Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham: Cottagers visit the Lane looking to rattle nervy Spurs

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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fulham: Cottagers visit the Lane looking to rattle nervy Spurs

Manager fields a much-changed side. Players go in with a sizeable first leg advantage and all the lax cockiness that comes with it. Their opponent actually shows up to play. It was a recipe for a phenomenon Spurs fans are all too familiar with: the team’s breathtaking ability to smash the panic button with both fists when things get messy. What transpired on Thursday over 120 manic minutes at the San Siro, while disappointing to say the least, was hardly a surprise.

This recent run of self-destructive performances started in the last league match. At 1-0 down to Liverpool, hope was hardly lost. And indeed, after Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen scored two goals of the quality Emmanuel Adebayor spends his nights only dreaming of, Spurs were in control of the game. Enter Kyle Walker and a looping back pass that can only be described as daft. Enter keeper Hugo Lloris with a comically miscalculated clearance attempt. Finally, enter that much maligned Liverpool man Stewart Downing, who despite Vertonghen’s best efforts to play striker, centre back, and keeper in one match, managed to score the goal that put the hosts back in the match. It was a quintessential “my own worst enemy” performance from Spurs. When Defoe played a clearance back into his own box, leading to the series of events that culminated in Gerrard smashing in a late penalty, the game was at last thrown away.

That Spurs nearly repeated this feat against a team they should have navigated past more comfortably on Thursday shows that fear and doubt are once again starting to nestle within the psyche of a team that had been playing some of the best football of any Premier League side prior to the Liverpool match. But should Spurs fans be mashing the panic button with the same fervor their squad did against the Italian outfit? The simple answer is no, not based on two poor results. Spurs were in control of the Liverpool game until two individual mistakes cost them; it’s not as though the team performance was terrible. And though Inter managed to hassle them into blowing a big lead, the fact is that without the suspended Bale and injured Lennon, Spurs were always going to struggle. Width and pace are the side’s greatest assets, and shorn of their wingers, they were predictably lacking.

But with Gareth Bale certain to start against Fulham on Sunday and Aaron Lennon hoping to play at least a supporting role, Spurs will look a different team at White Hart Lane. Fulham, meanwhile, have only won 2 of their last 5 matches, with Manchester United being the only top-half team they faced in that time frame. Their form has been erratic all season. Though they possess several players capable of hurting Spurs, including a certain sulking Bulgarian chap home fans may be familiar with, they aren’t unbeatable by any means. In many ways, they are the ideal opponent for Spurs to bounce back against: strong enough to test the hosts, but ideally not strong enough to overwhelm them.

Since star man Bale is well-rested and raring to return to the side, Spurs should offer more going forward than they did against Inter. Though fatigue will certainly play a role from Thursday, as many starters from the San Siro are likely to play again Sunday, they have the quality to overcome that fitness disadvantage. The restoration of Lloris to the goalkeeper position will enable the hosts to properly employ their high defensive line again, something they were utterly incapable of with Brad Friedel minding the net in Italy. German Lewis Holtby is the freshest of the midfield options and may even warrant a start in the hole behind (hopefully) Defoe. The youngster seems eager to prove himself and stepping up against Fulham would be the ideal way to do so. A return for Michael Dawson or Steven Caulker to the centre of defense would offer Vertonghen a more solid partner than the shaky William Gallas, while Benoit Assou-Ekotto resuming his duties at left-back represents a much better option than Naughton was on Thursday. In short, a better team selection will be the difference on Sunday if AVB can get it right, and he’ll be keen to do just that after making all the wrong moves against Inter.

Fulham have enough about them to score, so I don’t necessarily expect a clean sheet. But if Spurs can pick themselves up from the lows of some of their recent, less than stellar outings, they will be too strong for the visitors to handle. 3-1 to Spurs, with Berbatov, Bale, and Defoe on the score sheet for their respective sides.

By: Mike Schmidt
Follow on Twitter @Schmidt_the_yid

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Agree with most of this article, however Bale will almost certainly play in his new position 'in the hole' so it's unlikely that Holtby will start. Siggy has done well on the left, although should he need a rest Dempsey could replace him. Also can't agree with you about Defoe, if he's not scoring Ade is the better bet, if only for nuisance value. In fact the starting 11 against Arsenal could well be restored for this match.

  2. If it all goes wrong and we don’t get top 4 that Walker suicide pass will have been the turning point and I for one will find it hard to forgive him for it.

    • If you cannot forgive a player making a mistake, better to stop watching football now. Yes it's frustrating and I wish he had done something else, but he didn't. By the way, Kyle is 22; how old are you and have you made any mistakes yet?

  3. The manager's "much changed side" was actually three from the starting line-up in the home leg. Bale was suspended, Lennon recovering from injury, leaving the only change of choice to be Benny. It is also an over exaggeration to say the "recent run of self-destructive performances". Mistakes in two games is hardly a run. Players are human, they make mistakes just as you and I do. The younger they are, the more mistakes they will make – it's called getting experience, and continues until they retire!

  4. totally agree Brian. Typical fickle spurs fans who sit in their virtual dugout and analyse and slate us when we have the temerity to go & lose or draw a match drive me bonkers. Sure walker an defoe were barmy to do what they did (cannot believe ppl having a pop at Lloris too wen all he tried to do was correct walkers error..probably our best keeper since jennings!) and we all know weak links ie Gallas, Livermore etc etc… but what people forget is bar a few players this is largely a young, inexperienced side who dont have the savvy of a Milan or Lyon but they hey guess what we got through. This all invaluable experience we can build an capitalise on in future competitions. We could even win the bl**dy thing. I have stood by AVB since day 1 even when ppl said he was a wrong un as we needed a manager of his standing to get us to next level. I believe he will move on players already mentioned and bring in missing jigaw pieces ie world class striker and another midfielder and then watch us go.

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