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Tottenham 1–1 West Ham: Three talking points from Wembley Stadium

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Tottenham

Heung-min Son’s thunderous late drive cancelled out Pedro Obiang’s equally sensational effort for West Ham to salvage a point for Tottenham on a frustrating night for the hosts at Wembley Stadium.

Heading into the match on the back of three consecutive Premier League wins, Mauricio Pochettino’s side started expectedly strong against a West Ham outfit depleted by injuries.

Harry Kane saw an effort ruled out for offside before having a drive pushed away by Adrian whilst Christian Eriksen’s powerful drive was tipped over by the Spaniard to keep things level at half-time.

And it was the hosts who came out strongest after the break too, with Kane having a strong penalty appeal waved away by referee Mike Dean after appearing to be hauled down by a clumsy Pablo Zabaleta at the back post, before the England man was denied by last-ditch defending seconds later.

It seemed that Tottenham’s wastefulness in front of goal would come back to haunt them when Pedro Obiang struck a blistering 30-yard drive into the roof of the net to give West Ham the lead.

But Heung-Min Son replied in equally eye-catching style with seven minutes to go, rocketing a 25-yard strike past a helpless Adrian to salvage a point for the hosts in a game they should have won.

A frustrating derby draw sees Spurs miss out on the chance to close the gap to fourth-placed Liverpool to just one point, now three adrift, whilst West Ham move two away from relegation.

Two wonder goals light up Wembley Stadium

For 70 minutes on Thursday night it was something of a turgid affair.

The attack vs defence nature of the game was clear for all to see, with West Ham more than happy sitting deep and holding out for a draw, and it was little more than a training exercise for Tottenham.

Aside from a few Adrian saves there was little to get excited about as the hosts tried to find a way to unlock the visitors’ defence, but as time ticked on it began to seem more and more likely that the Hammers would frustrate Mauricio Pochettino’s men.

That was, until Pedro Obiang turned the game on its head with a moment of utter individual brilliance.

With his side’s first shot on goal all match – in the 70th minute – he thumped a piledriver from 30-yards into the roof of the net and past Hugo Lloris, giving West Ham supporters hope of a shock win.

Yet Tottenham continued to knock at the door and they replied with an equally stunning effort courtesy of the in-form Heung-min Son, who rifled home a 25-yard strike to restore some parity.

There may have been a lot of Premier League football played over the past fortnight but it seemed that the best was saved until last, and Wembley played host to two of the best goals of the season.

Moyes’ top-six blueprint works once again

Despite winning on just one of their previous 15 Premier League visits to Tottenham, David Moyes’ side would have gone into Thursday’s London derby in good spirits and believing that they could cause another upset after coming from behind to beat Spurs in the Carabao Cup earlier this season.

On that occasion they came from 2-0 down at half-time to complete a remarkable 3-2 turnaround in what proved to be Slaven Bilic’s final victory as manager, but any hope of a similar result a few months down the line seemed unlikely prior to kick-off considering the Hammers’ lengthy injury list.

Both Aaron Cresswell and Marko Arnautovic were left out of the matchday squad after picking up injuries during the 2-1 win over West Brom whilst two-goal hero Andy Carroll also missed out again.

These fresh injuries meant that West Ham’s bench was down to the bare minimum, with their substitutes against Spurs including 18-year-old Domingos Quina, fellow youngsters Moses Makasi and Sead Haksabanovic and the far from fully fit Carroll.

But despite having a stretched squad at his disposal it was yet another inspired and magnificent defensive effort from David Moyes’ side, reminiscent of recent games against Chelsea and Arsenal.

They were tight and compact and offered the hosts little in the way of glaring opportunities, being more than happy to allow them the ball on the edge of the area and limit them to long-range shots.

The Hammers’ application was summed up perfectly in the dying seconds when Victor Wanyama, Dele Alli and Son all had shots blocked by some desperate, last-ditch defending, and although people will complain about their negative tactics away from home they deserve credit for executing them.

Since Moyes has come in he’s seen his side beat Chelsea, take a point off of Arsenal, push Manchester City to the very end and now earn a point against Spurs, all with similarly defensive displays, and if they can translate these performances into games against bottom-half sides then there’s enough to suggest they’ll be fine when May comes around.

Spurs momentum stalls with derby draw

After a limping start to the 2017/18 season earnt talks of a ‘Wembley Hoodoo’, it seemed that Tottenham had been starting to build up some momentum in their pursuit of their top four rivals.

Over the hectic festive period Mauricio Pochettino’s side had won three Premier League matches out of three, including an impressively convincing win away at Burnley, and there wouldn’t have been many predicting anything other than a routine win on Thursday against struggling West Ham.

Yet, for all of their domination of possession and for all of their shots on goal, Tottenham were brought back down to earth in disappointing fashion as they missed the chance to close the gap on Liverpool to a single point.

In all truth it could have been a lot worse for Pochettino’s side had Heung-min Son’s brilliant strike not nestled into the net in the 83rd minute but it will be two points dropped rather than one gained.

The hosts were in control from the first whistle, almost exclusively playing their football inside the Hammers’ territory, and the fact that the home side had 31 shots to West Ham’s 3 and made 42 touches in the penalty area compared to just 4 tells its own story of how dominant Tottenham were.

Yet statistics count for nothing if you can’t translate territory into goals and Pochettino will be left ruing his side’s wastefulness ahead of a tough run of games at the end of the month, with Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and a European trip to Juventus approaching on the horizon.

It’s this run of back-to-back matches that will be a true test of their top-four credentials, and Pochettino will know that his side can’t afford to be as wasteful in front of goal against better sides.

Will is a Multimedia Journalism graduate from the University of Salford, specialising in the art of sports. Long-time suffering Northampton Town fan who once saw us win a league title. Find him on Twitter - @willypearson.

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Burnley

Burnley 0-1 Manchester United: Three talking points from Turf Moor

Rob Meech

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Photo: Reuters

Anthony Martial scored the only goal of the game as Manchester United recorded their third consecutive victory by seeing off Burnley at Turf Moor. In a game devoid of end-to-end entertainment, the Frenchman struck in the 54th minute when his right-footed shot found the net via the underside of the crossbar.

Burnley tried in vain to force a leveller but could not find a way past David de Gea, as their winless run extended to seven Premier League matches. United, meanwhile, have maintained their grip on second spot but remain 12 points drift of runaway leaders Manchester City. Here are three talking points…

United pass another away-day test

Despite rumours of unrest at Old Trafford, United are now unbeaten in eight Premier League matches. While their hopes of reeling in Manchester City may be remote, Jose Mourinho’s men are red-hot favourites to finish as runners-up. That would be a huge improvement on last season – their first under Mourinho – where United finished sixth. It was only their success in the Europa League that guaranteed them a place in the Champions League.

The Red Devils are definitely progressing and the expected arrival of Alexis Sanchez would give them another dimension. In particular, their away form will please Mourinho. This was United’s fifth victory in their past six Premier League games on their travels, a run that is helping to keep the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool at bay.

Burnley is a notoriously tricky place to visit, but United withstood the physical threat of the hosts and just about had enough to claim all three points.

Burnley are feeling the effects

When looking at the table, Burnley’s position appears to be very comfortable. In eighth place and with 34 points to their name, the Clarets are all but guaranteed to be playing Premier League football again next season. That would have been manager Sean Dyche’s priority and he can feel satisfied with the job he has done.

Nonetheless, this is a difficult period for Burnley, who have not tasted victory since they beat Stoke City on December 12. Scoring goals has been their biggest problem, having drawn a blank in four of their seven-game winless  run. The Clarets are not renowned as being free-scoring – they have found the net only 19 times this season – and rely on a solid defensive foundation.

Perhaps the exertions of their promising start have taken their toll on a settled side. The challenge for Dyche, who had been linked with the Everton job during the height of Burnley’s success, is to ensure his players do not fall into the trap of thinking they have nothing to play for.

Martial is making rapid progress

The Frenchman began the campaign out of favour at United, but he has regained his place in the side thanks to a series of consistent performances. His output has been productive, too. His goal against Burnley was his third in a row, taking him to 11 for the season. Allied to his seven assists, Martial is beginning to fulfil his immense potential.

He cut a frustrated figure at being kept out of the starting XI by Marcus Rashford – there was even speculation he might be on his way out of Old Trafford. But Martial said all the right things publicly and is no longer in the ‘supersub’ category. Competition for places will only intensify if and when Sanchez’s switch from Arsenal is completed.

But the former Monaco starlet should not fear the Chilean’s arrival, but relish it. He has proved he can be a trustworthy player for United. Like Luke Shaw, he is another to have benefited from some stern words from Mourinho, who will soon have an embarrassment of attacking riches to call upon.

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Bournemouth

West Ham 1-1 Bournemouth: Three talking points from the London Stadium

Rob Meech

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Hernandez
Photo: Reuters

West Ham United and AFC Bournemouth extended their respective unbeaten runs with a 1-1 draw at the London Stadium. Both clubs have climbed away from the relegation zone in recent weeks and this was a keenly-fought encounter between two evenly-matched sides.

Following a goalless first half, the Cherries broke the deadlock through Ryan Fraser after a breakaway, only for Javier Hernandez to equalise for the hosts 64 seconds later. A share of the spoils was a fair reflection and means West Ham and Bournemouth, 11th and 12th respectively, have identical records from the past six Premier League matches. Here are three talking points…

Future looks bright for both clubs

Just a month ago, the outlook was markedly different for both West Ham and Bournemouth. At Christmas, the Cherries were in the bottom three and the Hammers were not much better off. But the eventful 3-3 draw between these two teams on Boxing Day proved to be the start of an unbeaten run for each, which has given both real hope of avoiding relegation.

Such is the congested nature of the bottom half that it only takes a couple of victories to change the complexion on the table. Both clubs have won two and drawn three of their previous five fixtures, which has been enough to put clear daylight between themselves and the drop-zone.

This game, much like the corresponding fixture at the Vitality Stadium, suggests neither West Ham nor Bournemouth should be in serious trouble at the end of the campaign – if they can maintain their form. Equally though, David Moyes and Eddie Howe will be aware that complacency is not an option.

Impressive Fraser continues his resurgence

Bournemouth’s upturn in results since Christmas has coincided with a revitalised Fraser. The Scottish winger, affectionally known as ‘Wee Man’ by Cherries supporters, now has three goals and one assist in his past four appearances. His finishing has noticeably improved this season and he took his goal against West Ham with aplomb, firing the ball past Adrian after a defence-splitting pass from the returning Junior Stanislas.

Furthermore, Fraser’s improved stamina has enabled him to be effective for longer. Previously, the 23-year-old began to flag towards the latter stages and he was often replaced. But a better diet has paid dividends this campaign and he is rapidly becoming a key figure for Howe. Fraser has pace to burn and a directness that gives the team something different. Now though, he is having a real impact in games and his five Premier League goals are second only to Callum Wilson in the scoring charts.

Can West Ham afford to let Hernandez leave?

Speculation has surfaced in the past few days that Moyes may be willing to sell Hernandez, who only joined the club last summer. His arrival under Slaven Bilic was hailed as a real coup, but he has fallen down the pecking order since Moyes took the reins, with the former Manchester United supremo preferring Marko Arnautovic up top.

Hernandez though, has a creditable career goalscoring record and underlined his predatory instinct at the London Stadium. Only a minute after the Hammers had gone behind, the Mexican popped up in the right place to poke the ball past Asmir Begovic. It was Hernandez’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all of which have been scored from inside the penalty area.

With Andy Carroll expected to be sidelined for a month through injury, West Ham’s striking resources would be depleted further if Hernandez is allowed to leave. While he may not offer much outside the box, as he illustrated against Bournemouth that he is the ideal man to call on when a goal is needed.

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Arsenal

Arsenal 4-1 Crystal Palace: Three talking points from the Emirates

Rob Meech

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Arsenal
Photo: Reuters

A barnstorming first-half performance against Crystal Palace saw Arsenal record their first victory of 2018. Nacho Monreal, Alex Iwobi, Laurent Koscielny and Alexandre Lacazette all scored in the opening 22 minutes to stun Crystal Palace. Arsenal could not add to their tally as the visitors stemmed the bleeding and replied with a late consolation through Luka Milivojevic.

This was a much-needed victory for Arsenal, whose ambitions of qualifying for the Champions League have taken a blow in recent weeks. Palace meanwhile, have been in impressive form since Roy Hodgson took charge, but this defeat has checked their progress. Here are three talking points from the Emirates…

Mesut Ozil steps up in Alexis Sanchez’s absence

With Alexis Sanchez’s move to Manchester United rumoured to be nearing completion, this was a chance for Arsenal supporters to see how the team might shape up without him. Sanchez was excluded from the side that lost to Bournemouth last weekend, but his absence was hardly felt here.

That might have had something to do with the return of Mesut Ozil from injury. The Germany international was influential throughout, particularly in partnership with the rejuvenated Jack Wilshere. Ozil is sometimes accused of drifting in and out of games against top-quality opposition, but when he is given licence to express himself without defensive responsibility, there are few better players to watch in the Premier League.

Although he failed to get on the scoresheet, Ozil showed Gunners fans that there can be life after Sanchez. It should not be forgotten that Ozil is another Arsenal player in the final six months of his contract. Tying him down to a new deal must be a priority for the club.

A reality check for lacklustre Palace

After losing their first seven Premier League matches – without scoring a goal in the process – relegation seemed nailed on for Palace. The appointment of Hodgson was largely derided, but the former England boss has had a remarkable impact in a relatively short space of time at Selhurst Park.

Survival is by no means guaranteed, but such has been their upturn in form that it is hard to imagine the Eagles being sucked back into trouble. It says a lot about their progress that many thought an upset might have been on the cards. Palace, however, were left shell-shocked after Arsenal’s four-goal burst.

When the Gunners click, they can be irresistible. Palace fans need not be too alarmed, even if their defending was lax. In fact, they should be heartened that their players did not capitulate in the second period, with the game effectively over. Although Milivojevic’s goal was too, little too late, it was just reward for a much-improved second-half performance.

Lacazette issues a timely reminder 

With a 3-0 advantage after just 13 minutes, Arsenal were in cruise control. But it was Lacazette’s goal, rounding off a superb team move to make it 4-0, that would have provided the biggest cheer. After hitting the ground running following his big-money transfer from Lyon last summer, the 26-year-old had endured a goal drought that stretched all the way back to December 2.

With questions being asked about his form, amid speculation that Arsenal are set to launch a raid for Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, this was a timely reminder that Lacazette has plenty to offer. His overall record of nine Premier League goals from 24 appearances is more than respectable for a newcomer to the English game.

Lacazette will hope that his goal against Palace can be the catalyst for another scoring run. Without Sanchez, the burden rests more heavily on the France international and if a move for Aubameyang does not materialise, he will have a big part to play in Arsenal’s push for the top four.

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