We return from the international break for West Brom vs Spurs at the Hawthorns, so we look at how to beat the Baggies.
It seems like an eternity since we beat Man City in our last Premier League match. With players jetting off all over the globe, a trip to the Hawthorns is not an ideal venue to come back to with so little preparation time. The Baggies have been going well under Tony Pulis this season, but opportunities exist to open them up. So, what and where are they and how should the Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs be planned?
Where West Brom concede chances
Tony Pulis sides are usually disciplined defensively and tough to break down. A goal per game conceded this term continues that trend. However, West Brom have been vulnerable to conceding chances, and goals, in two ways.
Centre back and defensive midfield cohesion
The first is through the centre back pairing of Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley. They are solid, but can either get caught on differing wavelengths or separated from one another.
Take West Brom’s last Premier League match, a 1-1 draw at Sunderland. Both McAuley and Evans got sucked in towards Duncan Watmore, allowing Jermain Defoe in for a glorious 1v1 chance.
The problem is often due to Claudio Yacob in front of them. He can get dragged about and it leaves space between the lines.
Later in the same game and Sunderland equalised. Yacob and Darren Fletcher get caught square and on the same level as each other, making them easy to play through. This gives Duncan Watmore plenty of space between the lines. It also gives McAuley and Evans a choice of whether to close the ball down or retreat. They both backed off and this gave Watmore even more space.
Watmore then drives at the defence, separating the centre backs, clearing an avenue for Patrick van Aanholt, the original passer, to run in down and score.
The lack of cohesion caused by the space opening up between the lines does see the centre backs either drawn to or away from the ball. This can often see great gaps open up either between or in front of them.
Left back issues
The second weak spot in the West Brom defence is the left back zone. This has been a problem position for Tony Pulis throughout his time at the Hawthorns. He’s used a number of unnatural left backs there including Chris Brunt and Jonny Evans. Brendan Galloway was brought in, but Allan Nyom, a more natural right back, is the current incumbent.
Opponents have been able to get in to Nyom’s zone and create chances. Stoke’s goal in their 1-1 draw with the Baggies was a perfect example. Nyom was slow to get out and close down the cross. He had become widely separated from the rest of his back four with James McClean not tracking Xherdan Shaqiri.
The problems in the middle with the centre backs and Claudio Yacob compounded this. McAuley and Evans tracked Arnautovic and Crouch, which somehow also saw Claudio Yacob doubling up on the Austrian at the near post. Yacob’s lax positioning once more left space between the lines, this time for eventual scorer Joe Allen.
Getting in to and around the space where Claudio Yacob should be has unsettled the West Brom defence this season. This should form a major part of the Tottenham tactics for West Brom vs Spurs. Our new 4-1-4-1 setup should help us get Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen in to these spaces between the lines, creating opportunities to attack the centre back pairing with driving runs and through balls.
West Brom have been vulnerable from set plays this season. They’ve already conceded three times in the Premier League from two corners and a penalty.
West Ham and Everton have both profited from attacking and winning corners down the Baggies’ left, the more porous side of their defence. Kyle Walker and Moussa Sissoko will need to force the issue down this flank.
Spurs led the Premier League in goals from set plays with 18 last season. We have really struggled in this campaign with just one so far. There will be chances to get this figure moving in the right direction on Saturday.
However, West Brom continues to be a danger at set pieces. They have four goals already this term from set plays, one behind Everton.
The Baggies do a number of things well at set plays. They have a ton of height, which is the first problem, but they are also very co-ordinated. They’ll often get men in and around the opposing goalkeeper to pin and keep him from coming for the ball. The Baggies also run well off screens, as Salomon Rondon did for his goal from a corner at Stoke. Being first to win flick-ons also sees them wreak havoc. Pulis, as Sam Allardyce does, likes to get multiple players inside the six yard box to win the knockdowns and second balls, so expect that here.
This is a concern for us as the three goals we’ve conceded this term have all come from set plays. Mauricio Pochettino’s man and zonal hybrid scheme can be exposed if the opposition can get at our three-man zone across the six-yard box.
Danger men: Chadli and Phillips
Nacer Chadli has hit the ground running since his club record transfer to West Brom. Often playing in from the left at Spurs, Tony Pulis is using him in a central position and it is paying dividends. Chadli’s ability to run the channels has seen him notch three goals and add two assists in the Premier League.
A bit more under the radar and Matty Phillips is also impressing. Tony Pulis is using the former QPR man as a frequent outlet on the counter attack. From there Phillips can put in crosses or drift inside to play through balls for Chadli and Rondon running the channels.
His performance against Sunderland highlighted just this. He fed Chadli for the opening goal (yellow arrow) and put in a number of dangerous crosses (cyan arrows) that led to shots.
Danny Rose or Ben Davies will have their hands full covering West Brom’s best outlet when the ball is turned over.
Will Pulis spring a surprise?
This fixture usually sees Tony Pulis do something different. Last season we saw him move Jonny Evans in to a defensive midfield role to combat Mousa Dembele at the Hawthorns.
In the return at White Hart Lane, he went with a very narrow back four and used his wide players, McClean and Sessegnon, as auxiliary full backs.
Tony Pulis did this to combat Toby Alderweireld’s long diagonals, whilst also mitigating our own full backs’ ability to attack these spaces. In front of what became a back six, Pulis had three central midfielders to combat the pockets of space that we like to play in. This frustrated Alli, Lamela and Eriksen who had no space in the middle.
Will Tony Pulis spring another surprise for West Brom vs Spurs this season? The first indicators will be when the team sheets are handed in.
West Brom vs Spurs outlook
Trips to the Hawthorns are never easy, but especially off the back of an international break. We do have a good record there though, winning three and drawing three of our last six Premier League meetings.
The key for Spurs will be getting in to the central zones around Claudio Yacob to expose his errant positioning. This will get us easily on the West Brom centre backs and should create chances. Whether Tony Pulis drafts in help for Yacob or sets up to deny this will be something to watch for.
West Brom vs Spurs prediction: West Brom 0-1 Spurs.