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Q&A with Cartilage Free Captain

The inside scoop from across North London

Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League
Will North London be red or white on Saturday morning?
Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Just for you TSF reader we braved contact with Spurs fans to get the low-down on Tottenham ahead of the North London Derby. It turns out (actually we already knew) that the guys over at Cartilage Free Captain (@CartilageFree) are a great bunch. Thanks to Sean Cahill (@seancahill24) for answering our questions. Make sure you drop by their site to check out how the Derby is being covered from a Spurs perspective and don’t miss their Recurrently Generated Football League, it’s fantastic.

I also answered some questions from CFC, and you can find them right here.

How are you going to feel next year when Harry Kane and Christian Eriksen are facing off in El Clasico? Will you have a CFC watch party?

IF this happens, and that's a much larger IF than people expect, I fully expect the entire CFC staff to be incoherently drunk and crying.

Are you concerned about Tottenham's ability to hold onto those guys (and Alli too)? After all, Arsenal went through some lean financial years as the club paid off the Emirates.

Strangely enough, the only one I'm actually concerned about is Dele Alli. Kane and Eriksen have both come out and said the right things and talking about money not being their primary driver when it comes to football. Dele, on the other hand, is one that has generally kept mum on the subject and probably is the most prone to leaving.

Bigger picture, how in the world will Spurs be able to keep up with the spending that is seemingly the norm in the Premier League and on the continent? Arsenal can't, and we don't have stadium payments to make.

The funny thing about the stadium is that Daniel Levy has the entire thing planned out, even with the stadium costing more than initially expected. While there is still that small contingent of #LevyOut supporters that cry about how he handled the early and middle years of ENIC leadership, the fact remains that ENIC saw this as an investment. They never overspend their budget, always planned ahead, and it seems like it's going to pay off. Yes, there are payments to be made, but it seems our Bald Ninja Jedi is ready for it.

That being said, Spurs are not going to be able to keep up with the likes of a Manchester City, Manchester United, or Chelsea at this stage. There is an expectation that, with a bigger stadium, PL TV money, competition money from European competition, etc that the wage bill may increase and transfer rules loosened a bit. We've already seen a bit of it with the £40m purchase of Davinson Sanchez, so Levy showing to everyone that he is willing to break the club record from time to time is promising. The commitment to youth shores up the rest, though let's be honest: Luck plays into that just as much as training.

How will Tottenham keep up that fast-paced, high-pressure style should they make a Champions League run into March? It can't be easy to play that style twice a week, especially against stiffer competition.

It isn't, and we've actually seen Pochettino be willing to switch tactics. In the first UCL match against Dortmund, we did not see much pressing. Instead, Spurs were happy to sit back and let Dortmund take the bulk of the possession. The press kicked in around the final third and the result was a couple of fantastic counter-attacking goals. While the gegenpress is what one expects from Spurs, Pochettino is showing that he's getting better with age tactically.

Should we expect the same high press on Saturday or have Spurs played more conservatively against better teams with players more capable of exploiting mistakes?

It depends on the team they're facing. Against Liverpool, who we all know will press you into oblivion, Spurs played back a bit at the beginning and opted for the counter. It worked early on (thanks Dejan Lovren for being terrible!) and Spurs didn't have to go full-bore press for the entire match.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Spurs pressed APOEL Nicosia into oblivion in Cyprus until the match was at hand. The adjustments will be made pending the match. Against Arsenal, it's hard to say. I'd say expect the press early on, especially if Arsenal sit back a bit.

At 3-0-2 in your last five domestic matches, are you concerned teams have "figured out" the system?

Looking at those fixtures, here's who Spurs had:

1-0 Win over Bournemouth

4-1 Win over Liverpool

3-2 Loss to West Ham (Carabao Cup)

1-0 Loss to United

1-0 Win over Palace

That loss to West Ham had some heavy rotation, but Spurs also shit the bed in that second half and the players admitted it. They were up 2-0, got comfortable, and let West Ham terrorize them for 45 minutes. Shit happens, move on.

The United loss was one fluke play in a 90 minute slog fest in pouring rain without Harry Kane at Old Trafford. Eric Dier admittedly turned off just long enough for it to cost Spurs a point or a chance at three in the end. The match was ugly as hell.

That last win against Palace is the one that surprised me. Palace played Spurs very well as it appeared Roy Hodgson has the defensive tactics in place to stymie the attack. It worked for 60 minutes until the breakthrough. The same can be said for that Bournemouth match as Howe's side didn't play bad at all. They just couldn't put the ball in the net.

So, long story short: I think by now most everyone knows the general tactics of Spurs and that's why we're seeing Pochettino willing to switch it up a bit to try and throw other clubs off of their tactics. He'll need to keep doing that, but I don't think the base idea of "press press press" will die.

Tottenham have a number of guys coming off injuries. Who's ready to go, who isn't? Any significant lineup changes?

Confirmed out are:

Victor Wanyama, who came back too early in the season from a knee injury and made it worse. No timetable for his return.

Toby Alderweireld, who suffered a bad hamstring strain against Real Madrid. Pochettino confirmed that it won't be until after Christmas that he'll be ready.

Erik Lamela was not listed in the injured list, but he's been injured/dead/chained up in the basement for the last year. We've seen pictures of him (or his cyborg) training and there is belief he could make the bench for this match. He will be a sight for sore eyes as Spurs could use another option in the attack off the bench.

Everyone else is good to go and had full training, including Kane, Winks, Dele, and Hugo.

By the way, how do Tottenham's players recover so quickly from injuries?

Well, MOST of them come back pretty quickly thanks to good physio, but there are outliers (see above) with the team. We can chalk it up to having good people on staff, or it could just as easily be black magic.

With the upcoming stadium debt and so many key players being eyed by bigger clubs, this year may be Spurs's best shot at a trophy. Will they do it?

The Premier League is going to be tough. I think City are head and shoulders above everyone with the second group being United, Spurs, and Chelsea, followed by Arsenal and Liverpool.

Secondly, there's the Champions League. Let me preface this by saying I have no expectation of Spurs winning this thing, but when you look at the standings in these groups, this has all the fixings of some random ass team getting a favorable draw and making it all the way. I think Spurs have just as good a shot as any, but it all depends on who they get along the way and how healthy they are. We did not expect Spurs to win the Group of Death with Real and Dortmund, yet they're one victory away from doing just that. As the groups stand now, here's who they could face in the Round of 16:

FC Basel

Bayern Munich





Obviously you all know from personal experience that Bayern in the Round of 16 is like biting into a cyanide capsule, and while Juve are still good, they're a step worse than last year.

Spurs have a pretty good shot at making the quarterfinals and who knows from there.

Then there's the FA Cup is always a crap shoot with the draw, but that may be a great chance given Spurs reached the semis last year only to run into Chelsea on one of their better days.

So, in short, I think the FA Cup is Spurs best chance at silverware. Premier League could change with one or two injuries, and the Champions League could be pure chaos.

Oh, I almost forgot. Are copies of the 'Victory Over Real Madrid' DVD still available?

I take Cash App, Venmo, or Paypal if you want a bootleg copy.

Prediction for Saturday?

I don't expect any surprises in the Starting XI: Lloris (C); Sanchez, Dier, Vertonghen; Trippier, Dembele, Winks, Rose; Eriksen, Dele; Kane

As for the match, it's the North London Derby, so anything and everything can happen. The last three Premier League ties at the Emirates have been 1-1 draws, and while I think that's a safe bet, I'm feeling a bit confident.

Spurs take all three points, 2-1