Watch the North London derby - Arsenal vs Spurs - on Super Sunday from 4pm on Sky Sports Premier League; Kick-off 4.30pm
Tuesday 27 August 2019 15:53, UK
In his weekly column, Paul Merson offers a frank assessment of Tottenham's start to the season, where they stand ahead of Sunday's North London derby with Arsenal and reflects on Tammy Abraham taking his chance at Chelsea.
I must admit, I didn't see this coming - Tottenham losing at home to Newcastle. Spurs look in disarray, a worrying sign this early in the season.
They are out of the title race already, five points behind Liverpool with three games played. That may sound harsh, but would you back Spurs to win the league over Liverpool if Liverpool had a five-point head start?
People go on and on about there being 35 games left but I'm fed up with that rhetoric, five points is a lot of points to make up. As a general rule, it takes five games to make up five points, Liverpool lost once last season and have won every game so far this, so where are Spurs going to bridge the gap?
Before a ball was kicked, I thought Spurs were a dead cert to finish in the top three, now they look in the equation for top four football after their performances.
They fell over the line against Aston Villa, somehow got a point at Manchester City after the biggest run-around you're likely to see and then they never looked like scoring against Newcastle. Their blatant lack of urgency when trailing Newcastle with minutes remaining was startling and left me thinking 'do they know how long is left here?'.
Something isn't right at Spurs but what is clear is that Mauricio Pochettino hasn't got his team right yet. Christian Eriksen is their most creative player but he's been on the bench. I mean, who else have Spurs got that can put the ball through the eye of a needle?
I rate Tottenham highly as a team - they were Champions League finalists less than three months ago after all - but they have shocked me, they have been my biggest disappointment this season so far, and I'm not just saying that because I used to play for Arsenal.
Speaking after their defeat to Newcastle, Mauricio Pochettino admitted his Tottenham side are unsettled with the European transfer window still open.
Pochettino's comments that he has never seen so much unrest at a football club the other day were concerning and eye-opening. He doesn't normally speak so strongly, he always looks after the club's interests and gets on with the job at hand. But his comment suggests things are unravelling at the moment.
I didn't give Arsenal much of a chance at Liverpool, I expected them to get beat and the game went exactly how I thought it would - they had some chances, looked good in parts of the game and then succumbed to the inevitable.
I was impressed with Nicolas Pepe's performance at Anfield, but he had to put at least one of his chances away, that's why Arsenal paid top dollar to bring him to the club. Putting those chances away is what separates a £72m striker and the rest.
When you go to Liverpool and Manchester City these days, you have to take your chances, Arsenal didn't. And when a talent like Mohamed Salah when he scores such a special goal, there is nothing you can do but hold your hands up.
But it wasn't all bad for Unai Emery's side. A couple of weeks ago I'd have looked at Sunday's North London derby and said Arsenal would be happy with a draw, but after their positive start to the season, I expect them to win comfortably now.
Tammy Abraham's two goals at Norwich were massive for both Chelsea and the young lad.
You've got to give Frank Lampard credit for handing him a start at Carrow Road, he knows from experience that newly-promoted teams give chances away and gave Abraham the chance to punish them.
In the current climate, if Abraham played and didn't score that could have been that, with people starting to question whether he would ever score goals. But it proved to be a masterstroke.
Yes, he will come up against better defenders this season but his double will have filled him with confidence and before you know it, he'll be scoring week in, week out.
Seriously, what is going on with VAR?
Jefferson Lerma trod on David Silva's foot, a challenge that would have been a free-kick on the halfway line, so why on earth was it not a penalty?
Then there was that 'challenge' from Jamaal Lascelles on Harry Kane. To this second, I still cannot understand how that was not a penalty.
Lascelles knew what he was doing when he fell into the path of Kane, the referee didn't see it that way, fair enough, but if ever there was a 'clear and obvious error', the kind VAR was introduced to identify, this was it.
It was unbelievable at the highest level, unbelievable. I couldn't believe what I was watching.
VAR is beginning to look like an old pals' act where referees are not prepared to embarrass their mates while officiating. If that's the case, what's the point of going upstairs in the first place?
Manchester United's opening-day win over Chelsea papered over the cracks. The second game at Wolves they were good in the first half. And then, on Saturday, they were Manchester United.
You cannot lose at home to Crystal Palace. I've said all along that they won't finish in the top four and I haven't seen anything to suggest otherwise in the first three games of the season.
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