Many thanks to Sean (GN Punk) from our fellow SB Nation blog Cartilage Free Captain for taking the time to chat with us ahead of Everton’s trip to Tottenham Hotspur this weekend.
Chris answered some questions for Sean over on the Spurs blog too, read about it here.
RBM: Spurs are 10 points back of Chelsea in the table. Is there any one thing this season you can point to that explains the big gap?
CFC: I don't know if there's anything ridiculous to point at other than untimely injuries and a couple bad runs of form. In the first half of the season, Harry Kane went down with an ankle injury and was out for a number of weeks. At the time, Spurs were in the Champions League and had a few other injuries that finally caught up with them. In the second half of the season, January was not terribly kind to them and February, while better, saw a rough loss to Liverpool. The ship seems to be righted now, but my belief of catching Chelsea has dwindled down to near nothing.
RBM: There's a great deal of talent in Tottenham's youth ranks. Are you pleased with the development in that area, and aside from perhaps Harry Winks, are there any other players Premier League fans should keep their eyes on in the coming months?
CFC: Mauricio Pochettino has been wonderful for Spurs when it comes to development. Obviously everyone knows of Dele Alli now and Harry Winks has proven himself enough that he is regularly in the squad no matter the match. Pochettino giving him time in the Champions League was a big eyebrow raiser, but the kid more than held his own. I'm pretty sure a few of us tried not to shed a tear when he scored on his Premier League debut against West Ham.
Cameron Carter-Vickers has picked up a few starts in cup ties this season, and he's played decently, though he's had some moments that all of us have tempered our expectations a bit. That being said, he's still 18 years old. He's built like a Mack truck and is learning the game from a couple of the best in the name of Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen. CCV is probably a year or two away from showing us whether he's PL quality or not, but Poch certainly rates him so there's no reason to doubt otherwise.
Two names to look for in the future: Kyle Walker-Peters and Pau Lopez. KWP was recently given a new contract and it's believed that next season we'll see the young fullback get some run outs. Pau Lopez is currently on loan from Espanyol and has played a number of matches in PL2 for Spurs. He is also highly rated by Poch and the belief is that he will be purchased at the end of his loan stint and could possibly takeover the backup role from Michel Vorm, but that all is dependent on whether or not Vorm has the itch to start elsewhere, because he is not jumping Hugo.
RBM: Moussa Sissoko very nearly joined Everton on deadline day over the summer. It's probably a bit too soon to consider that signing a "bust", but how would you rate it so far?
CFC: Somewhere between "AlecBaldwinWhiskeyPour.gif" and "BurningHouseDogThisIsFine.gif"
Full disclosure, I was not a fan of Sissoko. I've watched him play for Newcastle and just didn't think he would be a guy Spurs needed. He went off to the Euros and had himself a pretty great tournament. I'm sure having the French National Team Captain on our side helped the cause, but in the end, I would have rather spent that £30m getting someone like Maximillian Meyer from Schalke 04 or Youri Tielemans from RSC Anderlecht, perhaps even Tiemoué Bakayoko or Kylian Mbappe from Monaco.
Here's the bottom line with Sissoko: He's made 20 appearances for Spurs this season with about half of those being starts. He hasn't scored a goal and, in at least half of those appearances, I've found myself wondering how Spurs dropping £30m for him even came to pass. Daniel Levy loves his installment plans, and I have a strong feeling that if he hadn't gotten the deal he did of spreading it out over five years, Sissoko would be playing for Everton right now.
So, yeah, it hasn't been great. He's put in a few performances here and there that have been fine with a few assists, but at no point have I felt that the £30m price tag has been justified.
RBM: Everton are one of the division's most in form sides. What aspects of their attack do you think Spurs should be most concerned with, and how can they combat them?
CFC: Besides hoping that Romelu Lukaku gets stuck in traffic and misses the match?
Spurs need to press Everton into oblivion and create a disconnect between their midfield and Lukaku. The man still terrifies me and I'm surprised he didn't move in the summer, but that's a big boost for your side and it's paying off. 18 goals across all competitions is pretty solid and the task at hand is to keep him off the ball. Toby and Jan are probably (see: hopefully) ready to go for Sunday after being taken off for precautionary moves, and that will help. Wanyama and Moose being at their best and causing midfield chaos will go a long way as well.
RBM: The Ross Barkley to Spurs rumors don't quite want to go away. Is that something you see trickling over into the summer, or can Everton fans relax with regards to worrying about losing a talented home grown player? Additionally, is that a signing that Spurs fans are even interested in considering the club's overall ambitions?
Sean: Death. Taxes. Spurs linked to half of Europe. These are three things that are a given in life it seems.
This depends on who you ask. I look at Ross Barkley and think he's a fine player, one that can certainly help with Spurs' depth overall. However, the other side of this shows me a player that I don't think breaks Spurs Starting XI without an injury. He'd see playing time, certainly, but with what he'll more than likely cost Spurs? I don't think it's a move I want to see.
Again, I'd rather go after the players I named earlier because I feel they bring more to the table and all would challenge in their own way. Meyer is a gifted attacking midfielder who I think will be a superstar in the next couple of seasons. Moose isn't getting any younger and a guy like Tielemans, while not 100% like for like, can certainly fill that gap if Moose goes down. Same goes for Bakayoko. Mbappe brings creativity and pace on the wing.
In the long run, I think Everton will hang on to Barkley. The rumor won't die, of course, but Spurs were also linked to Leandro Damiao for the better part of a decade and that never came to be.
Thanks once again to Sean for chatting with us, see you on Sunday!