West Ham vs Spurs is how we start the new Premier League season, but just what will Sam Allardyce have in store?
The Hammers were a thorn in our side last season, so it’s apt that we get the reign of Mauricio Pochettino underway in east London.
Big Sam will have a few things up sleeve, as he always does, and the celebratory T-shirts and DVDs will be on ice. But there are a number of consistent elements to the Hammers play and also some keys to breaking their defence down.
So, what should we expect and what should be the Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs this time?
Control of the centre
Whether he goes 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2 or 4-6-0, much of what Sam Allardyce tries to do stems from having extra players in the middle of the park.
This is especially true against us, where he will have a minimum of three, but will try to get four players in here to outnumber anything we have.
Mauricio Pochettino is also an exponent of trying to get a fourth body in to central areas to dictate the middle ground.
Our new Argentine coach has his two players at the base of midfield, helped by the advanced midfielder – a natural triangle from the 4-2-3-1. However, he also has a drifting player from the right flank.
This midfielder (Eriksen in pre-season) moves in and out from wide to the middle in order to get an extra player in to the central areas, outnumbering the opposition.
The centre of the park will be very congested on Saturday, control of this zone will dictate who is in charge of the match.
Where West Ham concede chances
The Hammers are a different animal home and away. On their travels they sit much deeper and play more of a counter attack game. At home they are much more aggressive and so can be got at in two ways.
Both start with actually backing off to lure them out. Both Liverpool and Man Utd went to the Boleyn Ground and left with the three points by doing just this.
Both teams sat deep, but also heavily regained the ball in the central area we talked about above.
This then allows them to strike on the counter attack by breaking from deep.
This is something we did very well, before going down to 10-men in the game at the Boleyn Ground last season. Here, the ball was quickly moved to Kane who found Gylfi Sigurdsson running in to the Hammers half. He played in Emmanuel Adebayor who fluffed his lines, but the indicators of how to score were there.
You can see above how far West Ham are up the pitch and this allows them to be got at in two ways.
The first is the quick transition via the long pass.
This can be over the top or to the feet of a player running in to space. Liverpool did this very well, with Steven Gerrard twice finding Luis Suarez on the run to earn two penalties.
We also carved out some chances this way despite being down to ten men in the match last season.
The second method is to move the ball out quickly in transition to get behind the full backs in order to play short pullbacks or low balls across the box.
West Ham are an incredibly strong aerial team, but once turned and in a foot race, their defence are susceptibile to teams that can get behind them at speed.
We can see that in the Kane to Sigurdsson example above. Man Utd also did that extremely well, especially from Guy Demel’s right back zone.
The Red Devils’ second goal of that game arrived as Ashley Young got behind George McCartney’s left back zone to find Wayne Rooney for a tap in.
Man Utd’s first goal that day could be argued that they also got in-behind through a quick transition from a long pass. The long ball forward was Rooney’s shot over Adrian’s head from the halfway line.
West Ham set pieces
The Hammers are reknownked for their long ball and crossing. Without Andy Carroll, but having Carlton Cole, this should be their main method of attack on Saturday. But where West Ham are equally as strong is from set pieces, namely corners.
Sam Allardyce teams are well coached on set pieces to cover the six-yard box in order to crowd the goalkeeper, get to the ball first and control rebounds. The rebound control is important as they get a lot of second chances this way.
We saw an example of this on their first goal in the 0-3 Premier League match at the Lane last season. Winston Reid had his header stopped on the line, but then mopped up the rebound, as West Ham had the six-yard box well covered with five players.
In the return at the Boleyn Ground we also saw a similar event lead to their opening goal.
West Ham once again spread the six-yard box evenly and well. Player 1 gets himself on the goalkeeper to make it as hard for him as possible to come for the ball. Players 2 and 5 are for rebound control and to keep the ball in the six-yard box. Players 3 and 4 attack the incoming cross.
Andy Carroll won the initial header and it flicked off Harry Kane in to the goal.
This is something to watch for in Spurs vs West Ham this Saturday and something that needs to be in the Tottenham tactics. Mauricio Pochettino has been using some zonal defending on set pieces, so we’ll see if this continues and the effect that it has.
But West Ham’s set pieces aren’t confined to corners.
Sam Allardyce usually has a trick free-kick up his sleeve whenever he plays us. Often this involves the ball being moved in some elaborate fashion to or through Kevin Nolan. Having him well marked on any Hammers free kicks is an absolute must.
West Ham vs Spurs outlook
Since taking the reins at Southampton, Mauricio Pochettino is yet to beat Sam Allardyce’s West Ham in three attempts. All three matches were in the Premier League and two of them ended in draws, as both managers nullified each other by attempting to control the central ground.
Therefore, this encounter will be fascinating in the way that Pochettino approaches the game.
His philosophy is one of high pressing and being aggressive. However, relaxing off a bit to draw the Hammers out, then using his vertical passing style on the counter may just be the preferred method here.
West Ham vs Spurs prediction: West Ham 1 Spurs 1.