Arsenal icon Paul Merson has set out the blueprint David Moyes will need to utilise on Sunday for West Ham United to “hurt” Tottenham Hotspur.
The Irons visit their London rivals this weekend looking to build on commanding victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Leicester City, knowing that a win will move the claret and blue side above Jose Mourinho’s Spurs in the Premier League standings.
Tottenham have endured a mixed campaign to date, having started the season with defeat at home to Everton before entering the October international break after hitting Manchester United for six at Old Trafford.
Mourinho will be confident that his side can claim their first set of successive league wins this term against West Ham, who have won just one of the last six meetings between the two London outfits and lost on four occasions.
Merson, however, is not totally convinced that Tottenham will have things go all their own way this weekend, as the 52-year-old pundit believes Moyes can set the Hammers up to make Sunday’s clash a real contest.
“It suits West Ham when they can sit back and counter-attack,” Merson said on Sky Sports’ Soccer Saturday (October 17, 13:50). “What I worry about is when they play at the London Stadium against bottom-half teams and they’ve got to go out and take the game to them.
“They start getting picked off. When they can work from a base, they are a very, very good team. I think they will make it hard for Tottenham. I think they’ve got players who can majorly, majorly hurt you.”
West Ham’s 3-0 win away to Leicester last time out was a perfect example of the Irons using a strong base to hit sides on the counter to devastating effect, with the likes of Michail Antonio and Jarrod Bowen using their pace to stretch the field and the Foxes’ backline.
The Hammers’ defence also wonderfully nullified their host’s offensive weapons to the point Lukasz Fabianski was left a mere passenger of the result, with Leicester unable to register a single shot on target at their own stadium.
West Ham were physically, technically and tactically the superior side at the King Power, intimidating Leicester into a tame display whilst being weak at the back. Antonio’s fast thinking and quick footwork also ensured Moyes’ men overpowered Brendan Rodgers’, reacting best to the situation with a quick-free quick before heading in low Aaron Cresswell’s cross.
Leicester tried to respond but could find no way through the Irons’ brick wall, and replicating this against Tottenham may be enough for Moyes to see Merson’s prediction come true in West Ham hurting Spurs on Sunday.
Tottenham have been one of the best defensive units in the Premier League so far this season, so creating chances could otherwise be hard for West Ham, with Mourinho’s rigid tactics restricting opposing sides to the least open play goals (one) through their first four fixtures.