Raheem Sterling's future at Manchester City remains unclear.

The England winger has only made three Premier League starts this season.

Sterling, who starred during England's run to the Euro 2020 final, could now be on the move.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA RESOLUTE ON RAHEEM

Barcelona are determined to sign Raheem Sterling from Manchester City despite the Premier League club's refusal to let him leave, reports Manchester Evening News.

The Catalans want to bring Sterling to Camp Nou in January on a loan deal, with the forward open to a move after losing his regular starting spot at City.

Sterling still has 18 months remaining on his City contract and the English champions have no intention of accepting an offer for him.

 

ROUND-UP

Manchester City are set to launch a new bid for Tottenham forward Harry Kane in January, claims ESPN. City pursued Kane over the off-season but the Spurs skipper ultimately remained in London after Tottenham declined their approaches.

- El Nacional reports Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti has told the club to sell or release Gareth Bale. The Wales forward has only made three appearances this term and is contracted to Los Blancos only until the end of the season.

Hakim Ziyech is unhappy at Chelsea and could be lured to Borussia Dortmund, claims The Mirror. The Morocco winger could move in January, having been unable to re-discover his best form at Chelsea after moving from Ajax in 2020.

Norwich City are set to offer ex-Aston Villa boss Dean Smith their vacant manager role, according to Sky Sports. Smith was sacked as Villa coach this week.

- The Daily Record claims former Feyenoord coach Giovanni van Bronckhorst will hold talks with Rangers about taking over as manager after Steven Gerrard's departure for Villa.

Hat-trick hero Harry Kane was happy with the ruthlessness shown by England as they easily swept aside Albania 5-0 at Wembley Stadium to put themselves on the verge of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup.

Five first-half goals from the Three Lions sealed the victory on Friday, meaning that Gareth Southgate's team need just a point from their final game in Group I against the lowest-ranked team in the world, San Marino, on Monday.

Kane has come in for some criticism at club level this season after scoring just once in 10 Premier League appearances for Tottenham, but he was back to his best for his country, scoring a perfect hat-trick, with a header followed by one with his left foot and one with his right.

Speaking to BBC Radio Five Live after the win, Kane said: "[It was a] great night for the team first and foremost. An important result for us and just the way we went about it.

"To go 5-0 up at half-time shows the character of the squad. We had a bit of a disappointing performance last time we were here at Wembley and we wanted to put that right, and we did that. A great night all round and we can look forward to Monday.

"We were looking to be ruthless all around the pitch, not just in the box or the finishing, we wanted to make it a tough night for them to show the country and the world what we are capable of and I think we did that.

"We will keep doing what we are doing, keep working hard as a team and a squad and hopefully keep improving. Still to get the job done on Monday."

On his own form, Kane was keen to dismiss the relevance of the noise around his performances after going level with Jimmy Greaves in England's all-time scorer list (44).

"Whenever I score I seem to be sharp, whenever I don't, I'm not sharp anymore. That is part and parcel of being a striker. The most important thing is we are moving forward as a team."

England boss Gareth Southgate was equally pleased with his team's efforts, and was understandably effusive about their first-half showing, saying to ITV: "The first half was fantastic, as well as we've played for a long time. It was hard to maintain that.

"We're best when we have an edge. We didn't produce what we should against Hungary, but we had a game tonight that could put us on the verge of qualification for the World Cup.

"I thought Harry gave a brilliant centre forward's performance - held the ball up, played other people in. HIs all-round game was excellent."

Southgate was also asked about rumours that he will sign a new contract. He responded: "We need a point [to qualify] and it would be wrong for my attention to be anywhere else. It's an irrelevance for me. I'm under contract, I'm very well backed and supported and my focus is just on getting qualification done."

Harry Kane scored a perfect hat-trick as England moved within one point of qualification for the 2022 World Cup after a ruthless first-half performance saw them win 5-0 against Albania at Wembley Stadium on Friday.

Kane's treble and goals from Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson - all in the first 45 minutes - sealed a comfortable win for the Three Lions, leaving them needing only to avoid defeat in San Marino on Monday in their final game in Group I to book their place at Qatar 2022.

The visitors were all over the place defensively, looking a shadow of the team that had won three of their previous four away games in the group.

England slowed things down in the second half with the game already well won and Gareth Southgate was even able to rest Kane for the final 30 minutes ahead of the trip to San Marino.

The hosts took the lead in the ninth minute when a superb free-kick from Reece James found an unmarked Maguire at the back post and the Manchester United man thundered his header past Thomas Strakosha.

Myrto Uzuni had a glorious chance to equalise five minutes later when Kyle Walker played a loose pass back to Jordan Pickford, but England's goalkeeper denied him.

It was 2-0 in the 18th minute, Henderson playing a one-two with Phil Foden on the right before lifting in a delicate cross to give Kane a simple header.

Henderson then got in on the act himself as he played another one-two, this time with Kane, and the Liverpool captain finished it off himself with his left foot to make it 3-0 before the half-hour mark.

Kane got his second and England's fourth in the 34th minute by firing past Strakosha with his left foot after being played in by Raheem Sterling. It was the England skipper's 38th competitive goal for England, beating the record set by Wayne Rooney.

The Tottenham man then completed his perfect hat-trick in first-half stoppage time when he executed a sublime scissor kick with his right foot from a Foden corner to make it 5-0 before the break.

The second half was a much quieter affair, though Southgate was able to give a senior international debut to Arsenal youngster Emile Smith Rowe, who replaced Raheem Sterling with 15 minutes remaining. 

What does it mean? Southgate continues to impress

This game was Gareth Southgate's 67th in charge of England, the joint-most of any England manager since Sir Bobby Robson left in 1990, and equalling Sven-Goran Eriksson's tally between 2001 and 2006.

Southgate has won more games (43) than Eriksson could (40) and his latest victory was never in doubt here.

A single point in San Marino will see England qualify for Qatar 2022, and ensure that the Three Lions have progressed to every major tournament since Euro 2008.

Defence is the best form of attack for England

Southgate has often been criticised for his team selections being on the cautious side, and he went into this one with five defenders and two defensive-minded midfielders in his starting XI.

His team then proceeded to tear Albania to shreds in the first half, having 71 per cent of the ball, taking 11 shots and banging in five goals.

England have now scored 42 goals in 2021 - their most ever in a calendar year, overtaking their previous record of 39 in 1908.

Lack of discipline hurts Albania

Albania have had a good qualifying campaign, winning five of their previous eight games heading into this.

They always looked to be on a hiding to nothing against a determined England though and did not help themselves by picking up three bookings in first 25 minutes, making looking after Sterling, Foden and Kane all the trickier.

Edoardo Reja's team were either too strong or too weak in the tackle, only winning 36.9 per cent of their duels.

What’s next?

England travel to San Marino while Albania host Andorra in the final round of UEFA World Cup qualifiers in Group I on Monday.

Harry Kane has described how criticism of his brother, who is also his agent, has been "difficult to take" after the Tottenham striker failed to secure a move to Manchester City.

After registering 28 goals and 16 assists in all club competitions last season, Kane then netted four times for England in their run to the final of Euro 2020, which they ultimately lost to Italy on penalties as the striker continues to be frustrated in his search for silverware.

As a result, a big-money move to replace the outgoing Sergio Aguero at City appeared to be on the cards for the 28-year-old, with Kane missing a portion of pre-season training as negotiations rumbled on.

However, Spurs held firm and Kane remained in north London, prompting criticism of his brother's handling of the situation – something the England captain found difficult to deal with.

"Whatever the circumstance, whenever there is stuff being written about your family, it's always maybe a little bit difficult to take, especially when it's stuff that's negative," Kane said.

"In the summer, there was a lot of stuff about my brother being my agent. That's where we stick together. I know what he does for me as an agent, I know what he does for me as a brother, and that's all that matters. The rest is just noise.

"When things are difficult, it's important that you talk about it and not just hide it and suck it up. But it's important that you have people around you that you can trust to do that. That's what I’ve got."

Kane has looked a shadow of his former self this term, managing just one goal and one assist in 10 Premier League appearances. 

Nuno Espirito Santo was replaced by Antonio Conte with Spurs ninth in the table, and Kane feels that he is now in the right frame of mind to put an end to his poor form.

"I’ve always tried to deal with things in this way – good or bad, just open up," Kane said. "Overall, I feel like mentally I am in a good place, and I'm really ready to go over this tough period in the winter."

Kane is in Gareth Southgate's England squad for their remaining World Cup qualifiers, facing Albania on Friday and San Marino on Monday.

The Three Lions are three points clear of Poland at the top of Group I, meaning four points would guarantee qualification regardless of other results.

England and Tottenham star Harry Kane believes he coped well with the transfer speculation linking him to Premier League champions Manchester City.

Kane was heavily tipped to join City, but a move did not materialise during the previous transfer window and the Tottenham forward has struggled for form this season.

The 28-year-old had initially not returned for pre-season training and while he has committed to Spurs for the time being, Kane has looked a shadow of his usual self in London, where Antonio Conte has since replaced Nuno Espirito Santo in the dugout.

Kane has scored only one goal in the Premier League – last month's 3-2 win over Newcastle United, while he has netted seven across all competitions this term, including five in the Europa Conference League.

On the eve of England's World Cup qualifier against Albania on Friday, Kane was asked about his Euro 2020 hangover.

"Obviously, there's a lot of talk and a lot of speculation over the summer, the first real time that probably happened to me in my career," Kane told reporters after featuring in England's run to the Euro 2020 final, which they lost to Italy.

"But that's part and parcel of learning, that's part and parcel of being a big player, having to deal with those situations. And I think I dealt with it well. And now it's just about focusing.

"There is still a long way to go at club level. And now, for me, it's just about finishing these two games strongly with England and finish off what's been a great calendar year."

Kane – whose Spurs are ninth in the table and six points adrift of the top four during the international break – added: "Whether I'm doing really well or the goals aren't quite coming, it's just to work hard, train hard, work hard for the team. And that's what I've done my whole career.

"Obviously, there's not been many spells, for example, for club not scoring as many as I've scored so far this year. But in terms of an England calendar year, it's been a great year for me personally, and I hope to continue that tomorrow night."

England face Albania in Group I, knowing a win would see them move within a point of qualifying for Qatar 2022, assuming second-placed Poland do not fail to win in Andorra.

Gareth Southgate's England are unbeaten in their last 18 matches in all competitions – their best undefeated run since going 19 in a row without defeat between November 1965 and November 1966.

This will be Southgate's 67th match in charge of England – the joint-most of any England manager since Bobby Robson left in 1990, equalling Sven-Goran Eriksson's tally between 2001 and 2006.

Southgate has already won more games (42) than Eriksson (40), with only Sam Allardyce (100 per cent) and Fabio Capello (67 per cent) having a better win ratio for England than Southgate (64 per cent).

Kane added: "It's always about getting back to the basics, getting back to the training pitch, working hard there and doing my best. Obviously, we play a lot of games throughout the year. There's not much time to recover and reflect on things.

"So any time you can just get on that training pitch, work on a few things, get back to what you know best is important, and that's definitely what I try to do."

Gareth Southgate has confirmed that Mason Mount and Luke Shaw remain doubts for England's World Cup qualifier against Albania, but Jack Grealish is back in training and is set to be available for the clash at Wembley Stadium on Friday.

It will be the Three Lions' final home game of the year and a win will see them move within one point of qualifying for Qatar 2022 from Group I, assuming second-placed Poland do not fail to win in Andorra.

The England manager has already lost Marcus Rashford, James Ward-Prowse and Declan Rice to injury from his initial squad, with Emile Smith Rowe the only replacement called up.

Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, when asked about the availability of Mount (dental) and Shaw (concussion), Southgate said "I've got to check in with our medical staff for our update. The longer it goes, the more unlikely it is.

"Mason has to recover from his dental surgery. Luke didn't pass his [head injury assessment] after the first day and rightly, we have to follow the guidelines with that.

"Jack Grealish has trained and is ready if required."

Southgate was asked how Arsenal youngster Smith Rowe has settled into the squad after his first senior call-up.

"He has settled really well," he added. "He obviously knows a couple of his club teammates and Phil [Foden] from the U17s. This is a group that makes new players very welcome so it's not a difficult environment to settle in and his quality has been apparent from the way he has trained.

"We have always worked on the basis that we need a strong squad because you will get injuries. We have depth and we have players who have been waiting for opportunities to play."

England captain Harry Kane was also present at the media conference and emphasised the need for he and his team-mates to brush off the disappointment of their 1-1 draw at Wembley in their previous qualifier against Hungary.

Kane said "Whenever you have a disappointing game, or you don't reach the standards you normally reach, it kind of wakes you up a little bit and makes you realise there's still work to do, still more to improve on.

"Three points from that game would have really helped towards securing qualification, so now it's about turning it round and responding to that game. We've had a great week of preparation but it's all about performing when the pressure's on and the team have done that before."

Kane was also asked about his own start to the season, having scored only once in his first 10 Premier League games for Tottenham. He was heavily linked with a move to Manchester City in the last transfer window, but denied that it has had an influence on his performances.

"Losing a European final for your country at Wembley will probably stay with me the rest of my career. You never really get over those things, unless we go and win a major tournament. That always stings but I'm pretty used to getting back into things," Kane said.

"There was a lot of speculation over the summer, that's the first real time that's happened to me. But that's part and parcel of being a big player, having to deal with those situations, and I think I dealt with it well. Now it's about focusing. There's still a long way to go at club level and we've got these two games to finish off what's been a great calendar year [for England]."

Emile Smith Rowe has impressed for Arsenal this term, but he is now revelling in getting the chance to train and play alongside a Tottenham star.

Smith Rowe – who is Arsenal's joint-top scorer in the Premier League this season with four goals – was initially left out of Gareth Southgate's England squad for this month's World Cup qualifiers against Albania and San Marino.

However, the withdrawals of James Ward-Prowse and Marcus Rashford, as well as doubts over Mason Mount's fitness, resulted in the 21-year-old midfielder linking up with Southgate's senior squad at St George's Park.

Smith Rowe is thrilled by the opportunity, though perhaps risked the wrath of Arsenal fans as he singled out training with Harry Kane – England's captain and Spurs' talisman, albeit one who has struggled for form this season – as a particularly surreal moment. 

"Obviously I play against these guys every week but for England it's always different," he told reporters.

"Wearing the same training kit and passing the ball to each other – it's crazy to be alongside these great players. Harry Kane, captain of England, what he's done – it's crazy to be training with him. [Raheem] Sterling as well.

"I always knew training would be difficult. It still hasn't sunk in I'm actually here yet."

Smith Rowe has joined club-mate Bukayo Saka in the squad.

Saka impressed at Euro 2020, though the youngster was one of three England players to miss a penalty in the shoot-out defeat to Italy in the final.

"Me and Bukayo are so close off the pitch, I'm so happy for him every time he plays for England," Smith Rowe said.

"It's extra special to be here with him, we've both come up from Hale End [the Arsenal academy]. It's a big moment for us and for Arsenal as well."

Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic is winning plenty of admirers.

The 21-year-old Serbian has netted 10 times in 12 appearances at club level this season.

Vlahovic is currently under contract until June 23, although La Viola want him to sign an extension.

TOP STORY – PSG TO ENTER VLAHOVIC RACE

Paris Saint-Germain will enter the race to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, claims Le10Sports.

The Parisians are lining up the Serbian striker as a potential successor to Kylian Mbappe should he exit the club when his contract expires at the end of this season, with Real Madrid circling.

Hot property Vlahovic is being pursued by JuventusLiverpool and Tottenham.

ROUND-UP

- Unai Emery will not be the first permanent manager in Newcastle United's new era, BBC Sport journalist and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague understands. The Basque coach is set to stay at Villarreal for now, though his job there is under threat amid a poor start to 2021-22.

- The Sun reports Antonio Conte's arrival at Tottenham has seen Harry Kane abandon any plans he had to quit the club. Kane apparently wished to join Manchester City during the most recent transfer window.

- New Spurs boss Conte wants to sign Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, according to Metro. Conte also has Inter defender Stefan de Vrij in his sights, claims Football Insider.

Milan are in the race to sign talented River Plate star Julian Alvarez in the off-season, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Fiorentina have also shown interest in 21-year-old Alvarez, who has four caps for Argentina.

Norwich City are considering a move to replace embattled manager Daniel Farke with former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, claims the Daily Mail. The Canaries have only two points from 10 games following their return to the Premier League. Howe has also been linked with the vacant Newcastle job.

Newcastle want to make Inter's Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic their first major signing in January, says The Sun. Brozovic is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lazio are looking to convince Luiz Felipe to ink a new deal with the club amid interest from BarcelonaSevilla and Real Betis, reports CalcioMercato. The Brazilian centre-back's contract expires at the end of this season.

Fiorentina forward Dusan Vlahovic is winning plenty of admirers.

The 21-year-old Serbian has netted 10 times in 12 appearances at club level this season.

Vlahovic is currently under contract until June 23, although La Viola want him to sign an extension.

TOP STORY – PSG TO ENTER VLAHOVIC RACE

Paris Saint-Germain will enter the race to sign Fiorentina's Dusan Vlahovic, claims Le10Sports.

The Parisians are lining up the Serbian striker as a potential successor to Kylian Mbappe should he exit the club when his contract expires at the end of this season, with Real Madrid circling.

Hot property Vlahovic is being pursued by JuventusLiverpool and Tottenham.

ROUND-UP

- Unai Emery will not be the first permanent manager in Newcastle United's new era, BBC Sport journalist and Spanish football expert Guillem Balague understands. The Basque coach is set to stay at Villarreal for now, though his job there is under threat amid a poor start to 2021-22.

- The Sun reports Antonio Conte's arrival at Tottenham has seen Harry Kane abandon any plans he had to quit the club. Kane apparently wished to join Manchester City during the most recent transfer window.

- New Spurs boss Conte wants to sign Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, according to Metro. Conte also has Inter defender Stefan de Vrij in his sights, claims Football Insider.

Milan are in the race to sign talented River Plate star Julian Alvarez in the off-season, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. Fiorentina have also shown interest in 21-year-old Alvarez, who has four caps for Argentina.

Norwich City are considering a move to replace embattled manager Daniel Farke with former Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, claims the Daily Mail. The Canaries have only two points from 10 games following their return to the Premier League. Howe has also been linked with the vacant Newcastle job.

Newcastle want to make Inter's Croatian midfielder Marcelo Brozovic their first major signing in January, says The Sun. Brozovic is out of contract at the end of the season.

Lazio are looking to convince Luiz Felipe to ink a new deal with the club amid interest from BarcelonaSevilla and Real Betis, reports CalcioMercato. The Brazilian centre-back's contract expires at the end of this season.

Tottenham moved quickly after sacking Nuno Espirito Santo on Monday, appointing Antonio Conte as his successor just a day later.

The swift changeover is a huge departure from the shambles Spurs found themselves embroiled in during pre-season when initially hiring Nuno, who was apparently way down their list of candidates to replace Jose Mourinho.

Conte was said to have been Spurs' ideal choice back then but was reluctant to jump straight back into a job after leaving Inter. But now he does find himself in charge at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and he's got plenty of work on his hands.

While their 15 points from 10 Premier League matches is by no means a disaster as they sit ninth in the table, the major concerns relating to Spurs have been the style of play and Harry Kane's form.

With this in mind, Stats Perform delves into the Opta numbers to see what Spurs fans can expect from the Italian.

Undoubted pedigree

It really is a sign of the times – and the Premier League's financial might – that Tottenham are able to sack a coach they never really wanted and bring in the bloke who won Serie A just last season.

Granted, Inter winning the Scudetto was hardly a fairytale story, and they spent a fair amount of money to build the team that got the job done, but you can't deny the fine job Conte did in two years there.

His first season saw them narrowly miss out to Juve by a single point, while they also got to the Europa League final only to lose to Sevilla – that was hardly a disgrace given the Spaniards have never lost a Europa League/UEFA Cup final.

It was clear to see Inter were building to something and in 2020-21 they got their first Serie A title in 11 years, ending the Juve domination that stretched back to 2010-11 and coincidentally began with Conte as coach.

Of course, it could be argued that Conte's return to Italian football was timed perfectly, with Juve slipping as a force and Serie A waiting for another team to take over, but there's no getting away from the fact Inter were dominant for a massive part of the season – they were top from matchday 22 all the way through to the end of the season.

After a 2-1 loss at Sampdoria on January 6, Inter did not lose again before sealing the title, with the 3-2 defeat away to Juve on the penultimate day of the season having no impact on the Nerazzurri's end position.

Conte turned Inter from perennial underachievers to champions, and while money was spent, so many of those brought in improved significantly under his guidance as well.

The system

Conte's tactical tendencies are well-publicised. In fact, there aren't many coaches in world football who are more associated with a specific system than he is with his.

During his last spell in the Premier League, which included one title success, his Chelsea lined up with a back three in all but six of his 78 top-flight matches.

In the long run, Spurs fans can expect such a set-up to lead to greater pressing intensity. While Inter's 294 high turnovers may have only been enough to rank sixth in Serie A (and it would have been the same in the Premier League) last term, that total was still far more than Tottenham (228), the third-lowest in the English top flight.

Among the two sides with even fewer high turnovers than Spurs were Nuno's Wolves (205).

Inter's 12.8 PPDA (opposition passes allowed per defensive action) for 2020-21 was roughly average across Serie A and the Premier League, suggesting Inter didn't necessarily do their most aggressive pressing from the front.

Additionally, it could be argued that Spurs actually have a group of players well-suited to making the most of an intense press. Of course, the Nerazzurri's high turnovers total was much greater, but when it comes to efficiency, Spurs were slightly better in 2020-21.

Spurs' shot-ending high turnovers accounted for 16.2 per cent of their total, while that figure was 15 per cent for Inter. They both scored five goals from such situations.

Granted, this doesn't take into consideration the differing cultural styles between the two leagues, with the Premier League quite open and Serie A traditionally a little tighter, but it suggests Conte's ideals might actually translate rather well to the Spurs squad.

That's not to say we should expect overnight changes. So far this season, Spurs rank 82nd out of the 98 teams in Europe's top five leagues for high turnovers (62) and pressed sequences (124). A drastic change of mentality will take a time.

Whipping up a Harry Kane

What Spurs fans will be most intrigued to see, however, is whether Conte can get Kane back to his best.

The England captain could not find a way out of the club in pre-season, with Manchester City lurking, and while he has not exactly kicked up a fuss in public about being made to stay, his performances haven't helped certain perceptions of him.

After all, he achieved the rare feat of finishing top of the goals and assists charts last season – that hadn't been accomplished since Andy Cole in 1994. His form was one of few positives for Spurs.

Yet in 2021-22, his productivity has dipped significantly. He has gone from scoring 0.7 goals per game to 0.1, with just a solitary strike in nine Premier League matches.

Now, it would be fair to suggest Nuno's tactics haven't helped. Spurs are joint-lowest – with relegation-doomed Norwich City – for shots per game (10.3), and it's difficult to blame that on one player, regardless of how much Kane has dropped off.

Kane has seen his own shooting frequency almost halve to just 2.1 per 90 minutes from 3.9 last season and he's not creating much either, his chances created dropping to 0.8 from 1.4 each game.

But with Conte, there is certainly cause for optimism, at least in terms of getting Kane firing again – assuming his poor form is down to system and not a reaction to not getting a transfer.

Granted, Romelu Lukaku and Kane are very different players, but Conte knew how to get the best out of the Belgian, who scored 47 league goals in 72 games under the Italian at a rate of one every 124.9 minutes (0.7 per 90 minutes).

Only for Steve Clarke at West Brom has Lukaku scored more frequently (one every 117.82 mins) in his career (top five leagues).

Of course, Lukaku wasn't doing it all by himself at Inter – his 3.0 shots per game last season was actually fewer than Lautaro Martinez's 3.8. They were essentially a two-man frontline, perhaps something we can expect to see with Kane and Son Heung-min once again.

Both Lukaku and Martinez averaged more touches (7.3 and 6.7) and shots (2.6 and 3.0) in the box than Kane (5.0 and 2.5) as well, further evidence of how Conte's system enables two central strikers to thrive as an attacking threat.

The relationship between Son and Kane has long been heralded, and last season Martinez and Lukaku linked up for eight goals from 29 overall chances – another tick in the pros column.

There will be those who claim Conte represents a gamble, especially given his rather volatile reputation and how that may not fuse well with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, yet you could argue no manager is a guarantee.

But what is undoubtable is Conte's track record and work ethic as a coach. There's every reason to think this could be a masterstroke for Spurs, but only if he's allowed to do it all his way.

Former Tottenham striker Teddy Sheringham has praised the understanding of Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min as the duo close in on a Premier League record.

Kane and Son have directly combined for 35 goals in the English top flight since the South Korea international's move from Bayer Leverkusen in August 2015.

The Spurs pair, who successfully linked up again in last weekend's win at Newcastle United, are now just one behind the leading tally of 36 set by Chelsea's Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba ahead of a London derby with West Ham United on Sunday.

And Sheringham, who scored 124 goals in 277 appearances across two spells for Spurs, is hopeful Kane and Son can continue to link up in such devastating fashion.

In an exclusive interview, the 55-year-old told Stats Perform: "They have a great understanding.

"They're two phenomenal players playing at the top of their game. They have an understanding that clicks. 

"They know what's good and what's bad for each other and they play to their strengths and long may continue for Tottenham."

Sheringham knows all about the benefits of playing with a team-mate on the same wavelength.

Indeed, the former England striker directly combined with Darren Anderton for 27 goals during their time together at Spurs; the fifth-highest tally in Premier League history.

"Every now and again, you come across people that understand how you play and accommodate you perfectly," he continued.

"Not everyone gets on that wavelength, but I definitely had it with Darren Anderton.

"Maybe it'd be a little signal or an eye contact, but he would understand exactly where I wanted the ball. 

"That's one thing understanding it, and there's another thing putting it exactly where it's needed to be. He was unbelievable at that.

"People ask me who my favourite players are that I played with. He's out there in the top three because he was phenomenal at putting the ball exactly where I wanted. He was a feeder. 

"I was the goalscorer at Tottenham, and I made a few for him as well."

After nearly two weeks off due to the international break, Premier League football was back this past weekend and it was as intriguing as ever.

A new era began at St James' Park, though the outcome of the match was arguably as familiar as ever for Newcastle United fans, while similar could be said of Watford as they began Claudio Ranieri's tenure by being battered by Liverpool.

That game saw Mohamed Salah spectacularly edge closer to Liverpool history, while their next opponents – bitter rivals Manchester United – continued their dreadful run by conceding four to Leicester City.

But Harry Kane got himself back among the goals and Wolves pulled off what of the most unlikely comebacks the Premier League has seen.

Below, Stats Perform delves into some of the quirky Opta facts from the weekend…

Salah on verge of historic achievement

The early frontrunner for individual end-of-season awards in the Premier League is undoubtedly Salah, who has made a scintillating start to 2021-22.

He somehow reached a new level of spectacular on Saturday in the 5-0 dismantling of Watford, his incredible solo goal showcasing the kind of improbable dribbling one would expect to see in an unrealistic football film or naff television advert – only this was real.

But more than the sheer audacity of the goal, it was the eighth goal in a row that Salah has scored in for Liverpool – not only was that a personal best for him, it equalled a club record set by Daniel Sturridge.

If Salah scores in his next appearance, which will presumably be either against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday or United at the weekend, he will become the first Liverpool player to net in nine successive outings.

Newcastle, the Premier League's pressing anomaly

Sunday ended up being something of a reality check for Newcastle. While most fans will have turned up to St James' Park with a sense of optimism for the first time in years, all will have left at full-time with the realisation that – Saudi money or not – this is a team that could conceivably be in the Championship next season.

But one area that they are seemingly proving quite efficient is with regards to their pressing leading to goals.

Now, it's worth saying that Newcastle aren't among the most intense teams when it comes to their off-the-ball setup, as their 47 high turnovers is only more than four clubs in the Premier League.

However, three of those situations have led to a goal, which is more than anyone else in the division and speaks to an impressive level of efficiency.

That probably won't come as much of a consolation if they do get relegated, though.

Kane at home on the road

What with all the furore surrounding Newcastle heading into the weekend, Kane's Premier League woes for this season seemed to take a backseat in the build-up.

Whether that played a role in him finally getting his first Premier League goal of the season is impossible to prove, but his clever finish in Spurs' 3-2 win did highlight just how reliable Kane has been as an away striker over the years.

It was his 88th away goal in the competition, taking him past Alan Shearer and to within six of the record holder, Wayne Rooney. But Kane's haul comes from just 128 away games.

Rooney's 94 was from 243 matches on the road, Shearer needed 219 for his total. For Kane to reach such a figure so soon is a truly astonishing accomplishment.

Wolves' turnaround a comeback for the ages

Is there anything in football that matches the sheer joy of a late comeback? You go from being resigned to defeat, then having a little hope and ultimately becoming overwhelmed with emotion as the turnaround is complete. It's a rollercoaster.

Most fans know what it's like to see something similar, but what Wolves supporters witnessed on Saturday was even more remarkable because due to the speed at which everything unfurled.

They were 2-0 down at local rivals Aston Villa in the 80th minute, but then Romain Saiss, Conor Coady and Ruben Neves scored in the final 10 minutes to earn a 3-2 win.

Only once before has a team comeback from two or more goals down later than the 80th minute in the Premier League (Reading against West Brom in 2013), which puts Wolves' feat into historic context.

Sergio Reguilon said the health of a supporter who was taken to hospital during Tottenham's Premier League win at Newcastle United on Sunday was more important than his side claiming all three points.

The Magpies confirmed a fan was stabilised and taken to hospital after a medical emergency temporarily halted play in the game at St James' Park.

Players were alerted to an incident in the ground's East Stand shortly before the 40th minute, with Spurs full-back Reguilon quickly alerting referee Andre Marriner.

Eric Dier and Oliver Skipp went over to the dugout to request medical assistance and a team doctor with a defibrillator ran across the playing surface, with Marriner pausing play and instructing the players to leave the pitch.

Marriner was then seen discussing the situation with a steward and a police officer before the players headed into the changing rooms as the fan continued to receive treatment before later being taken from the stadium.

Both sides later returned to the pitch to play out the rest of the first half, with Spurs going on to seal a 3-2 victory.

Reguilon, who was widely praised for his swift reaction, said the win mattered little after such a worrying incident.

"I think three points is always a moment of happiness but, for me, what's more important is the guy, they are telling me he is okay and stable," he told Match of the Day.

"I saw the fans waving and I saw a guy lying down. I saw something wrong had happened. I looked at the referee and he stopped the match. I think now everything is okay and 100 per cent happiness.

"It was very strange, we went to the dressing room and I was looking at the man lying down, I was nervous because I don't like to watch that."

Harry Kane, whose first Premier League goal of the campaign put Spurs 2-1 ahead, echoed Reguilon's sentiments and sent his best wishes to the supporter.

"Firstly, we want to say best wishes to the guy in the stands, it was not a good sight to see," he told Sky Sports. "We hear that he might be stable now, so we're thankful to the medical teams and the fans who were doing the CPR.

"Hopefully he's okay and we wish him all the best from all the players at Tottenham."

Callum Wilson had put Newcastle into a second-minute lead, but Tottenham hit back through Tanguy Ndombele, Kane and Son Heung-min.

Jonjo Shelvey saw red for the hosts, who were given late hope through Eric Dier's own goal, but Nuno Espirito Santo's side held firm to register back-to-back Premier League wins after three defeats on the spin.

"The game itself didn't start great, we knew they were going to come out fast and they got their early goal," Kane added. "After that, we composed ourselves really well, created some good chances.

"The only disappointment is that we should have seen the game out, got the fourth, the fifth. We made it a bit more difficult at the end there."

Newcastle United's new era started with a familiar feeling of disappointment as Tottenham ran out 3-2 winners at St James' Park, with Sunday's match marred by a medical emergency in the stands.

With the pre-match build up dominated by Newcastle's off-field changes, the club's new PIF owners were served up a stark reminder of the issues on the pitch as Steve Bruce's 1000th game as a manager ended in defeat.

Callum Wilson's second-minute header buoyed an already rampant home crowd, but Tottenham hit back through Tanguy Ndombele before Harry Kane scored his first Premier League goal of the season.

A fan was taken to hospital after an incident late in the first half, which led to a defibrillator being called for and the suspension of play. When it restarted, Kane turned provider for Son Heung-min.

Jonjo Shelvey's red card seemed to erase any Newcastle hopes, only for Eric Dier's late own goal to worry Spurs, but it was ultimately not enough to inspire a comeback.

Newcastle's pre-match elation swiftly carried onto the pitch. Only one minute and 47 seconds had passed when Wilson got ahead of his marker to head in Javier Manquillo's cross.

Yet a blistering following 10 minutes failed to produce another Newcastle goal and, after Lucas Moura fired a warning shot, Spurs drew level through Ndombele's superb, curling strike into the right-hand side of the goal.

Spurs' turnaround was complete five minutes later as Kane darted onto Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg's lofted pass and finished deftly over Darlow. The goal was initially disallowed for offside, but VAR spotted Manquillo's failure to step up in time.

Lucas rattled the woodwork as Spurs searched for a third, though play was then suspended due to a medical emergency in the crowd.

Spurs picked up where they left off following a long delay – Kane squaring for Son to make it 3-1.

Devoid of ideas going forward, Newcastle's day turned from bad to worse in the 83rd minute.

Shelvey, brought on as a 60th-minute substitute, brought down Sergio Reguilon, duly receiving his second yellow card.

Newcastle were handed hope by Dier bundling into his own net, though Spurs held firm to condemn their hosts to another damaging defeat.


What does it mean? Champions League? It’s the Championship that Newcastle need to worry about

There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover, but many fans have been left dreaming of what their club can achieve with such wealth at their disposal.

However, talk of mega-money deals for global superstars must now make way for the bleak reality Newcastle face. They sit 19th, without a win to their name and only a point above Norwich City. It may be early in the campaign, but the focus come January has to be retaining the club's Premier League status. 

Harry gets off the mark at his happy hunting ground

Kane's misfortunes have become a major talking point in recent weeks, with last season's golden boot winner far from his best since his failed move to Manchester City.

But he finally opened his league account for the campaign on Sunday, before then combining with his partner in crime Son. Six of Kane's seven top-flight goals for Spurs against Newcastle have come at St James' Park. He has only scored more away goals against Leicester City and Everton.

Time up for Bruce?

Bruce hit out at the media in his pre-match news conference, after numerous stories of his impending dismissal proved to be untrue. Yet on his milestone game as a manager, Bruce's deficiencies were there for all to see. Newcastle started brilliantly, but in the final 10 minutes, a chorus of "sacked in the morning" echoed around the stadium. It was not exactly clear which sets of supporters were responsible.

His record stands at W376, D254, L370, while Bruce has won just four of his 27 encounters with Spurs in all competitions, and the speculation over his future seems set to continue as Newcastle's new owners assess the state of play.

What's next?

Newcastle face another London team in the form of an away game at Crystal Palace next Saturday, while Spurs travel to the Netherlands to play Vitesse in the Europa Conference League on Thursday.

The October international break has provided an opportunity to reflect on the club season so far, with the campaign starting to settle into some sort of pattern.

Paris Saint-Germain have quickly moved clear at the top of Ligue 1, but there look to be genuine title tussles on the cards in the Premier League, Bundesliga, LaLiga and Serie A.

However, while there are familiar names involved in each league, that does not mean the same individuals are excelling as in previous seasons.

A close-season that saw two of the sport's greats make moves shook things up a little, giving other emerging stars the opportunity to establish themselves at the forefront of the European game.

Studying the best shooters, creators, dribblers and goalkeepers, Stats Perform takes you through the standout statistical performers of 2021-22 so far.

Hotshot Haaland and luckless Lorenzo

There were familiar faces at the top of the shooting charts last season, as Lionel Messi (196 shots) led the way ahead of Cristiano Ronaldo (168). This term, although Ronaldo has hit the ground running, neither rank among the top marksmen.

Kylian Mbappe (35) has had the most attempts, but Erling Haaland is averaging 5.2 per 90. While that is the most among players with 20 total shots or more, it falls short of the 5.8 Messi was mustering last term.

Haaland is certainly making the most of his opportunities, though. From chances worth just 4.77 expected goals (xG), he has produced finishes worth 7.05 expected goals on target (xGOT) – a metric measured after the shot. These efforts have led to seven goals, performing in line with the quality of his finishing.

The Borussia Dortmund man is not outperforming his xG by as much as Karim Benzema, who leads the way in that regard. His nine goals have come from opportunities worth 4.43 xG, although his shots have only accounted for 5.22 xGOT, suggesting poor goalkeeping has also contributed to his success.

Lorenzo Insigne certainly has not encountered any below-par work from opposition keepers. His 27 attempts have been worth 5.5 xG, and he has narrowly surpassed that mark with his xGOT of 5.57. Yet the Napoli captain, third behind Messi and Ronaldo last year with 144 shots, somehow has only two goals.

Just two players in the whole of 2020-21 – Houssem Aouar (seven goals, 10.75 xGOT) and Edin Dzeko (seven goals, 10.58 xGOT) – fell so far short of their xGOT, suggesting Insigne's fortunes must surely change soon.

Benzema benefiting like Kane last year

Bruno Fernandes is one of Europe's best creators and scarcely gets a rest at Manchester United, so it is no surprise to see him figuring high up the rankings for key passes both this season and last. In 2020-21, Fernandes created the second-most chances (95) and the second-most chances from open play (77). This term, he is joint-fifth for total chances created (23).

Eden Hazard is back producing once again, averaging 3.99 key passes per 90 – all from open play. He is third for chances created and first for chances created from open play among those to forge 10 or more opportunities.

But Hazard has only a single assist to his name, not so far as fortunate as Fernandes' team-mate Paul Pogba or his own colleague Benzema.

Pogba has created chances worth just 1.45 expected assists (xA) and Benzema 2.05 xA, yet the pair have seven assists apiece thanks to the fine work of their club-mates. It means Benzema has been involved in 16 goals despite his combined xG and xA making up a mere 6.48. He is a man in top form, but this statistical output does not seem sustainable.

It is Harry Kane's example that Pogba and Benzema are following. His 14 assists led the Premier League last term, but he only actually created chances worth 3.63 xA, far and away the most spectacular disparity as Son Heung-min and Co. boosted Kane's figures.

Messi actually went in the opposite direction, last season creating chances worth 13.37 xA but only being rewarded with nine assists.

Adama dominant with Messi missing

As well as being one of Europe's most prominent shooters and creators, Messi was right at the top for dribbles last term. No player attempted (261) or completed (159) more take-ons. Given Neymar attempted the most dribbles per 90 (11.28) among those with 50 or more attempts, slow starts for two Paris Saint-Germain stars have left a gap in the market.

Unsurprisingly, Adama Traore has stepped into that void. The Wolves winger was next behind Messi for attempts (232) and completions (153) in 2020-21 and now comfortably leads the way (61 and 49). Among those with 20 attempted take-ons or more, Traore is now completing more dribbles per 90 (9.63) than any other player in Europe is even attempting. His success rate is an astonishing 80.33 per cent.

The Spain international has 14 times this season beaten multiple players in the same run and has created six chances immediately after a successful dribble – two more Europe-wide highs.

Traore only ranks joint-second for chances created from all carries, however, his nine trailing Allan Saint-Maximin's 11, with the pair out in front of the rest across various metrics with the ball at their feet.

Oblak off the mark and Keylor kept out

There were two clear outstanding goalkeepers in Europe in 2020-21, as Jan Oblak led the way for goals prevented using expected goals on target data (8.58, having conceded only 25 times excluding own goals) while Keylor Navas had the best save percentage of those to face 50 or more shots on target (80.43). Oblak was second for save percentage (80), with Navas third for goals prevented (8.11).

But both men have slipped below those standards this season.

Oblak has endured a significant wobble, saving only 57.14 per cent of 14 shots and conceding five goals from efforts worth 4.22 xGOT. Navas has a better save percentage of 72.73 but still is not having a positive impact, conceding six from an xGOT of 5.02. He also now looks to have lost his place to Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Going the other way, though, there has been a positive change in fortunes for Aaron Ramsdale, who last year had to make 147 saves – behind only fellow relegated England international Sam Johnstone (166). Since joining Arsenal, Ramsdale has faced just 10 shots on target and saved nine of them, a benchmark save percentage.

Matias Dituro is the standout difference-maker this term, however. Despite conceding 11 times, excluding own goals, since joining Celta Vigo, he has actually prevented 4.05 goals.

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