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Tottenham can build on last season’s success by signing any of these 2 top-class midfield targets – Agreed?

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Tottenham Hotspur Opinion: Two midfield targets to aid Spurs’ title push

Tottenham Hotspur have certainly evolved into a European superpower now and their involvement in the Champions League final against Liverpool last season is only further proof of this fact.

Despite doing extremely well to get to the final at the Wanda Metropolitano, Spurs seemed to completely lose the plot when it mattered most. The Liverpool midfielders dominated proceedings right from the opening knockings of what was a tactical game of football.

Although Mauricio Pochettino does have names like Lucas Moura, Heung-Min Son, Harry Kane, Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli to choose from, their internal weaknesses were exposed by Klopp’s explosive playing style and for all their efforts, they ended up having nothing to show for it.

The game was definitely lost in the midfield as Georginio Wijnaldum and Fabinho were absolutely spectacular in the centre of the park. The Anfield duo dominated proceedings right from the start and never really allowed Spurs’ creative players to get going.

The fact that they got completely neutralised by a couple of midfield destroyers is a worrying sign indeed and it only exemplifies the need for back-up midfielders at the new stadium.

According to a recent report by the Guardian, Mauricio Pochettino is said to be waiting on Daniel Levy to deliver his summer transfer targets. It has been suggested that this list of potential signings includes Lyon midfielder Tanguy Ndombele and Roma star Nicolo Zaniolo.

Here are the 2 players that Spurs should sign to challenge for the title: 

Tanguy Ndombele 

The French international midfielder is only 22 but shows amazing composure and maturity while out on the field. A strong man by stature, the youngster gets around the pitch with ease and puts himself about in attempts to win the ball back quickly as well.

He is extremely sharp on the ball and has a knack for cutting out passes by reading the play in midfield. Able to move the ball around quickly, Ndombele’s destructive style is one of the missing pieces in the Spurs puzzle.

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Nicolo Zaniolo

The Italian international winger has been one of the Serie A’s shining stars over the course of last season and his performances have seemingly impressed Pochettino quite heavily. Capable of playing anywhere across the midfield line, Zaniolo’s tall figure gives him a physical edge over most players.

He uses his physicality well and guards the ball in order to bring teammates into the game. The youngster is an excellent dribbler and also has a mean through ball in his arsenal. His attacking creativity would be a huge boost to Spurs as well.

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Leicester City

A tribute to Jamie Vardy – celebrating his incredible rise from being a non-league rookie to a PL icon

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A tribute to Jamie Vardy- celebrating his incredible rise from a non-league rookie to an England star and a Premier League icon

From the obscurity of non-league football to Premier League stardom, Jamie Vardy’s meteoric rise up the footballing pyramid in England has been an incredibly inspiring journey, to say the least.

There is hardly anyone who would have heard about him seven years ago when he was plying his trade with Fleetwood Town in the Conference Premier but he is now a cult hero at Leicester City and a former England international.

There has hardly been any footballer in England in the 21st century who has completed such an exponential rise from a being a non-league rookie to one of the most lethal strikers in the Premier League.

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Joe Lolley, who currently plies his trade in the Championship with Nottingham Forest, could, by some ways, be the nearest example, although he hasn’t matched Vardy’s exploits by any means.

Vardy’s incredible scoring form in Leicester City’s awe-inspiring Premier League triumph made him a cult hero at the club but that is only a part of his newly-found stardom.

Vardy’s consistently impressive performances in the Premier League has transformed him into an icon; a hugely influential figure in English football, and a former England international.

Yes, it might be hard to believe but the once non-league rookie donned the Three Lions jersey at two major tournaments in recent times – 2016 Euro Cup and 2018 FIFA World Cup.

He announced his retirement from international football after scoring 7 goals in 26 appearances for England, with a bulk of those goals coming against top European nations like Spain, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

Vardy is now 32 but he is still looking good for plenty more in the Premier League for the years to come. However, it is certainly worth revisiting the incredible rise of the Sheffield-born ace, which should go down as one of the most inspirational stories in the history of football.

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Early Years

Vardy started his career in the youth ranks at Sheffield Wednesday but he was released at the age of 16 and joined Stocksbridge Park Steels F.C in 2003.

He made his way through the reserve team and into the first-team before making his debut in 2007 in non-league football. Vardy impressed with his stellar displays at Stocksbridge and attracted interest from elsewhere, whilst a trial at Crewe Alexandra ended in failure.

Vardy, however, continued to excel in non-league football and joined F.C Halifax Town in the Northern Premier League in 2010, scoring 25 goals in 37 appearances in his debut season to propel his new club to a triumphant league campaign.

Vardy’s scoring heroics earned him the Players’ Player of the Year award and after just over a year with Halifax, Vardy signed for Conference Premier outfit Fleetwood Town.

The striker’s first season in the Conference Premier proved to be a fruitful one, as Vardy netted 31 goals in 26 appearances to propel Fleetwood Town to their first-ever promotion to the Football League.

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Entry into the Championship

Vardy’s incredible strike rate at Fleetwood Town, which saw him finish as the top scorer in the Conference Premier, prompted Championship promotion-hopefuls Leicester City to make a move for him. He was offered a first-team role under then manager Nigel Pearson.

As a matter of fact, Vardy never played in League Two and League One and made a direct jump from non-league football to the Championship, which, indeed, is an incredibly bold step for any player.

His first season at Leicester City was not smooth sailing, as Vardy found the net on just 4 occasions in 26 appearances in the second-tier. Leicester’s gamble on Vardy failed to pay the dividends at the first time of asking.

However, Pearson and his assistant Craig Shakespeare convinced him to stay and that would ultimately prove to be another talking point of his rise in football.

Vardy put the disappointment of the 2012-13 season behind him and spearheaded the attack brilliantly in the following season, scoring 16 goals to propel the Foxes to the Premier League as the outright winners of the Championship. 

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Premier League debut and still going strong

Vardy proved his credentials to thrive in the Championship but many would have expected Leicester to sideline him or loan him out to another second-tier outfit upon securing promotion to the Premier League. However, Pearson showed immense faith in Vardy and opted to field him up front as a regular starter in the top-flight.

And Vardy repaid his manager’s faith in him with a man-of-the-match display against Man United, helping the Foxes come back from 3-1 down to an eventual 5-3 victory.

The 32-year-old never looked back and produced a number of eye-catching performances in the top-flight, enough to prove that he definitely has the quality to thrive in the Premier League.

Vardy finished the campaign with 5 goals and 8 assists, as the Foxes finished 14th and managed to beat the drop comfortably in the end.

Vardy’s stocks were very much on the rise at the end of the 2013-14 season but even he wouldn’t have anticipated such a dramatic change of fortunes, for him as well as for Leicester in a span of just a single season. In other words, what followed after that simply defied belief.

Pearson’s successor Claudio Ranieri upset the ridiculous 5000-1 odds and guided the Foxes to an unlikely Premier League title triumph in the 2015-16 season, with Vardy scoring 24 goals in the campaign.

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Leicester’s abrupt emergence and Vardy’s incredible upturn of form saw him bag the 2016 Barclays Premier League Player of the Season.   

Arsene Wenger was ready to bring him to the Emirates but he rebuffed Arsenal’s approach and signed a new long-term deal with Leicester City, instead.

Vardy continued his scoring form in the Premier League in the following season and also found the net twice in the UEFA Champions League, as the Foxes made it all the way to the quarterfinals. 

Vardy hasn’t been able to replicate his feat of scoring 24 goals in the Premier League until now but goals have continued to flow for him at an impressive strike rate, nonetheless.

The 32-year-old has racked up a staggering 80 goals and 29 assists in 176 Premier League appearances, numbers which are quite eye-watering for any footballer playing in such a highly competitive league.

Conclusion

It is difficult to find the proper set of adjectives to describe Vardy’s sensational rise in English football from being a non-league star to a Premier League icon.

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It certainly doesn’t require a rocket scientist to figure out that he has by far been one of the most consistent strikers in the Premier League over the past few years and it would be harsh to take any credit away from him.

Vardy’s hardworking nature, lightning pace, instant acceleration, his ability to play off the shoulder of the last defender and time his run to perfection, and clinical finishing, have troubled even the best of defences in the top-flight.

Still only 32, he definitely has a lot to offer as far as Leicester are concerned, and even if he hangs up his boots right now, the story of his rise is likely to inspire footballers for generations to come.

Vardy’s meteoric rise in English football is like a ray of light at the end of a dark tunnel for all non-league footballers who dream of playing in the Premier League some day.

The Leicester man rose to prominence by his sheer dint of merit and hard work, which should be a lesson for all non-league footballers that opportunities are there if you keep working hard.

Working hard and working smart are completely different things but Vardy has shown the ability to combine both in order to produce the desired results.

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Chelsea

Throwback to the all-English CL final in 2007/08 between Man United and Chelsea

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Throwback to the 2007-08 CL final between Man United and Chelsea

The 2018-19 UEFA Champions League final contested between Liverpool and Spurs turned out to be a rather one-sided encounter, as the Reds, managed by Jurgen Klopp, romped home with a comfortable 2-0 victory and in doing so, claimed their sixth European Cup title.

It was also Liverpool’s first Champions League victory since the ‘Miracle of Istanbul’ way back in 2004-05 when Rafael Benitez inspired the Reds to a penalty shootout victory over AC Milan in the final.

Both Liverpool and Spurs progressed to the final with dramatic victories over their opponents in the semi-final clashes. While Klopp’s side successfully overturned a 3-0 deficit from the first leg at Camp Nou against Barcelona, Spurs found themselves 3-0 down on aggregate at the halfway mark in the second-leg against Ajax away from home, yet managing to book their berth in the final.

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Liverpool fell agonisingly short of Man City in the Premier League title race and finished the season as runners-up in the league, while Mauricio Pochettino also guided Spurs to a 4th-place finish in the league following a few hiccups towards the end of the campaign.

Both teams had promised a lot throughout the season without winning any trophies and the 2018-19 Champions League final was a golden opportunity for them to end their drought for silverware.

Jurgen Klopp’s side were pretty much the underdogs in the 2017-18 final against Real Madrid but they went in as the outright favourites this time around.

Moussa Sissoko, who had been so good for Spurs all season, turned into a villain in the final. The Frenchman’s handball incident inside the box just a few seconds into the game was deemed worthy of a penalty and Mo Salah converted from the spot to give Liverpool a 1-0 advantage.

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Spurs retained most of the possession in the first half but they struggled to create any clear-cut scoring chances, whilst Liverpool continued to threaten on the counter. The rest of the first half was anything but eventful, although Spurs did make an attempt to up the ante in search of an equaliser after the interval.

Both managers made some key substitutions in an attempt to alter the balance of the game, with Klopp bringing in Divock Origi in place of Robert Firmino, whereas Pochettino opted for Lucas Moura in place in of Harry Winks.

Spurs pressed higher up the pitch and attempted several shots on goal in the last twenty minutes or so, leaving themselves vulnerable to Liverpool’s devastating counter-attacks.

Divock Origi, who was the comeback hero for Liverpool at Anfield against Barcelona in the semi-finals, struck in the 87th minute, taking advantage of some sloppy defending from the Lilywhites. The Belgian’s goal sealed the win for Liverpool and Klopp lifted his first ever trophy as the manager at Anfield.

Well, the 2018-19 season was the first time in history when both the major European finals were contested between teams from the same nation, with Arsenal and Chelsea fighting it out for the Europa League crown.

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That hadn’t happened before but as a matter of fact, the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final was the last time when two English teams fought it out for the bragging rights in Europe’s top-flight.

It has been 12 years since that final in Moscow between Man United and Chelsea but shades of that fateful encounter still loom large in the memories of the fans each time the two heavyweights of English football lock horns in the Premier League.

From a neutral point of view, the 2007-08 Champions League isn’t one to forget and it has to go down as a Champions League classic, not only because it was an intriguing contest decided by a penalty shootout, but also for the tears, smiles and the completely different set of emotions that it evoked amongst both the sets of fans.

With that in mind, let us now open the vault and revisit that rainy night in Moscow when Avram Grant’s Chelsea and Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man United went head to head at the Luzhniki Stadium in what was the first ever all-English final in the history of the Champions League.

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The build-up to the game

Chelsea

The 2007-08 season witnessed the end of Jose Mourinho’s illustrious reign at Chelsea and the Blues would eventually go on to finish runners-up to Man United in the Premier League.

Also, defeats in the Community Shield and the League Cup final meant that the Champions League final was the last opportunity for Chelsea to get their hands on silverware.

Chelsea were drawn in Group B along with Schalke, Rosenborg and Valencia and the Blues progressed to the round-of-16 as the undisputed winners of the group without suffering a single defeat.

The Blues faced Greek giants Olympiacos in the last 16 of the competition. A resounding 4-0 victory at Stamford Bridge in the second leg was enough to progress to the quarter-finals after the first-leg in Athens had ended 0-0.

The quarter-final tie against Fenerbahce proved to be a much tougher one for Chelsea, as the Blues lost 2-1 away from home in the first leg. However, goals from Michael Ballack and Frank Lampard guided them to a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge and booked the Blues’ place in the last four with a 3-2 aggregate scoreline.

Chelsea faced Premier League rivals Liverpool in the semi-finals, with the first leg at Anfield ending in a 1-1 draw. The second leg at Stamford Bridge finished 3-2 in favour of Chelsea after extra time, as a brace from Didier Drogba sent the Blues through to their first ever UEFA Champions League final.

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Man United

Having won the Premier League in the 2007-08 season, Man United were high on confidence and Sir Alex sensed the opportunity to complete the double.

As a matter of fact, United went into the Champions League final without losing a single game, registering victories over Lyon, Roma and Barcelona in the knockout stages. 

En route to the final, United won nine and drew three of their 12 matches, eclipsing their record of four wins and six draws in the 10 games they played to reach the final in 1999.

Brief Review of the Game

Sir Alex went into the game with his preferred 4-4-3 system, with a back four of Rio Ferdinand, Nemanja Vidic, Patrick Evra and Wes Brown protecting Edwin van der Saar in goal.

Carrick and Scholes formed the double pivot in the midfield with Owen Hargreaves and Cristiano Ronaldo operating on either flank. Carlos Tevez and Wayne Rooney started up front.

Chelsea manager Avram Grant made a surprise decision by fielding Michael Essien at right-back alongside the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole and Ricardo Carvalho.

Claude Makelele started in a holding role in front of the back four with Lampard and Ballack operating in a more advanced role. Didier Drogba was complemented by Joe Cole and Florent Malouda up front.

Following a relatively lacklustre opening 20 minutes from both the teams, Paul Scholes and Makelele clashed in mid-air, prompting the referee to dish out a booking to both of them, with Scholes leaving the field to receive treatment for a bloody nose.

The opening goal didn’t take long to come though, as Wes Brown’s cross from the right was met with a well-timed header from Ronaldo, who put the ball past Petr Cech to make it 1-0.

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Rio Ferdinand’s headed clearance towards his own goal in the 33rd minute almost evaded the reach of Van der Sar but the Dutchman pulled off a brilliant one-handed stop, thus saving United the blushes and denying Chelsea an equaliser.

United were clearly the dominant side in the first half and they could have had a couple of more goals, only for Petr Cech to deny Carlos Tevez and Michael Carrick with his sharp anticipation.

Chelsea did, however, find the equaliser just at the stroke of halftime. Michael Essien’s pile driver from range, which deflected off both Vidic and Ferdinand, found Lampard, who sored with an easy finish to make it 1-1. The goal was a lucky one but it handed Chelsea the momentum heading into the interval, nevertheless.

With momentum on their side, Chelsea caught the game by the scruff of its neck following the restart and it was all one-way traffic in the second half, with the Blues keeping Man United on the back foot with some impressive attacking play.

Didier Drogba’s attempted finish from just outside the box struck the post in the 77th minute before the Ivorian came inches close to turning Joe Cole’s cross home for the winner four minutes from time.

With the scores tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation time, the game went into extra time and both the teams had a few golden opportunities to score the crucial second goal.

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Frank Lampard’s shot came back off the underside of the post, while Ryan Giggs saw his effort cleared off the line by John Terry. However, the tension and the pressure of the final finally had a negative impact on the proceedings late in the second half of extra time.

Ballack and Terry were apparently annoyed with Tevez over a throw-in incident and what started as a confrontation between three players ultimately turned into a melee involving all the 22 players on the pitch.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, Droga received a red card for slapping Vidic on the face, whilst Ballack also received a booking.

United though, didn’t have the time to exploit Chelsea’s numerical disadvantage and with both the teams still locked at 1-1, a penalty shootout was required to decide the fate of the final.

Tevez sent Cech the wrong way from the first penalty kick before Ballack shot powerfully past van der Sar. Carrick and Belletti also converted their respective attempts before Ronaldo’s shot was kept out by a diving Cech, giving Chelsea the advantage in the shootout.

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Lampard, Hargreaves, Cole and Nani all found the net and it was up to skipper John Terry to seal the deal for Chelsea. As both sets of fans watched on with anguish and nervousness, Terry lost his footing on a rainy night, and despite Van der Sar diving the wrong way, his scuffed effort went out off the crossbar.

Chelsea failed to grab their moment and Van der Sar kept out Nicolas Anelka’s penalty in sudden death, thus securing United’s third European Cup crown.

Terry and Drogba were in tears, as were most of the Blues fans in the stands, and the ecstasy amongst the Man United players and supporters made it all the more difficult for them to digest the defeat.

Indeed, it was agony for one and joy for another, but the 2007-08 UEFA Champions League final, the first-ever all-English final, proved to be an intriguing game of football.

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NewsNow

A summary of the Gino Pozzo era at Watford – how the Italian has taken the Hornets to a new height

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A summary of the Gino Pozzo era at Watford

Watford have gone through several radical changes after Italian businessman Giampaolo Pozzo and his son Gino bought the club’s ownership rights from Laurence Bassini back in 2012.

The Hornets were down in the Championship back then and had been away from the Premier League scheme of things since 2006-07, struggling in the second-tier for survival.

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Well, Watford seem to have come a long way since those days when their identity in English football was in danger of erosion. The fans in the 1980s would probably recall the times when the club used to upset the top-division giants regularly, compete in the UEFA Cup and operate in the upper reaches more often than not.

However, things have hardly been the same for the Hornets since the turn of the century and had it not been for Gino Pozzo, the Hertfordshire club could probably have been tottering in the third or fourth division by now.

Watford were not only in dire need of funds to help them in their surge for promotion when Pozzo took over but the Hornets also required someone who could lay down a solid platform, a competent administration to spearhead the club’s development in the right direction.

Looking at how the club has progressed over the years since Pozzo took charge, Watford’s impressive resurgence in English football is surprising.

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The Italian family has not only stabilised Watford financially but they have done an awful lot more in terms of developing the stadium and bringing about a change in the recruitment policy. In other words, Pozzo’s presence behind the scenes has been instrumental in the smooth running of affairs at Vicarage Road.

The Pozzo family boasts of the ownership rights of two other clubs in Europe, namely Granada in Spain and Udinese in Italy. They initially bought Udinese and despite not being considered as one of the giants in Italy, the club have managed to reach great heights in the Serie A over the years, thanks to the planned development and establishment of a proper structure at the top of the hierarchy.

Granada too have progressed leaps and bounds in recent times, with Pozzo transforming the club from third-tier strugglers in Spain to La Liga regulars.

Going by what he has done for the two other clubs, Watford have also enjoyed the same kind of patronage and support from their owners. There is a reason why he is like the messiah at Vicarage Road, as Pozzo has apparently always worked to take the club forward in the right direction.

The arrival of Pozzo at Watford has been marked by the establishment of a three-man leadership group at the helm of affairs consisting of himself, a technical director and an overall supervisor of business and matters related to administration.

Despite having loads of other matters to take care of, Pozzo hardly ever seems to stay aloof when it comes to making key decisions – ranging from the identification of players to the establishment of scouting networks and recruitment of managers.

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One of the marked features of his reign at Watford has been the establishment of an extensive scouting network all over the world, which has allowed the club to supplement their youth and development squad with quality talents on a regular basis.

Watford’s scouting network has put an end to the Hornets’ over-reliance on homegrown Britain-based players, with Pozzo bringing players on loan from several Italian clubs.

As evident from the way he has gone about things at Watford, Pozzo is a perfectionist who demands a lot from his players and also the managers.

He can be labelled as a visionary in some aspects given that he often anticipates things even before they happen, with his no-nonsense and honest handling of affairs as well as his passion and knowledge of football being a key factor behind Watford’s meteoric resurgence in England.

Being the boss at Vicarage Road, he doesn’t slow things down and is very quick and often a little ruthless with his decision-making, as clear from the frequent change of managers at the club.

His impatience with managers has often earned negative remarks from pundits but he seems to know what he is doing and what is best for the club moving forward. In other words, he is a man who doesn’t necessarily tolerate too many blunders and mistakes from his employees.

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As a matter of fact, Watford have had ten different managers in charge since the Pozzo family took over, starting from Gianfranco Zola to Javi Gracia.

He hasn’t hesitated to pull the trigger on any of them when he deemed the results to be unsatisfactory, although he seems to have finally settled down with Gracia at the helm of affairs.

Watford’s scintillating run of form in the Premier League this past season coupled with their FA Cup heroics apparently convinced Pozzo that Gracia is the ideal man to take the club forward and he rewarded him with a long-term deal until 2023.

Putting all the aforementioned factors together, it is not difficult to see how Gino Pozzo has worked wonders for Watford, not only with his financial backing but also with his appreciable decision-making and systematic handling of affairs.

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The result is there for everybody to see – the Hornets have come back to the forefront of English football following a long exile from the top-flight whilst also creating an identity of their own.

What Pozzo has failed to deliver in all these years is a trophy, although he came agonisingly close on a couple of occasions in the FA Cup. That shouldn’t be a big problem for the fans though, as the Hornets can now capitalise on the solid platform laid down by Pozzo and take strides towards challenging for a European spot next season.

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