West Ham face Tottenham in what is very much a proverbial six-pointer in the race for European football this Sunday.
After 24 games, the Hammers have already surpassed their Premier league points tally from last season and now David Moyes has E20 dreaming of Europa League football (or beyond). But they face four of the so-called ‘Big Six’ in their next six games, starting with an all-London clash against Spurs this weekend.
Across the M25 the pressure is building on Jose Mourinho, whose side are caught in the riptide of a two-game losing run on the road. Four defeats from Spurs’ last five league games makes for grim reading from a Lilywhites perspective, placing a huge emphasis on this derby.
Son picking up the slack during Kane’s creative drought
When Spurs found themselves three goals to the good after 16 minutes against West Ham in October, it was at the height of Harry Kane’s ‘playmaker’ transformation, which saw the England international register 10 assists in his opening 11 games, forming an almost telepathic understanding with Son Heung-min.
On the day, Kane scored a brace and nearly took home the match ball were it not for the woodwork denying him in the second half. But it was his assist to Son in the opening minute that elicited the most praise. That trademark ball over the top to a spring-heeled Son brought up assist number eight at the time.
Two more would follow before 2020 came to an end, but a far less impressive run of just one assist in his previous 10 outings, dating back to the start of December has coincided with the crumbling form of Spurs and some very abject performances from the north Londoners.
Since that final assist of 2020, which came in the 2-0 win over Arsenal, Kane’s ‘creative’ output have significantly tailed off: his chances per 90 minutes post-Arsenal has nearly halved from his first 11 games (2.01 down to 1.06), while his big chances created his nosedived from 0.82 to 0.32.
So, it may be up to Son to pick apart West Ham’s stubborn defence and find gaps in an expected back five for the hosts. The South Korean enters this contest having provided more assists against West Ham (four) than versus any other side in his Premier League career.
Relevant Sky Bet odds for West Ham vs Spurs:
- Son and Harry Kane to score 11/2
- Son to assist 1+ goals 10/3
- Son to assist 2+ goals 28/1
- Son to score and assist a goal 12/1
18+ only. Be Gamble Aware. Odds correct at time of writing.
Moyes to use Lingard against his former mentor
Since Jesse Lingard traded Old Trafford for the capital, West Ham have enjoyed an injection of creativity going forward. Such a blistering start has come as a shock to many West Ham fans, but one man who would certainly not be surprised by Lingard’s early exploits is Mourinho.
During his Man Utd tenure, Mourinho guided the club to a runners-up position in 2017/18 in what he described as one of the “biggest achievements” of his career. There were a number of standout stars in that side, but Lingard was certainly in the conversation for that year’s Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year.
He notched a career-best 20 direct goal contributions across 48 games (13 goals, seven assists), and already West Ham fans are getting a glimmer of that form, with Lingard on two goals in three games. Lingard also has an ‘unofficial’ assist following his penalty win against Sheff Utd, and he is already averaging more shots per 90 minutes than any other player at the club (2.76). A crucial mid-season adrenaline shot.
- Jesse Lingard to score 14/5
- Jesse Lingard to score and West Ham to win 9/2
- Jesse Lingard to score and assist a goal 16/1
Jesse Lingard & Son to assist 1+ goal each 25/1
Mourinho to maintain record against Moyes
Moyes and Mourinho have shared the touchline on no fewer than 15 occasions, but not once has West Ham’s current manager walked away from those tactical tussles with all three points on the board. Indeed, Moyes has faced Mourinho on more occasions in all competitions without ever winning than he has against any other manager.
The Scot certainly deserves praise for transforming West Ham from bottom-of-the-table fodder to genuine European candidates, but he must start competing against the so-called ‘Big Six’ if the Hammers are to gatecrash the actual top-six places and not fade out as we enter Spring.
West Ham have recorded their best points total since 1985/86, and yet, they have failed to put any of the ‘Big Six’ to the sword this term. For one reason or another that thousand-yard stare seems to set in when Moyes takes on a traditional heavyweight.
In fact, as it stands, West Ham have lost each of their last three home league games against Spurs, their longest losing run at home against them in their league history.
So, as Mourinho approaches a half century of Premier League games in the Spurs dugout, he will almost certainly not suffer defeat at the hands of Moyes unless the latter changes ditches his inferiority complex and treats the Londoners as equals.
Approach this game like a David-Who-Fought-Goliath story and it could be a familiar outcome for Moyes.