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Tottenham Hotspur-West Ham United Preview
London derbies and pretty much every Premier League matchup involving Tottenham Hotspur just got a lot more special.
Looking for that new manager bounce to take hold in north London, Jose Mourinho attempts to make a triumphant return to the Premier League on Saturday when Spurs face derby rivals West Ham United at London Stadium.
Tottenham's fall from the dizzying heights of June's Champions League final loss to Liverpool to their current spot of 14th in the domestic table had been arguably the most stunning storyline in the Premier League.
That was until Tuesday, when they sacked Mauricio Pochettino and replaced him less than 12 hours later with Mourinho, whose latest stint ended in disastrous fashion last season at Manchester United.
In turning to Mourinho, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is counting on the serial winner to bring championship nous to a club that last lifted a trophy in the 1991 FA Cup final. In all his previous coaching stops Mourinho has accumulated more trophies (20) than the Lilywhites in their history (17) as well as three more Premier League titles - all with Chelsea as they proved an irascible derby foil for Spurs.
"Happiness wise I am convinced that my choice was a great one and ten out of ten, I couldn't be happier," Mourinho said at his first news conference Thursday after taking over and running a pair of practices. "Don't ask me what are the mistakes but I realise that during my career I made mistakes.
"I am not going to make the same mistakes, I am going to make new mistakes. I had time. I think I am stronger. From an emotional point of view I'm relaxed, I'm motivated, I'm ready and the players they felt that in these two days."
Mourinho's last two trophies came in his first season with Manchester United in 2016-17, winning the Carabao Cup and Europa League.
Lest anyone thinks this is a mellow and more genteel Mourinho, the Portuguese boss showed his still-rapier wit when asked for his thoughts about Spurs' loss to Liverpool in Madrid this summer by responding, "I don't know because I've never lost a Champions League final."
Left unsaid in this hastily arranged partnership is how Levy and Mourinho will co-exist given Levy's parsimonious nature when it comes to spending in the transfer window. It can be argued Pochettino got blood out of a rock in reaching the Champions League final and securing a top-four finish last term despite Spurs standing pat in both transfer windows - an unprecedented move in the Premier League.
Mourinho, by contrast, has always been ready with a list of star players he will demand - often publicly - to bolster his side. He has plenty of pieces already in place at Spurs with an attacking nucleus of Harry Kane, Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Dele Alli, but one of Mourinho's short-term tasks may be to convince playmaker Christian Eriksen to stay.
One problem for the "Special One," though is currently beyond his control. That is between the sticks, where Hugo Lloris remains a long-term injury absentee with a dislocated elbow and Paulo Gazzaniga is deputising. Gazzaniga has yet to win a league match in five starts and six overall appearances and also yet to record a clean sheet.
He is far from solely carrying the blame, though, as Spurs have underachieved as a whole. They have just 18 goals in 12 league matches and four during a five-match winless spell (0-3-2) they carried into the international break after a 1-1 draw at home versus promoted Sheffield United on Nov. 9.
West Ham United (3-4-5) can also be taken to task for underachieving thus far as they are two spots below Spurs in 16th and five points clear of the drop. The Irons have taken just two points from their last six matches and were trounced 3-0 at Burnley ahead of the international sojourn.
Hammers boss Manuel Pellegrini also has been beset by goalkeeper woes, with Lukasz Fabianski remains on the mend after undergoing hip surgery in late September. It is not a coincidence West Ham have been on the downturn without their No. 1 as Roberto has conceded 12 goals in the 11-plus halves of football he has played since replacing the Poland international.
"Our position is a difficult one because you are always under the spotlight," Fabianski told the club's official website as his rehabilitation continues. "Especially when the team is struggling, they always try to look for someone and most of the time they look at the goalkeepers. In Roberto's case, I think he is really trying his best to help the team.
"As a teammate, I always be there if he wants to have a chat with me about things because I have also been through some difficult times in my life. There are times when you don't really want to talk to anyone, and you want to try to figure things out in your own way. There are times when you have good people around you and it's always important to listen to them.
"It's always tricky how to approach difficult times but I am sure he will be an important part of the team in the coming games."
The Irons also have run hot and cold at home this term, going 2-1-3 while shipping 11 goals.
The road team won both matches last term bracketing Spurs' 3-1 victory at London Stadium in the round of 16 in the Carabao Cup. Kane has seven goals in 13 career matchups versus West Ham and has recorded braces on three occasions.
Updated November 21, 2019