The announcement of Tim Sherwood’s first team selection for the match against West Ham answered some questions but it was only the ninety minutes of the pitch which would provide the answers to the question of the style his team would play.
Tim Sherwood made six changes to the team which lost to Liverpool. Three of those were forced upon him through the suspension of Michael Dawson and Paulinho while Sandro was out with injury. Of the players available to him, he opted for players with experience of English football and who have played in the Premier League over a period of time. Of the seven summer signings only Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches started. For Capoue, it was an uncustomary position but necessitated due to Spurs increasing injury problems in that area. Capoue and Chiriches were the only experienced players available to central defence.
Jermain Defoe and Emmanuel Adebayor who had little or no opportunity under Villas-Boas started as did Andros Townsend who has had limited chances under AVB since making such an impression for England.
Sherwood said before the game,
We have to get out there on the front foot and we have to impose ourselves on them as soon as we can during the game.
In my previous blog on his team selection, I omitted the remainder of Sherwood’s quote in the Daily Express, which at the final whistle turned out to be rather wishful thing on the part of the interim manager. Reflecting on West Ham’s league position, he had added,
Hopefully they’ve got their concentration on Premier League safety rather than on the cup match.
Tim Sherwood’s First Team As Tottenham Caretaker Manager: Read more
Reverting to a 4-4-2 formation, the team set out as Sherwood had wanted, playing with an early purpose and tempo. In the opening twenty minutes the pace of Townsend and Lennon on the wings troubled West Ham and created a number of chances but Spurs couldn’t find their finishing touch. During that early period Spurs dominated territorially and in possession but once West Ham who had made seven changes, settled into their stride they were very effective in cutting out Tottenham’s attacking threat.
Their own attacking ambitions were limited to the long, high ball forward towards Cole as the lone striker. This aerial threat troubled Tottenham’s makeshift central defensive partnership but they dealt with it in the early stages while the striker was isolated. Every clearance and every free-kick was sent high into the centre of the Spurs penalty area, in true Sam Allardyce style, not very pretty but it can be very effective on occasions.
Tottenham played at a much higher tempo and their passing was more expansive. With the play spread wider due to the use of the wingers, there was more space for the midfield players to get into and make forward runs. The early goal that Sherwood wanted again failed to materialise and despite dominating possession spurs were unable to find a way through the West Ham defence. When the goal came in the second half it was well worked with good play from Defoe and Adebayor.
Having gone behind and with 23 minutes to play, West Ham started to get more players forward and took advantage of Tottenham’s uncertainty to the high ball in central defence. With players to support the lone striker they were getting on to his knock-downs. Hugo Lloris had to make two saves before the visitors eventual breakthrough. Another high free-kick pumped forward by the goalkeeper and Jarvis took advantage of the chance created.
Tottenham’s substitutions were forced upon them, West Ham’s had a direct influence on the outcome of the game. Danny Rose and Adebayor have not played much so their match fitness levels were low while Townsend had to go off with injury. This enabled West Ham to take advantage of Spurs difficulties on the left and as they added new players a cross from the right provided the winner, a goal created and scored by two of the substitutes.
The stats on BBCSport show that Tottenham had 68% possession but couldn’t turn it into real, clear-cut scoring opportunities and while they had 21 attempts on goal, only 4 were on target, none of which really tested the goalkeeper. West Ham manged 8 shots on target from 12 attempts.
The team may have played with a greater urgency and tempo and in a more pleasing style but the old problems still remain – they don’t have a player to deliver a telling pass where it matters, around the opposition penalty area. For all the wing play, once West Ham had settled, the wingers were frequently forced to cut inside to an already congested area around the 18-yard box which resulted in too intricate passing on the edge of the area which was easy for the West Ham defenders. Spurs also gave away too many free-kicks which was an open invitation to West Ham to bombard the penalty area, as they should have known, every Allardyce team has done that.
A new manager (interim) but the same result with remarkable similarities to last season’s knock-out at Norwich in the Capital One Cup. Spurs dominated the game, took a second half lead but in the final minutes once the opposition decided they were interested in winning the game, Spurs’ defence creaked and groaned before eventually going under to the pressure of the high ball into the area.
Tim Sherwood may be highly regarded for his work with the younger players at Tottenham but, and this may be harsh after one game, there was little indication that he is going to be able to turn round the current Tottenham malaise. The next few weeks, months, could be tough for Tottenham supporters.