Of course there's a North London derby after Arsenal's heaviest defeat in years. After Sunday, there's a glorious, desperately needed international break, but first, Tottenham come to the Emirates. Let's chat with Bryan A. of Cartilage Free Captain about Tottenham's season so far, shall we? It's only fair, I did the same thing over there.
TSF: Tottenham currently sit fifth, one point out of the Top Club Club and the seat at the grownup table that is the Champions League such a place represents. Is this about where you expected Spurs to be at this point in the season?
CFC: Yeah, about. I think the expectation coming in to the season was that Spurs would again be in the race for the fifth or sixth spot, with perhaps a slim chance at getting fourth if someone slipped up. Most fans, including myself probably felt like Tottenham's best avenue for Champions League qualification was winning the Europa League. Of course, that was before Chelsea started so poorly and Liverpool fired their manager. Now things may be different, but I still think most would be satisfied if we made a serious run at fourth.
TSF: What has been the biggest surprise at Spurs this year, either positive or negative?
CFC: I mean, the biggest positive surprise is that we're actually quite good. Though if you want something more specific, I will say Eric Dier. The English Francis Coqeulin (except, you know, actually good) was slotted into the holding midfield role at the beginning of the seasons and everyone was nervous about whether he could handle it. Well, he's made the role his own, so much so that he's probably been our best player so far this season. Spurs' defense is worlds better this year and, while some will attribute it to Toby Alderweireld, it's all down to the job Dier does shielding the defense.
TSF: From the outside, at least, Mauricio Pochettino seems to have settled in well and be fairly well regarded. Has he found a long-term home at Spurs?
CFC: I'm going to take a pre-preemptive pot-shot at Daniel Levy--because if I don't your commenters will--and say that White Hart Lane isn't exactly a place where managers have a long-term home. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, yes, Pochettino has found a home at Spurs. Spurs seem to have built a system around Pochettino to allow him to succeed, something that the club was loathe to do with other managers. When Pochettino arrived, Spurs had little in the way of a scouting or analytics department. All that has been overhauled and Spurs are already seeing the new backroom staff pay dividends following the purchases of Dele Alli and Heung-Min Son.
As to Pochettino himself, fans seem to love him. His teams play exciting football with an energetic press. Spurs score goals, but also defend really well. This is only Pochettino's second season in charge, so I'm not ready to hail him as our answer to Sir Alex Ferguson or Arsene Wenger, but I think it's going to take something really bad happening over the course of a long time to dislodge Poche from his post.
TSF: Are Tottenham expected to be active in the January shopping window? What is the team's most pressing need at the moment?
CFC: History would tell us that Spurs aren't going to spend much money, at least not on immediate impact players. Sure, we could use another striker and possibly another holding midfield player, but I expect Tottenham to ride or die with the squad they have. Maybe Levy splashes a little cash if it appears that Spurs can mount a serious top 4 or even top 3 challenge, but I expect us to buy for the future instead. Last winter's only purchase was the aforementioned Dele Alli, who was promptly loaned back to MK Dons. More purchases of that ilk, promising teenagers available at lower prices, might be on the cards for this January.
TSF: One for the Americans: How's DeAndre Yedlin doing on his loan stint? Does Pochettino see a future for him at Spurs?
CFC: I have watched all of one Sunderland match this year, because I am not a masochist. Reports out of the Northeast seem to be largely positive though. The book on Yedlin is the same as it ever was though. Not good enough defensively to play fullback, not good enough technically to be a winger. In terms of his future at Spurs, I'm not certain there is one. Spurs other right backs, Kieran Trippier and Kyle Walker, don't exactly inspire a lot of confidence, but both are clearly better than Yedlin. Sorry, America.
TSF: Fill in the blank: if Arsenal want to beat Tottenham, they must (blank)
CFC: Score more goals than Spurs? Ok. That's obviously a dumb answer, but no team has scored more goals than Spurs in a Premier League match this season. Now, I hear you saying, "But you lost to Manchester United." Yes, that's true, but Kyle Walker scored the only goal that day, so really United didn't score at all. Spurs defense has been solid and, even with the attack sputtered a bit early on, it was good enough to guarantee Spurs some early results. Arsenal have attacking talent, but so do City and Liverpool.
The other key, is how Arsenal handle the press. Spurs' pressure high up the pitch forced City into some dumb mistakes and resulted in a 4-1 Spurs win. If Arsenal don't score early and make dumb turnovers, things could be difficult for the Gunners.
It also probably would hurt for Arsenal to allow Mathieu Flamini to score another brace of wonder goals. I'm not certain that's a must though.
Thanks again to Bryan and CFC for taking the time to chat!