Way back in August on a sunny Sunday afternoon, Villa stepped out at Spurs’ new (originally named)
‘Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’ as a Premier League team once more. Following the excitement of
playoff promotion and a Summer of recruitment, hopes were high for an exciting season ahead. After
a battling display we ultimately came away empty handed, but not disgraced. Unfortunately, some of the errors that led to defeat that day haven’t fully been remedied and as such, we’ve struggled to kickstart our season meaningfully as yet.
We’re now seven months further along and we find ourselves embroiled in a relegation battle. Following our mini Winter break we once again lock horns with Spurs as we continue to seek a consistent wining recipe that will
hopefully begin to see us climb away from the trapdoor.
In advance of the clash we got the opinions of @JamieBCoys from @DailyHotspur about today’s fixture and all things Spurs.
1. After 5 years with Pochettino at the helm, and a relatively unchanged core squad, this season has marked a transition for Spurs. What’s the feeling about the direction you’ve moved in and have performances encouraged you about the immediate future?
Unfortunately, Spurs failed to refresh their squad soon enough and this season it caught up with us. Under Pochettino, Tottenham were reluctant to bring new players in and then unable to move on ageing players. However, under José we have already begun offloading players and have brought in two new faces in Bergwijn and Fernandes. That has been a positive change and hopefully in the coming windows we’ll continue to refresh the squad.
In terms of the direction on the pitch, following a mixed start, results have finally started to pick up in recent weeks and the Manchester City win was hopefully a real turning point. Starting on Sunday, we have a really tough run of fixtures and it’ll be very interesting to see how we react after two weeks off.
2. It seems fair to say, given his personality and association with cross City rivals, Chelsea, that Mourinho was a divisive hiring. Are spurs fans warming to him and do you think fans will ever truly unite behind him?
I don’t think many supporters cared about José’s past links with Chelsea. Many supporters were just excited about having a manager of his calibre arrive at the club and felt it was the right time to bring in a manager with as many honours to his name as José does.
However, the main concern amongst supporters is José’s style of play. Spurs have surrendered the majority of possession, had significantly fewer attempts than their opponents and been very direct in their play, which has been pretty difficult to watch. Right now, getting results is the main concern for Spurs, but next season, when he’s had the chance to properly work with the players and brought in new ones, the style of football will need to improve.
3. With the departures of Eriksen and Rose and the seeming departures of Vertonghen and perhaps Alderweireld, it seems like the old core is beginning to move on. What direction would you like to see Spurs move in in this next period?
As mentioned, Spurs’ biggest downfall was their failure to refresh the squad and allow the core group to age. Too many players have been at the club for too long and the team went stale. Going 18 months without a signing really hurt us along with the other transfer windows in which we didn’t do enough. That comes down to Pochettino’s reluctance to welcome new players in and allow the ones he had become close with to leave. The building of the £1.2Bn stadium limited us too.
However, the last two windows have been a good step in the right direction. We signed Lo Celso (23), Ndombele (23), Bergwijn (22), Fernandes (22) and Sessegnon (19). Meanwhile, Eriksen and Rose, two players who have been far from their best for a while now, were moved on and their negative influence in the dressing room has been removed. I hope heading into the next transfer window we continue to do more of the same signing players of the Lo Celso/Ndombele calibre and offload players who have been here too long and are now surplus to requirements.
4. Spurs have been somewhat Jekyll and Hyde form wise this season, what do you put that down to and how do spurs get back to the top 3 form from recent seasons?
Pochettino got sacked because after six years, his message got lost on the same group of players. The motivation disappeared and the ageing squad wasn’t as effective as it once was. Under Mourinho, the change in manager has seen the motivation reappear but maybe it’s taken time for the players to understand his approach – hence the mixed results. But the win over City was a classic José big game performance and possibly the moment the players finally clicked. We’re on a nice run of six games without a defeat and having won our last two I’m hopeful we’ve turned a corner.
Our mixed form has also been hindered by new players failing to hit the ground running. Ndombele could easily be one of the best midfielders in the world but issues with his fitness has meant he’s struggled to get a consistent run of games. Lo Celso is finally started to perform and replaced an Eriksen who had failed to perform all season and has now left for Inter Milan. Sessegnon spent the first few months of his Spurs career on the sidelines with a hamstring injury and is trying now trying to adjust to his new surroundings. The form of Heung-min Son and Dele Alli has also been very mixed.
5. It feels like a lifetime ago that we met on the opening day, how different do you feel Sunday’s fixture will be?
At the start of the season, both sides arrived with much optimism. Spurs were playing their first game since the Champions League final and Villa had just enjoyed a very strong transfer window. But 25 games later, Spurs are without the manager who guided nearly did the unthinkable and Villa are fighting for survival. For Villa, I’m interested to see where your priorities will be for this game, with the cup final two weeks away. I’m also glad not to be facing John McGinn like in the reverse fixture.
From a Spurs perspective, this will also be a very different game. We’re not fighting as high up the table as we would have hoped, but the squad feels in a better place since then. Lo Celso finally finding his feet has been hugely important, Japhet Tanganga has been really impressive since making his debut in January and Steven Bergwijn looks a top signing.
6. What are the main strengths you think you could or should utilise to beat us and what weaknesses do you possess that Villa could seek to exploit?
For Spurs, I’m hoping to see a midfield three of Ndombele, Winks and Lo Celso. Lo Celso and Ndombele have already formed a very strong partnership in the limited games they’ve played together and on their day have the ability to be two of the best in the league. Their technical ability is incredible and both bring something different to the table. I also believe Winks has been really helped by having two quality players alongside him with his form over recent weeks significantly improving. If these three start together, I think this would be our most threatening area.
Defensively I still have many concerns about this side. I expect Aurier and Sanchez to start on Sunday. Both players have tendencies to produce mistakes and this an area Villa should look to exploit.
7. How do you expect Spurs to set up on Sunday?
4-3-3: Lloris; Aurier, Alderweireld, Sanchez, Tanganga; Ndombele, Winks, Lo Celso; Moura, Bergwijn, Son.
8. What’s your prediction for how the game will go?
Aston Villa 1-3 Tottenham
As Dean Smith re-iterated this week, our season will likely be defined by our home form, and that
begins with this Sunday and the visit of the difficult to predict Spurs of Jose Mourinho. As we enter
this pivotal final third of the season, we need to start finding a winning form and hopefully the recuperative effects of the newly instated Winter break will give us a renewed energy and pause for thought on what we need to be doing better as a team to start getting those much needed positive results on the board. I hope today can be one of those positive results and that we can build on the positivity of our last two home outings.
By Jamie Yapp