Tottenham snatched victory from the jaws of defeat with two Harry Kane goals in the dying moments. But whilst Mauricio Pochettino’s side continued to be the only unbeaten team in the league, their victory, however dramatic, hid a couple of repetitive issues that might hold Spurs back from building on last season.
Pochettino altered his formation once more following the adaptation of the 3-4-3 he used at Arsenal before the international break. This time, his team’s shape was more akin to a 4-4-2 diamond than the 4-2-3-1 suggested in the graphic below.
West Ham, meanwhile, continue to suffer from a lack of form or fitness amongst their forwards while captain Mark Noble was absent due to suspension. Spanish goalkeeper, Adrian, lost his place to Darren Randolph as Slaven Bilic set-up his side in today’s fashionable 3-4-2-1 following Antonio Conte’s recent success at Chelsea.
Given the personnel available, Bilic’s choice made sense, although it would be a big ask of playmaker, Manuel Lanzini, as part of a midfield duo against Tottenham’s equivalent.
Kane and Janssen not working
Spurs’ line-up saw Kane and Vincent Janssen start together for only the second time this season. Much has been made of the Dutchman’s lack of goals from open play or Kane’s struggles to play with another striker and this game only further validated both claims.
Janssen is clearly a talented and especially hardworking forward but he’s in danger of joining the failed Eredivisie imports of Mateja Kezman and Afonso Alves rather than the success stories of Ruud van Nistelrooy or Luis Suarez. It’s not completely ludicrous to suggest Janssen’s energy is being disproportionately used in areas that aren’t measured against the success of a striker’s performance. His teammate, Kane, on the other hand, provided a master class in that with two vital goals despite a quiet all round display.
Both forwards have been on the pitch at the same time for a total of 277 minutes in all competitions this season. During those minutes, only Kane has been directly involved in a goal with a single assist, while the team itself has only managed four goals in total. Not a great return over the equivalent of three full games. The amount of time and subsequently, the partnership, may have improved by this point had Kane not suffered the ankle injury that kept him out of action since mid-September. But the pair, along with their teammates, have struggled for fluency this season as indicated by the fact this was the first time they’ve scored three or more goals in a league encounter.
Not only did Janssen fail to score, although his only shot of the game was rebounded into Harry Winks’ path for the equaliser, the former AZ Alkmaar man gave away the penalty from which West Ham retook the lead. Coincidentally, it’s only from the spot that he’s found the net for Tottenham since arriving for £17m in the summer. To add insult to injury, Janssen was substituted for Dele Alli immediately after Lanzini’s penalty in the 68th minute.
Son Heung-min – who replaced Dembele on four minutes later – went on to provide assists for both of Kane’s goals and all but consolidated his place in the starting 11 for the crunch Champions League match at Monaco.
West Ham and Bilic looked to hold on to their lead by replacing Dimitri Payet with the defensively minded Havard Nordtveit in the 85th minute. Unfortunately for the Hammers, that proved to have an adverse effect with Nordtveit fouling Son to concede the injury-time penalty from which Kane converted to earn all three-points.
Despite having the best defence in the league, once again Tottenham conceded from set-pieces, making it seven from eight, including two penalties.
Both of West Ham’s goals were the result of the home side’s failure to clear two consecutive corners. Michail Antonio opened the scoring with a close-range header – his 11th in 2016 – while Lanzini’s penalty was won by Winston Reid who was fouled by Janssen.
Crystal Palace’s recent shambolic defending from set-pieces is taking the attention away from Pochettino’s side but it won’t be long until pundits begin to highlight Spurs’ deficiencies, especially if crosses into their box make up 75% of the goals they concede.
Rose and Reid
As mentioned in the last EPL review, Danny Rose is key to Tottenham’s play as he provides a frequent outlet on the left. The England international was joint-top with Payet for chances created (three) whilst having more passes in the attacking third than any other player. Rose’s teammate on the opposite flank, Kyle Walker, was fourth, which is impressive given both are full-backs but this only highlights the narrow set-up of Tottenham’s formation.
Rose didn’t ignore his defensive duties with a game high of four blocked crosses while the Leeds Academy graduate also suffered the joint-second most fouls (three).
Reid was one of the game’s stronger performers despite finishing on the losing team and being sent off for two bookings in injury-time. At the heart of a three-man defence, the New Zealander was second for ball recoveries (10) and top for interceptions (seven) as well as clearances (14). He also provided the unintentional assist for the first goal but that red card means he’ll be suspended for the next match away to Man Utd.
West Ham will be disappointed not to have capitalised on a poor Tottenham performance, particularly given they were leading until the 89th minute. They’ll need to show more resilience in their upcoming games with Arsenal at home and Liverpool away following next week’s trip to Old Trafford.
Spurs lacked the same anticipation as their opponents with a big disparity in interceptions (five to West Ham’s 23).
Christian Eriksen was disappointing again having failed to create a single chance from the attacking midfield position, but Winks’ display provided the biggest positive aside from the three-points.
The young midfielder – who opened his first team account – finished third for passes completed and was successful with more tackles than any other Tottenham player.
If Pochettino and his staff can fix the defensive issues from set-pieces and Spurs can extend their unbeaten run beyond next week’s trip to Chelsea and December’s match at Man Utd, then this could be a season that betters last. They just can’t solely rely on Kane to do it.
EPL Results (Gameweek 12):
Man Utd 0-0 Arsenal
Crystal Palace 1-2 Man City
Everton 1-1 Swansea
Southampton 0-0 Liverpool
Stoke 0-1 Bournemouth
Sunderland 3-0 Hull
Watford 2-1 Leicester
Tottenham 3-2 West Ham
Middlesbrough 0-1 Chelsea
West Brom 4-0 Burnley