We asked Dustin Menno at Cartilage Free Captain a few questions about Tottenham Hotspur before our Europa League clash this week.
FTW:What's more important to the spurs? The League crown or Europa League? And will that effect lineup choices against us?
DM: There's no question that if you give an average Spurs supporter the choice between a league title and a Europa league trophy, they'll take the league every time. Spurs haven't won the league since 1961 and there may never be a better opportunity than now to win it. However, I will say that a lot of Spurs fans are exuberant about taking on Dortmund in the Europa League. This is a match-up that has a Champions League caliber feel to it. And now that the Europa League has a path to the UCL for the winner, I think you'll continue to see Spurs take it very seriously.
That said, up until now Tottenham has gone with a partially rotated side in away matches in the Europa League this season. That may change considering the strength of Dortmund's team and Spurs' next league match is against a hopeless Aston Villa team. If you're going to field a rotated side in a league match, make it against Villa. I'd expect a first-choice (or nearly) lineup at Signal Iduna.
FTW:Harry Kane hasn't been the beast he was last season but still is one of the most important players on the team. how has his role changed this year and do you see this a positive thing in his development?
DM:I take issue slightly with the premise, as Harry Kane has proven himself to be one of the best strikers in England. Sure, he's not going to score 30 goals this season, but he has scored 19 already and that's still enough to put him near the top of the EPL scoring list.
But that wasn't really your question, was it? It's true that Harry Kane's role has changed slightly, or to put it more succinctly, it's evolved a little bit from last year. Kane tends to drift deep over the course of the match, dropping back more into midfield, sometimes even going wide, and even operating at times somewhat like a false nine. He's more willing to work hard in the press than a lot of other strikers, and is also very good about bringing his teammates into the offense as he collapses defenses that focus on his scoring threat. It makes him a very useful striker, but in some ways a bit of an odd duck. He doesn't have the speed to live off the back shoulder of the defenders, but he is very canny with his ability to use his strength to get himself that half-step of space to shoot. It's turning him into a pretty exciting all-around striker.
FTW:Many consider Toby Alderweireld the best signing in the EPL this season. What makes him such a important piece in this title chasing Spurs side?
DM:Toby has been an absolutely brilliant signing by Tottenham this season, and yes, he's quite clearly one of (if not the) best defender in the EPL. Toby has a super amazing awareness and use of space, and is a very intelligent defender. He's not the fastest, but he uses his positioning to mitigate the speed of opposition attackers, and is also able to marshall the defense to help negate threats. You'll rarely see Toby put a foot wrong in a match.
But what really sets him apart is his long passing ability from deep. He's got an incredible long diagonal ball that has caught defenses napping on more than one occasion. If teams aren't careful, he'll loft a pin-point accurate ball over their heads and right onto the feet of Kane, Eriksen, or Lamela. It's this added dimension that makes him so potent in Spurs' offense.
FTW:Spurs have found a lot of success in using a press. Do you think they will try to press against Dortmund who are one of the best pressing teams in Europe?
DM:This is a great question. Spurs have had a lot of success in the EPL under Pochettino with his Bielsa-esque pressing because not a lot of other clubs do it. But in Dortmund, Spurs are going up against a very similar club that not only know what to expect out of the Spurs press, but will also counterpress them right back.
Which is why I actually think we'll see Spurs sit back a little deeper at the Signal Iduna and try to hit Dortmund on the counter. Spurs are actually a very good counterattacking side, but they don't do it very often. With Dele Alli suspended for this match and Eric Dier rested, I think it'll be a fascinating match-up. If Dortmund gives them the opportunity, I think they'll try and press, but it would not surprise me in a hostile stadium if they play it safe.
FTW:Our guy Julian Weigl has surprised many as one of the best U21s in the world at the moment. Spurs have Dele Alli, who also has surprised many as turning into one of the best U21s in the world. What makes Dele so special and do you think Spurs will be able to resist whatever large sums of money are offered for Delli this summer?
DM:I have no idea what makes Dele Alli so good at such a young age. I just know he is. He has a very good awareness for a player so young, and astonishingly good vision. We knew he was going to be good after seeing him dismantle League One last season, but we just didn't know he'd be THIS good THIS quickly.
By all accounts, Alli has settled well at Spurs and is loving life at the club â he's total bros with Eric Dier, and it's hilarious â but few Spurs fans are deluded enough to think that we're going to keep ahold of him forever. In a few years, I expect to see him playing for Real Madrid, because his ceiling is most certainly that high. And we'll get a crap-ton of money for him because we have Daniel Levy.
FTW:The only player BVB has any experience against on Spurs is Son Heung-min who played for Bayer Leverkusen. How has he developed at Spurs and do you think he will play against us Thursday?
DM:I love Sonny. I did a little happy dance when we signed him; I wanted him years ago before he signed with Bayer and am beyond thrilled that he landed in our lap. He's so, so good, but not as good at Tottenham as what he will be. Moving from the Bundesliga to the EPL is a major adjustment â just ask Bastian Schweinsteiger â and I think Sonny's still figuring out how to adapt his game to the rigors and pace of the league. But I have absolutely no doubts that Sonny will figure it out and be an absolute monster for us once he's settled and has some additional time with the club and in Pochettino's system.
Bonus: HOW DO WE DEFEAT THE ARTIST FORMERLY KNOWN AS HUGO LLORIS
DM:Hugo is legit one of the best keepers in the world, but even he has bad days. The key to stopping Hugo is to either catch him wrong-footed (how Alexis caught him in the North London Derby) or get him to rush out and commit to sweeping, something he does a lot less of now than he used to. But truthfully? It's tough, man. Hugo is seriously good, and he's one of the reasons Spurs have the best defensive record in the Premier League. You first have to beat Spurs' midfield, then their defense, and THEN Hugo. Tall order.