OPPONENTS Sheffield United
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Saturday 9th November 2019
PREVIEW Promoted from the Championship last season, Sheffield United had been building to that point over a few years.  Chris Wilder had formed a disciplined unit, who defended well and had a couple of decent goal-scorers to spearhead a push for the top flight.

The team have continued that form in the Premier League looking a tough nut to crack with only eight goals conceded in eleven games putting them in sixth position.  Chris Basham had played in the Premier League previously with Blackpool, while others have tasted top flight football - Ravel Morrison (West Ham), Richard Stearman (Wolves), Enda Stevens (Aston Villa and played against Spurs in the Europa League when with Shamrock Rovers), Oli McBurnie (Swansea City), Mo Besic (on loan from Everton) and Phil Jagielka (returning to United from Everton).

Former Brentford defender John Egan is a tough tackling Irishman and is part of the competition with Stearman, Jagielka, Jack O'Connell and Basham vying for the central defensive positions.  They have height and strength in the middle of their defence, while the full backs are encouraged to push on.  We might not see too much of that on Saturday, with them likely hanging back to prevent the opportunity for Spurs to find space to break on them. 

The midfield work hard to win the ball and look forward for runners ahead of them.  John Lundstram (formerly of Everton), Northern Ireland international Oliver Norwood (started his career in the youth team at Manchester United), John Fleck (a tenacious ex-Glasgow Rangers midfielder), Mo Besic (a ball-winner who has represented Serbia) and Luke Freeman (signed from Gillingham by Arsenal, but never used) all fight for a place in the midfield.  Freeman has the running ability and can create chances, while Norwood dominates taking the dead-ball situations. 

In attack, they have the Sheffield United through and through Billy Sharp, who lives up to his name in and around the box.  He has moved a fair bit in his career, with  a transfer to Southampton being the furthest he has strayed from Yorkshire, playing a couple of times in their first season back in the top division in 2012-13.  He is a finisher of the top drawer and ranked as the highest goal-scorer in the 21st century with 220 goals last season, getting on the end of moves or creating goals out of very little.  Often paired with David McGoldrick, who was previously with Ipswich and Nottingham Forest, the Republic of Ireland international has good movement off the ball and can run with it at his feet.  Decent in the air, his height is a threat at set-pieces.  New signing Oli McBurnie hit a lot of goals for Swansea last season before moving for 17.5 million to Sheffield United in the summer, but is yet to show his goal-poaching form with only one goal in ten appearances so far. 

Two other forward signings are providing competition at the top end of the pitch, with Callum Robinson coming in as a young prospect from Preston North End, having begun his career at Aston Villa and Lys Mousset, who signed from Bournemouth and recently scored the winner against Arsenal.

There is a strong team ethic that Wilder instils into his side and they work really hard to prevent other teams playing.  That is not to say they don't play a bit themselves, with the side looking to break out of their set formation.  It will be a difficult task for Tottenham to break them down and unlike Red Star in midweek, who sat deep, but played open,. allowing Spurs to cut through them on occasion and we were particularly clinical on the night.  Lo Celso provided some astute passes, as did Ndombele, so if they play, they could be pivotal in opening up the Sheffield United defence.  Son is on top of his game at the moment, scoring some instinctive goals and hopefully, Dele can continue his rehabilitation to top form.

Harry Kane is due a goal and I think in a tight game, his finishing might be the difference between the sides.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2        Sheffield United   1
Hamstring victims Erik Lamela and Jan Vertonghen are both out of the game, while Hugo Lloris has just had an operation on his elbow, so will be out until the end of the year.  Nothing has been said about injuries that caused Aurier, Walker-Peters and Winks, so they might be in the match-day 18.

Sky Sports Premier League - Game of the Day - Saturday 20.30
Sky Sports Premier League - Highlights - Saturday 23.30; Sunday 02.30 & 08.00; Monday 03.00 & 14.00
Match of the Day BBC 1  (Highlights) Saturday 23.00; Sunday 07.30
Match of the Day 2  (Highlights)  Sunday  22.30
Sky Sports - Goals on Sunday  (Highlights)  Sunday 11.30; Monday 04.30

For coverage in all parts of the world, check here and here.

Radio :  
BBC LONDON 94.9FM (London area only), Digital Radio (London area only) &  Sky Channel 0152  (live coverage)
Commentary may be found on
>   BBC Radio Five Live (live coverage)  606/939 MW
TalkSport (DAB or 2nd89 MW)
Absolute Radio  (1215 AM/MW)

Internet :
The THFC Official website   Live webcast  - subscribers only
BBC London -  Live commentaries listed down the page.
TalkSport (DAB or 1089 MW)

Premier League Kick off 15.00
Tottenham Hotspur  1 (0) Sheffield United  1 (0)


Son  57m 34s


Baldock  77m 18s

Dier (foul on Baldock)  2
Foyth (foul on Fleck)   80


Norwood  (foul on Dele)  18
Basham  (foul on Son)  90+1 


Crowd :   59,781 Weather :  Chilly, raining
Referee :  Graham Scott (Oxfordshire) Assistant Referees :  Mr. Richard West.; Mr. Neil Davies
Fourth Official :  Darren Bond  
Video Assistant Referee :  Jon Moss Video Assistant Referee Assistant :  Simon Long
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.
Game time : -  90 + 8 minutes.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Sheffield United : kit


24  Serge AURIER  (27  Lucas MOURA  86)
  6  Davinson SANCHEZ
Eric DIER     
33  Ben DAVIES

17  Moussa SISSOKO
28  Tanguy NDOMBELE  (  8  Harry WINKS  46)

  7  Heung-Min SON 
18  Giovani LO CELSO
20  DELE Alli  (21  Juan FOYTH  72     )

10  Harry KANE  (c)

Unused subs: 
13  Michel VORM
Christian ERIKSEN

    1  Dean HENDERSON

  2  George BALDOCK 
  5  Jack O'CONNELL
12  John EGAN
  3  Enda STEVENS

  4  John FLECK
  6  Chris BASHAM
16  Oliver NORWOOD

17  David McGOLDRICK  (  8  Luke FREEMAN  90+5)
22  Lys MOUSSET  (11  Callum ROBINSON  87)

Unused subs: 
25  Simon MOORE

  9  Olly McBURNIE
10  Billy SHARP
27  Muhamed BESIC

Manager :  Mauricio Pochettino Manager :  Chris Wilder
Sponsor :   AIA Shirt sponsor :  Union Standard Group
Kit Supplier :  Nike Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

Another lethargic performance by Tottenham saw them salvage a point from this visit of Sheffield United, who played the best game of a visiting side of any that have come to the Tottenham Hotspur stadium so far this season. However, once again, the Video Assistant Referee played a major part in the game and a major part in frustrating fans from both sides. 

With two major decisions on goals to be made there was a four minute delay before disallowing United's first and then another minute or so deciding that their second would stand.  The delay in coming to these decisions, with the disallowed goal being "correctly" ruled out because John Lundstram has a toe ahead of Eric Dier's knee is factually correct, but if it takes that long to determine that an offside is right, is it truly 'Clear and Obvious' ?  Give the officials at Stockley Park with all their TV screens abut 20 seconds to come to an outcome.  If they can't do that, then is it 'Clear and Obvious' ?  And the lines they draw to determine offside are all subjective.  Where does one knee end and a toe begin ?  Deciding the moment that the ball is played is reasonably arbitrary too, as football is a dynamic game with the ball and players moving all the time (although more of that later).

VAR wasn't called into inaction when Son went down in the box, trying to keep his feet and score rather than falling to ground like other Premier League forwards you can think of.  So, when and where it is used are also in question.  After last week's over-reaction to Son's foul (and I'm not talking about the injury suffered by Gomes) at Everton, the whole system needs its own review to ensure that the game we watch isn't changed out of all recognition.  Great idea.  Poor application.

This week's rant about VAR over, let's get on with the action.  In Tottenham's case there wasn't too much to write about, as Sheffield United and were on the front foot from the start and as Baldock shifted the ball past Dier, he was brought down and the referee took the decision to book the Spurs defender in the second minute.  This should have set the tone for an endless stream of yellow cards, but they failed to arrive and when Tanguy Ndombele was fouled from behind ten minutes into the half in what would be a caution in most people's language, but because he played the pass, the referee played on and then the ball went out with no advantage was gained, but the play wasn't brought back for a free-kick.  Poor refereeing all round.

As it was, Spurs had defending to do against the opening onslaught from the Blades as the rain steadily fell on White Hart Lane.  Oliver Norwood returned Sanchez's headed clearance from a free-kick with interest, as the ball flicked off a player and Gazzaniga had to get his fingertips to the ball to take it over the bar, then another half-clearance from another corner gave Lundstram an opportunity, but he dragged his shot wide.  John Fleck was the next to test Paulo, with a low shot requiring the Argentine keeper to hit the turf to get behind the ball, but Spurs did start to put moves together and when Ndombele brought the ball down with a single touch to a spiralling clearance by a Sheffield defender, he slipped the ball to Harry Kane.  In what was to be a familiar theme through the afternoon, when Harry did receive the ball he was seized upon by any number of red and white shirts in his immediate vicinity.  He looked a bit of a forlorn figure, as the service to him wasn't great, but he is getting the attention his scoring record over the last few seasons deserves, so he is finding space and time on the ball at a premium at the moment.  He did get a chance to meet Aurier's right wing cross, low into the near post, but he couldn't get a fine enough touch on it and the ball ended up behind for  goal-kick. 

When former Bournemouth striker Lys Mousset was sent away by Enda Stevens' pass, it looked like he might break into the left side of the area, but Davinson Sanchez put in the first of a number of well-timed challenges that averted the danger.   Spurs had a little spell where they were putting some passes together and Lo Celso found a little space to fire a shot at goal from the right of centre 25 yards out, which flew wide of the far post.  Norwood was then booked for a crude attempt to stop Dele running past him and these sort of fouls, which are described by ex-professionals as "tactical" fouls are nothing more than professional fouls and probably deserve more than a yellow, but with the only other option being a red, not many referees are going to give that foul a pull back on the halfway line.

Gazzaniga again had to save a straight, but tamely hit shot from McGoldrick, Son put Aurier's pass into the Paxton Road end crowd and then Lo Celso and Ndombele exchanged passes to free Tanguy inside the right side of the box, but his cross was taken by Henderson.  It was end to end stuff and when Stevens' cross came in from the left wing, Sanchez left it and Lundstram didn't, but couldn't get a telling touch on the ball, sending it just wide of the far post with Gazzaniga scrambling.  Son had a shot blocked when his own corner eventually came back to him, Lundstram could have completed a first half hat-trick, but missing his two earlier chances was rounded off with a rasping effort from just inside the area that cannoned off Gazzaniga's right hand post and Ben Davies got in the way of Mousset's follow-up to divert the ball away for a corner.  It was a let-off for Tottenham, who were riding their luck at the back. 

A scramble at the other end saw Kane blocked out and then Ndombele had a shot blocked before Lo Celso won a corner, which fell out to Aurier and he put shi shot wide from 25 yards out.  Son was fouled to give Spurs a free-kick on the right wing and the clearance from it dropped for Tanguy, but he was fouled like many others in the 35 minutes before, but the referee waved play on and that allowed Sheffield United to get the ball away.  Giovani Lo Celso had a great chance when Son controlled Davies' pass on the left wing and put it in front of the Argentine midfielder, who measured a side-foot effort that agonisingly went a couple of feet the wrong side of the post.  John Lundstram luckily left his shooting boots in Sheffield, as he blazed another passable effort way over the bar in the last assault on goal of the first half.  It had been a half in which Spurs had to graft against the Blades, with a hefty dose of fortune in their favour, as the goal remained intact despite a number of good chances falling to the visitors.  Our slow build-up wasn't helping and allowed Sheffield United to push further up the field once they had crowded Spurs out when in possession.

At the start of the second half, Harry Winks ran out to replace Ndombele and his first touch was to give a pass straight to a Sheffield United player, but once he settled, he began picking up the ball and driving forward with it.  Davinson carried on his good work from the first half by blocking a shot from Mousset at the end of a strong run, while Spurs made some inroads around the edge of the United box that culminated with a curling shot by Son that flew just wide.  For once Mousset got the better of Sanchez, by taking McGoldrick's pass near the penalty spot and then turning Davinson to leave himself in front of goal, only to shoot wide of Gazzaniga's right post with the goal at his mercy.  Thank goodness The Blades were lacking a cutting edge.  Son had another chance when he ran into the box and looked to have contact made with him, but he tried to keep his feet and prod a shot at goal, which Henderson saved.  It was a bit rich of Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder to say that Son had done his best to win a penalty.  I respect the work that he has done with his club, but comments like this make him seem like many other mangers, who take cheap shots at players on the other side.

Sanchez made another impeccably timed challenge on Mousset as he ran into the Spurs box and tried to cut inside the Colombian defender.  When Son, Dele and Lo Celso played an intricate bit of passing outside the Sheffield area, Dele's ball looking for Kane on his right was a little ahead of him, but Stevens was tentative in what he was going to do with the ball and ended up nudging it back across goal, where Son picked it up and slid the ball under Henderson for what was really an undeserved lead.  The preceding 57 minutes hadn't really seen Spurs come that close to scoring, but you have to keep going and the little bit of fortune had balanced out much of the bounce of the ball going the other way for the first half.

As it was, the lead didn't last long.  2 minutes and 12 seconds to be precise.  The ball was played to Lundstram, breaking on the right wing in space and his cross was headed out by Eric Dier.  The ball was swept left by Sheffield United to Stevens and his low ball across the face of goal found McGoldrick ghosting in behind Dier to tap the ball into the vacant net to equalise.  Spurs had relaxed and let the Blades in for a leveller, but wait ... the referee was doing his best impression of a folk singer, putting his finger in his ear and leaving it there for four minutes, while the Stockley Park Stooges looked at as many different channels on their TV screens as they could before coming up with the decision that Lundstram had been offside.

Deflation in the red and white ranks, while the Spurs fans cheered, but you felt that it might have been a premature celebration.  McGoldrick hadn't given up and went for an acrobatic overhead kick and got it all wrong, followed by Dele producing a pass through the visiting defence to put Sonny in the left channel, but he was under pressure and the ball ran off for a goal-kick.  Pochettino brought on Foyth to go to a back five, which hinted that he was worried that Spurs would not be able to see the game out.

Kane was finding no joy as he got played the ball by Aurier, but found too many United shirts around him to get the ball out of his feet  and then Poch's fears came true.  There was a lot of space on their right wing and when McGoldrick played in it in front of Baldock.  He looked to cross the ball, but it came off the outside of his foot and swerved, missing Eric Dier's head and went in at the far post without anyone else touching it !  The good fortune Spurs had in the first period and in having McGoldrick's goal disallowed expired.  It was nothing more than they deserved, but an unkind way for it to happen, but these things even themselves out over the course of a season or so it is said !  Another VAR check and this time as the sides lined up for the restart they could actually get on with it. 

Spurs were keen to try and regain the lead with Winks making space on the right to put a cross in that just cleared Harry Kane's head, Son drove from an angle on the left for Henderson to save relatively easily and then Basham grabbed Son around the waist in the centre-circle in the Spurs half as it looked like Tottenham might be able to break away when a United move broke down.  Diving ?  I don't think so, but I am sure Wilder was happy with the conduct of his player in that incident.

Substitute Lucas Moura looked like he fancied a goal, shooting with little back-lift and generating a huge amount of power to make Henderson tip the ball over the bar, although it is questionable if he got anything on it, such was the force in his effort.  Son took the corner and the ball pin-balled around before going out for a corner, with a brief VAR look for a handball in there, but nothing given.  The next one got to Harry Kane at the far post, but he was stretching and although he got over it, he couldn't put it on target.

The game had a tempo about it that Sheffield United set in the first half, but Spurs did better after the break.  The Tottenham possession wasn't move quick enough in the first period and that allowed Sheffield United to get players back behind the ball easily.  Lo Celso was getting muscled out of it in the early stages but came into his own after the break and the movement off the ball became a little better, allowing options for the person on the ball to play rather than an optimistic ball hoping someone will get onto it.

Sheffield were a surprise, as they played a passing game that was refreshing compared to some teams who come here and set up shop not to concede.  That may be because they have been together for some time as a squad and are comfortable with a solid defence that rarely lets goals in.  A killer goal-scorer could benefit them and it was a surprise not to see either Billy Sharp or Oli McBurnie in the team at any stage.  Perhaps they felt that the more physical pairing of McGoldrick and Mousset would trouble Spurs more.

The boos at the final whistle are an indication that some Tottenham fans are expecting us to blow teams away whatever the circumstances.  This is a team that has perhaps lost it's way after the last few seasons, with some behind the scenes issues not helping things.  United beat Arsenal, so a draw is no disgrace and anyone looking at the balance of play will perhaps come to the conclusion that we didn't deserve much more than (or even) a point from the match.

It will be a while before things gel completely, but perhaps the shape of the new Pochettino side is forming and it will be a slow build.

The Polyphant

Match facts

Spurs failed to have a shot on target in the first 45 minutes for the first time since moving to the new stadium.

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How the players did
Paulo Gazzaniga Not too much to do today, but did it well.  Little chance with the flukey goal.
Ben Davies Solid, but left a lot of room behind him when Baldock scored.
Eric Dier Won a lot of tackles after being booked in the second minute and could have fallen foul of the ref again.  Passing could be better.
Davinson Sanchez Very good performance, with some excellent tackles when Sheffield threatened.
Serge Aurier Solid enough. Seems to be the crowd's favourite whipping boy at the moment.
Moussa Sissoko Performing up to his usual standard and got stronger as the game went on.
Tanguy Ndombele Showed good skill on the ball and was looking for the pass that would get through the United defence.  Pulled a groin, so was subbed at half-time.
Giovani Lo Celso Took hold of the game in the second half and showed some good passing and movement. 
Dele Alli Looking fitter, but trying back-heels in his own half surrendered possession in positions where it was dangerous.
Heung-Min Son Sharp and deadly for his goal.  Could have had a couple more, but didn't work the goalkeeper hard enough.
Harry Kane Little service left Harry frustrated.  Few chances, but kept working and linked play.
Harry Winks Made a difference when he came on.  Won and used the ball well.
Lucas Moura Almost made a match-winning impact with a fierce shot.
Juan Foyth Booked for almost his first tackle, but looking good on the ball and reading the game well.
Michel Vorm Not used.
Ryan Sessegnon Not used.
Toby Alderweireld Not used.


What you thought
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Other scores during this week :
Norwich City 0 Watford 2 Friday
Burnley 3 West Ham United London 0 Saturday
Chelsea 2 Crystal Palace 0 Saturday
Leicester City 2 Arsenal 0 Saturday
Newcastle United 2 Bournemouth 1 Saturday
Southampton 1 Everton 2 Saturday
Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 Aston Villa 1 Sunday
Manchester United 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 1 Sunday
Liverpool 3 Manchester City 1 Sunday


League Table  2019-20
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Liverpool 12 11 1 0 28 10 34 +18
2 Leicester City 12 8 2 2 30 8 26 +22
3 Frank Lampard's Chelsea 12 8 2 2 27 17 26 +10
4 Manchester City 12 8 1 3 35 13 25 +22
5 Sheffield United 12 4 5 3 13 9 17 +4
6 Woolwich Wanderers 12 4 5 3 16 17 17 -1
7 Bournemouth 12 4 4 4 15 15 16 0
8 Manchester United 12 4 4 4 13 11 16 +2
9 Wolverhampton Wanderers 12 3 7 2 16 15 16 +1
10 Burnley 12 4 3 5 17 18 15 -1
11 Brighton & Hove Albion 12 4 3 5 15 17 15 -2
12 Crystal Palace 12 4 3 5 10 16 15 -6
13 Newcastle United 12 4 3 5 11 18 15 -7
14 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 12 3 5 4 18 17 14 +1
15 Everton 12 4 2 6 13 18 14 -5
16 West Ham United London 12 3 4 5 17 21 13 -4
17 Aston Villa 12 3 2 7 17 20 11 -3
18 Watford 12 1 5 6 8 23 8 -15
19 Southampton 12 2 2 8 11 29 8 -18
20 Norwich City 12 2 1 9 11 28 7 -17

Position before match :  11th
Position after match :  12th
Position after the weekend :  14th


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