In our weekly preview articles, this is the part where we do a dive into Tottenham Hotspur’s opponent — their strengths, weaknesses, and underlying statistics. It’s a fun way of getting to know each opponent ahead of playing them for the first time.
But you know what, forget that. It’s West Ham, it’s a London Derby, we don’t like them so much, whatever. We know why you’re here, so let’s get to the good stuff.
How will Tottenham Hotspur line up against West Ham?
The side effect of Spurs being bad was that it made it really difficult to predict what Mauricio Pochettino would do with his sides as he tried to tinker his way out of an unlikely malaise and string of crappy form. But now Poch is gone, and Jose Mourinho has come in, and we REALLY REALLY don’t know what Mourinho will do.
But we can guess! So let’s guess.
It’s Gazinga, gang.
This is perhaps the area that’s the easiest to figure out. Kinda. Sort of. Maybe. Mourinho has already said that Spurs fans should expect more tweaks than outright changes, at least in the short term, so most of Tottenham’s established back line should carry over to the West Ham match. That would mean that the centerback pairing of Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld is likely. However, Vertonghen is a match-time decision with a hamstring injury. If we assume that Jan is out, that likely means Davinson Sanchez comes in at RCB, with Toby sliding over to LCB. The fullbacks are an open question, but I like Danny Rose on the left to come back into the side, and playing Juan Foyth as a LB with center back tendencies and a true wide midfielder ahead of him feels pretty Mourinho-ish to me.
How Mourinho will set up his midfield and attacking players is really the million dollar question. While Mou has experimented with various formations over the years, he tends to favor either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3. If we are to take him at his word that there will be minimal tactical tweaks, I predict the former. We know that Mourinho is a big fan of Eric Dier — he tried to buy him while managing Manchester United — so let’s slot him in at the base of the pivot. Tanguy Ndombele is also questionable; if he’s healthy he starts, but otherwise it would come down to either Moussa Sissoko or Giovani Lo Celso. I don’t want to see Gio marginalized already, so he gets the nod.
Further forward, we can already read the tea leaves and predict that Dele will flourish under Mourinho’s guidance. I can see him easily starting in the “10” (or, in Mou’s words, the “8.5 — 9.5 role”), the slot normally occupied by either Christian Eriksen or the injured Erik Lamela. Mourinho likes direct, wide midfielders, and Son Heung-Min is currently Tottenham’s best on-form player. Lucas Moura would also be a natural fit on the opposite flank, but there’s a chance that could be filled by Christian Eriksen, or even Lo Celso if Ndombele is set to play.
Harry Kane starts because duh.
That’s my best guess. I think it’s a good one, but really, I have absolutely no idea. Mourinho is a new manager that we’re not especially familiar with, except form afar. We can gauge his general tendencies by how he set up his Chelsea and Manchester United teams, but this is a different situation and Mourinho has only been on the job for three days.
This could be close, or it could be hilariously wrong. Isn’t it going to be fun to find out?
That’s my prediction for the Spursial One’s first Tottenham Hotspur lineup. What’s yours?