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Spurs 3 West Ham 1: Tottenham hammer the centre

West Ham went route one, whereas Tottenham went straight at the Hammers’ centre, as Andre Villas-Boas and the boys took the three points, Spurs 3 West Ham 1.

AVB made a few changes for this one, some of which were predicted in the Tottenham tactics preview. William Gallas and Kyle Naughton dropped to the bench, as Michael Dawson came in to the back line to partner Steven Caulker, with Jan Vertonghen moving to the left.

This was a smart move to get three centre backs that are all good in the air on the pitch against Andy Carroll.

West Ham approach

West Ham lined up in their usual 4-2-3-1 with both Modibo Maiga and Gary O’Neil continuing in the wide midfield positions.

As they have done since Andy Carroll arrived, Sam Allardyce’s team have gone to the long ball and crossing to utilise the big man’s aerial power. Here they were no different as they were looking to work off his knockdowns by going long to him, then also looking to cross to him in the box.

Andy Carroll won 80% of his aerial duels, but up until we went 3-0 up, we were able to limit the areas where he could be effective. He won the majority of his headers midway inside our half and wasn’t a factor in the area until the last 20 minutes, when he scored his goal.

West Ham were also looking to put crosses in for him and it was no surprise that their goal came from one. Joey O’Brien picked out Carroll from the right and it was from this flank that the Hammers had most success.

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Spurs 3 West Ham 1: Andy Carroll receives the ball long from the back and crossed in from wide.

West Ham have been attempting 60% of their crosses from the left this season, but here Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker were doing a good job on shutting this side down. On their right, the Hammers had much more joy due to the fact that Gareth Bale was playing so high up. As pointed out in previous matches, this has left Jan Vertonghen, who was also getting forward, exposed and West Ham were the latest team to profit.

If we look at an average position chart, we can see how Lennon and Walker on the right are much more compact than Bale and Vertonghen on the left.

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Spurs 3 West Ham 1: Tottenham players’ average positions.

The Welshman, who is playing as wide forward this season is devastating going forward though and he was the source of much of Spurs’ good play.

Tottenham tactics

Spurs lined up in a 4-3-3 and really went at West Ham down the centre. We looked at how West Ham were conceding the most chances through the middle in the Premier League this season in the Tottenham tactics preview. Spurs went right for the jugular from the off and the intent to expose this flaw was clear. Jermain Defoe had an effort saved in the opening minutes; then Gareth Bale subsequently rattled the bar after being slipped in by Steven Caulker’s through pass.

The chances were coming down the centre, but Tom Huddlestone shifting the ball directly left and right was starting it all. Once out wide, it was being moved back to the middle through Bale, Lennon and Clint Dempsey who was having his best game in a Spurs shirt.

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Spurs 3 West Ham 1: Tom Huddlestone moved the ball wide before it came back through the centre in the final third.

As a result, Tottenham were creating chances through the centre of the West Ham defence from sideways or direct through passing.

The majority of our shots came from these central locations and if you drew two lines up from the six-yard box, 21 out of our 28 efforts in the match were from this corridor.

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Spurs 3 West Ham 1: Tottenham created the majority of their chances and shots through the middle.

We controlled possession, but were being frustrated by the Hammers sitting behind the ball and defending from halfway in the first period. As a result, we only got 2 shots away from inside the area in the first 45 and our goal came from distance. After the interval, we took 8 shots inside the box and scored two more goals, both of which came from close range.

Spurs score from three through the middle

With Spurs looking to expose the centre of the West Ham defence, two of the three goals were created through this zone, but all three were scored from this area.

Defoe struck arguably his best goal in a Spurs shirt, after a nice piece of skill and good strength allowed him to get free from two Hammers on the right. He cut inside and charged straight towards the middle of the field at West Ham’s central defenders. As they backed off, he fired a wicked drive that beat Jussi Jaaskelainen in both pace and flight at his near post.

Defoe described it afterwards as being ‘right up there’ in his top five goals for Spurs.

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Jermain Defoe scores Spurs first through the middle.

After being undone by a deft David Silva chip at the Eithad, Clint Dempsey replicated a similar pass to Gareth Bale to score the second. Again it exposed West Ham down the middle, as the American showed a sublime touch to put the Welshman in. Bale’s control and finish were equally as composed, but the pass from Dempsey was sumptuous.

The third was also created by an excellent Dempsey pass through the middle to a racing Aaron Lennon. Sandro was a beast defensively all afternoon and his tackle knocked the ball in to the path of the American. Dempsey then slipped the ball in to Aaron Lennon, who went straight through the middle of the West Ham defence and squared for Defoe to tap in to an empty net.

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Clint Dempsey created two goals through the middle with two deft passes.

All three goals were scored from the centre, as we created 10 chances down the middle, the most of any Premier League team this weekend.

Spurs 3 West Ham 1 conclusions

This was a solid tactical display from Spurs to expose an opponent’s weakness. West Ham have given up the most chances through the centre in the Premier League and we took full advantage.

The Hammers tried to play through Andy Carroll and he was winning his aerial duels, but up until 70 minutes they were in areas of the field where we could deal with the second balls. It wasn’t until the last 20 minutes when he was getting in the box, that we were troubled and West Ham were a threat.

Both Michael Dawson and Steven Caulker were good at the back, but were helped by Hugo Lloris and his excellent command of his penalty area. The French international was loud and audible all afternoon, coming to claim crosses and smothering the ball at the feet of Matt Jarvis, as he was quick off his line. If only Steven Caulker had heard his shout like the rest of the stadium, then Lloris would have been celebrating a second clean sheet in three days.

Up front, Clint Dempsey had his best game in a Spurs shirt and showed some signs that he is coming to terms with his new central role. Last year at Fulham he started wide and arrived late in the box to be a goalscorer. For Spurs, he is already up top and so is playing with his back to goal, rather than coming on to the ball. He has to be more of a passer, as well as a shooter and has been struggling.

He took five shots at the target, including an effort that rattled Jaaskelainen’s bar, as he was unlucky not to score. His two passes to set up Bale and spring Lennon, were both deft touches and the sign of a player growing in confidence.

Final Score: Spurs 3 West Ham 1

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