It's already time for the first North London derby of the season, and of course, it's a cup competition. Even though it's the "lesser" of all the cups, it's still something Arsenal don't want to lose, particularly to that lot; tomorrow's a great chance to turn around the struggles of the last week and advance in a competition that Arsenal can use to get their second string some experience.
Here to talk to us today about tomorrow's game is Dustin from Cartilage Free Captain; I guess consider this a dry run for....(sentence trails off and crying starts). Anyway. I asked him some questions, and he gave me some answers, and here they both are!
TSF: Spurs seem to have started to get a bit...better? More consistent? something, at least in the last week or two, after a wobbly start. To what do you attribute this change? Followup question, when will the terms of the deal that Spurs made with the mysterious stranger come due?
CFC: It's funny you mention that, because apart from a disastrous 30 minutes against Stoke and an anemic performance against Leicester City, Spurs really haven't performed all that poorly this season. They were solid in a narrow loss at Old Trafford, played very well against Everton, and quite possibly put in their best performance of the season this past weekend against Crystal Palace. The only thing that didn't come were the results. But now with three wins on the bounce, it feels like (shhhhhh!) there might be cause for optimism this season.
I think you can attribute this new-found optimism to a combination of factors. First, Spurs have doubled-down on youth, clearly borrowing a page from Arsene's playbook. We tried the "spend lots of money on proven players" thing and it didn't work. So instead we're going after the young moneyball buys and are investing in a youth academy that's churning out some really good players right now. Second, Pochettino has finally started to mold the squad into the one that he thinks can implement his tactics. The cruft has been cut away and the remaining players are starting to get it. That's pretty exciting.
Not that we're expecting top four. We're not. There's a grudging acceptance by most Spurs fans that we're pretty much in a holding pattern until the new stadium gets finished and we can earn a seat at the Premier League adult table. But based on recent results, there's a sense that Spurs fans are holding their breath lest they jinx what might actually be a good thing.
There was also the dark ritual we performed this summer involving a chicken, but we don't talk about that.
TSF: Similar question to yours: How did Spurs do in this summer's orgy of transfer activity? Did they do their usual overbuy and see what sticks, or were they more tactical?
CFC: I think overall, Spurs had a very smart window. A lot of the dead wood (Soldado, Capoue, Stambouli, Paulinho, Adebayor, Lennon) have been cut away and Spurs targeted positions of need that were identified last season. The signing of Son Heung-Min was masterful — I wanted him back before he signed for Leverkusen — and he looks to be an extremely good buy. Toby Alderweireld has likewise turned into a solid starter for us, and Dele Alli was an amazing get, considering he was playing in League 1 last season. The rest of the summer signings were young depth signings with high upsides that will probably take a season or two to come good. It makes me not even really feel all that badly about not landing Saido Berahino.
The biggest criticism I have is the failure to sign a proven defensive midfielder. Eric Dier has been remarkable in that position, but we don't have anyone who can capably back him up, and that's a failure. I would've been happy keeping someone like Stambouli or Capoue around, though I'm sure there were other reasons why they were sold.
TSF: Was Harry Kane's 2014 the Come On Eileen of player seasons, or will people actually remember his second single years from now?
CFC: Despite the breathless exhortations from the sport media, I'm not worried about Kane, at all. He's gotten off to a slow start, but I don't think anyone expected him to score 30 goals this season. Now that opposition defenses are targeting him, he's finding his opportunities come less often and are more difficult. He's also forcing things right now as he very obviously wants to score BADLY. But Spurs fans really didn't want to be reliant on Harry Kane for the bulk of their scoring anyway, and he's scored two for England. He'll be all right. He just needs to have one go in off his ass and it's off to the races.
TSF: Where does this cup rank as far as a priority for Spurs? Will we see a lot of promising young talent on Wednesday, or will it be a relatively Premier League-strength side?
CFC: A cup is a cup, and Spurs are historically a cup team. They made the finals of this cup last season (thanks Chelsea), so I'd say they'll take it seriously, especially since this is a North London Derby. But with a match looming against City coming up this weekend, and Spurs nursing quite a few midfield injuries right now, I don't have a clue what kind of a side we'll see on Wednesday. I suspect we'll get some rotation: Michel Vorm might start at home, Clinton N'Jie and Kevin Wimmer might get nods, Kieran Trippier and Danny Rose will rotate in, Christian Eriksen will likely play as he's coming back from injury. But I think Eric Dier will still play. I think Harry Kane will start. You don't capitulate to your biggest rivals by playing the kids in a home cup match. I suspect it will be a fairly strong side with a few key players rested.
TSF: How much of a damage deposit will MK Dons require before they agree to a groundshare? Is there a Plan B in case Spurs can't get their credit check approved by the temporary landlord, or will Spurs have to play at Bruce Castle Park for a year or two?
CFC: I'm still waiting for the announcement that Spurs and Arsenal have agreed to a groundshare of the Emirates! Wouldn't that be a kick in the teeth?
No, I suspect there will be an agreement to share Wembley with Chelsea when it's all said and done. From an American, outsider's perspective, I never really understood what the fuss was about playing at MK Dons for a year (it's not that far, there's a train line, it's just for a year, we're getting a shiny new stadium at the end) but whatever. Wembley makes a lot more sense from a logistical standpoint and if the Premier League can get their collective heads out of their rear ends I think they'll see that it really can work if they're willing to be flexible on a couple of things.
And if that doesn't work there's always a return to Tottenham Marshes.
Thanks again to Dustin and CFC for taking the time to chat.