Tottenham Hotspur host their noisy neighbors West Ham United on Saturday at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in a match that could punch their ticket to the Champions League next season, if other results fall their way. Even if those other results don’t come (Arsenal losing to Leicester, Manchester United beating Chelsea), a win over the Hammers would all but seal the deal barring a truly epic collapse over the last two matches of the season. (And no, that’s not a jinx — jinxes are dumb and bad and not a thing.)
West Ham are floundering in mid-table at the moment, but what they lack in, say, offensive efficacy and defensive robustness they make up for in sheer banteriffic hatred of Tottenham. On paper, even rotated and dinged up as they are Spurs shouldn’t have too much difficulty at home against a West Ham side that is currently at 15th in Premier League xG and hasn’t won a match since March 16 in a 4-3 shootout over Huddersfield.
In fact, West Ham have only four wins and two draws away from home all season, and only one away win against the top half of the table. Spurs have beaten them twice already - a 1-0 win at the London Stadium and a 3-1 League Cup quarterfinal win at Wembley.
However, this is still a London derby, and there’s no love lost between Tottenham and West Ham. The Hammers would love nothing better than to be the answer to a trivia question (“Who were the first team to beat Spurs at their new home”), and we’ve seen in the past how a pivotal game against West Ham can screw up even the best laid plans. Spurs will need to be wary of players like Felipe Anderson, Marko Arnautovic, and Chicharito, all of whom can punish teams on the counterattack and who have the ability to score stunners. Dropping points here isn’t catastrophic, but it certainly isn’t advised.
My advice? Rotate slightly, play hard, and avoid the lasagna.
How will Tottenham line up against West Ham?
There’s a lot we could talk about here — Poch will probably rotate the fullbacks with Juan Foyth reprising his role at right back, Eric Dier is set to rotate in for Victor Wanyama, Oliver Skipp is likely to start, yadda yadda yadda.
That’s not important here. I want to talk about THE THICCENING.
Vincent Janssen made his first appearance in a Tottenham Hotspur shirt in almost two full years against Brighton on Tuesday. It was a moment to cherish. It might not be the last time we see him.
It’s usually good not to run your best players into the ground, at least not fully, and not before what is a pretty important match against Ajax in the Champions League semifinals. Mauricio Pochettino has shown to be at least moderately pragmatic in this regard, rotating certain players when he thinks they need it and digging deep into his bench when required. Dele Alli, Lucas Moura, and especially Christian Eriksen have a lot of miles on the tires here in the past few weeks, and it’s probably wise to give your most creative midfielder a breather before such an important match.
Poch could be a maniac and just roll with an attacking midfield and front line similar to the one that beat Brighton at the weekend. Son Heung-Min is definitely starting as he’s suspended for Ajax. But what if Poch thinks someone needs a rest? Erik Lamela would be perfect, but he is by all accounts still dead, and Moussa Sissoko won’t return for another week yet. What’s a manager to do?
That’s why I think there’s a distinct possibility we’ll see a distinctly thiccer starting XI.
It makes sense — Poch is, at the end of the day, a pragmatic manager. He’s down to almost literally the end of his bench now. West Ham are London rivals and would love nothing less than to spoil Spurs’ party, but let’s face it, they’re still pretty crap. Ajax is the more important match.
That means rotation. That means Vincent Janssen. I, for one, hope this happens and can’t wait to see if it does. Because can you imagine the scenes if he scores? Embrace the Thiccness. Let’s get Thiccrolled. The Thicc and the Dead.
This is my prediction for Tottenham’s lineup against West Ham. What’s yours?