Tottenham took advantage of turnovers to launch speedy transitions that attacked the sides of the Hammers three centre backs as it finished West Ham 2-3 Spurs.
Catching up on a few games. Spurs won an intensely hard fought London derby with West Ham by ruthlessly punishing sloppy turnovers. Once the ball was back in our possession, quick breaks exposed the sides of the Hammers’ back three. A red card for Serge Aurier made the game more uncomfortable than it should’ve been, as it ended West Ham 2-3 Spurs at the London Stadium.
West Ham’s quick breaks
The first 27 minutes were played to a similar pattern. Spurs had control of the ball, but West Ham was the more dangerous team. Deploying a front three of Michail Antonio, Javier Hernandez and Marko Arnautovic, the Hammers looked for long passes towards them at every opportunity.
Antonio was physically stronger and quicker than Ben Davies. Arnautovic drifted with guile to expose the errant defensive positioning of Serge Aurier. Hernandez was always looking to dive off the shoulder of our back three, but was frequently caught offside.
The tactic had its merits and created the game’s first opportunity. Arnautovic raced beyond Serge Aurier, but was denied by a last ditch sliding tackle by the Ivorian as he recovered in the penalty area.
Andy Carroll replaced Antonio and West Ham’s quick balls in-behind turned in to long passes up for the big man.
Spurs breaking the tentative press
West Ham conceded a lot of possession through their inability to neither commit to a press nor drop off and play on the counter. Slaven Bilic’s team tentatively pressed through their front three, but left acres of space behind them as the rest of the team dropped off. A large area was thus created for his midfield to cover, which was often caught square. Space therefore opened up between the lines.
Christian Eriksen was naturally the main benefactor of this, but Dele Alli equally enjoyed space to roam. Fascinatingly, Moussa Sissoko often joined the pairing. The Frenchman played well in advance of defensive midfield partner Eric Dier.
Sissoko took up good positions, but as frequently is the case, his touch let him down. However, Sissoko was responsible for our most pertinent move before taking the lead. His neat pass sprung Serge Aurier to put a devilish cross in for Harry Kane. Unfortunately, a deflection took the ball marginally behind Kane who was flagged offside.
Aurier had got himself beyond the West Ham wingback and down the side of their three centre backs. The is ploy would serve us well as it lead to two quick goal, both in transition from poor play by Andy Carroll.
Spurs punish Andy Carroll errors
Spurs had been enjoying space between the lines from West Ham’s tentative press. Two Andy Carroll errors allowed Tottenham to use these spaces to rapidly attack the sides of the Hammers three centre backs.
A poor decision by Carroll to try a difficult pass on the turn presented Christian Eriksen with acres of room to pick his pass. Dele Alli’s streaking run down the sides of the centre backs was his target. Dele then had the easy task of squaring for Harry Kane to nod home and make it 1-0.
Carroll then rather lackadaisically allowed Jan Vertonghen to nip in front of him, win the ball and start a quick break. Christen Eriksen was once more between the lines to hoover up possession and release Vertonghen’s break down the outside.
Right-sided centre back Jose Fonte was drawn over by Vertonghen’s run up the line. Skipping past him then pulled Winston Reid out from the centre. Dele Alli once more made a run in-behind, which Vertonghen found.
Dele’s run pulled the last remaining centre back, Angel Ogbonna, towards him. As Joe Hart rushed from his line, Dele tried to flick the ball past him. However, Hart’s save served up a big, juicy rebound that Harry Kane made no mistake with to slot in to an empty net. West Ham 0-2 Spurs.
Dele and Eriksen 1-2 punch
Andy Carroll’s errors aside, the two main protagonists on our first two goals were Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen. Dele exposed the Hammers with his runs down the sides of the centre backs. Christian Eriksen was equally involved with his neat passing from spaces between the lines.
Spurs added a third with these two once more fulfilling these roles. Dele Alli earned a free kick from once more dribbling at the outside centre back, as Jose Fonte fouled him.
In spite of Harry Kane thumping the ensuing dead ball against the post, Christian Eriksen was in acres of space to return the resulting deflected cross in to the net.
West Ham set pieces
West Ham had been knocked on the back foot, but still retained a threat from set pieces. This avenue would prove to be their way back in to the match.
Spurs use a hybrid system to defend corners of three zonal markers across the six-yard box and man-to-man defending on the edge of the area. The system was tweaked here to be man-to-man. Was this to contain West Ham’s size and the threat of Andy Carroll or has Pochettino reconsidered his system?
Whatever the answer, Jose Fonte ran his marker, Eric Dier, in to Harry Kane. Fonte had the split second he needed to flick the ball on before Dele Alli could react. At the far post, Moussa Sissoko, who had been man marking Javier Hernandez, let the diminutive striker drift off him for an easy header in to the gaping net. Suddenly it was West Ham 1-3 Spurs and the game was set for another twist.
Serge Aurier sees red
Making his Premier League debut, Serge Aurier was having a mixed bag of a match. Dangerous in attack, but often out of place defensively. Aurier’s errant positioning had seen a number of West Ham’s quick balls in-behind towards the spaces he had left. Aurier was also lucky not to concede a penalty for a dubious handball in the area.
However, it was Aurier’s rash challenges that would make this game tighter than it should’ve been. Often too quick to go to ground had seen the Ivorian commit a number of fouls. However, it would be a lazy barge on Andy Carroll and then an unnecessary sliding tackle from behind on the big man that saw Aurier sent off.
Move and counter move
Down to ten men saw both managers make changes as Bilic attacked and Pochettino responded. Arthur Masuaku was sent on to double up on the left with Aaron Cresswell against unnatural wingback Moussa Sissoko. Kieran Trippier was therefore introduced to for the Frenchman. Harry Winks was also then sent on to offer better defensive help on this side than Christian Eriksen was supplying.
In spite of Pochettino’s defensive moves, Slaven Bilic’s plan to attack the left wing saw the score pulled back to West Ham 2-3 Spurs. A raking ball out to Cresswell drew Kieran Trippier with him. Arthur Masuaku then tore past Harry Winks in to the space created and whipped in a cross.
In the centre, Ben Davies had unfortunately been left marking both Andy Carroll and Cheikhou Kouyaté. Carroll had been drifting on to the smaller Davies for much of the half. Kouyaté was left with space to run and powered in a header before Davies could get to him and challenge. Suddenly it was West Ham 2-3 Spurs and a commanding lead had almost been sacrificed.
However, Spurs did well to stifle the flow of the game and run down the clock. The introduction of Fernando Llorente gave the hold up presence that had previously been lacking. Llorente’s size and strength allowed both Dele Alli and Harry Winks to move off him and towards the corners. Six minutes of injury time was therefore easily navigated and the match ended West Ham 2-3 Spurs to the delight of the travelling fans.
West Ham 2-3 Spurs overall
In terms of performance, this was a really up and down game. The first 30 minutes saw Spurs controlling without being particularly hard-hitting or cutting the Hammers open. The ensuing 30 minutes saw us ruthlessly capitalising on Andy Carroll’s errors and impressively racing to a three-goal cushion. However, the final 30 saw us lose focus, a goal and then a player. The match thus became much harder than it really should’ve been.
Final score: West Ham 2-3 Spurs.
MOTM: Christian Eriksen.