Tottenham Hotspur vs Stoke City - Potters Preview

Saturday 9th December

If you’d have asked me this time last month I would have written this fixture off; Spurs were going strong in the league with recent emphatic victories over Liverpool and Real Madrid. But football is a funny old game and this season threatens to make fools of us all.

8th Dec 2017

Spurs have now only won one of their last six league games, going from title contenders to four points off the top four, in the space of a month. November was a month to forget for Spurs and with another mid-week Champions League fixture on top of an already packed schedule, I sense an opportunity here.

That said Spurs really can’t afford to drop more points as they are becoming cut further and further adrift. Given the season so far I’m sure they’ll be targeting a comfortable three points but at the minute we’re actually in the better form.

We reverted to a 4-4-2 formation faster than ever before against Swansea and that is still clearly the way forward for me. Hughes may want to opt for a more ‘defensive’ formation but the 3-4-2-1 formation he is trying to pioneer at Stoke needs to be shelved.

Aside from square pegs in round holes I’m actually starting to feel sympathy for Fletcher after being presented with a new viewpoint. I’ve been on his back a lot this season, largely because of a lot of reports piling praise on him due to his glamourous history as opposed to his current performances. We’re too big of a club in my opinion to be lauding former United players who are a little over the hill and playing poorly.

He did still give the ball away a couple of times against Swansea and was partially at fault for one of the Liverpool goals. He is one of the main victims of Hughes’ flawed system though as it is leaving us with predominantly two players covering the entire midfield.

Joe Allen is flourishing under the conditions being awarded man of the man in both of the last two games but he is the little engine that could. Fletcher by comparison is more like the Fat Controller and I mean that in the most affectionate way possible. He simply can’t get around the pitch in the same way, he is far too stretched, leaving him too often out of position, making poor challenges and conceding possession. He needs more support from a more balanced midfield, the kind of format that someone like Tony Pulis might play for example, if we are to see the best of him this season.

Crouch was also outspoken this week in how much he is enjoying playing up top with Diouf. Throughout his prime Crouch largely thrived in a little and large partnership with the likes of Owen, Bellamy and Defoe for club and country. He is just beginning to strike up a similar relationship with Diouf which is frankly surprising it’s taken so long.

Crouch and Diouf have only started up front together three times the entire time they have been at Stoke, with Hughes often preferring to play with just one striker. Crouch has heaped praise on Diouf for reading his flick on’s as good as anyone and hopes it will be the way forward for Stoke this season.

Based on their performances together of late it certainly seems like our best option at the moment. Jese has allegedly fallen out with Hughes over his lack of play time, if true that will probably be the end of him. He hasn’t really looked on it this season other than the Arsenal game so it won’t be a huge loss. Whilst Hughes can be pigheaded, no one is bigger than the manager and regardless of stature, Jese should respect that.

We do have one other forgotten striker but since 36 year old Peter Crouch played 180 minutes in the space of four days, he may as well plan his next move too. Even when we are in need of late goals like against Palace and Brighton, Berahino can’t get on the pitch so he is obviously not close to Hughes’ thoughts. I don’t know why we brought him in the first place if we weren’t going to play him but it’s a waste of his and our time to have him sitting in the stands, we may as well list him in January.

We don’t have a bad record against Spurs in the Premier League having got the better of them several times, at our best, beating them 3-0. We only managed a point against them in the last 2 seasons though conceding 4 goals in each of our last 3 fixtures against them. We’ve only lost once at Wembley in our entire history though, which is more than Spurs can say.

We’ve got a better record than them at their own stadium and there hasn’t been a better time to play Spurs for a good while. We’ll hopefully be on a bit of a high after beating Swansea, I can honestly see us grabbing all three points here.

Opposition player most feared

Dele Alli

They’ve got their fair share of key men although that may not be the case if their league position doesn’t improve. There’s sure to be plenty of suitors for the likes of Kane, Alli, Eriksen, Son if Spurs fail to secure Champions League qualification next year.

We’ll have to be on our toes to keep that front line quiet and while Kane is the star man, Alli just adds that bit of unpredictability. As a player Kane is pants in my professional opinion; his touch, passing and movement are all still wanting for me which I think holds him back from being considered a true world class player. As far as attacking positions and finishing goes he’s the best in the league and I’d love to have someone producing anywhere near his goal return for us. He is too easy to mark out of the game still though I think, which should be a key focus for Southgate heading into the next World Cup.

I think we’ve got the ability to keep him quiet and he won’t like tangling with the likes of Shawcross and Zouma. That still leaves plenty of attacking options for Spurs and of the bunch Alli is the best. I do think he’s a really special player and I have done for a while now, there’s still question marks over his professionalism and behaviour but talentwise, he has it all. He’s one of those players who is impossible to mark on his day, he has such a varied bag of tricks, that makes him a true attacking asset for Spurs.

Predicted starting XI

4-4-2 from the start please, I know we’re away against a big team but they are there for the taking. We’re a million times better in that formation and we want to try and finally gain some momentum into the season, it can’t always be one step forwards, two steps back. Martins Indi is set for another month or two on the sidelines after coming off injured last time out and Cameron is still struggling with the knock on effects of a concussion. That leaves us with few options at the back so the defence pretty much picks itself; the attack is working well so I see no reason to change there either.

Butland, Zouma, Shawcross, Wimmer, Pieters, Shaqiri, Fletcher, Allen, Choupo-Moting, Crouch, Diouf

Heart Prediction

Win, 1-0

Tottenham are there for the taking and have another Champions League fixture to contend with first. Scoring has not been too much of an issue for us but keeping clean sheets has, conceding in just 3 minutes last match. It’s bold to think we can keep Spurs out I know but if we are going to win I think it’s going to have to be a narrow margin. We managed to frustrate their North London rivals in similar fashion earlier this year so this is a result we have in our wheelhouse.

Head Prediction

Lose, 3-0

A harsh leap from one to the next and there is some middle ground there in my head prediction. We have conceded four goals in three straight fixture against Spurs now and they are just waiting for the goal dam to break. They can’t afford to lose any more ground this early on having already fallen behind their rivals, with surprise package Burnley hot on their trail. Looking at some of our performances this season, they will probably be looking to go gung-ho and get their season back on track before we head into the busy festive period.

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Stoke lose 3-0
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