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Tottenham tactics: West Ham vs Spurs preview (a)

After defeating Stoke, this weekend sees us travel across London for our next Premier League clash, West Ham vs Spurs at the Boleyn Ground.

Sam Allardyce has taken a lot of criticism recently for his team being rather one-dimensional. However, there are a few more things to the Hammers than just long balls and crossing.

So, what should we be looking out for and what should be the Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs this time?

West Ham’s central set up

Key to much of what Sam Allardyce does is started in the middle of the park.

The ball may be moved quickly forward, often through the air to Andy Carroll, or out to the flanks for a cross. However, the central trio, or even quadruplet, are the engine room to Allardyce sides gaining a foothold in the game.

In the match at the Lane earlier this season, Allardyce was worried about AVB’s power midfield overrunning his, so he went with four players working in the centre.

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West Ham sat four central midfielders in front of their centre backs.

We didn’t move the ball quickly enough; neither did we play with any kind of width to stretch them out. The Hammers tactics were seen as stifling and negative, but they ended up running out winners, as it finished Spurs 0 West Ham 3.

Now, in the match at the Lane, Allardyce played with a false nine, as he was short on strikers without Andy Carroll. Since the big man’s return, he has been focussing on playing his usual trio in here, but they are well drilled, so do not often get dragged about.

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West Ham’s central triangle against Liverpool.

This was how the Hammers set up against Liverpool, but the Reds showed how to play against it.

This will be something that could prove a worthwhile learning point in the Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs.

Quick transitions

West Ham can often sit back on the road, but at home they are much more aggressive. This means that they have been particularly susceptible to counter attacks.

As shown above, Allardyce will use either a 2-1 triangle in the middle of the park or four players in a central box. Liverpool were effective at transitioning very quickly by going either over or around it.

In the image above, you can see how Steven Gerrard is looking to go over the top of the triangle and his pass found Luis Suarez running in-behind.

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Suarez runs in-behind on to Gerrard’s pass.

This lead to Liverpool taking the lead as Suarez flicked the ball back inside and James Tomkins handled for a penalty.

They didn’t just go over the top, Liverpool also went quickly in transition down the sides of West Ham.

Here, Gerrard sent the ball quickly over to Flanagan who played a first time pass up the line for Suarez running in-behind once more. This caught the central trio out by the speed of the ball movment and also took out right back Guy Demel.

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Flanagan’s first time pass sets Suarez away.

It’s not only Liverpool who have given West Ham’s central midfield trio problems from quick transitions. Man Utd also won 2-0 at the Boleyn Ground with two rapid counter attacking goals.

Wayne Rooney’s audacious volley opened the scoring and came after Ashley Young hooked the ball forward over West Ham’s trio of central midfielders. With all but their centre backs caught up field, Rooney pushed off James Tomkins and launched the ball over the head of keeper Adrian from the halfway line.

Their second was another goal after a quick transition. Again West Ham had numbers in the Man Utd penalty area, six to be precise. Kevin Nolan thought he was fouled, but seconds later the ball was in the West Ham net.

Juan Mata fed the ball up to Rooney, as West Ham’s central trio were again by-passed. He then played it out to a sprinting Ashley Young, who broke forward and crossed for Rooney to prod home.

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Young is set in to space to cross for Rooney.

West Ham does have a strong and powerful line-up, but they aren’t the quickest, so fast transitions are where they can be hurt. The Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs should prey on this as we have plenty of speed in our side.

Having rapid transitions can see teams create from the West Ham full back zones. Liverpool earned two penalties from these areas and Man Utd, as you can see above, created Rooney’s second goal through here.  This is also where many of Crystal Palace’s chances came from in West Ham’s last home match in the Premier League.

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Crystal Palace chances created against West Ham.

Palace scored the only goal of the game from a penalty, but that was earned by Cameron Jerome cutting inside the box from out on the right wing.

The x-factor

Sam Allardyce has been criticised for being one-dimensional and this seems to be the case since Andy Carroll came back in to the side.

West Ham’s long balls up to the big man and crosses are no surprise, as are his knockdowns that allow Kevin Nolan to thrive and weigh in with goals. These two are the usual source of danger and are often supplied by Stewart Downing.

The x-factor for the Hammers is often Mohamed Diame. The Senegalese international is very strong on the ball and an under-rated dribbler. However, his presence in the box, arriving to get his head on crosses shouldn’t be underestimated.

Diame has four goals in the Premier League this season and although the focus will be on Carroll and Nolan, he shouldn’t be forgotten about.

West Ham corners

Naturally with their aerial presence, the other area of attention should be on West Ham’s 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 Premier League match at the Lane. 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.

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West Ham have the six yard box covered.

Against Liverpool recently, they also scored from a corner by controlling the rebound once more.

Simon Mignolet is known to not be comfortable under pressure, so here, West Ham crowded him as the ball came in, even using a player (5) to screen him off.

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West Ham crowd and player 5 screens Mignolet.

Andy Carroll fouled the Belgian as he came to catch, but Guy Demel was on hand to hoover up the loose ball.

Again, it was good rebound control and coverage, as West Ham once more had five players in and around the six-yard box.

The Hammers set pieces are an obvious area of concern with the likes of Carroll on the field, so need to be accounted for in the Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs. It was in these matches that AVB had an interesting counter move.

Our former boss would use Jan Vertonghen at left back in order to effectively get three centre backs on the field for set pieces. It also stopped Carroll pulling on to a shorter left back as West Ham prefer to cross from the opponent’s right back zone.

With Vertonghen having come through an under 21s match, the team news that he could be available will open this possibility up. It will be interesting to see if Tim Sherwood also decides to use this tactic.

West Ham vs Spurs outlook

Having beaten us at the Lane in the Premier League and the Capital One Cup, now would be a good time to put one over the Hammers.

With West Ham being more aggressive at home, being quick in transition is essential to taking out their central midfield, which Allardyce will use to gain a foothold.

The Hammers have lost four straight matches since all but confirming their Premier League status. We need to win to keep the pressure on Everton who host Man City later in the day.

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



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3 Responses to Tottenham tactics: West Ham vs Spurs preview (a)

  1. Dermot 2nd May 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    Well thought out, I like it. I’m going for 3-1 Spurs. We’re scoring goals and I want/need us to win as have some West Ham mates. COYS

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd May 2014 at 8:02 pm #

      Cheers Dermot. We are scoring, just not away from home recently. The West Brom game has been the only time we’ve scored more than 1 in our last five on the road, so could be a close one.

  2. AnythingButPenalties 3rd May 2014 at 3:43 am #

    Great preview. The idea of playing Vertonghen at left back is very interesting. Rose certainly doesn’t match up well in the air. I was thinking Fryers might be a good choice.

    Interesting Carroll has the highest aerial duels won per game stat in the entire league and Downing the most crosses. Shows the key things to look out for. Stopping Downing getting in crosses would be handy.