Premier League: 5 keys to Spurs vs West Ham (h)

It’s back to Premier League action with Spurs vs West Ham at White Hart Lane, so we look at how to take on a Sam Allardyce team.

The Hammers have been enjoying a new-lease of life under Sam Allardyce. They’ve become more than just a long ball and crossing team and it’s paid off as they’ve climbed the table. Having enjoyed our first win over them in four attempts on the opening day of the season, we’ll be looking to do the double over them.

So, what can we expect and what should be in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs West Ham this time?

1. Central four

This has become an emerging pattern with Sam Allardyce teams when he plays us over the last few seasons. The West Ham manager likes to outnumber or control the central midfield region by playing a box or diamond.

This was how they set up in their visit to the Lane last season to congest and stifle Andre Villas-Boas’ side.


West Ham get four midfielders in the centre.

Tim Sherwood also got the same treatment at the Boleyn Ground in the final match of last season, as did Mauricio Pochettino in the first game of this.


4v4 in central midfield

Allardyce knows all too well that the book on how to contain us is to sit deep and stifle the centre. Whereas our other coaches differ, the problem he faces with our latest one is that Mauricio Pochettino also likes to get four or more players in to this central midfield zone.

The game at the Boleyn Ground started off very highly congested in here. With both teams having a man sent off, the space soon freed up as resources had to be moved elsewhere. We won the game in the dying seconds, but the most intriguing tactical battle will be how both coaches approach this zone. Neither emerged on top when it was 11v11 first time around, so there is the sense of unfinished business about who had the upper hand.

2. West Ham set pieces

Set pieces will be key as they always are when you face a Sam Allardyce side. The West Ham manager coaches his team well to spread and contain the ball around the six-yard box.

We have a bit of a bad history with the Hammers at set pieces. They scored off one in the match at the Lane last season. Again the Allardyce spacing was apparent to keep the ball in and around the six-yard box, as five players were well positioned across it. Winston Reid bundled the ball home.


West Ham have the six yard box covered as Reid scores.

The away match at the end of last season saw us also concede from a corner, as Harry Kane deflected Andy Carroll’s header in to our net. Again the five well spaced men were across the six-yard box, also with a player on our keeper (1), something Allardyce loves to do.


West Ham’s corner coverage.

That match saw a red card for Younes Kaboul and we also lost a man in the first match of this Premier League season, as Kyle Naughton was sent off. Again the passage of play was from a corner, as Kevin Nolan spun and fired a shot, which deflected up off Naughton’s arm.

The Hammers had two waves of three players on this corner routine. Kevin Nolan (1) was interrupting the keeper, whilst players 2 and 3 were spread across the six-yard box. Players 4,5 and 6 ran in a second wave to join them and create the five-man spread across this zone with the man in front of the keeper. It was a slightly different way of achieving the same objective.


West Ham spread the box with Nolan (1) on the keeper.

Defending corners will form an integral part of the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs West Ham this time. We also need to be switched on at free kicks, as Allardyce likes to use various miss-direction ploys to get players in to shooting positions. This can see set pieces played short and then chipped over the wall for a man to run to for example. There are a number in his locker that have been worked at on the training ground and you have to expect that more will happen than just a straight shot.

3. Where West ham concede

There have been two zones where West Ham have conceded chances and goals this season.

The first is the area patrolled by left back Aaron Cresswell. The Hammers new signing has enjoyed a good campaign going forward, but opponents have exposed his defensive frailties.

In their last match, the FA Cup tie at the Hawthorns, West Brom opened the scoring as Craig Dawson got in and beyond the full back to set up Brown Ideye.


Dawson gets beyond Cresswell.

In their last Premier League match, away at Southampton, the Saints huffed and puffed to break down the Hammers who were reduced to ten men on the hour. Try as they might, they couldn’t do it, but did again create a number of chances through Cresswell’s left back zone.


Southampton chances created against West Ham.

The second area is by going straight through the centre back pairing. Whilst the likes of Winston Reid, James Tomkins and James Collins are strong in the air, they are slow over the ground.

This was highlighted as Collins received his marching orders for fouls on Lamela and Adebayor racing past him in the match on the opening day of the season. It was no coincidence that Harry Kane came on and opened the Hammers up by playing a through ball down the middle for Eric Dier to latch on to and finish.


Kane plays a vertical pass to Eric Dier on the run.

In West Ham’s recent trip to Liverpool, the Reds also opened them up in these two zones. They scored twice from through balls straight down the middle, but also created two good chances from the Hammers’ left back zone.


Liverpool chances against West Ham.

The Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs West Ham this time will see us do well to get in through the middle. As mentioned above, Sam Allardyce likes to congest this zone against us; however, this should open up 1v1 battles down the flanks. Erik Lamela and Kyle Walker down the right will be key to opening the Hammers up.

4. Press or drop

At home West Ham play on the front foot, but on the road they can be a very defensive counter attacking side. This opens up the debate about whether it is better to press them high and try and overpower them or to drop off and lure them out to create space to play in to.

Both tactics have their merits. In their last Premier League away match, Southampton pressured them high up, but failed to break the Hammers’ ten men down. In their previous away trip, Liverpool balanced both pressing and dropping off expertly to cruise to a 2-0 win. They created two zones of ball recovery during pressing up high (1) and also dropping in to the middle third (2).


Liverpool’s two zones of ball recovery.

We have started fast and gone after teams in recent matches from the off and we should do so again here. However, it is this tactic of balancing both trying to press and luring them out which should be adopted if the Hammers prove stubborn to break down.

5. Position of Downing

The battle in central midfield will be the overriding factor in this match, but Stewart Downing’s positioning will also play a big part. He is enjoying something of a revival this season by being used both out on the left, but also in the centre.

He started the season out on the flank and we did a good job forcing him back to limit his supply of crosses from this side.


Spurs tackles vs West Ham.

Since then he has been used more and more in the centre at the head of Allardyce’s 4-4-2 diamond or as a number ten in his 4-1-3-2 set up. With the expected central congestion, Allardyce may well move him away from that zone here. If he does remain in the middle, then Nabil Bentaleb and Ryan Mason will need to do a much better job of shutting him down than they did on Philippe Coutinho at Anfield.

Spurs vs West Ham outlook

Big Sam’s team are suffering from a slight loss of form at the minute, having won just one of their last six in the Premier League.

For us, we have to deal with the return to Europa League action, which has seen our performances dip afterwards so far this season. It’s no coincidence that our good run of form has come in the window of the Europa League break. It’s also given Mauricio Pochettino much more time to work on the training field and we’re seeing the dividends of both his physical and tactical work.

Overall, how each manager approaches the central midfield zone will be key to the outcome.

Spurs vs West Ham prediction: Spurs 2-1 West Ham.

Spurs vs West Ham betting

I really fancy us for the win in this one and also with an early goal going in for either side, which has been a frequent occurence at the Lane recently. What’s more Nabil Bentaleb had some decent efforts against Arsenal and also saw his backheel flick from a corner blocked by a player on the line at Anfield, so could well grab a goal here.

Spurs 2-1 West Ham at 15/2 with Betfair
Goal in 1st 15 mins at 2/1 with 888sport
Nabil Bentaleb score anytime at 17/2 with BetVictor


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8 Responses to Premier League: 5 keys to Spurs vs West Ham (h)

  1. Mike 21st February 2015 at 8:54 am #

    Mark, I am wondering what you think of Eriksen and his role in the team? This season he has been hugely influential with his late game winning goals and he is probably the best freekick taker in the PL.

    I may have huge expectations for him but I am a little disappointed with the rest of his play. I want him to be someone who controls the game and set up the attacking play and the chance creation like a David Silva, Fabregas or Modric. I know he still has a few years to develop into that kind of player but there is a lot of work to do for him to get to that level I think.

    In that number 10 position we all want him to excel in I think he is still too light weight. He is not strong enough to receive the ball with his back to goal and turn a man like Dembele has done so well recently. So most of the time when Eriksen receives the ball in the middle he just plays it back to the defender or the player who gave it to him because he cant seem to turn and get away from the man marking him.

    Right now Dembele is a better number 10 I think and on the left wing I feel a little sorry for Chadli because I think he is better in that position than Eriksen and he is left out because Eriksen has to play somewhere.

    What are your thoughts on Eriksens role in the team?

    • Ali 21st February 2015 at 9:47 am #

      I know it’ll never happen, but I think Eriksen would be well suited to a 4141 formation playing alongside Dembele and with a DMF with Bentaleb as the best choice of what we’ve got. We would need a more specialist DMF for that formation tbh but still, Dembele and Eriksen would be a perfect pairing, complementing each other beautifully. They’d be formidable!

    • Chris 22nd February 2015 at 12:11 am #

      Well, I’m not Mark… but… ;)

      Can we bring on Eriksen in, say, the 88th minute to score his goal? I’d be fine with that. If we don’t have him on the pitch, who do we have to actually play clever passes? I’m trying to think of a comparison, but we have a pretty standard team without a Modric or VDV type player to actually bring some variety to our play.

      The game on Thursday (second half) was a pretty sorry affair with Bentaleb getting the ball and really not knowing what the hell to do with it.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 24th February 2015 at 4:32 pm #

      Hi Mike, some great points you make. I think Eriksen’s role in the team is one of accomodation right now. ie to include a more powerful ball recover player and presser in Dembele, then he has to switch out to one of the wider positions. Pochettino did this a lot with Adam Lallana last season and probably sees Eriksen in the same mould.

      When Eriksen signed for us, I wrote a piece on how he is just as much of a goalscorer, if not more so, than he is a chance creator. The players you mention (Silva, Fabrgeas, Modric) are more classic chance creators whether they are played in a number ten role or deeper in the formation. I do believe Eriksen can play with his back to goal and pull the strings like they do, but his through ball passing is maybe just at a level below these players you mention. He is a better goalscorer though.

      Right now with so many teams playing narrow against us, starting Eriksen in the middle gets him holed up in the traffic with little room to operate. Lallana suffered the same problem for Pochettino at Southampton. Starting him wider allows him to drift in to the middle and use his judgement to create space. It also allows Pochettino to include a much better pressing player in a more advanced role in Dembele to close the opposition down and this is why we are seeing the improvement and much more noticeable higher press now. It does come at the expense of other players eg as you mention, Nacer Chadli, but this is where rest and rotation need to come in.

      Hope that answers your question?

      • Mike 25th February 2015 at 11:58 am #

        When he was at Ajax he was seen as much more of a chance creator and less of a goalscorer. He was actually criticised for not scoring enough goals. But this season at Spurs has been kind of an anomaly for him with so many goals and almost no assists.

        I am a little worried about his recent matches where he has seemed out of sorts maybe burnout. I hope he can find some top form this week. Lets hope we get a lot of free kicks just outside the penalty area ;)

        I understand why Poch prefers to start him on the left and Dembele in the middle. I just wish we could find a way to fit Chadli into the starting eleven along with Eriksen and Kane because I think those 3 together are deadly for the opposition. After the Chelsea win Mourinho also said that they really suffered with Chadlis runs and strength. I think he offers a lot offensively along with Kane and Eriksen.

  2. Calum 21st February 2015 at 9:46 am #

    I didn’t see Thursday’s game but I hear Eriksen was missing again. I’d go for Chadli Dembele Lamela and Kane. It looks likely with them rested too.

  3. anotherwisemonkey 21st February 2015 at 10:21 pm #

    Mark, do you think with the Hammers aerial prowess this is a good time to bring Fazio back into the starting XI in the league? I like Dier and generally favour him over Fazio but is it a case of horses for courses?

    • Calum 22nd February 2015 at 10:01 am #

      Vertonghen is going to need a rest sooner or later. Is it too high risk to play Dier and Fazio? Dier’s probably better in the air than Jan, maybe he’ll score again too!