Behind Enemy Lines: Tottenham Hotspur

Behind Enemy Lines: Tottenham Hotspur

After the high of beating Liverpool at Anfield for the first time since 2007, United welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Old Trafford on Saturday and look to continue their solid start to the season with another 3 points. Tottenham havent won at Old Trafford since 1989 and here’s hoping that doesnt change any time soon.

Ahead of the game I spoke to Andrew Spurrier-Dawes, the host of the brilliant Tottenham Hotspur Football Fancast podcast about the game, AVB, Ledley King and Roy Carrolls fantastic save from Pedro Mendes’ shot which some Spurs fans continue to think, for some strange reason, crossed the line.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter here.

What are your thoughts on your start to the season?

I can’t remember a time when Spurs looked so solid and like they had a plan. Right now the Spurs community seems to be split on how we are performing, but we are undefeated in five and getting better all the time. I was worried that we’d be weaker after losing our ‘assiter-of-the-assits’ Luka Modric and the creativity of Van Der Vaart, however with moving from Harry’s 442 to AVB’s 433/4231, Sandro, Dembele and Sigurdsson/Dempsey are providing more than adequate strength in a new system which doesn’t look like it would suit Luka.

It’s obviously your first season under AVB, what are your initial thoughts on him?

AVB is the modern manager most football fans don’t understand. The boos are still ringing out from the Harry lovers because they want a geezer like them in the dugout however Harry was perpetuating a rotting core of the club by topping up the squad with old performers (Nelsen, Saha, even Parker) and not looking beyond his end of season bonus. AVB has gutted the squad and started to create a system according to his priorities and the fans with foresight are really appreciating his intelligence. Now the initial high expectation and experimentation phase is maturing, fans are beginning to understand and I think that this will be the start of something fantastic for the club.

Did Redknapp deserve to get sacked?

Yes and no. No one can deny the glory he brought to the club. Swashbuckling 4th-5th-4th finishes raised our expectations massively however as I mentioned earlier, it was a short term model that lacked any real depth or forward thinking. He didn’t deserve to get sacked because of what he brought to the club, but he did because he was damaging the future of the club through short-termism, or as I call it ‘the Redknapp way’.

One of the criticisms thrown his way whilst he was at Chelsea was he tried to change too much, too soon but he seems to have made even more changes during his time at Tottenham. Has there been too much of a change to the first team?

No, not enough. In my very humble opinion, you enter a 7th dimension when it comes to systems and the backroom at Chelsea as the club is built on a few key individuals who are more important than the manager. Any challenge or disruption to this system will always be criticised and AVB couldn’t do what he was brought in to do at Chelsea.

Looking at Spurs, the plan and the build of the team are more important than club favorites and the plan still needs to be realised. we still don’t have a replacement for Modric, Defoe wouldn’t be AVBs first choice and I wonder about how he feels about Assou-Ekotto.

Modric – he was always going to leave but would you have liked a bit more money for him and can he be replaced?

In Levy we trust was the message of the summer. We got a significant amount for Luka Modric who is one of the greatest players to ever play for Spurs but I still wonder about how much game time he will get in Real Madrid. The nature of the player means he needs to start and he is not an impact sub, however is he better than Real’s midfield. The answer is no. All this considered, Levy got a great deal for him. Can he be replaced? No, but the system that was built around him can be and he could not do what Dembele is doing now.

Who should be your number 1; Lloris or Friedel?

Lloris is a top 4 keeper in the world, young enough to stay with us for a decade. He should, and will, be number one, however Freidel is doing a fantastic job. After the years of sublime and ridiculous in Gomes, Freidel consolidated the position with quality but now we have a diamond, and we need to let him shine.

Club legend Ledley King had to retire this summer, unfortunately. Do you think Steven Caulker is his natural successor? I’ve been really impressed by him when I’ve seen him play over the last couple of years.

Ledley will never be replaced as a Tottenham man. 17 year career, 8 yellows, no reds, one club man born in the area. That’s the magic I love in football and as such unless we get a top, top lad come through the ranks, Ledley cannot be replaced. In terms of quality, Jan Vertonghen is the natural successor to Ledley. When King retired, the video of him tackling Robben (here) did the rounds as people gushed over his qualities but this is exactly not what he was good at. Ledley was in the right place, at the right time and did not need dirt on his shorts a la Terry. That’s not to say Caulker is not the future; he is, but in style, he is more of a Kaboul, a perfect partner for Vertonghen.

The top four used to be pretty much set in stone but now you could argue the case for about 7 teams finishing in the top 4. Can you get back into the champions league this season?

Absolutely. We finished 4th last year but an anomaly didn’t allow us to compete. Manchester City and United will fight it out at the top and Arsenal are looking the strongest they have in years – these are your top three. Chelsea are trying to force too many number 10s into the team and trying to force Torres into 20 goals a season, which won’t happen. Gabriele Marcotti suggested once that as he has been playing first team football – and being the most important player in the side – since he was a teenager, he may just have had his peak and never recover. Chelsea wouldn’t have qualified last season if they didn’t win it and they won’t win it this year and I see them missing out .

What would you rather beat all the other London teams and finish 5th or lose to all the other London teams and finish 4th?

If the question means 4th = qualification for the Champions League, then I will unhappily lose to the other London teams. That said, the pain of losing to QPR, West Ham and Chelsea would be devastating, as the majority of their fans are unbearable. Fulham and Arsenal are not as much of a worry as their fans are not so bothersome.

Onto the game, who do you think will win? You haven’t beaten us since 2001, is this the year you shake that monkey from your back?

1989 was the last time we won at Old Trafford. I don’t think we’ll win but we may draw. In the 11 years since we last beat you, our quality has definitely increased and I would suggest MUFC are not the team they were. The Old Trafford and Fergie factor will be in play and the wise money will be on a Manchester United win, but our performance vs. a very strong Lazio shows AVB knows how to be solid and we have a tactician at the helm.

What is your favourite United vs. Spurs game?

Honestly, I don’t have one. We always lose and there’s always some controversy where we lose out, leaving a bitter taste.

Where will you finish this season?

We have a top four squad and we definitely have a top 4 manager. If the two work together, we can get at least 4th, but let’s not forget we were one point off third last year, only slipping in the last few weeks.

Where will United finish this season?

3rd, behind City and Arsenal. Bluntly, City will buy the title again and Arsenal have a better squad, backed up by a brilliant manager.

Finally, isn’t it about time that all you Spurs fans admitted that Mendes’ shot WASN’T over the line and it was in fact a great last gasp save from Roy Carroll?

Roy Carroll has the greatest managerial career in English football history with a 100% games to trophy ratio. If he can manage that, I am sure he can manage to save a shot that was 50 yards over the line and make it appear as though it didn’t go over.

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