Going into this weekend's English Premier League match against Bolton Wanderers, I have to admit that I don't have a whole ton of faith in the almighty Tottenham Hotspur. We really struggled to get a win against Blackburn Rovers of all teams, and that was immediately following a 4-0 thumping at the hands of Fulham in the FA Cup. We still don't have Tom Huddlestone, Luka Modric, or Gareth Bale. The latter two will return by the time we play A.C. Milan in UEFA Champions League, but tomorrow's fixture without them could be rough.
The good news for us is that Bolton might be sort of secretly crap, just like we are. They barely scraped by Wolverhampton Wanderers midweek, thanks to an atrocious back pass that was tapped in by Daniel Sturridge. But, as mediocre as that performance was, Bolton have something we don't: Health. All of their first team players are available, and as a result, they'll be fielding a very strong lineup.
What are we going to do? Hard to say. Without Luka, Big Tom, and Welsh Jesus, probably the exact same thing we did against Blackburn. It sort of worked, I guess. Unfortunately, that 4-4-2 setup only works on a couple of conditions. One of them is that Jermaine Jenas kicks ass.
Of course, as fans of this team know, Jenas manages to kick ass once every six or so games that he plays. In three of those other six games he's just sort of invisible, while he's actively crap in two of the other six games. What are the chances of Jenas turning in two consecutive great performances? 10%? When is the last time Jenas put in two consecutive great performances, 2006? We can only hope that the Bolton game is not his regression to the mean game and that Modric will return before he wakes up and realizes that he's a really average footballer.
So, that's the bad news. The good news is that Jermain Defoe was really, really bad against Blackburn and that this whole regression to the mean business works both ways! The chances of Defoe being really bad for two straight games aren't a whole lot bigger than the chances that Jenas is good for two straight games. The chances that Jenas and Defoe both have total stinkers is probably very small.
But...will Jenas and/or Defoe play? Steven Pienaar has recovered from his concussion and is good to go, so someone is almost certainly getting pulled to make way for him. He'll play on the left while Aaron Lennon is likely to start on the right, and despite his relatively poor play against Blackburn, Wilson Palacios is probably a certainty to start in the middle. So, what does Harry do with his remaining spots? Personally, I'm not scared of Bolton's attack through the middle, and I'd like to see van der Vaart and Palacios in the center with two strikers up top. This would result in us getting creamed against most teams, but Bolton's best attacks come from wide play and long balls. I love Stuart Holden, but he's the guy on that team you want to make beat you if you don't have the available personnel to shut down all routes of attack while still maintaining yours.
For once, I will predict ambition from Spurs. I have no reason to believe Harry Redknapp will actually pick the lineup I am about to throw down, but I just have a gut feeling. Balls to the wall. Let's do this ish.
Projected Tottenham Hotspur lineup (4-4-2): Gomes / Assou-Ekotto, Gallas, Dawson, Corluka / Pienaar, van der Vaart, Palacios, Lennon / Crouch, Defoe
Projected Bolton Wanderers lineup (4-4-2): Jaaskelainen / Ricketts, Knight, Cahill, Robinson / Sturridge, Holden, Muamba, Lee / Elmander, Davies
Prediction: Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Bolton Wanderers