We’re back! The Premier League returns this weekend, acting as a welcome break from a summer of – well football! With a new manager at the helm and a squad which appears to be in better spirits; this season could rejuvenate Tottenham Hotspur.
The opening game of the campaign sees the club take on London rivals; West Ham United. After an appalling 2013/14 season against the Hammers, Spurs will be hoping to overturn the three defeats suffered last season.
As previously mentioned, West Ham recorded three victories against Spurs last season, having only won one of their previous 12 meetings. Tottenham have lost just two of the last seven meetings between the sides at Upton Park (W4, D1, L2).
West Ham’s win at Upton Park on the penultimate match of last season against Tottenham ended a run of four league defeats for the Hammers (v Liverpool, Arsenal, Crystal Palace and West Brom) and ensured their Premier League survival. The last time these sides met on the opening day was in the 1999-2000 season – West Ham, managed by former Spurs boss Harry Redknapp, won 1-0 at Upton Park thanks to a Frank Lampard goal.
This game will be Sam Allardyce’s 400th as a Premier League manager. West Ham’s points tally of 40 last season was the third lowest they had record in the Premier League (33 in 2010-11 and 35 in 2009-10). The Hammers played a league-high 17% of long passes in 2013-14. They had the worst shooting accuracy in the top flight last season, hitting the target with just 37% of their attempts on goal. Allardyce’s side kept 14 clean sheets in the league last season – only five teams had a higher figure.
Tottenham have won just four of their last 16 opening weekend fixtures in the Premier League (D4, L8). Tim Sherwood (59%) recorded the highest winning percentage of any Tottenham Hotspur manager in Premier League history.
Last season Spurs equalled their highest number of wins in a single Premier League season – 21 (also in 2009-10 and 2012-13). They won 10 Premier League away games in 2013-14; only Arsenal (11) recorded more. Spurs took the most long throws (346) in the top flight last season.
The only goal Tottenham scored in the opening 15 minutes of a league game last season came in the final match of the season against Aston Villa. Tottenham scored only nine goals in 10 Premier League London derbies last season.
This is certain to be a close encounter. Tottenham struggled massively against West Ham’s defensive nature last year, however having promised to play in a more attacking fashion this season, Allardyce’s team may be easier to break down. I expect Tottenham’s pressing nature (as seen in pre-season) will benefit them this weekend.
Late tests: Vertonghen, Dembélé, Chadli, Paulinho (all match fitness), Chiriches (back), Dawson (ankle), Townsend (ankle), Walker (pelvis).
Predicted lineup: Lloris; Naughton, Kaboul, Vertonghen, Davies; Bentaleb, Capoue; Eriksen, Holtby, Lamela; Soldado
Predicted score: West Ham United 1–2 Tottenham Hotspur
Statistics via BBC Sport