A dejected Fernado Llorente and Vincent Janssen following the Tottenham 0-1 West Ham defeat.

Tottenham 0-1 West Ham: failure to profit from central midfield space

Failure to take advantage of the space in central midfield around Declan Rice saw our Premier League match end Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.

Spurs failed to take advantage of a match that provided opportunities. A steady flow of chances came from West Ham conceding space around Declan Rice. However, Spurs couldn’t convert and succumbed to a goal that was started by the very same player. The game ended Tottenham 0-1 West Ham for a first defeat at the new stadium.

Space around the six

Manuel Pellegrini lined his team up in their usual 4-1-4-1 formation with Declan Rice at the number six position. Expecting this, Mauricio Pochettino countered with a diamond. Spurs flooded central midfield with four players. Mark Noble and Robert Snodgrass were operating higher than Rice, therefore room was afforded around him.

Tottenham frequently got Dele Alli and Lucas Moura in to this space. Just ten minutes were on the clock when the tactics saw their first chance. Dele drifted in to the space off Declan Rice. With Noble and Snodgrass caught up-field, Dele could spin and play in Son Heung-Min with a through ball.

Dele drifts off Declan Rice to play in Son Heung-MIn during Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.

Dele drifts off Declan Rice to play in Son Heung-MIn.

Son took the perfect pass in stride, but saw his low shot easily saved by goalkeeper Lukas Fabianski at his near post.

Dele Alli was the recipient of the next pass. Christian Eriksen got in to the space around Rice this time and delivered a pinpoint pass for Dele’s run. Rather than cross for Son Heung-Min arriving in the middle, Dele pondered and saw his shot blocked.

The opportunities continued to come from this zone for Tottenham. Lucas Moura was the next player getting in to the space around Rice. Firstly, Moura saw his shot fizz just past the post.

Lucas Moura drifts in to the space off Declan Rice, spins and shoots during Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.

Lucas Moura drifts in to the space off Declan Rice, spins and shoots.

Minutes later and Moura popped up in almost the same place. This time he received the pass and went on a mazy dribble in to the box. His cut back was stopped, but Son scooped up the loose ball and found Christian Eriksen. The Dane swivelled and fired a powerful shot that struck the onrushing Lukas Fabianski when a defter, lofted finish would’ve done the trick.

Moura in the space off Rice again creates a great chance for Eriksen during Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.

Moura in the space off Rice again creates a great chance for Eriksen.

Manuel Pellegrini’s half time change

At half time Manuel Pellegrini made a tactical change to get the almost anonymous Marco Arnautovic in the game. Pellegrini switched the Austrian out to the right flank and moved Michail Antonio in to the central striker role.

Arnautovic could isolate himself against the much slower Ben Davies and he became a big factor in the match. Firstly, Arnautovic got on the ball and got a good shot away. He then delivered a testing cross and finally a neat lay-off for a shot that was well blocked by Toby Alderweireld.

Having been out of the game in the first half, Arnautovic had come alive. Next he would supply the cross for Antonio to put his team ahead.

West Ham’s 4-1-4-1 formation leaves space around Declan Rice, but it was the same player who could stride forward unopposed to get the ball to Arnautovic. Dele Alli was caught out of position from his role as the number ten in Pochettino’s diamond and this gave Rice room to manoeuvre

Dele out of position allows Rice in space to move forward during Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.

Dele out of position allows Rice in space to move forward.

The defensive coverage errors continued from Tottenham as Ben Davies stood off Arnautovic. He allowed him to receive the ball, get his head up and spot the run of Antonio through the inside right channel.

In the centre, Toby Alderweireld, operating as the left centre back where he has had some issues, dropped deeper than the rest of his back line.

Alderweireld drops deep as Antonio looms over his shoulder before scoring to make it Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.

Alderweireld drops deep as Antonio looms over his shoulder.

Alderweireld could’ve been worried about Antonio’s strength and speed. However, with Davinson Sanchez failing to spot Alderweireld’s positioning and react quickly enough, it gave the West Ham man the opening he wanted.

Antonio took the perfectly flighted pass down and smashed the ball past Hugo Lloris. The score was suddenly Tottenham 0-1 West Ham and the first away team goal in the new stadium.

Pochettino goes 4-2-2-2

Mauricio Pochettino’s response to going behind was to send on Vincent Janssen to join a newly arrived Fernando Llorente to go to a 4-2-2-2 formation. Eric Dier and Dele operated at the base of midfield. Christian Eriksen and Son Heung-Min higher up in the advanced midfield positions. Llorente and Janssen as twin strikers.

The move didn’t really solve much as Spurs went to a much longer ball game to try and use the strength and aerial power of the two forwards. As a result, West Ham often won the aerial challenge and could counter attack.

Michail Antonio forced a reaction save by Hugo Lloris at his near post as he ran free and past Ben Davies like he wasn’t even there.  That move prompted Pochettino to change Dele Alli for Victor Wanyama to contain the counter attacks. However, even Wanyama and Dier on the field couldn’t stop Issa Diop rumbling through and scuffing a shot that Hugo Lloris tipped around the post at full stretch.

Spurs full backs

The match ended with a major indicator of what Spurs were missing. Juan Foyth charged up the field, taking on defenders and delivered a pinpoint cross to Vincent Janssen. The Dutchman saw his downward header cleared off the line by Fabien Balbuena. However, the passage of play highlighted just how little Tottenham had got from full backs Foyth and Davies in the attacking third.

As the chance went, so too did the match. The score finished Tottenham 0-1 West Ham. A blow in the race for top four.

Tottenham 0-1 West Ham overall

A game where everything seemed to catch up with Spurs. The squad is stretched to the limit and square pegs were put in round holes to try and afford key players rest for Ajax on Tuesday.

Juan Foyth did well against Manchester City when Spurs had to defend deep and counter attack. However, here where we needed attacking drive from our full backs, he looked like a fish out of water. Equally, Ben Davies on the other side provided very little cut and thrust in a diamond system that requires its full backs to provide width and dynamism.

Ahead of them, the team was very pensive, slow and lacklustre. Players were taking two or three touches, when one or two was needed. Son and Lucas Moura should’ve provided the energy and intensity to keep West Ham’s back line busy. However, neither player really got going nor beat a man off the dribble to start to cause havoc.

The lack of anything from our full backs was an area of great concern. However, when our chances did arise, they came from getting players in to the space being afforded around Declan Rice in the number six position. When these chances weren’t capitalised on it was always going to be a long afternoon. Especially, after Spurs introduced two battering rams and went long ball, which smacked of desperation.

Final score: Tottenham 0-1 West Ham.
MOTM: Issa Diop.

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8 Responses to Tottenham 0-1 West Ham: failure to profit from central midfield space

  1. Antonyj7 28th April 2019 at 7:38 am #

    Thanks for the analysis, which again shows up what we are missing.

    Time to sell those who are not of the calibre needed.

    Hopefully this year we can buy the players we need to move on.

    Not at the last minute but in time for the preseason.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 28th April 2019 at 10:01 am #

      The key, as it always has been, is doing business early. I fear with the Nations League, and Levy, this again won’t happen. We’ve had two windows to really look at what we need so we shouldn’t have any excuses for hanging about!

  2. Erik Zen 28th April 2019 at 1:09 pm #

    That was depressing. My spurs pessimism is not looking forward to Tuesday with a fully rested, fully fit rampant Ajax team against Sandra Redknapp as a holding mid.

    Everyone looked off the mark, though we’ve had so many flukey wins this season that our luck had to expire sooner or later. In many ways this season has been amazing but how often have we really looked on top form? From the world cup exhaustion through countless injuries it’s all taking a toll.

    May we somehow scrape through the test on Tuesday without too much damage and count on some reinforcements for the second leg.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th April 2019 at 11:06 am #

      I’m hoping this was all due to the players having an eye on Tuesday. I think we really missed Vertonghen here as Toby doesn’t look the same when playing left centre back, which also restricts his passing mobility too. His ability to send those long diagonals really adds some speed to our attacks. Of course, Foyth at right back wasn’t great. He is going to be an excellent centre back, but he is not going to do anything at right back when required to be attacking. Also speaks volumes that Kyle Walker-Peters didn’t get a look in.

      Can’t wait for Tuesday. I have a feeling we need to manage this game well in order not to be out of tie before the return leg. I’d honestly take a 0-0 as i’d back us to get an away goal over there and put some pressure on.

      • Erik Zen 29th April 2019 at 1:09 pm #

        Agreed 0-0 would be frankly incredible. Did you see Martin Jol’s tactical preview in the Guardian? It’s going to hurt having only Moura to run in-behind.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st May 2019 at 1:53 pm #

          I haven’t read it yet. We did lack speed last night to run in-behind or keep pace with their midfield and attack though. One of the big issues that really needs to be addressed in the second leg.

  3. brian 29th April 2019 at 4:55 am #

    Hi Mark

    See you picked up on my,comments from previos qoutes.
    About Dele Alli finding the spaces/,unfortunately he was not at his best aagaoinst the spammers.As has been mentioned we loked tired and jaded,especially in the 2nd half.
    And while credit must go to the hammers for their 2nd half a ,resurgence.
    They are still a poor team at the moment,and, Tottenham are once agin trying to do their best
    in letting the prize slip from our grasp.O ‘what it is to be a Tottenham Supporter.

    Regards Brian

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 29th April 2019 at 11:11 am #

      Hi Brian, its difficult to tell what’s up with Dele at the minute. Is he playing within himself due to the hand injury and not wanting to aggravate it? Is he carrying another thigh injury and just trying to play through it? Is he burnt out from too much football or maybe its just he’s low on form and confidence? There’s something not right and he looks a step slow on the pitch and apprehensive in his decision making too.

      West Ham are a poor team, but yuo only had to see there players lying on the floor exhausted at the end to see how much effort they put in. We didn’t match their work rate and that is often half the battle.

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