With just four Premier League games to play, Felix Magath’s relegation threatened side come to White Hart Lane for Spurs vs Fulham.
The German coach has steadied the ship somewhat to give the Cottagers a fighting chance of staying up. So, what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham this time?
How Fulham concede
This is probably the best place to start given that Fulham have allowed 74 goals in the Premier League, by far the most of any team.
The problem has been two-fold.
Firstly, their best defender, Brede Hangeland has missed a large amount of time.
Secondly, the midfield combination of Steve Sidwell and Scott Parker hasn’t really worked. They both seem to make the same runs and don’t have the legs to recover anymore. Consequently, opponents were all too often getting behind them and were in on a patched up Fulham defence.
This saw the Cottagers give up a ton of chances through the middle, which is the worst area to give up goal scoring opportunities.
Since he has come in, Felix Magath has tried a few things to address this, but with little success earlier on in his reign.
Even up to just three games ago, Everton took care of Fulham by attacking the space between the lines and going through the middle.
The Toffees were in the ascendancy, but really tore in to the Cottagers, scoring three times after the introduction of Kevin Mirallas and Steven Naismith. The Scot revealed afterwards how Roberto Martinez had sent him on with the brief to get in to the pockets of space between the Fulham defence and midfield.
In his last two games in charge, Magath has changed his system once more to really concentrate on shutting teams out through the middle. He has gone with three centre backs and been able to re-introduce a defensive ball winner in Mahamadou Diarra.
This has now made them extremely tough to get through if the opponent tries to attack through the centre.
An example of this was against Norwich last weekend. Here Leroy Fer gets ambushed by four players as he tries to break through. The wingbacks, Riether and Richardson, are also tucked in and the three centre backs are sat in-wait behind to really congest this central zone.
Later on, Nathan Redmond also runs in to the same problem. Sascha Riether again tucking in makes the tackle, but once more Sidwell, Diarra and Holtby are in attendance with the three centre backs as a safety net behind.
Playing in his first two games of the season – the wins at Villa and Norwich – Mahamadou Diarra has been extremely effective. His ability to regain possession has been something that has been missing in midfield for Fulham and a large part of their recent success.
That’s not to say that Fulham are now a solid outfit and have solved their problems. The use of three centre backs, whilst congesting the centre, means that chances are now naturally coming from wider areas.
Aston Villa created several opportunities from getting in-behind in the wing back zones and cutting the ball back across the box.
Norwich also generated a number of good goal scoring opportunities from the flanks.
David Stockdale’s excellent reflex save from Ricky van Wolfswinkel after Marin Olsson got in-behind to cross was one. The Swedish full back also squaring for Robert Snodgrass, who saw his shot deflected wide by a diving combination of Hangeland and Ameorbieta, was another.
If Felix Magath once again goes with his three centre-back system, then the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham need to focus on playing with width. Getting in-behind their wingbacks will be key to creating chances.
Fulham counter attack
In making Fulham more resolute, Felix Magath also has them sitting deep and playing on the counter attack. During his time in charge, only Crystal Palace and West Ham have had less of the ball than Fulham’s 42% possession in matches.
This ploy sees the Cottagers look to move the ball quickly from back to front after a turnover.
This can be from going long, as Riether does in looking for the run of Rodallega here.
Or it can be from passing the ball forward quickly through the formation, as was the case on Kieran Richardson’s strike against Aston Villa the week prior.
Fulham got the ball rapidly up to Hugo Rodallega and three passes later it was in the back of the Villa net.
Rodallega has been instrumental in Fulham’s last two wins. His ability to not only hold the ball up, but also run in-behind, has seen him earn a recall to the line-up with Magath’s preference for getting the ball forward quickly on the counter.
Another danger has been Ashkan Dejagah. He has also been showing some good performances recently, but mainly from the bench. He has three goals since Magath has taken over, whilst also setting up Richardson’s strike at Villa. He also should have got on the score sheet against Norwich last weekend, blasting over a guilt-edged chance when clean through.
Drawing Fulham out
Fulham’s preference for sitting deep and counter attacking has been something Magath has instilled since taking over. Teams that have had success against them have drawn them out by dropping off themselves.
Fulham’s recent trip to Cardiff saw the Bluebirds do just this as they swept to a 3-1 win.
Everton are more of a natural pressing team, as Roberto Martinez has his side go in search of the ball to regain possession. However, in their recent win over Fulham, they too dropped off much more than usual.
The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Fulham should focus on trying to lure the Cottagers out by sitting slightly deeper ourselves. They could be very difficult to break through and with us failing to score early in matches this season, could make for a long and frustrating day.
The Lewis Holtby effect
Fulham’s revival has not only been linked with their ability to make it difficult for teams to get through the centre, but is also due to Lewis Holtby.
Our very own on-loan star has been central to most of the good things that the Cottagers have done going forward. His free kick set up Hugo Rodallega to take all three points at home to Norwich. A beautifully weighted chipped cross also saw the same combination connect for the winner the week prior at Aston Villa.
However, with the German being ineligible to play, Fulham have a serious hole to fill.
Spurs vs Fulham outlook
Fulham come here with a bit of form and also fighting for their lives, which makes them a dangerous opponent.
Going with Harry Kane and Emmanuel Adebayor may well play in to Magath’s hands if he decides to continue with three centre backs. Being overrun in the centre is also a concern if Tim Sherwood continues with the Paulinho and Nacer Chadli partnership.
The team news that Moussa Dembele is back is a welcome boost, but the key will be getting behind their wingbacks in the wide areas, so natural width will be crucial here.
We recently struggled at home to a Cardiff side that lined up with three centre backs.
The only goal of the game arrived in transition after the Bluebirds were drawn up the pitch for a corner. However, for much of the match our play was stifled by Cardiff sitting deep and congesting the centre as we failed to get wide.
The lessons from that game need to have been learned by Tim and the team and could prove valuable here.
Spurs vs Fulham prediction: Spurs 3 Fulham 1.