Two teams with a similar style of play meet on Monday (8pm GMT, live on Sky Sports) when West Ham host Stoke City at Upton Park.
West Ham have performed well on their return to the top flight and are currently sixth in the table with 18 points from five wins, three draws and three defeats.
Hammers manager Sam Allardyce is strongly associated with direct, long-ball football. Although this may not necessarily mesh with West Ham’s history as an attractive, ball-playing side, no-one can dispute that his methods have produced good results.
West Ham sit above both Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League table. They will receive a greater examination of their credentials in the coming weeks, with Spurs, Manchester United and Chelsea to come after Monday night’s match.
As can be expected from a side who invested in five 6ft+ new recruits over the summer, West Ham play more long balls and crosses as a percentage of total passes (23.12%) than all but three teams in the league. They also have the second-highest percentage of goals from set-piece situations (35.71%) and win the second-highest number of aerial duels per match (23.3, on average).
Allardyce is quite content to sacrifice possession (43.6%, the sixth worst in the league) and passing accuracy (76.1%, the fifth worst) in favour of getting the ball into the final third as quickly as possible, trusting in his team’s ability to keep the ball alive in and around the penalty area.
West Ham’s return of 14 goals scored is far from spectacular, but in conjunction with a defence that has been amongst the best in the league, it has been enough to ensure solid results to date. The Hammers generally defend quite deep and are most content repelling crosses. Their strong, tall central defenders are adept at dealing with such situations.
They struggle more against teams that favour a short passing game, with West Ham’s defeats this season coming away to Swansea and Wigan and at home to Arsenal. Over 85% of both Arsenal and Swansea’s passes are short passes or through balls and the two sides comfortably sliced their way through the Hammers defence, each scoring three times in defeating Allardyce’s men.
That is unlikely to be a problem on Monday, however, because whereas West Ham at least have the likes of Yossi Benayoun, Matt Jarvis and Mark Noble to provide some invention, Stoke lack any sort of subtlety, having taken the long-ball game to its apex with a team filled almost entirely with strong bruisers.
Stoke’s starting eleven in their 1-0 home win against Queen’s Park Rangers last weekend had an average height of nearly 6ft 2in. It is therefore unsurprising that they lead the Premier League in aerial duels won (27.4 per match, on average), score a larger percentage of their goals from set-pieces (44.44%) than any other team and play the third highest number of crosses and long balls as a percentage of total passes (24.01%).
Tony Pulis’ men have not enjoyed the same amount of success as West Ham so far this season, but are still solidly placed in 12th, two places better off than they finished last season. They have won just twice all season, primarily due to the fact they have scored just nine times in their 11 matches to date, less than a goal per match.
Stoke were hardly prolific scorers last season, scoring just 36 times over the 38 match season, and with a first-choice strike partnership of Peter Crouch and Jonathan Walters look unlikely to better than this time around. 2004/05 was the last time Crouch scored more than 10 goals in a Premier League campaign. Walters managed just seven last season.
The Potters again look likely to be reliant on strong defending to secure them the necessary points for a decent mid-table finish. They currently have the joint-best defensive record in the league with just 10 goals conceded. They defend in a stout manner and are unafraid to resort to fouls if forwards get the better of them, as shown by the fact they currently have the worst disciplinary record in the league.
West Ham v Stoke City Betting Tips Advice
This match is unlikely to provide much of a spectacle for the neutral viewer, featuring as it does two teams that rely on direct, long-ball football. Both are strong in defence and are ideally setup to deal with the threat posed by the other, leading us to suggest that a tightly contested, fractious draw is the most probable outcome.
- Back the draw @ best odds of 27/11 with Pinnacle.
- Both of these teams average nearly 2.5 bookings per match and in what is likely to be a highly physical affair we can certainly see there being five or more bookings. SkyBet’s booking points market assigns 10 points to each booking and 25 to each red card. We would therefore suggest backing over 45 booking points @ 23/10 with SkyBet.