Opposing View: Tottenham Hotspur
Hopes, fears & expectations for the season?
I suppose all those are linked with our league position and desire to finish in a Champions League place.
However after the sacking of Harry Redknapp and appointment of Andre Villas-Boas, there was an understandable trepidation over whether he was the right appointment and also whether we would have to take one step backwards before making two forward.
To date, it perhaps has been a little like that, in the fact we have lacked a little consistency and also not shown the excitement of football shown last season. Recent games certainly look better and whilst our league position is obviously pleasing, there is still room for improvement in both consistency and also there is a need to add creativity to the side that was lost by sales of Modric and Van der Vaart.
How much longer is Gareth Bale going to be sticking around?
I have always felt that Gareth has a clear picture of where he wants his career to be and ultimately that is playing for one of the games elite and winning the big silverware.
He has never made a secret of his ambitions, but also seems happy at Spurs and to bide his time before making his almost inevitable move. At the moment, all seems good for Bale.
He is playing well the team is improving and very much in the running for another top four place, but I do feel that getting that Champions league place will be key to our keeping him and his happiness. We have to remember he won't be 24 until next July, so he has time on his side and might well consider one more season at Spurs wouldn't be a bad thing, especially if there was uncertainty with the elite clubs.
I can see Spurs pushing to sell him abroad over any club in the Prem, which perhaps leaves a fight between Real and Barca. However with the future of Mourinho uncertain and Barca having their own unfortunate managerial issues, could we see Bale prefer to bide his time for another 12 months, especially if Tottenham made the Champions league next season.
Have you missed Luka Modric?
Of course we have! He is an outstanding player and one that is very difficult to replace. Sadly we weren't able to bring in the right player to take his place in the summer and I feel the need for that creative genius in the middle of the park is what we need to add in January or at least in the summer.
Dembele and Sandro have both been superb this season and in Scott Parker, we have one of the best defensive midfielders in the game, but none of them have that ability to dictate a game and find that minute gap to create or that piece of magic to take your breath away like Modric did.
Jermain Defoe's form - did he just need a run in the side?
Though Jermain still divides opinion, I think he has been excellent this season and was also very effective last season, when used more as an impact sub late in games.
Certainly he is a player that will score goals and thrives of games and confidence, but I also feel he deserves huge credit for looking at the demands of the team and adapting his own game to fit in with the team, rather than expecting the team to adapt to him.
Physically he is hardly the ideal man to have playing as a lone striker, but to his huge credit and also I assume the vision of AVB we have found a way to make things work. In recent games, we have returned to a 4-4-2 formation with Jermain and Adebayor in attack. To me, this has surprisingly taken a little away from both strikers play as they now seem happier working on their own. One thing that is often overlooked with Defoe is the work and movement he offers to the team as a whole.
Key player on Saturday?
Though we have plenty of players that can be outstanding, I have to put Gareth Bale at the top of the list. A first Prem hat-trick at Villa and an excellent performance to boot.
I see your Right-back position as a weakness this season and perhaps it is one that Gareth can exploit. Similarly I feel that Defoe is nippy enough to cause your central defence problems and without Rose, I see Lennon and in occasional rotation Bale exploiting your left side.
Aside from that Dembele has been excellent, Sandro an absolute beast and Vertonghen outstanding at the back and also occasionally pushing into midfield.
One player you'd drive to his next club & why?
If I'm honest, we are getting to a point where all of our 'deadwood' players are already out, either on loan or simply not actively involved.
The likes of Jenas, Bentley and Gomes are already effectively out of the thinking and even in a few players that our fans love to hate such as William Gallas are putting in a decent if not spectacular showing.
One Sunderland player you'd pinch & why?
Without wishing to sound blinkered, There isn't one player I would have that I feel would definitely improve our best XI, whoever that isn't to say you don't have several players that I would happily take to enhance our squad and use in rotation.
Obviously Danny Rose is a player I feel could return and do well, but is he better than Benoit Assou-Ekotto? I have liked your keeper, Simon Mignolet for some time and think he is getting better and better, but is he better than Hugo Lloris?
Last season I felt that Stephane Sessegnon was excellent and he would fit well into the Spurs system, but again is he better than what we have? Adam Johnson is a very good player, but so is Lennon and of course Bale.
Definitely a player I wanted in the summer, when City made him available, but I am also quite happy with what we have.
Stephen Fletcher is another very good player, but better than Defoe or Adebayor? That all sounds rather negative towards your players and all of those I feel would add to our squad, but perhaps not as automatic picks.
Younes Kaboul is our only long term absentee. Clint Dempsey, Tom Huddlestone and Benoit Assou-Ekotto could all be available after injury and Moussa Dembele is expected to be fine after coming off against Villa
As long as we pick up three points the score is mainly irrelevant. However I would like another clean sheet as I always think they give the team confidence.
Cheers Oxford Spur - make sure to check Vital Spurs to see how I answered similar questions!