Tottenham Hotspur vs. West Ham United: Tactical Review of London Derby

Sam Tighe@@stighefootballWorld Football Tactics Lead WriterFebruary 22, 2015


Tottenham Hotspur rescued a lucky 2-2 draw at the death against West Ham United in Sunday's London derby. A deserved two-goal cushion had been earned by Cheikhou Kouyate and Diafra Sakho, but Danny Rose and Harry Kane struck late to force a share of the spoils.

Formations and XIs


Tottenham lined up in their standard 4-2-3-1 with Andros Townsend starting on the right, Erik Lamela on the left and Mousa Dembele in the No. 10 slot. Christian Eriksen began from the bench.

West Ham also adopted a 4-2-3-1, straying from the diamond they usually use in a tactical shuffle designed specifically for this game. New signing Nene did not feature.

1. Overly Cautious West Ham

West Ham's move away from the 4-4-2 diamond was very logical, as the system lends no support to the wide defenders when playing against adventurous wingers and opposing full-backs.

Townsend was rampant for 60 minutes against Fiorentina when one-on-one with Manuel Pasqual midweek, and manager Sam Allardyce didn't want to expose Aaron Cresswell to the same treatment. Stewart Downing and Enner Valencia, playing wide-right and wide-left, respectively, got goal-side and played disciplined roles behind the ball. 

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Credit: beINSport

This adjustment created an especially interesting matchup on the right between Downing and left-back Danny Rose. The latter has burned many sides in the past surging forward, and his marker sat off him and gave him two men to beat, shielding Carl Jenkinson.

But instead of galloping forward, Rose used the space and time to lift a beautiful pass into the path of Harry Kane running in behind, and his shot on the stretch kissed the outside of the post.

2. The Reaction

It was at this stage, with Spurs on top, playing smoothly with time on the ball and having just hit the post, that West Ham's tactics changed. They became suddenly aggressive and pressed higher up the pitch, hunting for interceptions and forcing mistakes.

Credit: beINSport

They managed one almost immediately, as Dembele got caught on the edge of his own box in possession by Valencia, and a goal soon followed. The ball went left to Cresswell, and his impressive cross was headed home emphatically by Kouyate.

It was a just reward for an improved period, and the Hammers carried on snapping and biting, dominating the midfield battle in the centre of the pitch.

3. Sloppy Spurs

In the face of the increased pressure, Spurs shrank alarmingly. Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb struggled to find forward passes as the attacking midfield trio were all crowded out. Lamela, Dembele and Townsend all had shockingly poor games.

Kane ended up dropping deep to pick up the ball and on the first occasion picked out Rose's penalty-box run with a deft pass. The full-back's header landed on the roof of the net, but the move was indicative of Spurs' struggles in moving the ball back-to-front in a clean manner.

Credit: beINSport

Mason ended up taking four shots from outside the box, per WhoScored.com, due to frustration from a genuine lack of options.

4. Second-Half Adjustments

West Ham doubled their lead and played better in the opening exchanges of the second half despite Eriksen's replacing Dembele at half-time. Minutes after Sakho should have squared for a Valencia tap-in, he finished from a truly acute angle following a Mark Noble cross.

But that wasn't to be the only defining action on the game from Noble: minutes later, he somehow escaped a clear second yellow card for a bad challenge, and Allardyce substituted him for fear of an impending red.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 22:  Mousa Dembele of Spurs is pursued by Mark Noble of West Ham during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United at White Hart Lane on February 22, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive
Clive Mason/Getty Images

He brought Carlton Cole on, placing Sakho wide-right and Downing into central midfield, therefore switching to a 4-3-3. It helped solidify the middle and was an attempt to close out the game, but Spurs struck fortune before too long.

A poor Adrian punch allowed Rose to slice/mis-hit a looping finish into the net to start the comeback, and a reckless moment from Alex Song in the 95th minute gave Kane the chance to equalise from the spot—he capitalised at the second attempt.

The Hammers finished the game in a 5-4-1, with James Collins on as a third centre-back. It wasn't enough to halt another Spurs resurgence.


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