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Tottenham Hotspur vs West Ham: Opposition Analysis

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Another London derby for Spurs, this time against far weaker opposition. Three points are a must.

West Ham United v Chelsea - EFL Cup Fourth Round Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The Season So Far

West Ham's 2015-16 was characterised by surprise, joy and a gigantic helping of good luck, not forgetting an outpouring of love for their former home, the Boleyn Ground. Slaven Bilić's team rode the wave of Dimitri Payet's genius and the side's ridiculously unsustainable shot statistics at both ends of the pitch for an entire season, enjoying their most rewarding campaign in years.

West Ham's 2016-17 has so far been the polar opposite. Expectation, rage and horrid fortune with injuries have been the hallmarks of their season to date, not forgetting a profound loathing for their new home, the London Stadium. Bilić is suddenly fighting to save his job, the insane shot stats are no longer quite so unbelievable and the atmosphere around the club has turned toxic. The plummet down the table, long predicted by so many analytics nerds, has come to pass.

The Season Ahead

Already knocked out of Europe in humiliating circumstances and embarrassed on several occasions by Premier League sides they would expect to beat, the Irons have one hell of an uphill struggle to save face ahead.

Bilić must fight an immediate battle to restore faith in his leadership, while the likes of Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang and Angelo Ogbonna have serious work to do to keep their places. Forward Simone Zaza, picked up from Juventus, has even more to do to avoid being named the worst signing of the summer.

The good news is that, while undeniably horrendous up until now, West Ham aren't actually that bad. They should turn things around and start to pick up more points soon. However, against an unbeaten Tottenham team with a fit-again Harry Kane up front, the odds of that turnaround beginning on Saturday aren't favourable.

Tactics

Like so many other Premier League sides of late, West Ham have switched to a counterattacking 3-4-2-1 in recent weeks.

Just as Antonio Conte realised after his side was thrashed by Arsenal, Slaven Bilić suddenly understood that his three-man midfield wasn't able to stop attacks in the way it needed to to protect his two centre-backs. The answer was to move one of his midfielders back into defence: if the three can't hold the middle ground, it's best to move the third body further back to repel the inevitably arriving tide.

This move stabilised West Ham somewhat and the extra space afforded in midfield has been seized upon by Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, the side's third-band playmakers. That said, their last couple of games have seen performance levels dip and the Hammers have come crashing back to Earth again. Another switch may be in the offing.

Strengths

West Ham's biggest strength remains the outrageous talent of Payet, who is capable of swinging any game in his side's favour in the blink of an eye. Spurs will have to make sure he sees a little of the ball as possible, but even that might not be enough. As soon as West Ham have a free-kick with the French playmaker stood over the ball, Spurs will be in trouble.

Indeed, set pieces are West Ham's most reliable method of attack: no side has created more chances from free-kicks so far this season, while only two teams have made more from corners. Only three teams have produced more shots on goal via crosses and only one has had more headed shots. Michail Antonio, in particular, has been unbelievably prolific with his forehead. Spurs can't say they haven't been warned.

Weaknesses

As ever, their shot numbers are basically awful. They've taken a healthy 14.5 shots per game but only hit the target with 2.5 of those. One of the main reasons for this is that they shoot from outside the box so often - 6.4 times per game, on average - and they're also heading too much to score many goals.

At the other end, although they're receiving fewer shots - 13.2 per game - their keeper is being worked more than twice as much as the opposition's - 5.2 times per game. You can get away with this if your keeper is playing out of his skin, but Adrián has been way below his best so far this season, recording a below-average 64.9% save rate.

Furthermore, it is very easy to bypass their midfield and they can seem awfully passive without the ball at times. Despite such an obvious lack of tenacity, they've got the worst disciplinary record in the league at the moment, with 30 yellow cards and 1 red so far.

In short: they're totally dysfunctional.

Likely XI

Captain Mark Noble is suspended, so Edimilson Fernandes may start in central midfield. A simpler solution would be putting Cheikhou Kouyaté in midfield and Havard Nordtveit in defence, but Bilić may decide that disrupting his back three is too risky.

West Ham also have problems up front, with non-striker André Ayew basically the only sane pick as the lone striker. Plenty of food for thought for Bilić, and plenty of reasons to feel optimistic for Mauricio Pochettino.

SPUWHU

Prediction

After a relatively poor run, the return of Harry Kane to White Hart Lane is a welcome boost. We should expect an upturn in performances and results from here, and it would be very surprising were Spurs not to win at a canter here. I'm saying 3-0.