Spurs must be on Red alert after West Brom’s impressive victory over Liverpool
Premier League preview: Tottenham host West Bromwich Albion at White Hart Lane at 3pm today.
After spending 14 years in the shadows as the No2 at Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool, Steve Clarke’s managerial debut could hardly have gone any better last Saturday.
Clarke had previously taken charge of one game, as a caretaker at Newcastle following Ruud Gullit’s dismissal in 1999, and had suffered a 5-1 defeat at the hands at Manchester United.
He has waited more than a decade for the chance to sit in the hot-seat again – and having replaced Roy Hodgson at West Brom, he started his reign in style with a 3-0 victory over Liverpool.
Previously known for being a yoyo club, the early signs are that the Baggies could improve on last season’s 10th-placed finish.
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However, Clarke is refusing to get carried away: “If we’d had a negative result I’d be saying ‘we won’t read too much into it, it’s a long season and there’s many games to play,” he said.
“It was a good performance, I was really pleased with the way the team shaped up.
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“They did what they were asked to do, they kept a good shape and they had a threat going forward, which is important when you’re playing against one of the top teams.”
The Baggies certainly did carry a threat going forward, with three different players finding the net and a fourth, striker Shane Long, winning two penalties.
The pacy Irish frontman may have missed one of them but he was a constant thorn in Liverpool’s side, giving Daniel Agger and Martin Skrtel a real afternoon to forget.
Meanwhile, Zoltan Gera marked his comeback from injury with a 25-yard screamer, Peter Odemwingie scored from the spot and substitute Romelu Lukaku – a loan signing from Chelsea – also came off the bench and found the net.
Clarke was particularly pleased with Gera’s opener: “It was great for Zoltan, he’s had a horrendous time with injuries but he’s a consummate professional,” said the manager.
“For him to score a goal like that on his return is fantastic. It’s like signing a new player because he’s a top international.”
The Baggies lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation last Saturday with Youssef Mulumbu and summer signing Claudio Yacob – a free signing from Racing Club de Avellaneda – sitting in front of the back four.
Odemwingie lined up on the right of the attacking unit, with Gera on the left and James Morrison operating behind Long.
Having had such success against Liverpool, Clarke is likely to employ the same tactics at White Hart Lane today – and he will have been buoyed by the clean sheet as well as his side’s three goals.
Goalkeeper Ben Foster has now turned his loan spell at West Brom into a permanent move, and the centre-back pairing of Jonas Olsson and Gareth McAuley is an underrated one inside full-backs Steven Reid and Liam Ridgewell.
Olsson’s future is the subject of speculation as he is now entering the final year of his contract, but Clarke is expecting the imposing 6ft 4ins Swede to stay.
Clarke also has good options on the bench and Chris Brunt, who has been such a key player for the Baggies over the past five years, did not appear until the 81st minute against Liverpool.
Lukaku is also a strong addition – quite literally, as he proved when he shrugged Jamie Carragher aside and left him on the ground to tee up Morrison for a glorious opportunity, before adding the third goal himself.
The big Belgian certainly has something to prove after arriving in England with an expensive price tag last summer, but failing to make any impression with Chelsea in his first year in the Premier League.
Lukaku cost the Blues �18million but made just 12 appearances in 2011/12 – eight of them from the bench – before joining the Baggies on loan.
The verdict: With Emmanuel Adebayor back up front, there will be a positive vibe around White Hart Lane for the first home game of the season – and we’re feeling positive too. 2-1 to Tottenham
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs