Son Heung-MIn scores a goal during Totttenham 1-1 West in the Premier League.

Tottenham 1-1 West Ham: dropping defences get torched

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.

Four man box midfield during Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in the Premier League.

Four man box midfield setup.

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.

Lanzini higher positioning during Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in the Premier League.

Lanzini higher positioning.

West Ham’s midfield set up made it difficult for us to get the ball in to Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli in the areas where they like to do damage.

Son vs Zabaleta

Mauricio Pochettino had clearly marked Pablo Zabaleta as a weak spot at right back. The ageing Zabaleta is slowing down and two games in 48 hours should’ve made the 32-year old rife for attacking.

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.

Son against Zabaleta as Davies runs the channel created during Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in the Premier League.

Son against Zabaleta as Davies runs the channel 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.

Obiang on the run to help Zabaleta against Son and Davies during Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in the Premier League.

Obiang on the run to help Zabaleta against Son and Davies.

Slow tempo

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.

Penalty claims

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.

Eriksen and Sissoko are slow to close down Obiang during Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in the Premier League.

Eriksen and Sissoko are slow to close down Obiang.

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.

Noble and Obiang back off Son who shoots at goal to make teh score Tottenham 1-1 West Ham in the Premier League match.

Noble and Obiang back off Son who shoots at goal.

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.

Final flourish

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.

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14 Responses to Tottenham 1-1 West Ham: dropping defences get torched

  1. VisitingHammer 5th January 2018 at 3:14 pm #

    Very good analysis of the game Mark. It was also a very good read.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2018 at 12:27 am #


  2. Mark from Virginia 5th January 2018 at 3:44 pm #

    Hi Mark,
    Great read as always! I agree with you about the subs, Lamela and Wanyama should have come on around 60 min with Lorente not far behind. I thought it would have been interesting to see N’koudo on the left against Zabaleta, maybe as a sub fir Davies.
    Thanks again for taking the time to write the game analysis.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2018 at 12:32 am #

      Hi Mark, with the game panning out how it was I was surprised Llorente wasn’t on sooner, especially as Sissoko was so ineffective and it was becoming increasingly apparent that it was going to be a struggle to break West Ham down.

      Poch has made many great improvements in his tactical acumen since arriving at Tottenham, but his timing and use of his subs continue to be an area of weakness.

  3. Andy B 5th January 2018 at 7:22 pm #

    Great analysis as always.

    Spurs still don’t have that special gifted unpredictable player that can win a game, by doing something different.

    The way Spurs played was fairly predictable and many teams have managed to stop us from playing, just by having an organised defence and midfield.

    This has been an ongoing problem for Spurs, for many years. We used to have the same difficulty breaking teams down, when AVB was in charge.

    Lamela, Son, Eriksen and Alli all play in a similar way, in that they rely on passing and movement. Only Son is capable of dribbling passed a player. We need more than that, to regularly win these kind of games.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2018 at 12:39 am #

      Great comment, Andy. Spot on that this has been a problem to break down these defensive minded teams and we do need to look at further strengthening and broadening the squad to get game changing options in. Missing out on Barkley was a blow, but we need to get another creative player in. As you say we also need a player that can go past people. I would add that we need a rapid left back as Rose is missing way too many games and Davies needs some help/rest.

      I can’t see us doing much this month as Levy is notoriously wary of paying the premiums that come with mid-season buying. So definitely a big summer of recruitment is required!

  4. brian 5th January 2018 at 11:11 pm #

    Anather great anylsis Mark.As has been pointed out.WestHham came to Frustrate and succeded.And good on them for their disciplined display.But in all truth,when teams loike West ham have too enploy these tactics.Its really telling us what a bloody poor team they really are..
    Especially when I think of past West Ham teams..They are not the first team too employ these tactics against us.And yet we continue to struggle in breaking teams down.Either from wasted opportunities or just plain bad luck.One can only hope,that we learn from such expirences.
    Althought Im begging to think,,that we are jsut not caperable of doing so,as present.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th January 2018 at 12:46 am #

      I am beginning to worry that this is fast becoming the default option for any team coming to play us, as they know we struggle to break down a packed defence. I think we need to recruit some players, but also look at the formation when we play at home to these sides. Maybe we should try 3-5-2 with Llorente and Kane or even 4-4-2 or 4-3-3 to try and obliterate these teams. As Poch said recently the opening goal is crucial as we haven’t won in the premier league when conceding first. Therefore, we should be looking to get the opening goal and being more aggressive with our formation is a way to do this.

  5. Chas 6th January 2018 at 2:17 am #

    Watch Liverpool, Man City, Chelsea, Leicester – even Southampton – and you see danger from the flanks. Wide men crossing into the box
    That’s simply not the case with Spurs. Trips is excellent when he decides to do it but his defence is ordinary.
    Aurier and Davies are both too erratic…9 out of 10 are misplaced.
    Rose is injured again and watching the performances of Shaw over the past weeks I doubt Mourinho is swapping him any time soon.
    Poch puts Lamela and Son on the wings and then they run into the channels.
    That’s fine if we have effective wing-backs but we don’t.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th January 2018 at 12:44 am #

      Spot on. I think Poch is wrestling with his philosophy over this one. On one hand we need some wide players – whether this is wingbacks or wingers – who can go past an opponent and provide a good cross. On the other Poch’s philosophy is about overloading the centre of the pitch and smashing through there. It’s a difficult one as he needs to decide if he’s going to get away from his philosophy or not? He’s often talked about getting players with speed that can go past an opponent but we haven’t invested in any of any quality. Sissoko and GKN aren’t going to get it done. Zaha and Sessegnon potentially could.

  6. Jone 6th January 2018 at 11:42 am #

    How do you judge Diers performance, Mark? I thought his passing in general were to slow and sloppy. He is decent in both defence and midfield – but not a top 4-player in either positions in my opinion.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 7th January 2018 at 12:51 am #

      For me, Dier was man of the match against Swansea. Then he was bang average against West Ham. It’s this kind of inconsistency that has been a feature of his play this season. Up one week, down the next. Especially since he was so solid in midfield last season. I think he is a very good player but has been a victim of having to alternate between centre back and defensive midfield. With all the injuries we’ve had we’ve needed him to play at centre back because he can do it, but it’s definitely affected his level of play. The quicker Poch can bring Juan Foyth through and get Toby back on the pitch may well see Dier being able to concentrate on being a centre mid and not some hybrid player which is messing up his game.

  7. Matt 7th January 2018 at 9:37 am #

    Great analysis and some interesting comment too. The need for a player who can beat a man is unarguable now. What’s the difference between philosophy and tactics….For me our philosophy is about trusting young talent, extreme fitness, playing for the team, attacking, passing based etc. I see playing through the centre as tactics, but you’re right Poch seems a bit bloody minded that it’s through the middle, or not at all. It makes us predictable so I think we need to keep to our philosophy but be prepared to change tactics. If the bus parkers suddenly had people racing down the lines putting in numerous crosses to Llorente et al they’d struggle. Your point re this default position is a great one. There’s now 8 or 9 teams who’ll do this consistently and we need a better response I think. Barkley a pity IMO.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th January 2018 at 12:58 pm #

      Hi Matt, you’ve hit the nail on the head about philosophy and tactics. Poch was more flexible in his tactics last season and seemed to have improved this with the shift to the counter attack styles we saw against Dortmund, Real Madrid and Liverpool – they were pretty effective and not dull to watch either. He seems to have become a bit hesitant to try crossing or twin striker approaches against these Bus parking teams, which have become more numerous. Poch has done wonders for us and he has cleared so many hurdles already. Maybe he is waiting for this Malcolm or Zaha player to solve this issue, but bus parking teams is the next riddle he has to solve.