.

    Okay, so this is a simplification of the sparkling display City put on to get their Premier League title bid up and running.

    John Stones was in from the cold alongside new signing Nathan Ake in a silky-smooth centre-back pairing - or was it a pairing? Rodri dropped in from midfield to play in between them at times during the first half, with Stones taking opportunities to join attacks down the right flank.

    Captain Fernandinho enjoyed himself back in the midfield role a defensive shortfall denied him last season, and everything in front of the veteran Brazilian was all whirring, flashing, frictionless movement.

    Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Phil Foden were as tenacious out of possession as they were in it.

    But it was PFA Players' Player of the Year De Bruyne who stamped himself all across what quickly became a pulverising opening 45 minutes for the hosts.

    All the shifting plates in Guardiola's 4-2-3-1 seemed designed to put De Bruyne in the areas of the field where he can cause damage. Which, all things considered, amounts to a fair amount of turf.

    Take the combination of athleticism and opportunism that saw him put down the throttle and chase Foden's pass to draw a brainless foul from Romain Saiss. Rui Patricio guessed correctly but De Bruyne struck the 20th-minute penalty sumptuously.

    After the half hour he nipped into a pocked of space behind the Wolves midfield to release Sterling, who set up Foden for number two.

    There was De Bruyne again, forcing a fine save from Patricio after he tore onto Jesus' flick-on, like the archetypal box-to-box midfielder.

    Soon afterwards there was a devilish whipped cross from out on the touchline and, even as City's level dropped and they flirted with throwing away the sort of points they frequently fumbled last term, De Bruyne regularly carved holes in Wolves, working through the repertoire that makes him the most complete footballer in the division.

    Since the start of 2019-20, the Belgium superstar has been involved in more Premier League goals than any other player, thanks to 14 goals and 21 assists. He created more chances (six) and had more shots on target (four) than any other City player on Monday.

    Nevertheless, De Bruyne's team-mates are still without the serenity Guardiola claimed for Messi's old colleagues. Around the hour, when Adama Traore had the shackles of his right wing-back brief loosened and Stones became reacquainted with his lackadaisical side, a clatter of Wolves chances came and went.

    The impressive Daniel Podence had the audacity to nutmeg De Bruyne before setting up Raul Jimenez's nicely placed 78th-minute header.

    Despite paying the price for attempting the dirty work on that occasion, the 29-year-old contested a team-high five tackles and gained possession nine times - no City player did so more frequently. He covered 11.58 kilometres at an average speed of 7.12 km/h.

    It was no surprise, therefore, to see which player bustled in between a hesitant Wolves defence to set up Jesus for the game-clinching goal.

    Get the ball to Kevin De Bruyne and that's that.

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