In our final chat with the opposition article of the season, we spoke to our good friend Kevin De Vries, host of the EPL Round Table podcast to find out about the season Spurs have had, thoughts on the game, and much more.
Q. With the Premier League finding a way to get back playing again, were you for or against the return and regardless of your opinion, how do you think the powers that be have dealt with it?
I was certainly hesitant with the COVID rates nowhere near as low as Germany’s when they restarted the Bundesliga. That having been said, the fact only a dozen or so Premier League players and staff members ever tested positive in the run-up to the restart was promising and it seems we’ve avoided any major issues since. Obviously things like the in-person title celebrations for both Liverpool and Leeds are concerning but it’s not as though they were organiSed by the clubs or leagues so hard to criticise them too seriously for that.
Q. It seems such a long time ago now but what did you make of the win against Palace earlier in the season?
I thought the win against Palace earlier this season was going to be a turning point after our slow start to the new season. Instead, it was the last truly happy memory of the entire Pochettino era at Tottenham. The play in wide spaces was terrific, that was probably Aurier’s first really good game of the season and Son was just unstoppable.
Q. How has the season been for you?
It’s certainly been an adventure. Our form has been hot and cold all season with us falling out of the top-10 at points throughout the season, but also having two matches against Chelsea this year in which wins would have put us back in the top 4. It’s probably been the worst season since the brief Sherwood era, but with a pretty good run here at the end of the season, there’s certainly growing optimism that next season could be a really good one for Tottenham.
Q. The big question is, can you snatch a European spot?
That’s the hope! Obviously we have to win our match on Sunday and then it all comes down to Chelsea. If they win or draw against Wolves in the Premier League or beat Arsenal in the FA Cup final, we will secure a Europa League spot for next season. Since Chelsea have to secure at least a point to guarantee themselves Champions League football next season, I’m worryingly confident that things will bounce our way.
Q. Which areas need to be strengthened ahead of the next campaign?
This is really interesting as, if we fail to secure a European spot, our squad will be really belated with just the Premier League and domestics cups… if the latter are even happening. If we miss out on Europe, we could see far more outgoings than incomings. Regardless, we definitely need a holding midfielder that can play at the base of Jose’s preferred midfield three (sounds like Hojbjerg at the moment) and a right back. If we do get into Europe League, we will probably also be looking for cover at striker, centre back, and potentially goalkeeper.
Q. Who is your player of the season for Spurs?
That’s tough as it’s been a pretty disappointing campaign. The obvious answer is Son since he won literally every club award this season, but I’ll go left-field with Giovanni Lo Celso. He had a slow start to the season, partially due to injuries, but ever since the Mourinho era started he has been vital for us in midfield. He has consistently been our best “defensive” midfielder, racking up tackles and interceptions and also our primary driving force through the middle with defence-splitting runs and incisive passing. He hasn’t racked up the goals or assists that some may have expected, but we certainly wouldn’t be anywhere near European contention without him.
Q. VAR has certainly had an impact this season but not quite how we expected. What is your view on how the technology is being applied in the Premier League?
Shocking. I was pro-VAR for years, but the way it has been implemented in England has empirically been awful. To quote a friend of mine: “If the intent was for VAR to fail in England and be hated by the masses, what would they have done differently”, and I think that’s just it. I’m not saying VAR was intentionally tanked by the referees on the pitch and at Stockley Park, but their actions haven’t been any different than if they were. At least not in a “clear and obvious” way. Get rid of armpit offsides, recognise that shoulders aren’t hands, make the on-pitch referee look at the pitchside monitor, have an independent group run the VAR room, and for the love of all things can we get a little consistency?
Q. What have you made of Palace this season?
I definitely have a soft spot for Palace, but they haven’t been a particularly fun watch this season. Second worst in shots, goals, and assists is not really where a club like Palace should be statistically. Despite all of this though, there were multiple points in the season where a chance at a European spot seemed possible. That all must seem so long ago now though, with the seven match losing streak heading into the final game of the season. I’ve had questions about Hodgson for a long time and, while he’s kept you up fairly comfortably since arriving, I just think Palace could and should be more than a team that finishes somewhere between 10th and 14th every season. If it was my decision I’d move on, but safety and keeping the Premier League money flowing may be far more important especially in the time of COVID. Anyway, that’s a really long winded way of saying Palace haven’t been as good as I expected them to be this season.
Q. Name one player from each side that will be the ones to watch in this fixture?
For Tottenham, I think Lucas is the player to look out for. He’s in terrific form at the moment and with no senior left back in your squad, Lucas pace and trickery will probably cause issues for Riedewald or anyone else that you play there. Kane and Son are also obvious choices considering how depleted your defence is at the moment.
For Palace, it’s probably Guaita. With the attack sputtering and your defence suffering loads of injuries, Guaita is probably your best chance at getting something from this match. He’s a fantastic keeper and if he gets a few saves early and get his confidence going, it could be a long stressful day for Tottenham fans.
Q. Your prediction?
Pretty worried to be honest. We have all the momentum, a nearly fully fit squad, and far more to play for… and that always seems to be when we trip up. I’ll say Tottenham edge it 2-1 with a late goal to settle it.