OPPONENTS West Bromwich Albion
COMPETITION Premier League
DATE Thursday 26th December 2013
VENUE White Hart Lane






Two teams with new managers come face to face in a post-Christmas showdown that both will want to take point from.  West Bromwich Albion and Spurs need points for differing reasons, but having been appointed for 18 months at White Hart Lane, perhaps Tim Sherwood's need is all the greater.  While WBA linger too close to the bottom of the table, our new Head Coach will want to impress as quickly as possible to have his prospects of a longer spell in charge being enhanced.

Spurs come into the match off the back of their 3-2 away win at Southampton and we might expect more of the same, but this "we will score more goal than you" might come unstuck against the sort of sides we lost 0-5 and 0-6 to, so perhaps Sherwood has different tactics to employ against them.  I hope so.

Albion have won away at Manchester United and came within a whisker (or a handball) of the same outcome at Stamford Bridge, but this was not enough to save Steve Clarke from the axe after six games without a win.  The loss of last season's loan signing Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea has been a big one and it is reflected in Shane Long being their top goal-scorer with three.  Long is a skilful, if somewhat annoying striker, prone to scoring goals out of nothing, but also guilty of petty fouls on defenders.  Having signed Victor Anichebe from Everton, it is not surprise to regular Premier League watchers that he is out injured.  The Baggies also have Nicolas Anelka, who is reaching the veteran stage of his career, while Markus Rosenberg is also in that category, but things are evened up by the introduction this season of England Under-21 sensation, Saido Berinho.  Quick of foot and brain, he is able to hit the target from many positions and is a lively forward, who we will need to keep a close eye on.  The Czech striker Mateja Vydra, who scored lots of goals on loan at Watford last season is on loan from Udinese, but has been used form the bench rather than being in the starting eleven.

The defence has been a bit shaky, but with Gareth McAuley joint second top goal-scorer with two, perhaps the onus lies elsewhere for the back four.  The Irishman is good in the air at both ends of the pitch, but lacks a little positional play, whereas Jonas Olsson is a slightly better player in that sense. He may not have pace, but reads the game well and uses the ball well from the back.  Liam Ridgewell and Gabriel Tamas are experienced central defenders, who can both play full back, as can England Under-21 international Craig Dawson.  Billy Jones is a youngster signed from Preston North End and Steven Reid the former Blackburn Rovers midfielder, is now a tough tackling defender.  Diego Lugano and Goran Popov are also available to caretaker manager Keith Downing, but they have struggled to come to terms with the Premier League.

Midfield is probably Albion's strongest area, with Morgan Amalfitano showing at Old Trafford that he is an athletic and skilful player, scoring with a great run form halfway.  The Frenchman was brought in from Marseille and shows good ability to pick out passes to set his forwards away too.  Chris Brunt possesses a sweet left foot and works hard in midfield, alongside the more artistic Zoltan Gera, who has a powerful shot as well as an eye for an opening to pass through.  James Morrison is an more traditional winger, who likes to get on the score-sheet, as does Graham Dorrans. The size and physical power of Youssuf Mulumbu has attracted interest from bigger clubs and the big man does make his presence felt on the pitch.  Summer signing Stephane Sessignon from Sunderland has shown in glimpses the skill he possesses and he is mobile enough o link play and join team-mates in the area to finish off moved.   Former Chelsea winger Scott Sinclair was released from his Manchester City hell by former manager Steve Clarke, who knew him from his Stamford Bridge days, but whether he has a future at the club now the manager has been sacked will be something that needs to be sorted out.  Fast and tricky on the ball, he could have been a top player, but like so many before him, the lure of a big club lead to him getting no playing time.  Claudio Yacob is WBA's enforcer in the middle of the pitch, with his tackling sometimes borderline, he breaks up play and then has the ability to start the Baggies' own moves. 

In goal, Boaz Myhill had performed well until Ben Foster regained his fitness after injury, Both are capable keepers, with Myhill a Welsh international and Foster having played for England in the past, but injury ahs hit his chances of being his country's number one.  Neither is entirely convincing in one on one situations, with their angles not being their strength.  Foster is remembered as the goalkeeper at the other end, when Paul Robinson scored at the Lane against Watford from a 92 yard free-kick.  They can both put in good performances and have done against us in the past, so hopefully, Tim Sherwood's attacking policy will test them on Boxing Day.

Spurs will need to set up in the 4-4-2 system that Sherwood favours, but be aware that the midfield need to move up and back to shut the spaces that appear between them and the back four.  Albion have players who could make use of that space and while the focus is on attack for Tottenham, our home record is not good and that needs to change if there is to be a move up the table.

With Albion needing the points, it will be a tough match, but it might be one that our players can just edge to give the fans a late Christmas present.

PREDICTION Tottenham Hotspur    2        West Bromwich Albion    1
Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.
Jan Vertonghen's ankle injury is keeping him out of all the Christmas games, while Aaron Lennon (stomach), Paulinho (third of three game suspension), Sandro (shin), Younes Kaboul (thigh), Harry Kane (back) and Andros Townsend (hamstring) are also side-lined.  Mousa Dembele hopes to shake off an ankle knock he picked up at Southampton on Sunday to be able to play against WBA.
Victor Anichebe is Albion's only injury absentee.

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Tottenham Hotspur  1 (1)                                                                       West Bromwich Albion  1 (1)
Premier League
Thursday 26th December 2013                                                                                                       Kick off 15:00
White Hart Lane
Eriksen 36 Olsson 38
Eriksen (shirt pull on Morrison)  37
Walker (shirt pull on Ridgewell)  56
Soldado (foul on Olsson)  87


Reid (foul on Adebayor)  30
Olsson (dissent)  67


Crowd :   35,545 Weather :  Dry, cold
Referee :  Anthony Taylor (Manchester) Assistant Referees :  Mr. H. Lennard; Mr. J. Flynn
Fourth Official :  Darren Drysdale -
Spurs kicked off and played towards the Park Lane end in the first half.
Tottenham Hotspur : kit West Bromwich Albion : kit
25  Hugo LLORIS

  2  Kyle WALKER      
20  Michael DAWSON (c)
  3  Danny ROSE

21  Nacer CHADLI  (11  Erik LAMELA 75)
14  Lewis HOLTBY  (42  Nabil BENTALEB 63)
Christian ERIKSEN      

10  Emmanuel ADEBAYOR
  9  Roberto SOLDADO      

Unused subs: 
24  Brad FRIEDEL
Etienne CAPOUE

    1  Ben FOSTER

  2  Steven REID      
  3  Jonas OLSSON       
25  Craig DAWSON

18 Morgan AMALFITANO (21  Youssof MULUMBU 71)
  Claudio YACOB
14  Diego LUGANO
22  Zoltan GERA (29  Stephane SESSIGNON 77)

 7  James MORRISON

20  Mateja VYDRA   (38  Saido BERAHINO 84)

Unused subs: 
13  Boaz MYHILL
23  Gareth McAULEY
10  Scott SINCLAIR
11  Chris BRUNT

Manager :  Tim Sherwood Manager :  Keith Downing
Sponsor :   Hewlett Packard Shirt sponsor :  Zoopla
Kit Supplier :  Under Armour Kit Supplier :   adidas
Match report

While all the teams around them were losing their points, Tottenham managed a 1-1 draw with West Bromwich Albion that brought boos at the end, but I am not sure who for.  Albion came to waste time from the beginning and having got on equal terms just three minutes after going behind, proceeded to stifle the life out of the game, while trying to hit Spurs on the break.  Their quest for points was aided by an incredibly inept and inconsistent refereeing performance by the official Anthony Taylor - in my opinion, a man promoted way beyond his capability.

The fact that he failed to act when Steven Reid perpetrated an awful foul on Danny Rose, only booking Jonas Olsson for dissent, when Reid had already received a yellow card, was frankly beyond me and a number of other watchers of this game.  But of course, he is a referee and doesn't have to explain why he does anything, like fail to book the many player in the West Brom side who held onto the white shirts of the Spurs players, like they were hanging on for dear life, when he had already booked two Spurs players for the same offence.  You can offer match officials some slack if they they are rubbish, but consistently rubbish, but this man was not consistent in any way, shape or form.  His use of the advantage rule was erratic to say the least.  He allowed Spurs to play on when Ridgewell had stretched Walker's shirt to it's fullest extent.  The referee waved play on, but when play eventually stopped, did he go back and book Ridgewell, as he had done the Spurs players ?  I'll give you a clue.  One word, two letters.

Taylor was not the sole reason Tottenham didn't win.  Albion came determined not to lose points, which in their situation is understandable, but the manner in which they did it was not very tasteful.  Soldado was gone through from behind three times in the first half, the worst by Craig Dawson could didn't even get a talking to, when Eriksen had been booked for a shirt pull.  The inequality of punishment for offences of such potentially damaging circumstances was "horrendous©" (footballing word of Boxing Day ... c.f. Brendan Rodgers in relation to referees and Wenger re: Christmas fixtures).  The blatant time wasting by Foster every time he took a goal kick was allowed to continue and their players kicking the ball away in front of the match officials was something else Taylor failed to recognise.  You wonder if these people have an understanding of what goes on, let alone the application of the laws of the game. 

There were incidents when he stopped play for head injuries (such as Olsson using his face to stop Gylfi Sigurdsson's powerful shot), but when Bentaleb took a blow to the head, Taylor played on, but stopped the game when one of the Baggies' players went down with a leg injury. 

But the lead that Tottenham had only lasted a matter of minutes and then they failed to be inventive enough in their passing and movement to open up the WBA defence to test the keeper, who made a couple of good saves and saw another few chances go wide, but he had a relatively uneventful afternoon after he watched Christian Eriksen's 22 yard free kick sail in off the underside of the bar.  Foster didn't even extend himself by trying to get close to it. 

Spurs were poor in the defending of the free-kick that provided the leveller for Albion.  Eriksen tugged back Morrison as he dispossessed him and received a booking for his trouble.  When Amalfitano played the ball in, Adebayor missed his volley to clear it and then it bounced off Chiriches into the path of Olsson, five yards out to knock it past Lloris.  but Albion might have been two up before then, with Vydra going past Dawson after playing a 1-2 with Gera, only for the Spurs captain to get a  leg in the way and Lloris completed the stop.  Then the Czech loan striker could have done better when released through on Lloris by Morrison's ball, but eh got the ball stuck under his feet and by the time he had sorted them out, the Spurs keeper was on top of him right on the edge of the box.

Tottenham had put some early pressure on the visitors' goal, with Sigurdsson hitting a shot from the edge of the area, but it was always curving away from goal, Soldado had a shot blocked by Ridgewell and then our Spanish striker looked like he was about to be played in by Holtby, when Taylor stopped play for a free-kick for a late foul on Walker (no booking).  Luckily, it was the free-kick Eriksen scored from, otherwise, it might have caused a riot.

Albion had a couple of crosses fly across the face of goal and Morrison got away on their right, but his effort on goal was shanked across and wide to the left.  For Spurs, Eriksen caught one sweetly and Foster had to punch it away, as it was really travelling.

The half time guest was Ossie Ardiles, who got applause from both sets of fans, but his interview saw him speak much quicker and more indistinctly than ever he did when he was a player.  The Spurs subs who were out at the break included a new name to many at the Lane, in Milos Veljkovic, our Development Team central defender and that shows how deep we are into the squad in that position.

The second half saw a similar pattern, with perhaps Spurs having the better of the pressure, possession and chances, but there was a failure to make clear chances out of that.  Five minutes in, Danny Rose stride forward and lashed a shot that flew a foot over Foster's bar, then a succession of corners failed to make anything clear cut.  Dawson's flicked header at the near post was blocked for another corner, then later Soldado glanced a header across goal and wide from another corner.  In between, Lloris punched (as he is wont to do) away Reid's drive from a free-kick 25 yards out.

Holtby shot wide before being substituted, with Nabil Bentaleb coming on, then Reid got away with his foul on Rose, which, if punished with a red it deserved or at least a second yellow, would have left Albion with ten men for the last 25 minutes.  It might have led to an even more frustrating afternoon, with the remaining players stuck behind the ball, but it was the least the Albion defender deserved.  From the free-kick, it came to Kyle Walker 30 yards out and he drove in a shot that Foster did well to beat away.  Substitute Erik Lamela produced a good cross to the far post from the right, but Sigurdsson didn't have enough space to squeeze it between keeper and post and only hit the side-netting.  Rose's low cross from the left saw Soldado engineer a back-heel, but the ball went wide on the other side of the goal, with Spurs getting Rose into good positions a couple of times near the end of the inadequate added time, but the ball failed to pick out a white shirt.

West Brom did what other teams have done at the Lane recently and stuck to a game plan, which has paid off.  Sherwood said that the team will get better when they have a bit more time to digest the instructions he wants them to play to, but the key to the unlocking of other team's tightly packed defences, is to move to pull their players out of position. Whoever plays, we need that creative use of space off the ball to provide a player to pass to and then that would make space for the player passing to move into.

Sherwood needs to look back further than Harry Redknapp and to Bill Nicholson, who said, "when you haven't got the ball you are on the move".  Even further back, Arthur Rowe's pass and move tactics of the "Push and Run" side laid down the ethos that would make other teams work harder.  And to do that you have to work hard too.

More hard work lays ahead on Sunday when Stoke City are the visitors to the Lane.

Kirk Hammerton


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What you thought
The Funky Phantom Top marks to the ball boy behind the Paxton Road goal who got the ball and put it on the spot for Foster to take his goal-kick rather than waste another half hour teeing it up. 
The fact that the Albion keeper took an air shot at him with his boot should be looked at by the authorities.
- -.



Other scores during this week :
Aston Villa 0 Crystal Palace 1 Thursday
Cardiff City 0 Southampton 3 Thursday
Chelsea 1 Swansea City 0 Thursday
Everton 0 Sunderland 1 Thursday
Hull City 2 Manchester United 3 Thursday
Manchester City 2 Liverpool 1 Thursday
Newcastle United 5 Stoke City 1 Thursday
Norwich City 1 Fulham 2 Thursday
West Ham United 1 Arsenal 3 Thursday




League Table
  P W D L F A Pts GD
1 Arsenal 18 12 3 3 36 18 39 +18
2 Manchester City 18 12 2 4 53 21 38 +32
3 Chelsea 18 12 4 3 33 18 37 +15
4 Liverpool 18 11 3 4 43 21 36 +22
5 Everton 18 9 7 2 29 17 34 +12
6 Newcastle United 18 10 3 5 29 23 33 +6
7 Manchester United 18 9 4 5 31 22 31 +9
8 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 18 9 4 5 19 24 31 -5
9 Southampton 18 7 6 5 25 17 27 +8
10 Stoke City 18 5 5 8 17 24 21 -7
11 Swansea City 18 5 5 8 23 24 20 -1
12 Hull City 18 5 5 8 16 23 20 -7
13 Aston Villa 18 5 4 9 17 24 19 -7
14 Norwich City 18 5 4 9 16 31 19 -15
15 Cardiff City 18 4 5 9 13 28 17 -15
16 West Bromwich Albion 18 3 8 7 19 24 17 -5
17 Crystal Palace 18 5 1 12 12 27 16 -12
18 Fulham 18 5 1 12 19 35 16 -16
19 West Ham United 18 3 5 10 15 25 14 -10
20 Sunderland 18 3 4 11 13 30 13 -18


Position before match :  7th
Position after match :  8th

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