VS Preview: West Ham v Spurs
Here we go! - Its West Ham's biggest game of the year! That's cos we're 'special' to them!
There are no surprises in football just plenty of disappointments. As the analysis of our first 3 'home' games continue the players and coaching staff have to ask some questions of themselves. The Dortmund result remains a one off until Poch can start to get the team winning at Wembley. As Barnsley showed mid-week we have a magnificent 11, if not slightly off their best at the moment, but not much underneath.
Our limited participation in the domestic cups (one FA CUP Semi-Final and 1 League Cup win in 9 years) means that we are focused on the Premiership title and the CL. But, is this the right approach?
If we are to challenge for the title we have to deal with the fundamental problem of breaking teams down when confronted with 10 defenders, we have also only had two clean sheets at Wembley since 2011 which has to be addressed! Swansea was a wake-up call to the coaching staff. It was like watching Spurs play under AVB! We are a very good team, and better than that Swansea performance.
Criticism of Poch's selection against Swansea went from; 'why did we play three at the back against a team that can't score goals and not concentrate on increasing our attacking options,' to; 'why did we leave Moussa and Davies out.' Sanchez was described as a luxury, 'we didn't need 3 at the back against a team that can't score and instead Ben Davies should have played freeing up Son to play further up the pitch.' We are calling the tune in territorial terms but you can see Poch's frustrations at recent press conferences as he struggles with our Wembley form. Poch is yet to find his best XI and is being criticised for experimenting too much with formations but even some of our players are struggling to replicate the form of last season. Dele Alli is one of them which is why he was not rested by Poch and told to play himself back into form against Barnsley. Is what is happening off the pitch affecting Alli with two major Agents; Mino Raiola and Jorge Mendes vying for his signature? Barnsley was another example of not being good enough in front of goal, we were missing sitters, especially Llorente of all people! Poch talks of being more clinical, but we are, just not at Wembley!
Poch should try and establish who should be his impact players, someone that can come off the bench and make a difference to a game that needs turning around. Son is thought to be better as an impact player rather than being a regular starter. Although we don't have anything like the depth of quality or squad that City, United and Chelsea have on the bench maybe Poch should be identifying his game changers around his core players. Moussa, with his foot problem, has been used sparingly and in a 20 minute spell could take control of a game, Lamela too, when he returns, brings something different to a game. Whether N'Koudou could do the same remains to be seen, against Barnsley he certainly added something. Sissoko remains a passenger, we all know he has got it but he just can't seem to make it happen. There is no doubt that this season is the toughest for Poch but we don't need to make our own problems by leaving out players and playing players out of position.
The Hammers will no doubt play with 3 CB's because they will want to maintain their 100% record against us at the London Stadium. Sadly, they are still talking about last May's result! The Hammers started the season with 3 straight defeats but have managed to turn it around with 4 points from their last 2 games. Slaven Bilic has been handed a boost, with a couple of his injured players nearing full fitness. Skipper Mark Noble has fully recovered from a minor knee problem and could see action against us while Edimilson Fernandes, who suffered an ankle sprain during the last international break, may also return.
So, will Javier Hernandez or Jan Vertonghen win the key battle? Hernandez has scored two of West Ham's Premier League goals this season, both at Southampton, but his personal record against us consist of 8 games against us and no goals even when he was playing against us at Bayer Leverkusen. It's the most games he has played against any team without scoring. He will of course live off the shoulder of Verts or Alders because we will play a high line. Vert has made far more clearances, headed clearances and interceptions than any other team-mate in our back four this season.
Pablo Zabaleta vs Davies will be another battle, it will be interesting to see if the supply from Davies is cut off. West Ham have two clean sheets on the bounce albeit against Huddersfield and West Brom, whilst we have to avoid failing to score in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since May 2015. Declan Rice is just 18-years-old, but the defender has caught the eye of Bilic with James Collins out for a month with ankle ligament problems, Rice maybe looking to take his place. Bilic has said there are places up for grabs. West Ham are likely to play three centre-backs against Spurs and Rice is hoping for one of those three spots.
After the Newcastle result West Ham have obviously worked out their defence so Harry, who has scored 5 times against the Hammers, Eriksen and Dele will be closely marked. West Ham go into the game without Collins and Manuel Lanzini because of injury, but will Bilic give Rice another chance or stick with Angelo Ogbonna? Either way our away form is better than our home and if we are to drop points at Home we have no choice but to win away.
Will Poch drop Sissoko and start Dembele play Verts Sanchez and Toby as a back three or go four at the back? Dier in front of the back line and Moussa putting his foot on the ball in front of Dier, Dele Eriksen supported by Wings Backs Davies and Aurier with Kane leading the line and Son as impact off the bench with Llorente? What do you reckon?
We're going for a result so are they! Remember that there has only been one draw during the last ten Premier League meetings between West Ham and Tottenham! It's their Cup Final! Sad but true!