Comment and Analysis @p_smith86
Last Updated: 05/01/18 12:05am
David Moyes has brought organisation and discipline to West Ham’s defence, taking points off Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs. Here, Peter Smith looks at how he steered his side to another impressive result at Wembley…
“There’s another side to football when you’ve not got the best players and we did that side well tonight,” a delighted David Moyes told Sky Sports after seeing his West Ham team battle to a 1-1 draw away to Tottenham.
Considering Spurs’ almost complete dominance over the course of the 90 minutes, it was a result almost as remarkable as the two screamers scored in the match.
But Moyes has found a template to frustrate the Premier League’s big guns. With only 29 per cent of possession and one shot on target compared to 31 shots faced, West Ham – fielding a back five and two holding midfielders – did just that to Tottenham at Wembley.
After suffering a valiant 2-1 comeback loss at Manchester City at the start of December, West Ham have beaten Chelsea 1-0, drawn 0-0 with Arsenal and now held Spurs. To think that reverse at City stretched a run against the ‘Big Six’ to 13 defeats in 16 fixtures highlights how impressive earning five points from those subsequent London derbies has been.
In four London derbies in all competitions under David Moyes, West Ham have managed just three shots on target. However, they’ve scored two of them, and have lost just once (W1 D2).
Yet, while these backs-to-the-walls defensive displays are usually only successful after hours of drills on the training ground, West Ham’s performance against Spurs is even more notable by the fact their plans were only formulated on Thursday morning.
“We had no time [to prepare],” said Moyes, whose side fought back to beat West Brom on Tuesday night at the London Stadium.
Perhaps, after holding firm for so long against City and then keeping clean sheets against Chelsea and Arsenal over the past month, the West Ham players know what Moyes wants from them now.
In their two previous contests with Spurs this season, West Ham have gone 3-0 behind in the September Premier League game and then slipped 2-0 down in October’s EFL Cup tie before battling back. But there was a dogged resilience to their defence this time around.
“They were well organised and willing to put their body on the line,” Sky Sports pundit Tim Sherwood said. Mark Noble agreed. “Sometimes to play against teams like Spurs you need a game plan to level it up a bit,” said the Hammers captain. “Me and Ped [Pedro Obiang] were told to sit in front of that back five and not go anywhere. I don’t know how Pedro ended up where he was! Great strike!”
Indeed, Obiang’s moment of magic is in the mix for the goal of the season prize (although he’ll have competition from Heung-min Son’s equaliser). But while his five tackles, three clearances and three interceptions won’t be remembered, that commitment to protecting the backline alongside skipper Noble was crucial at the other end.
It is hard to believe this West Ham side had shipped seven goals in their last three outings – and Moyes must wonder why his men weren’t able to apply themselves in their own third against Newcastle and Bournemouth as they did here – but five points from the festive fixtures has been a healthy return.
West Ham are now up to 15th. That may only be two points above the relegation zone but it’s also only three off the top 10. That’s how finely balanced the bottom half of the league is this season – and why results against the big guns are all the more valuable.
Next up for West Ham in the Premier League are Huddersfield, Bournemouth, Crystal Palace, Brighton and Watford. They are fixtures which will demand a different approach and Moyes will be keen to welcome back injured forwards Andy Carroll and Marko Arnautovic.
These next five fixtures could shape West Ham’s season – but their resilience against the top sides has given them an ideal platform from which to attack the teams around them.