It is unusual for two such inexperienced managers to be at the helm for a Premier League match, but as West Bromwich Albion travel to Tottenham Hotspur, the two bosses involved are still learning their trade in rather different circumstances.
Andre Villas-Boas and Steve Clarke have managed just 124 professional games between them, but given that Clarke’s first was the Baggies’ unexpected 3-0 win over Liverpool last week, the Scot must be thinking this managerial lark is a piece of cake.
Villas-Boas probably thought the same when he was winning the treble at Porto 15 months ago, but his experience in England has proved far more troublesome and once again the former Chelsea boss was facing up to the cameras to explain away a defeat in the Premier League, this time a slightly unfortunate 2-1 loss to Newcastle United in his first game in charge of Spurs.
Take the 21/20 that Spurs are winning at half-time as well as full-time. That happened in 11 of their 13 home victories last season and there is no reason to think that those quick starts are a thing of the past despite the change of manager.
In truth, AVB’s side did little wrong against Newcastle and on another day may well have taken the points. Enough chances were created and though a mix of wasteful finishing, good goalkeeping and bad luck meant the Magpies ended up with the win, there is little reason for Villas-Boas to panic just yet.
His revamp of the Spurs squad is still ongoing, with Emmanuel Adebayor finally sealing his protracted move from Manchester City this week, which at least gives AVB another much-needed option up front (although the former Arsenal man is hardly the most reliable once he has pocketed his money and has secured himself a big fat contract).
Meanwhile, players are still on their way out to free up funds. Michael Dawson to QPR is a strange one (Tom Huddlestone to Stoke less so), but AVB needs to bring some cash in before spending, which is why Luka Modric’s long-mooted move to Real Madrid needs to be done as soon as possible.
It means Spurs have started the season with a squad packed full of talent but one that also looks uneven and incomplete, which is in stark contrast to West Brom, who couldn’t be more settled, even accounting for their rookie manager.
Clarke may well be looking at Saturday as an ideal time to go to Tottenham and it would be difficult to argue with that logic. Not that the bookies see it that way, mind you, making Spurs the 9/20 favourites, with the draw at 16/5 and the Baggies outsiders at 6/1.
That price on West Brom will tempt some punters on the back of that win over Liverpool at the Hawthorns, but just like Tottenham were not poor in defeat, I don’t think West Brom were great in victory and I fancy Spurs to show their superiority here.
West Brom took advantage of the Reds being a man down brilliantly and went for the throat with conviction, but Liverpool were marginally the better team up until Zoltan Gera’s wonder goal and Daniel Agger’s red card.
What’s more, Spurs represent a tougher assignment than in-transition Liverpool. The attacking players Villas-Boas can turn to, even needing a striker, will give any team problems and at White Hart Lane, Gareth Bale, Aaron Lennon and Rafael van der Vaart have given their opponents a torrid time over the last few seasons.
Tottenham won 13 home games last year, scoring in every match and posting the third-best record in the division. And while West Brom had a good away record themselves, they lost six of their nine games away to top-half sides and in AVB’s first home match, I think Spurs will have too much for their visitors.
But the 9/20 is short, so instead take the 21/20 that Spurs are winning at half-time as well as full-time. That happened in 11 of their 13 home victories last season and there is no reason to think that those quick starts are a thing of the past despite the change of manager.
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