The FourFourTwo Preview: Fulham vs Tottenham

Premier League | Craven Cottage | Wed 4 Dec | 8pm

Billed as

"AVB'S LAST CHANCE TO PROVE HE ISN'T A SUB-HUMAN SACK OF SH*T" - Daily Mail

The lowdown

Martin Jol was just one of five managers booted out of a Premier or Football League club over the last week, but his exit from Fulham was perhaps the most widely predicted.

FULHAM FORM

  • West Ham 3-0 Fulham (Prem)
  • Fulham 1-2 Swansea (Prem)
  • Liverpool 4-0 Fulham (Prem)
  • Fulham 1-3 Man Utd (Prem)
  • Leicester 4-3 Fulham (LC)

TOTTENHAM FORM

  • Tottenham 2-2 Man Utd (Prem)
  • Tromso 0-2 Tottenham (EL)
  • Man City 6-0 Tottenham (Prem)
  • Tottenham 0-1 Newcastle (Prem)
  • Tottenham 2-1 Sheriff (EL)

Even the burly Dutchman himself hinted before Saturday’s derby at West Ham that he may be gone if his side couldn’t manage a victory at Upton Park – the lacklustre nature of their 3-0 defeat made the decision something of a no-brainer.

Even before that capitulation across town, Jol had plenty of cause to be looking nervously over his shoulder. Realistically, the managerial re-shuffle had been on the cards since his compatriot Rene Meulensteen arrived as head coach three weeks ago.

Meulensteen - highly-regarded from his time as No.2 at Manchester United - now faces the task of turning the Cottagers’ season around, though his claim he didn’t see his appointment coming doesn’t say a lot for his reading of the game.

While the pressure had quite understandably been growing on Jol for a number of weeks, the sudden speculation surrounding the future of Andre Villas-Boas is altogether more baffling.

Tottenham had made their joint-best start to a Premier League season after 10 matches, but back-to-back defeats to Newcastle and Manchester City drastically changed the mood.

Suddenly, the man who helped Spurs achieve their best-ever Premier League points haul was once again being written off. One smug columnist suggested any Tom, Dick or Neil could have won the Portuguese League, cup and Europa League with the Porto side of 2010/11 (to date, the headline achievement of Villas-Boas’ career), while another bizarrely ranted against the Tottenham manager’s decision to do away with his trademark technical area crouch.

Spurs have big problems with attacking cohesion and, as a result of that, goalscoring – that much is patently clear. This is almost certainly down to the fact they’re trying to integrate a number of new players into the team, an issue Villas-Boas should have foreseen when embarking on his mass recruitment drive over the summer.

Some of his team selections and substitutions have also raised eyebrows, and there have been signs of a lack of willing to stray from his favoured 4-2-3-1 system. There are questions for him to answer, wrongs for him to put right, but the sneering tone of some recent articles has been unnecessary, and the claims - from both press boxes and terraces - that he should lose his job as a result are at this stage absurd.

The Lilywhites put in an almost infinitely improved performance in their 2-2 draw with champions Manchester United, a game the north London side will feel they could and perhaps should have won, having led twice.

Both Sandro and Mousa Dembele have publicly backed their coach since Sunday’s draw, but even that hasn’t been enough to quell suggestions the Portuguese tactician will be joining Jol at the Job Centre should he fail to secure three points on Wednesday evening.

Team news

Fulham were without Dimitar Berbatov at West Ham due to illness, but he – and back injury victim Brede Hangeland – should return on Wednesday evening. Hugo Rodallega remains sidelined with a groin injury.

Tottenham will once again be without long-term absentees Christian Eriksen (ankle) and Danny Rose (foot), while Emanuel Adebayor could also miss out with a groin injury.

Key battle: Scott Parker vs Mousa Dembele

Both sides are likely to make attacking changes from the weekend, but this midfield pair will both be selected to face their former clubs. Parker has had a mixed start to life at Craven Cottage, but in a team full of often flaky flair players, he brings some much-needed steel and discipline. Dembele was a rare beacon of light when he appeared as a substitute for Spurs at Man City, and performed superbly in the middle against Manchester United.

LAST FIVE MEETINGS

  • Spurs 0-1 Fulham (Prem, Mar 13)
  • Fulham 0-3 Spurs (Prem, Dec 12)
  • Spurs 2-0 Fulham (Prem, May 12)
  • Fulham 1-3 Spurs (Prem, Nov 11)
  • Fulham 4-0 Spurs (FAC, Jan 11)

The managers

Like Villas-Boas, Meulensteen cut his teeth by working behind the scenes at a big club under an A-Grade coach, before flying the nest and becoming a manager in his own right. The Dutchman worked under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United for a total of 12 years, during which time he coached the youth team, managed the reserves and acted as the Scotsman’s assistant (not all at the same time, of course).

But unlike the Portuguese, Meulensteen didn’t enjoy much success in his early sojourns into management. His spell at Danish giants Brondby lasted just a few months, and his recent stint at Anzhi lasted a whole 16 days.

If he can get Dimitar Berbatov motivated and firing, he'll have gone a long way to solving the Cottagers' problems. Having worked closely with the Bulgarian at Old Trafford, he may feel he's the right man for the job.

Facts and figures

Tips and trends

TIPS & TRENDS

Sponsored by BetButler.co.uk

  • Fulham have lost eight of their previous 10 home games, and with just one win at Craven Cottage this season, have the joint-worst home record along with Crystal Palace (W1 D1 L4).
  • Only Arsenal have a higher points-per-game average than Spurs on the road this season (1.67), despite being thrashed 6-0 in their last away match.
  • Only Crystal Palace, Norwich and Sunderland have managed fewer away goals than Spurs this season.
  • Tottenham have scored first in six of their last eight trips to bottom-six clubs.
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FourFourTwo prediction

A fourth away win of the season for Spurs, to ease the pressure on AVB. 0-1.

Fulham vs Tottenham LIVE ANALYSIS with Stats Zone


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