Stoke vs Spurs is up next for us in the Premier League, so we look at how to take on Mark Hughes’ team.
There is supposed to be no greater test in football than a trip to the Britannia on a cold, wet Wednesday night. If that is indeed the barometer, then we have passed it with flying colours in recent seasons, despite it not always being midweek, winning on four of our last five Premier League visits.
Mark Hughes has his side playing well again as they go for their best ever Premier League points total. We still have the small matter of Europa League qualification to play for and we get set to do it all again on Saturday.
So, what can we expect and what should we be on the lookout for in Stoke vs Spurs this time?
Where Stoke concede chances
Stoke concede chances in one of two ways.
The first is via a method not usually associated with a Stoke side. In previous seasons, the Potters have had the aerially powerful Robert Huth and Ryan Shawcross at centre back. With Huth now gone, Philipp Wollscheid and Marc Wilson have partnered Shawcross and the centre back pairing is vulnerable to teams that can get in-behind and cross.
Wollscheid has positioning issues and doesn’t look up to the speed of the English game just yet. Wilson, who will be suspended on Saturday, is undersized. What it has lead to is that teams who can get round the back and put balls in to the box have had success, usually by exposing Shawcross’ partner or by getting additional bodies in to the box that can pull on to or past the full back on the opposite side.
In Stoke’s last home game, Sunderland were the visitors and took the lead straight away by exposing Wollscheid’s positioning. Will Buckley got in-behind in the left back zone in order to cross.
Connor Wickham was marked by Wollscheid whilst Shawcross matched up on Jermain Defoe. As Buckley’s cross came in, Wollscheid was in position on Wickham, but as Asmir Begovic came and spilled the cross, he lost the Sunderland man and was caught watching as the striker stabbed the ball home.
Wollscheid’s positioning has seen him pulled out of the firing line for Marc Wilson, as he was last weekend at Swansea. The South Wales side highlighted the other way you can cross the ball on Stoke, by getting men forward and putting the ball on to or outside of their full backs.
Jonjo Shelvey created the first, by again crossing from the left back zone. Marvin Emnes occupied the centre backs, as Jefferson Montero stole inside right back Phil Bardsley to nod Swansea in to the lead.
Swansea then added a second as Modou Barrow this time got in to the left back zone and his cross picked out Shelvey coming in at the back post beyond the Stoke right back once more.
Shelvey’s layoff was swept home by Ki Sung-Yueng to wrap up the points for the South Wales side.
In Spurs 1 Stoke 2 at White Hart Lane in the Premier League earlier in the season, we also profited from getting a player outside of the narrow full back. Nacer Chadli pulled away beyond the full back to smash home Danny Rose’s cross.
Crossing to players pulling away from the full backs is one way to score against Stoke; the other is to get the ball forward quickly in counter attacks.
Sunderland did this well in their 1-1 draw with Stoke. With the game tied, Jermain Defoe should’ve given the Black Cats the lead as the ball was swept long downfield to him after a Stoke turnover. Again, Wollscheid was at fault with his positioning in misjudging it, allowing the former Spurs man in.
Defoe wastefully spanked his shot in to the side netting and let Stoke off the hook.
But it wasn’t just Sunderland. Crystal Palace were the last team to win at the Britannia in the Premier League and they too did it by getting the ball forward quickly in transition.
Their first came from a dubious penalty call, but the ball was lofted over the top for Yannick Bolasie to run on to.
Their second came from a Glenn Murray flick on after the ball was sent downfield from goalkeeper Julian Speroni. Wilfried Zaha ran on to the flick and coolly slotted home.
The reason Stoke are vulnerable to this tactic is that at home they come out and play much more than the counter attack team that they are on the road. Combine this with the fact that their backline doesn’t have great speed and teams that quickly move the ball forward can get them at.
The Tottenham tactics for Stoke vs Spurs should focus on getting the ball in to positions whereby we can cross and pull men off the full backs. Nacer Chadli is very good at this and looks a decent bet at 10/1 for the first goal.
We should also be looking to move quickly forward in transition. We had a lot of success doing this against Manchester City last weekend, as we sought to hit Harry Kane, Nacer Chadli and Erik Lamela early. More of the same is required.
Q: What do Sunderland, Swansea and Crystal Palace all have in common?
A: All three have beaten or taken points off Stoke recently and all of them have given the Potters trouble by playing 4-3-3.
The reason that this formation gives Stoke problems is that the wide forwards can put crosses in to the box. The forward on the other side can then pinch in and look to take advantage of the Stoke full back on his side by beating him to the ball or pulling off him in to space.
What’s more, you have three runners in transition to look for the ball to be played quickly up to or off in order to expose the lack of speed in Stoke’s back line.
Mauricio Pochettino did use this formation a lot in his time at Southampton and he should be looking to go back to it in Stoke vs Spurs this Saturday.
Drawing Stoke out
Teams that have done well at the Britannia have given Stoke enough space to pull them out. They then win the ball back and find that space quickly.
Crystal Palace were the last team to win there and they used the speed and dribbling ability of Bolasie and Zaha to hit Stoke in transition.
Prior to them, Manchester City were the last team to win at the Britannia in the Premier League back in February. The Citizens were content to yield possession, having just 49%, but drew Stoke out and then used Aguero’s speed and love of the ball in-behind to torch them 4-1.
What was interesting in this game was Manuel Pellegrini’s use of Fernando and Fernandinho as physical ball winners in midfield. The pair regained possession then got it to the more creative and attacking players to do their damage.
Mauricio Pochettino should look at doing something similar with our midfield in Stoke vs Spurs this Saturday. Players like Dembele and Paulinho should be up for consideration in here along with Nabil Bentaleb.
Key Man: Charlie Adam
Charlie Adam has long been the scourge of Spurs for injuring our players. At the minute he is Stoke’s key man with not just his goals, but also his crossing and deliveries from free kicks, which, like his tackling, have been extremely dangerous.
Stoke vs Spurs outlook
This will be another tough away day against a Stoke side that are playing well at home.
The key will be getting the ball in to wide areas and looking to expose the positioning of Wollscheid, whilst also getting men on to their full backs.
Stoke vs Spurs prediction: Stoke 1-2 Spurs.
Stoke vs Spurs betting
I quite fancy Nacer Chadli to open the scoring here and for there to be over 2.5 goals.
Stoke vs Spurs line-up
Given what we know about Stoke and their weaknesses, this is how I would line-up with the current team news.