Tottenham Hotspur Host West Ham United in Premier League

Tottenham (Photo by CARL RECINE/AFP via Getty Images)
Tottenham (Photo by CARL RECINE/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Gareth Bale, Tottenham
Aug 4, 2018; Landover, MD, USA; Gareth Bale (L) Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

Spurs Unlocking West Ham

Tottenham Hotspur is going to have to find to break down the ten men that are likely to spend most of the game in the defensive half. Against Wolves and Leicester, the Hammers held 37% and then 30% possession but won by a combined 7-0. Those are two high scoring teams and neither managed to score, despite both falling behind early and it cost them.

The keys to breaking down a disciplined defense is getting them to move. Pochettino used to take Christian Eriksen and deploy him centrally to grab the strong central defender or midfielder and drag them out wide. If the defender bit, it would create space and Spurs could start to break down the defense, which was now numbers down.

However, we have seen this season that Harry Kane can do the same thing when he starts to drop deep. Kane draws even more attention than Eriksen used too and his vision with the ball at his feet is quite good. We have seen this work produce six assists.

Whereas Eriksen typically had the defensive midfielder follow him creating a crack in the defense, Harry Kane usually has a center-half tracking him. If Kane is given space anywhere in the attack half of the field, he is a treat to shoot, so the defender must run with him. Now that crack Eriksen was making is a massive gap for Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura, and soon Gareth Bale to run through.

This plan worked well against Southampton as Spurs were able to draw them up enough that the space over the top was big enough to run into. West Ham sits a bit deeper and will likely pass Kane off to midfielders as he drops deep. Instead, Tottenham is going to have to stretch the defense on the wing, with Sergio Reguilón and Matt Doherty – at least according to our projected XI – serving up crosses.

As Tottenham see more targets in the middle of the pitch in the form of Gareth Bale and Carlos Vinicius on the pitch with Harry Kane, those crosses are going to start coming a lot more often and also start seeming a lot more accurate. When only one striker is there, it is hard to target them, when there are multiple aerial threats, things change. Look for Vinicius to make an impact possible with Kane on the pitch.

Tottenham Defending the Counter

While Tottenham Hotspur continue to look more and more like a Jose Mourinho club, the defending has not yet caught up to the standard Mourinho usually sets. Tottenham have played ten games in all competitions and have only had one game with a team scoring zero goals – when Spurs were shut out by Everton on opening day.

Despite playing three Europa League qualifiers, Tottenham have just been unable to keep a clean sheet. When digging a bit deeper, two games would have been shutouts if not for penalty kicks in the opening and closing minute of the two matches. Additionally, Spurs have given up midgame penalty kicks and a couple goals off corners.

In other words, Tottenham is not that far off from being a solid defensive team, if not for these lapses. Lapses come from two things at this level fatigue, and complacency. Both fatigue and complacency come from the same thing, a lack of competition. With the blooding of Japhet Tanganga and the signing of three new defenders, Tottenham suddenly has the depth on defense to both rotate and keep everyone hungry for the best and most playing time. Let us hope that this competition and rotation lead to fewer errors and more shutouts.

Tottenham Keeping their Emotions in Check

There are a lot of storylines for Tottenham Hotspur in this game. From a league perspective, there is the opportunity to move into second place early in the season with a couple more winnable games before the next break. Then there is the idea that Jose Mourinho always beats David Moyes and the little competition and animosity that may bring to the match. Then there is the prospect of a couple debuts.

Okay, Gareth Bale is probably going to make his second debut with the club and all signs are pointing to Carlos Vinicius making his debut with the team as well. The fact that Spurs finally have a second, recognized, legitimate striker AND Gareth Bale is nearly insane. One might say it is a sign apocalypse is upon us with Spurs transfer window and the excite surrounding Bale in particular.

All that said, when push comes to shove, the match is derby and that is really the only storyline that matters. Bale and Vinicius both have braces as Harry Kane assists four more times and it will not matter if Spurs lose their emotions and lose the match 4-5. However, there is no crowd, which plays into the hands of Spurs who can use their own emotions to jump out early and get West Ham to come out of their shell and have a taste of their own counter attacking medicine.

If Tottenham can maintain their composure and get the movement, both off the ball and of the ball to get West Ham off their spots, Spurs can win the game. My guess is Tottenham does it just enough and leaves 3-1 winners, with Son, Kane, and Vinicius all scoring.