Ange Postecoglou, the manager at Tottenham, watched Spurs continue their slide in the standings Thursday night against West Ham. Despite dominating their opponents for much of the match, Spurs once again squandered a lead to lose a game. The hosts went ahead early in the night thanks to a header by Cristian Romero. The central defender looped a headed shot into the top corner of the net to mark his return to the team.
However, things eventually fell apart for the north London club once again in the second half. Star West Ham winger Jarrod Bowen leveled the scoreline in the 52nd minute thanks to a fortuitous bounce of the ball inside the Spurs box. James Ward-Prowse then scored the game-winner about 22 minutes later after capitalizing on a bizarre back pass from Destiny Udogie.
The disappointing result means that Spurs have not recorded a victory in any of their last five Premier League meetings. While they were top of the table just five weeks ago, Spurs now sit outside of a Champions League spot in fifth place.
Hammers ground out victory by employing low block
As spotted by The Standard, West Ham manager David Moyes was able to get the better of Spurs by utilizing a low block. Lower-level clubs generally use this tactic to protect their goal. The idea behind the move is to keep defenders close and compact while defending deep in your territory. This, in turn, limits space for the opposition to exploit.
West Ham’s use of the tactic was only more amplified as the game went on. After the Hammers grabbed the lead, there was less motivation to take risks going forward. Other Premier League managers were likely watching the strategic performance of West Ham and could use it as a blueprint to deal with Spurs under Ange Postecoglou.
The low block is not, however, anything new. Smaller clubs have been using the plan for a long time. Nevertheless, some teams have been able to find a way to deal with the issue. For instance, it was reported in October that Arsenal faces the most intense low blocks among teams in the top five European leagues this season.
Despite regularly having to break down defenses in a more difficult way, the Gunners are leading the Premier League. The fellow north London club has also already qualified for the Champions League knockout round as well.
Postecoglou, Spurs missing Maddison’s creativity going forward
Tottenham’s inability to break down this low block (so far) has undoubtedly been hindered by the loss of James Maddison. The creative midfielder has been out of action since suffering an ankle injury against Chelsea in early November. Without Maddison, Spurs have failed to win a match and have not looked like the same team.
The England international currently leads the Premier League in shot-creating actions per 90 minutes and goal-creating actions as well. Maddison’s 1.23 goal-creating actions per game is significantly higher than any other player in England’s top flight. Although the season is still young, only one player, Kevin De Bruyne, finished the 2022/23 season averaging more than one goal-creating action each match.
Along with the absence of Maddison, Spurs have also not gotten much productivity out of some of their pricey forwards. For instance, Brennan Johnson and Richarlison have scored a combined two goals in Premier League play so far this season. The duo cost the club over $120 million combined in transfer fees.
Postecoglou and Spurs will try to bounce back after a series of disappointing results against Newcastle on Sunday, Dec. 10. The Magpies currently have one of the top defenses in the English top flight.
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