It’s been two weeks since we’ve stepped out in the Premier League, but it’s back to business tonight for West Ham vs Spurs.
The Hammers haven’t played since being edged by Aston Villa 16 days ago, whereas we’ve had a roller-coaster Europa League tie with a dramatic last-minute winner against Lyon.
After being thumped 3-1 in November, West Ham will be ready for the return, with Sam Allardyce having plenty of time to scheme.
So, let’s take a look at what can we expect from the Hammers and what should be the Tottenham tactics for West ham vs Spurs.
West Ham set up and tactics
West Ham have used a 4-2-3-1 formation for much of the season, but in their last Premier League game at Aston Villa, went with three centre backs in a 3-4-2-1.
In their 4-2-3-1 system, Mark Noble and Mohammad Diame screen the defence from the pivot. Both are good tacklers, but whereas Noble is a distributor and passer; Diame likes to dribble forward with the ball to provide a drive and thrust from deep.
The three in front of them consist of two wingers who play very wide and deliver crosses, which is what the Hammers’ play thrives on, as we’ll look at in a minute.
Kevin Nolan sits in the middle of this trio, playing an advanced midfield role having three functions. First of all he looks for knockdowns from Andy Carroll, which he can either shoot from or shift the ball wide. Secondly, he is looking to receive the ball from Diame and Noble, then move it to the wide players. Thirdly, once the ball has been moved out to the flanks, he gets in the penalty area to support Carroll and get on the end of crosses.
Up front, Andy Carroll is the key focal point of the attack. He’s the target for long balls played forward from the back, being able to win headers and knockdowns. Once the ball is won, it is quickly moved wide and Carroll moves in to the area looking to get on the end of crosses.
The switch to three centre backs, which we saw last week and may or may not see from Big Sam at home, means the crossing comes from the wing backs. Matt Taylor and Joey O’Brien got the job against Villa and would likely seem the best options if West Ham goes 3-4-2-1 again.
Mohammad Diame and Mark Noble still perform similar functions as a screen for the back three. Ahead of them, Kevin Nolan plays his usual support role for Andy Carroll, as described above. However, Joe Cole drops off Nolan and drifts out to link the play on each flank to provide overloads on both sides with the wingbacks.
We may see Big Sam role out this 3-4-2-1 system given the trouble we had with Wigan’s three centre backs congesting the middle earlier in the season. This would be effective at overcrowding the middle if Gareth Bale starts from a central role again.
Spurs vs West Ham long ball
West Ham have calmed down on the long ball whilst Andy Carroll was out of the line-up, his return has seen them go back to it.
In West Ham’s last Premier League match against Aston Villa, the Villains were very good at dealing with the threat. They won the majority of balls down the middle, only allowing successful long balls down the flanks.
Swansea have smaller central defenders and they were bullied the week prior at the Boleyn Ground. Carroll was able to win a number of aerial challenges from balls played to him midway inside the Swans’ half. Whilst he also won a couple of long balls played in to the area.
In the match at White Hart Lane, Andre Villas-Boas went with Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker, our best two aerial defenders at centre back. He then used Jan Vertonghen at left back in order to provide additional support for the two in the middle and I wonder if he’ll employ the same tactic here?
Spurs vs West Ham crossing
West Ham like to work the ball wide in order to cross, in fact no one attempts more balls in to the box per game than the Hammers. Their 29 attempted per match is three more than second-placed Arsenal (whoscored.com). Whereas the Gunners play a lot more low-driven crosses, West Ham put in high-whipped balls for Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan to get on the end of.
They usually favour the left flank over the right, but this depends on the personnel. Matt Taylor or Matt Jarvis on the left usually sees them opt for this side more often than not, but Ricardo Vaz Te is a threat down the right.
The Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs here should see us look to jam the wingbacks if they are playing a 3-4-2-1. If Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon are playing high up in our 4-3-3, then they should neutralise this threat.
If West Ham go with their more accustomed 4-2-3-1, then we need to force them inside and to pass, rather than letting them get outside and cross.
The threat of Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan
They linked up at Newcastle and now Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan are providing a one-two punch for West Ham.
As outlined earlier, Andy Carroll wins the long balls and creates knockdowns, then gets himself in to the box to get on the end of a cross. His passing on the other hand leaves a lot to be desired. He is effective at knocking the ball down or laying it off backwards, but when passing it forwards his 60% accuracy, one of the lowest among forwards, is highlighted.
Kevin Nolan on the other hand is busy looking to gain possession from the striker’s knockdowns when the ball is played long. He also looks to receive the ball from short passes by Noble and Diame through the midfield. He then tries to move it wide so that West Ham can cross the ball or looks to recycle play back through Diame, so that he can get in the box to support Carroll.
He often prefers the left side of the pitch in order to operate, as West Ham try to launch more of their attacks down this side.
The Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs here should look to see AVB once again go with our two best aerial defenders in Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker. Carroll is slow over the ground and so not a threat to get in-behind in a foot race, so these two should be the choice here.
Jan Vertonghen at left back would also be a smart move to provide help covering Andy Carroll, whilst also allowing an additional player to pick up Kevin Nolan. The former Bolton man is also a threat in the air and so 3v2 in this area would be beneficial to us.
With the service usually coming from the West Ham’s left flank, Kyle Walker will have his hands full, but this also will allow Jan Vertonghen to pinch over.
West Ham concede through the inside right channel
Unlike a lot of teams who conceded chances down either the left or right flanks, West Ham allow the majority of opportunities through the middle.
The inside right channel between Winston Reid and his left back is the most porous part of their defence. Both QPR, who created and scored through here, as well as Aston Villa last time out, have both had joy through this area.
We hit the Hammers three times through this area in Spurs 3 West Ham 1 at the Lane, starting with Jermain Defoe’s run and rasping shot. Then Clint Dempsey played a lobbed ball through here for Gareth Bale to add the second, before Aaron Lennon tore down this channel, squaring to Defoe to make it three.
The Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs here should look to see us go at them through here again and Lewis Holtby will be a key player to making that happen.
West Ham vs Spurs outlook
West Ham have been tough at home and awful on the road, but this could well be a game dictated by Sam Allardyce’s choice of team and formation. If he goes with three centre backs, then we will be forced outside and could run in to a lot of the problems we saw in Spurs 0 Wigan 1 earlier this season.
If he sticks with his usual 4-2-3-1 then it’ll be interesting to see if he doubles up on Gareth Bale in the wide areas. Being Big Sam, I can see this happening.
What we do know is that the Hammers will try and hit Andy Carroll with the long ball, whilst looking to cross for him at every opportunity. Kevin Nolan arriving later in the box could prove more of a problem, but going with Jan Vertonghen at left back to provide additional cover should help the two in the centre.
Andre Villas-Boas has said that we’ll need to be at our best to beat them and i have to agree. West Ham have only lost three of thirteen Premier Legaue fixtures at home.
This will be a stern examination of our aerial ability, but we should come through for a point.