White Hart Lane, London
September 14, 2013; 15:00 BST
Tottenham Hotspur host Norwich City at the White Hart Lane this Saturday as the English Premier League resumes after the long international break.
Both the teams went into the break on the back of contrasting results. Tottenham, who made a fine start to the season with two victories and two clean sheets, produced a rather disappointing performance against Arsenal in the much awaited London derby. The timing of the defeat couldn’t have been worse as the International break provided the fans and the players a long period to ponder over that loss.
Norwich on the other hand pulled off an amazing victory against Southampton as Nathan Redmond’s goal in the second half proved to be the winner. It was a crucial win for Chris Houghton’s side as they started their campaign with a draw against Everton at home, followed by a disappointing loss to Hull City. So the three points against a relatively strong Southampton side, has surely lifted the mood Carrow Road.
Interestingly, Tottenham haven’t had much luck in defeating Norwich in recent times. In fact Spurs’ last victory against them came way back in 2011 when Gareth Bale scored a brace. Norwich have won two and drawn two of their last four encounters against Tottenham, including a famous League Cup victory at Carrow Road last season when they scored two late goals to cancel out Gareth Bale’s opener. The last encounter between these two sides at the White Hart Lane ended in a 1-1 draw as Snodgrass scored a late equalizer and Huddlestone was sent off in the dying minute of the match. AVB will be keen to improve his team’s record against Norwich this Saturday.
Team News and Tactical Brief
Andre Villas Boas does have few injury concerns ahead of this fixture. Etienne Capoue picked up an injury during their defeat against Arsenal and is expected to be out for couple of weeks. Gylfi Sigurdsson is out with a dead leg, while there are still concerns about the fitness of Aaron Lennon. Adebayor is on a leave following his brother’s death and is unlikely to be part of the squad this Saturday, while new signing Vlad Chiriches is still waiting on his work permit to get his Tottenham career started.
The Tottenham manager will have to address their main concern at the moment ahead of this fixture – creativity in the midfield – and the solution is most likely to come in form of new signing Christian Eriksen. The 21-year-old, who was brought from Ajax this summer, has the ability to provide the sort of spark in the midfield that Spurs have missed since the departure Luka Modric. Capoue’s injury will mean that Dembele will drop deep alongside Paulinho in the double pivot – similar to the role he played against Crystal Palace in the opening game. Tottenham’s biggest problem has been the lack of cohesiveness in the midfield so far, which is perhaps expected when so many new players are embedded within the team.
Tottenham’s best is yet to arrive, as the new players will take time to get used to this league and most importantly to each other. Lack of creativity in the midfield meant that Tottenham had to mostly rely on the wingers to provide the opening. But playing to inverted wingers has also limited their influence to an extent as both Chadli are seemingly interested in cutting inside whenever they have the possession, perhaps Tottenham are missing the directness of Aaron Lennon – someone who can take on the full backs and prepared to go outside them. Having said that – Townsend has undoubtedly been Tottenham’s most influential player in the attack and it seems he will keep his place in the side, despite the arrival of Lamela.
Spurs have failed to score a goal from open play for three matches now and Roberto Soldado has often looked like a frustrated player upfront, especially in the last game, as he lacked support around him. Andre Villas Boas could also look at the possibility of moving Townsend to the left wing, while Lamela starts in place of Chadli.
Probable Starting XI [4-2-3-1] : Lloris (GK); Walker, Dawson, Vertonghen, Rose; Paulinho, Dembele; Townsend, Eriksen, Chadli; Soldado
Chris Houghton has expressed his delight at the fact that most of his players have returned unscathed from international duties. Midfield Elliot Bennett remains the only long term injury concern at the moment, although there are also doubts about the fitness of Ryan Bennett. The good news for Norwich is that new signing Gary Hooper has recovered from his calf injury and is likely to make his Norwich debut as a substitute in this game.
Houghton is unlikely to make any changes to the side that won against Southampton in their last game. Norwich problems at the start of the season can be traced back to the fact that Houghton was unable to find the perfect midfield combinations. Against Everton he started in his usual 4-4-1-1 formation with Johnson and Howson in the midfield, but after conceding two goals against the Merseyside club he changed his formation to a more defensive minded 4-5-1 against Hull City with Tettey, Fer and Johnson in the midfield. But Norwich still conceded against Hull and also lost their attacking edge upfront, but against Southampton Houghton got his balance right as he reverted back to the 4-4-1-1 formation, only this time with Johnson and Fer in the middle.
The duo complemented each other very well as Norwich kept their first clean sheet of this season, against a fairly attacking Southampton side. Houghton will deploy similar tactics against Tottenham. They will sit deep absorb the pressure and hit Spurs on the counter attack. In their last game, Arsenal exposed Spurs’ weakness when a team counter attacks them with pace and in Redmond, Snodgrass and Wolfswinkel, Norwich might have the right ingredients in attack to exploit that this Saturday.
Defensively the role of Wilfswinkel and Elmander will also be crucial as they will have to press from the front to put the Spurs midfielder under pressure. If they are able to cut down the supply to Soldado from the center of the park, Norwich will have a very good chance of getting something out of this game. Chris Houghton would have gone over the Arsenal-Tottenham match video numerous times by now
Probable Starting Line-Up [4-4-1-1]: Rudy (GK); Whittaker, Turner, Bassong, Garrido; Snodgrass, Johnson, Fer, Redmond; Elmander; Wolfswinkel
- Spurs have fired in more shots than any other side this season (42) but are yet to score anything other than penalties.
- Ricky van Wolfswinkel has committed more fouls (10) than any other player this season in the Premier League.
- Just 16% of Norwich’s efforts this season have been fashion from set-pieces; a joint low in the Premier League.
- Departed star Gareth Bale had a hand in 38% of Tottenham’s goal last season (25 of 66; scoring 21 and assisting four).
- Tottenham have won 10 of their last 14 home games in the Barclays Premier League, losing just one (D3).
Player To Watch Out For
Leroy Fer (Norwich City)
The 23-year-old, another product of the famous Feyenoord academy, is turning out to be quite a signing for the English club. In his two appearances so far, he has already shown glimpses of the huge potential he has. He has one of the best tackle per game average in the league at the moment (4.5), along with an average of 1.5 interceptions per game. Fer also provided the assist to Nathan Redmond against Southamton – for the goal which proved to be the winner. Tottenham have some big names in the midfield, but what are the odds of this young Dutchman outshining them?
Tottenham 2-1 Norwich City
Tottenham will have a point to prove in this game, after their loss to Arsenal. They will come out all guns blazing and are expected to dominate possession. Norwich will give them a good fight, but Spurs’ better quality on the pitch will come through in the end.