I won’t be near a computer tomorrow so I thought I’d post this preview ahead of time our regular reader(s) will get a chance to see it before Saturday afternoon.
After our victory over Newcastle, we are currently in the top half of the Premier League by virtue of the sheer tightness of the league. There aren’t people who would argue with the presumption that this is something of a false position for the Whites. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that the two home games against the (then) struggling Newcastle and Spurs would go a long way to defining our season. Both sides – although, particularly Tottenham under new manager Harry Redknapp – look more likely to avoid the drop now than they did at the start of the month and we’ll have to be at our best to pick up all three points this weekend.
You look at the strength of the Tottenham side and you wonder how they really are struggling. Having Gomes in goal seems to give everybody a decent chance of scoring (even though he was one of the most impressive goalkeepers in Holland over the last couple of years), but the defence doesn’t look all that streaky. Bale can play at left back or in midfield, where he was mighty effective against us at the Cottage last year, and with Woodgate, Dawson, Corluka and King (when fit) to pick from in the centre and Alan Hutton on the right it looks a pretty strong back four. The statistics, however, seem to undermine that viewpoint.
The midfield looks pretty tasty too. David Bentley was one of the big summer captures for Spurs, although he’s struggled to replicate the form he has shown in recent years for Blackburn, in his brief spell at the Lane so far. The cheeky goal against Arsenal shows that he might just be ready to hit the heights again so that will be a big test for Paul Konchesky at left back. Then there’s little Luka Modric – and no Englishman needs reminding what he can do after his exploits in the Euro 2008 qualifying. Modric is still looking for his first goal for Spurs and how Fulhamish would it be if he put one in the back of our net. Huddlestone sprays the ball around nicely – I remember being impressed with him when he was at Wolves – and I heard one commentator the other night compare him to a young Glenn Hoddle, which when you consider Hoddle’s passing range and ability with a football is quite a compliment. Even the supposed enforcer Zokora can play as seen in that assist for Tottenham’s fourth last night.
The strikers seemed to have found their form again. Darrent Bent scored bucketloads of goals for Charlton and his pace behind our backline might be a bit of problem should we push up too high. The Russian Roman Pavlyuchenko now looks as though he has settled into English football and he’s scored three crucial goals against Liverpool in less than a fortnight now. He’ll be a danger – he’s good in the air and deadly from close range so Brede will have to be at his best again.
Rich reckons that there might have to be a change of strategy if not personnel to deal with Tottenham’s midfield. He may be right – although I felt Bullard, who had his best game for a while on Sunday, and Murphy dovetailed pretty effectively against Newcastle. As always, you now stand a pretty good chance of guessing Roy’s team although Zoltan Gera has to be on borrowed time soon down the left. I felt Dempsey made a real impact when he came on as a substitute and given that he scored a goal out of nothing at Portsmouth he’s getting close to deserving a start.
For the first time in a while, I’ve got to say that I’m pretty confident about our defence. Even though Hangerland won the player of the month award, Hughes has been our most impressive performer this season (as I mentioned in the Newcastle piece) and I’d be fairly confident in his ability to deal with the threat posed by the Tottenham forwards. And for cotinuity’s sake, I’d stick with Andy Johnson and Zamora as our front pairing as they seem to have struck up a useful rapport.
I should mention, finally, that there will be a lot more Swedes in the ground cheering us on against Spurs. Nick cut a very nervous figure for much of the game last week, but he’ll be joined by his father Kenneth and a hardy band of travellers from Stockholm and Uppsala. If you’d like to catch up with us, look for the massive Swedish flag with FFC Sweden on it, the replica shirts emblazoned with the same words or just loiter in the Golden Lion because I imagine we’ll be in there at some point, pre or post-match.
Enjoy the game.