We’re back in Premier League action with West Brom vs Spurs at the Hawthorns, as we look at how you break down the Tony Pulis side.
Tony Pulis is back in the Premier League and brings his well-organised, defensively sound brand of football to West Bromwich Albion. He has made a few tweaks from the Crystal Palace and Stoke models, so what can we expect and what should we be on the lookout for in West Brom vs Spurs this time?
1. Where West Brom concede chances
During Pulis’ four matches in charge, the Baggies have conceded just once. Several of the players have admitted that he has worked extensively on shoring them up defensively.
The weakness, as it always has been with Pulis sides, is in the full back areas to teams that can get in-behind them and cross. This is easier said than done, as his teams have very good defensive shape. And, as Everton found out, can sit back and regain their positions very quickly.
The Toffees were really kept a bay by West Brom’s deep lying setup, but they did win a penalty, as Seamus Coleman got in down the Everton right.
He picked out Romelu Lukaku and as the Belgian brought the ball down, Joleon Lescott handled to give Everton a penalty. The Mirallas debacle followed and it was a shame that he didn’t score so that we could’ve seen how Pulis would’ve reacted tactically. Instead, the Belgian’s spot-kick miss meant that they continued with their low block tactics.
Everton would create some more opportunities in the match. Again, these came from pulling the ball back by getting deep in to the Baggies full back’s zones.
West Brom’s other opponents have had rare opportunities and these have occurred by getting at right back Andre Wisdom.
Hull did very little on their trip to the Hawthorns given they lost their two strikers to injury in the first 20 minutes. They did however create two decent chances by crossing from Wisdom’s right back zone.
In the Baggies cup-tie with Birmingham, the Blues grabbed their only goal by getting in down the West Brom right. Lloyd Dyer played in a low cross for Jonathan Grounds to sweep home.
“There are weaknesses in our team, it’s unbalanced and we have to put certain things in place,” said Pulis after the Birmingham match. The Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs should therefore focus at getting the ball quickly in to wide areas before the Baggies can recover their defensive shape. This is especially true in Andre Wisdom’s right back zone, making the choice of player on our left key.
2. The new role of Saido Berahino
Maybe the most interesting thing Tony Pulis has done is making Saido Berahino in to more of a second striker at the number ten position.
Pulis likes to play a 4-4-1-1 or what can often be a very defensively minded 4-3-3 set-up. In his time at Palace and Stoke, Pulis liked to have a good hold-up player who was strong in the air off his central striker in either formation. This player would be the focus of long balls forward, for example Marouane Chamakh at Palace. He would then have a centre forward ahead of him who would look to run in-behind on to the passes or flick-ons, such as Dwight Gayle.
With the Baggies so far, Pulis has flipped these roles. He’s gone for a bigger target man in either Brown Ideye or Victor Anichebe as the central striker with Saido Berahino playing off him. This has seen the youngster drop back in the formation and be a linkman through the head of midfield.
A lot of the forward passing now goes through Berahino, who comes short and receives the ball between the lines. This means he can then burst forward with it using his pace and pass it in to Anichebe or out wide for Sessegnon to cross.
After making his pass, Berahino can then use his electric pace to get himself in to shooting positions to receive a return or get on the end of a cross.
We can see here how he does this against Hull, dropping between the lines and then he passes through for Brown Ideye to run and shoot.
Against Birmingham he comes short to receive the pass from Craig Gardner, turns and runs in to the vast space behind the Blues midfield.
Berahino then passes in to Anichebe who uses his strength to roll the defender and fire in at the near post.
The Baggies second goal in that game was a carbon copy. Again Berahino comes short to receive the ball in the wide-open spaces between the lines. He turns, runs at the defence and slides Anichebe in once more. The big centre forward again out-muscles the defender with his strength and fires home.
This new role to convert Berahino from an on the shoulder centre forward to a second striker is one of Pulis’ most interesting changes from his times at Palace and Stoke. It is one we need to guard against in the Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs this Saturday. Leaving space between the lines for Berahino to buzz around in is an absolute no-no and it’ll be interesting who Pochettino places at the base of our midfield.
What’s more being bullied by Victor Anichebe’s strength is a real concern. The burly centre forward gave us a torrid time on his appearance against us for Everton in a 2-2 draw at the Lane a couple of years ago. The deployment of someone like Federico Fazio is really a must here if Anichebe is on their team sheet.
3. Beating the central trio
Last time we saw a Tony Pulis side, the then Crystal Palace manager played with three central midfielders to take away Christian Eriksen’s space. The match was a predictably a struggle in the first half as his side stifled us. In the second period, repositioning Eriksen out to the left opened up the game with the Dane starting the scoring.
With the book on stopping us reading ‘stifle the centre,’ I wouldn’t bet against seeing a similar tactic from a Pulis’ team this time. Everton saw this trio at work as they huffed and puffed to try and create something, with scant reward.
4. Shots in the box
Tony Pulis has come in and worked on the Baggies’ shape and defensive organisation. They’ve kept three clean sheets in the four matches he has supervised since taking over and they’re doing it by drastically cutting down opponent’s shots in the box.
Stifling the centre and trying to tuck the full backs in has seen teams struggling to get in to good shooting positions. Everton had 17 attempts in West Brom’s last Premier League match, but just 6 were from inside the penalty area and 3 of those were blocked.
Hull too were only able to get 5 of their 12 efforts away from inside the box. 2 of those 5 were again blocked, leaving Ben Foster with just 3 saves to make.
Good shot quality is hard against Pulis sides and we need to take advantage of efforts from inside the penalty area, which will require clinical finishing.
An early goal would pull the Baggies out of their shape, but this could be an afternoon for patience.
5. Baggies’ set pieces
Tony Pulis sides are also renowned for being good at set pieces. Whilst they are yet to score from a dead ball situation, West Brom’s FA Cup tie with Birmingham indicated that they have been working on these.
The Baggies are not as strong aerially as his Stoke team were with Huth, Shawcross, N’Zonzi, Crouch and Jerome etc. But they do have good headers of the ball in Lescott, Anichebe and McAuley, supplied by excellent delivery from Brunt and Morrison.
The Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs needs to see us match-up on set piece situations and again players like Fazio will be invaluable here.
West Brom vs Spurs outlook
This will be a tougher fixture than if Alan Irvine had still been in charge. West Brom’s counter attacking approach had seen them struggle at home, but with Pulis now at the helm, they will be difficult to break down. They will also play with good energy to get forward with Berahino and Anichebe already striking up a good partnership.
With us having played an extremely tough and emotional cup-tie with Sheffield United midweek, we may also see a dip in performance levels. Mauricio Pochettino may well have to freshen things up and look to rotate the squad a little.
West Brom vs Spurs prediction: West Brom 1 Spurs 1.
West Brom vs Spurs betting
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