Tottenham face Stoke at White Hart Lane this weekend looking to get their Premier League title bid back on track. While some may say the title race is already over with Chelsea so far ahead, Spurs have to believe there is something to fight for and will be keen to return to form in the league after a few tough results.
Earlier in the season, goals were a regular feature in Spurs’ play, but recently they have stuttered in both the league and Europe, losing to both Gent and Liverpool and drawing a blank at basement club Sunderland. Stoke, too, have not been involved in end to end games of late, with their last four results either ending 1-0 or 1-1. Mark Hughes may see an opportunity to further frustrate the home side here, but they must be wary of Fulham’s failure to do so in their 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Tottenham last week.
The hallmark of Spurs’ play, particularly at White Hart Lane, is high pressure. The only way to undo this is match it, putting equal pressure on the ball. Fulham failed to do this, allowing Harry Winks to play the ball forward and at the heart of the defence. Harry Kane’s ability as an all round striker means he can both hold the ball up and spin in behind with equal effectiveness. It goes without saying that cutting the supply line to him is imperative to getting a result against Spurs and he scored a hattrick last week because they were able to play around Fulham in key areas with ease.
There are crucial differences between Fulham and Stoke, notably the emphasis on the team. The Championship side look to play an expansive style of football, while Stoke aim to keep things tight in defence and midfield, then allow the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic to win the game for them. Naturally there will be less space for the midfield, which means players with passing ability like Winks are secondary. This game will be won by dribbling players, notably Dele Alli and Mousa Dembele.
Stoke have options in attack. Peter Crouch seems to have found a new lease of life this season, and the 35-year-old could prove a direct focal point against his former club. But Spurs will play a high line in defence, so playing Saido Berahino through the middle and asking him to run off the shoulder and beat the offside trap would open up more possibilities. Spurs’ width, as mentioned before, usually comes from their fullbacks Kyle Walker and Danny Rose, so there will be a lot of space to hit on the counter attack.
Tottenham will have to be patient here and they will have to work hard to find the gaps in a well-oiled Stoke machine. But if they can get Alli on the ball as much as possible, the chances will come for Kane to finish and we are backing a home win.