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Know Your Opponent: Tottenham Hotspur

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Today I had the pleasure of having a chat with Kevin McCauley of Cartilage Free Captain. We asked each other questions, and below is my half of the conversation where Kevin aswered questions about Tottenham Hotspur. Please feel free to go to Cartilage Free Captain to see the first half of our conversation where I answer questions about Fulham.    

Russell Goldman: Tottenham were a very strong side last season and deserved to be in the Champions League. Has your team improved from last season's club?

Kevin McCauley: I think that simply based on the fact that we lost no one while adding Rafael van der Vaart, William Gallas, and Sandro, we have improved. Unfortunately, our long injury list has made it difficult to play at the same level as we did last year. At the same time, Manchester City have also improved and that will make finishing in fourth place more difficult than last season.

RG: Which injuries have hurt the most?

KM: The injury to Jermain Defoe has been massive. We have plenty of quality players, but Defoe is our only player who is a proven goal scorer. Peter Crouch is not the kind of player that can get behind the defense and neither Aaron Lennon or Gareth Bale is a true goal scorer, as talented as they are. Defoe's injury has allowed for Rafael van der Vaart to start almost every game in his natural position, and he has been fantastic, but we're still struggling to replace Defoe's goal production.

RG: I was going to ask you about Rafael van der Vaart. Based on your response it sounds like you are very happy with what he added to Spurs. Could he be even a bigger asset when Defoe returns?

KM: Actually, he might be less of an asset. If Crouch, Defoe, van der Vaart, Lennon, and Bale are all healthy, it is likely that one of them will have to sit on the bench. It's conceivable that van der Vaart could play in the center of midfield, but this would mean that Luka Modric got benched and Tom Huddlestone would be asked to cover a lot of ground. Basically, when everyone is healthy, we're going to have to bench one of the players that most people would consider to be a key player. I guess this is a good problem to have, though.

RG: That is a great problem to have. In our match tomorrow I think a key matchup will be Tom Huddlestone against Danny Murphy trying to control the midfield. Would you agree?

KM: Absolutely. Both guys are good tacklers and have a great range of passing. Huddlestone obviously has a size advantage but Murphy is definitely the more athletic of the two players. I expect them to be fighting for 50-50 balls throughout the game.

RG: We have been talking about many of the strengths of Tottenham. Are there any weaknesses?

KM:  I think this is depending on the health of the players and who is available for selection, as well as Harry Redknapp's tactical decisions. When everyone is healthy and Harry doesn't do anything stupid, the answer is no. However, our injury list is long, lots of players are questionable for the game, and Harry is prone to head-scratching blunders. Our biggest weakness is likely to be in defense, where our players are all struggling to get fit.

RG:  Gomes showed me something last season when Fulham played Spurs at Craven Cottage. I think he has really improved. How do you feel about your goalkeeper?

KM: Despite his poor start to his Spurs career, Gomes has turned out to be a great signing. He was an absolute legend at PSV and last season, he showed the ability that made him a club legend there and the reason why Spurs spent so much money on him. In Spurs' key games at the end of last season against Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City, Gomes was among the team's top performers and we couldn't have gotten nine points from those matches without his brilliant play. When he's healthy, I don't think it is a stretch to say he is a top five goalkeeper in the Premier League.

RG: If there is one player I could take from Spurs and put on Fulham it would be Gareth Bale. Do you think he is the most valuable player on Tottenham?

KM: Yes, absolutely. I don't think there's any question that Gareth Bale is the best left footed, left sided player in the Premier League. He won games by himself at the end of last year and has done close to the same thing to start the year. Unfortunately, I don't know if Bale is going to be a Tottenham player for long. The rumors that Real Madrid have come calling are circulating, and while Bale obviously loves the club, I don't think his loyalty is so strong that he would turn down that opportunity.

RG: That would be a shame if he left. I have one final question. Please give me your prediction for the match.

KM: Fulham are off to a solid start and Craven Cottage is a tough place to play, but I think that Spurs have too much firepower to get shut out like you predicted. I like a scoring draw, let's call it 1-1.

I want to thank Kevin McCauley for his time and his insight on Tottenham. Please go to Cartilage Free Captain for the first half of our conversation.