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West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Patterns or Patterns?

A chance for Spurs to break out of their win-loss cycle against a rival in the race for European football.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Carabao Cup Quarter Final Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images

It’s now must-win time for Tottenham Hotspur. With many an encouraging sign to be found in their play being offset by consistent inconsistency, this match against a direct rival in the push for European places looms large. After a relatively solid performance that yielded no points against a Ronaldo-inspired Manchester United and an underwhelming showing against Brighton & Hove Albion that handed over 3 points, this is a chance for Spurs to solidify their position in the table in the race for Champions League football with a result against West Ham United.

The reverse fixture was a frustrating affair between two teams of contrasting fortunes. Spurs’ slide into mediocrity under Nuno Espirito Santo was well and truly underway, while David Moyes had West Ham performing well with a string of positive results. Tottenham dominated possession, but West Ham were quick to pounce on any Spurs mistakes, carving out a number of decent opportunities. In the end, a set piece did the job for West Ham, with the match ending in a 1-0 loss to Spurs as they failed to register a single shot on target in the second half.

The fortunes of the clubs have somewhat turned around since then, with Conte’s appointment and resultant improved Tottenham performances seeing the team well in contention for Europe, while a number of poor recent results have seen West Ham’s vulnerabilities exposed. Several injuries to key players, namely the impressive Jarrod Bowen, have badly hurt Moyes’ team and left them searching for some of that early season form.

With this match a classic “six-pointer” against a side just above them in the table, Conte’s men have to see this as an opportunity to put pressure on the rest of the CL-chasing pack. With recent results meaning Tottenham’s fortunes are somewhat out of their hands, all they can really do is make sure they win, and win regularly. But the question remains: can the Spurs squad overcome the inconsistency that currently permeates their performance against a tough opponent?

Tottenham Hotspur (7th, 48pts) vs. West Ham United (6th, 48 points)

Date: Sunday, March 20, 2022
Time: 12:30 pm ET, 4:30 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London, England
TV: USA Network (USA), Sky Sports (UK)
Stream: NBCSports.com

Oliver Skipp and Japhet Tanganga are both yet to return from their long term issues, and Ryan Sessegnon is still working his way back from his hamstring issue. At this stage, it’s a clean bill of health for the remainder of Spurs’ squad.

For West Ham, Michail Antonio and Aaron Cresswell could be injury doubts after suffering weekend knocks, while Vladimir Coufal still works his way back from injury. The aforementioned Jarrod Bowen also is unlikely to be available, and Angelo Ogbonna is out for the season with a knee injury he suffered in November.

Three themes

  1. Any Spurs fan (and Antonio Conte himself) will tell you that the defensive weakness of this team is set pieces. Unfortunately for Tottenham, set piece creation is a strength of West Ham, with the East London club ranking 6th in both set piece goals scored and percentage of goals scored via set piece. Spurs will need to watch their discipline, as West Ham are sure to try to take advantage of any free kick situation to punish this Achilles heel.
  2. Antonio Conte has been remarkably consistent with his team selections in recent weeks; however, a shortish turnaround post-Brighton plus some leggy-looking players in Spurs’ win there could push him to rotate. Heung-Min Son in particular, who has been a potent attacking weapon over the course of this season, has been going through a particularly rough spell of form. Looking off the pace and short of his usual excellence, Conte said he would be insane to drop him pre-Brighton; but after a poor performance in that match, could a rest refresh Sonny physically and mentally, as well as provide an opportunity to the likes of Steven Bergwijn?
  3. Though we’ve started to see Spurs increasingly familiarise themselves with Conte’s patterns of play, there’s been another few patterns which are of interest. Under Conte, Tottenham’s record under 4 days or fewer rest is poor, plus the recent form cycle of WLWLW points to a loss. That said, going back further the result list shows WLWLWLWLLWLWLWLW. That’s some nice symmetry! The result before that pattern started? A draw, with 1 point this weekend ensuring the symmetry would continue. Sure, THAT DOESN’T MEAN ANYTHING (or does it?), so can Conte’s patterns overcome the pattern of inconsistent form into which Spurs have fallen?