Here we are again, staring down the barrel of another North London Derby (tm). The last one, at the Emirates, was a ton of fun, but there’s been a lot of changes for both teams since that wonderful day. Here to answer some of our questions about what the noisy neighbors have been up to since November is Sean Cahill of Cartilage Free Captain, who was nice enough yet again to answer our questions. He also answered some of mine, and you can click here to find that over at CFC.
TSF: Spurs had kind of a quiet January, highlighted by the signing of Lucas Moura. What is it about Moura that’s got Spurs fans so excited?
CFC: Lucas is what a lot of Spurs supporters (including those of us on Carty Free) feel that we’re missing in attack, whether as a starter or a sub: A pacey winger who can go at defenders. Spurs are also not really known for their January business, so having a signing that cost £25m is something of a surprise, but it was a very Levy-friendly deal and we’ll happily take it.
TSF: Did Spurs field a pretty strong lineup Wednesday, and did that lineup even break a sweat?
CFC: Heavy rotation was the name of the game in a 2-0 win. Toby Alderweireld returned and went 90, so expect him on Saturday. Danny Rose returned and went just over 80 minutes. It’s weird seeing a healthy squad out there, and it’s coming at the perfect time. Eriksen and Dele came on in the second half to get some work, but Kane got a full rest along with Dembele and Dier.
TSF: As you may or may not recall, Arsenal got the better of Spurs in November, in probably one of Arsenal’s best - or at least most complete - performances of the season. How different a team is February Spurs from November Spurs, and do you anticipate a better game this time?
CFC: We’re not the walking wounded anymore, for one. In that match we played a back three of Vertonghen, Dier, and Sanchez with Davies and Trippier at fullback. Sissoko also started (ugh) and Spurs tried this weird two striker setup with Kane and Dele. It didn’t work.
I expect a more attacking lineup on Saturday with everyone available for selection and fully expect Spurs to be better than that match in November.
TSF: Coming into the season, all the talk was about how Spurs would struggle at Wembley. That, to say the least, has turned out to be a non-issue. Are Spurs as comfortable there as their one-loss record would suggest?
CFC: I think so. The first couple of matches we all got tired of rolling our eyes at the comments, but I think the narrative died with the win over Real Madrid, even with their season being a bit down. They’ve adjusted to the pitch size, which is good because we’re told that the new White Hart Lane will have pretty similar dimensions, maybe just a tad smaller.
TSF: Looking ahead a bit, how much does Tottenham have to worry about playing Juventus? Do you feel that’s a winnable tie?
CFC: It’s definitely winnable. Juventus will be without Matuidi and Dybala, arguably their two most important players. They’re banged up and while they’re still winning in Serie A, there’s a whole lot of 1-0 wins in there that were wars of attrition. I’m cautiously optimistic with everyone being healthy.
TSF: Pochettino says “Football is about trying to trick your opponent. Yes or no?” While accepting that all pro players game the system as far as gaining advantages goes, and accepting that the game just works like that now, have you noticed Poch’s teams doing more diving and drawing fouls than other Spurs teams?
That comment is kind of a catch-all, when you take it for face value. Every sport is about trying to fool your opponent into thinking you’re going to do one thing but doing another. In regards to the actual context, football has had that stigma for awhile of diving or selling the hell out of fouls. I don’t think he’s wrong, but I will say I wish there was a lot less simulation and acting. Dele definitely has the reputation for it, and we’re seeing it hurt him.
TSF: We’ve asked variations of this question before, but does the looming expense of building an artisanal cheese restaurant with a stadium attached mean this year is kind of an all-in, dice-roll year, or is this a team financially ready to cope with that level of debt repayment while still being able to bring in top-shelf talent?
CFC: I like the use of artisanal in this question, for what it’s worth!
Everything that we’ve gathered is that not only are Spurs ready for it, but things are ahead of expectations. Apparently sales of the suites and season tickets are going so well that the club may be able to re-evaluate their growth and move things up. This is what we were hoping for, because with a new stadium come new expectations and being able to pay your players more. Couple that with the cushy NFL deal and the possibility of an NFL team moving to London and paying a very hefty leasing fee and the club is in great shape. Levy has assured the supporters trust that everything is in place for repayment, and there’s no reason to doubt him.
TSF: Related hypothetical: If Spurs turned down a team that was prepared to meet the €200 million release clause for Harry Kane, would the club’s board immediately all fire themselves for being bad at doing business?
CFC: FYI, the reported “starting price” for Kane according to Levy is £300m. At that price, maybe I’d say they could fire themselves.
As your question stands, replace “Kane” with “Dele” and I’d want them all fired. Kane is the guy this club needs to keep. While supporters are always emotional with players that came up in the youth system, I think Kane is the guy that you basically ask for the keys to a franchise for, and that’s the starting point.
Dele is the guy I’m expecting eventually to move on and play on the continent. He may have one more season, but with Real saying they want to spend the GDP of a small nation this summer, I’m expecting bids to come in for both. Dele is the one I would expect to leave, though.
TSF: Predicted lineup? Any score predictions?
CFC: Everyone is healthy! Poch got some guys time on Wednesday to see if they’re up to fitness, so here’s what I expect:
(4-2-3-1) Lloris; Davies, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Aurier; Dembele, Dier; Son, Dele, Eriksen; Kane
I’ve got 3-1 Spurs.
Thanks again to Sean and CFC for taking the time to chat.