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Spurs vs West Brom: how to loosen the Baggies

Spurs vs West Brom is up next in our title chasing tilt, so we look at how to take on the Baggies.

The Baggies have been a banana skin for many sides whilst Tony Pulis has been in charge. Often tough to beat and difficult to break down, Pulis has instilled his usual functional and no-nonsense approach in to the team. While it might not always be pretty to watch, it has been productive and we can expect more of the same in Spurs vs West Brom on Monday night.

Where West Brom concede

Tony Pulis sides don’t score many, but they don’t concede often either. Only Aston Villa have scored fewer than the Baggies, but only six teams have conceded less then them too.

The issue for Pulis recently, and it’s a very un-Pulis problem, has been conceding to teams going straight through the centre. The Baggies boss likes two big strong centre backs and to force teams out in to wide areas to make them crossers of the ball. This then lets his centre halves hoover up the balls in to the box.

The issues recently have been two fold. Firstly, playing with effectively four centre backs across the backline – Chester, McAuley, Evans, Dawson – opponents have been able to get in through the centre.

Take their last Premier League away match at the Emirates where the Arsenal scored twice from going straight down the middle.

Alexis Sanchez received the ball and span Sandro to fire the first. Aaron Ramsey then trotted through the midfield and was fouled on the edge of the box, as he went straight at the central pairing. Sanchez put in the resulting free kick. On top of the goals, Arsenal also created a ton of other chances as they continued to try and find a way through the centre.

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Arsenal went through the centre against West Brom.

Another recent away trip saw the Baggies go up to Wearside and pull out a 0-0 draw with Sunderland. The Black Cats had 22 shots at goal as Defoe and co also went straight down the middle.

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Sunderland chances created against West Brom.

Dame N’Doye had the ball in the back of the net as he latched on to a miss-hit shot through a central crowd, but was offside.

The second issue to conceeding is two-fold. There is the space between the centre backs themselves coupled with room between the lines of defence and midfield.

The Sanchez goal highlighted the distance between Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley, as the pair often fails to operate as a unit. This means that opponents can go straight down the middle on them, as there is space to exploit between them.

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Sanchez exploits the space between the CBs to score.

We also exposed this space, albeit from a long ball forward, as Toby Alderweireld found Dele Alli on our goal up at the Hawthorns.

This area between the centre backs is more readily exposed as there is also space between the lines. Sanchez and Ramsey found this in West Brom’s last game, Kevin de Bruyne in Man City’s 2-1 win.

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Kevin De Bruyne exposes the space between the lines.

Teams that can get players in between the lines get straight on the room between the centre backs. This opens them up and the chances follow.

This should form a major part of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs West Brom on Monday night. With our plethora of players that like to float in here, we should be confident of creating chances. Christian Eriksen will have a big role to play once again, as will Dele Alli’s surging forward runs.

Stopping the cross

Tony Pulis has tried a couple of formations in recent matches, mainly due to injury to Salomon Rondon. He has played both 4-4-1-1 and a defensively minded 4-3-3 that employs two ball winners in Sandro and Claudio Yacob alongside Darren Fletcher.

In both formations, Pulis has his side play on the counter attack, but also look to cross the ball on the break. He combines a winger such as James McClean on one side, with an attacking forward in Stephane Sessegnon on the other.

Despite of having the lowest possession of any side in the Premier League (42%), the Baggies are one of the highest crossing teams. Only Man City, Crystal Palace and Southampton attempt more. In our 1-1 draw at the Hawthorns, West Brom only had 35% possession, but still attempted 23 crosses from open play, with James McClean scoring from one.

The key to stopping the Baggies is to press high in wide areas and force them back. This should play naturally in to our hands given the aggressive positioning that Kyle Walker and Danny Rose take. The only issues we may have are with Rondon’s strength to hold the ball up and Berahino’s pace to buzz around him when West Brom goes quickly from back to front.

Set piece specials

You wouldn’t expect to face a Tony Pulis side that weren’t strong at set pieces and his current West Brom team are no different. This season the Baggies have 8 goals directly from corners, not bad considering we lead the Premier League with 10.

The West Brom rearguard may be vulnerable to movement with four centre halves across the backline, but this also gives them an advantage at set pieces. Having four sizeable targets in the box, plus Salomon Rondon and Sandro, gives them plenty to aim for. Gareth McAuley planting a header against Arsenal’s bar Thursday night should’ve been pencilled down in Mauricio Pochettino’s notebook.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs West Brom should see us look to keep corners and free kicks around our box to a minimum. Mauricio Pochettino employs a hybrid of both man-to-man and zonal systems, which has at times been successful, but also exposed. We do have plenty of size and height to deal with the Baggies aerial threat. Plus, if West Brom are caught with numbers forward, it will create fast break opportunities, such as we saw on Kane’s goal against Stoke.

Spurs vs West Brom outlook

An early goal is always a good thing against a side like West Brom. They can be a very tricky opponent and patience is often key if they are proving difficult to break down.

What shouldn’t go unnoticed is that despite being frugal, the Baggies have conceded eleven times inside the first thirty minutes of games this season. Only West Ham and Aston Villa have allowed more in this time period. So, a concerted effort to start quickly and get on the score sheet early should be on the tactics board.

Spurs vs West Brom prediction: Spurs 3-0 West Brom.

Spurs vs West Brom betting

Given what we know about the Baggies, there are a few interesting selections around that are worth a flutter.

Goal before 26 minutes at 5/6 with Bet365.
HT/FT: Spurs/Spurs at 8/11 with Paddy Power.
Over 2.5 goals at 4/6 with Betfair.

COYS!



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2 Responses to Spurs vs West Brom: how to loosen the Baggies

  1. Reinert 23rd April 2016 at 2:50 pm #

    WBA matches us in strength back then (1-1), like no other PL-team has done this season. I am slightly worried. I would hope that our training staff is equally worried, and have our lads at the alert on monday.

    Well written!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 25th April 2016 at 12:16 pm #

      Yes, interested to see if Pulis does anything different tonight. Last time he went with Jonny Evans as a holding midfielder, so will be watching for any ‘stunts’ like this designed to hinder us.