West Brom 0-3 Spurs: destructive Dembele and misguided subs

A great performance at the Hawthorns sees us emerge victorious, as our Premier League clash finishes West Brom 0-3 Spurs with Mousa Dembele key.

This was never going to be an easy game after the late, dramatic victory over Sheffield United, but an excellent performance saw us emerge with all three points.

The key to much of it was the positioning and play of Mousa Dembele, which blew the match open. Tony Pulis then shot his side in the foot with some overly aggressive changes that allowed Harry Kane to wrap the match up with it finishing West Brom 0-3 Spurs.

West Brom’s central trio

Tony Pulis talked before this game about how West Brom needed to win their home matches and here he went with an aggressive version of 4-4-1-1.

Saido Berahino played off Victor Anichebe, and as we looked at in the keys to West Brom vs Spurs, tried to have the youngster play two roles. He wanted to get Berahino free between the lines and up in support of Anichebe in attack, but in the defensive phase, Pulis wanted him to drop in. This was to get three central players in midfield along with Morrison and Yacob.


Berahino gets in to form a central trio.

The problem is that Berahino is not the most defensively minded of players and often he was lagging. This saw him failing to shield his central midfield colleagues.


Berahino lagging and out of position.

This left Yacob and Morrison to contend with our trio of Paulinho, Mason and Dembele, who simply overran them in this zone, Dembele especially.

Dembele blows the game open

Just as we’ve become accustomed to in matches now, we started quickly and looked to close down early. The pressing from the front was forcing West Brom back or having to clear long, which meant that we dominated possession.

When we had it, Mousa Dembele was unleashing his dribble drives with the ball and the Baggies’ midfield just simply couldn’t handle him. With just 6 minutes on the clock, he blew past Claudio Yacob as if he weren’t even there and the Argentinean lunged in to foul him in the act of shooting.


Dembele bursts between Yacob and Morrison.

The problem the Baggies had in the build up was that Berahino was lagging behind the play as Dembele blew through the space between Morrison and Yacob.


Berahino lagging behind.

Berahino drifting back meant there was one less player in here and so no screen or protection for Morrison and Yacob.

Christian Eriksen curled in another delicious free kick that Ben Foster tried his best to claw away, but couldn’t get enough on it to keep it from flying in. Eriksen’s set piece against Sheffield United involved a nice routine with a fake from Eric Dier, who was acting as a decoy, ducking in the wall. Here Paulinho lined up in amongst the West Brom players and his neat side step opened up the lane to send the ball through.


Paulinho shifts to create the lane.

Eriksen is fast becoming a master of dead ball situations, but the routines going in to them are good indicators that we are working at these on the training ground.

With us taking such an early lead, it was interesting to watch if Tony Pulis was going to change his tactics away from the counter attacking game. He was noticeably shouting at Berahino to get back in and help his midfield out, but West Brom could do little to stop our waves of pressure.

One soon became two and again it came from Dembele getting on the wrong side of Berahino and in to the space behind the West Brom midfield. As Dembele received the ball and drove in-behind, Callum McManaman was wildly gesturing to say where the heck was his midfield with Berahino and Morrison wrong side.


Berahino caught behind and Morrison is awol.

Dembele burst forward in to the space, driving at the back four. We’d looked at Andre Wisdom’s right back zone being an area of weakness for the Baggies in the keys to West Brom vs Spurs and Harry Kane had peeled off in to this area.


Kane peels off wide of Wisdom.

In one touch, Kane took control of the ball and brought it back inside Wisdom, before unleashing a vicious shot in to the net at Ben Foster’s near post.

Kane and Eriksen were on the score sheet, but Mousa Dembele’s driving runs with the ball in-behind the West Brom midfield had put the Baggies in a huge hole.

West Brom counters and set pieces

West Brom were on the back foot, but the game could’ve turned out much differently, more like last years 3-3, if they hadn’t run in to Hugo Lloris. They had three good chances and all arrived via counter attack or set pieces.

Getting the ball forward quickly was the key and their first good chance came when they were able to get it out to Victor Anichebe. The big centre forward received the ball on halfway and turned Jan Vertonghen as the Belgian made an ill-advised challenge.


Vertonghen’s challenge puts him out of position.

There was no real need for Vertonghen to go to ground, as this left James Morrison free to run in to the space he would’ve occupied.


Vertonghen out of position allows Morrison in.

Morrison received the ball and sent a curling drive towards the top corner that Hugo somehow managed to tip over with his cat-like reactions.

West Brom had two more good opportunities and both would arrive from set pieces. Tony Pulis’ sides are renowned for being well drilled at dead ball situations and here they were unlucky with both efforts.

The first came after they got the ball quickly forward to Anichebe again. This time he was matched up on the much stronger Fazio and the Argentinean was proving a tough opponent for him. Anichebe had been able to shrug and hold off Vertonghen, but the Argentinean on the other hand, was proving a difficult mountain to move. Anichebe earned a very soft and fortunate free kick, leading to Claudio Yacob being the next to be thwarted by Lloris.

The set piece play was neatly worked as the ball was pinged in a triangle to Saido Berahino running in-behind towards the byline. His pull back picked out Yacob, but a scuffed shot saw Lloris get down quickly to his right and push the danger away.

The move highlighted Pulis’ inventive set-piece mind, but their next one was much more conventional. A whipped in ball from Chris Brunt saw Craig Dawson rise above Harry Kane and plant a header against the bar.

Misguided subs

We’d dominated possession in the first half with a whopping 65% at the interval, but West Brom had created some very good sporadic chances. All that was undone as Tony Pulis went very aggressive much too early with his changes.

We’d come out in the second half and again tried to press and rush West Brom in to errors. Mauricio Pochettino also made a very curious change. Just as against Sheffield United on Wednesday, he took off the highly influential presence of Mousa Dembele. In midweek, this released the up-field pressure off Sheffield United and they came storming back in to the game. The same switch here made you wonder whether it was going to happen again?

However, at the same time, Tony Pulis went extremely gung-ho with his changes. Wisdom and McManaman went off as Gardner and Ideye were brought on and West Brom went to a back three.

The move was extremely attacking to get Ideye up alongside Berahino and Anichebe, but also left huge gaps down the sides of his three centre backs. Just minutes after the change was made, Christian Eriksen was able to get forward and spring Kyle Walker in to this space down the outside of the three centre backs.


Walker gets down the side of the three centre-backs.

Walker chipped the ball back towards the middle and it hit Lescott on the arm as he was trying to recover and stop the cross coming in. Lescott may or may not have meant to stop the ball with his hand, but with it being raised and away from his body, there was no doubting that it was a spot kick.

Harry Kane coolly converted to grab his second of the game and effectively wrap-up the match.

West Brom would test Lloris one more time, as they searched for a consolation. They almost found it, as a long ball was put over Fazio’s head for Berahino to run on to.

The Baggies had been trying to get Berahino’s lightening pace matched up on the slower Fazio and Anichebe’s strength against Vertonghen, but rarely achieved this. Berahino darted on to the long ball and turned inside Fazio to shoot, but saw Lloris’ lightening reactions palm the ball across goal. Fortunately Danny Rose swept in to clear the ball just before Chris Brunt could touch it in to the gaping net.

West Brom 0-3 Spurs overall

After Wednesday’s dramatic late drama, there was a real spirit and character to this showing when we may have expected a hangover.

The recent run of results and performances seems to have galvanised the team. They believe in what they are doing and how Mauricio Pochettino wants us to play and it is bearing real dividends. There is an air of confidence and whilst earlier in the season there seemed to be a confusion around roles and responsibilities, there is currently real self-belief in our tactics and their execution.

Final score: West Brom 0-3 Spurs.

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12 Responses to West Brom 0-3 Spurs: destructive Dembele and misguided subs

  1. Pikey 2nd February 2015 at 4:49 pm #

    Hey that’s nice analysis. Really happy with how MP’s team is shaping up. There are clearly players he doesn’t fancy and will get them out asap, will be interesting to see who he brings in, presumably in the summer.
    But it is great to see Dembele being played to his strengths cos he’s ace at what he does. Maybe he should shoot more often but at least he’s affecting games in a big way.
    Also, i think our defence, for the first time in living memory, is half decent. I think Dier’s gonna be a great CB and i like Fazio too despite to the odd error.
    Just need to sort up a back-up for Kane and we’re pretty sorted

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd February 2015 at 10:55 am #

      Dembele was once again really good here, if he could get some goals that would be a real bonus. It was noticeable he was fouled in the act of shooting for Eriksen’s free kick goal, so maybe the coaches are working with him on this.

      • Uberdirektor 3rd February 2015 at 12:52 pm #

        I jokingly commented loudly (at the game) that I had finally seen Dembele shoot on target, not once, but twice in a game… and got a hail of agreement from everyone around me. Yes, he needs to shoot more. I think it’s a matter of confidence and not thinking he has to blast everything all the time. But, like Modric… if he can do the hard part, he should be able do the easy part.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd February 2015 at 6:14 pm #

          Haha, some goals out of Dembele would really make him in to a serious proposition in midfield, Yaya Toure-esque.

  2. Catcher 2nd February 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    I Like Fazio from set pieces we look as solid as a rock

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd February 2015 at 10:56 am #

      Fazio is improving, especially given as he arrived so late in the summer window and didn’t have a pre-season with the team.

  3. Zaph Mann 2nd February 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    Sorry to dampen the spirit but I don’t see things quite as rosily with the Arsenal looming. We played well against what wil be a difficult opponent to the end of season, but swap ‘keepers and probably it’s West Bromm winning.

    What worries me is how easy it seems to be for teams (almost all of them) to counter attack.

    A counter attacking Arsenal with all their key players back now, are leathal. So key to the NLD will be how we play… AVB had us dominating possession but leaving us open to devastating counters and defeat… (Wenger got no credit for his sit deep tactics btw) same against Liverpool…

    MP had us play much deeper earlier in the season at The emirates and get a point by coupling it with strategic high-press tactics. Against Chelsea we out-mobbed the midfield and exposed their slow defence – can we possibly pull this off against the gooners? I hope so.

    But lots of possession and allowing counter attacks could lead to a harrowing and large defeat.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd February 2015 at 11:00 am #

      A counter attacking Arsenal will be a tough side to break down, but also to then contain on the break. Wenger played that way at the Lane last year and we may well see it again. They will invite us on, but we need to not overcommit players and take our chances – Chadli had a glorious opportunity in last season’s 1-0 defeat.

  4. Uberdirektor 3rd February 2015 at 10:04 am #

    Excellent dissection of the game. I agree with you in most things but particularly about Dembele who, up to the past few weeks, has been played out of position and out of sorts. Poch has, I think, finally worked out how best to use him, dribbling at defences and cracking them open with Lamela and Eriksen as roving outlets and Kane, obviously as a final target man.
    I also agree that in the past two games, when he has taken him off, he has attracted the pressure back onto our back four to worrying effect.
    I have always believed we need another Dembele like midfielder with which to sub him, thereby keeping the pressure on. With Chadli now back on the scene, both he and Lamela could do this. With Bentaleb returning this will release Mason.
    Contrary to a lot of others, I think Paulinho has a lot to offer, but only if he sticks to his skillset, He is NOT a Modric with spray-ball capabilities. He must stick to breaking up play and retrieving the ball. It is great to see Stambouli coming up to speed too. I was thinking he might never keep up with the pace of the British game, lunging in too late to tackles and getting booked etc, but I think he is now getting to grips with it.
    I still think we need a new Modric – a proper world class midfield general – to take us to the next level. I wonder if Lamela or Dembele can raise their game. Unfortunately, I think they are both too one-footed to improve to this level.
    Finally, I am not convinced that Davies at left back is up to the challenge. The goals from Sheffield Utd proved that. I think Walker is still finding his way back and will eventually shut down the right side, but Rose is now our no 1 choice. I feel safe with both Fazio and Dier alongside Verthongen. Sad to see Lennon go – he’s been a good servant, but his final pass has never improved. For me, Townsend is a waste of time. He has been rumbled. As has Chichires. I still absolutely believe in the quality of both Adebayor and Soldado, but given the new shape and style of the team, I am not sure we can play to their strengths. The only way to incorporate them now is in support of Kane. I have a dream of Soldado and Kane forming a partnership, but I think this is now pie in the sky. Poch experimented with them both against Sheffield Utd (First Leg) and Leicester, and both failed dismally. We were lucky to get the penalty. Leicester was a shambles, but we still should have won it.
    All in all, I think Poch has finally worked out what his players can do best and how best to deploy them. If we can play our best team against Arsenal, Liverpool and West Ham over the next few weeks, we stand a very good chance of raising some eyebrows.
    We have managed to stay up there despite all the uncertainty and now, I think we can push on.
    My Best starting 11 is Lloris, Walker, Fazio/Dier, Verthongen, Rose, Bentaleb/Paulinho, Mason/Stambouli/ Eriksen, Dembele, Lamela/Chadli, Kane. Subs: Vorm, Soldado, Adebayor, Davies.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd February 2015 at 11:07 am #

      Great post Uberdirektor. Now Pochettino has had a few months to work with the players he knows who can handle his system and who cannot. The clear out has sort of started this transfer window and will continue in the summer. It’s also good, like you say, that the new arrivals Fazio/Stambouli etc are getting to grips with the Premier League and how Pochettino wants to play. I think Davies will be ok given some time. He’s still very young and its a step up for him. The left side is also much harder to defend than the right when Eriksen is drifting from that side and requires someone with much more experience of how to play in those situations.

      The overall signs that it is coming together are good though.

      • Uberdirektor 3rd February 2015 at 12:44 pm #

        I had not accounted for Davies’ age or Eriksen drifting. Yes… His experience will come… Rose’s apprenticeship at Sunderland is paying dividends.
        On the matter of a clearout, I heard a dimwit so-called Spurs fan on the radio attacking “billionaire” Levy again for “selling our best players” and only wanting to cash in… He has no clue… I would like to see some posts about this issue of Levy and his modus operandi.
        My feeling is that until the new stadium is built, his hands are pretty tied. With our income stream, we can only pick up second string or nearly used up top class players (Gallas, Van Der Vaart, Woodgate) or real talents and develop them… (Bale, Modric, Carrick, Berbatov) or develop our own.
        Either way, my feeling is that Levy is an incredibly shrewd – BRILLIANT – chairman. He is playing the game very carefully without overexposing us. He forced us over the line with the stadium stalemate by threatening to move to Wembley. He forced Modric to honour his contract when Sky and Chelski turned his head… and he honoured his promise to Modric that that he could leave if we did not make Champions league again. He got top dollar from Modric and rightfully so. Same thing with Bale. We made champion’s league (although Chelski pipped us) and Bale stayed another year, honouring his promise. Without Champion’s League, how could he justify keeping on to Bale? Best possible outcome? €100M. Plus he has built the finest training facility in the country to make our young players brilliant! This is paying off too!
        His record with managers doesn’t make great reading, but at least he has tried but not tolerated mediocrity. Finding great managers that perfectly match a club are extremely rare… Graham was good but his heart really wasn’t at Spurs… Santini was an ambitious mistake. When Jol was revealed not to be able to change a game he dumped him. When he realised that Redknapp’s head was up his own arse… he rightly dumped him – plus HR ran his first team into the ground eventually leading to our getting fourth spot when third would have been easier (had he just rested Parker a few times.) He soon realised that AVB was all talk and no substance with Bale covering up all the cracks… He accepted that Sherwood was too new and too raw for a club of this standing… BUT I think, finally, he has a manager that has played the game at the highest level, is clever, commands respect AND knows his own mind…
        The bottom line is that we are trying to compete with the richest and the best with a tiny stadium and no Bale sized superstars. We are actually doing pretty well! Hanging in there and with a HUGE potential. Can we imagine what it could be like when the stadium is built and we can genuinely attract the world’s finest players? With a chairman like Levy, I do believe that all is possible. The dissenters haven’t a clue… Short-termism has been part of our lives at Spurs.
        The players that they pulled in after Bale were all potentially brilliant but sadly under AVB, Soldado and Lamela and Paulinho (yet) and Capoue did not live up to reputation. but Chadli and Eriksen have now started to shine, Stambouli, Fazio and Dier are and may do even more. I would not have got rid of Sigguardson.
        My BIG disappointments are Townsend and Kaboul – whom I truly believed was hitting world class form a season ago. Such a pity.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd February 2015 at 6:12 pm #

          Some good questions Uberdirektor. I think there are several views on Levy’s modus operandi and the fact that he really shies away from communicating with the fanbase leaves a lot open to speculation, as we don’t hear much directly from his mouth. His activties point that he is in it to make money for Enic, as the club is treated like a business that is only interested in profit. Some of us will remember the days of Irving Scholar almost bamkrupting the club, so in some ways to work in this way is good. Of course in the sky money era, for some, hurling the cash around and buy, buy, buy is the only way. I think our £100m spending spree and how our best products seem to be homegrown have shown that a mix between the two is the best way. Develop talent through the academy, but when you don’t have what you need then buy it eg Eriksen, Vertonghen, Lloris etc. Levy seems to have recognised this.

          Those who say we are selling our best players maybe don’t understand that we are a selling club, most clubs will be when Real Madrid, Barcelona or even a Man Utd come in for their players. It’s not just us, look at them lot down the road who are Man City’s farm team. Selling and cultivating new talent is how we have to survive, we will never be able to stop a player leaving for the likes of Real or Barca.

          I agree that Levy’s hands are tied up with the new stadium, but i do like the way we are developing a good young team that should be fit to grace it if it’s ever completed. But don’t get confused, this is a business investment in order to max a return when Joe Lewis sells the club. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t build the stadium and just have it as a blank canvas that is ready to be developed by some Middle Eastern or American individual or company, who can come in and build it as they see fit. eg the Cain Hoy bid.

          I think we would have a very big discussion over managers as my thoughts on a few are very different to yours ;)