Hi Dustin. Tottenham became the first team since the transfer windows inception in 2003 to not make a summer signing. What are your thoughts on that?
Hey Jimmy. How you feel about the transfer window has kind of become a Rorschach test of Tottenham fandom. Either it’s the worst thing to ever happen in the history of the club, or it’s a 4D chess level brilliant move because the club managed to keep the core of last season’s squad, which finished third, together.
In the heat of transfer deadline day, I leaned towards the former. With the benefit of some hindsight (and two Premier League wins under our belts) I have moved towards the latter. Tottenham are in the strange position of not being able to afford most of the players that would make them demonstratively better, and as the club enters into a period of new-stadium induced austerity, I can understand why the club might not want to splash Liverpool-esque (or even Fulham-esque!) amounts of cash on incoming players. Jack Grealish would’ve been nice, though.
In the end, Spurs locked down Mauricio Pochettino, Harry Kane and Son Heung-Min to new contracts, and held on to players tipped for departure like Toby Alderweireld and Mousa Dembele. If stability is one of the hallmarks of a champion club, well, there aren’t that many clubs that are more stable right now than 2018-19 Tottenham Hotspur, are there?
On paper, City and Liverpool look the teams to beat this season. Do you think that Spurs can challenge these teams for the big prizes? If not, what is the expectation of the fans this campaign?
You have to say that, with City being City and Liverpool spending big to patch their major deficiencies from last season, those are clearly the two clubs to beat in this year’s league race. I think it would be exceedingly difficult for Spurs to make a true title run if either or both are anything close to the form that most people expect from them.
Spurs should be right there in the chasing pack, however. They finished third last season, four behind United, and with United’s (*cough*) problems at the moment and Chelsea bedding in a new manager, I’d like to think favorably on their chances to finish top four again this season. And as long as players like Harry Kane stay healthy, I think Spurs is probably the club that is best poised to make a run at a top two finish if either City or Liverpool slip up.
Spurs fans want silverware, and I can’t blame them. Considering everything going on with the new stadium right now, I think a cup trophy, getting out of the Champions League groups, and a top four finish would make Spurs fans deliriously happy.
Given what has gone on at Old Trafford lately, do you think this is a good time to face Manchester Utd or do you expect a backlash on Monday night?
Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? It sure looks like United have gone all Mourinho-Year-Three on us, the players don’t look especially happy, the defense still isn’t fixed, and Alexis Sanchez seems to be broken. United are coming off of an embarrassing loss at Brighton, and Spurs are flying on the backs of two wins. Spurs fans should be very excited and confident going into Old Trafford on Monday.
So, naturally, we should throw that all out the window, because Tottenham fans can’t have nice things.
As an outsider, what do you make of what has gone on lately with Mourinho and the perceived lack of backing in the transfer window?
I don’t really want to comment too much on internal club machinations at Old Trafford. I’m not a United fan, I don’t have the background or the history to know or understand the power dynamic between Ed Woodward and Jose Mourinho.
The only thing I can guess at is that Woodward is hedging his bets and not supporting Mourinho in the transfer window because he’s pretty sure that Jose isn’t going to be at United next season. It’s the only reason I can think of that United and Spurs weren’t able to come to some sort of Martial-for-Alderweireld trade during the transfer window — a deal that sure seemed to make sense to both parties, but that didn’t get over the line for either side. But it’s weird, isn’t it? It’s not as though United doesn’t already have more money than God.
I’m not picking a side between Woodward and Jose. All I know is, as an outsider, it’s pretty damn hilarious. (Sorry!)
Spurs faced Utd on three occasions last season. What did you make of Utd in those games?
Two of the three matches — the 2-0 Spurs win at Wembley and the 2-1 FA Cup semifinal loss — were characterized by periods in which Spurs played extremely well and even dominated United for stretches. That’s what made the FA Cup semifinal loss so disappointing: that sure felt like a match that you’d have thought Spurs would’ve won in another circumstance. The 1-0 loss at Old Trafford was different — a very Mourinho-esque defensive grind that Spurs probably should’ve drawn if not for that late Martial goal.
I got the sense last season that United and Spurs were pretty evenly matched, and I continue to think that way this season. Say what you want about Mourinho going ultra-defensive and playing what some would characterize as dour football — it may not always be pretty to watch, but it is usually effective. United are a good side. Maybe not a side that will push for a title this season, but you can’t finish second behind Manchester City without being good at the game. It would be the height of foolishness to underestimate United’s ability, especially against a fellow top-six opponent, and also at home.
Moving on to the game, who (if anyone given current form) do you think Spurs need to be wary off?
I mean, the obvious answer is Lukaku, isn’t it? And although I like our defense and think some combination of Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld, and Davinson Sanchez should be able to keep him in check, he’s just a super talented striker who is always a danger to score. I quite like him.
Paul Pogba is also a player who seems to reserve some of his best games for when Tottenham come to town. He’s also one of the few players in the Premier League who can physically dominate Mousa Dembele in the midfield, and that’s an impressive feat. If Pogba is on his game, Spurs could be in for a long night.
Finally, how do you see the game unfolding and what is your score prediction?
The cynic in me will say that Mourinho will set up to murder the sport of football and frustrate Tottenham by parking the bus, but at home, I can see United trying to put Spurs on the back foot from kickoff and try to score quickly. I think it’ll be a nervy affair, and while there will probably be goals in it, my guess is it’ll be one that could end up being a draw when all is said and done.
Now that I’ve written that, this match is now guaranteed to end up 1-0 United, courtesy of a 89’ penalty from Pogba. Doctor Tottenham will see you now.
(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)