Tottenham face uphill battle in keeping up with Liverpool's financial might
LONDON -- Serge Aurier claims he persuaded Lucas Moura to join Tottenham ahead of other clubs and says the Brazilian has moved to London to have fun again.
Lucas completed a £24.5 million move to Spurs from Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday and, shortly afterwards, he was introduced to a record Premier League crowd of 81,987 at half-time of their 2-0 win against Manchester United at Wembley.
Aurier, who made the same move in the summer, spent two years with Lucas in Paris, where the pair were close on and off the pitch.
"I'm happy. I'm really happy to have him here," said right-back Aurier shortly after the Spurs squad was introduced to Lucas. "I spoke a lot to him before his arrival and I reassured him. I think he made the right decision. He had other opportunities, but I think it's the best choice for him and for his career.
"I told him it's an ambitious club, a beautiful club with a really good team. I think he was looking for somewhere where he could have fun again and he has come to the right team.
"It's a spirited group here, which is not afraid of welcoming new players and in that regard I know what I'm talking about. So he simply made the right choice and now I just hope he's going to adapt as quickly as possible."
Like Aurier, Lucas was forced down the pecking order by more expensive signings at the Parc des Princes and he has made just six substitute appearances this season amid competition from Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.
The Brazilian was among the most coveted young players in the world when he joined the Ligue 1 club from Sao Paulo for £33.5m in 2013 but Aurier says he holds no grudges against PSG coach Unai Emery.
"I think he knows a coach make choices and even if he was disappointed with the amount of time he played there, he is now coming here and finding joy again," Aurier said.
"It's important for a player to feel confidence and joy and here it's an ambitious club, it's a young group, it's a really young group, I think one of the Premier League's youngest so it's a really good choice for him.
"Regarding the coach's choice in Paris, I think everybody wants to play. It's hard for everyone when a coach make his decisions, I think he understands that but I think it's behind him today and I hope he's going to quickly start smiling again at Tottenham."
PSG are cruising to the French title, leading second-place Lyon by 11 points, but Spurs are 20 points shy of Premier League leaders Manchester City.
Asked if Lucas had come to England to be a champion, Aurier laughed: "We are a bit late for that! But if later this year we succeed in winning something, a cup or something like that, I'm going to try and make him say thank you in English! I think it will be much appreciated by everyone."
Speaking to Spurs' official website, Lucas said: "Serge said a lot of good things about the club, about the coach, about the fans. He's crazy! He's a very nice guy and an amazing player. I'm so happy to play with him again.
"I'm so, so happy. It's a new chapter in my life, a new challenge for me. I've joined a big club with big players and I look forward to playing and helping the team.
"I can play in the Champions League, which is a big objective for me and to make new friends is always a pleasure. I will give my best for this club. I think we have a lot of quality and I think we can win big things."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.
LONDON -- Arsene Wenger has confirmed Henrikh Mkhitaryan is in line to make his first start for Arsenal in their Premier League game against Everton on Saturday but club-record signing Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is a doubt because of illness.
Aubameyang joined the Gunners from Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday but has had a fever this week, Wenger told a news conference.
"Certainly Mkhitaryan will start. Aubameyang I have to assess how he feels," the Arsenal boss said.
Jack Wilshere will also be assessed after missing Tuesday's loss at Swansea with an illness.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Adam Lallana is a doubt for Liverpool's game with Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday as the club continue to carefully manage the midfielder's fitness.
Lallana has missed Liverpool's last two matches with a muscular injury and has made just seven appearances this season, having sustained a long-term thigh injury in preseason.
Jurgen Klopp says Liverpool must be patient with the England international as he works his way back to full fitness.
"It's really unlucky. It was a really serious injury in the summer. Because of Adam's quality and attitude in training, it looks immediately like we can put him in, [but] physical-wise he's not fit," Klopp said.
"The two things that happened after his big injury were in the 10 or 15 minutes after he came on. From nil to 100 in a second, and that's maybe what caused the problem.
"We really tried to be sensible with it, to do the right thing. But it didn't work, twice. It's really not a big thing, three games is like not being injured.
"He's maybe available for Tottenham, and if not then he'll have missed three games. That's really OK but of course it's not cool. The body needs to adapt again to the intensity."
Glenn is ESPN FC's Liverpool correspondent. You can follow him on Twitter: @GlennPrice94.
Tottenham's assault on a top four place continues with a huge game at Liverpool on Sunday.
Mauricio Pochettino's men are just two points off Liverpool in fourth following a fine 2-0 win over Manchester United. Can Jose Mourinho's men bounce back at home to Huddersfield ... a team they've already lost to this season?
Predict all the outcomes ahead of the weekend matches by voting in our polls ...
Elsewhere, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is in line for his Arsenal debut when Theo Walcott and Everton travel to Arsenal on Saturday evening and there's a big game at the bottom too as Newcastle face Crystal Palace.
Chelsea, stunned 3-0 by Bournemouth in midweek, are at Watford on Monday evening to round off the fixtures.
Predict how the games will go by voting in the polls and you can have your say in the comments below too.
Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.
Certain games have greater resonance than others. Liverpool's clash with Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield has bigger significance than the usual Premier League match. It is a landmark moment for both clubs.
The reverse fixture at Wembley in October exposed the flaws in Jurgen Klopp's side. The 4-1 Spurs victory fed a belief that Mauricio Pochettino's team could challenge Manchester City for the title.
The responses from each club were very different. Liverpool went on a 13-game unbeaten run in the Premier League, the highlight being the 4-3 win over City. Tottenham's title hopes were quashed within weeks. Defeats by Manchester United and Arsenal meant all the optimism inspired by the rout of Klopp's men dissipated.
The mood has swung again.
Liverpool followed the thrilling success against City by losing their way. A 1-0 defeat to Swansea City in the league and the FA Cup defeat to West Bromwich Albion have revived all the old doubts. Tottenham's 2-0 win over United evoked memories of the crushing of Liverpool, where Spurs travel to on Sunday. After Anfield, the next league game for Pochettino's men is Arsenal at Wembley. This is the determining phase of the season. Victory over Klopp's side would allow Spurs to leapfrog their opponents into the top four. There is much at stake for both clubs.
Events off the pitch have echoed the form at Anfield. January started with the signing of Virgil van Dijk and a surge of positivity. Philippe Coutinho's departure killed that mood. The Brazilian has not been replaced and, even though the decision to stand pat with the squad is completely down to Klopp, there remains a suspicion that Liverpool are short of manpower -- especially with Daniel Sturridge farmed out on loan to West Brom.
In October, Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen destroyed the Liverpool defence. Dejan Lovren was stripped of confidence, humiliated and substituted after just 31 minutes. The Croat was a lightning rod for a wider failure. Alberto Moreno was almost as poor. Simon Mignolet should have stopped two of the goals. Emre Can, James Milner and Jordan Henderson failed to provide any protection for the back four as Tottenham's midfield controlled the game. The vital space in front of the centre halves was ceded to Spurs.
Van Dijk is better equipped to deal with the threat from Kane but the systemic meltdowns Liverpool suffer in their defensive areas remain a problem. Klopp has been unable to get his side's balance right. When the team come under pressure and are pushed back, the midfielders lack the mobility and positional sense to cut off trouble before it reaches the defenders. Klopp's much-vaunted pressing game fails in the area where it needs to be most effective.
Liverpool were unable to persuade RB Leipzig to release Naby Keita in January. They will have to wait until the summer for the midfielder's arrival. Yet the 22-year-old is more effective in the forward areas -- both with the ball at his feet and in the pressing game. There is still likely to be a vacuum between attack and defence.
At their best, Liverpool's forward line are capable of blowing the opposition away. Last season they swept Tottenham aside in the league and FA Cup at Anfield. Pochettino's tactics played to the home side's strengths. In both matches, Spurs were remarkably open and allowed Liverpool's forwards time on the ball and the opportunity to run at the defence. At Wembley, Tottenham were more structured defensively and more dynamic up front. They got the ball forward early, applied pressure and gave Klopp's team less time to think when in possession.
The London club have an uncertain future, too. Real Madrid are admirers of Pochettino and the 45-year-old has always given the impression that Spurs are a stepping stone rather than his dream job. Kane is attracting envious glances from Europe's big clubs, too, as is Dele Alli. Tottenham will fight to retain their biggest assets -- they need them more than ever next season with the move to the new White Hart Lane looming.
There are issues, though.
There are two ways to keep big names happy in football: win trophies or pay the going rate in wages. The most successful sides do both. At this stage, Spurs are doing neither. Kane could easily treble his £110,000-a-week salary elsewhere. Plenty of potential suitors can offer the possibility of trophies as well.
The first task for both teams is to secure a top-four place and Champions League qualification next season. They have been helped by the struggles of Chelsea and Arsenal but neither side has taken real advantage. Klopp and Pochettino need to carve out a period of consistency in the final third of the season.
These are two clubs that believe they can challenge City in the next five years. They have enough quality to contend for honours but lack cohesion at vital times. Liverpool and Tottenham have a lot to prove. They need to start demonstrating they can maintain their momentum, avoid dips in form and rise above being merely the supporting cast for Pep Guardiola and City.
Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years. He writes for ESPN FC on the Premier League. Twitter: @tonyevans92a.
Liverpool once played a title decider against a London club. It wasn't Tottenham. They contested epic Champions League semi-finals against another representative of England's biggest city. That wasn't Tottenham either. And yet, while memories of the final game of the 1988-89 season, won 2-0 by Arsenal, and the continental clashes against Chelsea during Rafa Benitez's reign remain strong, their most pertinent rivalry with a capital club now does not involve either Arsene Wenger or Antonio Conte's side.
And not just because Sunday's game against Tottenham could seem a 90-minute microcosm of what is almost a private battle for fourth place. While Liverpool have had much the better of their exchanges in the last five years, the balance of power between these clubs has been weighted Spurs' way. They have finished above Liverpool in seven of the last eight seasons (the exception was when Brendan Rodgers' side were runners-up in 2013-14). To put that into context, the last time Tottenham enjoyed such supremacy over Liverpool was more than half a century ago: they finished above the Merseysiders in 13 consecutive seasons between 1950 and 1963, though Liverpool were in the old second division for eight of them and relegated in a ninth.
Change came swiftly. Liverpool were runners-up in 2009, Benitez assembling the club's finest starting XI for two decades, in a campaign when they only lost two league games. They began the next season shorn of the sold Xabi Alonso at White Hart Lane. They were defeated in what proved among the most significant Premier League games of the last decade. One of Liverpool's senior players looked at the respective benches that day and concluded Spurs was stronger. Nine months later, Tottenham finished fourth, three places ahead of Liverpool.
If there are certain similarities in their last eight years -- Liverpool losing Alonso, Javier Mascherano, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho to Real Madrid or Barcelona and Tottenham Gareth Bale and Luka Modric, both being set back at a point when they hoped to kick on -- there is a notable difference: come May, Spurs tend to look down on Liverpool in the table.
But logically that should change. Not specifically because of Jurgen Klopp or any of his players as much as the underlying finances. These clubs were near-neighbours in the Deloitte Rich List for 2016-17, but it was a table where Liverpool ranked higher. They were ninth, Tottenham 11th. If that suggests a parallel in resources, it is notable that Liverpool's turnover was €69 million higher in a season when they were not in Europe and Tottenham benefited from Champions League television revenue; some €43.2m of it. Factor in their lesser, Europa League revenue and matchday income from both competitions and Spurs' benefited still more.
The new White Hart Lane will make games more profitable than the old one but, in the short term anyway, that will be offset by the cost of paying for it. So if all other things are equal -- such as Liverpool and Tottenham being in the same European competition -- the Merseysiders have a far higher disposable income; perhaps €130m higher.
And they have started to flex their financial muscle. That could be attributed to Coutinho's £142m sale, but the reality is that Liverpool had already agreed the £48m move for Naby Keita before the Brazilian's departure, just as they had the funds to bid for Virgil van Dijk, who eventually cost them £75m, last summer. Including Keita, Liverpool have spent more than £30m on a player five times in the last four transfer windows; when Coutinho's eventual replacement arrives, that number will surely increase. Tottenham have done so once, on Davinson Sanchez.
That would presumably change if Harry Kane or Dele Alli headed to Spain; equally, that would create huge problems. As it is, Spurs' prize assets pose other issues. Kane is reportedly their best-paid player on £100,000 a week. Van Dijk is apparently on £180,000 a week. Tottenham's wage bill last season came to around £120m, Liverpool's to £200m.
It gives them a massive financial advantage. It is a question if they can convert pounds and pence into performances and points. Arguably, they have converted it into players: Sadio Mane was wanted by both clubs when he left Southampton in 2016 and went to Liverpool. While cheaper additions have picked either -- Tottenham got Alli, the Liverpool target; Liverpool got Danny Ings, subject of a bid from Spurs. Alli was at League One MK Dons at the time. Mane was in a position to command a higher salary and chose Liverpool.
It is unsurprising that progressive, pressing managers could be expected to target some similar players. Finances dictate that Liverpool will have an advantage, especially if both, or just they, can offer Champions League football. Mauricio Pochettino has prospered with low net spend and a relatively low wage bill. It is to his immense credit. It is sustainable in the sense that he is financing a new ground, but success may not be when others have greater resources. Because, if Liverpool can get money to talk, the era of Spurs' supremacy in their private mini-league ought to end.
Richard Jolly covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @RichJolly.