After four defeats in our last five Premier League matches, the heat is being turned up on Andre Villas-Boas by the media and some of the fans. Probably not the time to face a Sam Allardyce coached team then, as its Spurs vs West Ham.
The Hammers are riding high in the Premier League this season, sitting a place and two points above us going in to Sunday’s encounter. With the current blip in form and pressure mounting on Villas-Boas, this would be a good time to silence the doubters.
So what can we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs West Ham?
Spurs vs West Ham approach
The Hammers have been pretty consistent in their approach to games this season. Sam Allardyce sets them up in a 4-2-3-1 with Mark Noble and Mohammad Diame screening the defence. Both are ball winners, but Noble is a passer, whereas Diame provides a drive and thrust forward from the centre of the park.
In front of them Kevin Nolan has licence to get forward and look for knockdowns from Andy Carroll, as well as crosses from the flanks. The two wide men get the ball in at every opportunity as we’ll look at in a minute, and are the source of much of West Ham’s success this season.
Since signing on-loan from Liverpool, Andy Carroll is the key and focal point for the attacks with his aerial presence. He is the target for long balls forward from the back, as well as looking to get on the end of crosses from the flanks.
Spurs vs West Ham long ball
Early in the season, West Ham were playing more passing football, but since the arrival of Andy Carroll, they are playing to the big man’s strengths and are going long.
In the Premier League this season, the Hammers sit sixth in long balls attempted with 63 per game. On the flip side they also attempt the least amount of short passes according to WhoScored.com.
In their last two matches, Stoke who are used to the aerial game, fared well against balls played vertically down the pitch. West Ham completed more diagonal ones played across the park in this match. Whereas Newcastle were less successful against the route one approach, with over half of West Ham’s long balls finding their target.
Spurs vs West Ham will see a thorough examination of our back line’s aerial ability on Sunday. The Tottenham tactics may be to deploy a defender like Michael Dawson alongside Steven Caulker, with Jan Vertonghen covering from left back to cope with Carroll’s aerial power.
Spurs vs West Ham crossing
West Ham do like the long ball as they know Andy Carroll will win it in the air, but they can also play through Noble and Diame to move the ball wide.
Matt Jarvis is the usual target, with West Ham favouring to attack down his side 40% of the time, where they attempt 59% of their total crosses.
Jarvis will probably miss the game with injury and he was replace by Modibo Maiga against Stoke. That didn’t stop the Hammers still attempting to cross though, as they put a whopping 52 balls in to the box. Although the majority came from Maiga’s left flank, the more accurate ones that found their target, and for the goal, came from the right where Gary O’Neil was operating.
A couple of weeks prior they were doing the same away to Wigan, where they heavily peppered crossess from the Latics left. This included a chipped ball for James Tomkins to head home, highlighted by the yellow line. Again, the quantity came from the left, but the more accurate balls came from the right.
West Ham’s choice of wide players will be interesting this time if Jarvis doesn’t play. Maiga is more of a forward than a natural winger and the Mali international doesn’t deliver the same quality of service as the England man.
On the other side, Gary O’Neil will have Yossi Benayoun to contend with for the start. O’Neil created the Hammers’ goal against Stoke, but the Tottenham tactics would do well to force the two wide players inside to cut off the crosses to Carroll.
Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan
They were a one-two punch at Newcastle and now these two are doing it again for West Ham. Andy Carroll is yet to score in the Premier League, but his all-round play is helping Nolan find the back of the net.
If we look at some of West Ham’s recent matches on Stats Zone, we can see how the two operate.
Against Stoke, Andy Carroll is the focus for long balls forward from the goalkeeper and defenders, then he gets in to the box to get on the end of crosses. His passes are usually knockdowns from these long balls and predominantly backwards. When he does try to go forwards, his 62% pass accuracy, which is one of the lowest in the Premier League, is highlighted.
Kevin Nolan is there to gain possession from Carroll winning the ball, but he is also involved much more in the build up play, getting out on that left side the Hammers like. Here he takes the ball from Diame, Noble and the fullbacks and moves it to the wingers, before getting in to the box to get on the end of crosses.
Prior to the Stoke match, the same tactics are apparent in their away trip to Wigan.
Andy Carroll is the focus for long balls from the back, then he is getting on the end of crosses in to the box. His layoffs from winning the long balls backwards are complete, his forward passes or flick-ons fail to find their targets.
Kevin Nolan is once again involved in the build up play, moving more towards the left side of the pitch than the right. He then receives a couple of crosses and also some layoffs from Carroll inside the box.
The Tottenham tactics should look to see us neutralise Andy Carroll with Steven Caulker and Michael Dawson, who are our best defenders in the air. Carroll will still win his fair share of aerials though, so we need to be first to his knockdowns.
It usually takes several big men to deal with Carroll’s physical presence. With Kevin Nolan also looking to get in the box, Jan Vertonghen should be preferred to pinch in from left back rather than Kyle Naughton. Kyle Walker will need to stop the service coming in from the West Ham left, so Vertonghen will effectively give us three centre backs against Carroll and Nolan for crosses from that side.
Spurs vs sitting teams
Spurs have had trouble at the Lane against teams who drop deep to defend. Due to Andy Carroll’s lack of mobility, whilst Kevin Nolan isn’t that quick over the ground, the Hammers tend to drop off and defend from halfway.
They are a very good tackling team though, rather than a team that intercepts the ball – the Hammers are the lowest ranked team for interceptions with 9 per match. This does mean that they give away a lot of fouls though and they are currently top of the pile with 14 conceded per game.
Spurs may do well to try and generate a scoring chance from a set piece. Stoke and Wigan have both done so recently and this is another reason for including three ‘bigger’ defenders in Dawson, Caulker and Vertonghen. These three can not only stop Carroll and Nolan at one end, but they can also score at the other.
Spurs vs West Ham conceding chances through the middle
Most teams concede chances through either the left or right zones, but West Ham have allowed the most chances through the middle in the Premier League.
Both Stoke and Wigan demonstrated this, with both creating chances from squared balls in central locations inside and just outside the box. As mentioned above, they also both scored from corners.
Spurs have had a tendency to work the ball wide, with us creating the bulk of our chances (39%) through the right-hand zone. The Tottenham tactics here may be to deploy more of a passer in Gylfi Sigurdsson in the role behind Jermain Defoe, to create chances down the centre. Defoe likes to play on the shoulder and looking to get him in here with passes slid through the defence may be our best ploy. A driving Moussa Dembele may also have some success.
Spurs vs West Ham outlook
Off the back of a Europa League trip to Rome, this is going to be a difficult test against a well-coached team.
We know pretty much what we’re going to get against West Ham, but stopping them hitting long balls to Andy Carroll and attempting crosses is easier said than done.
Andre Villas-Boas really should look to drop William Gallas for this one. The Frenchman only wins 67% of his aerial duels, whereas Michael Dawson historically wins nearer 80% and has enough experience to guide Steven Caulker alongside him. Both Carroll and Nolan are sluggish over the ground, so they aren’t a threat to expose us in behind if we are playing a high line. Dawson also likes to play long diagonal passes, which may help turn a quick transition against a West Ham team that doesn’t tend to press away from home.
Spurs vs West Ham should be a close game, with us edging it by a goal.
Spurs vs West Ham prediction: Spurs 2 West Ham 1
Spurs 2 West Ham 1 at 7/1 with BetFred
Steven Caulker 1st Goalscorer at 25/1 with BetFred who are offering their double delight deal on this game, which means if you back the first goal scorer and he goes on to score two or three, then they’ll double or triple your winnings.