A push for the European places is on the cards for both teams ahead of this crucial London derby. Whilst the Hammers’ hopes of securing top-four qualification has diminished slightly, Spurs are still very much in the mix and will be hoping for a good burst of form between now and the end of the campaign to push them over the line.
Spurs’ fortunes on the pitch have been somewhat transformed since boyhood supporter Harry Kane has been given the chance to lead the line. The England-U21 international has gained plaudits throughout the season for his goal-scoring exploits, but what hasn’t always been appreciated is his work ethic. The Chingford-born youngster has covered a total of 180km this season, according to the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index, leaving fellow strikers Emmanuel Adebayor (83.6km) and Roberto Soldado (77.2km) trailing in his wake. The emergence of Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb has restricted Mousa Dembélé’s game time this term, with the talented Belgian midfielder only registering a total of 16 appearances in the league. Against Liverpool last week, however, Mauricio Pochettino gave him a starting role in a move that paid dividends as Demebélé led the way in attacking contributions made (based on shots on target, dribbles completed, passes in the opposition half and crosses completed). It may have proved ultimately fruitless as Spurs slipped to an unfortunate defeat, but the finger of blame should not be pointed at the Belgian midfielder.
There have been many impressive performers for Tottenham this term, with Christian Eriksen, Harry Kane and Ryan Mason all performing admirably for large parts of the campaign. One player who has constantly excelled not just this term, but throughout his whole tenure at White Hart Lane, is ‘keeper Hugo Lloris. The French skipper has been praised for his natural shot-stopping ability, but unlike many goalkeepers, he is constantly rushing out of his defence leading to the tag of ‘Sweeper ‘Keeper’. His eagerness to rush opposing strikers is probably best demonstrated by the fact he has made a total of 92 sprints this season – the third most of any goalkeeper in the league.
Big Sam described his team’s 0-0 draw with Southampton as ‘like a win’as the Hammers contained the Saints, following ‘keeper Adrian’s controversial red card and an unfortunate injury to talismanic striker Andy Carroll. Despite a disappointing result in the cup, Allardyce will hope that his team show their battling qualities again as they face Champions League-chasing Spurs. A pillar in their defensive rearguard effort was midfielder Cheikhou Kouyaté who put in a fine shift in the middle of the park, making a total of 20 defensive contributions (based on tackles won, interceptions, blocks and clearances). This was more than any other West Ham player and the third most in the league during this round of Premier League fixtures.
Despite making less headlines than some of Big Sam’s more expensive Summer additions, Morgan Amalfitano has quietly gone about his business to great effect this term. Time and time again, the Frenchman has shown his dedication to the West Ham cause. This is best demonstrated by the amount of ground he covered against the Saints, as the EA SPORTS Player Performance Index shows that he covered 10.9 km – the most in the West Ham squad.
Sam Allardyce produced a managerial masterclass earlier this season by deploying winger Stuart Downing into a new role – the tip of a midfield diamond. The former Liverpool man has been something of a revelation in his new position, laying on both goals and assists aplenty for his club and fashioning chances for his teammates. It was a backs-to-the-wall job for much of the game against Southampton, but Downing did still manage to show his creative class, making a total of 21 passes in the opposition half – 10 more than any other West Ham player.
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