Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino hopes Harry Kane’s summer of bliss fires him towards the Premier League golden boot.
Kane broke his duck at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium at the fourth time of asking as two goals in the final four minutes helped his side to a 3-1 opening day win over Aston Villa.
The England captain rushed back from another ankle injury at the back end of last season in time for the Champions League final and the Nations League semi-finals but enjoyed a rare summer off, getting married and spending a month in the Bahamas.
And Pochettino hopes that can be a catalyst for another goal-laden season.
“To score the two goals, he is very sharp,” Pochettino said. “It is normal. We are talking a lot because he scored twice. I hope this season, please, that he starts to score and doesn’t stop until the end.
“We talk very highly about him. I think he’s been on a nice holiday as you saw everything on Instagram.
“He’s had a wedding and he’s a happy man. When you’re professional like he is, the pre-season is not to get fit but to try to improve.
“The mentality is to enjoy your holidays and then prepare, arrive fit and improve in the four, five or six weeks we have.
“If not, you’re going to pay the problems with injuries or different things can happen. That for me is one of the keys of Harry Kane to be in the shape that he is today.”
Kane’s late goals rescued Spurs as they looked like being held by a Villa side who impressed on their first game back in the Premier League since 2016.
Dean Smith’s side had gone ahead in the ninth minute through John McGinn but Tottenham’s record signing Tanguy Ndombele drew Spurs level with a fine goal from outside the area.
It was the introduction of Christian Eriksen that proved the catalyst for Spurs’ comeback after Pochettino opted to leave him on the bench ahead of a possible exit before the European transfer window shuts.
Stalwart Jan Vertonghen was left out of the matchday squad completely, which was a surprise given both Pochettino and the defender confirmed that he was not injured.
The Belgian is a trusted ally of Pochettino so his omission – and the manager’s explanation of it – seems odd.
Pochettino said: “I want to play the players who deserve to play, who I think to deserve to play and who are playing well.
“My decision today was to play Toby (Alderweireld). If the players didn’t play today, they need to work hard to get their opportunity.
“With all the players fit you struggle to find a starting 11. We have more than 25 players and everyone needs to understand we have plenty of good players in every position. We can only play with 11.
“It’s always the judgement of the manager and the coaching staff. After five years I’m going to play the players who deserve to play, there is not any issue but my decision today was play with Toby and Davinson (Sanchez) to provide a good balance for the team.”
Villa boss Dean Smith was dreaming of pulling off a shock, but knew his side were well beaten in the end.
“It was a tough baptism of fire coming here,” he said. “Performance wise I thought was very good. The defensive organisation was very good but we came up against a superior team who deserved to win at the end.
“I was disappointed with our second-half performance, I thought we were too cheap on the ball.
“When you keep giving the ball away and have to chase as hard as we did today their physicality shone through at the end.”
Lampard takes charge of the Blues in a competitive match for the first time at Old Trafford on Sunday.
Mourinho lifted the Premier League trophy three times across two spells at Stamford Bridge after beginning his initial tenure with a 1-0 home success against United 15 years ago following a goal from Eidur Gudjohnsen.
Former midfielder Lampard, the west London club’s record scorer with 211 goals, played in that fixture in August 2004 and is keen for his squad to gain similar early-season momentum.
“I remember the game, we didn’t play particularly well, it wasn’t a great game. We won 1-0 and it was a nice start for us because we’d had a good pre-season and all of our standards were lifted by Jose Mourinho,” said Lampard.
“It would be great to have that momentum after a first game – it’s the same because it’s both the same teams we are talking about but it’s not the end of the story.
'I want us to be an exciting team to watch.' 🙌— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 10, 2019
“We’re going to a tough place in Old Trafford. The thing with football, and especially the top of the Premier League, is you can lose at those places. But we have to have a bigger picture than that.
“But, yes, of course, if we can get the early momentum by going there and getting a result, it certainly helped in the Jose Mourinho days and it will help us.”
Lampard received supportive messages from Mourinho after leaving Derby to take the Chelsea job last month but has not spoken with his former boss.
The 56-year-old Portuguese has been out of management since being sacked by United in December.
Lampard played under numerous other successful coaches, including Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti and Rafael Benitez, but would not reveal which one was the most influential while stressing his desire to be his own man.
“I have too many experiences with managers that to name one would feel almost be disrespectful to the others,” he said.
“What I would say is I can take tips or ideas from all of my managers. I try and be myself through that, I don’t try and be a Jose Mourinho or a Carlo Ancelotti, Guus Hiddink.
“I try and be myself but with influences from them because some managers are more people managers, some managers are more tactical managers. I think if you strive to try and find that, it’s not natural.
“I was fortunate enough to play under a lot and get tips but I’m not going to give you one name.”
Lampard will come up against Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this weekend. The Norwegian initially succeeded Mourinho on a caretaker basis before being appointed permanently on a three-year contract in late March.
After winning 14 of his opening 17 fixtures in all competitions, former United striker Solskjaer lost eight of the next 12 as his side limped over the line to finish sixth.
Lampard believes criticism of his fellow manager has been slightly unfair but acknowledges working for a high-profile club brings constant scrutiny.
“When you manage a club like Manchester United or Chelsea it comes with the territory,” said Lampard.
“It can be excessive, not just for Ole, but for everyone in football. You have to have a thick skin. It is possibly harsh as it is something that he came in to and he had a great lift.
“I think it’s his real chance to make a stamp on that team with a window and a pre-season behind him.
“And I’m trying to make a stamp here, so it makes for a competitive match. It is up to him and it is up to me.”
Two men have been charged over a security incident in connection with two Arsenal players, police have confirmed.
Arsenal announced on Friday that Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac would not be in their squad for Sunday’s Premier League opener at Newcastle.
The club said the players, who were targeted by car-jackers in north London last month, had been withdrawn due to “further security incidents”.
It is now known an incident occurred on Thursday, with the Metropolitan Police confirming that two men were arrested.
According to reports, the men were arrested after becoming involved in an altercation with security staff outside Ozil’s house.
A police statement read: “Two men have been charged under Section 4a of the Public Order Act following an incident in Camden on Thursday, 8 August.
“Ferhat Ercan, 27, and Salaman Ekinci, 27, were charged on 9 August following the incident and are due to appear at Highbury Corner magistrates’ court on 6 September.”
Neither midfielder Ozil, 30, nor defender Kolasinac, 26, have been harmed.
Arsenal’s statement on Friday read: “Mesut Ozil and Sead Kolasinac will not be part of the squad for our opening match against Newcastle United following further security incidents which are being investigated by the police.
“The welfare of our players and their families is always a top priority and we have taken this decision following discussion with the players and their representatives.
“We are liaising with the police and are providing the players and their families with ongoing support.
“We look forward to welcoming the players back to the squad as soon as possible.”