The FourFourTwo Preview: Tottenham vs West Brom
West Brom's least favourite day of the week, after Saturday...
- Partizan 0-0 Spurs (EL)
- S’land 2-2 Spurs (Prem)
- Spurs 0-3 Liverpool (Prem)
- Spurs 3-0 AEL (EL)
- Spurs 4-0 QPR (Prem)
WEST BROM FORM
- WBA 0-2 Everton (Prem)
- Swansea 3-0 WBA (Prem)
- WBA p1-1 Oxford (LC)
- So’ton 0-0 WBA (Prem)
- WBA 2-2 S’land (Prem)
It’s been a mixed bag for Spurs so far, but Mauricio Pochettino’s brand of positive football means there's reasons to be cheerful at the Lane.
Wins against West Ham (dogged) and QPR (emphatic) may have been tempered by a comprehensive defeat to Liverpool. But the side bounced back at Sunderland, putting in a performance that left Black Cats boss and former Spurs midfielder Gus Poyet relieved to snatch a point courtesy of Harry Kane’s last-gasp own goal.
Spurs started like a train at the Stadium of Light, firing in eight efforts on goal (five on target) inside the opening 15 minutes, but left reflecting on the fact they must “finish teams off when we’ve got them on the ropes” if they want a top four spot.
Still, the performances of Tottenham’s attacking trio tempered some of the disappointment of throwing two points away. As FFT’s James Maw noted, Erik Lamela, Christian Eriksen and Nacer Chadli spent just 10 minutes on the pitch together over the whole of 2013/14, but “have shown early-season signs of being a cohesive and dangerous unit” operating behind Emmanuel Adebayor.
Alan Irvine’s appointment as West Brom boss was met with little fanfare, partly as the announcement came on the same day England began their World Cup quest against Italy. His Hawthorns reign may not last much longer than the Three Lions’ stay in Brazil after a winless start to the new season was extended at home to Everton.
The campaign had commenced positively enough, drawing at home to Sunderland and away to Southampton. But heads have dropped since Jonas Olsson’s second-minute slip at Swansea, with the Baggies leaking five goals without reply. Supporters turned on skipper Chris Brunt during last Saturday’s loss, much to Ben Foster’s chagrin, while Craig Gardner has also come out calling for unity in the stands.
A stalemate at Partizan Belgrade preceded Sunday’s showdown, but Spurs’ home record immediately after a Europa League away tie is good, having won nine of the last 12.
The Baggies have been curiously good at picking up points at White Hart Lane in recent years. Three of their last four visits have ended in score draws, the last two 1-1. You have to go back to December 2002 to find a Spurs home win by more than a single-goal margin when Gus Poyet was among the scorers in a 3-1 win.
However, the Midlanders are without a victory in nine league meetings with Spurs, and boy do they not like Sundays. While Tottenham played a Premier League record 22 games on a Sunday last season – winning half of them – the Baggies have won none of their last 13 league encounters on the Sabbath (D6 L7), last tasting success when Roy Hodgson guided them to a 1-0 win at Liverpool in April 2012.
Jan Vertonghen and Roberto Soldado missed the Sunderland stalemate with muscle and neck complaints respectively but both travelled to Belgrade. Kyle Walker is out for five months after abdominal surgery.
Although “nobody” was ruled out in the build-up to the Baggies' defeat to Everton, a host of players were recovering from a variety of ailments and Irvine will hope an additional eight days will have seen fitness levels topped up. Victor Anichebe (hernia) and Youssouf Mulumbu (groin) ended up missing the Toffees defeat. Stephane Sessegnon has an eye problem, Joleon Lescott still awaits his debut.
Key battle: Eriksen vs Mulumbu
Tottenham's attacking trio of Eriksen, Lamela and Chadli all functioned effectively at Sunderland, but it was perhaps Danish schemer Eriksen who stood out the most. As well as making more successful passes than anyone else (78/87) and being involved in 6 goalscoring opportunties - stabbing home Spurs' second goal shortly after half-time - the former Ajax playmaker, who scored in this fixture last season, also made a game-high 10 ball recoveries to help Pochettino's men regain possession.
If the Baggies are to have any hope of stifling the Dane's creativity, Irvine is going to need Mulumbu in the heart of his midfield. The Congolese was unable to take part in the defeat to Everton and was sorely missed, as he's made the most ball recoveries in every game he's played this season. In the stalemate at Southampton on matchday two he was imperious, weighing in with a whopping 19 ball recoveries, 9/9 tackles and 6 interceptions, and was involved in 4 of West Brom's top six pass combinations on his way to completing 50/59, only 11 fewer than the metronomic Morgan Schneiderlin.
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
- WBA 3-3 Spurs (PL, Apr 14)
- Spurs 1-1 WBA (PL, Dec 13)
- WBA 0-1 Spurs (PL, Feb 13)
- Spurs 1-1 WBA (PL, Aug 12)
- Spurs 1-0 WBA (PL, Jan 12)
Pochettino has insisted the Europa League is a priority for Spurs despite allowing the likes of Adebayor, Chadli, Moussa Dembele, Danny Rose and new captain Younes Kaboul to stay home rather than play Partizan Belgrade.
"We have a strong squad and we need to choose the best players and those in the best condition. All competitions are a priority for us. This year it is very important because the Europa League gives you the possibility to play in the next Champions League."
Problems of a different kind for Irvine, and one which is becoming a pandemic. West Brom have conceded inside the opening five minutes in three of their four league games this season, with both Swansea and Everton breaching the Baggies' backline inside 120 seconds. "You talk all the time about making sure you get off to a great start and we've got off to the worst possible start," he lamented, a week after saying: "It couldn't have been a worse start, could it?" Slipping some ProPlus into the pre-match drinks might be an idea.
Facts and figures
- West Brom are without a win in 9 Premier League meetings with Spurs (D5 L4).
- Tottenham have conceded almost as many handballs (6) as they have scored goals (7) in the Premier League this season.
- WBA have made 4 errors leading to goal this season, equalling their total from last season.
More FFT Stats Zone facts
Another narrow win for Spurs, but more comfortable than the scoreline suggests. 2-1.