ClaretandHugh’s New York-based east end born blogger Scott Alsweiller takes a look at the game against Spurs and says: “We are the better team with a better team spirit, a better manager, and the best fans in the world
Tottenham Hotspur. Not a much loved pair of words for us (although probably slightly less loathed than the words ‘James McCarthy’).
While it would be wonderful to think that they were looking to join Chelsea floating just out of the relegation zone, they’re not. Ahead of us slightly going into Sunday’s match, and potentially dangerous. Tomorrow’s game may well prove to be the toughest game of the year. But it’s one we can win.
Much has been said, and little needs to be added, about the brutal tackle that has taken Dmitri Payet from us for the next three months. But we’re not a one man club. Dimi is probably the League signing of the season, but Manuel Lanzini isn’t far behind.
His biggest test lies ahead, beginning on Sunday afternoon, when he steps into the role Payet has made his own. Lanzini can not only do it, but he can shine. His raw talent sparkles as he cuts holes through any defence. And for one as young as him, I expect to see his name as Hammer of the Year in future.
It’s also time for Zarate to come into his own. We’ve now seen what he can do, and he does seem to lose his focus as games progress. Start him in Lanzini’s accustomed role and let him loose.
The biggest danger with Zarate is that he tends to be selfish with the ball in possession. If he can get over that, we’re golden. Antonio is probably due an appearance as well. Everyone with an inkling of what he’s capable of has been patiently waiting to see him get some decent game time. He could well make an impact if he gets the chance.
One thing has quickly become apparent is that Andy Carroll cannot start. Especially now with Sakho fit, there’s very little place for him in the starting line-up. Even if Sakho were not available it might be a better option to have Zarate up front for the first sixty minutes.
Carroll looks his best – and downright lethal – coming on as an impact sub against a tired defence. At his best he’s unplayable, but relies on his physical strength rather than speed and finesse. That works well if the opposition are weary, not well when they’re fresh and focused.
Other questions hang heavy over the midfield. Alex Song must be given his chance soon, and it wouldn’t be amiss to suspect he’ll be back to the sort of form we saw prior to Christmas last season.
If he does come back like that, our own Mark Noble might be hard pressed to hold his place. It’s a sad thing to say, we all love Nobes, but he’ll have to move up into another gear entirely to retain his starting place in a fully fit squad.
At the back, there is no realistic or sensible case for dropping Tomkins – but there are still questions in many minds about Carl Jenkinson. Tompkins has shown he can fill the role well if we wanted to bring in Ogbonna as a centre back. And with the speed we have as a squad, it isn’t as vital for the fullbacks to play the attacking game as it has been previously.
Elsewhere in the League we’re seeing how things have changed this year. Chelsea look to be hoping to win some silverware next season though – probably the Championship if they pick themselves up a bit. Leicester City currently top the table, and in no way looking like they’re ready to relinquish the spot to anyone. Although if Jamie Vardy were to get injured it might have a serious impact on the rest of their season.
But all kudos to them for the fantastic football they’ve been playing. But we’re better. We’re not ahead of them, not by any stretch if the imagination; but we’re a more rounded team, with individual talent bursting from the seams.
Let’s prove it tomorrow against Spurs. It’ll be tough. We have to admit, if somewhat grudgingly, that they look good. But we’re better. Man for man, we are the better team with a better team spirit, with a better manager, and the best fans in the world. A win tomorrow will put us back in fifth. Whoever loses will probably drop behind Palace – who would have to not show up at all to lose to Allardyce’s Sunderland.
I’ll be sitting here in Central New York, screaming and singing. Join me as we will our lads to victory.