West Bromwich Albion (A) Spurs frustrated again as attacking options look worrying


Active Member
Feb 23, 2004
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For whatever reason, we never play well at the Hawthorns. Dubbed the yo-yo team of English football due to their constant promotion and relegation, a game against West Brom is usually met with radical ideas to rest players and try out new formations due to the inevitable cricket score that we are apparently about to run up. In truth however, the latter of these claims never happens, and on Saturday we were treated to an uninspiring performance in the Black Country as any good work in the first half was undone by a combination of injuries, ineffective substitutions and a solid performance from the hosts who always seem to bring out their A-game when the Lillywhites are in town.

Despite a disastrous international break with the injuries to Sergeant Dawson and JD, who looked like he might have been able to take up the challenge of leading the line for us given his excellent performances against Bulgaria and Switzerland, our line-up on Saturday still looked extremely tasty. With Bale, Modric, Lennon, Huddlestone and Van Der Vaart all playing in the same side, the tactics for the game would surely have been to dominate possession, rotate positions whenever possible to pull the West Brom defenders out of position and create as many gaps as possible in front of the host’s back four. In the early stages, these instructions were put perfectly into practice, and our new Dutch signing justified the immense excitement surrounding his arrival with a sublime backheel to Lennon who blazed high and wide from a promising position. Soon after, the ‘Bale-at-left-back’ brigade were grinning smugly as the Welsh wonder made a late run behind the opposing back four where Huddlestone, who captained the side, picked him out with a superb through ball, although once again the chance was squandered. In truth, it was of little surprise that Van Der Vaart and Modric, his partner in footballing crime for the first half-hour with some neat interchanges, were involved in opening the scoring. The Dutchman lifted a clever ball into Pavlyuchenko, he (unsurprisingly) lost the header but the ball fell kindly at the feet of the Croatian who remembered how to shoot properly and slammed the ball past the helpless Carson.

Sadly, it all seemed to go wrong from there, starting with a rather scary moment as Modric was helped off with a suspected broken leg. Thankfully the scans have since returned all clear, but in the short-term his dynamic movement and speed of thought was greatly missed as he was replaced by the equally creative but slightly more lumbering Kranjcar. As with many a Spurs game since I’ve been a fan, we then conceded a horror goal completely out of the blue. West Brom striker Marc-Antoine Fortuné embarked on a powerful run past debutant William Gallas before firing in a shot that Cudicini did well to parry. Sadly the ball ballooned up into the air and the Italian stallion was unable to claim the ball ahead of Odemwingie who nodded the ball towards goal where Chris Brunt out-jumped Bale to level the scores.

Despite a promising start to the second half with Bale spurning a one-on-one chance (more fuel for the Bale at LB brigade) and Kaboul seeing a howitzer of a free-kick saved by Carson (doesn’t he know that it’s illegal for Spurs Number 4s to score??), the second period of the game belonged to West Brom. With Keane and Crouch replacing the awful Pavlyuchenko and ineffective Lennon, we seemed to lose any semblance of a formation that nearly saw us caught out on a number of occasions. Huddlestone made a crucial block at the back post, Cudicini pulled off two excellent saves that justified his inclusion ahead of new-boy Pletikosa and Tamas missed when it seemed easier to score after the lively Odemwingie set him free with a clever backheel. Ultimately, the final whistle came as more of a relief than a hindrance and we were able to escape with a point.

In terms of analysis, there are a couple of positives that should be noted before assessing what didn’t quite work. Firstly, Van Der Vaart looked lively and effective, especially in the first half; as his fitness improves and he begins to gel with the team I have no doubt that he will become a truly talismanic figure for us as he finds space between the opposition lines and creates chances at will. Secondly, one man who is certainly deserving of praise for his consistently good performances is Younes Kaboul. Whether at right-back or at the heart of the defence, he has really impressed me since re-signing in January and was a real rock at the back once again on Saturday.

In terms of the negatives, I’m sure everyone has their opinions on what went wrong, so I shall only touch on mine briefly. The Bale positional debate is one that will last forever and a day, and whilst he will undoubtedly be a great left back one day, I personally feel that we need him as far up the pitch as possible at the minute with our current lack of striking options; its slightly concerning that none of our strikers can create something out of nothing, so Bale, Lennon and Van Der Vaart will be key creative outlets for us if we are going to maintain a challenge on all fronts until Defoe returns in December. Secondly, our midfield looked all over the place when we went to 4-4-2. With Kranjcar and Van Der Vaart taking up wide positions, we were always going to be liable to concede chances down the flanks and we were very nearly punished; this partnered with another poor performance from Palacios who is sadly becoming more liability than legend conspired to a very shaky final 20 minutes in a game that we should have run away with after opening the scoring.

Overall however, we are not in that bad a shape in terms of the rest of the league. Sure, we haven’t started as well as we might but neither have any of our immediate rivals so there should not be too much cause for concern at this early stage in the season. As Van Der Vaart begins to click with the rest of the team I am looking forward to seeing us put in some very entertaining performances in the near future; hopefully one or more of our strikers can step their game up a notch and fire the goals that we will need to succeed on many fronts, starting with the monster clash in Bremen tomorrow night.