WRITER’S NOTE: Before we start, just wanted to clear up an error in my previous blog. I mistakenly identified Liverpool as Spurs’ next opponent in that article, when in fact that is next weekend’s fixture. Whether I was giddy with excitement at Pool’s victory over Arsenal, or simply guilty of being sloppy, this sort of factual error shouldn’t occur from a man who professes to know Spurs like the back of his chubby German hands. My sincerest apologies.
Ok, now that’s sorted, on to the football. This Saturday, Tottenham entertain plucky Crystal Palace in their first home match of the season at White Hart Lane. Managed by former Spurs loanee Alan Pardew, Palace are typically an organized team that can be tough to break down. Spurs fans will remember that it took something special to best them on one occasion last year, as Dele Alli’s self overhead pass-to-volley winner was voted the fans’ goal of the season.
As far as starts to a season go, however, Palace had a pretty bad opening week. First, a 1-0 loss at home to West Brom last Saturday was not the type of result a team can kick on from, and Palace will no doubt feel as though they still haven’t really started their season. Unfortunately for Pardew and his team, matters then got even worse for them, with the departure of key players Mile Jedinak and Yannick Bolasie significantly weakening the squad earlier this week. Jedinak’s leadership and steel in midfield will be sorely missed, and Bolasie was one of the real standout attackers in a lineup that now looks severely short of options in the final third. With the pieces left in place, do Palace have enough to get a result on the road?
Based on Spurs’ second half performance last week, I don’t think so. Though they were clearly the inferior team during the opening 45, Poch’s men turned it around in the second half, beginning to show shades of the team that was so successful last year. New signings Janssen and Wanyama put in solid performances, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see both start this week. Harry Kane’s comments regarding his fitness following the Euros may well be the out Poch needs to justify starting Janssen up top in his stead, and a downtrodden Palace might also be the ideal opponents to make this move against.
Spurs do have one major disadvantage this week, though, as captain Hugo Lloris will be sidelined due to the injury he picked up against Everton. In fact, the skipper is likely to miss a few matches, meaning second-choice goalkeeper Vorm will have to mind the posts for a few weeks. Vorm proved last week that he is a more than capable understudy to Lloris, producing a smart save to deny Deulofeu a goal that was practically gift-wrapped for him by Danny Rose. What Vorm doesn’t do quite like Lloris, however, is act as a sweeper keeper. His tendency to sit back on his line could interfere with the high press approach Poch likes his defense to employ.
Despite being potentially disruptive, Vorm’s inclusion alone is not enough to weaken Spurs to a degree Palace can capitalize on. The visitors simply don’t have the attacking options to trouble defenders of Vertonghen and Alderweireld’s caliber, and without Jedinak they’ll struggle to wrest control of the midfield away from Wanyama and Dier. I expect guys like Eriksen and Lamela to have a much easier time dictating play in the attacking third, creating more chances for whoever out of Janssen and Kane is chosen to lead the line. It’s also no secret that Poch was disappointed with the boys’ performance in week one, so I expect the manager to have drilled into them the importance of starting fast this weekend.
I feel for Pardew in this instance; to have two valuable players sold out from under you within a matter of days is the type of headache no manager wants in advance of a big game. That said, I just can’t see him navigating his side to a point or three against such superior opposition. Pochettino’s men can and should take care of business, giving them a nice confidence boost ahead of their week three match against Liverpool. And I mean it this time; they’re definitely playing Liverpool in week 3. Seriously. Look it up.
PREDICTION: Spurs 3-0 Palace; Lamela, Janssen, and Eriksen the scorers.