Spurs travel to the Hawthorns on Saturday in an attempt to post a fifth consecutive win. Spurs could move to within two points of second placed Manchester United with victory. Spurs are unlikely to post an unchanged lineup for a fourth consecutive match with injury doubts over Van der Vaart and Defoe. A great run of form for Spurs has seen them rise to third place in the Premier League. That run will be tested with a difficult trip to West Brom. Spurs have a poor historical record against Albion and have only won once at the Hawthorns in the Premier League era.
Harry Redknapp confirmed that Rafael Van der Vaart is unlikely to play against West Brom. Many pundits and Spurs fans have suggested that the inclusion of Sandro would be best. However, the statistics indicate that Spurs should stick with their more attacking formation. The inclusion of Defoe (who scored 5 in a midweek practice match) or even Pavlyuchenko would allow Spurs to stick to the system that has brought eight wins in nine matches.
In their match at Newcastle, Spurs played with both Livermore and Parker in midfield. They won the ball in the air and on the ground more often than their season average. They also gave away possession more often (16 times to the season average of 12) and made only 12 interceptions (less than the season average of 18). Essentially, Spurs were stronger defensively but less flexible and less capable in possession. Their pass completion rate was also 10% down on the season average. They played more long balls and created only 10 chances (less than the average of 14). Spurs may elect to play with two holding players but it would not be in their best interest.
Spurs are less effective without their five attacking players. If Redknapp chooses the cautious approach, he plays straight into Hodgson’s hands. The Baggies have struggled against footballing teams and competed or won in games that have bogged down. Demolished 3-0 against Swansea, WBA couldn’t make their chances count despite completing more passes than in any other match this season. The same scoreline against Arsenal was the result of a complete tactical mismatch. Both Swansea and Arsenal sent out five attackers and two wingbacks. They completely overwhelmed West Brom and this is the best way to approach this match. West Brom have only had the majority of possession in one of their matches this season; their most recent match, victory against the hapless Bolton. They have averaged 42% in their other matches.
Despite their paucity of possession, WBA have built an impressive record and sit in 10th place. They understand how to play without the ball and need to be overwhelmed.
If Spurs bring an extra man to screen their defence, the game is more likely to bog down in midfield. If not, Spurs have the players to play past Hodgson’s flooded midfield and create the necessary chances to make it five wins on the bounce.