The opening day of the season sees Everton travel to London to play Tottenham Hotspur and the good folk at Spurs Community have provided us with some of their brightest minds in the form of alyid, taidgh, ajspurs and fishhhandricecake to answer some questions on Spurs, Everton and even Gylfi Sigurdsson.
How is the general atmosphere around Tottenham going into the new season?
I’ve rarely seen us so divided as a fan base. The anti-Levy brigade have always been vocal but last season was a car crash (just as Amazon had their cameras capturing every moment in 4K). Half the fans want a trophy at any cost as they’re sick of the ‘banter’ while the other half are dreading a season of Mourinho style anti-football. The general feeling is we’ve missed our shot at glory by not making big signings to take that final step and there’s an expectation that we’ll slip back into scrapping for 4-6. There are early buds of optimism, Hojbjerg and Doherty are exactly the sort of players we need and if Hojbjerg can put in the hard graft to free up our creative players to do their stuff then you never know…
Like most teams around the league, each season brings renewed hope for success. I would say the overarching feeling is one of cautious optimism. Though losing out on Champions League places stung a bit (especially financially), most fans were quite pleased to pip Wolves and finish 6th, thus saving ourselves the agony of being knocked out of Europe when Arsenal inevitably won the FA Cup. Jose was a controversial choice when appointed, to say the least, but I think he’s begun to change a few opinions with overall play, with results and with a few astute signings. The aim this year is to win something – anything! And most people, even the most fervent anti-Mourinho fans, believe there is a real opportunity to do that this season. The players brought in so far (Hojbjerg, Hart and Doherty) have addressed holes in the squad and are all experienced and vocal leaders. Perhaps one or two more pieces are needed, especially a creative midfielder and a backup striker. One sour note is the Tanguy Ndombele situation, there’s a real pessimism over his lack of fitness and professionalism, and his ability to contribute this season. Not what you want out of your record signing! Overall though, Spurs fans have a lot to be happy about and the hope ahead of the start of the season is that Spurs, at long last, will be able to add to the rather bare trophy cabinet.
I think it’s a bit of unknown to be honest, not massive optimism or pessimism. We haven’t played the greatest football under Mourinho but got a little better towards the end of the season and started to see signs of the way I think he would like us to play.
Very positive at the moment due to astute signings made early in the window and in the right positions for once (Hart, Hojbjerg & Doherty), with some good end of season form (4th in form over last 6 games) and the All or Nothing docuseries, the fans are more and more behind the Mourinho hype and we are a striker signing away from having an extremely balanced squad. We’ve also won all our pre-season games quite comfortably without Lo Celso and Kane.
What has been your general impression of Jose Mourinho since he replaced Mauricio Pochettino?
We’ve had five years of creative pass & move, retain the ball and watch a team who will run through walls for each other, now it’s more “pump it long and don’t waste time passing sideways”. I can take not winning silverware when I enjoy watching us play, I haven’t seen much entertainment so far. The quality on display last season was rough and at times we showed no creativity beyond knock it long and use our pace. That’s ok for a one-off game but when it’s the only tactic, it’s very easy to defend against.
Poch will be forever loved for the way he changed the club when he came aboard. The way he promoted youth players, had Spurs playing and pressing, his contribution to Spurs as title contenders, the run to the Champions League final and the sheer class of the man made him a god-like figure. That Champions League run was bittersweet and the pinnacle of what we were under him, but something happened after that final loss with the players seemingly mentally and physically exhausted and Poch digging his heels in regarding tactics and recruitment. My view is that it was time for him to go, but some fans still can’t come to terms with his sacking. In addition to the shock of his exit, some fans have had a hard time accepting Jose Mourinho having been the replacement. That transition has truly divided large parts of the fan base. Add to that the section of Spurs fans who were anti-Mourinho to begin with because of connections with Chelsea and United, or just because of his personality, there was a fair degree of negativity about the Mourinho appointment. That all said, opinions are slowly starting to change. Jose has said all the right things and has made a real effort to stay positive and to connect with fans, while results have picked up as well. I think most supporters can see what he wants to do tactically and while not over the moon about the style of football, they are coming around, having seen renewed defensive resilience and opportunistic counterattacking football. Personally, I think the move for Mourinho was a shrewd move by Daniel Levy. The writing was on the wall for Poch and while the football under Mourinho has not been the most thrilling, I’ve been impressed with the way he’s instilled a toughness and purpose. The recognition that Harry Kane might be looking to move should we go another season trophy-less means Spurs might just have brought in the perfect manager for short-term success.
So far with Jose I think there have been some terrible performances and some horrible to watch football being played. In his defence, we also had similar performances under Poch too in his last year or so. With that in mind and taking into account that we were playing poorly prior to his arrival at times, he probably did well to get the points that he did since he came in. I think us fans were just looking for signs of improvement even if not the full execution and luckily, like said, we just about started to see that but we know we have a long way to go.
I think he’s done a really good job so far. Other fans probably don’t realise that our squad was getting very stale for the final 18 months under Pochettino and our league form was pretty awful. Our run to the champions league final masks over these issues. Jose took over a squad which was stale as we’d not properly replaced Dembele and Alderweireld, Eriksen and Vethonghen were into final year of contract and we were in 14th when he took over with team low on morale. Then only a few games in, we got big injuries to Sissoko, Kane and Son and we didn’t have enough quality depth to replace them. So given all that, for us to finish 6th is a brilliant effort. The style of play isn’t always that attractive to watch but its very effective and we’ve gone too long without a trophy, so need to get behind Jose’s way of playing. But I’d rate his job so far 7/10.
Where do the strengths lie in this Tottenham side?
Instinct. We have players of high quality going forward who (if allowed to be creative) can dazzle. Son, Dele, Bergwijn can all turn a game with a moment of magic. There are few better sights than a rampaging Son running at a right back, cutting it back, and Dele slotting it past the GK, then the two of them embracing with a cringe-worthy handshake and seeing Son’s beaming smile warm your soul.
Obviously the strength of any team with Kane and Son leading the line is going to be the forward line. Kane has missed all of the preseason friendlies after being in quarantine after coming back from holidays, but Son and particularly Dele Alli have looked sharp. The hope is with Hojbjerg breaking up play, Lo Celso and Alli feeding Kane and Son, along with some combination of Lucas Moura, Erik Lamela and Steven Bergwijn, there should be plenty of goals. The arrival of Matt Doherty is also exciting, and he will have plenty of opportunity to contribute to the Spurs attack. The Spurs defence looks to have been stabilized as well. Ben Davies was identified by Mourinho as key to the way he wants to play, tucking in to the centre back as the RB moves to support the attack. Eric Dier’s form has recovered and Toby Alderweireld looks as steady as ever. One worry is the lack of pace, but Mourinho’s low block setup should negate this for the most part. Hugo Lloris is still one of the best goalkeepers around, though no stranger to a rick or two. Overall, it’s a mostly steady, if unspectacular, defence.
I think the strengths have to lie with certain individuals because we still lack a bit of identity to our play and can still generally look a bit disjointed, so you would have to say the input and ability of the likes Kane and Son in particular, but also Bergwijn and Lo Celso. To lesser extents Lucas too who has improved under Mourinho and maybe something from Dele who has been poor but seems to have recovered a bit of spark in preseason.
Jose prefers to play a lop-sided 4-2-3-1 in possession and a 4-4-2 out of possession. The strengths should be in our organisation and being hard to break down, our swift counter-attacks if we win the ball deep and transition. If he’s ok to play the main threats will be Doherty in an advanced RB/RWB role with Lucas, Dele, Son and Kane causing problems up front. Hojbjerg will be a welcome addition in shielding the defence.
What are the weaknesses?
We have a fascination with Sissoko and Aurier, two of the worst players you’re likely to see on a football pitch. Sissoko is a bundle of energy and explosive power but can’t pass five yards and if you see him wind up for a shot, then duck. Aurier is a calamity and penalty waiting to happen, you’d think from his reputation that he’s decent going forward but no, he wastes an incredible amount of opportunities in every game and leaves us exposed by always running out of position. Then there’s the enigma Lucas Moura, a typical 1 decent game in 3 kind of player. When he’s on form, he can be unplayable (see 2nd half of Ajax game) but spends most of his time running into our own players, blocking the runs of others by lacking special awareness or just running down blind alleys.
As referenced previously, the arrival of Hojbjerg over the summer will hopefully have filled a hole in the squad present ever since Victor Wanyama’s body gave up on him. Still, there are major questions over the Spurs midfield. Giovani Lo Celso has looked bright in flashes, but would seem to have lots of room for improvement. Meanwhile, Harry Winks and Moussa Sissoko, though steady, have not really produced consistently. Dele Alli’s form wavered last year and Erik Lamela has never really blossomed into the player Spurs hoped they were getting from Roma. Most glaringly, there is a big need for a creative midfielder, something sorely lacking since Christian Eriksen decided he wanted to head to newer pastures.
Our weakness can be a range of things really. it can be our lack of desire to want to control a game more as we can be effective in conceding possession and playing on the counter, but sometimes I feel like we can surrender too much possession and bring pressure on ourselves. Our defence can also have lapses in concentration, often common through Aurier, but Sanchez and Dier are also capable of mistakes. As a defensive unit we’ve improved but we’re still not quite there yet. Also we can be guilty of having a lack of invention. The only real creative players we have are Lo Celso and Ndombele, and Ndombele doesn’t play, so that only leaves one player who’s creative enough and that’s probably a big factor in why we can look so bland at times.
Usually we’ve been undone by individual errors in defence from the likes of Aurier, or Hugo. or Dier or lack of protection to the back four. Hojbjerg as DM should help with this. I’d say small quick pacey players can get through and round our low block, but last time we played Everton we just fouled Richarlison every time he tried to turn with the ball and that gave everton very little threat aside from that. We also wasted £50m on Ndombele who whilst being a talented CM has an awful attitude and effort, and it looks like we are now trying to sell him, so we have a bit of a lack of creativity in CM until we replace him or get his attitude fixed.
What would constitute as a good season for Tottenham in 2020/21?
Back in CL and a cup final. Sod it, I’d just be happy for them to play with a smile on their faces again.
Most of our top four rivals have strengthened, Chelsea in particular. I’ve already mentioned the need for a trophy, as much to legitimize what Spurs has been able to do the last 5-6 seasons, as to be able to keep top players, namely Kane. For me, top four and a cup trophy would be a great season. I’d like to see a good performance in Europe, where we can be considered a contender for the cup. Obviously these are pretty lofty goals, but hey, it’s preseason and we can all dream. Anything less than finishing top four and/or winning something will be considered a major disappointment.
I think a good season would be a trophy, top four or both. If we just manage top four it would be a great achievement as every team is seemingly improving quite a bit and if Wolves and Leicester have another good season, it just makes it even more difficult. Finally winning another trophy would be great as well and you would like to think it would serve as a catalyst for further success in that regard.
Depends if we can make a few more signings e.g. ST, LB, CB and replacement CM for Ndombele. If we can at least get a ST and CM, then we should aim for top four and a final, hopefully a trophy of any sorts.
Which Tottenham players are you expecting/hoping to have a strong season?
Expecting – Son. Player of the year nearly every season for us but somehow never seems to get the adulation of Kane/Dele. Hoping – NDombele. He’s one of those players that you can see glimpses of genius and has so much natural ability, but either his mind or his body lets him down. Not sure if it’s fitness or application but he’s not a ‘Jose’ type player.
I’d really hope to see Harry Kane stay fit. There’s a recognized need to provide him some rest, so a backup is needed urgently. If fit, some of those lofty goals mentioned above become a lot more attainable. But the one I’d like to see grow into his potential is Giovani Lo Celso. I think if he can be more consistent and with the likes of Hojbjerg behind him, he can be a real force in this league. With an improved and more productive Lo Celso, the Spurs attack becomes all the more dangerous. I’m excited to see how Doherty fits into the team, If he can replicate his form with Wolves, I think it’ll have been a great signing. I’m also hoping Alli recaptures his form, as he can be so dangerous on his day. Another big hope is to see Ryan Sessegnon live up to his potential, but that might be a hope too far.
I think mostly the usual suspects in Kane, Son, Lloris, Alderweireld and hopefully Bergwijn too. But I think new signings Hjojberg and Doherty could be massive also as they’re the types of players we really needed for those positions, so I think we’ll really feel the benefit of them both.
New signings Doherty and Hojbjerg should be really strong for us. Dier at CB should improve. Lucas is motivated under Jose. Dele has looked strong pre-season. Son and Kane should get lots of goals. A surprise could be Gedson Fernandes, an U21 Portuguese player on loan from Benfica who can play RWB or CM and has done very well pre-season.
The only player in either squad to play for both sides is Gylfi Sigurdsson. Anything to say about him?
Always liked Gylfi, but he was a solid 6/7 out of 10 kind of player each week and never quite managed to have any big moments. Plus he was in direct competition with Eriksen, so no surprise that he never nailed down a starting place. Nowadays he’s always a threat from set pieces but (from the outside) appears to drift out of games too often.
Gylfi is a strange one. He was great at Swansea before we bought him, and intrinsic to their success for a time when he went back, or at least that’s the way it seemed via MOTD. I was excited to have him at Spurs, but he never really fit. While neat and tidy and very technical, his production at Spurs wasn’t great and he always seemed just a bit slow. When he did play, his inclusion in the team always left holes elsewhere. I was surprised Everton paid so much money for him and I think his performances have been pretty underwhelming, with the same problem of just where he should play. I think most Everton fans have a similar view to my own: should really be an excellent player, but doesn’t quite achieve it for some reason or another. I’d imagine you’d love the opportunity to shift him out for a decent fee.
Not really much to say on Sigurdsson to be honest. He was a player that at times, after he moved, I thought we could have done with him but I can’t say I was ever disappointed that we moved him on. I think I felt that we could have gotten more from him when taking some of his traits into account but I don’t have the strongest memories of him.
I think most Spurs fans appreciated Gylfi’s quality whilst playing at Spurs, he scored some absolute screamers but ultimately he wasn’t as good as Christian Eriksen so we moved him on. Have kept a close eye on him and think he did well for Everton early on in his move there but now he’s been moved into a CM role in a 4-4-2 that just doesn’t suit him at all, which is a shame as when he’s playing as a number 10, getting a lot of the ball and not having to run much, he’s top class. He just doesn’t seem to be quite consistent enough to get to that next level, which is ultimately why we sold him.
Any Everton players that stand out for you?
Richarlison is one that always frustrates me. I get the feeling he could be a good player but spends far too much time trying to wind up his opposite number by diving and being a dick, than trying to actually play. He has a great strike when he wants to use it but always appears to be more focussed on personal battles than trying to score. I like Everton but for 4-5 years you’ve felt like a retirement home for players who’ve fallen below the level needed at other top 6 clubs (Walcott, Delph, Iwobi, Lennon, etc). Always a running joke during transfer windows that this year Everton will overtake us due to your amazing transfers, and then they never seem to click (what happened to Moise Kean?).
Everton’s recruitment has been strange. Despite a massive outlay, there hasn’t been much return. The likes of Walcott, Iwobi, Tosun, Bernard, Bolasie, Kean… the list goes on. I can’t imagine Everton fans are too delighted with the way most recent signings have panned out. Similarly, not sure what has happened to Jordan Pickford. You must be a bit worried about the GK position after the past season and Pickford’s sudden drop in performance. To me, standouts are Digne, Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin, All excellent players on their day. Mason Holgate has impressed me too.
Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison definitely are the ones who stand out. Funnily enough I didn’t previously rate either of them greatly but after watching more of them I was more impressed, especially with Calvert-Lewin, I really like his work rate in particular but he’s added goals to that, which has been great for his game. On the flip side though, I can’t believe how poor Pickford has looked. Unfortunately you can see him making some sort of mistake in every game and when it starts happening so often, that can be a sometimes hard thing to shake for a keeper. If you look at Jack Butland and Joe Hart for instance, I think they already went down that path.
Digne is a top, top full-back with such good quality getting forward. Gomes, I really rate him as a CM, very classy player and glad he recovered from the bad injury. Richarlison, we fouled him a lot for a reason, easily Everton’s best player. DCL is a real talent, improving every season. Pickford makes so many mistakes and is very hot headed, makes me nervous watching him and I’m not even a fan of Everton, haha. Iwobi is an okay player but seems a bit overpriced for what you wanted.
Realistically, how do you think the season will go for Spurs and Everton?
Shame you said realistically! Spurs – 5th. QF of FA Cup & Europa League. Early rounds of League Cup. Everton – 9th. 4th round of FA Cup. QF of League Cup.
Hard to separate the optimistic and the realistic here. I’m going to go for Spurs to finish in 5th and to reach a cup final. My gut is that we have more of a chance in the Europa League than either of the domestic ones. For Everton, I’m going to go with 8th and out in the 5th round of both cups – apologies to any Everton fans. From the outside, it seems like Everton needs a refresh. Perhaps Allan will provide a spark and prove me wrong. I hope so, as I’ve always liked seeing Everton do well. Beating Liverpool once or twice would be good too.
In terms of how Spurs will do I just really don’t know, a lot will depend on the transfer window we have and then if Mourinho can get us playing how he wants us to, but it’s hard to guess as we’re in a bit of a transition. If I had to guess though, I would say to maybe scrape 4th and go far in at least one of the Carabao Cup, FA Cup and Europa League. I feel similar when thinking about Everton really, I think you need a lot of work to be where you wish to be but the rumoured incomings of Allan, Doucoure and Rodriguez sounds really exciting and can really push you in the right direction, so I think for you guys a lot also depends on the window you have. I think in an ideal world you’d obviously love to be in that top 6, but would I be right in thinking you’d be somewhat happy if you were at least strongly knocking on the door for that?
Spurs – 4th or 5th. FA Cup QF. Carabao Cup Final. Europa League QF. Everton – 7th. Maybe Semi Final of a cup.
Lastly, match predictions?
Feel like we always play well against you guys (just checked and we haven’t lost to you since 2012, 15 games). Comfortable 2-0 start to the season.
I’m going with 2-1 to Spurs. Son and Kane with the goals for Spurs, and Richarlison for you.
In terms of a prediction, I will say Spurs 2-0 Everton. But wouldn’t be surprised if you do make those rumoured signings and cause us a bit of trouble, but I can’t make a prediction for teams that haven’t yet been constructed!
2-1 Spurs win. It should be another fairly tight game like it was in our most recent match. I can’t see us keeping a clean sheet on the first match due to lack of much of a pre-season, player fitness and Richarlison’s quality, but hopeful we can score two and get the win.
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