Harry Kane’s second strike in Tottenham’s 4-1 win over Crystal Palace on Sunday night means that he and Heung-min Son have now combined for more goals than any other duo in a single Premier League season.
The deadly pairing have always had a good understanding, but they have ascended to another level this term. Prior to the visit of Crystal Palace, Son and Kane had combined to score 13 goals during the 2020/2021 campaign.
As per Opta, that put them ahead of Alan Shearer and Mike Newell in the 1995/1996 campaign, as well as Les Ferdinand and Kevin Gallen for QPR back in 1994/1995, who both teamed up for 11 goals. In addition, their tally was already better than the 12 goals that Ryan Fraser and Callum Wilson combined for during the 2018/2019 term, when they were both playing for Bournemouth.
Most importantly, it also put them level with Shearer and Chris Sutton for Blackburn during the title-winning 1994/1995 season.
With the score already 3-1, the pair then broke the record against the Eagles with Son assisting Kane for Spurs’ fourth goal. The strike itself was emblematic of their understanding. It started with Erik Lamela floating a ball to the back post for the onrushing Son. The South Korean somehow managed to fly through the air and cushion it delicately into the path of Kane, who helped himself to the easiest of headed finishes.
This was not the only record that the England captain set against Palace either. By creating both of Gareth Bale’s goals, he also became the first Spurs player since Jurgen Klinsmann in May 1998 to score twice and provide two assists in a single Premier League game.
Joan Laporta has won the Barcelona presidential election by a landslide, beating off competition from Victor Font and Toni Freixa.
Laporta has been a frontrunner since announcing his candidacy and was previously Barça president between 2003 and 2010, in what was one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.
His ascension is now all but confirmed, with an exit poll conducted by Catalan television company TV3 (via Sky Sports) projecting him to win a majority of votes. Laporta is expected to earn 58.3% of ballots cast with Font only expected to win 31.3% and Freixa 9.3%.
Laporta ran a flamboyant campaign, posting a massive poster of himself a stone’s throw from the Santiago Bernabeu and also claiming that Lionel Messi would depart the club if he did not win the election. Now, he faces a huge challenge to get Barcelona back on an even keel.
2020 was an annus horribilis for the club both on and off the field. The footballing low point was an 8-2 humbling by Bayern Munich, but there was plenty of other misery to go around.
In the boardroom, the coronavirus pandemic plunged the Blaugrana into financial chaos, with players taking two separate pay cuts. There was also the Messi fiasco, where he tried to force a move away only to end up staying in Catalonia, at least until the end of this season when his contract expires.
More recently, the man that Laporta is succeeding as president, Josep Maria Bartomeu, was arrested as part of a police investigation into the ‘Barçagate scandal’, alongside several other club officials.
It is reported that Bartomeu attempted to avoid the club auditing payments to l3Ventures – a company hired to spread messages in defence of the Barça board on social media – by splitting the contract three ways.
The 2020 summer transfer window was a quieter affair than we are used to enjoying, but we still saw some exciting moves confirmed around Europe.
Italy has become a hotbed for current and former Premier League stars in recent years, with many transforming their careers from flops in England, to top of the pops in Italia.
Romelu Lukaku is currently destroying Serie A in his second year away from Manchester United, and looks set to win the scudetto with Inter to end their decade-long drought. Excellent business well done.
But of the new arrivals this year (including those who completed permanent moves after previous loans), who is lighting up Serie A this year?
Southampton fans were probably scratching their heads in bemusement at how Wesley Hoedt had earned himself a move back to Lazio in the summer, after his catastrophic displays for Saints.
Well, it’s only a loan deal with an option to buy, and most importantly, he was very much a last resort in the hunt for a backup. Injuries have dictated when the Dutchman has actually taken to the field this season and, well, he’s been a disaster.
Key mistakes and penalty clangers in massive matches tell the story of a man who is being forced to play at a level well above his own.
Having seen all the success that Inter have enjoyed in raiding Man Utd’s most unwanted, Lazio had a crack of their own with Andreas Pereira. One goal and a single assist in 16 bit-part appearances stink of a man who’s still to find his level.
In fairness to the midfielder, it’s almost impossible to shift Sergej Milinkovic-Savic or Luis Alberto from the Aquile’s engine room, and he has been handed little chance to really stake a claim for a starting place.
It was not the fresh start Pereira hoped for, that’s for sure.
Roma has become a bit of an old folks’ home of late, and the arrival of the 30-plus Pedro came as little surprise. The Spaniard was awarded a hero’s welcome upon touching down in the Italian capital, and sent his new followers into mayhem when he struck a stunning winner against Udinese.
That was early on in the season, and since then, he’s not done much else. The 33-year-old has suffered some injury woes which ruled him out for a good chunk of the campaign, but he’s back and hoping to make a difference.
There’s no time better than the present, Pedro.
Man Utd have made a habit of offloading their misfits in Italy, and Milan were more than happy to take Diogo Dalot off their hands. Unfortunately for the Portuguese defender, the Rossoneri are stacked in this position.
Theo Hernandez and Davide Calabria have dazzled at full-back this season, and Dalot has been restricted to impressing in the Europa League, where, in fairness, he has done a good job.
He did start against Verona on Sunday though, and scored a screamer in a 2-0 win. The start of a run in the side?
Tiemoue Bakayoko has definitely found his happy place in Italy. The Frenchman endured a miserable spell in England with Chelsea, but temporary periods with Milan and Napoli have helped him recapture the eye of the tiger.
Now anchoring the Partenopei’s midfield, the 26-year-old is a consistent performer and looks to be well at home. Make this one permanent, Tiemoue, and give up on the Chelsea dream.
This one is a bit of a surprise. It’s no news that Roberto Pereyra is full of potential and can be a match-winner on his day. The problem is, that day doesn’t roll around often enough.
After suffering relegation with Watford, the Argentine took the underground escape tunnel to Udine, where he is now enjoying the comfort of mid-table in Italy.
Pereyra has been an important part of this average success, scoring three goals and managing five assists in Serie A. Much better than slugging it out in the Championship.
Smalldini is back in Italy! Chris Smalling was a revelation during his loan spell at Roma last season, so much so that the Giallorossi made the move permanent this summer.
Unfortunately, the English centre-back hasn’t been the hero of last year, although admittedly, that’s through no fault of his own. The 31-year-old has been riddled with fitness issues, but he now appears to have come out the other side of that dark tunnel.
Smalling is back, and he’ll be crucial to Roma’s top four ambitions.
Inter took a gamble on Alexis Sanchez in 2019/20, and although he was dealt a cruel injury blow early on, he still did enough to convince the Nerazzurri to make that loan move permanent.
And considering he is very much playing second fiddle to Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, the Chilean hasn’t let that get him down. He has chipped in with five goals and five assists, including a vital brace in a recent 2-1 victory over Parma.
Should Inter finally end their title drought, then Sanchez can tinkle away on his grand piano in peace, knowing he has played his part.
This deal materialised in January 2020, and it could be one of Milan’s most important in the past decade. The Rossoneri have struggled for defensive cover, and the poor form of captain Alessio Romagnoli forced Stefano Pioli to take action in the winter window.
The silky, sultry voice of Paolo Maldini was enough to convince Chelsea star Fikayo Tomori to join the Italian giants on loan, with an option to buy at the end of the season.
He’s seen his opportunities limited, as Pioli has tried to stand by his captain, but when presented with the chance to shine, he’s grabbed it with both hands. Tomori’s display in a 2-1 win over Roma was particularly impressive. He looks made for Serie A football.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan arrived in Rome in the summer of 2019 and had an impressive first season, but it’s since he made his loan move from Arsenal permanent that he’s really come to the fore.
The 32-year-old has served up 18 goal contributions in 25 appearances – that’s nine goals and nine assists, to be exact – and he is the talisman of this attacking Roma side.
The Armenian is aiming to fire the Giallorossi to Champions League qualification, which is a stage he more than deserves for his terrific form and undeniable talents.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed that Luke Shaw was only cleared to play against Manchester City during the warm up, with the defender going on to score Manchester United’s second goal in a 2-0 win.
The victory moved United up to second in the Premier League table and also ended City’s incredible 21-game winning streak in all competitions.
The match got off to an incredible start when Anthony Martial was fouled in the box after 43 seconds, with Bruno Fernandes converting the resulting penalty. United would then double their lead just after half-time courtesy of a precise finish from Shaw. City had a few chances of their own throughout proceedings but in the end United were good value for their win.
Speaking after the game, Solskjaer revealed that he was not certain that Shaw would start the game until just before kick off.
“Absolutely incredible, he was a massive doubt until after the warm up, he had to wait until after the warm up to be cleared to play, so Alex was ready,” he explained (via Goal).
“Luke’s performance was top, he’s aggressive hard to play against one against one. When he goes forward on those runs he’s unstoppable. He’s improved so much and is improving all the time and I’m delighted for him.”
Solskjaer also praised his side’s display as a whole, saying: “I feel we’re a better team than what we were 12, 16, 18 months ago we have improved massively, more robust and resilient and there’s more personality in the team, that’s what I like.”
Next up, United face Milan in the Europa League on Thursday, who beat Hellas Verona to go within three points of Serie A leaders Inter on Sunday. The game will see Rossoneri striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic return to face his former side, while Diogo Dalot could also feature against his parent club.
Jose Mourinho has been very critical of the compacted football schedule in recent weeks. And not even in an ‘old man yells at cloud’ way, either.
Tottenham will play a total of six games in March, plus many of their internationals could face up to three more games with their countries at the end of the month (remind me why we’re doing that again?).
A normal March for a Europa League side would usually be hectic enough, but Spurs already had 43 games under their belt since September heading into Sunday evening’s 4-1 win at home to Crystal Palace.
Mourinho has had to lean on the fringes of his squad to navigate an even busier period recently. He’s even swallowed his pride and brought Dele Alli and Gareth Bale back in from the cold, and given debuts to five players from the Under-18s since January.
Tottenham have been through various iterations since Mourinho’s appointment. The highs have been super, but the lows have been among the lowest since the days of Juande Ramos.
Despite assertions that Mourinho wasn’t backed (a more cynical man than I would call this gaslighting), Spurs fans came into the season and out of the summer transfer window with cautious optimism. And after a promising start to the season that peaked with a 2-0 win at home to Arsenal to stay top of the Premier League, there was a feeling that the Portuguese was truly back. He had his dogs needed to build a real challenger.
And then, yeah, it fell apart. Tottenham dropped to as low as ninth in the winter and reports of squad unhappiness bubbled to the surface. On the pitch, Spurs looked devoid of ideas other than hoping Son Heung-min or Harry Kane could pluck something out of nothing. It was effective in the short-term, but not sustainable.
Spurs have now won five of their last six games in all competitions and are beginning to build some momentum, though their tactical blueprint remains sketchy. The press is uncoordinated, the patterns of play aren’t consistent, and the identity doesn’t really stretch beyond running around a bit.
And yet maybe this is the best way for them to end the season.
It’s too late for Mourinho to build a winning machine now, and while modernising some ideas would be welcome, it’s not the time to tinker too much (there’s going to be a hell of a lot of squad rotation to deal with anyway).
Bale’s recent resurgence has taken the pressure off of Kane and Son to be the heroes every week, and Dele’s reintegration has given them another spark of ingenuity in the final third.
An army of two wouldn’t have been able to carry Tottenham to Europa League glory or back into the top four, but if everyone steps up (even if not in unison), then that might just be enough to succeed in the weirdest season of all. Do your own job and worry about that – no team is going to be perfect right now.
The supporting cast are beginning to play their part as we enter the business end of the season, and everyone will need to hold their end of the bargain in order to ensure this campaign is a success.
Spurs are now up to sixth and two points off the Champions League places. There are still a few more twists and turns in this season yet.