Ahead of the visit of Spurs to Selhurst Park, TEB had a chat with our pal KEVIN DEVRIES on the season so far for the North Londoners, thoughts ahead of the game and much more.
Q. How did you rate the very much disrupted last campaign for Spurs?
Well, it certainly didn’t go as we’d hoped. After the Champions League Final, everyone was crushed. Players, the manager, the club, the fans… everyone. There was still hope though, Liverpool had just lost the Champions League Final the year before, then competed for the Premier League title and won the Champions League. With that in mind, as well as some hyper-talented new players in Ndombele, Lo Celso, and Sessegnon, most Spurs fans expected great things… but that’s not what happened.
We got off to a sluggish start, suffered some unfortunate VAR decisions, and just like that the Pochettino era was over. Mourinho came in and our hopes at top 4 were renewed, but twice we played Chelsea with a chance to crack into the top 4, and both times we lost. Then the injuries came. The break in the season wound up being a blessing for Tottenham as Kane, Son, Bergwijn, and Sissoko were all able to contribute during Project Restart. We managed to have the best record during that stretch and would end up securing ourselves European football, just not the brand that we would have preferred.
Q. What was the general view heading into the new season and what were the expectations?
I don’t think anyone genuinely expected us to make top 4 at the start of the transfer window. Then the transfer window happened. 7 signings, topped off with the return of one Gareth Frank Bale saw expectations soar. Now securing a Champions League spot is certainly the expectation, with some setting their hopes on a genuine title run and/or silverware.
Q. It was a peculiar summer transfer window for everyone, but how active were Spurs and are there any areas that will need attention in January?
Tottenham were very busy in the transfer market. Despite suffering record losses due to the pandemic, Spurs signed 7 players filling arguably every hole in the squad. The most important of these was arguably striker Carlos Vinicius who has already allowed us to rest Harry Kane in several “less important” matches thus far. On the other side, we were also able to keep hold of some players that at one point or another looked set for the exit door including Tanguy Ndobele and Serge Aurier who have started the season incredibly well and Dele Alli who continues to miss out in the Premier League. I’m personally not expecting much in January, but our interest in players like Milan Skriniar and Marcel Sabitzer could turn concrete quickly depending on where we are in the table in January and if Davinson Sanchez or Dele Alli move on.
Q. Opinions on Jose Mourinho now that he has settled in?
I’ve come to an uneasy acceptance of him, though there are certainly sections of the fan base that will just never get on board with Jose. The playing style is just so antithetical to the history of the club that it feels wrong seeing us grind out wins rather than losing with an eye-pleasing style. His presence has certainly been vital in terms of player recruitment and retention which certainly makes it easier to keep me on board. Regardless of what Mourinho manages to do or win at Spurs, the ambition showed by hiring him kept Kane and Son from leaving, convinced Toby Alderweireld to sign a new contract, and was mentioned by most of our “summer” signings as a key reason as to why they joined Tottenham, including Gareth Bale. If he wins something most fans will forgive his style, antics, and past. If he wins the Premier League, all of them will.
Q. We are keen to see young players coming through the ranks here at TEB so is there anyone that we should keep an eye on who could make the breakthrough into the Spurs first eleven?
This is a really interesting question! Obviously Pochettino was known for bringing youth through into the first team (Bentaleb, Mason, Kane, Winks, etc), but it really fell off in the latter stages of his tenure at the club. Mourinho has already looked more willing to rely on youth than at his previous stops… but we’ve sent most of our key young players away.
The academy gems are Troy Parrott and Oliver Skipp who are both out on Championship loans and, while not an academy player, Ryan Sessegnon is currently on loan in the Bundesliga. As for the players still in the academy/at the club, Dennis Cirkin and Harvey White are both highly regarded and Dane Scarlett just became the youngest player ever feature for Spurs. None feel particularly close to the first team considering our depth and expectations this season, but those are the main names to look out for in future.
Q. The Premier League has looked pretty open so far this season, do you see that continuing into being the most open title race for years?
We’re drifting dangerously towards “getting my hopes up” territory. With the injuries, COVID issues, and slow starts at so many of the other big clubs it certainly feels as though a surprise team could sneak in and snatch the title like Leicester did in 2015-16. I would obviously love it to be us, but this year will certainly be closer than last.
Q. A fully loaded question but we wanted to get your opinion on the absence of fans, Project Big Picture and the European Premier League?
Am obviously not based in the UK so I’m particularly confident speaking on these issues but… I’m excited that fans are starting to be able to return to matches, most people seem excited that Project Big Picture failed almost immediately, and I think the European Premier League is incredibly stupid and short-sighted.
Q. What do you make of Palace this season?
I’m sure I’ve said this every time I’ve done one of these, but I’ve got a soft spot for Palace. With that comes expectations that you’ll be as good on the pitch as you are on paper… but that just never seems to happen does it?
You have loads of talented players. Eze was a brilliant buy, bringing Batshuayi back seemed a good move and I loved the Ferguson deal though he’s still dealing with injury issues. With them and the strong core that you already had, I assumed you’d be somewhere near the top 10 this year even after the disappointing end to the 2019/20 campaign. I doubt you’ll be in the relegation conversation at any point this year, but it’s starting to feel like you’ve gone as far as Roy Hodgson can take you.
Q. Name one player from each team that you believe will be a threat to the opposition in this match.
You must be tired of getting the same answer to this question every week but, if he’s fit, it has to be Zaha. We all know the stats about Palace with/without Zaha and right-back hasn’t been our strongest position the past few years. Aurier has started well this year but has a mistake in him and Zaha can certainly take advantage of that and Doherty just doesn’t have the pace or defensive nous to keep up with him.
As for Tottenham, Kane and Son are the obvious choices but I’ll go with Ndombele. Your defence is often protected by your strong midfield, but Ndombele thrives in those situations where he’s surrounded, feels the opposing players, and then slips through into space. If you can contain Ndombele, you’ll have a great chance at a result… if you can’t, you won’t.
Q. …and finally, your all important prediction?
After a nightmarish run of matches against Manchester City, Chelsea, and Arsenal… it’d be so Tottenham for us to slip up against Palace. If you have Zaha back, I wouldn’t be shocked by a draw, but without him I’d say Tottenham 2-0.