COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Sunday 7th October 2012
VENUE White Hart Lane






Spurs have shown two distinct sides to their character this season - sometimes in the same game.  It is surprising that Aston Villa are suffering the same split personality syndrome, with a thrashing picked up at Southampton and then wins over Swansea City at home and Manchester City's second string in the League Cup at Eastlands.

So, which side will turn up for each team on Sunday ?? 

Spurs will be less than fresh from their disappointing draw in Greece with Panathinaikos, with the majority of the first team involved, although there will be some fresher legs in Gallas, Freidel and Sandro.  Villa, on the other hand, have had a rest since their lunch-time game last Sunday.

Their team now has American Brad Guzan in goal, after he replaced Shay Given early last month, with his strengths being his shot-stopping.  His weakness is the ball in the air, so from corners we may benefit, but if Defoe leads the line, crosses in will need to be low to his feet.

It is a shame that Richard Dunne is out inured, as Spurs usually prosper when he is in the opposition's side.  His replacement is likely to be Ciaran Clark.  He is one of the youngsters that Paul Lambert has introduced to the team, having had a debut last season.  Good on the ball, he reads the game well, but finds himself out of position sometimes.  Alongside him will be Eric Lichaj, who has previously at full back, so there may be some joy from his change of position, while new signings Ron Vlaar and Matthew Lowton are in at full back, so it will be interesting to see how Lennon and Bale do against them.  The Dutchman has replaced Alan Hutton, who looks to have no future at Villa Park and Lowton has come from the quality conveyor belt of Sheffield United defenders; two of whom are at Spurs in the form of the two Kyles.

The Villa midfield will be missing Stephen Ireland, who has suffered a broken arm and Gary Gardner, who will miss the season with a knee ligament injury, the five that I expect Lambert to play across the middle will probably be from Fabian Delph, Mark Albrighton, Charles N'Zogbia, Chris Herd, Barry Bannon, Brett Holman, Ashley Westwood, Karim El Ahmadi, Andreas Weimann.

Chris Herd was brought into the side last season and has been labelled as the ball-winner in midfield, but he ahs had his problems picking up cards from referees, although Villa put a lot of store by the youngster.  Albrighton has had more exposure, but has faced from the regular starting position he previously enjoyed.  A busy midfielder who likes to get forward, Albrighton can provide a threat when breaking from midfield.  Barry Bannon is a little midfielder, who buzzes around making a nuisance of himself and has a fierce shot on him.  Two players who are new to the club (and to me) are Ashley Westwood, who came in from Crewe Alexandra and Kamir El Ahmadi brought in from Feyenoord.  The Dutchman who is a Moroccan international plays as a defensive midfielder, but he did get forward to smack a fine goal against Everton.  Westwood plays a more advanced role and likes to get forward, but he may be over-looked for this match, with Lambert more likely to go for a more experienced side.

This might mean a recall for Fabian Delph, the Leeds United wonder-kid, who chose to go to Villa and was hit by injury and loss of form.  now fit again, he has to prove that he has the consistency to be a vital cog in the Villa midfield and he certainly had the talent to do so, with good skill on  the ball and an eye for a pass.  N'Zogbia is a winger who can have really damaging performances in him when he turns it on, but the times he does that are not enough to make him a permanent threat to other sides.  He's a good dribbler and knows how to finish, but he is too often not involved in the game and his ability goes unused.    Australian Holman and Austrian Weimann are strikers, but may operate in midfield, aiming to link up with the lone man up front.

Christian Benteke is a newcomer and is a big, physical specimen and has ousted Darren Bent from the team.  The Belgian has yet to score, but has been instrumental in build up play and his inclusion has caused Darren Bent to turn to Twitter to express his dissatisfaction.  The former Spurs striker came on and scored last week, but he may still have to settle for a seat on the bench to start with.  Gabriel Agbonlahor is also available for Villa and he scored a very good goal at Manchester City, but he has fallen down the pecking order since his burst onto the scene, but although he lacks pace, he can hold the ball up well and has a good sense of where the goal is.

While Lambert is still finding his feet at Villa, he did mastermind Norwich City's 2-1 win at the Lane last season and he is trying to shape the Villa side in his own fashion, within the budget he is allowed to spend, but his sides are often well organised and like to hit on the break.  Spurs have suffered against teams who sit nine outfield players behind the ball, but they now have more options, with Dembele breaking from deep. 

It may need some patience from the crowd, but there should be a chance to take three points, the reliance on one forward may hold up the ambitions that AVB holds and two strikers will give the side more opportunity to score the goals that will win matches.  Thursday's performance showed that however dominant you are in a game, you need to finish teams off and that is as true against Villa as it would be against sides like Panathinaikos.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2         Aston Villa    1
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Scott Parker (Achilles), Jake Livermore (groin), Kyle Naughton (ankle), Younes Kaboul (knee) and Benoit Assou-Ekotto (knee) are still out of the squad and Hugo Lloris, Michael Dawson and Tom Huddlestone will make way for Brad Freidel, William Gallas and Sandro.  Emmanuel Adebayor hopes to be back in the squad and may start on the bench.
Darren bent may be in contention for a start after scoring a late equaliser against West Bromwich Albion last week.  Richard Dunne (groin) and Stephen Ireland (broken arm) are both out of contention for this match.  Stilian Petrov is still fighting leukaemia and Gary Gardner is out all season

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Tottenham Hotspur  2 (0)     Aston Villa  0 (0)
Premier League
Sunday 07th October 2012                               Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Caulker 58
Lennon 67
Walker (foul on Holman)  73 



Delph (foul on Dembele)  27
El Ahmadi (foul on Lennon)  57
Bennett (foul on Lennon)  47  



Crowd :   35,802 Weather :  -  Mild, dry
Referee :  Neil Swarbrick (Preston) Assistant Referees :  A Garratt (-) - Red Flag; G. Beswick (-) - Yellow flag
Fourth Official :  Mark Halsey (Bolton)  -
- kicked off and played towards the - end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit Aston Villa : kit
25  Hugo LLORIS

28  Kyle WALKER      
13  William GALLAS (c)
33  Steven CAULKER 

16  Mousa DEMBELE

  7  Aaron LENNON    (31  Andros TOWNSEND 86)
  2  Clint DEMPSEY  (22  Gylfi SIGURDSSON 82)
11  Gareth BALE

18  Jermain DEFOE  (10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR 68)

Unused subs: 
20  Michael DAWSON
27  Iago FALQUE

  22  Brad GUZAN

34  Matthew LOWTON
  4  Ron VLAAR
  6  Ciaran CLARK
27  Joe BENNETT     

12  Mark ALBRIGHTON  (  9  Darren BENT 66)
16  Fabian DELPH      (10  Charles N'ZOGBIA66)
  8  Karim El AHMADI     
11  Gabriel AGBONLAHOR

14  Brett HOLMAN (25  Barry BANNAN 73)

20  Christian BENTEKE

Unused subs: 
  1  Shay GIVEN
30  Eric LICHAJ
15  Ashley WESTWOOD
26  Andreas WEIMANN

Manager :  Andre Villas-Boas Manager :  Paul Lambert
Sponsor :   Aurasma Shirt sponsor :  Genting Casinos
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   Macron
Match report

Spurs gave a solid display, playing some very good football at times, but lacking a cutting edge in the first half that left them grateful for a fortuitous goal and a cracker to see them through against a poor Aston Villa side.

With AVB preferring Hugo Lloris to Brad Freidel in goal, it broke the American keeper's record of 310 consecutive Premier League appearances and allowed the French skipper a chance to get some league action ahead of international week.  As it turned out, he got little action at all and I think I could have turned out in goal and been reasonably comfortable against a side that Paul Lambert sent out with fear in their hearts and little ambition in their minds.

With Gallas back alongside Caulker, the rest of the team was as it was in Greece in mid-week and you wondered if this would have a tiring effect on them.  The start Spurs made certainly didn't suggest this, with two good chances created n the first five minutes.  Gareth bale was off target before Defoe slid in to hit Jan Vertonghen's cross on the half-volley but he could not control it and it flew way too high, with the lineman flagging for offside anyway.

Ten minutes in, the same lineman failed to see anything wrong, when Gareth Bale got to along ball ahead of Brad Guzan and the Welshman hit the floor.  He did not appeal for a foul and while he stayed on the floor for a while, the Villa fans got more excited about this than most things this afternoon and booed Bale whenever he got the ball or got neat them.  It was a bit rich of the visiting supporters, as Mark Albrighton, who I previously thought was a  bright prospect took Vertonghen out of the game, off the ball as Spurs broke from a tackle on the Villa midfielder and he knew he could not get back to defend it.  Quite what the lineman was doing, I don't know,  as it was right in front of him.

Anyway, with about 25 minutes gone, Villa had their first shot on goal, with the big old boy up front Benteke smashing as hot at goal and Lloris taking the continental way out with a double fisted save that saw the ball rebound out of the area.  Villa had some good passages of play, when they passed the ball around, but they were lacking a final ball as much as Spurs were and the Villa keeper, Guzan was hardly tested in the first half, with Defoe curling a shot from the left wide of the goal and there were few other clear cut openings in the half.

An interesting half time chat with Mark Falco and David Howells about their home debuts was sparked by Howells' admission that when he came to play against Spurs for Southampton at the Dell, as a Spurs fan, he really didn't want them to lose that day !!  The "re-designed" Chirpy made his debut too, looking like he has put on a fair bit of timber since last we saw him !!

Spurs started the second half on the attack, but were soon on the receiving end of a shot from Benteke, who hit Agbonlahor's cross first time, but straight at Lloris, who blocked the shot and dropped on the loose ball.  Spurs made a retaliatory attack, with Vertonghen putting a shot across the Villa goal, before Lloris held a head from Vlaar that had little power and looking to give quick release, he threw the ball out to the left wing, but Holman picked the ball off, passed to Albrighton and his cross back into the box found Benteke unmarked about eight yards out.  With time and space he proceeded to put his header two feet wide of the goal when all he had to do was hit the target.  It was an exceedingly poor finish and could have given Villa a very valuable lead.

Following an incredibly cynical foul by El Ahmadi, who clattered Lennon down as he had the temerity to go past him 30 yards from goal, the Moroccan got a booking and Spurs got a free kick.  From it the ball was cleared for a corner and when Bale swung it in to the far post, Steven Caulker's height caused panic.  The ball dropped behind him and it was collected by Defoe, who took the ball on the bounce and hit it down into the ground for a shot that was going wide ... until it hit the heel of Caulker and the ball flew off him past Guzan and a man on the line to give Tottenham the lead.  It was a bit lucky, but then it had been coming, despite Benteke's best efforts to finish worse than Sandra Redknapp.

Lambert tried to shake things up for Villa, by bringing on Bent and N'Zogbia for Albrighton and Delph, but almost straight away Tottenham doubled their lead.  It started with Caulker winning a header from a long ball launched in Bent's direction, but the ball was then quickly moved through Dembele and Dempsey to Lennon on the right and he jinked into the box, with Bennett closing him down, but not quickly enough (and aware he was already on a yellow card) and Aaron took an early shot that went through the defender's legs, across and past Guzan into the opposite bottom corner.  It was a good finish and one you would like to see more of from the little winger.

With about ten minutes left, Bale went down the right side of the Villa box and Bennett went with him, but Gareth over-ran the ball and the two players went down behind the dead ball line, only for the Villa defender to stay down and the stretcher was called, while play was held up.  It turned out that Bennett had sustained a deep gash in his leg, but I am not sure where from as he didn't hit the advertising hoardings and didn't appear to be caught by Bale.  Anyway, Barry Bannan had been brought on just a few minutes earlier to add some supply to the two forward substitutes, but he was now drafted in at left back, as Lambert had no subs left and the team had to soldier on with ten men.

It was the end of the game for Villa, with Adebayor replacing Defoe and Spurs knocking the ball around for fun.  They also had some more chances, mostly on the break, as Villa failed to make their passes and they were intercepted.  Bale had the best one, firing a low shot across goal from the left, which Guzan got a hand to and deflected up onto the far post, while Bale and Defoe also had shots go wide and Adeabyor tried a delicate chip, but it was never going to beat the keeper.

In the end, the game fizzled out and Spurs took an easy three points, putting them back in fifth.  There are still aspects of the Spurs game that are not working, with the final ball and the need for a second striker to get among the chances being created, but Sandro had an outstanding game today, as he not only broke up moves, but then launched Spurs attacks, holding off the opposition as he moved the ball forward and from tight areas of the pitch.  Lloris did OK and looked to start us on our way quickly, once a bit too quickly, but perhaps his inclusion was to play as a sweeper behind the back four, allowing them to play a higher line, possibly as Brad Freidel doesn't do that as well as the Frenchman.

Another three points and a fourth straight league win.  Chelsea next and can Spurs keep the unbeaten run going after the international break ??  Why not, as Chelsea's defence might be susceptible to a bit of pace and hopefully John Terry will be playing so we can finish his career off by making him look less than ordinary.

Mike Sorrell


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What you thought



Other scores during this week :
Chelsea 4 Norwich City 1 Saturday
Manchester City 3 Sunderland 0 Saturday
Swansea City 2 Reading 2 Saturday
West Bromwich Albion 3 Queens Park Rangers 2 Saturday
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3 Saturday
Wigan Athletic 2 Everton 2 Saturday
Liverpool 0 Stoke City 0 Sunday
Southampton 2 Fulham 2 Sunday
Newcastle United 0 Manchester United 3 Sunday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Chelsea 7 6 1 0 14 3 19 +11
2 Manchester United 7 5 0 2 17 9 15 +8
3 Manchester City 7 4 3 0 14 8 15 +7
4 Everton 7 4 2 1 14 8 14 +6
5 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 7 3 2 1 13 8 14 +5
6 West Bromwich Albion 7 4 2 1 11 7 14 +4
7 Arsenal 7 3 3 1 13 5 12 +8
8 West Ham United 7 3 2 2 8 8 11 0
9 Fulham 7 3 1 3 15 11 10 +4
10 Newcastle United 7 2 3 2 8 11 9 -3
11 Stoke City 7 1 5 1 7 6 8 +1
12 Swansea City 6 2 1 3 10 8 7 +2
13 Sunderland 6 1 4 1 5 7 7 -2
14 Liverpool 7 1 3 3 9 12 6 -3
15 Wigan Athletic 7 1 2 4 7 13 5 -6
16 Aston Villa 7 1 2 4 6 12 5 -6
17 Southampton 7 1 1 5 12 18 4 -8
18 Reading 6 0 3 3 8 13 3 -5
19 Norwich City 7 1 3 3 5 17 3 -12
20 Queens Park Rangers 7 0 2 5 6 16 2 -10


Position before match :  5th
Position after match :  5th
Position after the weekend :  5th

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