From the Jaws of Victory
There is never a good way to lose to Tottenham but if you were to write a script to illustrate the totally worst case scenario it might be one where your team is desperate for points, are playing away to your fiercest rival (the league’s only unbeaten team), are leading with just two minutes of normal time remaining only to end up conceding two late goals and having your captain sent off. Disappointed, deflated and dejected. A neutral may well have enjoyed the game which in the first half had the hallmarks of one of last season’s famous away victories at unlikely venues. West Ham had taken the lead and Tottenham looked short on ideas. Early in the second half, however, sloppy play allowed the hosts back level and for a while it looked like the floodgates might open; but the ship was steadied and a penalty saw the Hammers restore their lead and recover their composure. It stayed that way until the the frantic finale and a West Ham implosion in the final act that turned a potential thriller into a tragedy.
A Formation Too Rigid
I have strong reservations about 3 at the back as the default formation. It can work in some instances and against some oppositions. From the outset I thought it was high risk against a team like Tottenham who do much of their attacking down the flanks, particularly through their full-backs. Having said that the set-up worked well enough in the first half and Antonio and Cresswell were able to get forward in support of our uncharacteristically swift counter attacking play. After the break though Rose and Walker were pushed further up leaving our own wing backs neutralised as an attacking force and ultimately exposing Antonio’s defensive limitations. If the wing backs effectively become full backs then the 3 centre- backs are surplus to requirements and leave the midfield shorthanded. It would seems obvious but a formation cannot be so rigid that it is unable to adapt to changing circumstances. That is a sign of a good team and good coaching.
Oh No, Angelo!
A game of two penalties and you couldn’t really argue about either. Tottenham could well have been awarded a penalty earlier in the game when Ogbonna was all over a Tottenham player in much the same way that Janssen impeded Reid for our own penalty. I have lost a lot of patience with Ogbonna and the goodwill from the last minute goal against Liverpool has almost run out. He mixes sound defending with all too often inexplicable casualness as he did when giving the ball away in the build up to the first Tottenham equalizer. He can also be seen grappling at almost every defensive corner or set piece. A shame that Reid was sent off as I though he had an excellent game. The backchat interpretation has become as inconsistent as the grappling and simulations one.
Bizarre Substitution Watch
The first substitutions after the hour mark were well timed and helped to stem the threatened Tottenham tide. Ayew has continued to disappoint so far both in effort and contribution and his replacement by Fernandes, who was unfortunate not to start, was the correct move. It was no surprise to see Sakho replaced after 60 minutes in what was his first start of the season. He did a lot of good work without the ball but not much with it. His replacement Zaza did nothing with or without it apart from playing the most delayed pass of all time when Payet was well placed. Quite why Bilic perseveres with the Italian is a mystery as he serves no purpose as either a short or long term option. Fletcher would have been a far better choice. The final substitution was nonsensical in terms of both player coming on and player going off. Without the presence of Payet there was no threat for Tottenham to worry about and they were free to press forward en masse. Nordtveit has done nothing to promote any confidence in his abilities and coming on cold at that point contributed significantly to our ultimate undoing.
A Nod’s as good as a Winks
I don’t understand why Tottenham didn’t give Winks the number 40 shirt.