After rescuing a point at Norwich midweek, Sunday sees a trip to the Hawthorns for West Brom vs Spurs.
The Baggies started exceptionally well this season, but have fallen away a bit recently, especially at home. QPR and Fulham have both taken three points from their travels to the Hawthorns, whereas Aston Villa shared the spoils last time out.
When we met West Brom at the Lane earlier in the campaign, we huffed and puffed in to a deserved 1-0 lead. However, as the strain of playing a pressing game started to tell and Romelu Lukaku was released on to the pitch, the match swung and finished Spurs 1 West Brom 1.
So what should we be looking out for and what should be the Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs this Sunday?
West Brom’s marauding full backs
It’s probably best to start at the back and work our way forward, as that is how West Brom build the play. Their most dangerous weapons may be James Morrison and Romelu Lukaku as we’ll look at in a minute, but their marauding full backs do a lot of the damage in order to set them up.
Billy Jones and Liam Ridgewell have been in and out of the West Brom line up with injury this season, but both should start on Sunday.
The Baggies use a 4-2-3-1 formation, but the outside players in front of the double pivot of Yacob and Brunt usually tuck inside to support James Morrison. This leaves the full backs free to overlap and bomb-on down the line.
From here, they can and do cross, but are usually looking for opportunities to cut in to the area, especially the right back Jones, where they can deliver lower driven balls.
If we look at West Brom’s recent match with Fulham, we can see how they both get high up the field to receive the ball in wide positions outside the box.
The Baggies goal in that match came from Billy Jones receiving the ball wide and cutting in towards the penalty area, squaring for Lukaku to score.
The Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs here should be to not to get sucked inside, most likely by Graham Dorrans and Jerome Thomas, in the wider midfield positions. This would leave our full backs one-on-one with theirs and in for a long afternoon.
James Morrison the playmaker
James Morrison scored the Baggies’ equaliser against us at the Lane and he is a threat to pull the strings across the West Brom midfield.
His passing is excellent and his frequent targets include the diagonal runs of Romelu Lukaku as we’ll look at next, but he also feeds the full backs’ forward runs as we saw before.
He often favours the right side of the pitch to operate, as we can see in his last two home matches with Fulham and Aston Villa. His passing is always direct, with a purpose to either move it wide to a full back like Billy Jones, or to feed it in to Romelu Lukaku in the penalty area.
A player like James Morrison can really test your central midfield as a result of Dorrans and Thomas also coming inside to create overloads in this area. Spurs may do well to go with a midfield three in this zone, with Scott Parker picking him up whenever possible.
The dangerous Romelu Lukaku
West Brom had just signed Romelu Lukaku on loan when we met them in our second Premier League match of the season. He emerged from the bench to bully our back line that day and since then has become a fixture in the Baggies’ starting line-up.
He is a physical presence who West Brom like to hit with long balls, but he is also able to play with the ball to feet. This is a good part of his game, given that the Baggies are not big on crossing and when they do, play a lot of low driven ones.
He favours the left side of the pitch over the right. If we look at the Baggies’ last two home matches on stats zone, we can see this left-sided focus.
Against Fulham he receives long balls played forward from goalkeeper Ben Foster. He then gets a lot of passes played in to him down the left flank in the opposition full back zone. Up at the penalty area, he favours passes through the inside channels, with balls played vertically in down the left side and diagonally through from the right. He also has the aerial ability to get on crosses and a couple of corners. His goal comes from a short square pass from marauding full back Billy Jones.
At home to Aston Villa, he does come out to the right side of the formation this time to get up on the full back this side, but the left is once again his main focus. Once up at the penalty area, the inside left channel once again sees more vertical passes for him to run on to, whereas diagonal balls come through the inside right channel.
Romelu Lukaku will be a major threat once again on Sunday. William Gallas had a lot of problems with him at the Lane, as did Jan Vertonghen. I’d expect the Tottenham tactics for him here would be to go with the more physically adept Michael Dawson, perhaps alongside Steven Caulker.
Spurs scoring from set pieces
West Brom like to drop off and play compact, inviting the opposition on to them, then hitting on the counter. The problem with this for the Baggies is that they concede possession and also fouls.
Teams have had success from the resulting free kicks and corners they’ve gained against West Brom. As a result, only QPR and Stoke have given up more chances from set pieces in the Premier League this season.
Spurs have been scoring from set pieces this term, with 9 of our goals in the Premier League arriving this way. Five have been from corners, which is why I mentioned Steven Caulker earlier as a possible partner for Michael Dawson. Both players have scored from corners this campaign, as well as being threats from free-kicks – Caulker scored against Man City and Dawson away to Panathinaikos to name just a couple.
Whilst looking to put balls in to the box from corners and free kicks, Gareth Bale is extremely dangerous with his dead ball efforts due to his ‘Ronaldo style run-up.’ We’ve seen him give several keepers trouble already this season and he should get more opportunities on Sunday.
West Brom vs Spurs outlook
Despite West Brom’s fall-off in form, this will be a tough game on Sunday. Spurs should control possession and will get chances from set plays.
West Brom will look to use their full backs to in behind us and Gareth Bale, who could find himself doubled up on again, can’t get sucked inside to allow Billy Jones one-on-one with Benni.
James Morrison will look to pull the strings for the Baggies in midfield, but a solid defensive trio of Parker, Dembele and Holtby could see us control this area.
Romelu Lukaku will be a handful up front and whilst Gallas and Vertonghen struggled against him last time, Dawson and Caulker should be the better choice here. This is both for defensive reasons and also the fact that both provide an aerial threat from set pieces.
West Brom vs Spurs prediction: West Brom 1 Spurs 1