The Hammers marched into White Hart Lane on a Sunday evening and stormed to a stunning 3-0 victory which left both Andre Villas-Boas and the Spurs’ fans in utter shock. A striker-less West Ham executed their counter attacking game-plan to perfection and managed to score their first 3 away goals of the league campaign against Spurs (who held one of the best defensive records in Europe.) AVB’s men seemed completely lost throughout the game, overrun in midfield with the powerful Mohammed Diame running riot as he drifted across the attacking midfield area (gaining an assist in the process.)
Paulinho the false playmaker
A massive problem for Tottenham and in particular Mousa Dembele was the central overload’s West Ham managed to create in the middle third of the pitch, particularly in the attacking transition phase of play. Paulinho failed to establish himself within the double pivot with Dembele instead taking up the ‘false playmaker’ role extremely early on, maybe too early. In fact, Paulinho failed to make a successful tackle throughout the entire game, far less than any of the Hammers three central midfielders Diame (4), Nolan (3) and Noble (2).
The ‘false playmaker’ role in which I speak of is the role played in the prime years of Chelsea legend Frank Lampard. Not a traditional playmaker, but a central midfield player heavily utilizing the 1-2 pass up the pitch into the final third, in order to ultimately a) unleash shots in and around the box or b) slide short clever passes into the channels for teammates as he carries his momentum forward. Whilst Paulinho managed to create 2 chances in the process, his constant desire to solely attack left Mousa Dembele badly exposed to counter attacks in the middle of the park. Also, Dembele managed only ¼ of the successful dribbles vs West Ham (2) compared to (8) vs Chelsea, illustrating Dembele’s reluctance to move forward with the ball at his feet (a major element in Tottenahm’s attacking system) due to Paulinho essentially hanging him out to dry with his super advanced positioning.
Tottenham’s defensive block and its problems
Spurs’ usual high line defensive block encountered many problems, especially during the second half where West Ham became even more aggressive with their dribble take-ons. AVB’s midfield were lackluster in their attempts to press the ball and this exposed the defense who could not cope with the fluid movement of the hammers ‘false 9’ system as Downing, Morrison, Vaz-te and Diame ran the show. As a result, Tottenham’s defenders were dribbled past a total of 6 times collectively, 3 times more than at home against Chelsea in the previous Premier League fixture.
All in all, West Ham’s clinical display (23% shot conversion rate) in front of goal secured them a well-deserved 3 points away at an extremely tough ground. Though not widely revered as a master tactician, big Sam’s tactical decisions particularly within the middle and final thirds of the pitch. AVB would have been very concerned at the lack of drive and motivation shown by his side, with Dembele stating a few days after the match:
[sws_blockquote align=”” alignment=”alignleft” cite=”- Andre Villas Boas after the West Ham Game” quotestyles=”style02″] It’s easier to play against the top teams for the motivation but if we want to be a top team we need to be concentrated for these kind of games. [/sws_blockquote]
Andre Villas Boas must address this mental deficiency immediately if Spurs hope to obtain a top 4 place or better yet challenge for the Premier League title.