It sure is tight at the top of the table. Tottenham Hotspur managed a goalless draw against last placed Sunderland and that stinks. The weather was suboptimal and yes, Spurs were away, but its a match that a Pochettino led Spurs must win. To add salt to the wound, it was a day when our direct competition bled points. Liverpool and Chelsea had an amazing result if you support Spurs, while Arsenal lost to Watford, and United drew to Hull. Not to mention, true hero Danny Rose left limping with a knee injury.
With all of that though, Tottenham somehow moved up in the table. The tie moved them level with Arsenal on points and ahead by three in goal differential. City clawed back two points from behind, but Liverpool and United stay one and five points back respectively. Chelsea, the clear winner of the day, maintain a nine point cushion above Spurs for first place. Middlesbrough, on the other hand, are in fifteenth place, but only three points from the relegation places. Further, they are even with sixteenth placed Leicester and seventeenth placed Swansea on points, and only ahead due to goal differential. On paper they are in a relegation fight, in terms of their competitiveness and quality of squad, one would have to favor them against many surrounding them.
The concern of Middlesbrough’s season so far is that they simply haven’t been able to score goals. Alvaro Negredo’s second stint in the Premier League has been barely serviceable and far from what the Yorkshire club had hoped for. Jordan Rhodes has rotted on the bench, while other attacking options were brought in — namely Rudy Gestede from Villa and Patrick Bamford from Chelsea — but these transfers don’t just highlight the uninspiring play of Negredo, but their toothlessness in attack across the board. Only eight players have scored for The Boro in all competitions with only Christian Stuani notching more than two goals in the league other than Negredo.
On the other hand, they are strong in the back. They are tied for fifth in the Premier League, along with Arsenal and Everton, with seven clean sheets and are ranked sixth in goals against. Spurs and Chelsea are tied for first with sixteen conceded, but Middlesbrough are decidedly in the next pack with twenty-six goals against. They have been stout and organized throughout the season and will be difficult to breakdown on Saturday.
Maybe the karma from Kyle Walker’s push came back to haunt Spurs when Jack Rodwell wasn’t handed a deserved red, but at least Tottenham earned a point. That extends the team’s unbeaten streak to ten. Middlebrough can be a tough nut to crack, but the match is at home, and there aren’t so many of these at White Hart Lane left. Look for Spurs to take out the frustrations of Tuesday night’s draw on Middlesbrough this Saturday.
How to Watch
Date/time: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. (UK), 12:30 p.m. ET (USA)
Venue: White Hart Lane, London, UK
Official: Mark Clattenburg
TV: NBC (NBC Sports Live Extra), BT Sport 1, BBC Radio (UK), Sportsnet World (Canada), Optus Sport (Australia), other listings at livesoccertv.com
Streaming: NBC Sports Live Extra (USA)
Radio: Audio streamed at tottenhamhotspur.com, also often at BBC Radio London,BBC Radio 5 Live, and TalkSport
The good news is that Hugo is back. Yay! The bad news is that Danny Rose is out of the match-day eighteen and is scheduled to see a specialist on Monday. Crossing my fingers its precautionary, but that sounds ominous. Kieran Trippier and Georges-Kevin NKoudou are also unavailable for selection.
The one thing that is *really* hard to deny is that Spurs’ performance against Sunderland looked eerily similar to our matches in October. Moose, Toby, and Harry were missing from many of those games, which are huge losses to any side, but the team was unconvincing, uncreative, and drab in the opponent’s eighteen. I’m going to blame it on the weather, but boy did Tuesday feel like we backtracked three months.
Which begs the question, how does the 2016-17 version of this team fare when they operate in the 4-2-3-1? Especially against lesser sides who bunker down? The answer is simple: not that great. Our width becomes incredibly narrow, we are clogged in the middle, and just don’t create enough in terms of quality chances. The key here is Wanyama. He is unbelievable in a 3-4-3, but somewhat pedestrian as the defensive half of a double pivot. For this reason, and because of other injuries, I think we have to roll the dice with Wimmer as a direct replacement for Jan and strut out the 3-4-3 until other teams can solve it.
For this reason, we see Kyle Walker and Ben Davies in the wing-back roles, with Dier, Toby, and Wimmer across the back three. Victor and Moose will partner in the middle, with Dele, Kane, and Eriksen sitting in front of them. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ve been formidable with the 3-4-3, Poche needs to trust our depth and stick with this formation.
Skipjack broke his duck and nabs a confidence inducing point. The rest of the Masthead picked Spurs to triumph because, well, Sunderland isn’t really good at football. Not much movement in the table, but Happy Hour in Baltimore should be spectacular.
Cartilage Free Captain Prediction League Standings
|Earl of Shoop||11|
Dustin Menno: We’re at home for this, right? We are? OK, good. 2-0 Spurs.
Matthew Pachniuk: If Spurs can score early, it will be a walk in the park. Even with five Middlesbrough players missing, I still think they won’t be too easy to get past. I also don’t think Middlesbrough will create. Spurs win 1-0.
Jake Meador: 1-1.
GN Punk: Time to bounce back. We're at home and, injuries be damned, are still better than Middlesbrough. 2-1 Spurs.
Alex Greenberg: Boro can actually defend. I think it will be scrappy like Sunderland, but we create more chances and get the 1-0 win.
Salmon Chase: Maybe I missed something. Maybe I haven't been paying attention. But did we get relegated? This isn't a cup game but we are playing Middlesborough? Who is up next, Dagenham and Redbridge? ( elbows person next to himself in the ribs good naturedly, proceeds to jump down a well). 2-1 Spurs.
Pardeep Cattry: Boro are a bit on the dull side, but they are pretty good defensively. A victory will be hard fought, but count on Spurs to score once anyway. Tottenham 1-0.
Skipjack: God is dead Draw. Writers Note: No Specific Score = BOLD
Earl of Shoop: I just spent a week in Philadelphia, so the universe owes me something good. I choose to cash that in on a fun and not at all boring/injury filled match vs Boro. Spurs come out firing and make a statement in their rebound from that garbage midweek nonsense with Sunderland. Spurs 3-0
Brian Mechanick: We have to bounce back. Right? 1-0 Spurs.