Three Things Learned from Tottenham Win over West Brom

Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Tottenham Hotspur's English striker Harry Kane (Photo by PETER POWELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Gareth Bale, Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspurs Welsh midfielder Gareth Bale (L) gets (Photo by LAURENCE GRIFFITHS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Bale Not Ready for Business

Gareth Bale has been slowly brought along up to this point in the season. Going from playing golf and watching matches in sunny Spain to competing in the Premier League on a weekly basis is a big jump. Had Bale been playing regularly for Real Madrid it would be different, but alas, the situation is what it is, and Gareth needs to be protected.

With protection – which Jose Mourinho himself has spoken about – in mind, it was surprising that Gareth Bale started Sunday and went nearly 80 minutes before coming off for Lucas Moura. Bale seemed exhausted or possibly a bit banged up when he came off the pitch and you hope there is nothing wrong there, especially going into National team duty.

Before coming off Bale was mostly ineffective for Spurs. While he did manage to put in 4 crosses, overall, he had a hard time finding the ball or maybe the ball had a hard time finding him. Bale only had 39 total touches, less than any other starting field player. Additionally, Bale had the lowest completion percentage 64% of any field player, completing the fewest passes on the fewest attempts of any starter for Spurs.

In no way do we think Gareth Bale is anything close to washed up, but given the care taken up to this point it was surprising to see Bale both start and then play the vast majority of the match. Maybe now he misses Wales duty, but likely, he goes on to play three matches for his country and is unavailable for Manchester City. While we hope that is not the case and smarter minds prevail, the day and time icing his leg were not good for Bale.

Mourinho Can Tilt Tottenham Top

During the height of the Mauricio Pochettino era, Tottenham Hotspur were flat track bullies and boy was it great. Going into a place like the Hawthorns and walking out with a 3-0 win in 2015. However, sometimes the way the other team was set up or just the bounce of the ball; things did not always go the way Spurs wanted.

When Tottenham were failing to simply overpower teams particularly teams they should be on the road, points would be dropped. The two subsequent visits to the Hawthorns following that 3-goal win are perfect evidence as Tottenham drew one game 1-1 and then lost 1-0 the year the Baggies were relegated.

This leads us to this match where things were not exactly clicking for Tottenham and although they were seemingly knocking on the door with a plethora of shots, few were really bothering Sam Johnstone the Baggie keeper. However, seeing the need to alleviate some of the pressure on Harry Kane – as both a loan target and focal point of the defense – Jose Mourinho brought Carlos Vinicius on.

Vinicius did not alone change the game, although he did have 2 shots on only 4 touches in 12 minutes. Rather it was the change in Spurs formation that changed the game. Instead of Kane as the loan target, now there were two. Instead of three midfielders there were now only two. Where Tottenham had been heavily outnumbered by the Baggies block, suddenly they had a chance.

Ultimately, the change in formation got Kane just enough space to squeeze between defenders and redirect the ball past Johnston. While Spurs have thrown additional big guys up front late before, it was obvious the players knew exactly what to do and where to go to make the 4-4-2 work. While I do not think we will see the formation all the time or even regularly, we will see it when the occasion calls for it, which is the most important then.