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Tottenham Hotspur vs West Brom: Opposition Analysis

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Saturday's visitors to White Hart Lane are high-flying West Brom, riding a wave of obscenely efficient shooting and even better goalkeeping. Their league position is arguably misleading - Spurs can be very confident indeed.

West Bromwich Albion v Swansea City - Premier League Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images

The Season So Far

West Brom’s 2016-17 seemed set to be just as painful as any other campaign overseen by T*ny P*l*s. Miserable football in attack, frequent ultra-violence in defence, inevitable lower-mid-table safety/mediocrity (delete as applicable depending on personal taste). It all seemed so predictable, so passé, so uninteresting.

The Baggies fans’ only hope was that P*l*s upset new owner Guochuan Lai by pulling his favourite party trick and trying to pocket some of the Chinese’s fortune by exploiting the darker side of the transfer market. P*l*s was already on thin ice, by all accounts, having come close to walking away during the summer over his board’s refusal to sell actual, talented footballer Saido Berahino and allow the manager more money to spend on six-foot-five, seventeen-stone, single-digit-IQ hoofball thugs.

Then, out of nowhere, West Brom turned into a watchable football team. One can only speculate that the players are now openly disobeying their evil overlord manager, but the occasional spells of free-flowing football, inventiveness in attack and general likeability strongly indicate that P*l*s has lost the dressing room. Perhaps distracted by his recent humiliation in the courts and subsequent financial difficulties, the uniquely despicable coach is clearly not exerting the authority he once was. Either way, the lunatics are running the asylum.

Four-goal hauls against (the admittedly abysmal) West Ham and Burnley were followed by three against Watford, and the Christmas period saw three points taken against Southampton and Hull. Although the fixture list has been kind and there are still deplorable traces of P*l*sian football stinking out the Hawthorns, things are certainly looking a damn sight rosier for the West Brom faithful at the moment.

The Season Ahead

Presumably P*l*s will put a stop to all this fun in due course. A bloody and merciless purge in January shouldn’t surprise anyone, with eye-catching and productive talents like Matt Phillips, Nacer Chadli and Salomón Rondón all playing far too pleasingly to ever last too long in a team based entirely on the concept of pure evil.

Under the resurgent authoritarian regime, all attacking will be banned and anyone under the height of 1.90m will be sold, or shot by a firing squad and ground up into chicken feed. West Brom’s fans will go back to craving the halcyon days of No Fear November and enduring the endless misery of their maniacal dictator’s horrifying philosophy. Said maniacal dictator will once again dip his hand into the till and help himself to the club’s money. Dark days lie ahead, make no mistake.

Tactics

As always with P*l*s teams, West Brom’s main focus is on keeping a good defensive shape and giving their opponents as little time and space near their goal as possible. The opposition’s space is minimised by keeping all four defenders back and making sure the defensive midfielders – usually two, sometimes three – sit deep and protect the back four.

With none of the defenders obliged to attack or provide width, West Brom have at times used four tall centre-backs and their task is very simple: keep their shape, protect the box and punt the ball as far as possible whenever it arrives at their feet. Unsurprisingly, given how their build-up play “starts” at the back, their attacking can be charitably described as ‘rudimentary’.

While some of their goals of late have been extremely atypical of P*l*s teams, the Baggies’ attacking is still mostly done via set plays. No Premier League team has scored more goals from corners this season, with Chris Brunt’s delivery from dead balls particularly dangerous. As previously stated, their threat has diversified of late and they have been surprisingly good on the counter-attack all season, with the pace, power and guile of Phillips, Chadli and Rondón useful and productive tools.

Strengths

This column is morally obliged to deny that any T*ny P*l*s team can possibly have strengths. However, professionalism means something has to go here. So, here goes.

The foundation of their success comes down to three things, all of which are unsustainable: first, 43.8% of their shots on target this season have been goals, the highest figure in the league; second, a 73.9% save rate, the second highest in the league; thirdly, the fixture list, which can’t allow them easy wins against Leicester, Burnley, Watford and Hull every week.

Also, they’re undeniably amazing at attacking corners and Matty Phillips is increasingly eye-catching - a must-pick for Fantasy Football fanatics.

Weaknesses

Such extreme focus on the defensive aspect of the game tends to limit attacking output somewhat – and that’s putting it politely. P*l*s’ Stoke side was, among other things, famed for its impotence with the ball, and this West Brom side was no different until a few months ago. Even now, only three teams have taken fewer shots this season and only three have hit the target less. Their opponents consistently outshoot them, but the deepness and compactness of the defence generally limits them to low-quality openings.

If Spurs can withstand the aerial barrage from corners and limit the passing options of Phillips in the final third, there’s little doubt that they’ll win here. Arguably, it all comes down to how well they manage things in the middle third – an area where they have considerably more quality than their opponents. We know that Spurs will have more of the ball than West Brom: it’s what they do to repel the opposition's hoofs up the pitch that will decide the game.

Also, in case you didn't realise, their manager is T*ny P*l*s - possibly the most evil and hateful human being ever to have lived.

Likely XIs

West Brom have big problems in defence, with Jonny Evans ruled out and Allan Nyom unlikely to be available due to international clearance issues. Jonas Olsson and Chris Brunt should replace them. Other than that, West Brom are at full strength and in fine spirits.

Prediction

West Brom are in fine form but their shooting statistics are due a collapse and, with their defence so heavily weakened and Spurs’ attack in such fine form, it would be a surprise if Spurs didn’t win by at least a couple.