Tottenham Hotspur’s 11-match unbeaten run could come under some threat on Sunday when they host a West Ham side who have already taken three impressive scalps away from home so far this season (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports 1).
The two London sides are currently level on points in fifth and sixth in the Premier League table having both made strong starts to the campaign. There has also been little to separate them in recent meetings, with two wins apiece and a draw in the last five league encounters.
Spurs do, though, have the slight edge on goal difference so far this season and also come into this fixture on the back of a confident and impressive showing away to Arsenal prior to the international break. The match ended 1-1 but the degree to which Mauricio Pochettino’s side bossed the play bodes well for the continuation of their undefeated streak.
While Pochettino would have liked to turn a couple of Tottenham’s six draws into victories, he will otherwise be more than content with the way his side have played so far this season. The club dispensed with a number of unwanted players over the summer and the resulting squad is a young, determined and willing group who have taken superbly to his methods.
Dele Alli (pictured) and Eric Dier were among five Spurs players called up to the England squad for the recent international break and have both enjoyed prominent roles during the early part of the campaign. Alli, just 19, is an all-action midfielder whose movement, link play and eye for goal have all impressed, while Dier has excelled as a strong shield in front of the back four.
The latter has been key to giving Spurs the solid defensive base they have often lacked. Their goals-conceded rate has dropped dramatically in comparison to last season and that, in combination with an attack that is also marginally out-performing that of the previous campaign, makes them worthy occupants of their current position as the bookies’ fourth-favourites for a top-four finish.
Similar optimism abounds over in East London, where Slaven Bilic has done very well in his few first months in the West Ham dugout. He got off to a bit of an inauspicious start by overseeing the club’s early exit from the Europa League qualifying rounds, but a haul of 21 points from their opening 12 league fixtures has swiftly allayed any negative sentiment.
The fact that 12 of those points were taken from teams who finished in the top six last season, in the forms of victories away to Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester City and a home win over Chelsea, has certainly helped Bilic’s cause, as has the quick, bright and inventive attacking football his side have played – a refreshing change from the more defensive style of his predecessor, Sam Allardyce.
Yet while the Hammers have rightly received plaudits for their early-season results, their underlying statistics suggest that they may find it difficult to maintain that form over the course of the season. While the numbers are conditioned, in part, by their relatively tough opening set of fixtures, they nevertheless profile as more of a top-10 than a top-six side.
In addition, the absence of Dimitri Payet, who is expected to be out until February with the ankle injury he picked up in the recent draw with Everton, is likely to have a detrimental effect on the quality of their attacking play. The Frenchman has already been directly involved in eight league goals and has also been his team’s primary creative influence.
Spurs do not leave themselves quite as open on the counter-attack as some of the big sides that West Ham have defeated so far this season and while the Hammers may very well get themselves a goal (they have, after all, scored in all but one of their league matches to date) this preview’s betting tips verdict is that Spurs have enough attacking quality to still come away with all three points.