May 18 2013 Latest news:
By Daniel Grigg
Monday, February 4, 2013
Tottenham blogger Daniel Grigg gives his verdict on yesterday’s 1-0 triumph at The Hawthorns.
Without Gareth Bale’s two wonder goals just four days apart, Tottenham, Everton and Arsenal would have only been separated by a single point by the end of the weekend’s action. But, in the end, Spurs finished Sunday just a point behind Chelsea and three clear of fifth place.
Bale is not a one-man team as some have tried to suggest, but he is certainly capable of scoring without a great deal of help – as he has proved during the last week.
He is never frightened to shoot, and only Luis Suarez has taken more shots in the league in 2012-13 than the Welsh winger, while Jermain Defoe is close behind in fourth and Clint Dempsey is relatively high up the list too.
When it comes to driving forward and establishing momentum for his team, Bale is really starting to get into the territory of Steven Gerrard’s impact for Liverpool or Wayne Rooney for Manchester United. He is almost able to take over a game with his supreme confidence and drive.
The 23-year-old had actually had a relatively quiet spell in the league, by his high standards, following his Boxing Day hat-trick against Aston Villa – but he was on fire at Norwich last Wednesday with a stunning run and finish, and he did it again yesterday at The Hawthorns.
Of course, Sod’s Law dictated that Tottenham lost Defoe to injury in the very first game after the transfer window had closed.
Fortunately for Daniel Levy, Lewis Holtby was excellent when he replaced Defoe, and the Lilywhites went on to beat the 10-man Baggies – otherwise the chairman might well have been facing a pretty uncomfortable backlash from the supporters, who saw their side playing the entire second half without a recognised striker.
However, he obviously didn’t escape criticism entirely - nor should he, despite my support of a great many decisions Levy has made at Tottenham.
Spurs have probably needed to sign a top striker in the January transfer window in each of the last four years and, aside from bit-part players like Louis Saha and Eidur Gudjohnsen, they have always failed to recruit one. You have to go back to Harry Redknapp’s first season and the returns of both Defoe and Robbie Keane that winter to buck that trend.
But Tottenham did land Holtby, and he made a great impression in just his second substitute appearance yesterday, not only with his passing and technique but also the way he managed to get so involved - he never looked in the slightest bit afraid of accepting possession or taking responsibility.
For anyone who was doubting why Spurs had gone for an attacking midfielder without an especially stunning scoring record, this was the answer – and the 22-year-old has scored at better than a goal every five games in the Bundesliga for the last couple of seasons anyway, so he’s not completely wasteful in front of goal either.
Mousa Dembele has said that he does not want to be directly compared to Luka Modric, and Holtby is arguably closer to the Croatian in terms of his style of play.
While it would be unfair to put that kind of pressure on the new signing’s shoulders, Spurs have done an extremely good job replacing the man who many pundits felt was pivotal to the balance and style of the Spurs side under Redknapp.
The Lilywhites also knew exactly what to expect from West Brom’s dangerman Romelu Lukaku following his brilliant substitute appearance at White Hart Lane back in August - but the Belgian striker struggled to produce an end product at The Hawthorns, as did Shane Long.
It was still good to see the back of Lukaku early in the second half though, as he was replaced by Liam Ridgewell, who was needed in defence after Goran Popov’s sending-off for spitting towards Kyle Walker.
Defensively Spurs were solid enough, with Jan Vertonghen holding things together well alongside Michael Dawson, while Hugo Lloris’ proactive style of goalkeeping meant that he confidently dealt with any balls that got in behind the rearguard.
Spurs have conceded just four goals in their last nine league games, and are unbeaten in that run – a factor which has massively helped to alleviate the pressure on the goal scorers. Indeed, only Manchester City, Chelsea and Swansea have a better defensive record this season.
Ultimately, it was not the greatest performance against the Baggies and critics will no doubt point to the lack of significant threat to Ben Foster’s goal when West Brom had all of their 11 men on the field. However, away wins are always very valuable, and only Manchester United (nine) have more than Tottenham (seven) this season.
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