Tottenham Hotspur welcome Wolverhampton Wanderers to White Hart Lane on Saturday, in an attempt to move into equal first place in the Premier League. Spurs got their campaign back on track with their first win, against Wolves, in August. It coincided with the successful debuts of both Emmanuel Adebayor and Scott Parker. Since then, Spurs have lost just once, drawn three times and won 13 more times. Wolves had started strongly and were unbeaten before they met Spurs at Molineux. Wolves lost five in a row from that day and went two months without a victory. They are on a similar run at the moment. They haven’t won since beating strugglers Sunderland on the 4th of December and are only one point above the relegation zone; the position where they finished last season. Mick McCarthy has recently received the ominous statement of support from his chairman.
In this fixture last season, Spurs were sluggish, after a midweek Champions League draw with Werder Bremen and Wolves went ahead early. They were unfortunate to be eventually beaten 3-1. They were also very unfortunate in their last match, a 2-1 defeat to Chelsea. Lampard scored the winner and could easily have been dismissed in the first half. Spurs will again be feeling the effects of midweek exertions. A 2-0 win against Everton on Wednesday was impressive and Spurs will hope to continue their form against a Wolves side who hasn’t won away since the opening day.
Spurs have scored 16 more and conceded 16 fewer goals than their Black Country foe and have created over 100 more scoring chances. While that may be expected, given their league disparity, it is surprising to see that Spurs also make 8% more ground challenges and have made 59 more successful tackles than Wolves. McCarthy’s men are known as a physical, aggressive side packed with strong tacklers and effective defenders. It is particularly surprising given that Spurs tend to have more of the ball than Wolves who average just 46.7% possession; 8.5% less than Spurs.
Spurs are relentless when they are out of possession. That aggressive style starts from the front. Emmanuel Adebayor has won possession 52 times and his usual attacking partner Van der Vaart has done it 75 times. Between them, they have made over 10% of Spurs’ ball winning challenges. As a team, Spurs have won the ball more than 300 times more than Wolves (994 to 663). Spurs have also made 364 interceptions (18 per game). This is demonstrative of an aggressive mindset and can be the result of successful defensive pressure forcing a poor pass. Spurs will be hoping that Scott Parker can return as he is a big part of that attitude. They have conceded nine goals in 500 minutes without Parker and just eleven in 1,400 minutes with the England man in the side. He has made 35 interceptions and won the ball over 100 times.
Wolves are susceptible to being caught flat footed. They have been dribbled past 105 times and Spurs have a devastating attack based on pace, penetrative passing and movement. A player running with the ball is a big part of that. Spurs have made 170 successful dribbles with Kyle Walker; 18 and Gareth Bale; 34, two of the key weapons.
Steven Fletcher has scored a goal in every 138 minutes this season. He has the 11th best scoring rate of all players to have scored at least five goals this season. His eight goals have come from just nine shots inside the opposition box. Fletcher is also a hard worker, winning the ball 35 times in just 12 starts. Without Fletcher, Wolves produce little of attacking note. Hunt has three penalties and Stephen Ward also has three but Wolves are on track to score just 42 goals; one less than West Ham last season. Wolves are the only side not to score a single goal in added time this season. They have been beaten by at least two goals six times. Of their five wins, three have come against the current bottom three and Sunderland were in the relegation zone at the time.
When these teams met in August, Wolves were flying high; third in the table, and Spurs were rock bottom. Spurs were solid but couldn’t find a way through a confident Wolves defence until the 67th minute. This time, the two sides have almost reversed positions but Spurs show no signs of imminent collapse. They have a balanced attack minded team that stretch the field through devastating wing play and are capable of cutting teams open through the middle. The versatility of the Van der Vaart/Adebayor combination will test the Wolves defence. Captain Roger Johnson is under a fitness cloud and his absence would weaken them further. In front of an optimistic home crowd, Spurs will be confident of victory.
Wolves will have their eye on their upcoming fixtures. They meet Birmingham in the FA Cup on Wednesday and host Villa next Saturday. Both are important to the fans and more winnable games.
We’ll leave you with some passing stats from last years corresponding fixture, via our Quick Stats area (Subscribe Now!).