|OPPONENTS||West Bromwich Albion|
|DATE||Tuesday 3rd January 2012|
|VENUE||White Hart Lane|
The games come thick and fast at this time of year and Spurs manager
Harry Redknapp will be hoping that the knocks taken by Rafael van
der Vaart and Scott Parker at Swansea can be shaken off in time for
the visit of West Bromwich Albion to the Lane. People scoff at
the amount of football we play in this country, but the results so
far over Christmas have shown that it is competitive and that there
are no games that can be taken lightly, even at this stage of the
Big squads and big hearts are needed and with Albion losing out to Everton at home on Sunday they will be looking to bounce back. While the defence has been reasonably tight, it is the mistakes that are driving Roy Hodgson mad as he demonstrated at the Everton game by banging his head again the wall behind him. The slips at the back have cost Albion dearly and coupled with the fact that they are one of the lowest scoring teams in the Premier League, it has compounded their struggle to gain points. They did well to beat Newcastle United, hold Manchester City to a 0-0 before losing at home to Everton.
On paper, they have a fairly decent team, with the likes of Dorrans, Thomas and Brunt in midfield, Odemwingie and Long up front, while Foster in goal has looked good, but the defence might be the one weak link.
They certainly were when we played them a few weeks back now, with the back four backing off Defoe as he strode forward from the halfway lien to bury a shot past the keeper from outside the box. The lack of a challenge allied with the strung out nature of the defensive line made it easier for Tottenham to exploit the space and now that we are playing a more complex attacking game, it might be harder for Hodgson to try and set out his team to prevent Spurs scoring.
Gareth McAuley, Paul Scharner, Nicky Shorey and Robert Jara are all experienced enough to be able to cope, although they are missing Jonas Olsson, but he had not been playing that well this season before injury struck him. Craig Dawson came in from Bury and Billy Jones from Preston North End, but they have yet to settle into being regulars in the top flight, while Gabriel Tamas has struggled this season at full back.
The midfield is possibly the strongest part of the WBA team, but they might find it difficult to cope with Tottenham's fluid system where players pop up out of their expected position. Apart from the hard working Brunt and Dorrans, Thomas likes to run at defenders on the left, while Morrison is a direct runner on the right. Both are capable of creating scoring opportunities, but the likes of Odemwingie has injured, Simon Cox has not been a reliable scorer (except against us in the corresponding game last season) and Marc Antoine Fortune has been on loan at Doncaster Rovers, although has been called back to the Hawthorns now.
With injury ruling out Steven Reid and Zoltan Gera (injured in the game against us at the Hawthorns and out for the season), Somen Tchoyi may be recalled to give a bit of beef to the midfield and he likes to get forward to add some physical presence to the attack. Both Brunt and Dorrans possess potent shooting ability from open play or dead balls, so Spurs need to be aware of that.
For Albion, it will be a test of their resolve, with Hodgson a shrewd tactician, but the success of his side's performance will rely on the mental toughness and the ability to track Tottenham's players as they switch positions and exchange passes. The outcome will also rely on how Tottenham's players can perform after a flat performance at Swansea which needs to be stepped up and without the energy in their play, the team will not be able to pull Albion's players out of their positions and make the chances that have to be taken to stay at the top of the chasing bunch.
|PREDICTION||Tottenham Hotspur 2 West Bromwich Albion 0|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Scott Parker took a knock on his knee and may be a doubt for the visit by West Bromwich Albion, while Tom Huddlestone is still sidelined after ankle surgery and Aaron Lennon has not yet recovered from his hamstring tear. Ledley King may be back in contention after being rested for the trips to Norwich City and Swansea City and Jermain Defoe may be ready for a start after getting over his hamstring pull. Sebastien Bassong's back injury and an ankle problem with Roman Pavlyuchenko are making them both doubtful for the game,
ALBION TEAM NEWS :
Steven Reid (knee), Zoltan Gera (knee), Youssuf Mulumbu (groin) and Jonas Olsson (shin) are all definitely out for Albion. Additionally, they may be missing Chris Brunt with a leg injury and Shane Long, who hurt his back on Sunday.
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
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|Tottenham Hotspur 1 (0)||West Bromwich Albion 0 (0)|
Tuesday 3rd January 2012 Kick off 19:45
White Hart Lane
Thomas (foul on Bale) 23
Jones (foul on Bale) 47
Dorrans (foul on Bale) 52
Scharner (foul on Modric) 89
Cox (foul on Bale) 90+2
|Crowd : 36,062||Weather : Dry, but windy and chilly|
|Referee : Mark Halsey (Lancashire)||Assistant Referees : Mr. S. Bennett; Mr. G. Turner|
|Fourth Official : R. East||-|
|West Bromwich Albion kicked off and played towards the Paxton Road end in the first half.|
|Tottenham Hotspur :||kit||West Bromwich Albion :||kit|
|Manager : Harry Redknapp||Manager : Roy Hodgson|
|Sponsor : Aurasma||Shirt sponsor : bodog|
|Kit Supplier : Puma||Kit Supplier : adidas|
Roy Hodgson is a wily old manager, but this performance by West Bromwich Albion was one full of cynicism and lack of ambition that earned them all they deserved when they went down 1-0 to Jermain Defoe's goal in the second half.
Albion had kept Spurs at arm's length and frustrated them with their ten men behind the ball system, but their continued hoofing of the ball out of their last third to nobody in particular and the snide late tackles and leaving the foot in, coupled with their time wasting that started in the 22nd minute meant that they failed to cause too many problems to the Tottenham defence. In fact, it was only a late flurry of attacks that showed that they actually understood that goals might win them a point and their draw here last season, with a measured attacking approach, seemed a long way from this insipid display, which matched Aston Villa's visit to demonstrate what clubs feel they have to do to try to win even win a single point.
Spurs came into the match virtually unchanged, with Jermain Defoe replacing the injured Scott Parker in what was a more conventional 4-4-2. But the lack of changes meant that some of the players looked tired entering the latter stages of the match and constant attacking meant they put a lot of effort into the game, without causing too many problems for the visitors in the first half. That was when their plan worked to it's best effect, with Odemwingie stranded up-field like a latter day Robinson Crusoe, but this game on a Tuesday saw him missing a Friday to support him. Occasionally a defensive boot would aim the ball in his general direction, but he was usually easily robbed of the ball apart from when he fouled a Spurs defender or was offside.
As for Tottenham, an early series of corners were knocked out for more corners and as per usual, we did not make the best use of them. A couple of weak efforts from Defoe and Bale preceded a pacy cross by the Welshman which brought a diving punch from Foster before Albion set about dealing with Gareth Bale. Jerome Thomas became the first of four players who received bookings for fouls on him and only lenient refereeing allowed others to escape fouls on the dashing wing back. In the 25th minute, Paul Scharner, who primary skill lies in leaving his boot in, did just that with a late tackle on Sandro in the centre circle, but the referee waved play on and Kaboul swept the ball wide left to Bale, who put in a low ball into the edge of the six yard box, where Rafael van der Vaart ran on to meet it in front of the near post. Hitting the ball first time with his left foot, he managed to get a deft enough contact to take the ball on target forcing Foster to push the ball over as it looked like it might creep in just under the bar. It was about the best chance we had in the first half.
Thomas had injured himself in fouling Bale and had to be replaced by Jara, while Sandro could not continue after appearing to twist an ankle after turning after making a challenge. Jake Livermore came on and Spurs could have missed the Brazilian's energy, but Jake did a solid job in his place, using the ball well and keeping things ticking over in midfield. Half an hour into the game, Ade almost scored, when Bale played a ball through into the box, but Billy Jones got there first and kicked the ball onto Emmanuel's leg. Luckily for West Brom, the ball went gently through to Foster.
Albion could only resort to fouls and time-wasting, with their players trying to eat up time at most of their goal-kicks or throw-ins. Scharner once more left his foot in on Bale, while Modric was regularly pulled back, but he used his balance to wriggle away most times. Tottenham's other problem in the game was staying onside, as neither Defoe nor Adebayor could stay with two Albion men between them and the goal, relieving some of the pressure on the visitor's goal.
The game looked like it may well end 0-0, as Albion managed against Manchester City recently, but the second half saw Spurs attacking the Paxton Road end, where they would eventually break the deadlock. Straight from the kick-off Spurs went forward and Walker's ball into Adebayor in the box saw him back-heel the ball across goal, where Defoe met it on the volley, but the ball was slightly too high for him to control his shot and it went over the top. And the little striker, sporting a new hairdo, was on the spot again, this time getting on the end of a van der Vaart left-wing cross with a flick of his heel behind him which hit a defender and went a couple of feet wide.
Why, oh why are we so rubbish from set-pieces ? A free kick outside the D saw Luka take this one, after Rafa had hit the wall a couple of times, but the Croatian midfielder could only put it a yard too high. That was just before Simon Cox, scorer of a "wonder" goal here last season, got free inside the box in the left hand channel and smacked a shot at goal that Brad stood tall to and beat away. It was a moment that showed how fragile the score-line was at that stage with the hour mark just reached. And so it proved.
in the 63rd minute, van der Vaart played a sharp pass into Bale inside the box and his square ball was heading for Jermain Defoe, who was about to have his blonde moment. His first touch didn't look that great as the ball popped up into the air. Surrounded by the giant WBA central defenders, he took the ball down, swivelled on a sixpence and turned the ball low into the bottom corner, slowly creeping past Foster, who was unsighted by the four defenders around Defoe. It was a piece of finishing typical of the little man and one that proved vital in the outcome of this game.
A couple of minutes after the goal, William Gallas went down after chasing back into the penalty area and was helped off to be replaced by Sebastien Bassong, leaving Spurs with two injury worries inside 67 minutes. Worse was to come when Livermore and Kaboul both went for a ball in the air and both ended up needing treatment. Livermore couldn't carry on after his face headed the top of Younes' head and the Frenchman was left needing treatment to a gash on the top of his head. It left Spurs short until they could replace Livermore with Kranjcar coming on, looking heavy and not particularly interested.
Substitute James Morrison put a low ball across the face of goal with no Albion player there and then Kranjcar almost put Tottenham under pressure when he lazily sliced a clearance in the air back towards his own goal and it had to be headed out to avert any danger that might have occurred. With ten minutes remaining, Spurs visibly seemed to tire and the enforced changes to the WBA side seemed to be to their advantage, as they created a couple of chances, with Cox blazing over from the edge of the box trying to score another special goal and Somen Tchoyi, another sub, saw the Tottenham defence back off as he moved forward to the 18 yard line and his shot brought another good save out of Friedel.
Albion were throwing everything forward and were not wasting any time doing it, but their hesitancy in deciding what to do to finish a move cost them a few opportunities to test Friedel, leaving the keeper to grab a corner and throw out to Gareth Bale, who was pursued by five opponents. It was just as he got into the Albion half that Cox cynically scythed him down and got booked, but you might thank that after Bale's goal against Norwich, this might have been a goal-scoring opportunity. Even if it wasn't. it was a calculated an dangerous challenge which could easily have deserved more than yellow.
It was Bale who had the last word, with Spurs trying to waste time by taking the ball into the corners, but occasionally playing the ball inside and Bale drove one of the passes goal-wards with a fierce shot that flicked off a defender for a corner and then it was all over.
Three points hard earned. Not that it was ever going to be a straightforward process, with Albion coming off the back of a home defeat and wanting to emulate their goal-less draw with Man City. But Tottenham stuck at it and while not playing with a quick tempo nor being able to find ways through a packed last third, they kept playing their own way and did not resort to lumping the ball forward.
So, third place with half the programme gone and reaching 42 points means we should be safe from relegation this year ;o)
But gone are the days when we nervously looked at the bottom of the table and now we should look up and see how the results go over the next few weeks, when we have to make the most of our game in hand and keep winning against the teams who will be coming to White Hart Lane. Then, from the days gone by of watching a load of manure at the Lane, things might look rosy in the garden !!
The Heathrow Spur
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|What you thought|
|Stan Chun||Once more, we didn't
play that well, but unlike Saturday when we got stung at the end of
the game, we held out and made the points ours with a measured
display, even though the lack of rotation meant that most of the
players had played all three games over Christmas.
The defensive set up that WBA employed might have been something Roy Hodgson thinks will win his side points and not friends, but he is in grave danger of losing both if they carry on like this. Spurs will have to become accustomed to teams trying to stop them playing - by fair means or foul - but the way we kept trying to play through them was commendable, even though sometimes it looked like we wanted to score "Goal Of The Month" every time.
Kaboul was outstanding today and Galls did well until his calf went. It is a bit worrying the rate we are losing central midfield players and I am glad that we have the FA Cup tie on Saturday, so Redknapp can mix the team up with youngsters and a few coming back form injury or on the fringes of the squad.
|Other scores during this week :|
|Aston Villa||0||Swansea City||2||Monday|
|Blackburn Rovers||1||Stoke City||2||Monday|
|Queens Park Rangers||1||Norwich City||2||Monday|
|Newcastle United||3||Manchester United||0||Wednesday|
|13||West Bromwich Albion||20||6||4||10||19||28||22||-9|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||20||4||5||11||19||35||17||-16|
Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
Position after the mid-week : 3rd
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