We ran riot to expose the Hammers’ three weaknesses as our Premier League clash finished Spurs 4-1 West Ham at White Hart Lane.
Its not often this season that West Ham have been overrun and overpowered but that is exactly what happened here. After a tactical first 20 minutes we gained the upper hand to expose their weaknesses and it was one way traffic with it finishing Spurs 4-1 West Ham.
The first 20 minutes was a slow start with both teams playing extremely tactically against each other. We were looking to press high up and win the ball back quickly, but we were being counteracted by West Ham’s shape. With the ball, the Hammers were playing in a 4-3-3 system and were looking to get it quickly forward for the speedy Diafra Sakho or Victor Moses on the run.
Without the ball West Ham were dropping off in to a 4-1-4-1 formation and this gave us trouble passing through their midfield.
With Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyaté matching up on Mousa Dembele and Dele Alli, it meant that often we tried to move the ball over them from back to front. This was either through one pass or several quick forward passes, but resulted in turnovers and there was little flow to our game.
Overall, this period was characterized by both teams playing long. West Ham to avoid our press and us to counter against their crowding of central midfield.
After 20 minutes, two things changed. West Ham started to try and play out from the back and through midfield more, which played in to the hands of our pressing. We then started to switch the ball from side-to-side quicker through using one or two passes rather than three or four.
The result of these two momentum swings saw us register the first meaningful shot on target. The ball was moved out to both sides much faster, which dragged the West Ham defence around. Christian Eriksen ended up having time and space in the centre, when previously there was none, firing a shot that was pushed away by Adrian.
Spurs between the lines
What also happened after this initial cagey 20-minute period was us getting two or three men frequently between the West Ham lines of defence and midfield. Dele Alli, who was played much higher up here as revolving number ten with Mousa Dembele, often got free between the lines with Son Heung-Min. The pair were both in acres of space on our first goal.
Mousa Dembele slipped the ball between two West Ham Players to Son who was free. This immediately dragged Winston Reid out towards him and away from his centre back spot.
We’d looked in the Spurs vs West Ham tactical preview at how teams that get quickly on the Hammers’ centre backs have had success as they are not quick across the ground. Winston Reid had been drawn out by Son being free. The South Korean’s pass to Dele Alli then pulled the other centre back, James Tomkins, out.
This left Harry Kane matched up on right back Carl Jenkinson. As Alli’s shot rebounded in to the path of Kane, he used his superior height and strength to hold off the lighter full back, swivel and rifle the ball home, 1-0.
A goal up and on a momentum charge, we added a second from another West Ham fallibility this season, defending set pieces.
We looked at how their coverage at corners has been lacking post Sam Allardyce in the Spurs vs West Ham tactical preview and we even tipped our near post corner routine to work. It did, superbly, as Toby Alderweireld glanced a header home.
We’ve often seen this routine where the front edge of the six-yard box is left open for Toby Alderweireld or Eric Dier to run towards. They look to time their charge perfectly to meet Christian Eriksen’s precision driven-in kick.
It was again expertly executed. West Ham saw Winston Reid get screened by his own man, Diafra Sakho. Also, for some reason, Aaron Cresswell left his station on the near post to come out and help on Danny Rose who had offered Eriksen a short pass. Had Cresswell stayed on the near post, he may have been able to clear the ball. He didn’t and the cracks were starting to appear.
Clinical and closing out
Being clinical and closing out games has been the one constant that has hung over us despite all the great performances this season.
At 2-0 it looked as if that might happen again as Harry Kane raced through. Just as on the opening goal, West Ham’s centre backs were sucked in by Dele Alli. This allowed Kane to get away from them and he was in the clear.
With Kane high on confidence, it seemed a formality that he would ice the game. With the ball on his left he didn’t look as confident after a miscued touch and he wildly shanked the ball across goal when it looked easier to pass it in at Adrian’s near post.
Taking advantage of errors
The Kane chance had come and gone, but the crucial third goal that we’ve lacked this season to turn draws in to wins was soon forthcoming after the interval.
It arrived from another West Ham weak point this season, errors. The Hammers lead the Premier League in goals conceded from errors this season. James Tomkins’ poor pass that was picked off by Christian Eriksen added another to that unwanted stat tally.
We had been closing down effectively all game and West Ham trying to play out through our press was the making of their problems. Tomkins should’ve sent the ball long downfield as we had closed them down effectively. The distance between where he and his midfield were was so great that trying to pass through the press across the deck was suicide.
He was made to pay as Eriksen hoovered up the pass and fed it in to Harry Kane to rifle another shot past Adrian, 3-0.
Rampant right side
With the game all but up, Slaven Bilic made some changes. He replaced the largely ineffective Andy Carroll with Nikica Jelavic and went with more of a diamond formation. This tried to cordon off the centre, but meant that his full backs were more exposed. Suddenly our right side of Son Heung-Min and Kyle Walker became a chance-creating duo.
Son raced on to and off of the centre backs and saw his shot across goal blocked out but Adrian.
Harry Kane then played a quick cross field pass for Kyle Walker to jet in to space and cushion down in to the path of Son. The South Korean took a tad too long and when he was ready to shoot saw his shot blocked by Winston Reid for a corner.
Next it was Walker again, as he raced on to Eriksen’s pass and fizzed a wicked ball across the six-yard box, but no one could provide the finishing touch.
Finally the pair would get the reward their efforts deserved as the ball went out to Kyle Walker in space once more. Son, who had been looking to run in-behind and get in the pockets of space between the lines all game, first went as if he was going to run beyond then came short. Walker fed him the ball and looked for the return. Son provided a deft layoff meaning that Walker didn’t have to take a touch and could deliciously curl the ball in to the corner of the net with the outside of his boot, 4-0.
It was a fitting goal to wrap a dominant performance. However, Walker, who had been the star of the second half, suddenly had one of his ‘Bonzo’ moments and gifted the Hammers a consolation. It was all very lackadaisical and casual from our right back who has looked much more focused and composed this season. The ball went straight to Jelavic and his pass for Manuel Lanzini ‘s neat top shelf finish made it Spurs 4-1 West Ham with just four agonising minutes between us and a clean sheet.
Spurs 4-1 West Ham overall
Another superb display of pressing without the ball and build-up play with it. Being much more clinical in front of goal saw us kill off any hopes the Hammers had, making the game easier once the third went in.
We targeted their weak spots effectively. We scored from a set piece and by forcing an error. Trying to get quickly on their centre backs to pull them around or take advantage of their lack of pace saw us get a goal and create other chances.
The central midfield trio of Alli, Dembele and Dier were once more dominant after they began to get a grip on the game. Once they have a hold of the key battleground in the centre, the other team are toast. The strength, power and drive to get, recover and move the ball mean that there are very few midfields that can live with them.
The signs continue to be extremely promising that our young side is growing in to something special at a pace much faster than anticipated.
Final score: Spurs 4-1 West Ham.