First things first: this post isn’t just about Tottenham. Trust me. In fact, I don’t see this as a proper rivalry given just how much of an upper hand we’ve had on this…antagonism. Yes, Tottenham have finished above us for seven years running, their longest such spell in history. However, recent events at Topspur Stadium mean that we’ll be celebrating St. Totteringham’s Day for the first time since 2016.
All we have to do is find a way to earn two more points from our remaining eight matches. In other words, we could restore order to the universe as early as Sunday. West Ham stand in our way. Don’t laugh. For as woeful as West Ham have been, David Moyes is a cagey manager, and he can set his Irons up to make it difficult to break them down. They went into Craven Cottage and snatched all three points and held Aston Villa to a draw. We’ll have to be alert to the danger that they do occasionally pose.
Of course, finishing above Tottenham isn’t a goal. It’s more of a byproduct to other, larger goals. Finishing in the top four. Winning the Prem. Those are goals worth setting and pursuing. As it currently stands, Tottenham have much more to worry about from the clubs chasing them than we do about them chasing us. Their collapse today at home to Bournemouth exposes them to being overtaken by both Brighton and Aston Villa, meaning a potential seventh place finish is in the offing. Heck, even Liverpool might fancy their chances at closing the gap.
That whole squabble is too far beneath us, literally as well as figuratively, to spend any more time on. Looking at West Ham, we’ll have to be alert to the threat that players like Benrahma and Antonio can pose, but, of course, the real issue will be Declan Rice. Everything goes through him. He averages 51 successful passes per 90, 12 higher than any other player in the squad,and is one of the Prem’s best progressive ball carriers. Of central midfielders, only Man City’s Rodri (11.9) and Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic (8.9) average more progressive carries per 90 than Rice (8.6). He’s seventh in the Prem for average shot distance (24.6 yards), and all (two) of his goals have come from outside the box. Clamping down on him will be priority #1.
We’ve been impressive against West Ham in recent clashes and even more-impressive in away-derbies, winning all five with an aggregate score of 11-0. I’ve seen some greedy Gooners insisting we have to put five or even six past our hosts to improve our goal difference (currently +43 to Man City’s +50). That’s not a goal worth setting. It exposes us to getting too open and conceding, which, last I checked, is detrimental to goal difference not to mention results. Let’s focus on getting all three points with minimal fuss, whether we win 1-0 or 6-0.
That would allow us to celebrate St. Totteringham’s Day but, more importantly, it would see us take one more stop toward winning the Prem.