Spurs 1 West Brom 1
Andre Villas-Boas’s first home game in charge saw another encouraging performance. A good first hour then saw the lads ran out of puff, with James Morrison pouncing at the death to make the final score Spurs 1 West Brom 1.
Just as at Newcastle last weekend in the 2-1 defeat, there were more encouraging signs that the team was coming around to the new manager’s style of play. However, just like last week, as the fitness faded, the opposition came more in to the game and we suffered another late goal.
We identified James Morrison as the danger man in our ‘5 keys to Spurs v West Brom’ preview. As the clock ticked in to injury time, he pounced after sustained West Brom pressure, denying AVB and the boys our first three points of the season.
Spurs formation and attack
Spurs once again went with a 4-2-3-1 with Sandro and Jake Livermore at the base of midfield.
The only change from the game at Newcastle was to bring in Rafael van der Vaart for Gylfi Sigurdsson, as AVB still doesn’t look like using both in the same line-up.
Rafael van der Vaart really changed the game for Spurs last week in the 2-1 defeat to Newcastle. He was dropping deeper than the Icelander, to link the play more effectively between Sandro and Livermore and the attacking players. This could have been AVB’s reasoning for bringing him in here.
Compared to a balanced attack against Newcastle where we went 34% down the left flank and 35% down the right, this match saw us really skewed to the right.
Gareth Bale was still a threat down the left, but we seemed focussed on getting the ball through Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker on the right.
The reason for this was two-fold. First of all, West Brom seemed to be intent on stopping Gareth Bale, as we’ll look at in a minute. Secondly, this was probably to also attack Liam Ridgewell and to force him back.
In our ‘5 keys to Spurs vs West Brom,’ we saw how the Baggies were using Ridgewell to overlap and get crosses in against Liverpool. The effect of going at him meant that he was unable to really get forward in this match, as we can see from his passing chart on Stats Zone.
West Brom sits deep
As expected, West Brom sat deep and soaked up pressure. Spurs had 59% possession in the game to the Baggies’ 41% and all-bar two of their interceptions and three tackles were made in their own half.
This had the effect of forcing us to shoot from outside, with 14 of our 22 attempts being from outside the box. This included Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s goal, which flew in via a deflection after West Brom failed to clear Gylfi Sigurdsson’s corner.
West Brom not only sat back, but also seemed intent on stopping Gareth Bale getting down the left at them. This also contributed to our going down the right 40% of the time, but despite this, our Welsh wing-wizard was the source of most of our chances and good creative play.
Gareth Bale is the our most destructive force
West Brom tried to stop him, but Gareth Bale was our most potent weapon until the game evened up in the second half. Bale was looking to receive the ball wide and attack full back Steven Reid.
Of our 16 chances created in the game, the Welshman was responsible for a third, as he was able to generate 5 good scoring chances from getting down the left flank and cutting the ball back.
He was also looking the most likely player to score, with five strikes at the target.
The only downside to Bale’s game was his crossing. He made only 2 of 9 balls in to the box, highlighting our need to get Adebayor fit and up to speed.
I’ve written before about how Andre Villas-Boas had Chelsea as the second highest crossing team in the Premier League when looking at the play of Jermain Defoe.
In our 2-1 defeat to Newcastle last week, we made 5 of 24 crosses; against West Brom we faired little better, as we completed 5 of 23 crosses. We were 4 of 18 without Emmanuel Adebayor on the pitch and 1 of 5 after he came on, so the ratio of completions remained at around 20%.
If Andre Villas-Boas remains intent on us working the ball from side-to-side and playing crosses, we need to get Emmanuel Adebayor match fit and quickly.
Rafael van der Vaart and Romelu Lukaku are key substitutions
Spurs dominated the first half, but as the demands of playing a high-pressing game started to take their toll, West Brom came back in to it. The game pretty much swung on two substitutions as one key man went off and another entered the fray.
Rafael van der Vaart was dropping in to link up the play on the right hand side, but after he went off on 62 minutes, Spurs’ good performance went with him.
Whilst van der Vaart was on the pitch, Spurs created 16 of their 22 shots at goal and 12 of their 16 scoring chances. The Dutchman was beginning to look tired, but after he went off, West Brom came back in to it as they unleashed the dangerous Romelu Lukaku.
West Brom bullied the Spurs backline with long balls up to Lukaku and also over the top as they started to expose our high line and tired legs. The most notable time was after Jermain Defoe had put the ball in the net, but was flagged for being offside. West Brom didn’t waste anytime and fired a long ball to Lukaku who forced an excellent save from Brad Friedel.
James Morrison becomes the danger man
As we looked at in our ‘5 keys to Spurs vs West Brom’ James Morrison was the key man for the Baggies and for most of the game we had him in check. Morrison was able to get up the field and drop in to the inside left channel against Liverpool, but here he was being forced deep by our possession and pressing.
If we look at where he was getting the ball in the first 62 minutes when van der Vaart was on and Spurs were dominating the game. Then compare it to the last 28 minutes when the Dutchman was off and Romelu Lukaku was on, we can see how Morrison comes more in to the game.
He eventually scores the equaliser from his furthest forward pass received, highlighted by the yellow line.
The last 10 minutes
Leading up to James Morrison’s equaliser, the game was increasingly being played in the Tottenham penalty area.
Before their goal, Spurs had cleared twice off the line and Morrison struck after Gareth Bale’s miscued clearance was worked to him by Youssouf Mulumbu.
The pressure had been building though and in the last ten minutes, West Brom had 6 shots at goal – they had only taken 7 shots in the 80 minutes prior.
We were scrambling to keep them out by this stage as the fatigue had really set in. Five of their shots in the last ten minutes were blocked in the box, highlighting the last ditch defending, the sixth proved to be the backbreaker, making it Spurs 1 West Brom 1.
Plenty of positives can be taken from the display and Andre Villas-Boas was upbeat and also a bit frustrated after the game.
“It’s frustrating because the first half was extremely good and we could have got something that would have given us more confidence to approach the second half,”
“The football in the first half was extremely good, side to side, creating through crosses, having opportunities. We have to improve on our efficiency and deadliness in front of goal, we’ll focus on that during the week and our consistency defensively.”
Spurs 1 West Brom 1 conclusion
Again we were left with a good performance, but not the result we were wanting. The positives are there and it looks as if the players are getting to grips with the manager’s style and tactics.
Sandro and Jake Livermore again looked like they shouldn’t be playing at the base of the double pivot and someone needs to come in with a bit more creativity. It didn’t work last season with Sandro alongside Scott Parker and seems to be having the same effect of not really helping us either going forward nor that much defensively.
There is a big week ahead for Spurs, not only for the players in place, but also the new additions prior to the transfer window closing.
Final Score: Spurs 1 West Brom 1