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West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur Preview: Finding quality amidst the quantities

The possession stats are low but the number of fixtures is not.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Ham United - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Four matches in and Tottenham Hotspur remains undefeated, earning three wins against lower competition and an important point at Stamford Bridge. Supporters likely have some hesitation due the way last season’s hot start collapsed, but there are plenty of reasons to have some confidence this go around.

The style of Antonio Conte can feel unglamorous at times, but the numbers do not lie. Though Spurs’ opponents have enjoyed what feels like the bulk of the possession, they have had a difficult time turning it into anything resembling a true threat. As a result, Southampton, Wolves, and Forest combined for 2.3 total xG and just a single goal — hardly numbers worth complaining about.

If there is a reason for concern, it would be in the quantity of upcoming fixtures. The start of the Champions League next week (!!) means double matchweeks will become the norm, and that reality actually starts this Wednesday with a midweek trip down to West Ham United. This is the time for the summer’s reinforcements to step up.

West Ham United (t-15th, 3pts) vs. Tottenham Hotspur (t-2nd, 10pts)

Date: Wednesday, August 31
Time: 2:45 pm ET, 7:45 pm UK
Location: London Stadium, London, England
TV: Peacock Premium (USA), BT Sport 2 (UK)

West Ham is...not great. A lone win last weekend against another struggling club, Villa, is the only bright spot in the league thus far. Otherwise, there are three losses — with zero goals scored — and a fun 3.5 xG to 5.8 xGA which yields the fourth-worst xGD overall. Even if the attack is a little unlucky per the metrics, neither Michail Antonio nor newcomer Gianluca Scamacca have looked particularly capable of consistently producing.

All this sets up for yet another match where Spurs will feel good around their own box. Regardless of the activity in the middle of the pitch, non-Chelsea opponents have failed to significantly test Hugo Lloris, and this should again be the case on Wednesday. Perhaps there will be a little more opportunity for the midfield to control the ball against West Ham, but Conte is proving that this is not even a necessity to win.

Recent results:

  • Oct 2021: 1-0 loss, away
  • Dec 2021: 2-1 win, home — League Cup (Bergwijn, Moura)
  • Mar 2022: 3-1 win, home (OG, Son, Son)

The most recent contest between the unfriendly neighbors proved that out. Tottenham was thoroughly the better side last March in the midst of that strong end to the season, capturing a completely deserved 3-1 win behind a Son Heung-Min brace and a very welcomed Kurt Zouma own goal. On that day, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Rodrigo Bentancur seemed just fine as the midfield duo as well.

Despite Son’s efforts in that match, perhaps Wednesday is a good chance to give him a breather. His quality is indisputable, and highlights of those two goals are a good reminder of that, but with the volume of fixtures coming up and the arrival of Richarlison, rotation is inevitable. With his early frustrations, this could be a good time to reset.

It also is only a matter of time before players like Yves Bissouma and Djed Spence get more than a cameo. West Ham has recently been a thorn in Spurs’ side, and is just an annoyance in general, but this is a great chance to smash a lesser opponent and integrate the newer faces into the lineup. Three more points is the end goal, but spreading out the minutes is not going to be negotiable this fall either.