|DATE||Saturday 31st December 2011|
|VENUE||The Liberty Stadium|
When Spurs travel to South Wales for this last game of the year 2011, they will face a side who like to play football and one that has only conceded three home goals this season in the league.
Brendan Rodgers' footballing philosophy has flourished at the Liberty, while it had got him the sack at Reading. Passing the ball around, the team have won plaudits and have also won a fair number of points, but the second half of the season will be the tester to see if they have the staying power to stay up. Rodgers inherited some players from previous manager Roberto Martinez who could pass and hold the ball comfortably. This won them many admirers in the tough environment that is the Championship.
Starting at the back, the manager made the shrewd signing of Michel Vorm, who came in from FC Utrecht and has made a good impression, with some brave and stunning saves to keep Swansea in games. His reflexes are very good and he is an athletic keeper, who has had plenty of saves to make and you feel might have another busy day on Saturday.
in front of him, Swansea have a few injury problems and Steven Caulker cannot play against us as he is on loan with the Swans. Left back Neil Taylor has been out long term with a knee injury and may be back, while Angel Rangel will have a noon fitness test to see if he can shake off a knock he picked up on his ankle in the QPR game. Rangel is one who has looked composed on the ball and he has the ability to bring it out of defence, but he may get caught out against the pace of Gareth Bale, should he turn up on the Tottenham right. Taylor is nippy and likes to get forward, but he might find himself turning the other way with Kyle Walker also looking to get forward and having lightning pace.
Garry Monk comes into the middle of defence to cover for Caulker and has a lot of experience, having played for Southampton before moving to the Liberty. How he will cope with a mobile striker like Adebayor will be interesting to see, but Ashley Williams is a strong presence alongside him. Strong in the upper body, he can tackle like a tank and hold people off when he gets some speed up going forward. Strong in the air, he is a key player for Swansea, but has been prone to the odd slip and his concentration sometimes goes, leaving his opponent with a chance. In Ashley Richards Swansea have a deputy at full back, with quick feet and good pace, he can recover from attacking positions swiftly, but he might drop back down to the bench after starting against QPR.
The midfield is built around former Spurs man Mark Gower, loacal product Joe Allen and former West Ham United midfielder Leon Britton. Both very experienced and hard working, they both have the ability to pass the ball accurately and with purpose. While Gower is the dead ball expert, Britton likes to support the front two with runs from midfield and arrives in the box to get on the end of the supply from the wings. Allen is a player who many clubs higher up the league have looked at, but he has chosen to stay with the South Wales club and is progressing well there, making the Welsh national team. A dynamic runner with the ball, tenacious and another good passer, he has been instrumental in Swansea's forward movement. Also in midfield is Kemy Agustien, who I don't know much about. A Dutch Under-20 international, he looks strong and will probably be very technically proficient.
Wide midfielder Nathan Dyer has been around for a while, having started with Southampton and he has enjoyed taking on the best in the Premier League, with his wing play and dribbling causing problems to most teams, but his place in the team has been usurped to an extent by another ex-Spur, Wayne Routledge. With more top flight experience, he has been favoured over Dyer and is putting in good performances and good supply to the strikers from out on the right. Perhaps not a as fast as he used to be, but now more poise in putting decent balls into the box.
Nominally playing two up front, the line is usually led alone by Danny Graham. Formerly with Watford, where he had a good goal-scoring record, he has made the step up and is a good quality striker. He is not afraid to shoot and takes chances on early, not allowing goalkeepers to set themselves. With Ledley missing, William Gallas will no doubt be detailed to pick up Graham, with Kaboul being the first man to head away balls into the Spurs box.
The other man up front is Scott Sinclair, who was at Chelsea but played more games on loan than he did for the Pensioners. Quick footed both with and without the ball, his pace and direct running at defenders can unsettle them, but he can be known to overdo his willingness to take people on and run into brick walls or dead ends. However, he is a difficult opponent, as he likes to do a lot of his work in and around the box.
Options up front include former Middlesbrough and Reading striker Leroy Lita and Scot Stephen Dobbie. Lita still has the hunger for goals despite entering the veteran stage of his career. Quick(ish), he relies on being in the right place at the right time more and has the ability to get a shot away from any angle, so will look to pull players out of position to give Graham more room. Dobbie is a strong forward, who has dropped down the pecking order a bit, but he scored in the Play-Off final last season that got Swansea to the top flight and made a goal for Sinclair, so can do a job for the Welsh side, but has been sued sparingly this season, and then mainly from the bench.
For Spurs, Harry Redknapp is more likely to continue the experiment of playing Bale where he likes. it is a little dangerous, should van der Vaart also be given a wandering role, but having Parker, Sandro and Modric as a three in midfield, and with Bale's pace to recover, there is not too much to worry about. Such a fluid 4- 2-2-2 formation gives the opposition a lot to concentrate on and leaves Spurs to attack with pace and from anywhere on the field.
At any time, the set-up can change back to a more accustomed 4-4-2, although with VDV in the side, it is more 4-4-1-1, but they have been effective away from home and they will find a well organised and well drilled side waiting for them, Having said that, the way Swansea play might suit Tottenham and I see them coming back with the victory.
|PREDICTION||Swansea City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 3|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , history, etc.|
SWANSEA CITY TEAM NEWS :
A knock on Angel Rangel's ankle in Tuesday's game against QPR makes him a doubt, with a late fitness test on the cards. Steven Caulker is on loan at Swansea from Spurs and therefore cannot play in this match, so defender Garry Monk will come in. Alan Tate's broken leg keeps him sidelined and Ferry Bodde has a knee injury that doesn't look like it will allow him to play any time soon, with the same injury having kept left back Neil Taylor out, but he might make a return against Spurs.
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs go into the match with Swansea without Ledley King (ankle) and Aaron Lennon (hamstring) and have doubts about Sebastien Bassong (back) and Roman Pavlyuchenko (ankle). Michael Dawson is now back in training, but may lack sharpness to play in this game, while Tom Huddlestone is still sidelined by his ankle.
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Swansea City 0 (1)
Saturday 31st December 2011
Venue : Liberty Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur 1 (1)
Kick off 15:00
|Sinclair 84||van der Vaart 44|
Richards (foul) 15
Bale (diving) 41
Livermore (foul) 88
|Crowd : 20,393||Weather : Mild, rain during second half|
|Referee : Phil Dowd (Stoke-on-Trent)||Assistant Referees : R. Ganfield; Ms. S. Massey|
|Fourth Official : S. Tanner||-|
|Tottenham kicked off and played towards the South Stand in the first half.|
|Swansea City :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
11 van der Vaart
|Manager : Brendan Rodgers||Manager : Harry Redknapp|
|Sponsor : 32 Red||Shirt sponsor : Aurasma|
|Kit Supplier : adidas||Kit Supplier : Puma|
This was maybe a match too far for Tottenham, as the players looked sluggish compared to Swansea's men buzzing around making things difficult for Spurs to get their game flowing and despite getting a goal just before half-time, Swansea got their just rewards with a late equaliser after injuries had upset the shape of the Spurs team.
Spurs had Younes Kaboul back partnering Gallas in the middle of defence, while the rest of the side stayed the same, but on the other team, Rodgers made six changes from the side that drew with QPR and brought in former Spur Mark Gower and packed the midfield with young legs around him to put the pressure on Spurs. And that was just what happened, with the white shirts closing Tottenham players down before they even got the ball. The tactic worked as it threw Spurs off their game and even Luka Modric could not find his passes, with the hurried nature of the game.
A shot from 25 yards by Nathan Dyer, after he had turned Assou-Ekotto, made Brad Friedel move sharply to dive to his right to keep the effort out in the fifth minute. Three minutes later a low corner into the box (a la Anderton-Sheringham's routine) got to Scott Sinclair on the right of the box, but he didn't make a good connection with the ball and it was cleared away. After 15 minutes, Tottenham had a situation they should have capitalised on, as Ashley Richards hit Gareth Bale late and was booked for the foul, which should have given Tottenham free rein to run at the right back, who could not afford to mis-time another challenge.
Scott Dobbie was starting his first game since August and looked like he was up for it and when he got the ball in the centre circle and set off for goal, the Spurs defence backed off him, leaving Sandro to eat up the ground with his long legs and get a tackle on the striker as he approached the box. At the other end, Spurs started to get their passing going, but unfortunately, Emmanuel Adebayor was in offside positions a lot of the time. Playing on the shoulder of the last man is an art and perhaps it is one that neither of our forwards do very well, as they seem to get caught offside a lot.
With the game 24 minutes old, the ball was played out to the Swansea left, where Scott Sinclair came in from a wide position to hit a first time shot that curled just enough to take it wide of Friedel's right hand post. The Spurs keeper might have been beaten, but the ball rippled the outside of the netting and Tottenham escaped with a goal kick. There was a chance just after the half-hour, when Dyer played a short back-pass to Vorm and Adebayor tried to nip in, but the keeper got there first to block the ball away. Spurs were getting into wide positions, but the final ball in was poor or not beating the first man, resulting in few goal-scoring chances.
Into the last five minutes of the half and Bale was booked for diving (quite rightly, as he went down expecting a tackle that didn't come) and the just before the break, Tottenham took an undeserved lead. The ball was worked left to Benny, who took on Richards, not once, but twice and put a low ball into the middle of the penalty area. it looked like another wasted cross, but the ball popped up off Allen and Rafael van der Vaart controlled it on his chest and then swept it past Vorm off Ashley Williams' arm. It had been only the second shot on target by Spurs - the other a blocked effort from Kaboul - and Swansea has dictated the first half apart from short spells when Spurs moved forward and held onto the ball.
The half time break saw Swansea take off the booked Richards and replace him with the marvellously named Angel Rangel. Spurs stayed the same and started the half well with Younes Kaboul somehow ending up in the penalty area to force a save and then Adebayor got across his marker at the near post, but couldn't get his shot on target. Back on defensive duty, Kaboul and Gallas were getting in first when the ball was played forward to Dobbie and Moore, but Dyer was causing problems down the right with his pace and Assou-Ekotto had to be on his toes to make sure he didn't let the little winger escape.
Now hitting on the break, Tottenham almost scored when Adebayor broke through the middle and set Rafa free 25 yards from goal. The Dutchman decided to take his shot early and he could have moved forward, he was in such a lot of space, but his first time shot almost caught Vorm out, but his fellow countryman managed to dive to his right to push the ball wide of the goal at the expense of a corner. Bale put in a cross that might have been a shot, when Ade was better placed in the middle, leaving the ball to go wide without too much worry for Vorm in the Swansea goal.
Gallas was marshalling Moore well and stopped him scoring with a good block, but from the resulting corner, Dobbie was free to shoot at goal from three yards out and fired his shot across goal and a couple of feet wide of the far post. With fifteen minutes remaining, substitute Danny Graham got his head to a shot from Sinclair, which would have left Friedel helpless had it been on target, but luckily for Spurs, the ball went two feet too high. Five minutes later, Dobbie put a shot across goal and it appeared to be heading towards Sinclair at the far post, but somehow Kyle Walker got in first to put the ball over his own bar, but from the corner, Luka Modric was well positioned on the post to hack away a shot from Sinclair.
It was Sinclair who got the goal for the home side that had been coming. A run down the right by Angel ended with a low ball to the edge of the six yard box and with Assou-Ekotto getting a touch to take the ball nearer goal, Friedel dived to cut it out, but with Gallas and Kaboul coming across in front of him, it somehow eluded all three Spurs men, allowing Sinclair to run it in at the far post before Walker could get to him. Coming six minutes from the end of the 90 minutes, it was a blow to Tottenham, but to tell the truth, it was all Swansea deserved.
The crowd were re-invigorated and got behind their team, how pressed forward, but could not threaten the Tottenham goal, while Spurs had a Bale free-kick hit the wall and fly slowly through to Vorm and then the Swansea keeper had an easy save from an Adebayor header that was from a Benny cross that was a little behind him.
So, the Swans maintain their good home form and Spurs missed the chance to make up a couple more points on the top two and to pull further away from Chelsea and Arsenal, with some of the results going our way. It was a fairly open game, but the quality of the final ball for both sides let them down and that is why there were fewer effort son goal than in recent Spurs games. The unbeaten run goes on and it will need to continue with more points needed to hold off the expected push from the clubs below us.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores this weekend :|
|Arsenal||1||Queens Park Rangers||0||Saturday|
|Bolton Wanderers||1||Wolverhampton Wanderers||1||Saturday|
|Manchester United||2||Blackburn Rovers||3||Saturday|
|Stoke City||2||Wigan Athletic||2||Saturday|
|West Bromwich Albion||0||Everton||1||Sunday|
|12||West Bromwich Albion||19||6||4||9||19||27||22||-8|
|17||Queens Park Rangers||19||4||5||10||18||33||17||-15|
Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
Position after the weekend : 3rd
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