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Know your opponent: Q&A with Cartilage Free Captain ahead of the North London Derby

Before the derby, we spoke with Abbie Rose of Cartilage Free Captain.

Arsenal Women v Tottenham Hotspur Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

Before Arsenal play Spurs in tomorrow’s WSL North London Derby, we spoke with Abbie Rose of Cartilage Free Captain before the match. Thank you, Abbie!

Q: ​​What are Spurs’ aims for this season?

It depends on who you ask. Last season was the first and only season Spurs really distinguished themselves from the rest of the WSL midtable. The general consensus amongst fans seems to be that we’d like to cement our presence there with a fourth or fifth place finish. You will hear some folks talk about Champions League dreams. The BBC even recently ran an article that said something like, “could Spurs or United disrupt the traditional top 3”. Obviously that would be great, but I don’t think that’s super realistic.

Q: Should we expect any change in Rehanne Skinner’s tactical set-up?

Spurs played a relatively defensive back three against Leicester last weekend, likely due to personnel issues rather than any particular fear of Leicester. I’d be shocked if we didn’t see something similar against Arsenal, as Spurs have tended to use a back three against big teams in the past.

There’s also a bit of a running joke amongst Spurs fans that the tactical change we’d most like to see is “more players in the opposition box.” Due to injuries and a shallow squad, this hasn’t really been happening for nearly a year. We’ve signed enough new attackers that this shouldn’t continue to be a long term issue, but things aren’t quite up to speed just yet–our new striker, Nikola Karczewska was only fit enough for the bench last week against Leicester, so we saw our defensively-minded box-to-box midfielder Eveliina Summanen appear as a false 9. We dearly, dearly hope that Nikola is fit and that this is the week we finally get to see players AND the ball in the box at the same time.

Q: Which player are you most excited to see this season? And which player who joined in the summer do you have the most expectations for?

I spent all summer giving the most hipster answers for this question. Naturally, not a half hour into the season Ash Neville unleashes an absolute banger of a goal from 35 yards out and shuts me up.

Ash Neville is usually the most exciting player on the pitch, no matter what she’s doing. She has to be on that list. We’re also really looking forward to the return of Kit Graham and Ria Percival later this season, both of whom are currently out with ACL injuries.

The other player we’re all really excited about is 22-year-old Polish striker, Nikola Karczewska. She joined Spurs this summer from FC Fleury, where she scored 10 goals in somewhat of a breakout season. We expected to receive a raw player who had a lot of work to do to make it in the FA WSL, but preseason has shown us otherwise. She’s a true striker with great positioning and goal scoring instincts, she’s close to 6’0” tall and physically dominant, and she can also press and pass decently well too. She apparently picked up a knock on international duty with Poland, but once she finally makes her debut she’s going to be a game changer for us. I’m also really looking forward to watching Angharad James. Last time Angharad played in the FA WSL she was top 5 in the league for most defensive metrics, and 1st in the league for nutmegs . Hell yeah.

Q: Spurs didn’t have any players in the England Euros squad. Who is most likely to breakthrough and potentially have a role ahead of the World Cup?

It’s a travesty that Ash Neville hasn’t received an England call up already. Spurs fans have been banging this drum for over a year now, and lately it’s been getting some traction amongst non-Spurs folks too. In addition to being a stellar fullback and incredibly versatile, Ash gets better every time you raise the level of play around her. She’d probably be fantastic for England. Unfortunately she’s 29, so we’re starting to worry England thinks that’s too old.

Elsewhere, Molly Bartrip gets the odd shout for a center back call up every now and then. She’s very consistent, a strong leader, and she’s got a fantastic long pass on her. If there’s some sort of center back injury crisis in the England squad, she shouldn’t be too far down the list. We have a few younger players who are in and around the England youth setups. Right now, fullback Asmita Ale is looking like the next one to make a leap, but I think she’s still a year or two off.

We do have plenty of other regular internationals though! Arsenal fans might remember Norwegian Celin Bizet from England’s 8-0 victory over Norway. She appeared as a late substitute and promptly received a yellow card for fouling and kicking Leah Williamson.