West Ham – thoughts on the Tottenham game and the transfer window

Did you enjoy our excellent performance against a disappointing Tottenham side on Wednesday night? I certainly did. For me it was our best performance of the season by a long way and reminiscent of some of our better games in the last two seasons. There was only one team who were going to win the game in the second half and it wasn’t whingeing Tottenham.

They had taken the lead rather fortuitously in the first half with the own goal but I can barely remember Fabianski being troubled all night, and when he was called upon he showed why he has no intention of relinquishing the number 1 jersey with a commanding display. To be honest I expected a lot more from Tottenham but they resorted to dubious ‘old-fashioned Italian’ tactics, moaning at the referee at every stoppage, and generally they seemed to feel that everything should go their way because they have had a decent start to the season and we haven’t. They believe that they are genuine title challengers but with this display they are a million miles away.

The treatment of Bowen in particular was appalling in the way he was targeted and brought down at every opportunity. He was looking back to his lively self from last season and could perhaps have scored more than once in the closing stages of the game. With a little more composure Fornals should have scored too, as should Paqueta when he and Emerson left the ball for each other when in a great position from Coufal’s cross.

I thought the whole of our team played well with season-best performances all round, especially in the second half, and my man of the match was Antonio. He was unlucky in the first half when his long-range shot hit the post, and his Bergkamp-like flick to set up Soucek’s equalising goal was sublime. And didn’t Soucek take it well! All night Antonio (just like Bowen) was fouled by the Tottenham defenders who were allowed to get away with it by a referee who was too lenient in many respects. I am all for the new code where referees allow the game to continue more freely than before after strong tackles but this was too much.

Conte disappointed me too with his post-match comments about the VAR decision which sent the referee to look at the screen after the ball struck Cresswell’s arm after deflecting off his face. Quite frankly how VAR took almost four minutes before they came to that conclusion was baffling. You only had to look at the replay once to see what had happened. I am a fan of VAR applied properly and in this case justice was done, but why the hesitation? But not according to whingeing Conte.

Some excellent performances all round by our players and the new signings are going to be great additions. Paqueta’s thirty-minute cameo demonstrated what a signing he could become and was especially notable for the fact that he hadn’t trained with the team beforehand. Players are now playing knowing that there are quality players on the bench and the competition for their places is just what is needed. What I particularly liked in comparison to the earlier games this season was our ability to retain the ball and not give it away cheaply. We moved the ball quicker too with more purpose, and the players were finding space to receive the ball too.

I don’t usually give player ratings but I’ll make an exception for this game. Fabianski 7.5, Coufal 7.5, Kehrer 8, Zouma 7.5, Cresswell 7, Rice 8.5, Soucek 8, Fornals 7, Benrahma 7, Bowen 8, Antonio 8.5.

I won’t give a rating for the substitutes but Paqueta, Ogbonna and Emerson, all looked good with their relatively short time on the pitch and we were well on top as the game edged towards a close.

We now move on to Stamford Bridge to face big-spending Chelsea. Another performance like we produced for the Tottenham game, especially in the second half will be fine. We are actually playing a game on a Saturday! When did that last happen? If I’m not mistaken we last played a league game on a Saturday (the traditional day for football!) at the beginning of March when we lost 1-0 at Anfield. And when did we last win a league game on a Saturday? I don’t think it has happened since New Years Day, January 1st when we beat Palace 3-2 at Selhurst Park. I may be wrong but I don’t think we won a league game on a Saturday at the London Stadium in the whole of last season. Of course the main reasons for this are games shown on TV plus our participation in European competition.

The madness, also known as the transfer window, slammed shut on Thursday evening. (Why does it always slam?). At last an end to the 982 players linked with West Ham over the past few weeks! Sky Sports is whipped into a frenzy on the final day when so many clubs finalise the business that they’ve had weeks to do, and so many transactions take place right up until the 11pm deadline. Time will tell of course, but I reckon that this has been the most successful window for West Ham in years. Spending has certainly exceeded my expectations with the arrival of eight players to replace those that left or who have retired. Seven of the eight are current full international footballers. It’s now down to the manager to mould them into a team that can challenge for honours. I look forward to the rest of the season.

West Ham and Tottenham Clash In The Hammers First And Firiest London Derby Of The Season

The win at Villa Park and stunning signing of Lucas Paqueta have baked in a new sense of optimism at the London Stadium. Can a win against the old rivals put the icing on the cake?

The West Ham Transfer Advent calendar has just two windows left to open but has already revealed an eclectic mix of expensive gifts that go way beyond my historic expectations. Could there be even more to come? Past performance suggests the chances of our crack negotiating team signing and sealing further deals inside a two day deadline is highly improbable, but these are not normal times at the high spending Hammers. David Moyes prayers have been answered and he has been given a whole new set of tools to play with. The pressure is now on him to show what he can build with them.

The interest in Lucas Paqueta came as something of a surprise to me, although Moyes claims to have been tracking him for some time. It really is the most mouth watering signing for some time if he delivers anywhere close to his Youtube showreels. The reported transfer fee is a huge one for a player signing from a Ligue 1 club – in fact, second only to the fee paid by Real Madrid to sign Tchouameni from Monaco. Will it be money well spent?

How heavy the burden of being the Hammer’s most expensive ever signing will sit on Paqueta’s shoulders will become apparent over time. Not only must he adapt to the pace of the Premier League, but others must be tuned into the same wavelength. Otherwise the flicks and tricks will look out of place. To the more flat-footed, workaday members of the squad, his speed of thought and movement must be like watching a timelapse video.

I took David Moyes comments on needing time to adapt as setting expectations that we might not see the best from Paqueta straight away. Not that it was his intention to bed him in as a 75th substitute for the initial ten game period. I hope I’ve got that right. His presence in the side will represent a very different dimension for opposing teams to counter, and as well as creating and scoring himself he will be freeing up spaces for others to fill and hoepfully exploit. Can I already hear the cries of “¡olé!” reverberating around the London Stadium?

It was a welcome win at the weekend courtesy of a first West Ham goal of the season in almost six hours of trying. True, the goal had a few slices of luck about it but deflected shots are more common these days with defences willing to encourage shots from distance. Always happy to take what comes our way!

The first half experiment of a back five failed miserably as might have been predicted. For it to work and not be a negative tactic, fast raiding wing-backs and a pacy, mobile front three are required – not obvious strengths of the eleven players taking the field. With Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek more concerned with what Coutinho was doing, attacking opportunities were non-existent, passing and movement were at a record low, and Villa were gifted an ever increasing level of possession as the game progressed. Thankfully, the hosts had few ideas of their own and the West Ham defence stood firm in an afternoon of heading-the-ball-away practice.

To his credit, Moyes acted with uncharacteristic decisiveness to change things around at half-time, leaving the bewildered Stevie G to persist with what hadn’t worked in the first period. The upshot was that suddenly it was the visitors who looked the most likely if there was to be an eventual winner. It was typical football irony that Pablo Fornals, who hadn’t put a foot right all afternoon, was the player to pop up with the deciding strike. 

A goal and a win should provide a much needed boost to confidence but today’s opponents, Tottenham, will be nowhere near as obliging as the Villains were. Along with their north London neighbours, Spurs are among the early season Premier League front runners with three wins and a draw from four games played. They have also recruited heavily in the summer. Remarkably, four of the capital’s clubs (Chelsea, West Ham, Tottenham, and Arsenal) are among the top ten spenders across Europe this window.

Despite the recruitment, Conte has largely put faith in the players who secured Champions League qualification last year. But the strength on the bench looks daunting. Talking of subs, with Richarlison coming off the bench to join Kane and Son, there may well be shouts of “Dive!, Dive!, Dive!” whenever the ball is played anywhere near the box. VAR must ensure it has its periscope up at all times.

At time of writing I haven’t heard whether Pacqueta has received HM Government work permit clearance to feature in tonight’s hostile environment. I fear the midweek game has come too early for him in any case. Maybe a place on the bench is the best we can expect. I would imagine Moyes starting eleven to be the same as the one that started the second half at Villa Park.

The home encounter with Tottenham is the Hammers premier London derby of the season. Arguably, the most eagerly anticipated clash of the season. Difficult to call a game between two sides who prefer to counter attack. On form, the visitors have the edge and they are faster and more clinical on the break. Still while there is Eric Dier, there is always a chance.

Losing three opening home league games on the bounce would be a huge blow for all concerned. Not sure when that last happened but no doubt we will be told. If Rice and Jarrod Bowen remember to get their socks pulled up, I’ve a feeling we can take something away from this game – even if it is a hard fought draw. COYI!

West Ham face Tottenham in the 100th Premier League game at the London Stadium

What an excellent win at Goodison Park last Sunday! Even better that my prediction for the score was correct leading to a few pounds coming my way from my friendly bookmaker. I needed Cresswell to score the goal to make it an even bigger payout, but nonetheless what a great result to take us up to seventh in the table with 14 points from 8 games. If maintained for the season then the current average of 1.75 points per game equates to 66/67 points for the season as a whole which would be even better than the total of 65 in the last campaign. Extrapolating our current goals for and against would result in an end of season goal difference of 24 with 71 goals scored and 47 conceded, once again an improvement on last season. Let’s hope that it continues! 

Better still we are in the Europa League this time around as well as facing a home tie against Manchester City in the last 16 of the Carabao Cup next Wednesday. On Thursday evening the Belgian side Genk were the visitors to the London Stadium for our third game in Group H. We had already taken maximum points from our visit to Dinamo Zagreb and our home game against Rapid Vienna.

And it couldn’t have gone any better on the night. With half a dozen changes we were understandably not at our absolute best, but a professional performance ensured all three points in a relatively comfortable 3-0 victory. My only minor concern in the game was the pace of the Genk forwards who looked dangerous when they broke at speed, but the statistics of the group don’t lie. All four teams have played three games, we have nine points from seven unanswered goals and the others all have three apiece by conveniently beating each other. In a competition where it is a big advantage to top the group, to be six points clear of the team lying second halfway through the fixtures is a position we could only have dreamed about.  

Our visitors this Sunday for the 100th Premier League game to be played at the London Stadium are the team from North London who are (to say the very least) not our best friends! In the 99 games to date we have won 40 and lost 36. The record was a negative one prior to last season when we turned it around with one of the best home records in the division.

We will be hoping for the same result that we saw a little over eight months ago when we recorded a 2-1 win with our goals scored by Antonio and Lingard. The atmosphere will certainly be an improvement on that game now that spectators are back! The results so far have proved those doubters wrong who suggested that last season was a flash in the pan and helped by the lack of supporters in grounds.

We took four points off them last season with the addition of the unlikely comeback in our game at White Hart Lane just over a year ago. That 3-3 draw was important at the end of the season, as without Lanzini’s superb strike they would have got three points from the game to our nil points. We would have both ended with 64 points, and as their goal difference was superior to ours they would have finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League Group Stage, and we would have been seventh to end up in the Europa Conference League Play-Off round, a reversal of the actual finishing places.

I assume that, injuries permitting, the starting eleven will revert to the one that has been used in league games to date. We don’t know the extent of the problem with Coufal but we have cover at right back with both Johnson and Fredericks able to fill that position. They are both versatile defenders and could fill in on the other side too, but that would not be ideal if Cresswell was out for any length of time. I’d like to see a couple more players strengthen the squad still further in the next window, a left back and a striker.

Our manager is beginning to get credit now for the turnaround in our fortunes since he returned to the club. We were 17th at the time, he saved us from relegation (for the second time), and then managed the team into sixth place with our highest ever points total in the Premier League era. And now he has guided us into a similar position near the top to challenge once again. And he seems to want us to be in contention in all competitions too. But it’s more than that isn’t it? He has totally transformed the club in a short space of time into one where he has moulded a squad of players who all fit into the system he wants us to play. At the same time he seems to have created a super atmosphere where the spirit in the squad is first class.

I am enjoying watching this current team as much as our Cup winning sides of the mid sixties and mid seventies, both of whom did so well in Europe after winning the FA Cup, the excellent footballing side of 1979-82 who also won the FA Cup as a second tier team, and the boys of ’86 who were so nearly champions.

Despite having to fight two relegation battles, in a little over 100 games at the helm David Moyes’ managerial record is such that his win percentage is better than he achieved in his 11 seasons at Everton where he was very successful. His win percentage is also better than any previous West Ham manager who managed the club for 100 games or more.

With two teams that finished sixth and seventh in the table last season, and who currently sit in seventh and fifth separated by a single point this time around, the bookmakers’ odds for the game were obviously going to reflect the closeness in the ability of the teams. We are narrow favourites, but it is likely to be close. We are around 11/8 to win the game, with Tottenham at about 2/1. I fancy a repeat of last season’s score with a 2-1 victory. The odds are 9/1. Tottenham are Michail Antonio’s favourite opponents. He has scored more goals against them than against any other team. I reckon he’ll get another couple in this game. West Ham to win 2-1 and Antonio to score anytime is 18/1. West Ham to win 2-1 and Antonio to score the first goal of the game is 45/1. The odds are the same for that score with Antonio scoring the last goal of the game. I think my fun bet will be one of those this week. What are the chances?

High Flying Hammers Welcome Fast Fading Tottenham To The London Stadium

Contrasting midweek fortunes create a fascinating backdrop as West Ham seek to prove they are the main challenger to Chelsea in terms of London bragging rights.

Some matches just have that little extra edge to them. It could be the visit of one of the glamour clubs. Or a sudden death cup game under the floodlights in mid-winter. Or the anticipation of trading blows with local rivals, even if they are lesser teams such as Millwall or Tottenham.

This weekend is one of those latter occasions. Anecdotally, Tottenham don’t care at all about West Ham. The Hammers are beneath their contempt – which is exactly the reason they rested their whole team for the Europa Auto Windscreens Conference defeat to Vitesse Arnhem in midweek. Conversely, West Ham fans have no such reservations for their disrespect. We are genetically programmed to hate Tottenham, and to hate Tottenham. After all, we are (unashamedly) the Tottenham haters.

Unlike, their north London counterparts, the Hammers have been flying high in European competition. Three games, three wins, no goals conceded and a six-point cushion over the nearest challenger. David Moyes has talked about his desire to still be in Europe after Christmas, but one way or another, this is already virtually assured. Only finishing bottom of Group H would prevent it from happening, as the third placed team would automatically drop down into the Conference.  It is touch and go whether Tottenham will still be involved by then, however, unless there is an even more inferior competition for them to drop in to – the Europa Sunday League Losers Trophy, perhaps.

The ease with which West Ham have taken to European competition has been remarkable. The demands of a punishing Thursday/ Sunday schedule have been offset by David Moyes ability to rotate his squad and still win relatively comfortably. The group might even be won with a game or two to spare – reducing the pressure even more.

Each of the second string players who have featured in Europa League games to date have performed with credit. No-one has let the side down, although that hasn’t stopped some media sites from throwing unwarranted criticism around, whether it be towards Andriy Yarmolenko, Manuel Lanzini or Nikola Vlasic. We know these are not first choice players, but they have done a sterling job as stand-ins – allowing key players to get a deserved break. It was particularly pleasing to see Craig Dawson and Issa Diop get on the scoresheet against Genk – both are also performing to great effect in their defence duties.   

It should be as you were as far as the starting eleven against Tottenham tomorrow is concerned. The only known unknown is who out of Vladimir Coufal, Ben Johnson and Ryan Fredericks gets to play at right back.

For all their bluster, Tottenham have never truly been a part of a ‘big six’, except in their own heads. Along with Arsenal they are the big losers from the failed ESL coup as they slip further away from the top four. At least when Pochettino was manager they had a team and played in a style worthy of grudging admiration. Since then, poor recruitment both on and off the pitch have taken them steadily backwards.  

The appointment of Nuno Espirito Santo was another odd and erratic choice. He was clearly running out of steam at Wolves and his workmanlike approach to football is as far removed from the Spurs ideal as Allardyce was at West Ham. Showing that he so scared of West Ham that he would risk throwing the Conference League will not have gone down well with supporters. Maybe his name translates to Nuno The Not So Brave!

Despite all the shortcomings Nuno does have his get-out-of jail card in Kane and Son – both accomplished at scoring goals and winning penalties. West Ham’s task will be to stay alert and cut off their supply at source. No worries that Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek should come out on top in the midfield battle but avoiding a slow start will once again be essential.  

It’s a great time to a Hammer right now. I have always regarded West Ham circa 1980 – 82 as my all-time favourite team (even more than the boys of 85/86 in fact) but now I am in tow minds. There is just so much to admire about this likeable group of players and their obvious commitment, resilience and team spirit. We should embrace and enjoy it while we can.   

No matter what the circumstances I will always tip West Ham to beat Spurs whenever we meet. Any defence that has Eric Dier in it is never going to be impregnable. I will go for a 3-1 West Ham win. COYI!

Can West Ham Maintain Hopes of European Qualification?

I was interested to see Jose Mourinho’s thoughts ahead of our derby game at home to our North London neighbours today. In one observation he suggested that the relative positions of West Ham and Tottenham will not be the same at the end of the season as they are now. Of course everyone takes this to mean that he believes they will improve their league position whereas we will falter. But perhaps he thinks we will move up further in the table while they will plunge lower? No, I don’t think he meant that but it’s always interesting to read how his remarks are interpreted as it is not always clear exactly what he means.

He was certainly getting his excuses in early in the event of West Ham winning the game by suggesting that we have a distinct advantage by not being involved in Europe. We’ve had a week to prepare the team, to work on tactics for our next game, for injuries to heal, for players to rest, for the fatigue induced by a congested fixture list to diminish. His team however had to play on Thursday evening giving them little time to prepare and recover. He did concede that we’ve done well so far, but he certainly seemed to suggest that we won’t keep it up for another 14 games. Time will tell. He may be right.

But if you study recent form everything points to an optimistic outcome for the Hammers this lunchtime. Tottenham may have the edge when you look back over history of fixtures between the clubs that goes back to the nineteenth century, but based on the last few weeks we would certainly hope to come out on top.

In the season to date we already have 42 points which is our best tally in the top flight after 24 games for 35 years, which takes us back to that great campaign of 1985-86 (we had 48 at the same stage) when we finished third, and came as close as we ever have to being champions. Already we have surpassed our total points for the whole of last season by three points and there are still 14 games to go.

Recent form is even more impressive. Looking at the last five games only, we have 10 points to Tottenham’s 3. In fact in our last 10 Premier league games we have won six, drawn three, and lost just once (to Liverpool).

Bookmakers are not sure which way this game will go. Both teams are favourites with differing firms and are on offer at around 13/8 to win the game with the draw at 9/4. Of course the first meeting this season ended up 3-3 with our amazing comeback in the final nine minutes. The odds are 55/1 for a repeat of that scoreline, or if you fancy that score with Lanzini scoring the last goal of the game again then you can get 350/1. Or how about our new penalty taker (Rice) scoring a last minute penalty to force a 3-3 draw at 500/1?

I wonder what formation we will start with in this game? I just hope we remember that we need to counter the pace of Son who I believe is their most dangerous player. I wonder if the manager will consider using Fredericks in the same way that he used him to help Coufal to nullify Grealish in the Aston Villa game? Or perhaps Johnson who has looked good in recent games? If Antonio is fit then he will undoubtedly play but who will be the other attacking players? Lingard will almost certainly be one of them but he’ll also be considering Bowen, Benrahma, Lanzini, Noble and Fornals for probably one or possibly two starting places.

I am hoping that David Moyes can be successful against Mourinho for the first time in about fifteen attempts. It will be close. A draw is on the cards but I’ll go for a 2-1 Hammers win with Rice scoring the last goal of the game. That is on offer at around 85/1. Following Liverpool’s defeat to Everton and Chelsea’s draw with Southampton yesterday we can move into fourth place in the table two points clear of Chelsea if we can win today. What are the chances?  

Mind The Gap – West Ham Target Nine Point Lead Over Fast Fading Tottenham

It may be tougher at the bottom, but success can bring its own anxieties as confounded Hammer’s fans continue to pinch themselves over phenomenal season.

I have found myself just recently sitting at the computer and staring at the Premier League table for many minutes at a time. Can it really be true? Last season’s ragged and sorry strugglers are loud and proud in fifth position with twenty-four games already played? With a chance (even if it is an outside one) of European qualification? Surely, it’s just a dream?

It should be time to enjoy the moment, but too many years of bad experience won’t let me shake off the feeling that it can’t possibly to last. I get that uneasy feeling whenever things are going well that it’s bound to be followed by something bad happening. It’s a symptom, apparently, of a condition known as cherophobia – although, technically, that is the fear of being happy, which is certainly not true in my case. I couldn’t be more happier if West Ham suddenly embarked on a momentous fourteen game winning streak between now and the end of the season.

The holy grail would undoubtedly be gatecrashing the Champion’s League places. Although quite how a shoestring squad such as ours could possibly negotiate a CL campaign would defy the greatest minds. In an average year, a total of seventy-one points are needed to bag a CL spot – a target that would require the Hammers to up their points per game tally from 1.75 to just over 2 in the remaining games. Sounds like a tall order, but, of course, it depends equally on how other team’s fare. Qualification with sixty-six points has been known in the past.

As football fans, we are never fully satisfied. A circumstance that led me to ponder those what-if moments that have denied us an even greater points haul by now. (For the purposes of this exercise, I will conveniently ignore any instances where the rub of the green actually went our way.) What-if the incompetent officials had noticed the clearance by the Manchester United keeper had gone 10 yards out of play? What-if a few of those fifteen attempts that hit the woodwork had bounced back into the net? What-if the blatant penalty for the foul on Michail Antonio against Manchester City at 1-0 up had been rightfully given? What-if we had started the comeback against Tottenham five minutes earlier and won 4-3?

That brings us nicely to this week’s opponents, and a game where anticipation anxiety is typically at its highest. A contest where you would be tempted to sell at least a small part of your soul in exchange for a positive result. A West Ham win would open up a nine point gap over the one-time north London giants, while injecting ever greater turmoil onto the chaotic reign of Jose Mourinho. The replacement of Pochettino by Mourinho is now looking as inspired as sacking Harry and bringing in Roeder was. The spirit and verve that once typified Pochettino’s Spurs has been thoroughly exorcised to a point where they now rely totally on the goals and assists from Son and Kane. Still a threat but a far more predictable one.

Something that has surprised me with David Moyes in recent games is his willingness to play around with formations and personnel. Even though some of this was forced upon him by injuries and availability, it did demonstrate a greater tactical nous then we might give him credit for. Manager and team have grown in confidence together.

Although Monday night’s game did end with a routine win, the changes against Sheffield United did illustrate that tinkering can sometimes expose hidden weaknesses – like a man uprating the power of his car engine but not upgrading the brakes and suspension at the same time. With Jarrod Bowen occupied elsewhere he was not available to support Vladimir Coufal. As a result Coufal looked unusually exposed at times, allowing the visitors to get in more crosses than might have been comfortable. It was also no surprise that an opponent with a mainly aerial threat would look to isolate Aaron Cresswell as part of back three. A team with more clinical finishers than the Blades (Harry Kane, for example) might well have made a lot more of the headed opportunities that presented themselves.

The Hammers line-up tomorrow will again hinge on the fitness of Antonio. All indications in the media are that he is available and raring to go. His inclusion would see a return to the favoured 4-2-3-1 formation with a toss up between Said Benrahma or Manuel Lanzini as to who partners Jesse Lingard and Bowen in the ‘3’. This would mean an unfortunate demotion to the bench for Ben Johnson who is rapidly becoming a very fine footballer, both defending and going forward, even playing on the wrong foot.

Tottenham will be without several minor players but may welcome back the unsettled Kane. Watch out for wind assisted tumbles in the penalty area.

West Ham have a below average record this season in London derbies – a return of just nine points from seven games played. The game will be a big chance to correct this and give a boost to the pursuit of finishing as top London club for the first time since 1985/86. If the Hammers are to win they must avoid getting caught by a slow start as they did in the return fixture back in October. Big performances will be needed from the likes of Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Lingard and Antonio, but if they are the scene will be set for another famous victory.

I mentioned earlier the anxiety brought about by cherophobia. This should not, of course, be confused with chorophobia which is, in fact, the fear of dancing. Should my prediction of an impressive 3-1 West Ham victory prove correct, they’ll be dancing in streets of East London tomorrow afternoon.   

Cock-A-Hoop Hammers In The Mood To Win Their Spurs

Buoyant West Ham will be confident of causing yet another upset on the short trip to north London as Mourinho strives to assemble his pick and mix of expensive parts into an effective unit

At 5pm on Friday afternoon, David Sullivan double checked that all the ‘windows’ were now finally closed, poured himself a celebratory Tesco Value brandy and sat back satisfied that most of the hypothetical £40 million transfer kitty had not been disturbed, at least for now. Later he would count it all again, put it in the vault and reset the pressure pad and laser field alarms.

Switching of the blood samples, with some of his own, had worked a treat – the medical team hadn’t been expecting cold reptilian blood. A masterstroke of cunning. The transfer can was well and truly kicked down the road – in the summer permanent deals for Said Benrhama and Craig Dawson could be revealed as exciting new signings and their commitment to spend.

The signing of Benrhama may well turn out to be an excellent move – a touch of much needed flair in the mould of a Payet, Benayoun or Berkovic. He certainly fits the profile of a younger player with something to prove – and with an obvious abundance of natural talent. Exactly how this will fit into the manager’s freshly honed system will unfold over the coming months.

The recent upturn in performances has been founded on a collective work ethic, organisation, and discipline. Modern Premier League football demands that work done off the ball is as important as what occurs when in possession. That is the reason why players such as Felipe Anderson, Andriy Yarmolenko and Sebastien Haller have failed to impress. You need to be an exceptional talent if you are not prepared to put in the graft.

Benrhama’s delayed signing means that he is not eligible for today’s game, but I expect his be to a gradual introduction into proceedings. As we have seen during both his spells at West Ham, David Moyes is not the quickest to make changes, even if he gets there in the end. There will be no impulsive or rash changes to shape to suit an individual player. While a back four allows for greater options further forward, it exposes the well-known weakness at left back. Unless Benrhama can match the work-rate of Pablo Fornals his opportunities may be limited to impact substitute in the immediate future.  A welcome addition, nonetheless, to a squad that is one pinged hamstring away from disintegration.

Impossible to imagine any changes to the West Ham starting line-up for today, unless enforced through illness or injury. According to reports the only doubt is Arthur Masuaku who sustained a knee injury on international duty with the DR Congo. If he is not available, I would prefer to see Ben Johnson as s direct replacement rather than a reshuffle bringing Issa Diop (or Dawson) into the back three and pushing Aaron Cresswell back out wide.

Tactically, it cries out for a re-run of what we saw at Leicester. Tottenham’s threat is speed in attack, and it will be the pace of Son (rather than Vardy) that the Hammers must be alert to. Then again, West Ham can boast the second meanest defence in the league, so maybe there is little to worry about – unless that is merely a quirk of the early season table.

For all the hosts attacking prowess, there is vulnerability and uncertainty at the back that can be exploited by the movement of our own forward players. Tottenham have yet to win at home this season and if the Hammers can reproduce their Wolves and Leicester form, it promises to be an intriguing contest. Declan Rice and Tomas Soucek will again be pivotal in maintaining discipline and providing the springboard for rapid counter attacking. Painful as it is to say, I think Tottenham will enjoy a very good season as others of the big six flounder, but not until after today’s game. My theory (or is it hope) is that it will take time for Mourinho to instil a workable balance into his side.

Much of the pre-match build up will undoubtedly be focused on the return of prodigal Spurs son, Gareth Bale. Astute readers will have spotted that Bale is an anagram of Abel and that linking up with Kane adds a biblical dimension, particularly with a manager who considers himself a god. The previous Cain and Abel story did not end well, and we must remember that Bale failed to end up on the winning side, in any league game, during his first season in north London. As far West Ham prophecies go, a chance, perhaps, for Moyses to lead his team to the promised land of top six by the end of the day.

The goals keep coming thick and fast in the mysterious atmosphere of a fan free Premier League, despite the dull affair served up by Manchester City and Arsenal at The Etihad yesterday evening. With the statistical averages to date favouring away sides and four VAR approved goals scored, everything points to a 3-1 West Ham win. That would do nicely!