Earlier this season, the post-match chatter surrounding Tottenham Hotspur was auspicious to say the least. And why wouldn’t it be? It appeared as if they had a real shot to win the Premier League.
That dream has since faded, and Spurs continue to endure their worst stretch of play in the Prem this season. In match No. 24 against West Ham United, which are experiencing somewhat of a renaissance, Jose Mourinho’s side suffered another disappointing defeat. Despite dominating possession and out-chancing their opponents five to one, Spurs lost the game 2-1.
In the blink of an eye, Tottenham were behind. Off a broken play, lazy defensive marking allowed Irons' forward Michail Antonio to find a seam. He made the most of the opportunity and buried his own rebound in the fifth minute. Not exactly an ideal start: as is becoming obvious, Spurs have to stop shooting themselves in the foot. Yet five minutes in, they were guilty of another self-inflicted offense.
For the remainder of the first half, Spurs dominated possession. Their creative passing and movement opened up some real chances, but there was a severe lack of finishing in this one from everybody. Even stars Harry Kane and Heung-Min Son failed to hit the target. As the first half came to a close, it was clear Spurs needed a jolt of energy.
What they got instead was another egregious, self-inflicted mistake. Two minutes in, substitute Matt Doherty’s turnover at midfield eventually found its way forward to Jesse Lingard, who slipped past Spurs’ backline and fired a dart past Hugo Lloris’ far side. Center-backs Eric Dier and Davinson Sánchez were fooled by Lingard’s change of pace and direction. It was a really poor performance by both men.
As has become tradition for Spurs, they need adversity to play with conviction. After Lingard made the score 2-0, Tottenham began applying intense pressure on the Irons’ defensive structure. Eventually they found a breakthrough in the 64th minute: Gareth Bale found Lucas Moura’s head off a corner kick, and the Brazilian fired a near-post header past West Ham keeper Łukasz Fabiański.
Bale was easily Spurs’ most impactful forward player in the second half: the Welshman terrorized West Ham’s left flank repeatedly. He also fired a volley off the crossbar after 10-plus minutes of sustained attacking play.
Surely the breakthrough was imminent; unfortunately for Spurs, it just wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps nothing epitomized this more than a fluky deflection off of Son in stoppage time. The ball looped gracefully over Fabiański, yet it struck the post and was cleared. In a game fraught with chances for Spurs, they found themselves on the losing side.
Tottenham are now 2-5-1 in their last eight Premier League matches. What’s worse, the team's only wins are against Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion, the two worst teams in the league by a sizable margin. Next up for Spurs: the second leg of their Europa League tie with Wolfsberg. Pending absolute calamity, Spurs should see themselves comfortably through.
One more note:
- Mourinho may have unlocked a dual-flanking strategy in this game. During the first half, Son and Sergio Reguilón, back from injury, created a bevy of chances. In the second half, Bale and Doherty did the same down the opposite flank. Perhaps this is an indication of things to come?