Tottenham Focus - Spurs impress as Dempsey and Walker return to form
Tottenham took three deserved points at White Hart Lane against West Ham United. Perhaps more importantly however, was the nature of the 3-1 victory. Spurs played well with fluidity, intensity and balance in posting their three goals before the Hammers could score their consolation goal. The only positive for West Ham was that their performance on the field was better than those of their fans, whose offensive chants marred the afternoon.
André Villas-Boas again made some selections that pleased supporters. After shining in Rome, Hugo Lloris started and once more justified his selection with an impressive performance.
Michael Dawson was also brought in at the expense of William Gallas, whose form, maybe through tiredness and age, seems to have dipped. Arguably, Dawson’s strength is against an opponent like Andy Carroll - an old-fashioned centre forward against an old-fashioned centre half. Overall Dawson played Carroll well and his perceived lack of pace was negated by Lloris’ speed off his line behind the defence. As well as Dawson played however, Liverpool’s Luis Suarez on Wednesday will be a different proposition with his pace and movement. Whether Villas-Boas sticks with Dawson will be interesting to see.
Gareth Bale, Jermain Defoe and Sandro also excelled against the Hammers, causing the visitors problems all afternoon. The performances of Clint Dempsey and Kyle Walker should give their Portuguese coach the greatest encouragement. Both players had been struggling to match their form of last season so far in this campaign. To some criticism from fans, Villas-Boas had stuck by the players, continuing to play them despite their waning form. Villas-Boas’ trust appears to have paid off however, just like it did with Defoe. Against West Ham, both Walker and Dempsey had arguably their best performances of the season. Walker linked well going forward and defensively was reminiscent of his feats from last season. Dempsey, for his part, linked the midfield and attack well, hit the woodwork, got an assist and played a neat instant pass under pressure to Lennon which led to the third goal.
Villas-Boas’ tactics worked well. The 4-2-3-1 formation utilised a high pressing game (especially Sandro) and high defensive line, compacting the play, winning the ball back high up the pitch to start attacks. Spurs won the midfield battle helped by the seemingly odd positioning of West Ham’s two holding players - Mark Noble positioned more often in between centre backs and Mohamed Diamé nearer to Carroll.
Tottenham’s front players lined up similar to the way they did against Reading in September. Gareth Bale, Defoe and, in this case, Dempsey played close together and with Bale slightly narrower were able to interchange positions and pull West Ham’s defence around. With Lennon and Walker maintaining width on the right and Jan Vertonghen (and Bale) on the left, the Hammers’ defence was not allowed to narrow. All created space for Spurs going forward.
There still seem some points for Spurs to address. They failed to capitalise on the long periods of early pressure before Defoe’s superb individual opening goal and perhaps not enough clean sheets are being kept. Overall however, this was a very good performance against a team that was above them a start of play.
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