The horrendous run we have all feared is finally upon us and it starts with a trip to White Hart Lane. Tottenham are, of course, geographically our closest and only relevant rivals.
So in that spirit I spoke to the Editor of our Spurs sister-site Cartilage Free Captain, Sean Cahill, to get the lowdown on the current state of Tottenham.
So Tottenham remain unbeaten yet somehow find themselves in 5th. How does that work?
Lots of draws. While Spurs still have that zero in the loss column, they only have five wins with six of those pesky draws to show for their trouble. A couple of those are understandable, such as against Liverpool, Arsenal, and even schizophrenic Everton. The draws against West Brom, Bournemouth, and Leicester are less acceptable.
Can you replicate last season (pre-capitulation) and challenge for the title again? What's your expectations for the season?
I think so, though the team really needs to get healthy (more on that later) as they've been the walking wounded for a lot of the season. Getting Harry Kane back will help the attack immensely, but Lamela and Alderweireld are still out with injuries and they are both vital in the Starting XI.
With almost every one of the usual suspects at the top of the table coming into this season much stronger than last year, the expectation was to flirt with a title challenge but maintain Top 4 status. That can still be done, though it's going to take more wins than draws heading out. The next couple of months are rough, fixture-wise, and we'll probably know by the end of the calendar year just what to expect from Spurs for the season.
Is Harry Kane overrated?
No. I figured this argument was put to rest with his season last year, but people still seem to want to believe he's going to flame out. He had a rough start to the season and then suffered a nasty ankle injury against Sunderland on a freak play. That being said, he needs to get going in a hurry now that he's close to 100% health again. And, while losing him for several weeks hurt, the rest may have revitalized him as he hasn't had much of a vacation since the beginning of last season.
What's your West Ham/Tottenham combined XI?
Being blunt, I'm not sure I would take anyone from West Ham over Spurs' Starting XI with the exception of Dimitri Payet and, perhaps, Kouyate. Adrian can be a hell of a goalkeeper, but no way would I give up our Llord and Savior, Hugo Lloris. I may have some lilywhite-colored glasses on, but when I look top to bottom, I simply don't see where I could swap anyone out other than slotting Payet into the attacking band.
If you asked me to do a fantasy-style draft where I had to take equal players in the field, then it gets rough. In that case, I'd probably roll with this:
Lloris; Masuaku, Reid, Alderweireld, Walker; Dier, Noble; Eriksen, Payet, Ayew; Kane
I have been sending letters to the English FA, begging them to pay whatever Spurs want for Pochettino to get him as England manager. They have not responded (yet). Am I deluded? Is he as good as I think he is?
Pochettino is a damn fine manager and we're happy to have him in North London. It's hard to believe that back in 2014, we were arguing over whether or not we wanted Louis van Gaal or Frank de Boer managing the club and we ended up with Poch. While we hear about how hellish his training sessions can be, the team seems to be like a family and that's where his management style thrives. I don't know if you'd get the same thing out of him at the national team level, but his teams are fun to watch and England would be entertaining as hell with him at the helm.
You still can't have him, though. :)
How much will injuries play into the game?
The injury bug has bitten Spurs hard this year. Right know, it's believed that only Ben Davies, Erik Lamela, and Toby Alderweireld will miss Saturday's match, with all three listed for an early December return. That being said, there's a few guys that are still banged up. Christian Eriksen was battling a hip flexor strain. Vincent Janssen suffered a concussion while on international duty. Moussa Dembele is reportedly dealing with muscle fatigue and couldn't go for Belgium. Dele Alli has an unspecified knee injury and we have no clue what to expect there.
If there's one thing that frustrating about having Pochettino as your manager is that you never know if you're getting the full story about injuries.
Who are the players we should be looking out for? Who's going to cause us problems?
While Kane scored in his return to play against Arsenal, it was from the spot. He was fine in the match, but there was some obvious rust. I think the players to peg are Eriksen and Heung-Min Son. At any point, Eriksen can snap out of a slump and make you pay for being lazy, while Sonny had a great run of form in September and we know he's capable of doing it again.
Also, watch out if Wanyama plays. I don't know if he's going to be happy until he actually decapitates a player this season.
Finally, what's your prediction for the game?
There's no reason that Spurs should drop points in this match, except for the fact that their run of form is full of draws. With some rough fixtures in the immediate future that includes Monaco, Chelsea, and Manchester United, they need a result to get back on track. I think they get it, even if their form hasn't been great.
Big shoutout to Sean for answering my ridiculous questions. We did the exact same thing over on Cartilage Free Captain so make sure to head over there and check it out!