The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs Sunderland
The north east of England hits the north east of London in Monday Night Football, AKA a totally unreasonable expectation placed on fans who happen to have a job, the idiots.
“Isn’t this season over yet?” That’s what Tottenham seem to be asking, from the fans eager to see a new managerial face to the club announcing profits and promises of a new stadium by 2017.
- Liverpool 4-0 Spurs (PL)
- Spurs 3-2 So'ton (PL)
- Benfica 2-2 Spurs (EL)
- Spurs 0-1 Arsenal (PL)
- Spurs 1-3 Benfica (EL)
- S'land 1-2 West Ham (PL)
- Liverpool 2-1 S'land (PL)
- Norwich 2-0 S'land (PL)
- S'land 0-0 Palace (PL)
- Hull 3-0 S'land (FAC)
There’s an air of lethargic malaise around Seven Sisters, despite Tim Sherwood’s attempts to live an entire managerial career in half a season. Shrewd man-manager and angry fan; bright young thing and powerless spectator; tactical genius and tactical simpleton; promoter of youth and investor in a forgotten 30-year-old striker – in a matter of months Sherwood has gone through more reinventions than Madonna.
The most immediate source of Tottenham’s jaded misery comes from four defeats in six games, losing a fifth on aggregate to Benfica in the Europa League. From here on in their run-in is more of a walk in the park – but do they have anything to play for?
Sunderland are bringing their own brand of despondency on their 550-mile round trip. They’ve picked up just one point from six matches since back-to-back wins over Stoke and Newcastle. Maybe, just as it was under Paolo Di Canio, that derby day win was an ironic harbinger of doom. Their recent home defeat to West Ham, also on a Monday night, was very bad news: Gus Poyet’s men have games in hand but don’t especially look like winning them, and after this stern test at White Hart Lane can still look forward to games against Everton, Manchester City, Chelsea and Manchester United. Oof.
The Black Cats haven’t beaten Tottenham in seven attempts, their last win coming in 2010 courtesy of goals from Darren Bent and Boudewijn Zenden (!). The last time Spurs hosted Sunderland was in the final game of last season, when Gareth Bale’s late power-thonker proved insufficient to make the Champions League. How things change: not only do Spurs look as close to the Champions League as David Moyes does to a knighthood, but four players in the starting XI that day are no longer at the club (kudos points if you can name them – answers at the bottom of the preview*).
Sunderland’s bench on Monday night may be a tad stronger than it was that day, filled as it was with wide-eyed youngsters. You want to know who, you say? Oh, all right then: Mikael Mandron (time spent on loan at Fleetwood this season), Scott Harrison (same, but with Bury and Hartlepool), Billy Knott (Wycombe and Port Vale), David Ferguson (Boston United), Liam Marrs (also Boston) and Adam Mitchell (Harrogate Town and Darlington; now released by the Black Cats). The more you know.
Tottenham’s absurd run of injury problems looks set to continue, though the return dates of some players are shrouded in mystery. Definite absentees are Vlad Chiriches (back), Etienne Capoue (ankle) and Erik Lamela (er...) and there are also fitness doubts over Paulinho (pink eye), Jan Vertonghen (moody ankle), Kyle Walker (porn star’s groin) and Roberto Soldado (misfiring strikers’ hamstring). The good news for Spurs is that Emmanuel Adebayor may be available again, though we can’t reveal which one will turn up.
Comparatively speaking, Sunderland are skipping gaily through meadows. Their only injury woes: Steven Fletcher is out with an ankle knock, while reserve goalkeeper Keiren Westwood has no shoulder to speak of.
Player to watch: Danny Rose (Tottenham)
It’s fair to say that full-back is an issue for Spurs. Kyle Walker has had a good season – an excellent one in comparison to most of his team-mates – but Kyle Naughton has done little to impress in his absence and Danny Rose, partly due to injury, hasn’t improved as much as the club hierarchy was hoping after his encouraging loan spell at Sunderland.
Left-back is an area Spurs may look to strengthen, and Rose has half a dozen games to prove his worth to the men in dark rooms who apparently handle the club’s transfer business. A match-winning performance against the club he helped to safety last season would be an ideal time to start.
He can still fulfil his defensive responsibilities – and do it well, as shown by his display in the 3-1 win at Swansea – but more important in this game is that the 23-year-old has a real impact going forward. Against West Bromwich Albion he created 4 chances in open play (also making a phenomenal 16 ball recoveries), and that’s what Spurs need from him this Monday.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- S'land 1-2 Spurs (PL, Dec 13)
- Spurs 1-0 S'land (PL, May 13)
- S'land 1-2 Spurs (PL, Dec 12)
- S'land 0-0 Spurs (PL, Apr 12)
- Spurs 1-0 S'land (PL, Dec 11)
After Spurs players held a second dressing-room debate to work out why the bloody hell they keep getting thrashed by teams they’re meant to be challenging, Sherwood has a job on his hands to make it look like he’s actually in charge. He has started by reminding World Cup-bound Paulinho that he must train well in order to get picked for his club. It’s a start.
Poyet faces his former side on the back of about three hours’ sleep in a week, by the sounds of it: Sunderland coach Charlie Oatway (of ridiculous middle-name fame) said the Uruguayan is finding it impossible to relax while his team struggles near the foot of the table. “He sees it as him and the players in this together,” said Oatway. “If he doesn’t want them to have a round of golf, then he won’t have one himself. I said to him: ‘Go and play nine holes and relax.’ But he won’t because he won’t let them do it.” Sounds like a FAIR WAY of doing things, eh? Eh? They have fairways in golf!
Facts and figures
- Spurs have won 5 of 7 meetings with Sunderland since 2010/11 (W5-D2-L0), but have never been ahead at half-time
- Spurs have drawn the first half in 10 of 12 home games against bottom-six teams since the start of last season
- 14 of Sunderland’s last 19 trips to top-half teams have seen at least 3 goals
Sunderland have lost 9 of their last 13 trips to top-half sides, including 6 defeats despite scoring
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Goals: there’s been only one 0-0 draw between the two in 25 Premier League matches. Spurs to win 2-1.
*Gareth Bale, Clint Dempsey, Tom Huddlestone and Scott Parker, with Benoit Assou-Ekotto out on loan