Tottenham and West Ham poised to discover true strength of new-look squads with rotation now a necessity

·4-min read
Tottenham and West Ham poised to discover true strength of new-look squads with rotation now a necessity

David Moyes and Antonio Conte were the Premier League’s most reluctant tinkerers last season, but both managers will be forced to rotate over the course of a gruelling run of games, which begins in earnest with tonight’s derby at the London Stadium.

Between now and the break for the World Cup in mid-November, West Ham and Tottenham play every mid-week — with the exception of the September international break — and both bosses should discover the true strength of their new-look squads.

Moyes made the fewest changes of any top-flight manager last season — just 61 over 38 games — despite West Ham reaching the Europa League semi-finals, while Conte barely altered his XI from February onwards.

The pair have been similarly cautious in blooding their summer signings, but rotation is now a necessity, and even ‘undroppables’, like Kurt Zouma, Declan Rice, Harry Kane, Eric Dier and Heung-min Son, will need a rest over the next 10-and-a-half weeks.

West Ham’s eight summer signings have bolstered a squad which limped over the line in the past two campaigns, stretched thin by injuries and last year’s European run. The Hammers sorely lacked quality back-ups last term, but Moyes believes he now has more depth and stardust, underlined by the signing of Brazil international Lucas Paqueta, who completed a £51.3million move from Lyon this week.

Antonio Conte and David Moyes are both poised to make changes for London derby contest (AFP via Getty Images)
Antonio Conte and David Moyes are both poised to make changes for London derby contest (AFP via Getty Images)

“Because of Europe, we are trying to make sure that we have got enough to field two good teams if we need to, and I hope we can get that,” Moyes said yesterday, although competing in the Europa Conference League should ensure he can rest his stars for those matches.

Moyes has acknowledged that more options brings more expectation, however, and after a slow start the Scot could find himself under pressure if his side cannot stir themselves for tonight and against Chelsea on Saturday.

One of the new possibilities for Moyes is pairing Michail Antonio with new signing Gianluca Scamacca in a front two, although he is likely to want the extra man in midfield, where Spurs were overrun for long periods in the games against Chelsea, Wolves and Nottingham Forest.

As for Tottenham, tonight’s match is quickly followed by Saturday’s visit of Fulham and then another Wednesday night game, at home to Marseille, in the Champions League.

No club has taken more points than Spurs since the start of March — title-challenging form — but they have had just two midweek fixtures over that time, and the question is whether they can keep producing results when Conte is forced to make changes and has less time to prepare for matches.

A Champions League group with Marseille, Sporting Lisbon and Eintracht Frankfurt, as well as a Carabao Cup tie away at Forest, means there are no gimmes in the schedule.

The signs, though, are promising and suggest Spurs’ six summer signings can be transformative. Ivan Perisic has made an impact at left wing-back, assisting crucial Kane goals against Chelsea and Wolves, while Richarlison is already a fan favourite after his provocative but game-changing cameos at Stamford Bridge and the City Ground. Yves Bissouma is expected to make his full debut tonight, while Clement

Lenglet, Matt Doherty, Ryan Sessegnon, the fit-again Oliver Skipp and, perhaps, Djed Spence can also expect more minutes soon.

Replacing Kane, who is Spurs’ cutting edge and creative hub rolled into one, will be Conte’s biggest headache, although that is unlikely to be a factor this evening against a local rival and potential top-six challenger.

Conte believes the way his side responds to the schedule will determine what is realistic this season, but he remains wary of talking up a title push.

“This period could be very important, because when you go to play every three days, if you are a top club with an important squad, you are ready for these situations,” he said.

“Now we have to understand if we are on the right path to do the same. We have maybe six more games in 20 days and it is an important test for us. The standard we have been doing has been good for the last games.”