Spurs vs West Ham – Tactical Preview

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Jose Mourinho
Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur are back in action following their 1-1 draw against Manchester United when they welcome rivals West Ham to North London tomorrow night.

With Chelsea currently running away with fourth spot, it appears Spurs’ only route to Champions League football will be to secure fifth and hope that the Champions League ban placed on Manchester City remains in place (Bleacher Report).

Spurs are currently four points behind Manchester United in fifth, with the Red Devils facing Sheffield United who sit in seventh. The game against West Ham gives Jose Mourinho’s men an opportunity to gain some points on their rivals in the race for Champions League football.

David Moyes’ West Ham provide the perfect opportunity for Spurs to close the gap. Since Moyes’ appointment in Dec 2019. (Transfermarkt) West Ham have played 11 Premier League games winning just 2 (18%), keeping only 1 clean sheet and conceding 20 goals in these 11 games. (Premier League).

West Ham’s record against the big six this season follows suit, in 9 games against the ‘big 6’ they have won 2 conceding 19 goals, an average of 2.11 goals per game. (Premier League.com)

West Ham’s Patterns

This season West Ham are among the long ball ‘specialists’ having completed 1873 long balls, only 6 sides have completed more long balls then West Ham this season. (Premier League)

This is worked by two means, either through the full-backs or one of the midfielders dropping deep collecting the ball from the back 4. This is a trigger for the forwards to make diagonal runs in (See example above) or most often a long ball towards Haller playing off the second ball. This build-up has had relative success with no player winning more Aerial duels than Haller this season, with West Ham looking to play off second balls.

When the second ball is won, West Ham often rotate the ball towards the exteriors. With the left side being favoured as 42% of attacks coming from West Ham’s left-hand side (Whoscored) looking to create through Anderson and Cresswell who have had 2nd and 4th most touches for West Ham this season (Premier League) looking to get early crosses into the box with Haller the primary threat.

Defensive issues

West Ham have conceded 52 goals in the league this season, only two teams have conceded more Norwich (55) and Aston Villa (58). (Premier League). A driving force behind this stat is the errors leading to goals, West Ham have 9 errors leading to goals this season with only two teams having more Newcastle (10) and Aston Villa (10).

A key issue highlighted by David Moyes following a 2-0 defeat to Wolves was defending crosses. “Ultimately I am disappointed we didn’t defend the crosses well.” said the Scotsman. (TALKsport)

How Spurs can exploit this:

If there was ever a game for Mourinho’s pendulum 4-2-3-1, this would be it. This allows Spurs to stretch low blocks, by creating the following shape below:

This was first exhibited against West Ham. Aurier and Son operate as wide midfielders with Alli and Lucas operating as inside forwards with the midfield pivot sitting behind. One of the issues for Spurs during offense has been the speed of second phase attacks, hence this is the perfect game to introduce the widely awaited pairing of Ndombele and Lo Celso who provide exactly that.  Prior to the Premier League’s closure, Ndombele was ranked third for successful line breaks per 90 minutes (5.1), (The Athletic) with Lo Celso’s ball carrying abilities well noted.

This will allow quicker ball progression to the players in the wide areas which will allow Spurs to get crosses into the box. Wolves profited from this as presented by the opening goal, with Jimenez scoring a free header inside the six-yard box:

A weakness for West Ham this season has been transitioning on the counterattack, with West Ham struggling to develop out of a low block to attacking positions. This is supported by the fact that West Ham have scored the fewest counter attacking goals this season (1) (Premier League).

Mourinho’s Spurs displayed their effective pragmatic side, but this this the perfect opportunity to high press West Ham and sustain waves of attacks. As presented by the encounter earlier in the season, when Spurs sat in the low block rather than playing assertive football this invited West Ham into the game with West Ham scoring two goals in those final 25 minutes. (BBC Sport)

My lineup to execute the above will be the following:

Lloris

Aurier – Sanchez – Dier – Davies

Ndombele – Lo Celso

Bergwijn – Alli – Son

Kane

Debatable Exclusions:

Toby Alderweireld – After Sanchez + Dier’s positive showing against Manchester United, it’s time Spurs stick with a settled CB pairing. As discussed above Haller possesses a strong aerial threat, with the Belgian CB ranks 5th among defenders for most aerial duels lost (Premier League.com) it makes sense to keep him out for this one.

Ryan Sessegnon – In Mourinho’s system, during attacking build up the left back becomes the left CB. With the RB encouraged to support the front 4. To ensure balance, it’s essential Davies maintains his place given the already offensive midfield in place.

What is your team for the West Ham game? Any changes you would make to the above?

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