Sitting in 17th place and just one point outside of the relegation zone, you’d be forgiven for thinking that West Ham fans should expect their team to suffer a heavy defeat at White Hart Lane on Saturday evening.
Struggling at their new home and having lost four of their five away matches so far this season, Slaven Bilic’s men have failed to retain the form that saw them clinch 7th place ahead of Liverpool last term.
However, Tottenham come into this game with a few problems of their own.
Spurs might be the only team in the Football League to remain unbeaten, but they have failed to win in their last seven games in all competitions, a run dating back to 2nd October and that excellent performance against Manchester City. Pochettino’s side have also only scored four goals in that time, the last three of which were penalties.
They won’t be helped in their bid to reverse their fortunes this weekend by some significant injury concerns. There’s a doubt over Dele Alli (knee), while Erik Lamela remains sidelined for another week at least. Christian Eriksen (hip flexor), Vincent Janssen (concussion) and Mousa Dembele (muscle fatigue) should all be back in contention following injuries, but with a crucial Champions’ League tie against Monaco coming up on Tuesday, will they be risked?
The return of Harry Kane against Arsenal two weeks ago was a massive boost for Spurs however, and with an impressive goal-scoring return in London derbies (he’s netted 15 in 15 to date), their talisman might be just what’s needed to get the team firing again.
Standing in the way of Kane and a fourth goal of the season will be Winston Reid, who crucially for West Ham appears to have returned to fitness just in time for their trip across the Capital.
James Collins should also have recovered from a calf strain picked up against Stoke last time out, avoiding what would’ve been somewhat of a crisis for the Irons had both the New Zealand and Welsh internationals been out.
Like Tottenham, West Ham have had issues in front of goal. Only Middlesbrough, Hull City, Swansea City and Sunderland have scored fewer goals than the Hammers this season, while they have only managed to score more than one goal in a game twice — both times in 4-2 defeats.
The East London club’s shooting accuracy of 28% is the worst in the Premier League, and the injury to record signing Andre Ayew that kept the Ghanaian forward out for eight matches, as well as the poor form of loanee Simone Zaza, are major contributing factors.
However the form of Dimitri Payet, the man at the centre of so much of the good football West Ham played last year, can’t be overlooked either.
The French midfielder may arguably have already scored the goal of the season against Middlesbrough, but his return of one goal in his first nine games is in stark contrast to the start he made last term, scoring five in his first nine. His created slightly more chances than in 2015/16 (40 versus 38), but that aforementioned shooting accuracy is failing to convert that creativity into goals.
How well Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembele can cope with the dynamism of Payet could be crucial to the outcome of this match, whether he plays just off the front man or further forward like he did against Stoke.
If Wanyama and Dembele line up together in front of the defence, as they did at the Emirates, they’ll both have a watching brief on the diminutive Frenchman, as well as the pacey Manuel Lanzini on the opposite side. The pair have been responsible for seven of West Ham’s 11 goals so far, and keeping them quiet will be key if Tottenham want to restart their title challenge this weekend.
As for West Ham, anything other than a win could see them end the day in the bottom three — something neither the fans or owners will consider acceptable nearly a third of the way through the season.