Here we go again! Another north London derby, and another Q&A with our good friends and eventual takeover-ing overlords at Cartilage Free Captain. Today, we talk with CFC contributor GN Punk about all things Spurs. He had some questions for us too, which I answered in a column over there that you can read my answers to right here.
TSF: Things are going well for Spurs so far this season - unbeaten in the league, fifth in the table.. Were fans expecting such a strong start, or is this early success a pleasant surprise?
CFC: I think a strong start was expected. The starting XI from last year was kept intact and the signings that were brought in were to provide depth in case of injury. Good thing that was done, because injuries have hit Spurs quite a bit so far. So, adding it all up, it's nice to be unbeaten even if there are a few draws in there.
TSF: Spurs' path to the Champions League knockouts just got a whole lot trickier. Given that this is Spurs' first CL experience in a while, and given that Spurs will definitely be in the mix for a CL spot next season, would finishing third in the group and dropping back to the Europa this campaign be a crushing blow or just a mild disappointment when looking at the bigger picture of a league title run?
CFC: This is not an easy question to answer, but I'll say that dropping down to Europa probably isn't the best solution. It means playing football on Thursdays again, which means the following league match will usually be an early one on Sunday. The travel argument can be made, though in the knockout stages I think it's less of a problem. The short turnaround to prep for the league match is my biggest concern.
I also want to see just how far Spurs can get in the knockouts, and the team still controls their own destiny. If they can beat CSKA and Monaco, who are somehow looking like the class of the group, then they'd advance.
TSF: If Harry Kane is still out, who should Arsenal be most fearful of on Sunday?
CFC: The attacking band will still press the hell out of anyone, so the combination of Son, Eriksen, Dele, Janssen, Lamela, etc are all guys who will try to cause turnovers as much as possible. Goal scoring threat is a tough one to answer, but I'm expecting Janssen to be starting up top if Kane isn't ready.
TSF: What has been the biggest factor in Spurs' early season success?
CFC: Defense. This team just does not give up goals easily. The fact that they've managed to minimize the damage without Toby Alderweireld recently is impressive as well. Victor Wanyama, outside of the last match against Leicester, has been a solid destroyer in the midfield.
TSF: Does Pochettino rotate, or will we see largely the same team on Saturday that we saw play against Bayer on Wednesday?
CFC: Pochettino has really had no choice but to rotate as much as he can. Dembele also left the match against Bayer with an injury, so his status is up in the air. I'm expecting the fullbacks to be rotated as well, which is definitely a Poch favorite. If you had to force me to pick, here's what I'm expecting:
Lloris; Rose, Vertonghen, Dier, Trippier; Wanyama, Dele; Son, Eriksen, Lamela (hopefully); Janssen
TSF: Fill in the blank: if Arsenal want to beat Spurs on Sunday, they must (blank)
CFC: I've had World Series fever given the Cubs made the World Series (as I'm answering this, we're about an hour away from Game 7's first pitch), so I'll quote Cubs Manager Joe Maddon: "Try not to suck." (EDITOR’S NOTE, THURSDAY 3PM PT: Congrats!)
Spurs have been fine defensively, but creating goals has been an issue. Some of it has been unlucky, other times it has been issues with creativity in the attack. I'm confident they'll figure it out, but it's a tad frustrating currently.
TSF: Which Spurs player would be the best pro wrestler, and what would his finisher be?
CFC: I have to go with Eric Dier. Big guy, has no problem mixing it up, and I feel like he could hold his own. For a finisher since he was mainly our destroyer last year, I'd mark out if he used the Canadian Destroyer.
TSF: Federally mandated rivalry snark question (I'm only asking because it's the law of rivalries that I must): how does it feel to have not yet lost a league game and yet still be behind Arsenal in the table?
CFC: I don't know if I have enough adjectives to describe that level of frustration. Maybe this will sum it up?
If that doesn't do the job, then this will!
TSF: Finally, a score prediction?
CFC: I haven't picked against Spurs all season and they have yet to lose. Somehow, someway, I think they scrape a draw out of this. I'll go with a scoreline of 1-1.
Thanks again to GN Punk and Cartilage Free Captain for taking the time to chat!