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View from the enemy: Must-see-TV Spurs, Poche’s 3-4-2-1, Toby Alderweireld snub for PFA Team of the Year

Tottenham Hotspur v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Chelsea and Tottenham are set for another humdinger on Saturday, this in a Wembley semifinal with a place in the FA Cup final on the line (and possibly some psychological advantage for the rest of the league season as well). As per new tradition, I exchanged a few questions and answers with ‘GN Punk’ of Cartilage Free Captain, the second best blog on SB Nation.


WAGNH: So I looked back to the Q&A we did at this time last season, just ahead of the Battle of the Bridge, and my first question then was "Spurs this season: missed opportunity or just dress rehearsal for next season's title win?" Given that Spurs have already exceeded last year's points total, is this season considered a success as it is, or will it be chalked up as yet another disappointment without the Premier League trophy in hand?

It's funny how similar the situation is this season, even with it being a familiar name at the top that Spurs are chasing. Last year in that Q&A I said I would give anything to roll back the calendar to those first four matches, and it's basically the same thing. Just a couple too many draws are keeping Spurs out of the top spot, though it's a lot closer this time around.

I still have to consider this season a success. Barring an incredible meltdown (*knocks on every piece of wood around him*) Spurs are going to eclipse their record for points in a season, will finish above Arsenal for the first time in 21 seasons, and will have Champions League football for a second consecutive season. We knew this year that it would be a battle to get top four with every single Sky Six club reloading, and this season hasn't disappointed. While it's still possible to catch Chelsea, even if that doesn't happen, it's another positive step towards achieving that final goal. This club seemed to learn from last year's breakdown, and that can only mean good things going forward.

2) Given your recent tremendous, unbeatable form, what went wrong earlier in the season, specifically during that 10-game stretch in October and November?

Two problems: Kane went down and nobody stepped up to score. Spurs also lost Toby Alderweireld and the defense needed re-tooling.

Spurs have fallen in love with their 3-4-3 / 3-4-2-1 formation and for good measure: they are suffocating opposing squads, forcing turnovers, and being clinical with their finishing. In the fall, the problem was nobody could do the final part and Spurs also reverted back to the 4-2-3-1. Janssen was great in his post-up play but he couldn't finish. It just so happened to come at a time Spurs needed their depth with Champions League and league play going on, and the losses occurred in European play. It is what it is.

3) How much longer until Dele Alli wins the Ballon d'Or? When Real Madrid come calling, will he buck the trend and stay to solidify Spurs' spot among the ranks of the title-challengers?

Dele could very well continue his growth into a Ballon d'Or finalist, and I don't think anyone would be surprised given his meteoric rise in the last two seasons.

I know that everyone is waiting for that moment where one of the superpowers comes calling, and Real Madrid may very well do that. If Dele continues this ridiculous upswing he's on, it's going to take a king's ransom to pry him away from White Hart Lane. I don't think it will happen immediately, given CL football is on the horizon next season and a new stadium is coming the season after that, but until Spurs' wage bill rises as a whole, I think the day comes when Real backs up a dump truck full of money in front of Hotspur Way and Florentino Perez and tells Daniel Levy to just say "stop" when he's got enough.

4) How do you feel about David Luiz and Gary Cahill getting in the PFA Team of the Year ahead of Toby Aldernotevengoingtotrytospellit?

I'm not sure there's an actual word that defines the level of saltiness I was at when reading it, so pick any "salty.gif" you want to post and that will probably be accurate.

5) Does Wembley feel like home yet? Will it ever?

No and no.

Fun fact: Spurs haven't even filed the final paperwork yet to move to Wembley next season. Now, everyone is fully expecting the move after the Brent Council gave approval for full usage of the stadium for every match, but I'm guessing this is Levy trying to bring down the cost as much as possible or look for any leverage to get the best deal. Still, it will not feel like home. It will be cool as hell seeing that many supporters in the stadium week in and week out, but it's going to be bittersweet when The Lane finally comes down.

6) On a scale of Spursy to Aguerooooooooo, just how confident are you in Tottenham's ability to catch Chelsea over the final six games?

I'm somewhere in between the 2012-13 late collapse against Everton and the "pull a rabbit out of our asses" win against West Ham this season, because I feel like one of those two things are how we'll be left feeling. Either we're going to get so close but come up short in the dying moments of the season or we're somehow going to finish on this stupid run of victories and nip it at the end.

7) Juan Mata vs. Spurs in the 5-1 in 2012. Real goal or ghost goal?

I've erased this match from my memory but I think you can assume what my thoughts are on it.

8) How did Martin Atkinson become the go-to referee for games between Chelsea and Spurs?

That's a really good question, and while the prior question references an incident from six years ago, I'm trying not to think about that or any previous matches where he's been involved. Then again, the Battle of the Bridge was refereed by Clattenburg and we ended up with approximately 74 yellow cards there.

9) Does Pochettino favor a three-man or a four-man defence these days? Given that Spurs gave trouble to Chelsea both home and away, do you expect him to continue with those tactics or change them up in anticipation of a possible response from Conte?

It's definitely the three in the back philosophy if everyone is healthy. With Rose and Walker bombing down the sidelines and able to come back to help in defense, the combination of Vertonghen, Alderweireld, and Dier have been stellar in the back. Granted, we've seen recently that Dier can pop right back into that #6 role along side the Panzer Tank known as Mousa Dembele and Spurs don't miss much of a beat. The fact that Wanyama has risen to the level of this squad is nothing to overlook either.

To answer the second part, Rose has just started training again and won't be available for this match, meaning that Ben Davies will be called upon again assuming his legs haven't fallen off at this point. Outside of poor Harry Winks being out for the year with a freak injury, Michel Vorm having picked up some weird knock and Erik Lamela being out until the Andromeda Galaxy collides with the Milky Way, Spurs are about as healthy as they're going to get. I'd be surprised if Spurs rolled out anything other than the following formation this Saturday:

Lloris; Vertonghen, Alderweireld, Dier; Davies, Dembele, Wanyama, Walker; Dele, Kane, Eriksen.

Son is a lock to come off the bench in the second half to provide extra attack.

10) Prediction for Saturday?

To quote Jim Ross, this one is going to be a good old fashioned slobberknocker. I'm expecting a lot of hard fouls, plenty of bookings, and even more drama. We all know there is absolutely no love lost between these sides, and throwing in the fact that these two sides are competing for a title? This is must see TV for anyone, whether you're a fan of one of the sides or not.

I'm going 2-1 Spurs, but I am in no way confident of that scoreline because anything is possible in this match.

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