Hammers enforcer Alex Song can't afford to be so wasteful in possession against Spurs, says Alex Keble...
Prone to drifting through matches and sloppily gifting possession to the opposition, Alex Song could be the key to helping Spurs implement their favourite attacking strategy: regaining possession deep in the opposition half and threading the ball through to Harry Kane.
West Ham's 4-0 thrashing at the hands of West Brom last weekend was largely down to the hounding and harassing from Tony Pulis's side.
The Baggies forced possession losses that – with Sam Allardyce fielding a narrow 4-4-2 diamond in the FA Cup fifth round tie – allowed them to distribute the ball into unchallenged territories on the wings. A similar pattern will almost certainly emerge in the Sunday lunchtime kick-off at White Hart Lane.
West Ham's narrow formation can often seem too tightly congested, leading to an awkwardness in possession as four central midfielders attempt to manoeuvre within the same area.
Allardyce's side are dispossessed 11 times per match on average, while maintaining a low 82% short-pass accuracy; the fifth-worst record in the division on both fronts.
Both Liverpool and Southampton play with a similar intensity to Spurs; note the alarming frequency with which Allardyce's side gift possession to their opponents.
This could prove extremely problematic against a Spurs side who dispossess the opposition more frequently than any other club (22.3 times per match) as part of an attack-minded high-pressing system.
Chief offender is Song, who although very effective defensively (3 tackles, 1.6 interceptions per match), often gives the ball away; his 77% pass accuracy and 3.2 unsuccessful touches/dispossessions per match make him, statistically, the most error-prone central midfielder in the league.
With Spurs pressing all over the pitch, Song's propensity for a sloppy pass could prove costly.
Mauricio Pochettino will, as usual, instruct his inverted wingers to drift infield and overload the middle of the pitch in order to win possession and catch West Ham unprepared for the offensive.
With Kane ghosting on the shoulder of the last defender, Song & Co. will need to show extreme caution when in possession, particularly in those awkwardly overcrowded central positions.