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Inside Info: Interview with Tottenham Hotspur blogger

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Ahead of Tottenham Hotspur vs Southampton, we speak to Dustin George-Miller (aka Uncle Menno from Cartilage Free Captain) and throw some questions his way, before Saints face up to Pochettino for the first time since his acrimonious departure.

Ex-Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino will face his former side for the first time this weekend
Ex-Saints boss Mauricio Pochettino will face his former side for the first time this weekend
Ian Walton

So, unless you've been endlessly sleeping in a cave since the end of last season, you'll be more than aware of the added importance of this weekend's trip to Tottenham for the Saints fans.

It sees the club face former manager Mauricio Pochettino at his new home, for the first time since the Argentine manoeuvred his way out of St. Mary's in a move that soured his relationship with many within the club and those who are connected to it.

Ahead of our trip to White Hart Lane, we spoke to Dustin George-Miller, better known as Uncle Menno on Tottenham's very own SB.Nation blog, Cartilage Free Captain. We fired a range of questions at Dustin before Saints travel to North London, and here is what he had to say...

SMM: Following the arrival of Pochettino, there have been some changes in personnel at Spurs, but what would you say is your strongest eleven?

CFC: Well, we're still trying to figure that out. One of the challenges that I'm sure Pochettino has had since moving to Spurs is figuring out which of the current Spurs players fits best with the tactics that he wants to implement, and the flip-side being how best to modify his tactics to fit the players he has available. Right now, not including injured players, the seeming locks for the starting lineup are Hugo Lloris in goal; Kyle Naughton, Jan Vertonghen, Younes Kaboul, and Danny Rose in defense; Etienne Capoue and ???? in the pivot; and a front four of Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen, Nacer Chadli, and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Now, there's a big ???? in the pivot besides Capoue because that position is pretty much wide open and could change due to tactics and opposition. It's been shared thus far by Nabil Bentaleb, Moussa Dembele, and most recently Ryan Mason in league matches.  Frankly, I don't think the current favored 11 is the one that will be starting matches in the Spring. Younes Kaboul has struggled in most of the early matches this season (Arsenal excepted), Eric Dier started out strong but has faded a bit lately and despite Adebayor starting every league match thus far I feel as though the striker situation is a lot more wide open than what most people think. Spurs are still a work in progress, and I think we'll see a lot of different lineups over the course of the season.

SMM: Spurs currently sit 8th after 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats - how do Spurs fans view the start of this season and what do you expect/hope for from the campaign ahead?

CFC: Despite what you might see on Twitter and message boards, I think most Spurs fans are taking the long view regarding this season. After the yakkity-sax soundtrack that was last year, I think deep down most Spurs fans are willing to give Pochettino the time and the grace to implement his tactics and get his preferred personnel in place. This takes time. There are a lot of good players on Spurs' squad, and a number of emphatically average ones. We're six matches into the campaign and it's far, far too early for anyone to push the panic button yet. That said, I don't think anyone seriously thinks Spurs will get top four this season. If 2014-15 turns out to be the slightly bumpy year that sets the foundation for future growth and improvement, like Brendan Rodgers' first season at Liverpool, well, that'll do just fine, thank you.

SMM: From a Southampton/neutral perspective, many were surprised to see that Tottenham didn't splash out on a new striker this summer, instead sticking with Adebayor, Soldado, Kane and Mason. What are your thoughts on this?

CFC: Well, Mason is really a deep-lying playmaker, so let's not include him in the striker stable. But you are correct in that Spurs fans were clamoring for another striker when the window opened. The thing is, Spurs fans really wanted another elite striker to lead the line, and the number of elite strikers who were available and willing to come to Spurs was extremely limited. With Pochettino preferring a one-striker formation with inside forwards who like to cut in, three strikers were probably enough. We have one striker (Adebayor) who likes to drop deep and bring others into play, one (Soldado) who is an off-the-boil poacher with good vision, and one (Harry Kane) who is young, driven, and with a ton of potential. Those aren't terrible options. When you combine this with the tepid striker options in the market this off-season and the desperate need to shore up the defense first, it's not hard to see why Spurs would let the striker situation ride. Who knows what will happen in January, though.

SMM: What would you say is the best bit of summer business from Pochettino?

CFC: Nearly all of Spurs' transfers in were defense-related, and they're all players for whom their best days are ahead of them. There are two in particular that I think will eventually pay major dividends. Eric Dier had those amazing two early games at right back for Spurs, and while he's really not a right back he's young and has a lot of potential. Benjamin Stambouli looks to be a very good pickup at DM and has impressed the Cartilage Free writers in his early appearances. But perhaps the signing with the most exciting upside is young American RB DeAndre Yedlin, a speed-demon who has the potential to develop into our new starting right back.

SMM: Having missed out on Jay Rodriguez and Morgan Schneiderlin after high-profile pursuits of both players, do you feel they are players that would benefit and improve your current group - or are they not needed?

CFC: Morgan Schneiderlin was, of course, high on Spurs' list this summer, and there was a point in time when it really looked like we were going to get him. Credit to Southampton for circling the wagons, as he's that quintessential "glue guy" that makes the entire team better. That said, missing out on Schneiderlin isn't as catastrophic for Spurs as what it might appear - while he undoubtably would've improved Tottenham's midfield, it has resulted in the emergence of Etienne Capoue, who has been very good for us thus far. Jay Rodriguez is probably the one player missing from Spurs that would most help implement Pochettino's preferred tactics - we talk a lot as a writing team about various Spurs players playing in "the Jay Rodriguez role" when it would've been quite nice just to have Jay Rodriguez. I think Jay coming off of injury might have scared Spurs off a little bit in that pursuit; it's a big deal to spend that kind of money on a player who wouldn't pass a physical and who even now isn't healthy. And maybe Spurs might go in for him later, who knows?

SMM: It's still early days, and it takes time to mould a team, but how do you view Pochettino so far?

CFC: Coming off of last year's debacle where we went from an ineffectual manager to a bats**t crazy one, it's an absolute pleasure to have a manager who not only is a stabilizing presence, but is also tactically astute, liked in the changing room, and not certifiably insane. Pochettino certainly has a system, though in the early days it does seem to differ a little from what we saw at Soton. There are some small grumblings thus far about static offense and some questionable in-game substitutions, but these are minor quibbles, considering that it's not clear that Poche knows yet what his first choice starting lineup is. It's early days, of course. He's saying all the right things (in English!), supporting the players that needs supporting and getting angry when he needs to get angry. My sense is that most people are at worst satisfied with Pochettino and are willing to give him plenty of time to get settled and implement his system with his players. Could mean a lot of change in the next year or so, but I don't get the sense that there's any pressure on him whatsoever.

SMM: Have you been surprised by the way Ronald Koeman has quickly turned around Southampton, and what do you think the Saints should be looking to achieve this season?

CFC: I admit, with all the off-season turmoil I fully expected Southampton not only to struggle but to flirt with relegation. It's unusual to lose the number of starting players that Saints did and not only maintain their standing but possibly improve. I think keeping ahold of Schneiderlin, landing Koeman, and signing Mané, Pellè, and Tadić has been absolutely huge for Southampton. I know that most neutrals, and I consider myself among them, quite like Southampton and hope they do well. It's a great story.  All that said, I hope all their legs fall off this Sunday.

SMM: What do you expect from Sunday's game?

CFC: This is a match that is chock-full of hashtag-narrative, what with Poche going up against his old club and the two teams' current standings in the table. For Spurs it's a quintessential "trap game" and could be very important for Spurs' overall campaign.  A Spurs win is the expected outcome, and if they drop any points (and it's quite possible that they will) a lot of media heat is going to be heaped on Pochettino's head, fairly or not.  I understand that for Saints fans it's a way to get back at Poche for leaving, but personally I wish we could play this match - which should be a good one - without all this narrative hanging over the Spurs players' heads.

Spurs are still a work in progress, and while they have the talent on the team to beat Southampton, I'm not sure the pieces are all there to play well consistently. More than anything I hope for a solid derp-free defense and attackers that actually finish.

SMM: Prediction?

CFC: Predicting Spurs games right now is kind of like throwing darts at a dart board. We could come out and blow Saints out of the water, or we could crap the bed and lose.


I honestly have no idea, so I'm going for a 1-1 draw.

St. Mary's Musings would like to thank Dustin for answering those questions for us, and if you'd like to follow him on Twitter, you can do so by clicking here ---> @DustinGM

A reciprocal interview was carried out by @ConnorArmstrong of St. Mary's Musings, and can be read by clicking the link below.

Connor's interview with Cartilage Free Captain