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Spurs’ Trip to Fulham Previewed

Martin Jol is still a favourite among Spurs fans but on Sunday afternoon, that affection will be put on hold when Spurs travel to Craven Cottage in search of a seventh win in eight Premier League matches. If Spurs can claim the points against Fulham, they will enter the international break with 22 points from their first ten games. Already more than one third of the points they collected in the entire last season. Faint whispers of a top three finish have surfaced this week but Spurs will have their attention focused on picking up the maximum points at Craven Cottage and staying in touch with the teams at the top. Fulham beat a dreadful Wigan last week, despite being outplayed, and they are only four points clear of the relegation zone moving into this weekend.

Spurs will have to win without Harry Redknapp, midweek heart surgery keeping him out of the dugout for a few weeks at least. They will also have to win at a ground which has been somewhat unkind in recent years. Spurs won in the league last season thanks to a contentious long range Huddlestone strike and a poacher’s finish from Pavlyuchenko, following a fantastic attempted chip from Van der Vaart. Before that victory though, Spurs had had a lean period, not winning at the ground since Hodgson’s first season.

Spurs are creating plenty of chances this season, 13 per game, but Fulham are also dangerous. Their 10 chances per game have led to 13 goals in their 10 games. Fulham captain Danny Murphy comes into the match under an injury cloud. Much of Fulham’s play comes through Murphy. He has made 15% of their passes and created 25 chances for three assists, also scoring twice. He is the key to Fulham’s attack and if ruled out, will leave them short of quality in the centre of midfield. They will still have their left side attacking combination of Dempsey and Riise. Fulham love to play down that side, Riise has three times as many crosses as Assou-Ekotto (37 & 12). This would not be a good game to put Modric or Van der Vaart on the right again; both have shown their lack of positional discipline when stationed there and have proven a liability.

Aaron Lennon will probably be deployed on the right against Fulham. Lennon has struggled to impose himself on matches this season but produced his best performance against QPR last week. His two assists to Gareth Bale came when he moved inside. This may indicate the development of his game. Kyle Walker’s pace and crossing ability have threatened to make Lennon redundant. He has often been accused of being one dimensional, that performance shows he still has plenty to offer.

Gareth Bale has been steadily improving this season and also produced a season best display last week. He has created 23 goal scoring chances this season, on track to beat the 76 chances he created last term. He was also more heavily involved on Sunday. His 40 passes exceeded his season average (32) and he created 4 chances. His brace was the result of a consistent willingness to move into scoring positions as demonstrated by his 6 shots from inside the box. He will be running at the weaker right foot of Duff, who is playing as an inverted winger, and will hope to get the better of him. Former Spurs fullback Stephen Kelly will also have the unenviable task of trying to stop the Welshman as he returns to the arena where he scored his first Tottenham goal.

Fulham have demonstrated a susceptibility to movement this season. They have conceded goals to Aguero, Rochina, Drenthe, Saha and Jarvis; all players who use skill and pace to make things happen. Spurs front six have demonstrated brilliant movement in patches this season. Most notable against Liverpool and QPR, Spurs’ attacking play has pulled opposition defences apart to create goalscoring opportunities. This is part of the reason for Rafael Van der Vaart’s good form. His late arrival in the area is perfectly suited to this style of play; his seven goals in six games prove that.

Both sides were involved in Europa League action on Thursday night. Despite the fact that Fulham were at home and Spurs travelled to Russia, Fulham will be feeling the effects much more than Spurs. Fulham played largely a first choice team in their victory, while Spurs sent a reserve team to Eastern Europe. It is unlikely that any of Spurs starting eleven on Sunday will have played midweek. It is quite possible that Fulham will retain the entire eleven that beat Krakow 4-1. Fulham have more depth this season, and players like Dembele and Ruiz as well as youngsters like Gecov and Frei subsidise the experienced Premier League quality players in their starting line-up.
Temporary caretakers Joe Jordan and Kevin Bond are unlikely to tinker with Tottenham’s line-up and the team that beat QPR 3-1 will probably start unchanged. The last tricky away day saw Spurs shift to two holding midfielders. The fact that Sandro didn’t travel to Russia may indicate he is going to be drafted in and Spurs will revert to that system.

Spurs may see Fulham as a side that sits fifteenth in the league and underestimate them. They do so at their peril as Fulham have repeatedly demonstrated their capabilities in the past few seasons. This season they are the only side to take points from Man City. In that match, Martin Jol played one striker, Zamora, and subsidised him with Dembele, Duff and Dempsey in front of holding players Murphy and Sidwell. They were resilient on that day, rather than hard to break down as they conceded two goals before clinching a comeback in the 75th minute.

Spurs have the quality to beat Fulham. They did so last season and they have improved with additions of Parker and Adebayor. Fulham, while they have also improved, will play their 24th match of the season and back up from European action on Thursday. Their indifferent Premier League form (2 wins, four draws and four losses), makes them unpredictable but Spurs will hope their excellent run continues.

I'm a journalist in training, living in Australia and consuming every piece of news, stat and football information I can. Put them together and that's why I'm here
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