Aston Villa travel to London to take on Tottenham Hotspur this weekend. Spurs fan and Cartilage Free Captain writer Bryan Ashlock was kind enough to sit down with us and answer a few of our questions ahead of the big match.
7500 to Holte: Three goals to Leicester. A goalless draw to Burnely. What's happening in Spurs land? I mean, those results are expected from a team like Villa, but you have to know you're better than that, right?
Bryan Ashlock: I'm not entirely convinced we are better than that.That sounds depressing and is almost certainly hyperbole, but this is a team with some very obvious flaws that we've either outright ignored or failed to adequately fix. Add in the fact that this team is pretty well locked into the top seven and has nothing much left to play for and you wind up with a general malaise settling in around the club. It sucks.
7500: I know you didn't love your managers last year. But that's the past. How do you feel about the job Mauricio Pochettino has done in his first season with Spurs?
Bryan: As always, I'm probably not the person to ask for Spurs fans general opinions on Pochettino. Overall, the results are fine. This was always going to be a transitional season and, while many would like to be 5th rather than 7th, the end result isn't all that different. It would have been great if we had won the Capital One Cup or progressed further in Europa, but Poche's poor squad rotation cost us both of those (that and having to play Chelsea in the cup final).
My major critique of Pochettino is that this team doesn't look all that different from AVB's teams of old. Obviously, part of that is down to the fact that Poche is still working with mostly AVB's guys. However, Pochettino has really failed to impress his style of play upon this team. We see it happen all the time where a new manager comes in and the teams mentality and style change. Sherwood is doing it at Villa, Pardew is doing it at Palace. Poche has been in charge a whole season at Spurs and hasn't done it.
Now, I'm not advocating getting rid of Mauricio or anything, but Spurs are going to have to look markedly different next year.
7500: Harry Kane. I'm not sure I even have a question. Just... Wow, right?
Bryan: Yeah. It's been awesome. Many of us over at Cartilage Free Captain have been fans of Kane since he was 16 and for him to finally burst onto the scene in such a big way is really gratifying. I've never felt so much pride and terror about a single Spurs player. Pride because he's a kid that we developed and that maybe wasn't nailed on to be a huge star. I once said I'd be happy if he turned into Steven Fletcher. Gareth Bale felt inevitable. Kane didn't. I'm also terrified that this is a fluke and that he'll never be good again. Because it would be so Spurs to develop the best English striker of a generation and then have him flame out after a season.
7500: With Hugo Lloris possibly set to miss this match, we can't help but feel as if Villa have some hope. How would you attack Tottenham in order to break them down?
Bryan: The book is out on Spurs now. Leicester and Burnley have both done the same thing against Spurs. Flood the midfield with bodies and press high up the pitch. Our midfielders make bad decisions and get sucked out of position easily. Add in a somewhat make-shift backline and a backup goalkeeper and it's not hard to start carving Spurs open. If Villa really ratched up the intensity for the first 30 minutes of each half and put Spurs on the back foot, then a goal is inevitable.
7500: Jack will be starting his "relegation poaching" series soon. The general idea is: here are the players worth taking from teams who drop. If Villa were to drop, would you want any of their players?
Bryan: Sure. Benteke is the obvious choice. Brad Guzan seems to be a pretty competent keeper and if Lloris goes we might need a new one. I'm not sold on Delph as a elite midfielder, but he's better than what we have, so I'd take him as well. Guys like Grealish, Wiemann, and Okore would all fit the Spurs model of buying good young talent as well. Though the latter three guys would likely be more squad players.
7500: Villa have not beaten Spurs since 2008, and have only done so six times in this millennium. Be honest: does this fixture worry you at all?
Bryan: To be a Spurs fan is to be terrified of narrative. Tell me, what better narrative is there than Tim Sherwood's Aston Villa putting three past Tottenham Hotspur while Sherwood stands on the sideline gesticulating and flipping off the fans at White Hart Lane? Maybe after the match he steals the microphone from the public address announcer and calls out Daniel Levy for a steel cage match.
So yeah. I'm super worried about this fixture.
Thanks to Bryan for taking the time to talk with us. Be sure to give him a follow on twitter!