Tottenham Hotspur 2-0 West Ham United
Sunday, 19th February 2023
by Chris Wilkerson
West Ham were easily beaten by Tottenham this Sunday afternoon, an awful performance punished by a 2-0 defeat thanks to goals from Emerson Royal and substitute Heung-Min Son.A selection to make the blood boil was as defensive as it looked, and West Ham created absolutely nothing against a Tottenham side who struggle at home.
There were two changes from last week, with Downes in for Benrahma and Soucek for Paquet??. Aguerd was fit, and West Ham lined up in something close to a 5-4-1. And it was about as unambitious as even that defensive formation can be.
The first half was not one to remember. It started fast for West Ham, Bowen coming close from 20 yards after Soucek bombed down the right to get onto a Coufal throw and hooking it back around the area.
He found Bowen in space, who hammered the bouncing ball first time. Forster was rooted, but the ball flew wide.
It was a bright start for The Hammers, Soucek aggressive out of possession, putting pressure on the Spurs players high up the pitch and happily making strong challenges. His intent was clear, the midfielder rushing to get back up and get onto loose balls to try and get his side moving suddenly on any turnovers, but it was a team lacking creativity.
Bowen was trying to get close to Antonio when on the ball, drifting central from the left.
But the game was more notable for how limited it was then any incidents or chances. It was a scrappy afsair at times, Soucek, Skipp and Romero notably enjoying some good challenges. That enthusiasm from Skipp was punished early, an unnecessary challenge seeing him booked as his studs cracked down on Antonio's boot in the middle of the park.
It wasn't until about the 12th minute we had something to talk about.
Another handball incident, and another moment for outrage that won't understand the rules. This time, a little ball was looked to be clipped around Kehrer in the box, and it hit the hand of the German. His hand was low, but not extended away from his body. You only have to look how close his arm was to his chest to see it was resting naturally.
And that was about it for moments to remember. Little did we know at this point that this period was to be West Ham's best in the game.
The selection of Downes will be a sticking point - or the selection of Downes and Soucek together - as a team that had found points through attrition were pushed back to another level of defensive football.
The plan appeared to be that Downes would allow Soucek to go forward, as if Rice, a back three and two wing backs were not enough protection.
Whilst neither were too awful individually, it left this side with no-one who could find a good forward pass with any consistency. Who was there to thread a ball or find a creative solution? Even Bowen was dragged to the left wing to defend, leaving Antonio more isolated than he has ever been in a West Ham shirt. And this is a striker who has been used as a one-man frontline throughout the majority of his time up top for The Hammers.
Once Tottenham got accustomed to the shape of their visitors, the game became entirely theirs to play and win. West Ham appeared only to be relying on picking up scraps and hoping to make a sudden chance.
The longer is stayed scrappy and fragmented, the better things were for West Ham, which is pretty sad to write. Until Tottenham could get into any rhythm, there was little else going to happen. There was not really any sense West Ham wanted to raise their levels, only bring Tottenham down to into the mud with them.
There was eventually a shot on target in the 36th minute - H?,jbjerg hitting into the centre of goal from 30 yards - but the quality of the game really was poor. As an entertainment business, this was very much akin to reruns of Jermaine Jenas presenting a One Show segment on sedimentation.
Antonio became more and more isolated as Tottenham realised their opponents were not going to get numbers around him, so squeezed his space and allowed their wider centre backs to get more involved in play. The wing backs had no fear of someone going beyond them, especially when Ben Davies was on a side with Coufal, Downes and Soucek.
The closest thing to a real chance came in stoppage time. First Richarlison was played in by a lovely curling diagonal pass from Kane, but forced a touch wide by the run of the ball, his shot saved by Fabianski.
From the resulting corner, Romero rose well to power a header in that flew just over the bar.
Whilst they were not quality chances themselves, they were clearer signs of the way Tottenham had now taken control. After that scrappy opening, this was now their game, and West Ham were only retreating further.
There were no changes at half time, which only suggests this was a plan deemed to be working.
Clearly, the players were bored, too, as it was West Ham that really gave the hosts their first two chances of the half.
First was sloppy play from Aguerd, not even closed down too hurriedly by Dejan Kulusevski, but forced into a mistake and into conceding possession. It rolled to Kane, who carried a short way before returning the ball back to the Swedish winger.
He delayed, was slowed by Aguerd, and then laid it off to Richarlison on the edge of the area, but his shot was tame and too close to the goalkeeper.
A minute later, it was Rice guilty of sloppy play, another who was dispossessed by Kulusevski. His poked challenge nudged it to Kane in the box on the diagonal, but the England captain snapped at his chance and sliced wide.
Embed from Getty Images
10 minutes of Tottenham football later, it was 1-0. And it was far, far too easy.
The simple movement from the front three to drop deeper left space for Ben Davies to run into from wing back. He was away from Coufal with ease, and as he bombed through, H?,jbjerg stepped out from defence with the ball and into midfield under no pressure, finding a straight pass through midfield and defence, the two so compact together that a ball could bypass both.
Aguerd was drawn across from the left, and Emerson Royal burst into the space he left, with no-one following. With Aguerd between Davies and Royal, all the Welsh wing-back had to do was wait for the defender to move towards him, and once he did, he slipped it across to Royal, who took a touch into the box and guided the ball into the bottom corner to give his side a deserved lead.
Instantly, West Ham had their first real chance of the game, although it was more a half-chance. A long ball forward was barely flicked on by Antonio, but whilst Romero thought himself comfortable with a five-yard head start on Bowen, the winger ate up the ground behind him, got onto the ball in the box and then drilled low from an angle. It was comfortably saved by Forster before rolling behind.
From here, you might have hoped the manager would make a change. His move, whilst in discussion with his bench over any substitutions, was to play with Flynn Downes on the right of the front three. For 15 minutes.
That's right, 15 minutes were sacrificed whilst the manager pondered his next move. And could you guess who was to be replaced as Ings and Benrahma stepped off the bench? Antonio and Downes.
Nothing else had happened in that stretch, no West Ham chance, no West Ham improvement. Heung-Min Son was on, his pace now scaring the West Ham defensive seven as he gleefully got the ball in deep areas and ran to goal.
A minute after those two belated substitutions, Son had scored and the game was over with just over 10 minutes to go.
Ogbonna will be most disappointed in this one, losing the tussle with Kane for a bouncing ball 10 yards inside the West Ham half. The striker won the battle, won the ball and quickly played a pass through to Son, who glided through and powered the ball into the bottom corner.
Bowen soon fashioned a slight opening for Benrahma, which was put wide weakly by the Algerian.
Johnson and Fornals were thrown on late on as West Ham went to a back four and finally added someone who could pass into their midfield. Try as he did, it was a waste of Fornals's time to try and bring life to a team that were limp from the second the team was named.
The substitute Perisic was lucky to stay on the pitch after two nasty challenges late on, but it was a game finished. Tottenham are not an open and ambitious side, a 2-0 lead was enough for them, and West Ham were less than short of ideas.
And so The Hammers finished the weekend in the bottom three, continuing their record as the worst away team in the league, with just one win on the road, all the way back to Fornals's deflected effort at Villa Park at the end of August.
And so, too, will the pressure return sharply on Moyes, whose defensive football can be tolerated when short-term results are acceptable, but is most unpalatable when performances and results are poor.
Up next are Nottingham Forest, and it's another relegation six-pointer.
David Moyes 3/10
This report is full of anger at the manager, and whilst the more stalwart fans who have tired of negativity will be put off by this, today is a day he is fully deserving of very strong criticism. If you cannot criticise him when he's bad, there is no credible defence when he isn't. Cowardly might be strong, but he appears unable to find attacking solutions nor balance attack with defence. The back five has been accepted because the team needs to find form, but pushing a four in front of it that had Downes, Rice and Soucek was not just horrible to watch, but horribly inept.
Bowen was given far too much to do, Antonio lacked any support and Tottenham were welcomed to attack. They may not have been at their best this season, but if you give an attack that much, they are going to eventually find gaps, beat the defenders and score.
The delay on the substitutions was equally as criminal as the initial selection and allowing it to continue until the first goal. That was 15 minutes of time sacrificed to make a very obvious decision. We could all predict who the two going off were, who the two coming on would be, and it took that long. He deserved to see his team concede so suddenly after it as punishment for his dithering.
It is this, more than the actual results, that mean he should not continue as manager next season.
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Player RatingsLukasz Fabianski
No chance on the goals, did his job fine until then.
Did a good job on Richarlison, and whilst the space Davies runs into is in that channel, he's followed his man and should be able to rely on other defenders to do the same.
No idea where he was when Royal walked through and scored, offered nothing going forward, although as covered, the players are not really to blame.
Has often played this role against Kane, and gets drawn into areas where he doesn't want to be and isn't particularly adept at defending from.
A few sloppy moments on the ball, a bit naive in how eager he was to close the space to Davies.
Wasn't an attacking option at any point, not prepared for Davies's run from deep on the opening goal.
Too passive a performance from Rice. With Downes and Soucek beside him, Rice had no one to make those direct, more incisive passes for him, and it highlights this gap in his game.
The main positives in the first half were Soucek's energy in the Tottenham half, making big challenges and putting players under pressure. At times, it felt like he was the only one who would.
A game where his role was to stand deeper in the areas Soucek left, then move to the right flank and play as a second right wing-back It's not that he did anything wrong, per se, but there was very little to do right. Neat and tidy, as ever, but his impact on the game was negligible and he offers nowhere near enough going forward to be playing in a midfield with such limited intent.
The only one who comes out with any credit, and I doubt he'll feel he played particularly well. He was the only threat, most of which he made for himself. Asked to play as a defender on the left and the only support to Antonio up front.
It is important to say that Antonio had absolutely no chance. To end up with a good score, he was basically going to have to control clearances, beat three players, make it 50 yards to goal and then beat the goalkeeper. He also did his job badly, but I am not sure it would have mattered had he done it any better.
(Replaced Downes 71) Looked a little lost, but the game was dead when he came on. He didn't do too well within it, but that's no surprise, looking at how the team played.
(Replaced Antonio 71) Looked a bit lost coming into a side that he's not yet familiar with, and he's not the ideal lone striker anyway.
(Replaced Emerson 81) Added energy, covered a counter well. Little time for much else.
(Replaced Ogbonna 81) Gets credit for the energy he came on with and his willingness to get on the ball and try and find forward passes. In this team, there is a very low bar for that.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Did not play.
Match FactsWest Ham United: Lukasz Fabianski, Thilo Kehrer, Emerson Palmieri, Angelo Ogbonna, Nayef Aguerd, Vladimir Coufal, Declan Rice, Tomas Soucek, Flynn Downes, Jarrod Bowen, Michail Antonio.
Booked: Michail Antonio 62 .
Sent off: None.
Tottenham Hotspur: Forster, Royal, Romero, Dier, Lenglet (Perisic 78), Davies, Skipp (Sarr 89), Højbjerg, Kulusevski (Moura 89), Richarlison (Son 68), Kane.
Subs not used: Austin, Porro, Tanganga, Sánchez, Danjuma .
Goals: Royal (56), Son (72).
Booked: Skipp (9), Perisic (88).
Sent off: None.
Referee: Michael Oliver.
Man of the Match: Jarrod Bowen.