Please read, like, share and, most importantly, enjoy this week's edition of INSIDE INFO - the original (we're looking at you, www.saintsfc.co.uk) Saints column which gets the opposition's views ahead of their match against our beloved Southampton.
Read what we had to say to Tottenham fans on their blog here.
St. Mary's Musings: What were your expectations before the season had started and how do they compare to now?
Cartilage Free Captain: In our preseason prediction article over at Carty Free, I said Spurs would finish in fifth behind Chelsea, Manchester City, Arsenal, and Manchester United in that order. So, my expectations have been exceeded. In fact, nobody on our staff predicted a top four finish for Spurs as there were a few new signings not only had to fit in, but there were some big signings by other clubs that looked to be huge stepping stones, such as Depay and Martial with United, Kevin De Bruyne to City, and a couple of others. Instead, here we are sitting in second place with a chance to lock that down on Sunday thanks to our goal differential. I'm just about over the loss of the title, so I can now focus on the positives and say this season has been an amazing success.
SMM: What did you make of Spurs' last two games which ultimately ended your Premier League title hopes?
CFC: I'm honestly more disappointed with the West Brom match than I am the Chelsea match. Tony Pulis seems to know exactly how to frustrate teams and force them to play down to their level and ability. That being said, Spurs were incredibly unlucky in that match. There were three different times that shot attempts found the woodwork and that match could have easily been over by halftime. Instead, Spurs couldn't get that insurance goal and coughed up the equalizer, which all but ended the race.
The Chelsea match was about what I expected. Chelsea have had nothing to play for in the last couple of months and we all expected them to be up for it to put the final nail in the coffin for Tottenham's title chances. It was one of the most physical matches I've ever watched live and, given that Spurs can't break the hex at Stamford Bridge, I figured a draw was going to happen. Sometimes, I hate being right.
SMM: Was it hard knowing everyone bar Spurs fans wanted Leicester to win the league?
CFC: Earlier on in the season, yes. I think when we came to the realization that the title race was on for Spurs after beating Manchester City, we knew we weren't the darlings of the league and I was okay with it. I didn't expect us to be full blown wrestling heels in the eyes of just about everyone down the stretch, but that Chelsea match showed an edge to Spurs that I haven't seen in a long time.
SMM: With the aftermath of the Chelsea game making a lot of news, what should we expect from this Spurs side on Sunday? Who's missing?
CFC: Dele Alli is serving the second match in a three match suspension from attempting to put his fist through Claudio Yacob's abdomen, and that was just from the West Brom match. Mousa Dembele is going to miss this match as he's been charged with violent conduct by the FA for trying to turn Diego Costa into a cyclops with his fingers. We're still waiting for the final suspension, but the belief is that he'll get somewhere around five matches.
Given these missing players, both of which are pretty important, expect to see Heung-Min Son in the attacking band with Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela. Kane will be up top, of course. The midfield is a bit more of a question mark, but if the order of substitutes is foreshadowing, it's almost a guarantee we'll see Ryan Mason in the pivot next to Eric Dier. The backline will remain unchanged with Rose, Vertonghen, Alderweireld, and Walker in front of Hugo Lloris.
SMM: Two seasons in, what is the general consensus among Spurs fans regarding Mauricio Pochettino?
SMM: If you had any gripes about this season, what are they?
CFC: I have two of them: The preseason tournament schedule and, to a lesser extent, the way our Europa campaign was handled.
The first gripe comes in the form of the Audi Cup, which was played on August 4th and 5th against Real Madrid and AC Milan. Spurs did fine, but the issue here was that it gave the team only two days to prepare for the opener at Old Trafford. Worse yet, it seemed to cause a bit of a sluggish start for whatever reason. Spurs only managed three points from the first four fixtures of United, Stoke, Everton, and Leicester. If I could go back in time, Spurs would have never played in the Audi Cup.
The second gripe is when Spurs were in the knockout rounds of Europa. Right around the time Spurs knocked off Manchester City at the Etihad, there was a looming second leg against Fiorentina to play. Yes, UEFA Coefficient is very important and this ultimately helped England ensure they aren't losing that fourth qualification spot any time soon, but after taking Fiorentina so seriously, we essentially punted against Dortmund. Pochettino did finally explain that he wanted to focus on the title, but I kind of wanted to see us go up against Dortmund full strength.
SMM: Who should Saints fans be looking out for on Sunday?
CFC: First and foremost, Eric Dier might hurt, maim, or dismember you in some way on the pitch. He has been a revelation this season and nobody could have envisioned him becoming as good as he has at DM. He plays with a mean streak and has become the defacto enforcer for this club. The good thing for the Saints is that Alli is still suspended and a quick way to put Dier into missile lock on you is to take down Alli. Their bromance is wonderful and anything that threatens that makes you a target. Still, Dier is nasty when he has to be.
The obvious answer besides Dier would be Harry Kane and his ability to make goals out of nothing, so let's skip that and I'll go with Erik Lamela. Back in August, Lamela came on during our home match with Stoke and put in arguably the worst 20 minute shift in his career. It was bad enough that it seemed like it would be the death knell for him. Spurs almost rage-loaned him to Olympic Marseille on deadline day, but Pochettino put the stop to that. It has proven to be vital because he is essentially undroppable now. The way he presses is terrifying because he refuses to give anyone time to breathe, let alone think. He fouls a lot, but that's okay, because he refuses to stop what he's doing and it ultimately leads to turnovers.
SMM: If you could sell anyone from Spurs' starting XI, who would it be and why?
CFC: I'm going to be honest: This is probably the hardest question I've had to answer because there is nobody in the primary Starting XI I want to sell. If you held a gun to my head and forced me to pick someone, it would probably be Jan Vertonghen. He's the oldest in the group at 29 and Kevin Wimmer stepped in beautifully for him when Verts went down with his knee injury. The defense didn't skip a beat and Wimmer showed that he's a damn good third option to have. I love Jan and I'm happy that his persistence is going to pay off with Champions' League football next season, but he would be the one I'd sell.
SMM: If you could sign any Saints player, who would it be and why?
CFC: I have to admit that there are a few on your squad that intrigue not just me, but the entire CFC staff. In fact, I posed this question in our writers room and sparked a very long, very heated debate on who the biggest upgrade would be, who is the biggest need, etc. I wish I could copy and paste that discussion here but we'd probably hit the word limit for the article. I'll preface this by saying we could not come to a consensus, but here's what we came up with.
There are a few that stick out, but we think that the biggest upgrade for our squad would be either Ryan Bertrand to replace Ben Davies in the LB rotation and push Danny Rose or nab Saido Mane as an upgrade on Clinton N'Jie, though Clinton has been injured for most of the season so we really don't even know what we have with him. Beyond that, James Ward-Prowse would be excellent depth in the midfield given that we are going to see some changes there in the summer.
SMM: Finally, what do you think the score will be on Sunday?
CFC: I think Spurs are eager to put this season away on Sunday. A victory over Southampton will all but lock up second place no matter what happens between Manchester City and Arsenal immediately after this match given Spurs' superior goal differential (That still sounds funny to say.) over them. I don't see a hangover effect from losing the title race on Monday happening.
Spurs take this home, 3-1.