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.
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.
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.
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
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 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.