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Construction delays and Champions League rescues: A Q&A with Cartilage Free Captain

We get a view from the opposition ahead of the North London derby.

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Here we are again, on the eve (weekend eve, anyway) of the first North London derby of the post-Wenger era. In advance of Unai Emery’s debut in this fun little fixture, we chatted with Sean Cahill of Cartilage Free Captain about Spurs’ season so far, their Champions League struggles, and their parallel struggle to build themselves a new home.

I answered some questions for CFC as well; you can find those right here.

TSF: Let’s talk some business first. This shiny new cheese shop and brewpub y’all are building is taking much longer and, presumably, costing a lot more than expected. Is there a sense for what the impacts of stadium cost overruns specifically will be on the club going forward, both in how long any restricted spending will last and also how restricted spending may be?

CFC: You know how when you were a kid and you saw all those Christmas presents under the tree and you were just dying to rip them open? That’s pretty much how we feel about the stadium. Every video. Every picture. Every single time we see it, we just go “PLEASE OPEN!” because it’s just a gorgeous creation. At this rate, we might get into the stadium before the eventual heat death of the universe.

As for the cost and what it means to the club, there was speculation that Spurs basically didn’t make any moves because of the stadium. Of course, our overlord Daniel Levy said that wasn’t true and he just didn’t get a deal he liked. God forbid Levy actually negotiates like a normal person for a change and doesn’t try to extend a payment on a player into the 22nd Century. Other than that, we’re told there is still a transfer budget and we may go after someone in January.

TSF: Sorta related: Is there a sense that Spurs are going to go the Arsenal route with the new stadium and become (or remain, I guess - I’m not sure if this is already a thing) a team that only spends what it generates? The increase in match day income alone will be significant, but is that enough to keep Spurs in any particular season’s title conversation?

I think that’s a pretty fair question, and my answer is that I don’t think business will change. Spurs net spend from the beginning of 2012 until January 2017 was just £1 million, which is crazy when you think about some of the players they have and their estimated values. After that, Spurs spent some money by bringing in players like Lucas, Davinson Sanchez, Serge Aurier, etc. The net spend jumped quite a bit, save for last summer of course.

We know what the estimated gates will be for the club and we also know about the cushy deal Spurs have with the NFL, as well as a possible leasing agreement with an NFL franchise moving to London which, I’m still convinced will be the Jaguars. (Have fun with Blake Bortles, London Jaguars!) When you take everything into the formula, I think Levy will still spend wisely, look for deals when he can, but still push the value of the club up until ENIC decides to ultimately sell the club.

TSF: Spurs have gotten off to another strong start and look to be favorites for yet another Top Four Trophy (FLAGS FLY FOREVER!). And yet, those receding taillights up ahead belonging to the runaway diesel marked MANCHESTER CITY, and the other, slightly less runaway one marked LIVERPOOL, represent a ceiling, for not just Spurs but any team with similar ambitions. Is there a sense around Tottenham that a title push is still possible, or is the aim finishing comfortably in that top four and aiming for next year?

CFC: We all know that when ENIC purchased the club, the goal was to not just qualify for the Champions League, but to make the club a perennial contender for the competition year in and year out. Trophies, of course, are the ultimate goal and we still hear from Pochettino that this club can compete for the title. A cross-sport analogy here that works comes from old Northwestern football coach Gary Barnett, who coined the phrase “Expect Victory.” He wanted that embedded into the head of every player and fan, that way when the winning did come, it wouldn’t feel like a flash in the pan. I think Pochettino is doing exactly the same thing and we’ve sort of warmed up to it, but they still need to win that first trophy under him before I think everyone expects it.

TSF: Speaking of next year, do you see Mauricio Pochettino still prowling the technical area in the new stadium, or will he have his attention turned by a certain Spanish club and their large piles of money?

CFC: The only club that truly terrifies me of swooping in and snatching Pochettino up is Paris Saint-Germain, if you can believe that. While we all say that money ultimately talks, his loyalty to Espanyol is well known and he doesn’t really care for Barcelona. I think if he wanted to go to Real Madrid, he would have gone after last season, but that’s just speculation of course.

In his book, he talked about how much both he and his wife love Paris. They go there whenever they get the chance and absolutely adore the city. This is why I think if PSG ever showed up with a dump truck of money and started to pour it onto his lawn, he’d have a difficult time saying no. I’m happy as hell that he’s still our coach and it’s crazy to think that he wasn’t even the front runner when he took the job in 2014.

TSF: What has caused Spurs to struggle so much in the Champions League, and are you looking forward to a North London Europa League derby? (ED. NOTE: This question was written early Wednesday morning before the day’s Champions League games)

*Checks scores from Wednesday’s UCL*

In the words of Lee Corso....

CFC: So Spurs have struggled a bit. They blew a lead at the San Siro and ultimately lost to Inter to start, then got waxed by Messi and Co. An awful draw with PSV left us with little hope. Suddenly, Spurs are sitting in second place in the group with the tiebreaker over Inter. Now, there’s a big f*cking wall in the way that has BARCELONA scribbled on it, but Barca has already won the group and have nothing to play for. They have Espanyol before that match, then Levantes after. Barca should, and probably will, rest their primary guys. Winning at Camp Nou isn’t impossible, and that’s the best opportunity Spurs could ask for after such an awful start.

If Spurs do drop into Europa, and there’s definitely a chance that they do, I couldn’t imagine what the season would be like with Spurs and Arsenal playing five times in a season.

TSF: In the league, Spurs appear to be a pretty well-oiled machine these days, most recently mowing down Chelsea and making them look entirely pedestrian in the process. What has been the main driver of Spurs’ enviably consistent quality play in the last season or so?

CFC: Pressing the ever-loving sh*t out of everyone....when Spurs are healthy. The attacking band has always seemed to have one or two guys banged up and unavailable until just this week. We finally got to see “DESK” in the Starting XI as we call it (Dele, Eriksen, Son, Kane...because we’re clever like that.) and the rest is history. Chelsea basically had no room to breathe and pushed up the field so quickly that N’Golo Kante basically had no real chance to try and break up attacks. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Secondly, and I absolutely cannot believe I’m saying this....Moussa Sissoko has been outstanding in the last several weeks. I know some people are going to read that sentence over and over again, wondering if I’m in the right state of mind. It’s true, though. The Frenchman has been fantastic in midfield. He has slotted in next to just about everyone in the pivot and has been a force. His career with Tottenham has been a rocky one, but you cannot deny just how important he’s been to Spurs in the last few fixtures and solid overall.

TSF: My standard closing question: In order to beat Spurs, Arsenal must (blank)

Not get run over in the midfield and break Spurs’ press. I think of Arsenal does one of those things, they can generate chances but they’d still have some problems. Do both of those things, and Spurs find themselves on the back foot. I fully expect to see Pochettino roll out the best eleven he can on Sunday, and the game plan is going to be a lot of what I mentioned before.

Thanks again to Sean and the CFC staff for taking part!