After our trip to the San Siro, we’ve got another important game on the horizon in the Premier League with Spurs vs Fulham at White Hart Lane.
The Cottagers are steadily improving under Martin Jol this season and also recently on their travels, usually the scourge of many a Fulham team.
Of their last four away days, they’ve won once, drawn twice and only lost at Man City. They’ve also not done too badly when travelling in London, having drawn at Arsenal and Chelsea, with only QPR and West Ham having beaten them earlier on in the season.
So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham this time?
The way Fulham play
The Cottagers are very much a 4-4-1-1 side with Bryan Ruiz playing off Dimitar Berbatov.
Last season they used Clint Dempsey to cut inside from the left flank, but this term without the American they have been much more balanced. Damien Duff and Ashkan Dejagah currently fill the wide positions and have the potential to switch sides, giving Fulham more options in attack.
Going forward they opt to play through balls rather than looking to cross. Only Aston Villa and QPR attempt less crosses per match than Fulham; on the flip side they sit second in the Premier League for chances created by going through the centre.
Without the ball, Ruiz drops in to create a five-man midfield, as Fulham look to play deep and hit Dimitar Berbatov on the counter. Amongst the amazing things he can do with the ball, the Bulgarian can never really be relied upon to bring an energetic pressing game.
Stopping Dimitar Berbatov
With his sublime skills, magnificent first touch to bring virtually any ball under control and also deadly finishing, Dimitar Berbatov is often a joy to watch.
The key to his game is movement. Not sharp, quick, darting runs, but more of a languid flow around the pitch, as Berba is not often in a hurry. His movement makes him difficult to mark, as he drifts from side-to-side, often coming short to receive possession and link the play. Then he moves forward looking for a return pass to put him in down the channels.
We can see this in his last couple of away games, where he receives long balls played forward from the back and clearances out of defence. Berbatov’s ability to win the ball and hold it up is often under-rated.
He then comes short in wider areas or drops off the front in order to build the play by linking with the midfield. His movement in this phase of the game makes him difficult to mark.
Finally, he looks for balls played through to him going in the penalty area, or for a return from a one-two. Berbatov can dribble past defenders, but without breakaway speed. Inside the penalty area though, it creates the space he needs for a finish.
Fulham playing to Berbatov’s strengths is very much the reason why they create the majority of their chances through the centre and attempt relatively few crosses.
Fulham concede from wide
Fulham score their goals through the middle, but concede from wide areas. This is mostly because of John Arne Riise looking to get forward, with the majority of goals conceded through his left back zone. However, Sascha Riether also likes to get up the pitch from right back and teams can get in behind him too.
In their last two away trips, they’ve allowed chances to be created from both full back zones.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham here should see us look to get Aaron Lennon in behind John Arne Riise. Gylfi Sigurdsson tends to come inside more on to his stronger right foot, but he may do well to play wider here to get in behind Sascha Riether.
Press for success
Teams that have success against Fulham have pressed them high up the pitch. The fact that the Cottagers sit deep and play on the counter can be used against them if you can stop them getting the ball out.
Fulham went 2-0 up at the Stadium of Light in their last away match; then when Sunderland decided to hem them in, the Black Cats scored twice. Fulham were also trounced at Liverpool just before Christmas, again victim to a team that presses high in order to quickly win the ball back.
Fulham’s recent away successes have come against teams that also sit back and play on the counter – Norwich, West Brom and the first half against Sunderland. The last team to beat them on their travels, Man City, are again another team that presses.
Due to the trouble that we’ve had with teams that sit back this season, the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham should see us look to press them. In that way, we can win the ball back quickly, not giving their defence a chance to settle.
Spurs vs Fulham outlook
After extra time at the San Siro, we should see several changes to the Spurs line-up here. Hugo Lloris, Michael Dawson, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Gareth Bale should all come back in and be fresh from having been rested in Milan. Whilst Aaron Lennon, Jermain Defoe and Lewis Holtby only played part of the 120 minutes in Italy, so should be in good shape.
Captain Michael Dawson has a focus on returning to winning ways after defeats against Liverpool and Inter.
“We’ve had two disappointing results, even though we went through against Inter. We’re all looking at Fulham now. They are a good team who play some great football but we’re back at the Lane, we’re confident and hopefully we’ll get the three points.”
It will be difficult as Fulham haven’t played for two weeks. They will be fresh, but also may lack match sharpness. This still won’t be an easy match though, as the Cottagers will come and look to play on the counter. We will need to press them high, which requires plenty of energy that may not be in the tank after Thursday night’s exertions.
Dimitar Berbatov will be the danger man once again, but Bryan Ruiz is very effective at picking him out with through balls and can’t be underestimated.
What we can be sure of is that they’ll be looking to fashion chances through the centre. However, Dimitar Berbatov is not a flyer, whilst Duff and Dejagh are not exactly speedsters either, so they may struggle to get in behind our high line.
This could well be a tight one, snuck by the odd goal.
Spurs vs Fulham prediction Spurs 1 Fulham 0