Tottenham 2 West Brom 0
When Harry Kane is missing, Tottenham play like a team without a brain. Everything feels more coherent when he is on the pitch. Son Heung-min comes alive on the left wing, darting into space, hunting opportunities and giving defenders nightmares. Everyone grows in stature and, with a crisis brewing in the background, it was easy to see why José Mourinho decided to gamble on Kane's fitness against West Brom, bringing him back less than a fortnight after the England captain injured both ankles against Liverpool.
In truth there is little to learn in victory against a side as bad as Sam Allardyce’s West Brom, who look doomed to relegation already. But this much is clear: if Spurs are to qualify for the Champions League, they need Kane to stay fit. They had toiled in his absence, suffering three consecutive defeats, and were inspired when he returned. Inevitably it was Kane who displayed the composure to defeat West Brom, coolly opening the scoring before Son clinched the points, and there were even signs of more ambition from Mourinho, whose caution has been holding Spurs back.
Of course it would be wrong to read too much into victory over such limited opponents. The likelihood is that Mourinho reverts to type for tougher matches, sitting back and playing on the break, even though Spurs' strength lies more in attack than defence. Indeed this was something of a free hit. The prospect of all-out defence from West Brom opened the door to a more adventurous approach from Mourinho, who moved Tanguy Ndombele back to sit alongside Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in midfield and handed a first league start since October 26th to Lucas Moura.
There was something dishonest about the lineup after Mourinho’s tactical cowardice, plus a hint of desperation to Kane’s surprisingly swift return from his latest ankle trouble. Spurs should have enough at their disposal to beat West Brom without their best finisher. The problem, though, is that they are not merely reliant on Kane for goals; it is more that their entire attacking plan revolves around him.
He is not merely their best goalscorer, he is also their most incisive playmaker, their brain. Without Kane, Spurs look clueless. The difference with him back was stark.
Admittedly Kane was not at his sharpest as he limbered up during the early stages, with his first touch heavy at times, but Spurs were at their sharpest with him on the ball. There were signs of his threat when he dropped deep to collect the ball, turn and release Son with the kind of sweeping pass that Carlos Vinícius never provided against Chelsea. Sent into space, Son cut inside before testing Sam Johnstone with a curling effort.
West Brom quickly retreated, giving up possession and inviting pressure. Kane spent most of the first half finding his range. He grazed the woodwork following persistent work from Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela, who replaced Steven Bergwijn on the right. Twice he scuffed efforts with his left foot, before using his stronger right to bring the best out of Johnstone, who also made a pointblank save from an Aurier header.
West Brom, who gave a debut in midfield to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, offered nothing in attack. Mbaye Diagne sent an early header over but the main spark of invention from the visitors came from Allardyce meeting a stray clearance with a backheeled volley as the ball dropped into his technical area.
There was more entertainment when Allardyce headed another loose ball away, amusing Mourinho. Other than a tame early header from Diagne, however, that was about as interesting as it got for West Brom. Although they made it to half-time unscathed, they were never going to hold out. They have won once and conceded 30 goals in Allardyce’s first 11 league games in charge; while they lack quality, their negativity feels entirely pointless at this stage.
Spurs kept pressing at the start of the second half, Kane releasing Son, who fired at Johnstone’s feet. A goal felt inevitable and it arrived when Højbjerg sliced West Brom apart in the 54th minute, threading a gorgeous pass through to Kane, who had time and space to open up his body before stroking a calm finish low to Johnstone’s left.
Forced on the offensive, West Brom’s plan lay in tatters. Four minutes later Spurs caught them on the break, Moura surging through the middle and waiting for the perfect moment to release the ball. Support arrived and Moura slipped the ball to Son, whose shot was too powerful for Johnstone.
Although Diagne had two goals disallowed for offside, West Brom were beaten. Spurs cruised towards the final whistle, although there was still no runout for Gareth Bale, an unused substitute again. - Guardian