It was a bad day at the office for Tottenham against West Ham which has left Andre Villas-Boas with some issues to reflect upon during the break for the international matches over the next fortnight.
Tottenham suffered an unexpected defeat against West Ham who thoroughly deserved their win. West Ham came to White Hart Lane with a game plan and they worked hard throughout to carry out Sam Allardyce’s instructions.
West Ham’s Game Plan
West Ham sat deep and defended in depth but harried the Spurs back four, not allowing them time to pass the ball out from the back and through midfield. The ball was often passed back to Hugo Lloris who was forced to kick it long and concede possession. When Spurs did manage to move the ball through midfield Mousa Dembele, Christian Eriksen and Paulinho immediately found themselves with players in claret and blue all around them, preventing them from passing or making a forward run. Without a recognised striker, the visitors had six men back in midfield with whoever was available making a forward run when the opportunity arose. This in itself caused problems to the Spurs defensive set-up. On the occasions that Spurs did progress to the edge of the West Ham area, they found a solid line of defenders. West Ham were defending narrowly and denied Spurs the space to play their intricate passing through the centre. There was always a defender there to get in the way, put in a foot or make a block. Having defended soundly, West Ham made the most of any attacking opportunity and could have scored before eventually taking the lead midway through the second half.
- Spurs never really got going in this match. They played the whole game in a way similar to how that had performed in the second half against Chelsea a week ago. It was a lethargic display and having discovered how West Ham were playing never found a way to implement their game plan and certainly had no answers to the way West Ham were set up.
- Tottenham insisted on playing through the centre which suited West Ham perfectly. With only Andros Townsend providing any width, even he was cutting inside to an already congested central midfield area. It was only when he took on his man on the outside that Spurs showed any sign of troubling West Ham’s defensive plan. Kyle Walker had a very quiet game and didn’t provide any threat going forward. This may have been due to him being unfit as he had gone off early with a physio during the pre-match warm-up and there had been speculation that he would have to be replaced. He did play for the full match but it was a very uncharacteristic performance from him. With Kyle Naughton and Gylfi Sigurdsson on the left there is no width on that side with Sigurdsson cutting inside and Naughton wanting to play with his right foot. The expected return of Danny Rose will help to resolve that issue.
- The intensity of derby matches seems to have caught out the new signings. They have talked of derbies they’ve played in with former clubs but having had to play four London derbies in their opening 7 League matches, has provided them with a learning experience. Even the opening game against Crystal Palace had an intensity about it and the past three against Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham took that degree of expectation and competitiveness to an even higher level. It was definitely an issue at the Emirates but in the first half against Chelsea they appeared to have been prepared for this extra competitiveness and raised their game accordingly. They couldn’t sustain it in the second half and certainly weren’t up for it at the weekend. Whether it was an assumption that with West Ham without an away goal or win and near the foot of the table, that the game would not require the same commitment as the other derbies and that it was a game to get through. A lesson to all the new players – there are no easy games in the Premier League, something they probably haven’t encountered before.
Sam Allardyce certainly thought that was Tottenham’s problem on Sunday as was reported in The Guardian. After the game he commented,
The fans at Tottenham thought it was going to be a nice, easy-breeze today but the Premier League will tell you that if you think like that, you are going to get your backside kicked. They got their backside kicked today.
- Tottenham had 61% possession but West Ham were quite happy to let them play the ball back and forward around the halfway line.
- Even when they conceded the goal there was no improvement in Spurs’ play. The goal might have brought a response to spark Spurs into life but it didn’t happen and West Ham got stronger, more resolute and took advantage of the late chances they created on the break.
Andre Villas-Boas responded to the defeat by describing it as a wake-up call and will be looking for a re-action from the players when they return from playing for their countries. His comments were reported in the Daily Mail,
It is a wake-up call and we must react. But we can’t let it undermine what we have been doing — we could have been top of the league with Liverpool.
A disappointing day for Spurs but a reminder that there’s still work to be done to build a team which is going to challenge at the very highest level in the Premier League. Every team has had their set-backs this season and we look forward to Spurs learning the lessons and moving forward against Villa next time out.