10 months agoFulham boss Ranieri will stick with back five

first_imgAbout the authorPaul VegasShare the loveHave your say Fulham boss Ranieri will stick with back fiveby Paul Vegas10 months agoSend to a friendShare the loveFulham boss Claudio Ranieri says he’ll stick with the current defensive formation against Huddersfield.Ranieri will persist with the five-man defence that has solidified his team.”I didn’t have a friendly match to get to know all my players. I started with four at the back, but we conceded too many chances,” he said.”I tried with the five at Newcastle and thought maybe this is good for us. But of course this shape is not dogmatic.”We can change and it’s good when you can change and the players understand we can change and why. The players are intelligent and are adapting to the situation very well.” last_img read more

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The People Tracking Every Touch Pass And Tackle in the World Cup

With each click and drag of a mouse, young soccer fanatics are creating the building blocks of the advanced stats that are changing how the sport is played, watched and analyzed.Opta and Prozone are among the companies that have taken soccer stats far beyond goals and saves, into the realm of pass completion percentage, defensive touches, percentage of aerial balls won, tackle percentage and goals scored above expectation. Cameras alone can’t process all these stats. So companies employ people — mostly young, mostly male, most logging matches in their spare time as a second job — to watch matches and document every event.Their work has helped develop stats that capture the value of players who don’t score many goals, but who set them up with pinpoint passing and hustle. Teams use advanced stats to decide which players to buy and put on the pitch. And fans, whether they like it or not, read and hear more numbers than ever before about this sport that for so long bucked the sports-analytics trend.On a Sunday last month, Opta1Opta Sports provides soccer stats to ESPN, which owns FiveThirtyEight. Opta also provides stats for other sports, including cricket, rugby and motor sports. Last year, Opta was bought for 40 million pounds ($67 million) by Perform Group. let me watch as the loggers at its South London headquarters tracked the last 10 matches of England’s Premier League season. I stood among rows of young men at computer monitors as they scrutinized games, sometimes rewinding on one monitor to check a tough call while keeping track of the live feed on another. I tried to stay out of the way while their supervisor leapt away from watching his favorite team’s match to confirm every goal was attributed correctly. And I watched as Opta’s media team processed the raw numbers — 1,600 to 2,000 events per game — into TV-ready factoids, which they heard commentators repeat to TV audiences moments later.In soccer stats, as in so many other numbers-gathering endeavors, big data sets are built piece by piece by human collectors with human imperfections, moods and preferences. Throughout the year, 350 part-time analysts working in London and a half-dozen other Opta branches in Europe and North and South America record every pass, header and goal while watching live or recorded video of more than 14,000 matches around the world. The London operation I watched will be logging each of the World Cup’s 64 matches.Opta says software, standards and oversight can help it harness the best of human judgment while curbing any potential downsides. It sees the people behind its stats as a selling point. I wasn’t the first to be invited to watch. Many prospective customers visit during matches, said Aidan Cooney, chief executive of Opta. “Frankly, that sells the business.”The business is providing stats to professional clubs, to national teams, to leagues — as the official data provider for the top divisions in England, Spain and Germany — and to the media.A Tebow jersey and a Yankees capMy day at Opta was an unusually busy one: Every Premier League club was playing its last match of the season. The finale wasn’t as exciting as 2012’s: Manchester City was all but assured of edging Liverpool for the title, and most Champions League and Europa League slots had been sewn up. The biggest suspense was whether Tottenham would finish in sixth or seventh in the league.That was the case, anyway, for Paul Pettitt, 31, who is the assistant manager of data collection and a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. He spent the two hours between kickoff and final whistle alternately tracking Tottenham’s match against Aston Villa — when Tottenham took an early lead, he said he wanted a 25-goal win to contend for fifth place on goal differential — and jumping out of his chair to check on calls in other games, such as whether an early Swansea goal was a deflection. All logged events scrolled down a screen at his station, and when an important one came up, he conferred with the analyst who entered it.This is when soccer’s rare stoppages of play are so valuable for analysts. A lengthy goal celebration allows loggers to rewind and rewatch goals and other major events, often while Pettitt looks on.But most of the work is logging routine passes. Opta’s analysts log each one by dragging and clicking a mouse at the spot where the pass was received, then keying in the player who received it. Their monitors have an image of a soccer pitch in the background with video of the live match superimposed on top.Confusingly, to my eyes, the broadcast image hardly ever corresponded to the image on the field. So loggers had to drag the mouse to a spot that had nothing to do with the ball’s location in the video rectangle. None of the loggers I watched got stuck on this point: After all, this was the 38th and last match of the season.Each of the 10 matches had a pair of analysts assigned to it, plus a checker. Each analyst had his own monitor and tracked only one team’s touches. Sometimes the analysts conferred over calls — “Is it a tackle?” was a question in the fourth minute of the Liverpool match. (It wasn’t.)Until eight years ago, Opta didn’t even produce the live numbers that are now such a staple of TV broadcasts. Pettitt started at Opta in 2001, fortunately just as the company was phasing out pen-and-paper logging. He wasn’t lucky enough to miss the VCR era. “My elbow started aching after a while” from all the rewinding, he recalled.The more unusual a team’s formation, the harder it is to log its matches. A well-organized side like Barcelona can be easy to log, Khalid Hussain, U.K. training manager for Opta, said. Today he particularly enjoys challenging matches.At his peak, Hussain was logging 10 to 15 matches a week during each Premier League season. His primary assignment was Arsenal, and he also worked four nights a week covering matches around the world. He once logged six matches in a day. “Then I went home at the end, in a pretty bad state,” he said.All this meticulous work changed how Hussain, now 33, watches soccer. He became “very passionate” about Arsenal, to the point where he’d enjoy watching a Gunners match against Stoke more than Real Madrid versus Barcelona, a minority opinion in global soccer. When he clicked a name at one end of the pitch and then entered the same name at the other end seconds later, he came to appreciate the players who covered a lot of territory more than the flashy dribblers.And he learned that his previous pet stat of possession time doesn’t mean much. “Working here burst that bubble,” Hussain said. “It doesn’t matter how much ball you’ve got. You’ve still got to do something with it.”Hussain is mainly a supervisor now, though he pitches in as an analyst when needed. On this day, he logged Cagliari for its 1-0 loss to Chievo.2Opta didn’t make available for an interview any of its more junior analysts who were working the Premier League matches. Like other pinch-hitters who aren’t familiar with their assigned clubs’ players and formations, Hussain watched DVDs of recent Cagliari matches to prepare.The loggers Hussain supervises generally are between 18 and 24 years old and male. (“We’ve got two girls in Leeds, and one girl in Germany,” he said.) They love sports. They enter an office fantasy NFL league. They go home and play video games. They day I watched, none wore soccer apparel but I spotted a Tim Tebow jersey and a Yankees cap.It helps to be nuts about soccer, to appreciate “a job where they get to come in and watch football,” as Pettitt put it.There is occasionally cheering in the analysts’ box. “As much as you can try to control them, if Liverpool score a goal while Man City are down a goal, you might hear a yelp from our Liverpool fan, and probably some censored words as well,” Pettitt said.Candidates are tested for their understanding of soccer and their hand-eye coordination when using the Opta logging software. They have to type quickly with their left hands, without looking at the keyboard. Certified soccer coaches sometimes don’t have the required hand-eye coordination; the avid PlayStation players often do. “We give them five-hour tests, and pick out the ones who are best,” Hussain said.At that stage, successful applicants remain far from match-ready. It will be at least a month before they’ll produce usable data, even under the easiest conditions of logging a recorded match. “For training, they do the same game over and over for two or three days,” Hussain said.Cooney, the Opta chief executive, has tried his hand at logging, “much to everyone’s amusement,” he said. “It’s impossible, absolutely impossible for someone of my motor skill set,” he added. “If you don’t play PlayStation, basically, you’re finished.”Opta employs full-time analysts to review every event of the matches it logs, a process that can take three to five hours. Its live analysts get 99 percent of player identifications correct, Pettitt said.The match-trackers are rated on their performance, and the best get spare games.3Opta doesn’t disclose how much it pays analysts. It creates a competition, and “keeps them on their toes,” Hussain said. He’s confident that today he’s one of the best loggers in London. He also gets to travel to train loggers at offices around Europe.The dubious goals panelAmong Opta’s competitors is Prozone Sports, which tracks players on the pitch using cameras and player-recognition systems. Stewart Mairs, the U.S. operations manager for Prozone, said the company’s optical tracking system — like SportsVU’s for the NBA — gives it a leg up over Opta. The system produces millions of data points per game.Prozone, like Opta, needs human loggers, too. Prozone’s cameras sometimes can’t tell players apart when they cluster, and don’t distinguish crucial game events. So it employs coders, usually interns or students who are interested in soccer, Mairs said. Like at Opta, they are supervised and trained by more experienced managers, and, for big matches, supplemented by more experienced coders.Cooney said Opta is offering something different from camera tracking. “People want analytics,” he said. “That requires holistic data sets, which only we can deliver.”Keeping standards consistent across offices is vital for Opta. An assist needs to mean the same thing in London, New York and Montevideo. Soccer stats already have plenty of doubters, and it doesn’t help that different companies track different numbers. Also, individual companies sometimes change what they track, as Opta does nearly every year after an annual review. (Possibly coming soon: more detail on fouls.)So it’s all the more important that a company’s data can be trusted across space and time. “What we’ve had as a clearance” — a defender clearing a ball out of the goal area — “has always been the same, and will not change,” Pettitt said.In addition to post-match reviews, Opta monitors stats across leagues, to make sure they don’t vary too much — and if they do, that it’s because of style of play and not analyst inconsistency.Opta also updates its stats according to decisions of a Premier League group called the dubious goals panel, which weighs whether a player should be awarded a goal when, say, the shot deflected off a defender.Close calls mean the live data is provisional. It’s good enough for television broadcasters, who pepper Opta’s media team with questions via instant message during the matches. I wandered over to watch the media group in action during play. They sat next to a wall with six television screens, usually more than enough but four short of the required number on this day. So laptops filled the gap.During play, the media team moved quickly. Liverpool’s Martin Skrtel scored an own goal in the 20th minute. Duncan Alexander, 36, head of U.K. content and customer services for Opta, told his colleague to “run it” —  in other words, to check that Skrtel had just set the league record for most own goals in a season, with four. The stat was confirmed, sent to the broadcasting company Sky, and announced by studio host Jeff Stelling right after the commercial break.Later, Stelling mentioned that Fulham had used 38 players this season, a new record. I asked if that was from Opta. Alexander nodded.These sorts of stats are nice to have, but won’t change the way managers set their lineups or choose tactics. However, the work of Opta and its ilk have brought soccer, very slowly, into the wider statistical revolution in sports. Alexander and Pettitt pointed to the increasing prominence of assists. A decade ago, “some people would refuse to give assists credence,” Alexander said.Opta’s soccer-stats professionals acknowledge their numbers aren’t for everyone. “There will always be fans who, to use a phrase we hear occasionally, say the only stat they care about is the one in the top left-hand corner” — the score, Alexander said. “We’re not zealots. We don’t bang the drum saying, you have to view football the way we do.” read more

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Ryan Fitzpatrick Is Only As Good As Brandon Marshall And Eric Decker

Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com 32San Diego Chargers4,8551,48030.5 45.7 14Arizona Cardinals4,7752,21846.5 2Denver Broncos4,2162,43957.9 29Minnesota Vikings3,2461,21537.4 11Oakland Raiders4,1291,99248.2 21Philadelphia Eagles4,3411,85042.6 27St. Louis Rams2,9311,16239.6 25Washington Redskins4,2941,72940.3 23Tennessee Titans3,8931,63742.0 8Cincinnati Bengals4,1042,11351.5 6Pittsburgh Steelers4,8222,59953.9 24New Orleans Saints5,2052,12240.8 12Carolina Panthers3,8731,84347.6 7Houston Texans4,0792,17953.4 28New England Patriots4,8121,86838.8 15Detroit Lions4,4632,02745.4 26San Francisco 49ers3,6461,45239.8 League average Which teams got the most out of their top two receivers in 2015? 16Green Bay Packers3,8251,71944.9 10Cleveland Browns4,1562,00948.3 13Indianapolis Colts3,9281,85747.3 22Dallas Cowboys3,6781,55342.2 YARDS BY TOP 2 RECEIVERS 9New York Giants4,5042,24749.9 19Seattle Seahawks4,0611,75443.2 30Baltimore Ravens4,4491,61436.3 31Chicago Bears3,8431,27133.1 5Jacksonville Jaguars4,4282,43154.9 RANKTEAMTOTAL RECEIVING YARDSTOTALPERCENTAGE 1New York Jets4,1702,52960.6% The Gang Green contract dispute is over: Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has re-signed with the New York Jets, on a one-year, $12 million contract with up to $3 million in additional incentives. Casual fans may wonder why it took so long for Fitzpatrick to re-sign — for months, it was clear that Fitzpatrick had no other suitors and the Jets had no exciting alternative. And, after all, Fitzpatrick was coming off of a strong statistical season. He threw for 3,905 yards last year — the highest single-season total by a Jets quarterback since Joe Namath in 1967 — and 31 passing touchdowns, a franchise record.Perhaps most importantly, Fitzpatrick’s statistical output was far ahead of what Jets fans have come to expect from the position. Fitzpatrick averaged 6.46 adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A) last season, more than a yard better than any of the Jets’ starting quarterbacks over the previous decade. The chart below shows New York’s main QB each season from 2005 through 2015 and his average ANY/A. Fitzpatrick’s 2015 sticks out in a very good way:On the heels of six Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith seasons, Fitzpatrick’s competent play represented a vast improvement. But Fitzpatrick’s numbers really only look great relative to the poor passers of Jets history and thanks to the rising tide that is lifting passing numbers leaguewide.Before Fitzpatrick, the Jets hadn’t experienced above-average quarterbacking since 2006, and Jets passers had been far below average in each of the four seasons leading into 2015. Against that backdrop, Fitzpatrick’s ever-so-slightly-above-average numbers painted the picture of a bearded savior. But although Fitzpatrick deserves credit for the strong season (along with, perhaps, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey), his top two receivers were just as responsible for the big year.The Jets signed Eric Decker before the 2014 season, and he had a productive year, but he couldn’t save New York’s passing attack by himself. After New York traded for Brandon Marshall in 2015, though, the duo quickly turned into one of the best one-two receiving punches in the NFL. Together, Marshall and Decker combined for 2,529 receiving yards, second-most in the NFL behind Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant. Perhaps more importantly, Marshall and Decker also combined for 60.6 percent of all Jets receiving yards, easily the highest rate in the league for any pair of receivers:1Defining a team’s top receiving duo as its two leading players in receiving yards. 18Tampa Bay Buccaneers4,0421,76743.7 20Miami Dolphins4,2311,81943.0 4Atlanta Falcons4,6022,52854.9 17Buffalo Bills3,6001,59944.4 3Kansas City Chiefs3,4931,96356.2 Marshall and Decker were also touchdown machines. In nine of the Jets’ 16 games last season, both Marshall and Decker reached the end zone: That made them the first pair of wide-receiver teammates to each score in nine games (and only the second pair of teammates, period, joining former Cowboys Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin). Incredibly, Marshall and Decker by themselves caught 25 of Fitzpatrick’s 31 total touchdown throws, or 81 percent.Thought of another way, Marshall and Decker saw 305 targets last year, with all other Jets players combining for nearly an equal number: 297. Yet Marshall/Decker combined for 2,529 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns, and all other Jets combined for 1,641 receiving yards and just seven receiving touchdowns. Marshall and Decker together averaged 8.3 yards per target; all other Jets averaged only 5.5 yards per target.That difference of 2.8 yards per target between the Jets’ top two receivers and the rest of the team ranked third-largest in the NFL, behind two other teams that had star receivers doing most of the heavy lifting: Jacksonville (with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns, at +3.7) and the New York Giants (thanks mostly to Odell Beckham Jr., at +2.9). Marshall/Decker’s rate of 11.7 targets for every touchdown also ranked fourth-best among top receiving pairings,2Behind the top duos of Seattle (9.0), Jacksonville (10.7) and New England (11.6). but the rest of the Jets were targeted 42.4 times for every touchdown pass, the fourth-worst rate in the league for receiving groups outside a team’s top two targets.3That ranked ahead of only Cleveland (56.8), Minnesota (57.2) and San Francisco (44.0). In other words, Fitzpatrick was putting up great numbers only when throwing to Marshall and Decker — not anyone else. It’s fair to say, then, that no passing game in 2015 was as reliant on its top two receivers as the Jets’ was.Granted, the Jets’ other targets weren’t very good,4Bilal Powell, Quincy Enunwa, Chris Ivory and Kenbrell Thompkins were the only other Jets with at least 30 targets. so you would expect a large chasm in production between Marshall/Decker and the rest of the team. But that makes it more difficult to determine how much of Fitzpatrick’s numbers were the product of his own play, and how much was due to his top two targets. And that’s probably what caused such a disconnect between the Jets and Fitzpatrick’s camp during negotiations.Ultimately, Fitzpatrick signed a reasonable one-year contract, so we may be revisiting the same scenario next offseason, with the Jets having to ascertain their QB’s true worth once more. read more

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Beside The Points For Thursday Oct 19 2017

See more NFL predictions Things That Caught My EyeVegas gets another teamThe San Antonio Stars will move to Las Vegas under its new management of MGM Resorts International. This makes them the second professional team to open up in the gambling town with the Oakland Raiders soon to follow. With the No. 1 pick in the draft next year, this is an exciting time for the WNBA team. [ESPN]Browns allegedly superior to other teamsThe Browns’ crew of quarterbacks — a squad of personnel I am unfortunately well-acquainted with — is not the worst in history. We’ve had the statistic Total QBR since 2006, and in the period of time since them there have been three teams — the 2010 Panthers, 2008 Raiders and 2007 49ers — who have a total QBR less than the 21.9 Cleveland currently sports. [ESPN]Clemson and Washington are not totally screwedLast week the Clemson Tigers and Washington Huskies suffered upset losses that made them fall out of the AP Top 5. Clemson is down from a 55 percent chance of making the playoff to a 29 percent chance, and Washington fell from a 43 percent chance to a 24 percent chance. Realistically, the best way to make the playoff is to win out: doing so would give them a 97 percent and 87 percent chance, respectively, of making the playoff. Clemson’s Week 10 game against N.C. State will be the decisive game, while Washington’s test will be in Week 11 at Stanford. [FiveThirtyEight]Happy Sports Equinox!Thursday, Oct. 19 is the Sports Equinox, the day when all four major U.S. sports leagues play at least one game. There have only been 17 in history. Should the Cubs force a game 7 in the NCLS, Sunday will be a second one of 2017. Fair warning, with 14 different games, it’s going to get weird tonight in even the most amply-screened sports bars. [FiveThirtyEight]Yes, let’s keep saying nice things about the EaglesOh wow the Eagles are real good this year! No reason at all to mitigate expectations, Eagles fans: You guys are going to win the Super Bowl for sure this time. Believe it! I’m in no way attempting to pump up expectation thus making the eventual and inevitable playoff catastrophe all the more panful for you to bear, not at all, we here in New York love you, Philly. Realistically though, the Eagles are solid, and have a somewhat easy route to the playoffs from here on out: Their next 10 adversaries have an average Elo rating of 1484, which is below the league average 1500. [FiveThirtyEight]Balto got highFor the first time ever, several Iditarod sled dogs from one team tested positive for a prohibited substance. The race began testing for doped-up doggies back in 1994. It’s been described by a race board member as an isolated incident. [ESPN]Make sure to try your hand at our fun NFL can you beat the FiveThirtyEight predictions? game!Big Number-10 winsGordon Hayward dislocated his ankle and fractured his tibia five minutes into the first game of the NBA season. For Hayward, this means a difficult recovery over the course of the season. For the Celtics, it means their anticipated 47-win season drops to 37 wins, all of which is way below Vegas’ expected 53.5 wins. [FiveThirtyEight]Leaks from Slack: gfoster:@heynawl-enten FYI, Yankees are likeable now. So keep that in mind.https://sports.yahoo.com/alcs-game-5-new-york-yankees-actually-likable-042520640.htmlheynawl-enten:Just tweeted itWTF is this?colleen:this is provably falsethe yankees are the yankeesthe yankees are not likableQEDlarue:Curious what it would take for a hated team to become a likable team. A goliath to an underdog if you will. Possible?Predictions MLB NFL See more MLB predictions Oh, and don’t forgetThe robots fought and it really really sucked. We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆  Join the squad. Subscribe All newsletters read more

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Barcelona boss explains why Messi played against Spurs after all

first_imgEven though Barcelona was already through to the next round, Valverde subbed Messi into a squad full of bench players already winning the game.Following the 1-1 draw between Ernesto Valverde’s Barcelona and Tottenham Hotspur, Valverde explained why he randomly subbed Lionel Messi into the match when his team was ahead on the scoreboard. Messi came on at the 63rd minute when the Catalan squad was still winning the tie.“It’s better for him to play for a while and to be in motion, he likes it,” Valverde said, as quoted by FourFourTwo.David Villa, FC BarcelonaTop 10 players who played for both Barcelona and Valencia Boro Tanchev – September 14, 2019 Time to talk about the best players who represented both Barcelona and Valencia, prior to their La Liga encounter at Camp Nou this evening.“We also, and I don’t have to tell you about the fans, there have been players who were not there because we had an intense match three days ago.“We wanted to see players like [Carles] Alena or [Juan] Miranda in difficult situations, as well as the response of [Jasper] Cillessen, [Thomas] Vermaelen, Arthur or Munir, we did not want to lose competitive level against a very strong team.”last_img read more

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Report Thorgan Hazard not going anywhere in January

first_imgA potential January departure for Thorgan Hazard has allegedly been ruled out by Borussia Monchengladbach boss Dieter HeckingSince arriving Gladbach in 2014 from Chelsea, Hazard’s consistently good performances in Germany over the years has made him one of the most wanted players in Europe.The 25-year-old winger has recently been linked with moves Liverpool, Atletico Madrid and AS Roma.But BILD understands that Hecking has told the Gladbach director of sport Max Eberl and the board that Hazard will not be allowed to go anywhere in next month’s transfer window.The Belgium international has managed nine goals and six assists in 17 Bundesliga games this season and is contracted at Gladbach until June 2020.Jadon Sancho, Borussia DortmundCrouch: Liverpool could beat Man United to Jadon Sancho Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Peter Crouch wouldn’t be surprised to see Jadon Sancho end up at Liverpool one day instead of his long-term pursuers Manchester United.However, the report did add that a summer return to Chelsea may be on the table for Hazard as the club have an option to buy him back.The Blues included a clause into his contract at Gladbach when they sold him and will have first refusal on him.Hazard had joined Chelsea back in the summer of 2012, along with his older brother Eden, from French side RC Lens.But Hazard never made an appearance for Chelsea and was immediately sent on loan to Belgian club SV Zulte Waregem for two seasons.Afterwards, he went on another loan spell to Gladbach before the German side decided to make him a permanent member of the squad in 2015.last_img read more

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Winks focused on positives after loss to Wolves

first_imgTottenham Hotspur midfielder Harry Winks insists he’s focusing on the positives after the team’s disappointing home loss to Wolverhampton Wanderers.Spurs suffered a shock 3-1 defeat to Nuno-Espirito Santo’s side on Saturday at Wembley, a result which has seen then fall to the third position on the Premier League table.However, Winks is taking a positive outlook on the club’s current position.“It shows how well we are doing this year to be considered title contenders and to be sitting here disappointed that we aren’t closer to the top than we’d expect, it just shows us how far we have come and how well we are doing,” he said, according to BT Sport.Premier LeaguePremier League Betting: Match-day 5 Stuart Heath – September 14, 2019 Going into the Premier League’s match-day five with a gap already beginning to form at the top of the league. We will take a…“We have high expectations ourselves and if we don’t come away with a win against Wolves at home we get frustrated at that. It just shows how high our standards are set at the moment and how ambitious we are.”Mauricio Pochettino’s men get the chance to return to winning ways against Cardiff on New Year’s Day and Winks insists the players are determined to put the Wolves result right.“We said before the game that it was must-win so to come away with a defeat is a down dressing room – everyone is fuming but it is football,” Winks added. “We have to bounce back against Cardiff on the first.”“We are still in the race, we have had some great results, we can’t get too down about this, we have to get ourselves ready for the next game and bounce back with a win.”last_img read more

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