Inside the Opposition: Tottenham (Part 1)

After the narrow, and somewhat fortunate, win against Wigan on Wednesday, we now travel to Tottenham for our last league match against one of the top sides this season. Playing Spurs is never easy, in fact, our record against them pre-Mancini was awful, a fact that still makes me nervous when we play them now. Earlier this week, I spoke to Spooky who runs the Dear Mr Levy site and is part of the The Fighting Cock podcast.

Where do you think Spurs will finish this season?

Top four. If I said outside the top four I might as well pack up my suitcase and disappear for an extended summer holiday. That or just  do a Jules Winnfield and walk the earth. We’ve been in the driving seat all season and thanks to a completely different set of circumstances we’re back hoping that we don’t drop any points from now until the seasons conclusion and that others do. Spurs: The only way is the hard way, there is no easy way. I’m going to aim high and say 3rd. Glory should never be down-sized.

Do you think the failure to finish above Arsenal in the past haunts Spurs each season?

No. I think that’s the (sorry for using saying this) narrative. I always feel dirty using that word. Last season we choked, not because of the pressures of chasing a top four place because, well, we did actually finish in the top four. We also arguably didn’t choke because of any pressure from Arsenal. It was more about the enemy within. We lost that 10 point lead over them because, well, there was no extra dimension to our game. No astuteness tactically. We needed a reaction and our then manager wasn’t capable of inciting one. He was probably distracted by other issues concerning the High Court and the England job. It was a cluster****. Ironic that our own fragilities made our rivals look good. Still, they did go on a strong run. Much like the one they’re on now.

Spurs have simply run out of gas. The Sandro injury changed it all IMO. Honestly thing we’d be home and dry by now if it wasn’t for his loss. But generally speaking, we don’t have the depth in key areas. Same old story. All eyes on Daniel Levy this summer, like every summer.

Who would you buy in the summer to make Spurs a real force?

A right-back to aid with competition for Kyle Walker. A left-back (either Danny Rose to return or someone to replace BAE who is supposedly on his out). We need another forward player for certain. A true 25 goal scorer. And cover for the flanks (Townsend to return?). It’s crazy, when you always appear to require upgrades, but when you keep stepping up a level, you have to consolidate the first eleven and squad to truly sustain a challenge on more than one front. We never replaced Luka Modric. I’m not saying we have to replace him with a like for like player. Dembele is a different type of midfielder who glides effortlessly forward but we need someone to dictate tempo, control possession. Modric was brilliant at recycling the ball and keeping our midfield ticking over. It worked having Parker do the cleaning up in the middle.

Haven’t really worked out a way to ‘replace’ van der Vaart, although Hotlby will be a very good signing for us in time.

I actually believe we have the makings of a brilliant team. Add a Modric type of player and a fit Sandro and it shapes up to look a far more fluid, cohesive unit. Without both, we are compensating. It’s a good sign though that Andre Villas-Boas has managed to produce the form we’ve been blessed with this season. Just gutting that it might all end with a limp.

Also, as a footnote. Would be lovely for us not to be linked with just ‘world class superstars’. Whatever happened to scouting under the radar players?

Who has been you best summer signing?

Hugo Lloris. World class. Also a player that fits into AVB’s high line tactic. He’s such a good footballer (and keeper). Reads the game so well, running out to defend and tackle. Makes a massive different to how the defence shapes up. Vertonghen has also been superb for us, although he’s suffered the odd game or three with below par performances. I’ve been happy with most of our signings. I still think this is all part of a work in progress.

If fully fit, who would you prefer to have: Ledley King or Rio Ferdinand?

King. An exceptionally talented player. Pace, leadership by example and hardly needed to make a tackle as he got to the ball before the opposing player. Shame about the injuries. So frustrating. Then again we’d have sold him (probably) had he been injury free. One of the best defenders of the modern era but that’s likely to be something only Spurs fans will say. Having just said that, King displayed enough in his time as a player to prove he was as good as anyone else in England. Rio is a great defender (or rather was). But no contest for me.

How much of a blow has losing Modric been?

Like I said, massive. We we’re supposedly in for Moutinho – and if so, that does tend to lend to the theory that AVB wants a more traditional type of playmaker in the team. It’s important there’s a player in the middle of the park for that cutting edge tempo. We have so many other top class players that you can see the entire dynamic of the side changing. At the minute we go through Bale. We rely on a certain type of football. Counter attacks and slow possession build ups. If we’re going to consider more than 3rd/4th, if we’re going to consider a title push (or just consolidate that 3rd/4th as a first step) we need more craft and guile.

Scott Parker started very well for Spurs but his form seems to have dwindled this season. What’s your assessment of his performances this season?

Injury, a year older. That’s the obvious reason. Broken record, but it’s once again connected to Luka. Parker had a very specific job to do. He protected the space around Luka. He hassled players, got stuck in, got the ball and gave it to someone who could actually pass the ball. This season, he’s having to do a job outside of his remit. There is less discipline because there is more work to be had. He’s still important but his weakness are more evident these days. He tends to find himself in forward positions, there’s an obvious lack of compatibility with Dembele too. Can’t fault his work rate and heart.

There are rumours about Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s future. Some papers are saying he wants a move. Is there any truth in that?

There have been rumours all season long. Even Benny tweeted something cryptic that most dismissed as another one of his LOL moments. Does AVB fancy him? I’m not so sure. There might be a personality clash there. Or perhaps Benny’s maverick outlook on football sees him with a move back to France to earn more money. He’s a cult player for sure. One with talent. Erratic, but for the most part he stuck it back up the bollox of the haters and Alan Hansen. Hope he stays.

Prediction?

City are capable of dropping points. Only explanation for you lot being so far behind United – who arguably are not an extraordinary team, but hardly ordinary either. Difficult to gauge just how ‘up for it’ you lot will be. But then you are in a better position to punish us than most thanks to the amount of match winners in your side. All dependent on what Spurs side turn up. In my imagination-land, I see us winning 3-0, a galvanising display that lifts us to go on and win all remaining games. The harsh reality will probably see to it that I get slapped hard across the face and told to return to my box.

COYS.

Follow Spooky on Twitter

interview by Rob Pollard

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