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Know Your Enemy: A Q&A with Cartilage Free Captain

A Tottenham fan previews Sunday's giant game

Middlesbrough v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur face off in the biggest Premier League match so far this season, and the game at White Hart Lane promises to be a fantastic one. Neutral fans will love it, but fans of both teams may not enjoy this as much. We spoke to Sean Cahill from SB Nation's Cartilage Free Captain about Mauricio Pochettino's style, Son Dad Heung-Min's rise, and more. Check it out below!


BnB: Spurs are very, very, very fun to watch and love to attack all the time, and yet they have the best defense in England right now. How does Pochettino achieve that balance?

Cartilage Free Captain: Pochettino's approach is pretty simple: Press until someone coughs up the ball and play solid defense on the back line. Having Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld paired up certainly doesn't hurt as they've formed a fantastic partnership, but even then a player like Kevin Wimmer can slot in and still provide great defense. The fact that Pochettino rotates his fullbacks quite often and still maintains this level of defense is impressive as well.

Truthfully, this all came together when the midfield duo of Dier and Dembele formed. Dier, who was converted from centerback and fullback, was arguably the best defensive midfielder in the league last season. Moussa Dembele slotted in next to him and provided a strong presence to feed the ball to the attackers. It's a happy dance that works amazingly well.

BnB: What's the over/under on Wanyama killing David Silva on Sunday? That dude is a monster, and Silva... well, is not.

CFC: Empty out your savings. It's probably going to happen. (Note: I'm not a financial advisor. Please don't do this.)

It's funny I spent the time gushing about Dier above and it's a good possibility that Wanyama may actually play, whether it's instead of Dier or next to him given the knocks that both Dier and Dembele are carrying currently. Wanyama has slotted in so quickly that it's hard to believe he just joined Spurs this season. His knowledge of the system from Southampton certainly helped, but to do it in an entirely new squad with no issues is fantastic.

BnB: How big of a loss is Harry Kane's injury, not only on the pitch but also in terms of confidence and morale?

CFC: I can try to minimize and play down the loss as much as possible, but this is the Golden Boot winner from last season. It's a big loss on the pitch. However, with confidence and morale I don't think it's a big loss. Spurs are generating goals from all over and there's definitely a mentality of "next man up" when someone goes down. Vincent Janssen's hold up play is great and it's only a matter of time before he gets that first league goal with the way he's working. But with the attacking band of Son, Lamela, Eriksen, and Dele, there's more than just Kane to worry about.

BnB: Son Heung-Min somehow went from being sold to being the best player since Kane's injury. How did he do it?

CFC: We actually just found out about this last week. Son apparently came back from the Olympics and went to Pochettino to tell him he wanted to go back to Germany. This is where all of the speculation arose from, with Wolfsburg being the ones at the front of the pack to sign up. Pochettino, however, talked him out of it. This is turning out to be eerily similar to last season when Lamela was almost rage-sold to Marseille. Lamela went from "bust" to "undroppable" in a hurry and had his best season with Tottenham. It's playing out exactly the same way because Sonny is banging in goals from all over and we're finally seeing the player we knew he could be.

BnB: Who will take corners without Harry Kane? (Sorry.)

CFC: Lies. You aren't sorry. I laughed at least!

A rotation of Lamela, Eriksen, and Son have been the main corner takers this season, depending on who is in the game and what side it comes from. There's no Roy Hodgson here to screw things up tactically.

BnB: What's the expected Spurs eleven for Sunday? Which of the injured players have the best chance of coming back?

CFC: We know that both Harry Kane (ankle) and Moussa Sissoko (concussion) are confirmed out. Eric Dier and Moussa Dembele have been spotted in training but are both carrying some minor injuries. Spurs have also been teasing with a 4-3-3 instead of their usual 4-2-3-1 with Kane being out, but that seems to be more of a tactical adjustment during matches. I'm also convinced that Dele Alli is out of gas and could use a bit of a break. Erring on the side of caution, I think this is the expected lineup:

(4-2-3-1): Lloris; Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Wanyama, Dier; Lamela, Eriksen, Son; Janssen

BnB: Prediction!

CFC: Y'all are scary, you know that right? This matchup absolutely terrifies me, just like it did last season. I'm taking some solace in the knowledge that Kevin De Bruyne is out and your defense isn't exactly a solid wall. That being said, there's still loads of talent and with Pep Guardiola being in charge, I know that this team is hard to stop. That being said, City hasn't faced a team like Spurs yet. Tottenham have yet to give up a goal from open play in the league and somehow managed to take six points in these two fixtures last season. I expect one of the best matches of the year for a neutral and 90 minutes of tension for actual supporters. As for a scoreline? I'll say a 2-2 draw.


Huge thanks to Sean for his interview with us. I spoke to Cartilage Free Captain on Friday, and you can check it out here. I hope I've made you proud.