West Bromwich Albion do not usually suffer from off-field antics but this week was one they will surely want to forget. Peter Odemwingie will now be better known for his transfer deadline day antics than a proven goalscorer, which he is. The atmosphere at the Hawthorns was rather quiet, but still positive. Romelu Lukaku and Shane Long linked well together and the “Odemwingie saga” seems to have been put behind the Baggies. Another note of credit to the West Brom fans came when Goran Popov was dismissed. Many would have abused Mark Clattenburg for giving a straight red card for a spitting at an opponent, but there was not a boo or a moan to be heard inside the Hawthorns towards the referee. The home faithful exerted their frustration with a few jeers at Kyle Walker. After such a sensational start to their season, the Baggies have struggled in recent weeks, suffering a fifth loss in six outings, but their professionalism will see them through, and in Steve Clarke, they have a decent manager.
Moussa Dembélé has been a superb signing for Tottenham, and since his arrival, Spurs have only lost one Premier League game that he’s featured in – that was a 2-1 defeat at Everton. Even then he was substituted in the 77th minute with Tottenham winning. His dominant presence in central midfield and ability to find space when crowded by opposing bodies is his redeeming attribute. He was a commanding figure at Fulham and the transition of mid-table club to top four challengers has not affected him. But the best player in the Spurs side has to be Bale, sensational again today and his two goals this week have earned Tottenham four valuable points. With those two, the resurgent Aaron Lennon, and Scott Parker or Sandro across the middle, as well as the addition of Lewis Holtby ,then surely Spurs have enough to see them take a top four-slot this season.
The Premier League is full of brilliant goalkeepers. Petr Cech, Júlio César, Pepe Reina, Mark Schwarzer. But is Hugo Lloris the best of the lot? He is a terrific shot stopper as well as a decent distributor. However, what really makes him stand out from the crowd is his ability to act as a sweeper. Three times either Long or Lukaku were put through one-on-one with the big Frenchman – and every time Lloris came out to clear successfully or at least do enough to prevent West Brom from scoring. It may have seemed like one of his easiest fixtures in between the sticks but a lesser keeper would certainly not have handled those trio of chances as comfortably. It seemed a slightly bizarre signing for Tottenham who had such a steady and popular keeper in Brad Friedel, but André Villa-Boas deserves credit for bringing in France’s number one. Once Popov saw red the Baggies chances were limited but when they did come forward Lloris always looked prepared.
Villas-Boas has done superbly well since taking charge at White Hart Lane. After a sloppy start, his Tottenham side have competed with everybody and look well set to be in and around the top four until May. But why did he not buy a striker in January? With Emmanuel Adebayor on duty for Togo it left AVB with only Jermaine Defoe and arguably Clint Dempsey as his out-and-out strikers to choose from – and after 40 minutes today disaster struck. Defoe off injured, Lewis Holtby replaced him and he was very good but never really looked like scoring. Eventually after dominating possession and winning corner after corner, it took a special moment from that man Bale to open the scoring for Spurs. After a good build up, Bale skinned James Morrison and smashed the ball past Ben Foster, who had kept West Brom in it until then. The north London outfit will be relying heavily on their Welsh wizard to find the net while Defoe’s out.
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