After a spell of dominance and a big win over Chelsea, a visit to White Hart Lane by a Tony Pulis-led West Brom was seen as a big test of Tottenham Hotspur’s bonafides. Spurs had trouble with the Baggies at the Hawthornes in October, coming out with a 1-1 draw that felt like a fortunate result. Despite dominating league-leading Chelsea, how would Spurs respond to an overly defensive West Brom side?
Turns out, we needn’t have worried. Spurs scored early, got a hat trick from Harry Kane, and cruised to an absolutely dominating 4-0 win over the Baggies, keeping the pressure on Liverpool and Chelsea and ensuring that Spurs stay third in the table for another week.
Spurs started the match with the same lineup they used to batter Chelsea at White Hart Lane ten days ago: a 3-4-3 with Eric Dier, Toby Alderweireld, and Jan Vertonghen on the back line with Kyle Walker and Danny Rose pushed forward as attacking wingbacks. Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele were in the center, with a forward attacking band of Christian Eriksen, Dele Alli, and Harry Kane.
West Brom started out with their expected strategy of ceding possession and maintaining a defensive shape, but it didn’t help them much as Spurs came out absolutely firing. Spurs used incisive crossing from Danny Rose and excellent movement to carve open the Baggies’ defense time and time again in the opening 45 minutes. It was one-way traffic as Spurs put in one of their best first halves of football all season, including the Chelsea game.
Harry Kane was a constant threat to score from the first whistle, and it was he who opened the scoring in the 12th minute. Christian Eriksen put a cute through-ball in the box that found Kane who turned and fired past Ben Foster in the top right corner to put Spurs up early. Kane could’ve had three in the first half; just before the first half whistle he had two more shots on target that were well saved by Foster including one that was tipped onto the post.
Fourteen minutes after Kane’s opener, Spurs got their second. Christian Eriksen found Kyle Walker on the right side of the box, who fed it back to Eriksen at the top of the box. Christian’s shot was deflected twice and went in past Foster, and although Eriksen claimed the goal, it was eventually credited as a Gareth McAuley own goal.
West Brom are a threat from set pieces but were pretty woeful in dead ball situations in the first half. Eriksen had two blocks of Baggie free kicks 30 yards from goal, and despite one slightly moment that forced a Hugo Lloris save from an offside Jonas Olsson, Spurs’ goal was never threatened.
Midway through the half, Dele Alli thought he had Spurs’ third goal from another incredible through-ball from Eriksen, but the goal was called back for offside.
It was a complete battering, with Spurs dominating every statistical category. The first half ended 2-0, but it could’ve been five.
The first-half stats. 78% possession and a 2-0 lead. #COYS pic.twitter.com/H2sziFrnYL— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 14, 2017
West Brom responded in the second half by switching to a 3-CB formation, and Spurs came out a little flat in response. Matty Phillips latched onto a through ball and fired West Brom’s first shot, but dragged it just wide left. West Brom had a couple of half-chances in response until Spurs settled back into the match.
Dele had another good attempt in the 55th minute when he received the ball in the box and was knocked to the ground in the box. It was a clear foul, but the match official declined to give Spurs the penalty and waved play on.
From there, Spurs piled on the pressure, firing shot after shot at Foster, who appeared to be the only Baggie who showed up to play today.
But it wasn’t all good news for Spurs; Jan Vertonghen picked up what looked like a very painful injury and was subbed off midway through the half for Ben Davies. The injury looked bad on replay — he rolled his ankle near the touch line — and Jan could be set for an extended spell on the sidelines.
The action let off a little after Vertonghen’s substitution, but Kane left no doubt of the final result in the 77th minute. Kyle Walker, who found himself wide open on the right side, put in a fizzing cross across the face of goal. Kane volleyed it past Foster to earn his brace and put Spurs up 3-0.
And just like that, Kane completed his hat trick after Dele chipped in a ball that met Kane’s foot in the 81st minute. It was a wonderful combination that saw Spurs put the game beyond any chance of a West Brom comeback.
Harry Winks came on as a late substitute, and Spurs took their foot off the gas for the last 10 minutes. The final score was 4-0.
- That first half was some of the best football I’ve seen Spurs play all season, and I’m including the Chelsea game. Wonderful stuff. Never really let West Brom into the match and only the heroics of Foster kept it from ending 6 or 7 to nil.
- That injury to Vertonghen looked bad. He was in tears. Hopefully it’s not as serious as what it looked like in real time, because he’s been fantastic lately. it’ll be interesting to see what a Vertonghen-less Spurs means for Tottenham’s tactical formation going forward.
- Scoring early was the perfect panacea to Pulis-ball, and the match really opened up after that. West Brom looked demoralized early and despite some early second half hiccups they never looked like they would let the Baggies into the match.
- On my first watch, Christian Eriksen is my man of the match. This was Eriksen at his best, with incredible vision and some wonderful passes to set up his teammates. He had a stormer.
- Danny Rose also played exceptionally well down the left flank, getting forward at will and putting in some very good crosses.
- Can’t have reactions without also calling out Harry Kane, who was masterful in attack. None of his goals were easy, but he made them all look effortless. He was clinical today, and it was glorious.
- Spurs have now won six straight Premier League games, seven matches on the trot, and have the best goal differential in the league. Title contenders? Let’s wait to see what happens at the Etihad Stadium next week, but right now, I think so.
- Football: it’s fun to watch when your team scores lots of goals and wins games.