While Everton’s home game against Leicester City in the Premier League today has been postponed, the Women’s side are still in action as they are down in London taking on a surprising Tottenham Hotspur Women’s side that has had an excellent start to their season so far. Spurs currently sit in third place in the FA Women’s Super League but are jockeying with a couple of teams for that coveted Champions League spot.
We spoke with Dustin at our fellow SB Nation blog Cartilage Free Captain who do an excellent job of covering all things Tottenham ahead of the Sunday afternoon game about the Women’s side, their season so far and more.
RBM: Who have been Tottenham’s standout players so far this season?
Dustin: Spurs had a disappointing campaign last season and made some wholesale changes over the summer, getting rid of 11 players and bringing in eight. That’s a lot of change, and Spurs have managed to make a whole lot of new parts fit together pretty well. Rachel Williams isn’t one of the newcomers, but she’s having a much better season up front than she did last year and is Tottenham’s leading scorer. Kit Graham added a real spark to Spurs’ offense from the 10, but she unfortunately did her hamstring and will miss the rest of the season.
At the back, new club captain and Canadian international Shelina Zadorsky has been a rock at CB alongside Molly Bartrip, and Spurs’ defense has been much improved this year. Spurs’ most exciting summer signing was Australian international Kyah Simon — she’s had a bit of a slow start to the year, but we know her quality and she has the ability to be a difference maker down the stretch. But if you asked me who I’ve enjoyed watching the most, it’s probably Angela Addison, who has excelled as a speedy spitfire of a winger, brought on late to run at tired legs. She’s got spunk, and I love her game.
RBM: Spurs currently sit third in the league. Is this start sustainable? Where in the table do you think the team will finish?
Dustin: It’s been an extremely exciting year thus far, with an unexpectedly strong start. If you had told me prior to the start of the season if I thought we’d be competing for a Champions League qualification spot in December, I’d have gnawed your hand off. Spurs have ridden their luck somewhat — the win over City was only due to an uncalled handball on a critical goal — but were extremely unfortunate not to get their first ever win over Arsenal a few weeks ago when the Gunners scored at the death.
It’s a long season, and there’s plenty of time for things to go south. The loss of Graham is a big one, and Spurs have Manchester City, Manchester United, and Brighton breathing down their necks right now. Finishing third would be a tall order, but they should be in the mix for that final CL spot, and barring that I’d be more than happy with 4th or 5th, i.e. among the “best of the rest.”
RBM: After winning Group C, how far can this team go in the Conti Cup?
Dustin: I think they can go up until they draw either Chelsea, Arsenal, or Manchester City, after which they’ll bow out, and possibly before. The harsh reality is that, even though they’ve beaten City and drawn Arsenal so far this year, they’re still well back of the Big Three in terms of talent, investment, and infrastructure. Let’s face it — Spurs were drawn into a pretty favorable group with no other WSL clubs, so finishing first was almost certainly the expectation. I’d be very surprised if any club other than the aforementioned ends up winning the whole thing. It’d be great to make a deep cup run but no one other than those three teams have ever won the Conti Cup, and I’d be shocked if that were to change this season.
RBM: How has the team managed to be competitive this season despite an exodus of several big-name players in the summer (Alanna Kennedy, Siri Worm and Abbie McManus)?
Dustin: I was surprised by the loss of Alanna Kennedy, who played very well as a defensive midfielder last season, but it’s hard to fault her moving to a club like City. Worm was an important part of Spurs’ squad after their initial promotion (and we definitely miss her set piece production) but found herself a bit marginalized under Rehanne Skinner. McManus was on loan, and it never seemed much like she was going to stick around. What’s been truly impressive is the amount of turnover between last season’s squad and this year, and how Skinner has been able to make things work so effectively so quickly with that much change. It speaks to her quality as a manager — she’s been an exceptional hire, and has Spurs on the upward trajectory.
RBM: How have the former Everton players fared? Maeva Clemaron seems to have locked down a consistent position, and Tinja-Riikka Korpela seems to be jockeying for the number one spot in goal.
Dustin: I’ve been very impressed with Clemaron this season. I liked what she had done with Everton in the past couple of seasons and she’s really given a boost to Spurs’ midfield, an area that was a bit of a concern coming into 2020-21. Korpela has also been a surprise — Becky Spencer has quietly been one of the best keepers in the WSL, but Korpela has taken advantage of a recent injury to Spencer and has done quite well. She was exceptional against Arsenal, and though she had a few hiccups last week against Villa, she’s been a surprisingly safe pair of hands. I don’t know whether she’s won the role of starter or not, but I think Spencer has a battle on her hands.
RBM: How do you think Spurs will line up this weekend? And what do you think the outcome will be?
Dustin: It’s always a little tough to predict lineups because the women’s game is never as forthcoming about injuries and news updates as the men. Skinner has not been afraid to experiment with the formation this season, but whatever she chooses will revolve around Rachel Williams up top. I’d expect to see Kyah Simon involved as well, and likely Jessica Naz. Clemaron and Cho So-hyun will anchor the midfield. Zadorsky and Bartrip will anchor a back four, with Ashleigh Neville on one flank and Kerys Harrop on the other side. The big question is whether Skinner will trust Korpela to retain her spot in goal or if Spencer gets back between the sticks.Everton has always been sort of a bugaboo club for Spurs Women, and the Toffees are almost always a tough out. I’m going to go with a 2-1 win for Spurs, but it could very easily be a draw if Spurs can’t figure out how to consistently convert chances.
Our thanks to Dustin for his time.