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West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: A chance to see how much has changed

Bring on the banter...

FBL-ENG-PR-TOTTENHAM-WEST HAM Photo by JULIAN FINNEY/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

While Tottenham Hotspur supporters will rightfully poke fun at West Ham United treating this derby like a cup final, last year truly gave the Hammers a reason to celebrate. It feels like Spurs lost both fixtures, even though the home leg ended in a draw, and those points were the difference in the final table.

The page has turned to the new season, and 361 days after that frenetic 3-3 affair, Spurs have a chance to show they have moved forward. Ironically, the club did go on a bit of a run after that massive collapse, winning five of its next six and jumping into first place. Of course, that was followed by a very disappointing second half of the season (including a loss to West Ham in February), ultimately leading to the removal of Jose Mourinho.

Now the two sides are battling again, separated by just one point heading into this early, but important league fixture. Nuno Espirito Santo rested his entire starting lineup midweek — and paid for it with a loss at Vitesse — so the pressure is on this weekend. Tottenham has been better as of late, but this match will prove how much of that bounce back is real.

West Ham United (t-6th, 14 pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (t-4th, 15pts)

Date: Sunday, October 24
Time: 9:00 am ET, 2:00 pm UK
Location: London Stadium, London, England
TV: NBCSN (USA), Sky Sports Main Event (UK)

Those less connected to the club might be surprised to see Spurs level on points with fourth place after how the past month has transpired. But thanks to the strong start out of the gate and six points from the last two matches, the fight for a Champions League spot is back on.

The recent burst has been due to the starting XI that Nuno has decided to lock in, which involves Oliver Skipp and Tanguy Ndombele in place of Giovanni Lo Celso and Dele Alli. While it can be debated whether this is the right decision or not, it does feel encouraging to have a manager who commits to a plan and a style of play that seems more sustainable than last season.

Spurs will need to improve in attack, but their last two league matches were their best outputs of the year in both goals and xG. West Ham should provide some resistance in defense, but with the midfield finally coming together and Harry Kane getting on the scoresheet, there is reason to expect Tottenham to show some positive regression in its scoring.

Three themes

  1. Unlike Spurs, West Ham only partly rotated for its European contest on Thursday. Domestically, the home side has been wobbly as of late, splitting its last four league matches with two wins and two losses, falling to Manchester United and Brentford. The Hammers have yet to play most of the top sides in the league.
  2. No one wants to recall what happened last season, but for those fortunate enough to have forgotten, Tottenham was cruising to a 3-0 home win in October before conceding three goals in the final 10 minutes. West Ham went up 2-0 in the reverse fixture and held on to win despite a Lucas Moura second half tally.
  3. Kane and Heung-Min Son connected again last weekend and are certainly the key for this squad. Spurs have yet to find consistency from any of the other attackers, so the burden is likely to fall back on the two stars up front if there are going to be any goals. Hopefully someone else can join in as Tanguy Ndombele did against Newcastle, though West Ham has not allowed more than two goals all season.