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Tottenham vs. Arsenal: Q&A with Cartilage Free Captain

We checked in with our friends from the other side of North London.

Tottenham Hotspur Press Conference Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Arsenal make the short trip across North London to face Tottenham on Sunday. It’s another massive North London Derby after a few years of the fixture being a bit of an afterthought because of the clubs — ok, Arsenal — being in a bit of a dip. As usual, I checked in with our friends down the digital hallway over at Cartilage Free Captain (@cartilagefree). My responses to his questions are here.

I always look forward to chatting with the Carty Free bunch, they’re good people. Dustin, Sean, and their writers understand how to make the rivalry fun and full of banter without the vitriol that others feel. This time around I chatted with Sean Cahill (@seancahill24) about Antonio Conte and Harry Kane’s future at Spurs, what’s going on with Son Heung-min’s form, and how Sean feels about Arsenal’s improbable season thus far.

A friendly reminder: we have a reciprocal ban policy with Carty Free. If you go to their Comments and get in trouble, you’ll get the same punishment here. So don’t do that.

TSF: If the first two questions sound familiar, it’s because they are. Asking about the status of Antonio Conte and Harry Kane seems inescapable when it comes to talking about Tottenham Hotspur right now. The two are inextricably linked, as well. I’m sure you’re tired of hearing and writing about it, but please indulge my TSF readers.

Will Antonio Conte be Spurs’ head coach next season? Where is the confidence meter on that one?

CFC: Not wasting any time, are you this go-round?

The truth is I have no idea. Antonio Conte’s track record is pretty clear: He’ll hang around so long as he gets support from the club. We don’t know what concessions or guarantees were made by Daniel Levy and ENIC when they brought Conte on board, but right now he’s saying all the right things. Reading between the lines, his message is clear: Get me players I can use.

Gun to my head? I think he’s gone, but my confidence level is extremely low. If he leaves, do not be surprised if Mauricio Pochettino returns from his four-year trip to get milk and is back on the touchline for Spurs.

TSF: Will Harry Kane be a Spurs player next season? How confident are you in that?

CFC: This one I’m more confident about. I think Kane stays for two reasons: He wants Alan Shearer’s record and the only team remotely interested in him is in Germany. The only wrinkle in this is he’ll have one year remaining on his contract, so if he was ever going to leave, this is the year. Levy won’t have as much power in negotiations this time around and if Kane decides he wants to leave, Levy may not have a choice. The problem is who? City don’t need him because they have Haaland. Levy will never sell to Chelsea or Arsenal. Liverpool have Nunez.

That leaves Manchester United. It’s not outlandish to think that Kane could go north, especially if United throw a fleet of Brinks trucks at him, but does ten Hag even want him? He seems to be building something with younger players and while Kane is one of the best strikers in the world, he’ll be 30 years old next season and may want to look for a younger striker.

Kane will get one more big contract, and I’m fairly certain it will be with Spurs.

TSF: What’s going on with Son Heung-Min? Also, can you personally ensure that he remains somewhat out of form at least until Sunday?

CFC: Sonny is a head scratcher. We have a ton of theories, but we’re still not sure which one is the correct one. There were thoughts that he might have a nagging injury or that he was just exhausted from playing so many matches. Simply put, I think he is just in the worst slump of his career and is looking to break free. Grabbing a goal against Palace has given him a boost as he had five shots against Portsmouth in the FA Cup. He’s generating more chances now, so that low spell may be ending. We’ll see on Sunday.

TSF: Do you expect Spurs to be active in the January transfer window? What links seem plausible / likely? Will those moves cover what you see to be their biggest needs?

CFC: Spurs are definitely looking for some deals. Right now, the hot topic is Pedro Porro from Sporting. It seems the club have reached out to his agent and have an agreement in principle (depending on who you ask) but Sporting is standing firm on their £40m release clause, which is essentially Levy’s kryptonite. Spurs would also like to send Emerson Royal somewhere....anywhere...whether it be on loan or a permanent deal. After that, it’s a bunch of rumors that are conjecture at best. They might look for loans for fringe players but this may be a quieter January than Spurs have had in recent memory.

TSF: What if I told you the only way Spurs could finish in a Champions League place would be by taking four points off Manchester City over the next few weeks, and in doing so, would give Arsenal the cushion they need to win the title. Are you taking that deal?

CFC: Before I answer this, can we talk about how infuriating it is to see Newcastle splash a little cash and suddenly they look like the Destroyer of Worlds on some weekends? They shouldn’t be involved in the Top 4 race this quickly again.

As for the question...well, sometimes you get help from the most unlikely sources. Spurs always seem to be a thorn in City’s ass and this year it would feel extremely bittersweet. I’d rather see City lift the damn trophy again because I’ve just gotten used to it, but simply put? Spurs need to get as many points out of these next few league matches or else they’re going to find themselves out of the Top 4 race by April.

TSF: What do you expect Spurs to do differently — tactically, lineup-wise, etc. — in Sunday’s match as compared to the NLD at the Emirates? Or Is it as simple as “play at home, not have a guy sent off, and have everyone play better?”

CFC: I think it really is just “play better” to be honest. I watched some of the highlights from the first NLD this season and Arsenal thrashed Spurs’ midfield even before Royal got sent off. If these guys can’t get up for a North London Derby when they’re desperately trying to get into the Top 4 AND help prevent Arsenal from winning the league? I don’t know what the hell will.

TSF: IIRC you don’t like predictions. So I’m not going to make you predict the match. But you’re not getting away that easily. Where do you think that Arsenal and Spurs will finish this season?

CFC: I still think City win the league when it’s all said and done, but Arsenal will finish just below them in second and return to the Champions League. As for Spurs? I think we scrape by and get fourth, but ask me this question again in like three weeks and I might tell you seventh.

Thanks to Sean for taking the time!