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Spurs v Wolves: McCarthy's men fighting altitude sickness

PUBLISHED: 17:15 10 December 2009 | UPDATED: 16:37 07 September 2010

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JULY 28:   Sylvan Ebanks-Blake of Wolves reacts after he misses a shot on the empty MK Dons goal during the pre season friendly match between MK Dons and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stadiummk on July 28, 2009 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

MILTON KEYNES, ENGLAND - JULY 28: Sylvan Ebanks-Blake of Wolves reacts after he misses a shot on the empty MK Dons goal during the pre season friendly match between MK Dons and Wolverhampton Wanderers at Stadiummk on July 28, 2009 in Milton Keynes, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

2009 Getty Images

WHICH team boasts the tallest striker in the Premier League? Spurs fans will be fairly certain of the answer – and they would be wrong. While Tottenham s 6ft 7ins forward Peter Crouch grabs most of the head-lines, the true giant of the top flight...

Preview by Ben Pearce

WHICH team boasts the tallest striker in the Premier League? Spurs fans will be fairly certain of the answer - and they would be wrong.

While Tottenham's 6ft 7ins forward Peter Crouch grabs most of the head-lines, the true giant of the top flight in fact resides at Molineux - Stefan Maierhofer is 6ft 7.5ins.

Not that it has done him a lot of good. Frustrated Tottenham and England fans frequently moan that Crouch should do more with his physical advantages.

But Crouch need only point to Maierhofer to prove that height in itself does very little in England's top flight.

Wolves' own goliath is yet to start a top-flight game, he has netted just once in seven appearances - all off the bench - and it wasn't even a header.

Maierhofer arrived in the West Midlands after scoring 23 goals in 37 games for Rapid Vienna last season, but the Austrian international has struggled to cope with the altitude of the Premier League.

The same could be said of other players, and they are mostly strikers. Strangely, the Old Gold seem to be suffering from the same malaise as West Brom last season - the curse of the Championship champions.

Sylvan Ebanks-Blake was the leading scorer in the Championship last season with 25 goals, but the 23-year-old has netted just once in the promised land of the top flight, and that came from the penalty spot.

Fortunately, manager Mick McCarthy had the foresight to sign ex-Reading striker Kevin Doyle for £6.5million. The Republic of Ireland international netted 13 goals in his last Premier League season before scoring 18 times for the Royals last season.

Unfortunately, like Ebanks-Blake and Maierhofer, his return this season has also been meagre - three strikes in 12 league appearances.

McCarthy's problem up front is exemplified by the fact that centre-back Jody Craddock is the club's current leading scorer with four goals.

A favourite of McCarthy's after their time together at Sunderland, Craddock marshalls a defence that has conceded 28 times in 15 top-flight fixtures so far - 16 of them have come in seven trips away from home.

However, that is by no means the worst record in the Premier League and, while Wolves currently sit in the bottom three, they have shown that they are up for the fight.

McCarthy's side beat Fulham 2-1 at Molineux, and went unbeaten for three games against Everton, Aston Villa and Stoke in October - holding the Toffees and the Potters away.

Saturday's 2-1 win over Bolton was also an impressive result. But, if Wolves have proved that they can compete in the Premier League, they have been found out against the top teams.

The Old Gold went down 4-1 at home against Arsenal, and also shipped four at Stamford Bridge in their next game.

McCarthy's solution has been to bring in USA's No3 goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann and drop Wayne Hennessey. Wolves have since conceded once against both Birmingham and Bolton.

Ham&High Sport verdict: This is the definition of the must-win game. Villa may have slipped up, but Man City, Arsenal and Chelsea have shown no mercy against the newly-promoted side.

Spurs have now gone without a win in their last three games and this is the perfect game to restore momentum before the vital visit of Man City to N17 three days later. A comfortable victory is needed - anything less would be very concerning.

Prediction: 3-0


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