Spurs ended their four game winless streak with a comeback victory over Fulham on Wednesday night, happy with the performance?
Cartilage Free Captain: In a word, no. I'm happy that we won, and the fact that we managed to score more than one goal from open play, but that was a poor, poor performance from Spurs. It probably resulted in 75% of supporters taking mood stabilizing drugs at some point in the match, too. We are by nature a bipolar fan base, and that match didn't help matters one bit.
Three points are three points and I'm certainly not taking those for granted at all. And we also were playing a slightly rotated side designed to give a few players a break, since we're playing three matches in eight days. But Fulham are not a good team, and we made them look like Barcelona for large stretches of that match. We were very fortunate to escape Craven Cottage with a win, and we must step up our game significantly if we're going to make a play for fourth place. If we play the way we did vs. Fulham this weekend, then there's a distinct possibility that we could lose to Sunderland. Yes, it was THAT bad.
Andre Villas-Boas has been under a lot of scrutiny recently, is it warranted?
CFC: Well, yes and no. Tactically, AVB seems off the boil this season - his team selections, though hampered by injuries, just haven't seemed to work with the way AVB wants them to play. Some of his selections, like his initial dogged insistence in trying to shoehorn a Moussa Dembele - Paulinho double-pivot, just haven't worked. But I'm not sure you can place all the blame on AVB. Any club that sells its best player for £100m and brings in seven new faces in the offseason is going to need time to gel and adjust. Have Spurs been given enough time? Well, that's the million-dollar question. AVB has certainly made his fair share of mistakes this season, but the players are the ones who are on the pitch and doing things like putting the ball in the net (or not). There's no doubt that we are not a very good team right now, despite being where we are in the table relative to Sunderland.
The flip side of that coin is the scrutiny that AVB has been receiving from the media. The recent David Hytner article suggests that he's on the verge of being sacked (with Glenn Hoddle as a suggested replacement, lol), and it's clear that there are British journalists that have had their knives out for him since his days at Chelsea. I don't think it's entirely fair that he's getting the lion's share of the negative attention when there are other managers (David Moyes and Manuel Pelligrini come to mind) that are similarly underachieving and seem to be getting a relative pass.
Tottenham re-invested the Gareth Bale money heavily in the summer with s number of big money, high profile transfers, who has impressed you the most?
CFC: The short answer is nobody... yet. Spurs broke their transfer record three times this offseason with the Bale money, and consequently big things were expected from this group of incoming players. But thus far nobody has made the huge impact that has been expected of them. Of all of the incoming players, the two that have impressed me the most have been Vlad Chiriches and Etienne Capoue, with caveats. Chiriches is a capable (though not outstanding yet) young defender from Romania who has, due to injury, established himself as a first choice central defender. He scored a pretty incredible goal yesterday from outside the box, and he's put in a number of tidy defensive shifts thus far.
Capoue was signed ostensibly as a rotation/backup option to Sandro, but he showed early in the season that he's a solid option as a defensive midfielder, though his campaign has been shortened by injury and he's only now getting back up to form.
Honorable mention goes to Christian Eriksen, who I still think is going to be fantastic, though he's injured probably until January.
Conversely, who has failed to live up to expectations?
CFC: No surprise, Robert Soldado is the top name on this list, but it's not entirely his fault. He's not getting the same level of good service as he did at Valencia, and as a consequence he's been isolated and extremely frustrated up top. Soldado is a goal poacher -- he's not generally going to make his own shot or take people on the dribble. He needs the midfielders to put the ball at his feet in scoring positions within the box, and as of yet our midfield has utterly failed to do that. Okay, he's missed a couple of sitters, but he hasn't gotten very many chances. I still think he'll turn it around.
Paulinho has been terribad lately, and I'm profoundly disappointed in his performances. You see him play with Brazil and you think he's a dynamic, Yaya Toure type of player who loves to bomb forward and throw back lines into chaos. In reality, he's given the ball away a lot, has a terrible first touch, and hasn't shown a proclivity to pick out a nice pass at all. It could be down to the way that AVB has played him -- often in a head scratching double pivot combo with Moussa Dembele -- that has left him not knowing whether to attack or defend, so he consequently does neither. He either needs to turn it around ASAP, or he needs to sit, because Sandro is a lock in the midfield and Dembele is playing much better than he is at present.
I'm putting Erik Lamela on this list as well, but only because I think given time he's going to make people realize just how dumb they were to try and trash him early on this season. This is a very good young player adapting to a new team and a new manager in a new country with a new style of play. Yes, Spurs haven't gotten their money's worth out of their £30m signing yet, but I'm dead certain he will come good and be a very, very good player for Tottenham Hotspur. Patience, grasshopper. He'll get there.
With January approaching do you feel Spurs will need to delve into the market once more, possibly for another forward?
CFC: Another forward? I suppose. There's rumors that Jermain Defoe could be off to Toronto in MLS in an attempt to get more playing time ahead of the World Cup (though MLS is on hiatus for the next few months so this seems like a dumb reason to want to transfer). But barring that, we have Soldado, Defoe, and Adebayor, and that's a pretty decent striker corps, especially since AVB almost never plays with more than one forward.
A more pressing need is a left back. Since Danny Rose went out with an amputated foot turf toe early on this season, we've had Jan Vertonghen deputizing at LB, a role he can play, but it takes out our best CB. Kyle Naughton just isn't good enough, and we shockingly loaned out Benoit Assou-Ekotto to QPR. We need to address this soon by purchasing another LB to compete with Rose whenever the hell he gets healthy, or at minimum purchase a few extra doctors to get him back on the pitch and healthy. Putting Vertonghen back in the center of defense may be one of the best things we can do to improve our game. That, and y'know, score goals.
Can we have Danny Rose back, please?
CFC: No. He's ours. G'way. (But please send back his missing left foot. I know you guys have it hostage.)
As something of a Chelsea legend and with a stint with Spurs also under his belt what do you make of the Gus Poyet that has moved into management?
CFC: See, it's funny, but Spurs fans like Gus Poyet, too. He played for us after his Chelsea days, was assistant manager for a while, and he's always been friendly to the club. His star has been on the rise for a while now, and he did some wonderful things with Brighton & Hove Albion. I've heard a few grumblings from Spurs circles about his defense of fellow Uruguayan Luis Suarez, but I hope he does well with Sunderland
Where will the game on Saturday evening be won, any key Spurs players you expect to do the damage?
CFC: As usual, I think the game will be won or lost in the center of midfield, but it also depends on what Sunderland chooses to do. Other EPL teams have had great success vs. Spurs by parking the bus (including Manchester City!) and I see no reason why Poyet shoudn't put ten behind the ball, play for the draw, and hope for a counter. It's what I'd do, especially at White Hart Lane. Spurs have shown a decided lack of incisiveness and creativity when faced with a bunkering defense -- they're much better on the counter when they can run at opposing defenses then when they have to pick a lock.
AVB's lineup and formation usually sinks or swims in the double-pivot. If we send out a Sandro-Dembele duo, as I think we should, I think we stand a pretty good chance of bossing the center of the pitch. From there, it becomes more a question of movement and finishing.
Alternatively is there anyone within Sunderland's ranks that gives you cause for concern?
CFC: I'm a Yank, so of course I'm 100% sure that Jozy Altidore is going to put three past us because we can't have nice things and because 'Merica. I can't honestly say that I've watched a whole lot of Sunderland this season (bad blogger!!), but asking around the Cartilage Free Captain writers room, we identified Seb Larsson, Adam Johnson, and Emmanuel Giaccherini as dangers. Steven Fletcher can really finish as well, and we do tend to let a lot of stupid balls bounce around in the box.
CFC: We must win this match. And I think we will. My guess is that it'll be tied until the 80th minute, Michael Dawson will have one go in off his ass, and I'll be dipping into the single-malt again during the match. 2-1 Spurs, and one empty bottle of Bruichladdich.
BONUS QUESTION! Will Sunderland beat the drop?
CFC: It'll be difficult. Sunderland have dug themselves a real hole and it's going to take a lot to dig themselves out of it. I think it's possible that Poyet can make a few key signings, turn some things around, and manage to scrape it, but it will be a very tall order. I hope they do, though. The EPL isn't the EPL without a Tyne-Wear derby.