Manuel Lanzini’s second half winner gave West Ham a 1-0 victory over bitter rivals Tottenham – but what have we learned from the game?
Well-drilled West Ham
The character and fight of this West Ham side has been questioned at times this season, but some crunching early challenges set the tone for this derby. Their tenacity was allied with teamwork as forwards Lanzini, Andre Ayew and Jonathan Calleri bought into Slaven Bilic’s plans out of possession. They pressed in unison in the right areas, ably backed up by the combative Cheikhou Kouyate with Mark Noble mopping up behind.
Tottenham’s good minute
Midway through the first half, Adrian San Miguel had to make three saves in the space of 60 seconds. Harry Kane’s shot was blocked by the stopper, as was Dele Alli’s by Jose Fonte, then Adrian stuck out his left leg to deny Kane’s follow up, before saving Eric Dier’s header from the resultant corner. Without the Spaniard’s improvised reflexes at that point, we could be discussing a very different game.
Pochettino’s questionable selection
Spurs did not kick on from that period of pressure and this may be a rare occasion on which Mauricio Pochettino’s team selection can be criticized. The injury to Danny Rose was a hindrance and the team have lacked width on the left in his absence, with Ben Davies a more cautious full-back by nature. However, shifting Christian Eriksen to the left side of midfield in-game meant there was no pace on that flank. Against a team lower in the table, it can be questioned whether both holding midfielders Dier and Victor Wanyama were needed. The duo did not have the confidence to play the quick, risky passes that might have opened West Ham up.
Alli has had an excellent goalscoring season. However, with the final third space and service he requires not forthcoming, Spurs needed their attacking midfielder to influence the game more in the middle third. Instead, Alli had just 39 touches in 90 minutes and 18 outside the final third, highlighting his distance from the action. When Spurs are dominating, the 21-year-old can afford to be distant and make subtle runs into dangerous areas, which is why he has netted 22 times. When they are struggling though, he needs to help out his teammates in order to construct attacks and get some service into Kane.
West Ham’s use of the ball
The Hammers’ first half performance had not been perfect. Hugo Lloris had to block Lanzini’s shot on 28 minutes but the forward dragged wide an earlier opening and Kouyate’s wayward shot ruined a chance to create after Dier gave the ball away. More final third productivity saw them fashion better chances after the break, however.
Wing-backs created the winner
West Ham’s performance was solid but not defensive, evidenced by the impressive attacking movement of Sam Byram on the right and fellow wing-back Aaron Cresswell on the left. The former fired a warning sign on 52 minutes when he crossed for Ayew but the ex-Swansea forward fired over with the goal at his mercy. Byram kept pushing forward and the duo were both in the final third to create the winner. Cresswell’s cross was kept in play by Byram, before Ayew touched the ball on for Lanzini to prod home, sparking delirium.
Spurs did not apply the pressure one might have expected in the quarter of an hour, considering this was their last chance to salvage their title hopes. Substitutes Robert Snodgrass and Ashley Fletcher combined for what could have been a second, the former setting up the latter to dink wide one-on-one in the dying seconds.
Tottenham dream over this year
Defeat means Spurs’ other London rivals, Chelsea, can clinch the title with back-to-back wins before they next play. Failure to win the ultimate prize of English football should not detract from an excellent two years however and the club still has an exciting future.
Huge win for the Hammers
Although West Ham are not fighting to stay up or qualify for Europe, they needed this win as much as ever. Moving into a new stadium has been a turbulent experience for supporters, some of whom had justifiably begun to feel disillusioned with their club. One good 90 minutes will not change everything, but it was not insignificant for those fans to see a team playing with leadership and fight to beat their bitter rivals. The club needs to restore its sense of pride and identity – this was one step towards doing that.