Opposition Focus: Tottenham


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In the last Opposition Focus of 2020, Matt Wiggins spoke to Jason from Last Word on Spurs to get a Tottenham perspective ahead of Wednesday evening’s kick off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium…

Spurs vs Fulham, what comes to mind when you think of this fixture from years gone by?

Honestly so many in recent years.  Winks at the death, Kane hat-trick, the 2 Robbie Keane volleys, your 2 penalties and Dawson sent off, Gomes horror show, the 3-3 early season draw, a Berbatov winner for you at the Lane, our collapse at Loftus Road from 2-0 to 2-3, even losing a League Cup tie to you in Tigana’s day i think it was, I remember Hayles and I think Horsfield scoring, John Collins pulling the strings. [It was the Bracewell season. Ed.]

My first memory though goes way back to a freezing cold day, on a cowfield pitch in pouring rain, my first visit to the Cottage, a 1-1 draw in January 1978 in Division 2!  Peter Taylor scored for us.  We were robbed by an offside decision of a 2nd!

The decision to sack Mauricio Pochettino just over a year ago seemed a strange one from an outsider’s perspective. How did you feel when the news broke?

Strange from the outside, but it had the feeling of his time had just come to an end. Performances weren’t good enough, no away win for 11 months, and it had that look of “he’s lost the dressing room”.  Overall he did a brilliant job, no trophies but just as important in many ways, so many fantastic memories, and built an emotional bond with many fans. 

Those City and Ajax nights will live long in the memory.  Some say they mean nothing because we didn’t win the trophy.  Memories are never meaningless.

You lost the final to Atletico, but your comeback win against Juve was far from meaningless and will be talked of for years by all who were there, and you deserve to remember it.  You and me were rightly beaming with pride when those finals kicked off, and losing them doesn’t wipe that kick-off feeling away.

I won’t say anything bad about his time, but it was time to part ways before it became sour.

How would you describe Jose Mourinho’s reign as Spurs’ manager so far?

On the Last Word on Spurs, I’m by far his biggest critic, but as the oldest member, the style of play means more to me than most and it’s often a tough watch.

He inherited a broken team, he took us from 14th-6th last year, a success for many, but he took us from 14th to 5th on his first game and from 5th to 6th in the next 27.  Failing to register a shot on target to relegated Bournemouth, losing in the Cup to relegated Norwich and 2 really poor Chelsea defeats showed he had a lot of work to do.  Much was made of injuries to Son & Kane but actually, because of lockdown, Son & Kane only missed 3 in the PL together!

This year’s a better squad, we’ve been top, which felt like progress, some of the football at Man Utd was breathtaking but the 3-3 West Ham game saw him revert to low block football, and watching us deep letting Burnley and Palace have the ball when you have Kane, Son, Moura, Bale, Dele, Bergwijn, Lo Celso, Ndombele and Reguilon in the squad suggests we don’t play to our real strengths.

The flip side, which is what matters to most, is he may finally end the trophy drought.  Until he does, I’ll scowl more than smile.

How does the squad this season compare to the one that took you to 6th place last season?

Overall, on paper it’s far better and much deeper but we now have very much two sides, the PL side and the Europa side, and so many in the Europa side aren’t fully trusted, which then makes you question the actual depth and not just the paper depth.

Bale and Dele on paper are stunning players – both finding it tough, both a shadow of their on-paper versions.  I’m still a big Dele fan and found the criticism after the Stoke game ridiculous.  For me, until subbed, he was our best player and we had plenty of time to recover and re-position after he lost the ball.  Creative players don’t have 100% pass completion!

What are your hopes for the season and where do you think you’ll finish? 

Title winners, if honest, already looks tough; you were excellent against Liverpool but they are “the results machine”.  I can’t see them losing 3 games more than we will between now and the season’s end.

I’m confident that if we play to our best often enough and we play on the front foot, not in low blocks, top-4 is very much there for us and whilst the club won’t admit it, getting back into the Champions League is probably their major objective.

Hopes of a trophy are high, after all Jose was brought in to get them and as so many call him “a serial winner”, he must deliver.

He has a great chance in the League Cup final and has had the luck of the draws recently in the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa. We had the lowest ranked teams in all 3 competitions – Brentford, Marine and Wolfsburg!

Son and Kane have been a formidable partnership this season. Can they be stopped?

They have been fantastic.  I honestly think Kane has been the best player in PL this season; his range of passing now seen by all, not just Spurs fans.  He is the model pro and the criticism from outside over diving and now “signature move” is madness when so many other players are guilty of those exact same actions.  Bruno Fernandes pushed an in-air Richardson for example.  You see it in almost every game, yet only Kane is put on TV to explain himself.

Son is just a joy to watch: genuinely two-footed; real pace; and if you watch his full goal catalogue, 75% of them are genuine high quality goals.  His smile is infectious, and this year he has been so much more clinical.

Since the Woolwich victory though, he has not been quite at his best –  teams are maybe finding a way to limit their opportunities, but that should free up space for others and we need those others to step up with confidence.

How has Gareth Bale performed since he returned on loan?

If we’re all honest, nowhere near the level we thought he’d be at by now.  We knew the burst of pace had gone, but the ability to shift the ball a half yard and ping one in the top corner should still be there.

His goal at Stoke showed he is capable of class, but we need to see more of it.  If the loan option ended today, I’m not sure we’d take up the second season.  However, there is still plenty of time to prove his worth and hopefully a spark will ignite.  He is capable.

Are there any Fulham players that you think can threaten Spurs on Wednesday night?

Absolutely. Your left winger Ryan Sessegnon looks a fantastic prospect, I’d love us to buy him but he seems to be out the picture these days!

Seriously, it’s great to see him get game time at Hoffenheim. He’s my making a good impression and I have a lot of belief in his talent and that he will prosper as a Premier League player.  I just worry Jose is not the best boss for him.

Anguissa looks a power house and talented with the ball, similar to Ndombele for us when he’s playing well.  Both probably need to show it more throughout 90 minutes rather than spells in a game, both need it more consistently week to week, but the talent in both is clear to see.

Lookman also showing sparks of form, but again, it’s periods within games rather than full 90 minute performances.

Areola is a FANTASTIC signing for you.  How PSG don’t use him is very strange.  Very good goalkeeper, he’d improve many clubs with a higher profile than yourselves.

Fulham though definitely improved after a difficult start, staying in most games and but for 3 missed penalties, would be out the bottom-3.  I think you have a good chance of survival and obviously with Scottie Parker, most Spurs fans hope you will and most of us look forward to visiting the modernised Craven Cottage.  It’s always a great away day.

There are a number of players to have played for both sides. Who would you say is the best player to have played for both the Cottagers and Spurs?

Every single modern Spurs player says Mousa Dembele is the best player, so hard to top that. Although Berbatov was pretty tasty, and I hope in 5 years we can say Sessegnon. Alan Mullery though, a genuine club legend at both clubs.

A special shout-out to for Steeeeeeeeeed; another very talented player who did well for both of us and was a joy to watch. I can even remember John Lacy!

What are your Top 4 and Bottom 3 predictions?

Top Four – Liverpool to win it, City and Us 2nd and 3rd. Gut feeling is Man Utd pip Chelsea to 4th.

However, it would be great to see Everton, Southampton or Wolves make it and break into “the top 6”.  It definitely won’t be Woolwich!

Bottom Three – I’ll go Brighton, WBA, Sheffield Utd to drop.

Finally, how do you see the game panning out and what do you think the score will be?

You’ve looked much better defensively over the past 7-8 games, visable improvements, but overall I’ll back our quality if we really do use it to its best, and go for Spurs 2-0 win. 

All the best for the rest of the season, I’m backing you for survival.

Thanks to Jason from Last Word on Spurs for answering our questions. Check out their podcast here