Two retreating defences were punished by long-range strikes from Pedro Obiang and Son Heung-Min as it finished Tottenham 1-1 West Ham at Wembley Stadium.
The Hammers came to frustrate and almost succeeded as it ended Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in our Premier League clash. Two long-range wonder goals from Son Heung Min and Pedro Obiang saw the points shared, as two different approaches to defending were punished when each team backed off unnecessarily.
Hammers set up to frustrate
David Moyes came with a clear game plan to sit deep and frustrate. The Hammers played with a back five, but it was the midfield in front that was key. Moyes used four central players that switched between two setups.
Firstly there was a box four or offset diamond shape with Mark Noble and Pedro Obiang in front of the centre backs. Manuel Lanzini and Cheikhou Kouyaté operated higher up to keep Tottenham out of the central spaces we love to play in.
However, Lanzini is not the most defensive minded of players. The Argentinean would often cheat forward as he looked to support Javier Hernandez up front. Lanzini therefore often had a starting position slightly higher up, leaving the other three to tightly congest the middle of the pitch.
Son vs Zabaleta
Throughout the first half the battle between Son Heung-Min and Pablo Zabaleta was the most interesting duel. Firstly, how Spurs were playing the situation. Secondly, how West Ham reacted.
Tottenham were looking for Son out wide one-against-one at every opportunity. The ball was constantly on the move to him. With West Ham playing their central midfielders narrow, the space was also there for Son to operate.
What’s more Ben Davies was also flying forward on the under lap. As Son pinched the touchline, Davies bolted inside seeking to expose the channel being created.
Spurs had some success. Son forced corners and played some dangerous cutbacks from the by-line. Davies swung in some well-placed crosses.
West Ham’s response was to have Pedro Obiang race out and aid Zabaleta who was trying to stall Son until help arrived. The tactic was successful due to both players working well together. Zabaleta and Obiang were also aided by Spurs slow ball movement and general lethargy from playing 48 hours earlier.
West Ham’s tactics were causing us trouble with our player and ball movement not as sharp as it usually is. Understandably there was a hangover from Swansea 0-2 Spurs just 48 hours earlier.
Combined with this was a lack of rotation in the team. Only Serge Aurier came in fresh, as he didn’t feature at the Liberty Stadium. Moussa Sissoko and Harry Kane had limited minutes as substitutes, but tempo was affected. Ball movement was slow; often taking three or four passes to cross the pitch when usually we see one or two pass switches played.
Spurs narrow up
Tottenham spent most of the first half trying to isolate Son against Zabaleta. After the interval, we got away from doing that as Son frequently drifted inside to try and overload the centre of the pitch. The South Korean often popped up on the right, especially after the introduction of Erik Lamela.
The move seemed to be designed to spring the fresh legs of Serge Aurier down the line. Ben Davies was struggling after his exertions against Swansea. Aurier therefore was the natural choice to add the impetus of speed we required. Son drifted inside trying to drag Arthur Masuaku or Declan Rice with him, as Aurier would then attack the other.
The result was several dangerous crosses and cutbacks in to congested zones from our right side. The biggest moment from one of these saw Harry Kane dragged down by Winston Reid as he looked to have snuck in at the back post. Mike Dean waved away any appeals even though replays showed Reid clearly grappled Kane to the ground.
Kane’s shout for a penalty wasn’t the only one. Dele Alli was twice the victim of clumsy defending. Firstly on the edge of the box, which clearly saw him floored by Winston Reid. Secondly, a haphazard swing and punch by Adrian that got nowhere near the ball and took the midfielder clean out.
Dropping defences get torched
Both teams had setup well defensively, but committed the same error. Each team backed off to allow a shot from range that ended up becoming a wonder strike.
West Ham were the first to take advantage. Struggling to get up the pitch, the Hammers finally had some success when Andre Ayew entered the match.
Ayew matches up well against our defence as he has speed and can hold the ball up. He gave us all sorts of problems.
Javier Hernandez had struggled to make the out balls stick, but Masuaku’s long pass forward was chased down and held up expertly by Ayew. His play allowed West Ham to recycle the ball and the rest of the team to get forward. The ball wound up with Pedro Obiang who initially wasn’t looking to shoot, but suddenly had space to step forward as Eriksen and Sissoko stood off.
As the Tottenham players hesitated and failed to engage, Obiang drove forward and unleashed a thunderbolt. The ball wired in to the roof of the net with a pinpoint accuracy that left Hugo Lloris clutching at air as it whizzed past him.
Spurs had invited Obiang to shoot. He’d taken the invitation and returned it with interest. The shot was unleashed with laser-guided accuracy, straight through the legs of Sissoko and Davinson Sanchez, which must have added to the surprise factor of the strike.
Son strikes back
Spurs had floundered and backed off Obiang. Fifteen minutes later and it would be the Hammers turn to hesitate and get caught dropping back.
A questionable tackle from Serge Aurier in the build-up would secure the ball. Dele Alli then played a tired pass that befitted much of our leggy performance, which Erik Lamela had to drop back to retrieve.
Son had sprinted back while this was going on and was therefore trailing the play. His new position after Lamela’s introduction meant that he was now in the middle of the pitch. As Lamela laid the ball to the South Korean, West Ham had backed off and were also hesitant to engage.
The removal of Lanzini meant there was one fewer player in midfield. Mark Noble therefore was caught in two minds whether to shut down Son or go with Christian Eriksen. The delay gave Son enough time to size up the target and unleash a fearsome drive of his own.
Adrian was left wih no chance as the ball arrowed in to the corner of the net. Wembley erupted with sheer relief and we were now back on level terms at Tottenham 1-1 West Ham.
The match ended with two heart-stopping goalmouth moments.
The dangerous Andre Ayew burst through in to our penalty area. Ayew saw his shot deflected by a sprawling Hugo Lloris’ legs to loop just past the angle of post and bar.
Equally frenetic was a penalty box scramble at the other end. Spurs huffed and puffed but could not stab home a winner amongst a melee of bodies.
Time ran out and the match ended Tottenham 1-1 West Ham with the points shared.
Tottenham 1-1 West Ham overall
A tough match for both teams given their exertions just 48 hours earlier. How much conserving energy influenced West Ham’s tactics was unsure? Their setup saw them play the majority of their men within their own half to condense the area they would have to defend.
After a tactical game of chess on a heavy pitch against Swansea, Mauricio Pochettino probably wishes he changed our line-up more than he did. What was certain was that he waited too long before making substitutes. Seventy-four minutes and only following West Ham taking the lead before utilising his bench.
Final score: Tottenham 1-1 West Ham.
MOTM: Son Heung-Min.