The fact that all the pre-match media attention has been drawn toward what may or may not happen in the stands at White Hart Lane on Sunday is a clear indication of how one-sided the contest is expected to be.
All the focus prior to this capital clash on Sunday afternoon has been on the crowd. Fears of a repeat of last season’s alleged racist chanting between the two sets of supporters is top priority for the Premier League and the local authorities with the belief that it could provoke violence in and around the stadium. West Ham United fans were accused of making anti-Semitic remarks during the same fixture last season in relation to their hosts’ large Jewish following. The Tottenham Hotspur fans were not absolved as their replies – that appeared to embrace the stereotypes – were also taken as provocative by the FA. While all this was taking place on the terraces, there was little attention paid to the entertaining contest playing out on the field as Tottenham took the spoils in a 3-1 victory.
Sam Allardyce’s Hammers looked like they’d never been away during their first season back in the Premier League in 2012-13. With plenty creativity in amongst their midfield ranks and a solid foundation in defense on which to build, they splashed big bucks on striker Andy Carroll in the summer, who was seen as the proverbial missing piece of the puzzle. Carroll has yet to figure this season due to repetitive injuries and the West Ham pencil has proven very blunt without him; the Hammers have scored just four league goals this season (joint 20th).
As we mentioned, they are pretty stable at the back as you would expect an Allardyce team to be; if the Premier League table was based purely on goals conceded, they would be fifth. English wingers Matt Jarvis, Joe Cole and Stewart Downing have flair and creativity in abundance, although their talents have so far gone to waste with the far-from-prolific Modibo Maiga ploughing a lone furrow at the spearhead of their preferred 4-5-1 formation. Maiga has struggled to replicate his free-scoring exploits from his days in the French Ligue 1, though, Ricardo Vaz Te and Mladen Petric offer little more in the way of an alternative. West Ham have drawn a blank in 50 percent of games this season, the latest of which was a fruitless trip to newly-promoted Hull City last weekend.
The Spurs on the other hand are spoiled for choice these days. A summer-transfer overhaul saw no fewer than seven big-name and big-money signings arrive at the club, and early fears of adjustment and having too much choice have been put to rest with Tottenham currently third in the table having conceded the joint-fewest goals in the Premier League campaign thus far.
Manager Andre Villas-Boas now boasts such a mouth-watering squad that he could arguably pick two equally competitive starting elevens. The supporting cast did their bit to keep their hands on Thursday evening with a 2-0 Europa League victory out in Russia which remains a daunting trip for any side to make. Although the Spurs are averaging just a goal a game on the domestic front so far this season, the likes of Roberto Soldado, Christian Eriksen, Jermaine Defoe and the in-form Gylfi Sigurdsson will see this Sunday’s fixture as the ideal opportunity to boost that statistic.
Attacking wide-man Aaron Lennon should be available for selection again this weekend, though, it will be a surprise if he is able to dislodge any of the impressive trio that have operated just behind the striker in Spurs’ recent run of success. When the likes of Lennon, Lewis Holtby and Emmanuel Adebayor can’t get a look in with regards to the starting lineup, you know you are building something pretty special.
You would have to power up the flux-capacitor and head all the way back to April of 1999 for the last time West Ham claimed a victory at White Hart Lane.
Although it is widely considered that anything can happen in a footballing derby, the away side are there for the taking this weekend and be it by the odd goal or four, the three points are only heading one way out of this one.