Do you play Risk? Of course you do, it's okay to admit it. Even if your concept of "board games" doesn't go much farther past Monopoly, almost everyone has at least some experience with Risk, the game of world conquest where you place armies on a map of the globe and attack your friends.
Ask any seasoned Risk player and they'll certainly talk your ear off about strategies, alliances, and above all, where on the board to start. That's a crucial gambit: start in the wrong spot and you could easily find yourself either spread too thin and weak, or hemmed in by other players. Kind of like Tottenham.
Today's match ratings, as voted by the writers of Cartilage Free Captain, are set to the theme of Starting Territories in Risk. NOTE: this is NOT the community rankings -- those come later.
5 stars – Argentina
A controversial choice? Yep! But North and South America are the keys to winning Risk. I went with Argentina because it has slightly fewer countries adjacent to it. If you can quickly nab South America and bolster Brazil against attack from Africa, you can then sweep up and capture North America. From there, victory is yours. It's a more difficult and bolder choice, Cotton, but this is war. There's no room for the timid in Risk.
Toby Alderweireld: In his first match wearing a Tottenham Hotspur shirt, Toby Alderweireld was Spurs' best defender. Solid and composed at the back, he and Jan Vertonghen never let Wayne Rooney and Memphis get going, and part of the reason that Spurs played as well as they did was because of Toby's outstanding defense. He also showed a knack for spraying long diagonal balls from the back line, which was effective mostly because Spurs' midfield was so poor.
4 stars – Eastern USA
This is the other best starting place in the game. It's a little harder because North America has three points of ingress, and you're going to face harder and more opposition right away, but the rewards are fantastic. You can fortify Alaska and prevent that chucklehead owning Kamchakta from pwning you, allowing you to dive down into South America, and Greenland is an excellent way to get your toes wet in the cesspit that is Europe. That is, unless you're going up against the person who started with Argentina. They you better make an alliance with the person in Africa...
Jan Vertonghen: Toby's Belgian partner in crime, Vertonghen and Alderweireld played as if they've been international teammates for years. Which, y'know, they have... just not in central defense. Jan was great on Saturday. His body language displayed that he likes playing with Toby very much, thank you.
Christian Eriksen: Christian was stymied somewhat by a lack of service from the midfield, but he did have that lovely chip over Sergio Romero that nearly went in, and another great strike later on. He's still one of the best players Spurs have, and we're lucky to have him.
Harry Kane: Harry is Harry is Harry. Not the best game from him, but man does he look strong. His little dink pass over the top to Eriksen was amazing, and he had a couple of half chances himself. None of of us should be concerned about his game dropping off. He might not score 30, but he will score.
Eric Dier: Eric Dier is not a defensive midfielder. There, I said it. But he did do very well against Michael Carrick and Morgan Schneiderlin and contained Memphis about as well as anyone could. As we've mentioned, he's not the answer to the midfield pivot, but you could tell that just that little bit of extra shielding in front of the defense made a big difference. He comported himself very well, again.
3 stars – Indonesia
Oh, you expected me to rank this at five stars? Nope! A small continent that doesn't yield many armies, Australia nevertheless has a natural choke-point – Indonesia. For a bunkered opponent, it's ludicrously difficult to dislodge someone from Australia unless you throw overwhelming force at them. The only disadvantage is that you start with Australia you have to then move forward and try and conquer Asia, which is stupid and dumb and hard. Asia sucks in Risk. And so do you if you choose Indonesia as your first choice.
Mousa Dembele: Moose started again on the right side of midfield but spent most of his time drifting into the middle. His pressing game was fine, but it's hard to say that he added a whole lot to the attack. I still maintain that Tottenham's midfield is better with him in it than without, and I'm glad that he's getting a chance in what is ostensibly Erik Lamela's role. Speaking of which...
Erik Lamela: If we're still grading on a curve (we are, right?), then Lamela was fine on Saturday. If you still expect him to score a brace every match to live up to that £30m price tag, then you'll probably think that Lamela is ranked too high. Oh well. Lamela was perfectly cromulent and even added a bit of a spark when he came in late.
Michel Vorm: Raise your hand if you were worried about Michel Vorm starting in goal against Wayne Rooney. It's okay, I was too. But thanks to the excellence of the defenders in front of him, Vorm really didn't have all that much to do. And when he did have to make saves, he did fine. No major mistakes, no brilliant saves. And another inch, and he would've tipped away Kyle Walker's own goal.
Kyle Walker: Not to blame for the own-goal. He did everything he could in that situation and the fact that it went in the net is just stupid football being stupid. Overall, Walker had a good game; he was pretty good going forward and decent enough defensively, but I didn't think he was spectacular or anything. Whatever. He was fine.
Ryan Mason: Ryan Mason played well. Yes, it's true! He played well! He came in for Nabil Bentaleb and started pushing higher up the pitch. The difference between his play on Saturday and his usual headless-chicken role was that Mason was actually tracking runners in the midfield. So good job, Ryan Mason. I was pleased with how you did your job.
Dele Alli: Let's be honest, many of us wanted Dele Alli to start. The way he played in Tottenham's preseason matches made us all drink the Kool-Aid. But Pochettino has shown a consistent method in the way he brings in youth into the squad, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt here as well. Alli came in and didn't look awed in his sub appearance against Man United. As he should. After all, he's already beaten them once, and he was in League One last year. #banter
Ben Davies: Yawn. Ben Davies was okay. He wasn't Danny Rose good, but that's because he wasn't Danny Rose. He didn't crap the bed. I have nothing really more to say about Ben Davies in this match.
Nacer Chadli: Nacer Chadli didn't score. Not only that, but he didn't really do much with the few scoring opportunities he did have. He was pretty much invisible out there. You can hand-wave that away by saying that he didn't get good service from the midfield (he didn't, admittedly) but that doesn't change the fact that he really had virtually no impact on the game whatsoever. Based on the rest of his game, if Nacer Chadli isn't scoring, there isn't much point to him being out there. So he gets about as low a 3-star ranking as I can give out.
Two stars – Madagascar
Madagascar is an island off the eastern coast of Africa. It's bunkered, sheltered, and easily defended. What's not to like, right? Well, the problem with starting in Madagascar is that you have to conquer Africa, and Africa is awful. It's not as bad as Asia, but it's pretty bad. Conquer Africa and you have to worry about multiple fronts from South America, Europe, and Asia. Too often I've seen someone conquer Africa and very quickly afterwards get hosed. And that starts with Madagascar. Don't do it. Also, there are no penguins on Madagascar. Those movies are dumb.
Nabil Bentaleb: It's impossible to overstate how poor Nabil Bentaleb was in midfield on Saturday. Uncharacteristically poor. That's not to say that we shoot Nabil into the sun and never look at him again, but his horror-show in the pivot was a continuation of three somewhat suspect matches in preseason. One simple pass was the direct cause of United's only goal. The poor guy couldn't even string simple passes together. It was awful. Considering how we consider Nabil to be a burgeoning star, I hope he can put this match behind him and start getting better. We need him out there.
One star – Siberia
Whoever designed the Risk map clearly gave up when designing Asia, and especially Siberia. Absolutely nothing good can come out of owning Siberia. It's in the middle of Asia, and surrounded by five countries that can attack it: Ural, China, Mongolia, Irkutsk, and Yakutsk. It's no wonder nobody lives there. If you have the option to take Siberia and it's not the absolute last country to be picked, you're doing it wrong.
None of Tottenham Hotspur's players were as bad as the territory of Siberia in Risk.