The FourFourTwo Preview: West Brom vs Tottenham
The managerial merry-go-round spinning before our very eyes!
Where to start with Tottenham Hotspur? On one hand they're a team reportedly in turmoil with a dead-man-walking manager (the victim of "media terrorism", apparently), and a side that seems to revel in giving away cheap goals early doors. The Dr Jekyll to their Mr Hyde, however, is a starting XI that, if set up correctly, can brim with creativity and attacking flair.
WEST BROM FORM
- Norwich 0-1 WBA (Prem)
- WBA 3-3 Cardiff (Prem)
- Hull 2-0 WBA (Prem)
- Swansea 1-2 WBA (Prem)
- WBA 0-3 Man Utd (Prem)
- Tottenham 5-1 S'land (Prem)
- Liverpool 4-0 Tottenham (Prem)
- Tottenham 3-2 So'ton (Pren)
- Benfica 2-2 Tottenham (EL)
- Tottenham 0-1 Arsenal (Prem)
The problem, as far as most Spurs fans see it, is that Tim Sherwood has too often opted to shove square pegs into round holes during his brief stint in charge. The deployment of Christian Eriksen on the wing, when he seems much comfier behind the main striker, has been a well-gnawed bone of contention.
The results of this schizophrenic selection process have been inconsistency, thrashings and some sulky body language from a number of influential players, most notably Jan Vertonghen. Champions League qualification is now but a distant dream.
It's not much better up at West Brom, though. Despite last weekend's 1-0 away win against a lacklustre Norwich side, the opening months of manager Pepe Mel's time in charge have not been kind. He has only won twice in the league since signing for the club on January 9. His team now sit five points off the relegation zone which, given the abject quality of the bottom three, should be enough to see them safely home. But in a season that initially promised at least a healthy mid-table finish, their current position can be viewed as a disappointment.
Still, nobody is taking survival for granted, least of all defender Jonas Olsson. "Saturday's win [against Norwich] takes some pressure off us but we're still very much in it," he says. "We're on the up, we have seven points from the last four games, so we're in good shape and we're looking forward to the last six games."
Spurs, meanwhile, have a strong away record (except at clubs above them in the table) and will be buoyed by Monday's 5-1 trampling of Sunderland. This could be an entertaining affair with a few goals.
Spurs have quite a lengthy injury list and will be awaiting reports on Etienne Capoue, Kyle Walker, Roberto Soldado and Vertonghen. West Brom fans have seen the last of Nicolas Anelka, with the striker reportedly agreeing a move to Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro. Midfielder Chris Brunt is hoping to be back after medial ligament damage in the March fixture against Manchester United.
Player to watch: Christian Eriksen (Spurs)
Whoever's watching Spurs from afar (with a view to taking over the reins next season), it's a sure bet they'll be feeling blessed to have inherited Denmark's creative pivot. Despite a slow start to his season - a combination of injury and a reaction to the physicality of the Premier League - the attacking midfielder has blossomed in recent weeks; amid the club's current malaise, Eriksen is an undeniable high point.
Where he is deployed will be key, however. When started on the wing (such as during the 4-0 hammering by Liverpool), Eriksen has occasionally drifted out of games, though there are signs he has grown into the role. Monday night's performance from the left-hand side merited 2 assists and a goal as he drifted in off the wing to work in a more central position. A blend of positivity, widescreen vision and an incisive passing range means Emmanuel Adebayor often thrives with his assistance.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- Spurs 1-1 WBA (Prem, Dec 13)
- WBA 0-1 Spurs (Prem, Feb 13)
- Spurs 1-1 WBA (Prem, Aug 12)
- Spurs 1-0 WBA (Prem, Jan 12)
- WBA 1-3 Spurs (Prem, Nov 11)
The way in which Sherwood's imminent departure has been handled is Daniel's Levy's Spurs in a nutshell: the temporary manager - a rushed appointment following the sacking of AVB; inexperienced at the highest level - was reported to have been given news of his imminent marching orders before the Sunderland game. Betting odds on successors were announced, the club issued a statement describing the news as "speculation", while Levy opted to hot-foot it to America. Talk about a right old mess.
Mel, meanwhile, has assumed a fatalistic mood of his own making. Having been asked an innocuous question regarding match-winner Morgan Amalfitano after the win at Norwich, the manager remarked: "I don't know where I'm going to be next season." A victory at Spurs would all but secure survival for his side, but given Mel's recent outburst, one wouldn't be surprised if he opts for an early escape before the World Cup.
In a surreal coincidence, Sherwood has since been linked with Mel's job, should his position become available. All told, a very modern football soap opera is playing out before our eyes.
Facts and figures
- All 7 meetings between these teams since 2010/11 have been level at half-time but West Brom have failed to win any of the games (W0 D4 L3).
- West Brom have conceded before half-time in 9 of their last 10 home games.
- West Brom have won only 1 of their last 11 home games but they have managed 7 draws.
- Spurs have won 12 of 18 trips to bottom-half teams since the start of last season with just 2 defeats.
Best Bet: Tottenham @ 2.34
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Spurs to gift an early, horror show goal only to sneak it at the death. 1-2.