Spurs welcome Bolton Wanderers to White Hart Lane for their first traditional kick off of the season. At three o’clock on Saturday afternoon, third placed Tottenham meet relegation candidates Bolton, in a clash of sides with massively divergent aspirations. Spurs have their eyes on Champions League football, and maybe more, while Bolton are firmly focused on breaking the forty point barrier and guaranteeing Premier League survival for another year.
At West Brom last weekend, Spurs created 18 goalscoring chances and had 20 shots. Bolton only managed six chances and three shots. This season, Spurs have made 20% more passes and taken 30% more shots than Bolton. Bolton have conceded twice as many goals and scored seven fewer, despite playing one game more. Spurs play to the wings 5% more than Bolton and have created 48 more goalscoring chances.
On Saturday, Spurs fans will be keen to cast an eye over widely reported target Gary Cahill. While rumours in recent days have highlighted Ajax captain Jan Vertonghen as a priority in January, the stories about Cahill continue to be written and the Bolton manager added to that discussion when he suggested that a quick sale could be beneficial. Despite Bolton regularly being under pressure, Cahill has only made nine tackles this season, winning six. In comparison, Younes Kaboul has made 26, winning 21. Cahill has won possession 12 more times than Kaboul and made 17% more accurate passes in the final third. Cahill, in combination with Zat Knight have great aerial strength.
Bolton could line up with Muamba and Reo-Coker in front of their back four in an attempt to stop Spurs’ creativity. But they will also need to account for Spurs’ deadly wing play. The combination between Tottenham’s wingers and full-backs has been able to overwhelm most teams they have faced this season. With Gareth Bale in fine form and Aaron Lennon getting near his best, Bolton’s own wide men will need to contribute defensively.
The problem with trying to stop Spurs playing is that every player can contribute. The depth and versatility of Redknapp’s men makes playing defensively a dangerous gamble. Perhaps Bolton would be more successful attacking Tottenham. Against Stoke and QPR, admittedly weaker teams, Bolton did just that. They attacked and racked up the goals in those matches.
Ivan Klasnic’s form has been a highlight in an otherwise dire season for Bolton. His six goals in eleven matches represent his best return since his time at Werder Bremen. His combination with Davies, who enjoys a great record against Spurs (6 goals in 6 matches) could be crucial to the outcome of this match.
If Coyle were to push Petrov and Eagles wide, crossing towards Davies and Klasnic, they could put Spurs under pressure. The expectation of a home win will be high, and if Bolton could take the lead, that pressure would mount and the crowd would become agitated.
Spurs’ confidence is at an all-time high. Not since Martin Jol have they won five in a row. With Van der Vaart and Modric returning to the squad, Redknapp’s biggest dilemma is who to leave out. Adebayor, back among the goals again (4 in his last 2 matches), will look to test the imposing but immobile defence and Bale will relish his chance to take on Steinsson (who marked him so well in the opposite fixture last season). If Defoe, the top Premier League goalscorer from outside the area, gets a chance, he’ll surely look to test Jaaskelainen. The usually excellent Finn has struggled this season and come up with a few uncharacteristic errors.
The pundits, the fans and the bookmakers all have this match as a home win. Spurs are in strong form and playing with confidence. If Bolton are to upset the favourites, they will need to pressure Spurs’ defence and try to force a mistake.
Meetings between Spurs and Bolton in recent years have produced some great matches. The last two Spurs home matches saw dramatic late winners. Away at Bolton was a 4-2 thriller, the result in doubt until injury time. The home side is unbeaten in the last 15 matches between these two sides. Bolton have won only three matches this season and Spurs are on a brilliant run; winning their past five and unbeaten in ten. If they avoid defeat in this match, they will match their best unbeaten Premier League run.
I’ll leave you with some passing stats from last years game Vs Bolton at White Hart Lane courtesy of EPLIndex’s Quick Match Stats centre (available for subscription in the Full Stats package!)