Tottenham Hotspur’s run of fixtures has lately resembled less of a coherent, balanced schedule and more like a death march. Tottenham head to Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday for a Premier League match against Wolves, their third match in just five days.
It’s nobody’s version of ideal, but needs must — until that stadium gets finished accommodations for things like boxing matches and NFL games at Wembley must be made, and everyone has to adapt. It is the way of things until Spurs are officially in their new home.
A surprising Wolves team will try and take advantage of this grueling pace on Saturday at Molineux. Wolverhampton moved up last season after winning the Championship but aren’t playing like a newly promoted side — under Nuno Espirito Santo, Wolves are playing attractive, bright football and despite dropping their last two matches are currently tenth in the table and look the most likely of any of the three promoted side to not only stay up, but end the season in a respectable table position.
Wolves have taken advantage of the Jorge Mendes connection and used that to create a surprisingly strong side that is playing exciting, direct football and with a squad that has some potential future stars along with some canny veterans. Raul Jimenez is Wolves’ most potent attacking threat with two goals and three assists this season. Joao Moutinho has brought spine and progressive passing to Wolverhampton’s midfield, and Portuguese international keeper Rui Patricio is looking like the best keeper outside of the top six. And of course, there’s dribbling maniac (and Carty Free favorite) Adama Traore, who has bounced in and out of the side but who has the skills to make any defender look silly.
Wolves’ defense is also stingy — they’ve let in only nine goals this season, fifth best in the Premier League, and are one of only two teams to draw (much less beat) Manchester City this season. That has been enough to counteract an offense that has dried up a bit in the past few matches — despite dropping their last two matches, Wolves are tenth in the table, and are looking very likely to not only stay up, but end the season in a very respectable position.
All of this is to say that, in their current injured state and under the lights on Saturday night at Molineux, this could be one of Tottenham’s trickier matches this season. These Wolves can howl.
How will Spurs line up against Wolves?
This morning’s news that Spurs will be without both Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama through the international break is significant and creates a bit of a thorny problem for Mauricio Pochettino. How do Spurs set up their team when both starting defensive midfielders are injured?
There are a couple of options. The first is to stick with the formation that Spurs have implemented for much of this season. Even though he has noticeably declined this season, Mousa Dembele has proven that he can play in multiple matches in one week this season — he’s done it a couple of times already. So it’s very likely that we will see Moose in the lineup for Wolves and possible we see him as well against PSV. Moose could be partnered with any of Harry Winks, Moussa Sissoko (ALL-MOOSE MIDFIELD), Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, or (dare I say it) Oliver Skipp. This formation could take shape as a two-man pivot or a more fluid three midfielder setup.
The other option would be to return to the back three formation, by bringing in Juan Foyth into the side alongside Davinson Sanchez and Toby Alderweireld. Doing so would sacrifice an attacker, but would give extra defensive cover for Ben Davies and Kieran Trippier (who need it!) and would also help compensate for a Spurs midfield that would be out a true midfield destroyer. It’s not that outlandish — Foyth was named man of the match and played very well in the League Cup win over a strong West Ham team, and it would be a show of faith in the young Argentinian. He is also strong on the ball and could push up into the defensive midfield space if needed, kind of a reverse-Dier.
I have literally no idea how Mauricio Pochettino will approach this match, but if it’s me against a dynamic Wolves side playing at home, I’d play the back three with Foyth, resting Eriksen for Tuesday vs. PSV (or subbing him in for Dele late).
This is almost certainly going to be hilariously wrong, but that’s my prediction for Spurs’ starting lineup. What’s yours?