Ahead of West Ham vs Spurs in the Premier League we look at the tactical strengths and weaknesses of Slaven Bilic’s team.
West Ham have had an up and down season besieged by injuries and adaptation to a new stadium. The Hammers are not yet mathematically safe, but would require a lot to go against them to be relegated. Ahead of West Ham vs Spurs in the Premier League we take a look at the tactical strengths and weaknesses of Slaven Bilic’s team.
Strength: three centre backs
Slaven Bilic is no stranger to this season’s vogue formation. The West Ham manager played in and has coached this system at several stops in his career.
This season Bilic has been a frequent user of the back three with varying degrees of success. Earlier in the campaign it was going well, but as his squad became stretched, the results started to turn. Nowhere was this more noticeable than in Spurs 3-2 West Ham at White Hart Lane. The Hammers back three contained Cheikhou Kouyaté as a stand-in on the right and he was exposed time and time again.
Roll on a few months and with opponents getting too easily at the heart of his back four, Bilic has re-installed the system. This reintroduction coincides with the fact that the manager now has his first choice back three available. Jose Fonte, Winston Reid and James Collins have formed a formidable block. The trio have back-to-back clean sheets in two games together and have given the Hammers a more stable base to build from.
Prior to the system change, opponents got too easily at the centre backs. Now, Bilic protects his back three with two defensive stoppers. Cheikhou Kouyaté, Havard Nordveit and Mark Noble all compete for a place in the pairing.
Since returning to the system, West Ham has seen a reduction in shots allowed and consequently goals conceded. It will be up to Spurs to pierce what has been a solid defensive set up.
Weakness: inside channels
West Ham’s back three are strong and powerful, but don’t have the fleetest of feet over the ground nor do they like being dragged out from the middle.
The weak point of three centre back systems has always been down the outsides of them. This remains the problem for West Ham. Everton really struggled to break down the formation, but Stoke did get some joy.
The gaps started to appear down the edges of the back three as Stoke attacked them. Xherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic pulled the outside centre backs out, allowing others to run in-behind.
West Ham’s full backs, Arthur Masuaku and Edimilson Fernandes, are not great defensively and were picked apart. Stoke created chances from wide, but just couldn’t find the back of the net. A massive seven of their nineteen shots were blocked, often by last ditch defending.
We’ve faced a number of teams that have used a back three recently and been able to get down the sides of them. This was especially true during Spurs 2-0 Arsenal last weekend.
The Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs should focus on speed in wide areas. Therefore, Son Heung-Min and Kyle Walker would appear imperative to our line-up. If the game is not going well, Danny Rose may well make an earlier than expected return from the bench.
Strength: set pieces
Only West Bromwich Albion (18) has scored more goals than West Ham (17) from set pieces.
The Hammers have size and aerial power in abundance. Jose Fonte, Winston Reid, James Collins, Cheikhou Kouyaté and Andy Carroll all offer an airborne threat. Andre Ayew also has a particular pesky tendency to be first to loose balls.
West Ham vs Spurs will need to see us match up size wise with the Hammers at set pieces. Therefore, we may well see a continuation of the line-up from last weekend that got Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen, Victor Wanyama and Eric Dier on the pitch together, whilst retaining the 4-2-3-1 shape.
Weakness: conceding penalties
Arsenal (9) and Hull (12) are the only teams that have conceded more penalties in Premier League games than West Ham (8).
The problems for the Hammers stem from opponents getting far too easily on to their centre backs. Rival teams could drive the penalty area and earn fouls, thus why Slaven Bilic opted to change his system.
Spurs have scored the joint most penalties this term in the Premier League along with Liverpool (7). After dispatching a spot kick against Arsenal, and against West Ham in the corresponding match at White Hart Lane, don’t be surprised to see another in this game.
No team has conceded more goals from defensive errors in the Premier League than West Ham this season.
OPTA has recorded eleven goals from miscues, the most recent being Darren Randolph’s skewed punch that was returned with interest by Fabio Borini.
Since that game, Adrian has replaced Randolph. However, the back line also often makes passing mistakes. Last weekend at Stoke, James Collins was lucky not to gift wrap the three points to the Potters. However, Marko Arnautovic failed to convert with the goal gaping.
The Tottenham tactics for West Ham vs Spurs should be looking to hoover up any bad passes. However, it’s quickly transitioning the ball towards the West Ham goal where the real gains are to be made.
Strength: Manuel Lanzini
With Andy Carroll in the team, West Ham is naturally a crossing based side. However, without the big man, Manuel Lanzini has run the show from the number ten position.
Previously often played wide, Lanzini now has licence to drift from the middle and it suits him. With two strikers in Andre Ayew and Jonathan Calleri to work with, Lanzini often has pockets of space to play through balls from.
Lanzini has a good weight of and eye for a pass. What hinders his progress is that he can often over dribble or hold on to the ball too long. Eric Dier, Victor Wanyama or Mousa Dembele will have their work cut out against him, but need to be wary of the threat he poses.
West Ham vs Spurs outlook
West Ham’s form at the London Stadium overall this season is not good. However, results have picked up recently and they have been more difficult to break down. The surface often looks a little soft, slow and spongy, which could prove difficult, as we prefer faster grounds.
What’s more, Friday night is an unusual time to be playing. Will this have an effect on the player’s conditioning and routines or the coaching staff’s prep time?
West Ham have kept consecutive clean sheets and have been difficult to break down since returning to the back three. Spurs will need to get down the sides of them for success. The key will be to expose the centre backs’ movement rather than getting drawn in to physical battles with Reid, Collins and Fonte.
West Ham vs Spurs prediction: West Ham 0-1 Spurs.