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September 24, 2018

The Kane of today is not the player we know

IMPRESSIVE: Harry Kane. Photo/REUTERS
IMPRESSIVE: Harry Kane. Photo/REUTERS

England manager Gareth Southgate has highlighted a serious problem with Spur’s super striker Harry Kane. Harry is tired, as Southgate explained when subbing him in the 80th minute in an international friendly match against Switzerland. The English captain looked very lacklustre and was not his previous sharp self. He has played a mentally and physically draining 61 games since the beginning of last season! I have noted over the past few weeks that Harry is not the player he was last year when he averaged 5.4 shots per game. This season his shot rate has dropped to 2.5 per game. What marks Kane out from the ordinary strikers is that he positions his body early and takes a shot first time without needing to set up the ball. I have also discovered that Harry has been affected since he rolled his ankle in a tackle with Bournemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic. Begovich went for the ball, missed and accidentally buckled Kane’s right ankle under his left leg. Harry left the pitch minutes later and left the stadium wearing a plastic protective boot. It has been suggested to me that Harry is now more protective of his legs, ankles and feet and is not showing that natural quick fire shooting ability. He is not achieving that skill with quite as much directness and focus.

Willian to stay but Fabrigas could leave

Following two failed attempts to sign him by Barcelona and Manchester United, Chelsea midfielder Willian has said he wants to stay with the Blues for another five years. He wants a five-year contract. However, it is club policy that any player over 30 years of age is given a 12-month contract and that was agreed by owner of the club himself. Chelsea told Barca that they would have to pay £70million if they wanted the Brazilian but the Spanish giants turned that down. Meanwhile, the two Milan clubs, AC and Inter, have had scouts watching Cesc Fabrigas and have contacted his agent with a view to have the Spanish midfielder go to Italy. Cesc has not featured in new manager Mauricio Sarri’s plans and he has not even started a game this season. Cesc is keeping quiet at the moment but I know he won’t put up with this situation much longer. When I spoke to the club they would not commit on whether Cesc stays or leaves but at the same time they did not say he would definitely be staying which indicates that if a good offer comes along they would probably sell him.

Dele should be okay

Tottenham tell me that Dele Alli should be fit for this weekend’s big game against Liverpool. He withdrew from the England squad this week after picking up a minor strain against Spain and did not feature in the midweek game against Switzerland. With both Spurs and England, Dele has been working hard on his ball retention and also his work rate and positioning off the ball.

No problem between Pogba and Mourinho

The rumour gossip surrounding the relationship between Manchester United’s record signing Paul Pogba and manager Jose Mourinho never seems to slow down. This time it is Paul trying to simmer down the situation. He claims there is no problem between him and Mourhino but hinted that they are not particularly friends and have a pure coach/player relationship. Speaking after France drew with World Cup disaster team Germany, he said he quite clearly: “It is not me talking. I am trying to work on myself physically. I got back late from the World Cup so I am trying to perform as well as I can. I’m just trying to do my job.”

Paul was warned last month that he would be fined if he talked freely abut his relationship with Mourinho however, when questioned about his future at United he would only say: “My future is currently in Manchester. I still have a contract. I’m playing there at the moment, but who knows what will happen in the next few months.” I suspect that behind all this is his agent Mino Raiola who stands to make a few more millions if Pogba is transferred again so he keeps the rumours active. It has been suggested that Raiola always saw Paul’s transfer to United as a three-year project with his ‘client’ then moving to Spain and either Madrid or Barcelona. Nothing has been said to disprove that theory so it could happen next year.

Update on Tottenham v Liverpool

I spoke with Tottenham about Argentinian Erik Lamela’s hamstring injury this week and was told that manager Mauricio Pochettino expects to have him fit for the big game of the weekend against Liverpool. He is responding well to treatment after feeling a very painful stress of the hamstring during the warm up before the 3-0 win against Manchester United. I then called Man City and enquired about Raheem Sterling’s back injury and was again given positive news. The City winger striker was forced to miss England games against Spain and Switzerland after feeling pain during City’s 2-1 win against Newcastle. City’s medical team took over and agreed with the FA that he should remain at the club for treatment and not go to the England national team headquarters for an assessment. City medical staff said they thought a two week lay off would cure the problem.

Marathon man Enrique

Perhaps the Chelsea players should be pleased that Mauricio Sarri took over at the Blues and not Luis Enrique. He now manages the Spanish national squad and has laid down new rules of behaviour. He believes in discipline and has banned mobile phone calls during meals, they are not even allowed on the table, no free time and no family visits between games. Luis is a fitness fanatic and loves cycling. He even took part in Germany’s 2007 Ironman competition. He has run marathons in New York, Amsterdam and Florence. He even took a medical of fitness levels when the team took their tests and nuitritionist Antonio Escribano said, “He is 48 years old but he is fit enough to play!”.

Changing tactics at Arsenal

Arsenal’s midfielder Hector Bellerin said this week that playing under new manager Unai Emery is like playing for a different club. He said he was sad that many of the long established regular staff had left the club. However, he said the club feels regenerated and thinks success is just around the corner. One of the most interesting comments concerned tactics. Under previous manager Arsene Wenger, the team never changed tactics from week to week. Arsene believed his team could beat anybody and their style never needed to change. Under Emery, hours are spent watching videos, planning and changing team tactics and everything is different each week to cope with the different playing styles of their opponents.

New Chelsea keeper settling in

Kepa Arrizabalaga, the Blues new goalkeeper at Stamford Bridge, has been speaking about his move from Bilbao to replace Thibaut Courtois between the posts at Chelsea. He said the move was made easy because he already knew Alvaro Morata and Cesar Azpilicueta and they have helped him settle in more quickly. After his world record-breaking transfer fee of £72.5million for a goalkeeper he has seen Chelsea win their four opening games and kept two clean sheets. I asked if he was scared of the big price tag and he said, “ The fee is because of the football market...it is like that. Higher and higher fees are being paid now. I focus on my own game and I play. I’m happy for Chelsea to have made the decision to sign me and to pay that amount and I am looking forward to repaying them on the field. I choose Chelsea because they have such great players and in recent years have won the Champion’s League, Europa Cup and Premier League title - it is a team with great players.” Kepa is being tipped to challenge Man Utd’s David de Gea as the Spanish goalkeeper although, with genuine honesty, Kepa says that David is a great goalkeeper.

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