Sunderland away. Early kick-off. They beat City last time out. Martin O'Neil was under pressure (supposedly) not that long ago, how quickly things change. Or perhaps they just paper over the cracks. They've been abject for most of the season. But with three wins from their last four games, they have reclaimed form. Complacency their enemy. They beat City. Can't be harder to brush Spurs aside.
They did well in terms of fighting spirit against a side (City) with far superior quality. Midfield congestion the key (from their perspective) as you'd expect. Suffocate time and space and any team that relies on both will struggle to find their rhythm. Wasn't just about game spoiling though. They countered with intent. Whereas City remained central and lacking any width to give them a way to test Sunderland's resolve. Joe Hart playing a part in the winning goal. Fortunate? Possibly. But City had no response down the other end so it's not of consequence. It only takes a second to win a game of football, right?
I'm sure we'll look to dominate possession from the start much like we did against Villa. Just this won't be Villa, a team lacking adventure and self-belief. The question concerns Sunderland's preparation for us and what type of initiate they're planning for. Do they look to sit deep and counter or push forward once more aiming to stifle our passing play? Steven Fletcher, Adam Johnson and Stéphane Sessègnon all key players. We've got a fair few of our own. Sandro and Dembele will be kept busy but also have to be proactive rather than reactive to anything Sunderland have planned. Really think that central 'central' midfield area will be where the game is fought, won and lost.
Sandro has to smash Sunderland's resolute spirit. Dembele has to find a path into more offensive positions and not be dragged/held back in no man's land when we push forward. Sometimes his responsibilities are skewered. Maybe that's from my personal perception of the game. He isn't a deep-lying midfielder or a creative one to the extent of (list any creative midfielders we had or want here) but by virtue of his positivity with ball at feet - he can dictate or movement from midfield to attack. Hasn't done it as often as he can recently. His on-going injury is a concern. But equally so our reliability on him to be the 'leading man' from deep. At the time of writing, I don't know if Dempsey is available. We could do with him back in the side.
Equally so, if we attack from the first whistle we have to make ball retention count for something.
I can usually tell by the opening ten minutes what type of afternoon it will be up there. I'm not fond of our visits to the Stadium of Light. Mostly because by the end of I can't see a thing thanks to my hands covering my sight, turning all to darkness. I seem to only remember the defeats up there. They're always televised (or seem to be). Never pleasant. Regardless, I'm confident. No point seeking to be anything but.
I'm not sure I care for their tactics on the day. Or rather, I'm not concerned. I absolutely respect they could do us damage but pound for pound, if we set the tempo and score early on, the more open the game the more we'll be able to establish our authority on it. That's not to say our coach won't care. Gareth Bale will no doubt find no freedom of the park bestowed on him this particular afternoon which means we have to be adoptable (flank swaps, drifting into the middle, our full-backs on key at the back but seeking to overlap any space). Like I said, we'll know early on if it's going to be an afternoon where we struggle to find that vital rhythm.
It's been a good festive period and it will be a superb one if we continue it with another three points before Reading visit us on New Years Day. No Danny Rose for them. Will be interesting to see what rotation AVB will implement and whether it will simply be about resting players or with Sunderland in mind. Might see Dawson and Caulker return for this one (meaning Verts back to left-back duties).
Hoping to see more of Parker and Sigurdsson. Definitely hoping to see more of Bale, although his role might have more prominence out wide to aid the stretching of the midfield. Same with Lennon on the opposite side. Onus on the forward(s) to take their chances and thus avoid any late late stress and pressure.
Two telling stats from @SpursStatMan -
Spurs have had 43 attempts on goal in their last two games, whilst allowing their opponents just 8 attempts in total.
Spurs have made 418 crosses (including corners) already this season but have had just 31 headed attempts on goal.Another scratch of head is the creation of clear cut chances. Many of our shots in the first half against Villa were blocked or half chances. Fair few times the ball wasn't attacked. That Naughton pass to Defoe and the manner in which we drove forward in the second half was decisive and clinical. When there isn't space or pace to attack in that manner we have to be clever - that means more movement, more pace on the ball and a more assured leading man spearing the forward line. With Adebayor drifting into channels and Defoe sometimes waiting for the ball to drop to his feet, we'll letting the opposition off. But then on another day one or two of those efforts could have so easily found their way through. The common trend this season has been the lack of convincing goal to possession ratio.
Still, it's all b*llocks really. Match previews. Just a list of wishful thinking and trying to second guess what might happen depending on a set of variables that might/might not come into play based on any given moment on the pitch that can influence the games narrative in a blink of an eye.
5-0 Spurs then. Based on the manner in which my stomach just rumbled for a late night snack. At some point this season, everything we touch will turn to gold. Might as well be this game.