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.
I liked it!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Thanks for reading Reinert. Talk of top 4 now, what do you think?
My pleasure, Mark. I personally believe the only ones that have an interest about talking points and positions are supporters, and clubs that are in a crisis, because this is now a journey about philosophy and mentality. The enjoyment of outplaying WHU outweighs points, in my eyes. Also, I think it is strange that Chelsea is suppose to be a season-defining match, when in truth we already beat M.City with that very same score-line. Three points is a bigger deal for Chelsea than it is for us (especially because they are in a crisis)! Also, every single match is season-defining: Dier said that we take “one match at a time.” This is, although clichéd, actually a deep and simple way of describing the only way of winning anything, which is one step at a time. The most important games this season are in my eyes our two losses (especially Anderlecht), and our draw with Stoke. The next big game is to me against Lester, 13th of January. This is because of how we reacted to them, and I think that if we continue to play like we do – seemingly effortless in defence+Dier and flowingly in attack, despite whomever out of our midfield we pit together – top 4 is the least we are going to get :)
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Pochettino does seem to have the lads grounded at the minute with the one game at a time mentality, which is good. It will be interesting to see how we cope if we are up there challenging in April and May as a lot of our youngsters have little expereince of being in this position, but also little fear!
That is a good point. The reality that our squad is so still young eludes me, as our key younglings continue to act wiser than I would expect from footballers of that age. Maybe this is why they were allowed to stay on board?Or maybe we have yet to see them buckle under pressure. Or rather, maybe this performance we see now is how our roster actually acts when the heat is on (I mean, they have already had plenty of pressure applied). The draws and the couple of sour losses.. It could mean that our coaches and the “black box” choose the real deal now, the winners. Or maybe I am just talking out of a fantasy :P
Anyways, time will show! It certainly looks that they can walk the walk!
Chelsea next and Alli is suspended… who comes in (Mason), and does Llamela start ahead of Son?
Note Mason was critical in the press last season when we beat Chelsea, now they’re returning to normal form this could be a very difficult one. Chelsea win and their season is back on for top 4.
It will be a nerve-tingling and fascinating battle.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
I think it will be Mason that will come in for Alli. Son looked a tad rusty to me, his touch was a little off at times, but he still had a very decent game. I see Lamela starting as he only missed out due to suspension, think it’s his spot to lose on the right.
Really enjoyed this article Mark
I am sure Mason came off injured early in the Chel5e3? I agree we do need to be more clinical, Adrian was their best player, and we hit the woodwork twice!
Think bilic has been reading your blog, as toby had to do a bit of a Harlem shuffle to lose his marker… Anyway of blocking Jose reading ths?
The switch after 20 minutes or so when we moved the ball quicker, and more efficiently was the trigger Moussa and Alli switching places? Who needs Luka Modric anyway!
Obvs this is more for your Chelsea preview but if Dembele keeps doing what he did against West Ham “feeding” that front 4…two pass masters plus the speed of Sonny in behind..Even Eric Dier decided to try his hand at a few Fabregas style passes! Wonder if Cahill will have to resort to kicking Harry again
I think Sonny replace Delboy. What we lose in strength on and off the ball, Sonny makes up for in speed, allied with his two footedness. Plus with Lamela back Eriksen has his fellow pass master back which should free up space for him to operate. Sonny can play through balls one assist as well as hand in the first goal but incisive through balls are what Lamela does really well
All’s loss will be missed more for his defensive work, as Lamela is still so awful in the tackle, many a time I saw Alli appear at the right time doing the right in/near both boxes, akin to Sando vs Milan almost.
Our AM options look quite deep when you factor that Andros is in the doghouse, Nacer and Alex P are due to come back, and Clint will (hopefully) soon find match sharpness. Just need to sort out a striker in January/hope Poch can work his magic with Clint and Sonny if we have to play them up front
Agree the Chelsea game could be season defining but beating Norwich and stonking Macabi while positive not what I’d call a return to normalcy that breed confidence. Beating us would do that so we MUST go balls out and get Jose fired/”vote of confidence” on Sunday!
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Mason did come off for Dembele, which flipped the balance of midfield battle towards us in that game.
Mousa did start up top, but he and Alli were switching throughout the game. We did move the ball better when Dembele was deeper though. His passing and runs with the ball to move play forward have really improved our team.
Alli will be a big miss, who thought we’d be saying that at the start of the season? I think Mason will come in for him.
I think it boils Mason or Sonny? Depends on do we play it safe, Mason will be more likely to close down than Sonny, or do we go on the front foot and really attack Chelsea?
And we still have Nabil to come back. If he can get fit, and rediscover his best form for us again…We’ll have options and a depth in midfield I cannot recall having had for a long time
The Qarabag game, while no way near as important, how Poch lines up and how (assuming they are picked to start) Lamela, Sonny and Ryan do will determine much of how we line up on Sunday
Regarding Dembele, has anybody else noticed that at last, he is really beginning to look like the player we bought from Fulham rather that the squad player we were getting used to? Delighted to see the recent comment by him, that it never occurred to him to seek a move.
Son looked a little off-pace to me also but as Trevor Sinclair highlighted on MOTD2 he was very influencial by getting into space either side of WH’s defence and his lay-off were weighted perfectly.
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
He did have one those games where he looked really good in his movement and the positions he took up, but did have a fair few off touches inbteween some neat layoffs. I was trying to work out whether this inconsistency was because he had been away on long-haul international duty or if it was purely from not having played that much recently.
So Alli will not play against Chelsea, what do you think of our midfield trio will look like ? Eriksen back in AM or Mason replacing Alli ? Son and Lamela play on the wide ?
Do you think Poch will field second string team vs Qarabag ?
And you stated above that there are very few midfields that can live with our power midfield trio .. I’m wondering who are that “very few midfields” ?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
Some good questions. I think our midfield will be Dier, Mason, Dembele, Eriksen and Son if Lamela is not fit. He could well go with Son, Eriksen and Lamela behind Kane to get more speed on the field to run at Chelsea’s increasingly exposed centre backs. Lamela’s injury really throws plans up in the air.
Pochettino has gone strong in the Europa League, only really changing the full backs each time. It’s interesting he’s left Walker and Rose in London, indicating he will do the same again.
When fully fit, Man City are in that category with Yaya, Fernandinho and Fernando. Man Utd are potentially with Fellaini, Schneiderlin and Schweinsteiger but I can’t see van Gaal playing these three together. Everton’s Barry, McCarthy and Barkley are the only other trio that could live with Dier, Alli and Dembele. Liverpool will give us problems but that is a team effort.
I was looking at the team news for Qarabag, and note that it’s a strong team.Only Rose, Walker and Dembele are being rested.
If you are aware of the logistics of this trip, you will realise that putting star players on the bench for this will hardly count as “resting” them. The journey will probably be a lot more draining than the game itself, so it makes sense that if you’ve brought your best players, most of them will play. I was interested to see that Carter-Vickers is in the squad. The rumours are that he is an immense talent for the future. Do you think he will get some minutes?
Further to my last post, I’ve just noticed that Dortmund are playing at Krasnodar at 16.00 GMT. Krasnodar is three hours ahead of GMT so local time 19.00 and the time difference between the D and K is just two hours.
We are playing in Qararbag at 18.00 GMT, but because Q is four hours ahead of GMT, the time there will be 22.00 and the match will finish just before midnight local time. Anybody know why we can’t get the same preferential treatment as Dortmund?
Spurs Fanatic - Mark says
It was a crazy kick off time wasn’t it?! The only reason i can think of was TV and that they’ll get more viewers with a 6pm rather than a 4pm kick off here.