West Ham United vs. Tottenham Hotspur
This game could have been the hang over game on the back of a disappointing European exit but Dembele`s last minute goal at Lyon will see Spurs arrive at the Hammers Boleyn Road Stadium with a different mindset to what it could have been. At this stage of the season 3 points from games like these are the minimum requirement .
AVB will be facing Sam Allardyce's so called long-ball merchants. The long ball league is a statistic that is not mentioned that much but West Ham actually play as many long balls as Barcelona and Real Madrid? Liverpool, who are supposed to be taking the short passing game to another level under Brendan Rodgers, average 66 long balls every match. These are the average number of long balls played, on average, this season by the teams who finished in the top four: Champions Manchester City (54), Manchester United (56), Arsenal (49), Tottenham (61). As for the rest of the Premier League; Newcastle (78), Everton (69), Reading (67), Wigan (67), Chelsea (65) Fulham (64), West Bromwich (64), Aston Villa (62), Sunderland (62), Norwich (60), QPR (59), Stoke (59), Swansea (55) and Southampton (51).
Allardyce has a specific system in place designed to hunt down the opposition and take advantage of teams who want to play The Beautiful Game, but play it badly. The idea that Allardyce takes training at Chadwell Heath each day with full-backs launching endless long balls towards Andy Carroll or Carlton Cole is a myth though.
At the beginning of the week, Allardye`s Coaches take training and Allardyce has input from the sidelines. They play small-sided, passing and pressing games to take time away from the players and put them under pressure. As they build up towards matchday, Allardyce`s role becomes more prominent and he is heavily involved on the training pitches. On Thursday and Friday, like most teams across the country, they practice set-pieces ahead of a Saturday fixture. Even then, for a team tagged 'long ball`, they have won only 50 per cent of their aerial duels this season. Allardyce has always been prickly about the accusations that his teams know only one way to play, but he has adjusted to the demands of modern football. At times they might kick it long, but on Monday night they might just join the culture club.
The two teams meet at Upton Park and Hammers chiefs do not want to see a repeat of the scenes that shamed the club at White Hart Lane earlier this season. West Ham will take a zero tolerance to fans who taunt Spurs supporters with anti-semitic abuse on Monday. A message will be in the matchday programme warning fans to behave and the east London club will come down hard on anyone caught causing trouble. Spurs fans were targeted by anti-semitic thugs in Lyon on Wednesday night, and were also attacked by Lazio fans in Rome last November.
Off the pitch there are rumblings about big Sam going after his contract ends in the summer. West Ham co-owner David Gold insists there is no job for Paolo Di Canio at Upton Park and that they intend to open talks with current manager Sam Allardyce over a new deal. However, The Italian is a cult hero with Hammers fans from his playing days at the club and a section of supporters, unhappy with Allardyce`s style of football, want to see DiCanio as boss.
However, Wet Spam are currently in 11th place, 6 points above 18th placed Reading, only twice have the three promoted teams from the previous season survived relegation. Reading and QPR are already in the dog fight and West Hams recent form would suggest that they could also be dragged in.
It`s difficult to assess the Hammers side, James Collins could make his return from a hamstring injury against Spurs on Monday night? The Hammers went off to Dubai for some sun but Collins didn`t join them instead the defender stayed behind to continue working on his fitness. Errors have been made by Collins, he'd admit this, however with The Hammers in need of getting some points on the board to remove any niggling relegation fears having the Welsh internationals experience to call upon in defence will help.
Given the up and coming fixtures we face 3 points will be very welcome. It will be interesting to see, if Andy Carroll is in the side, who are two CB`s will be. Will Kaboul be used? Mousa Dembele looks like his form has deserted him and we need someone to boss the middle of the park. Will AVB play Ade up front with Holtby just behind or will Dempsey be in the hole? What would be your preferred selection?
Written by OyVeh Maria