The closing of the January transfer window this past Thursday will have been a welcome sight for Tottenham fans. It seems the club is consistently linked with top talent each window, only to come up just short on deadline day. Brazilian striker Leandro Damião was this window’s miss. Last window it was Portuguese midfielder João Moutinho.
Spurs did, however, manage a rather astute bit of business prior to deadline day this month. The acquisition of German creative midfielder Lewis Holtby will go some way towards alleviating Tottenham’s attacking difficulties. A dynamic player with an eye for the killer pass, Holtby looked every bit the missing piece of the Spurs puzzle in his brief cameo against Norwich in mid-week. His calm possession had a positive influence on the visitors’ attack, and his deft flick on to Jermain Defoe started the move that allowed Bale to score his stunning equalizer. Though manager Andre Villas-Boas has been mum on whether the quick thinking midfielder will earn his first league start this Sunday, Holtby has already proven he can put his stamp on matches in a short amount of time.
He and the rest of the Spurs team will travel to the Hawthorns this weekend to duel with a West Brom side that have lost their way since occupying the dizzying heights of third place earlier this season. Manager Steve Clarke has watched his side slip down to ninth in the league table and they haven’t won a league game in their last five attempts. Their last match, a 2-1 loss to fifth placed Everton, will not have done much to stop the rot and Clarke needs a big response from his side against Spurs.
These matches are always dangerous for Tottenham, as teams playing poorly always seem to snap back into form against them. This phenomenon, combined with the worrying tendency of Spurs to play down to the opposition, makes this match a tricky prospect. Spurs know that all too well after failing to beat a Norwich side that hadn’t won a match in the league in over a month, and will need to be sharp against the Baggies to get back to winning ways. Spurs have drawn their last three in the league, and with both Arsenal and Liverpool suddenly remembering how to play football again of late, they need to start picking up points in order to hold on to fourth position in the table. Complicating that endeavor is a dearth of options in attack, as Jermain Defoe is struggling for fitness, last year’s top scorer Emmanuel Adebayor is away on African Cup of Nations duty, and American Clint Dempsey is often struggling to play out of position as an out-and-out striker. Fortunately for Spurs, with Bale, Lennon, Dembele, and now Holtby in the midfield, chances are bound to come and it may not be that a striker will need to finish them.
Defensively, each side has obvious frailties. Spurs have a fullback form problem, as left back Benoit Assou-Ekotto is just returning to fitness and first team regular Kyle Walker’s form has been less than impressive in recent matches. The backline as a whole was alarmingly ineffective against Norwich for large periods on Wednesday, and will need to improve in the face of the physical presence of Albion striker Romelu Lukaku. West Brom, meanwhile, have their own poor habit of switching off defensively, evidenced by the space (and penalty) they conceded to Everton in mid-week. While both teams are fortunate enough to have strong goalkeeping, there isn’t much even a top keeper can do if his defense is sleeping in front of him.
Of the two sides, Spurs need the points more urgently, as West Brom will certainly finish middle of the pack despite their form in a league with the likes of Villa and QPR occupying the bottom half of the table. A top four finish for Spurs is difficult to see if they don’t start winning these games, so expect Villas-Boas to have his side well-prepared for this away trip. A narrow 2-1 victory for Spurs seems the most likely outcome, with each side playing far from their best but the visitors’ quality securing the three points.
By: Mike Schmidt
Follow on Twitter @Schmidt_the_yid