Premier League
Tottenham 3-1 West Ham United 

Sunday, 20th March 2022
by Chris Wilkerson

West Ham came back down to Earth with a bump this Sunday, faltering to a 3-1 defeat away at Spurs, the loss possibly enough to put any remaining top four hopes to bed.

After the heroics of Thursday, the Hammers struggled to make an impression on this game and were always chasing the game. Two goals for Son and an early own goal from Kurt Zouma were enough to win the match, with Benrahma scoring not long before half-time to get his side on the scoresheet.


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The manager made two changes from the tie with Sevilla, Fabianski returning in goal and Masuaku coming into the side for Fornals as West Ham looked to match Conte's system. It didn't work, a plan eventually abandoned after half an hour, by which time the damage was already done.

It's hard to say what the greater risk was, the change in system with such little time to prepare or the choice to play Arthur Masuaku. West Ham looked laboured from the early moments, struggling to pass out from the back even with the extra body in defence. Tottenham were not hugely aggressive in their press, but managed to make the away side look ordinary as they failed to start anything good from their own back line.

Warning signs had been there in the first ten minutes that Moyes's men did not look comfortable in the shape. Lanzini was removed from his usual position in the middle, whilst the choice of pass from defence was often poor, and delivered poorly too.

It took until the ninth minute to be punished, Cresswell passing up the line to Masuaku as he ran back to him to offer the pass. Rather than protect the ball under pressure from Doherty, he tried some sort of expansive and clever trick. In the end it was neither, so easily was his pocket picked by the right wing back. He gave it to Kane, who drove down the right side of the box and tried to cut across to Son. Zouma covered it, but as the South Korean missed the ball with his shot, it ricocheted off Zouma's trailing knee and shot up into the air and beyond Fabianski into the West Ham goal.

If it looked like the tone was set, Harry Kane's nearly went Carlton Cole as he passed a ball back to his defence moments after kick off and saw it intercepted by Antonio. Knocking Dier out of his path with ease, Antonio made himself a very good chance from a slight angle on the right, but his low effort went wide. He should have scored.

Tottenham had Son and Kane, West Ham had Benrahma. These were the standouts of the first half, with the two Spurs players a threat on the counter as Kane drifted into space. With the change of system, Rice was caught between a higher starting position and monitoring what the England captain did as he found pockets behind him. Whilst Zouma and Cresswell were forced back by the running of Son and Kulusevski, Kane was not properly tracked by either Dawson or Rice. Had West Ham stayed in the shape they had used to such success against Sevilla and Villa, you would suspect Kane would not have been allowed to run the show so easily. To the striker's credit, there is no luck in finding the space he did, let alone delivering the passes too.

Benrahma looked lively, possibly revelling in the role down the right as he found space to shift the ball with quick feet and get to the byline. One instance ended with a beautifully delivered cross to the far post that Antonio could only head wide.

The striker had a tough game, marshalled well by Romero. The defender has proven himself to enjoy the fight, sometimes too much, but with Antonio isolated amongst three centre backs, he struggled to really make a nuisance of himself up top.


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Just before the 25-minute mark, it was 2-0. It was Kane again, playing right off Rice's shoulder to take on a lovely line-breaking pass from Bentancur. It evaded Rice and Kane was away behind him. His head was up straight away to find Son, and the pass to pick him out was perfect. Just inside Tottenham's left, he drove into the box at Zouma, the Frenchman standing him up well to stop any passed effort into the corner, but allowing him space to slip it onto his left and shoot. Luck was with him once more, the shot deflecting off the defender and easily beyond Fabianski to give Tottenham a commanding two-goal lead.

At about this point, Moyes abandoned his initial plans, shaping up closer to a 4-3-3 as Masuaku went properly onto the left wing and Lanzini went back into midfield.

It was a clear sign that West Ham were struggling, but this team has routes to goal even when they aren't performing. The changed helped, but it was an old friend at hand this time to get them back into the game. A Cresswell corning swinging away from goal was headed down by Dawson and into the path of Benrahma, who did brilliantly to control his shot and volley it with the inside of his foot into the bottom corner. Lloris was easily beaten and it was a goal the Algerian had deserved as easily the brightest of West Ham's players.

There was a murmur of excitement late in the half as Antonio clipped a cross to the back post towards Soucek, but unlike Thursday, this time the Czech midfielder was blocked off well by the defence and it drifted behind. At half-time, the sides went in at 2-1, a fair reflection of the game even if luck had ensured Tottenham had got their rewards.

The second half started slowly, not sparking to life until Tottenham won a corner and then somebody assaulted Son as he went to take it. I say assaulted, the crime committed by Cresswell as he passed the ball to follow the Tottenham forward and it hit him on the back of his leg. Down went Son, embarrassingly, and then Reguilon piled in at Cresswell to try start something. Just as things seemed pathetic enough, two people tried to chain themselves to the goalposts, presumably in protest over the torture of Tottenham's goalscorer.

Somehow both legs remained intact and the corner was taken, not after Cresswell was dragged to the referee - against his will - by Antonio to remonstrate over raised hands by Reguilon. VAR seemed uninterested, so we moved on, although one can only assume their shock over the battered and bruised Son may have clouded their judgement.

From the corner, West Ham countered. Antonio's rampaging run didn't lead directly to a chance, but West Ham maintained possession and got Masuaku into space to cross. His ball was fizzed at Lanzini, who somehow guided it around the corner for Cresswell with a deft flick. The left back picked his target and found Antonio in space, but the ball was at a slightly awkward height and Antonio could only volley over. Had Benrahma been in his place, the composure and technique needed might have been found.

It was his last action, the striker going off with Masuaku as Fornals and Yarmolenko were thrown on.

For a ten minute spell, it worked. West Ham controlled possession and the territory, but just like the League Cup quarter-final here in December, Tottenham looked comfortable keeping their visitors at a distance. Creating close to nothing, it was the last real signs of resistance as the team started to very obviously tire.


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Arguments will be made over whether the fatigue had been evident in their play throughout the game, but even if you believe the system was the issue, the short turnaround was clearly a problem. At best one training session to work on this shape was just not enough time to face a side so settled in this style of play. Fornals made little impact, whilst Yarmolenko.s flicks and tricks rarely came off. One sharp bit of movement had given him half an opening early on, but it was wasted.

As time ticked away, even the most optimistic Hammer would struggle to argue there was any signs a comeback was possible.

It was Tottenham who ended the game with chances. Kane wasted a great opening, played in smartly with a dink through the middle of the defence by Hojbjerg. Kane was through, but chose an awkward finish on the bounce with the outside of his right boot. It scooped over, the shot so clearly there to be taken with his left.

A late opening for West Ham from a corner was eventually snuffed out by Lloris, but soon the game was up. After a stoppage, a long and straight ball forward was flicked on by Kane, the striker beating both Dawson and Zouma to the ball and flicking through Son. The South Korean star took it at Fabianski and smashed it home to put the match to bed. The centre backs were entirely to blame, Zouma especially. Fingers pointed at Cresswell for keeping Son onside are aimed in the wrong place.

Too many players were not quite good enough, but they were hugely hampered by a foolish decision by the manager to try match Tottenham's system. It did not work, and by the time the changes were made, they had a mountain to climb.

The international break comes at the right time, with Moyes hopeful the likes of Bowen and Coufal can return soon after to breathe fresh life into his squad. Any remote chance of Champions League qualification through the league looks truly gone, so the manager will now have to balance his resources and his priorities. The Europa League is the biggest prize, not for the route to the Champions League (which unsurprisingly takes the media focus) but for the chance to win a cup.

A shrewd manager like Moyes is unlikely to put all his eggs in one basket, so he will look to qualify for some form of European football in the league. The FA Cup now offers only Crystal Palace a route to European football, and elimination at the semi-final stage would secure an extra place in the league for qualification. To make it into Europe once more would be a monumental success, on top of a season that is undeniably a success already.

The game lacked an edge for West Ham, not just for the players. Many fans will have felt the same, that this was the sideshow to much bigger things that have been and are to come. As disappointing as defeat is, it's not exactly a European tie with Sevilla, is it?


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Manager's Rating

David Moyes 4/10
Very poor decision to start how we did, took too long to rectify and his substitutions didn't work.

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Player Ratings

Lukasz Fabianski
He really did have very little chance on the goals, but it's hard to be too positive given he was beaten three times and barely did anything else.


Ben Johnson
Defended solidly and managed to do a good job on Reguilon. His caution on the ball matched well with Benrahma, who wanted it quickly and simply from his right back.


Aaron Cresswell
The corner saves him from an otherwise very average performance. The first half saw the defence delay on the ball and look always to be uncomfortable on it. His one really good moment in open-play going forward, Antonio wasted.


Kurt Zouma
An own goal, a deflection on another then an awful decision on the third. His worst game since Kidderminster.


Craig Dawson
Didn't really look like he knew his role. Kane was allowed to drift away from the defence too easily. Remembering the 3-3 comeback game, the first half was a lesson in why you don't allow Kane to drift off your centre backs when there is space. He punished West Ham brutally, yet again, for giving him the opportunity to play how he wanted to play.


Declan Rice
He got better, but did not seem at all sure of his positioning until the system change in the first half. Was Kane his man? He seemed to be trying to keep aware of Kane and have a more advanced starting position in midfield, but mixing tasks meant he achieved neither.


Tomas Soucek
By the time the midfield had sorted itself out, the game was gone. Unlike in the week, he couldn't really exert any influence going forward.


Arthur Masuaku
Just a sloppy error for the goal, but the kind he makes. Keep the ball and keep it simple in your own half, especially running back at your own goal and under pressure. Didn't have much of any influence going forward.


Said Benrahma
The bright spark for West Ham. Dangerous, more consistent with his use of the ball, comfortable down the right and eager to get on the ball. Took his chance immaculately.


Manuel Lanzini
Got into it a touch once moved into the middle but was started in the wrong role by his manager.


Michail Antonio
Hustle and bustle, but not much end product.



Substitutes

Andriy Yarmolenko
(Replaced Antonio, 56) Nothing came off for the Ukrainian.


Pablo Fornals
(Replaced Masuaku, 56) Worked hard and was a much better presence down the left than Masuaku. But didn't really change the game.


Nikola Vlasic
(Replaced Lanzini, 83) With very little time, he did even less.


Alphonse Areola
Did not play.


Ryan Fredericks
Did not play.


Issa Diop
Did not play.


Alex Kral
Did not play.


Mark Noble
Did not play.


Sonny Perkins
Did not play.



Match Facts

West Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Ben Johnson, Aaron Cresswell, Kurt Zouma, Craig Dawson, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Arthur Masuaku, Said Benrahma, Manuel Lanzini, Michail Antonio.

Goals: Said Benrahma 35                  .

Booked: Craig Dawson 23          .

Sent off: None.

Tottenham: Lloris, Romero, Dier, Davies, Doherty, Betancur, Hojbjerg, Reguilon (Royal 88), Kulusevski (Bergwijn 90), Son (Moura 90), Kane.

Subs not used: Gollini, Sanchez, Rodon, Winks, White, Bergwijn, Scarlett.

Goals: Zouma (9 og), Son (24, 88).

Booked: .

Sent off: None.

Referee: Anthony Taylor.

Attendance: 0.

Man of the Match: Said Benrahma.