With 70 minutes on the clock and trailing 1-0 at home to Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur’s dreams of competing in next seasons Champions League appeared all but over, but following goals from Clint Dempsey, Jermain Defoe and player of the year nominee Gareth Bale, Spurs emerged 3-1 victors and once again their destiny is in their own hands.
This weekend Spurs travel to Wigan for a match that they, and for very different reasons, their hosts, must win. Wigan Athletic are locked in what now appears to be a two way battle with Aston Villa to avoid the final relegation spot. So important is The Latics’ premier league survival, that coach Roberto Martinez has deemed it more important than the clubs first ever appearance in an FA Cup final. With this being the case, you can certainly expect Wigan to be going all out for the victory.
Aaron Lennon should return to the first team for this game, having recovered from the injury he sustained during the recent Europa League tie with FC Basel, which is going to be a massive boost for André Vilas-Boas’ side. Lennon offers so much to the Tottenham team, with his key asset of pace meaning Wigan will be unable to focus all of their attention on his team mate Gareth Bale.
Lennon’s return follows that of Jermain Defoe, who returned to first team action against Manchester City. Defoe’s introduction arguably changed the outcome of this encounter; with his goal giving Spurs the lead and sending the White Hart lane faithful in to ecstasy. The attitude and work rate from Defoe was the complete opposite from the man who started the game as Spurs’ lone front man, Emmanuel Adebayor – who’s most telling contribution to the game was being substituted. I certainly wouldn’t lose any sleep if Adebayor never again donned the famous white shirt that represents Tottenham Hotspur. Back to Defoe, whose continual movement gave Vincent Kompany and his fellow defenders something to actually worry about. This was proven when, after collecting a lovely through pass from the energetic Lewis Holtby, Defoe turned onto his favoured right foot and rifled the ball past Joe Hart in the City goal.
It is Defoe’s movement, along with the pace of Bale and Lennon that Wigan must be wary of on Saturday. As I stated earlier this is a game that Wigan must win, or they face the possibility of a gap developing between themselves and Aston Villa. This means that Wigan won’t be able to put ten men behind the ball, and hope to catch Tottenham on the break.
Wigan have players, like Arouna Koné, Shaun Maloney, James McCarthy and Franco Di Santo, that can hurt Spurs if they aren’t on their game. The Latics also have one of the leagues top goalkeepers in Oman international Ali Al-Habsi and I believe he will need to be on top of his game to keep the visitors at bay.
It’s not just Tottenham’s big three that Wigan need to worry about, as Spurs have goal scorers all over the pitch. Jan Vertonghen has shown in recent months that he is a big threat in the opponent’s penalty area, and not only with his head. Mousa Dembélé also has an eye for goal, though he is more likely to play a holding role in midfield, and both Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurđsson have been in decent goal scoring form.
Although Spurs have been conceding goals on a game by game basis recently, they do look solid. With Hugo Lloris between the sticks they have one of the world’s best. In central defence Michael Dawson and Vertonghen look to be building a solid partnership. Kyle Walker has been dependable again this season, even if he has had to rely on his blistering pace to get him out of trouble at times. Benoit Assou-Ekotto hasn’t been as reliable as Walker, but is the best left back Tottenham have had during the Premier League years. In front of the back four you have the experienced Scott Parker, who will, along with Dembele, give added protection to the defence.
I do believe that Spurs will be too strong for Wigan and come away from The DW Stadium with all three points. If they don’t, they may well have handed the initiative back to their rivals.