The Opposition View - Tottenham
1) Andre Villas-Boas is a manager that very much divides opinion among several people, how do you think he has done so far at the helm of Spurs?
Though there was understandable misgivings over both the sacking of Harry and replacing him with a 'Chelsea Failure' I think he has won over the majority of fans, if not yet convinced everyone that he is going to take us to the next level (wherever that is..). What I would say is that he seems to have learned a great deal from his short time at Chelsea and seems to be building up a good understanding with the players who seem to be happy to embrace his ideas. This was perhaps always going to be a big issue, as though he has kept many of the key players from Harry's team, he has adopted a far more technical and tactical way of playing, as opposed to Harry who basically picked the team and allowed them to express themselves. Though we are currently playing well and getting good results, it will now be interesting to see how he deals in the transfer market and how the next couple of windows will shape the squad in terms of players in and out and also how this evolves the playing style.
2) Who are the player/s to look out for in your side ahead of Tuesday's game?
I would have said Gareth Bale, before he suffered the injustice of another yellow card for diving (you have seen the contact!) and is of course suspended tomorrow. However, there is so much more to Spurs that being a one man team. I assume that Clint Dempsey will play on the left and though a different type of player, he offers other problems with probing passes and drifting inside to bolster the central areas. Aaron Lennon has been excellent this season and I can see him causing both of your full backs problems tomorrow, as he is for more comfortable and confident playing across the pitch, as well as his usual right wing. Add Sandro, who is a beast, Dembele who has been superb, Defoe who is on fire, Adebayor, who is unplayable on his day (Not had many days this season to date), Sigurdsson who might not start, but is settling in nicely. Oh and our full backs are very capable of exploiting any space out wide and are increasingly roving around as they find space to work. Apart from those, we have a great keeper and central defenders and some excellent young players, plus the likes of Scott Parker, who is finding his feet after a long spell out. apart from those, we are quite average...
3) As we approach the half way mark in the season, where do you realistically think you can finish?
I would love to confidently predict a top four finish. Probably below The Manchester's and Chelsea, but we still have a major fight with Arsenal, Everton and perhaps if they get some consistency, Liverpool, though I feel that isn't for this season. I do feel we are improving and are certainly good enough, but Arsenal are top four regulars and seem to be there of there a bouts, despite seemingly struggling at times. Everton are still fighting hard, but do they have the depth of squad to last the season? Saying that, they usually finish brilliantly, so is this their year to play consistently over 38 games? With no European football, they also have that ability to rest more that their rivals.
4) What are your strengths and weaknesses as a team that you have noticed over the past couple of games?
Strengths: I feel we are great on the counter, are increasingly strong in central midfield and defensively and are now working well as a team unit. Weakness: We could still be better at set pieces, could convert a higher percentage of chances and make better use of dominant possession. Also looking at your more pragmatic approach in the last few games, I also feel we lack creativity against teams that are happy to sit back and coal up pressure.
5) Who has your best signing of the summer been and why?
To be honest, that is quite a difficult one to answer, as Hugo Lloris looks superb, now he has taken over as No1, Mousa Dembele has been excellent in the midfield and you feel he is still just warming to the task, whilst Jan Vertonghen has been exceptional and has proved to be very accomplished in central defence or at left back. Add Clint Dempsey, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Emmanuel Adebayor, who all started slowly, but seem to be getting better and gaining form and confidence, we haven't really bought a turkey, but if you push me for one name I would go with Vertonghen, for his versatility, quality and also his willingness to step up and organise from the back.
6) What position would you like to strengthen in January and any players names that spring to mind?
If we didn't buy anyone, it wouldn't be the end of the world to be honest. We have missed Parker, Assou-Ekotto and Kaboul for the majority of the season and also Dembele and Adebayor have both missed as much as they have been available, due to injury. It seems clear that we need another striker at some point and also need greater creativity in the middle, but I would rather wait and get the right players than rush in and buy for the sake of things and get the wrong one of third choice when a better player might be available in the summer, just because we feel we could have better now.
7) Many say Gylfi Sigurdsson was the best player to grace the Madejski turf. However, why hasn't it really worked for him at Spurs yet?
I watched him closely at Reading and also Swansea and he has yet to show anything but brief glimpses of that form so far. He seems to have settled with the players, but has struggled to establish himself in the team or in a natural role as yet. Personally I like him playing from wider areas and coming inside, but he has struggled to get past Bale or Lennon, which is understandable and seems so far uncomfortable playing just behind a lone striker, though I feel that in mainly using Jermain Defoe in that attacking role, he dent get the service he might expect from supporting a player who plays with his back to goal, as Adebayor is happier doing. Jermain's first reaction is to get in a turn towards goal, which often makes Gylfi redundant In my opinion.
8) What Reading player do you rate the most and why?
To be honest, i don't see too many that really excite me and that I feel are without debate Premiership players. I have always liked Jason Roberts for his intelligence and work-rate, while Noel Hunt and Adam Le Fondre have caught my eye on occasions. Last season, Kaspars Gorkss looked good, whilst I always felt that Chris Gunter was a good full back and was slightly disappointed that he didn't have more opportunities at Spurs when he was with us.
9) Reports have been linking us with Tom Hudddlestone in January, what sort of player is he and would it be beneficial for you to loan him out?
Tom is a very decent player, who perhaps just needs to play every week and regain some confidence and fitness. I have always backed him as a very good player and have suggested that if he was Spanish or Italian, he would be a superstar. That may or may not be an exaggeration, but he has excellent vision, two equally good feet and despite criticism from some, does offer decent physicality to his game and though not very quick, his first touch and ability to take control and pass with either foot, makes up for his shortfalls for me. My personal feeling is that Huddlestone is better playing in a midfield three, as opposed to two in the middle, as that gives him greater time on the ball and perhaps makes his role within the team more defined. Though he has excellent passing and shooting power, I would like him to think more before taking the first option at times, but perhaps with games and a feeling that he is an automatic selection, he may well concentrate on playing a ball that is best for the occasion as opposed to trying to impress and do the spectacular to justify his selection.
10) What's your prediction for the game?
Based on your recent tighter defensive showings, I hope we get an early goal to force you to open up. In doing so, I can see a high scoring game, but would hate to start the year off with another game where the opposition look to play deep and allow us all the possession for 70% of the pitch but we get frustrated by a packed defence. I will be happy with any result that gives us three points, however, I am aware that Arsenal and Chelsea in particular have better goal differences than we do, therefore I would like to see us score a few over the next two games against you and QPR (might do you a favour), but equally I don't want to be disrespectful to you and opt for three, four or more tomorrow…