Tottenham tactics: West Brom vs Spurs preview (a)

After annihilating the Black Cats, this weekend sees us with a rare Saturday afternoon kick off, as we travel to the Hawthorns for West Brom vs Spurs.

The Baggies have struggled this season, as has new coach Pepe Mel. However, the signs are there that he is beginning to get his message across and their performances have been improving.

Steve Clarke’s side grabbed a 1-1 draw at the Lane, but what can we expect from Mel’s side and what should be the Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs this time?

West Brom’s quick transitions

When Pepe Mel came in, he took over a side that was very much set up to counter attack. This was the way of Steve Clarke and Roy Hodgson before him, but Mel tried to have them play an up-tempo pressing game.

The Spaniard opted for a twin striker approach and tried to have his side close down early. Without the high-energy players required for this, West Brom struggled. Interestingly, one of the players that would have been good in this system, Shane Long, was let go.

The Baggies suffered defeat after defeat on the road, whilst putting together a string of 1-1 draws at home in the Premier League. In their last four matches though, Pepe Mel has altered his set up and style.

The Spaniard has moved to either a 4-3-3 or 4-4-1-1 set up and has played a lot more on the counter attack, being content to concede possession. Last week they had just 31% of the ball in beating Norwich 1-0. In the 3-3 draw with Cardiff the week prior, in a game where they should have walked away with all three points, they had just 42% possession.

Mel’s style has also changed and the team now attempts to move the ball forward very quickly in transition. This isn’t aimless punts downfield or long high-ball football to a target man, but instead passes directly to the wide players either in-behind the defence or over the top.

A good example was West Brom’s last home match against Cardiff. The Baggies moved the ball from back-to-front very quickly, as you can see from the length of their passing lines in to the final third. These balls were aimed out to Morgan Amalfitano and Stephane Sessegnon out wide. Neither player is dominant in the air, but both are fairly quick over the ground, Sessegnon especially.


West Brom final third passes against Cardiff.

Amalfitano opened the scoring after the ball was sent forward from Ben Foster. It was deflected off the head of a Cardiff player, but the Frenchman continued his run to latch on to it and lob David Marshall in the Cardiff goal. The ball went from back to front in seconds.

Graham Dorrans then added another after a knock down from Matej Vydra. Again the ball was quickly played in-behind. The Czech was found running beyond the defence by a looping pass over the top by James Morrison.


Morrison lofts the ball over the top to Vydra.

Moving the ball quickly forward quickly like this was also in evidence against Norwich last weekend.

After possession was regained out on the touchline, Graham Dorrans looked to get the ball straight up to James Morrison.


Dorrans regains the ball and gets it to Morrison.

The Scottish international formed a nice triangle with Youssouf Mulumbu and Morgan Amalfitano to exchange passes between the trio and spring the Frenchman.

The Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs should be aware of the Baggies moving play quickly forward after creating a turnover. This invariable involves Sessegnon or Amalfitano trying to run in-behind. The high line that we’ve seen Tim Sherwood use may play in to the Baggies hands here.

The other notable thing about the goal at Norwich last weekend was West Brom trapping the Norwich full back 2v1 on the sideline. This has been another feature of their play recently.

West Brom trapping full backs

Pepe Mel did try and introduce a high pressing game when he arrived at the Hawthorns, but recently he has been trying to trap opposition full backs.

This was evident against Norwich, but also in West Brom’s last two home Premier League matches with Cardiff and Man Utd.

Against the Red Devils they were very aggressive in pursuing the ball when Man Utd moved it out to their full backs.


West Brom ball recoveries against Man Utd.

In the match with Cardiff, they were pressing higher up the field against a very defensive Bluebirds side that played with a back five and wingbacks.

They did however still trap the ball when it moved out in to the wide areas, especially as the wingbacks got forward.


West Brom ball recoveries against Cardiff.

The Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs need to be aware of this. This trapping has been effective and could give a player like Danny Rose problems, especially if he has Christian Eriksen drifting inside in front of him.

On the negative side, what this trapping has done is pull extra players over to one side of the field. This has left the Baggies open between the lines.

West Brom conceding chances

West Brom have allowed chances to be created against them in three different ways.

The first is from between the lines after trapping on one side of the field.

West Brom were exposed in this way by Man Utd, as the Baggies tried to trap Patrice Evra in the left back zone. The ball made it’s way to Wayne Rooney who was wide open between the lines and he fed in Danny Wellbeck to slot home.


Rooney gets open between the lines.

Cardiff also exposed West Brom in this way, as Jordan Mutch was wide open to curl home a glorious shot in the Baggies last home match.

The second method is from crosses that have come in from the full back areas, but in particular Steven Reid’s right back zone. Reid is not a natural full back, standing in for Billy Jones. He can be got at in order to supply crosses, as Man Utd did, getting in down his side.


Man Utd create from between the lines (1) and crossing (2).

Despite attacking Reid, Liam Ridgewell was caught playing too narrow on Man Utd’s second goal, as Rafael crossed for Wayne Rooney.

The third method the Baggies have conceded is from set pieces. Man Utd scored a header from free kick in their game with West Brom. Both Hull and Cardiff have scored from set pieces to make it three goals conceded from this method in West Brom’s last four matches.

The reason for this is that the Baggies often foul. Only three teams: Stoke, Aston Villa and us, have committed more fouls than West Brom in the Premier League since Pepe Mel has taken over.

West Brom vs Spurs outlook

Despite Pepe Mel’s poor record, not many teams have emerged from the Hawthorns with more than a point. Man Utd are the only team to have won in the Premier League there, as the other five visitors have left with a share of the spoils.

The team news that Kyle Walker remains out is a blow, as Danny Rose and Kyle Naughton will be subject to West Brom trying to pressure them. On the plus side, having speedy centre backs in Younes Kaboul and Vlad Chiriches should see them do well against West Brom’s quick transitioning of the ball forward.

Getting at their full backs is a must. Christian Eriksen has been drifting inside from the left, whilst Nacer Chadli has been moving out to the flanks from the centre. This inside-outside movement here could be very beneficial to see Chadli get at Steven Reid, whilst Eriksen has a field day between the lines.

West Brom vs Spurs prediction: West Brom 1 Spurs 2.

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2 Responses to Tottenham tactics: West Brom vs Spurs preview (a)

  1. Paulo 12th April 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    That’s the 8th game in a row we’ve conceded first and the 11th out of the last 12!

    #slow starters

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 13th April 2014 at 11:17 am #

      Spot on Paulo. I don’t really want to subscribe to the argument that they’ve mailed in this season, but it seems as if every game we are lethargic out the traps like some preseason runabout and then some kind of professional pride may or may not kick in. Thank goodness there are only 4 games left to go!