The Premier League began with a bang on Saturday, as millions of people; myself included rejoiced as our clubs graced our screens again. In particular, I will be looking at Spurs’ victory over their rivals West Ham United with a last minute goal by Eric Dier.
There was Manchester United showing perhaps it wasn’t all David Moyes’ fault last season as their problems continue to mount. There was Arsenal proving that they can win games at the death without playing well (a sign of potential challengers, or that they are not quite as good as everyone was expecting). Leicester showed they weren’t going to be pushovers in their first season back in the top flight as they gained a highly credible draw against a strong Everton side, and in East London the first London Derby of the season between West Ham and Spurswas filled with the passion we expect from those games, with two red cards, controversy and a 93rd minute winner.
It’s that game that we will be analysing with 5 biggest talking points from West Ham vs. Tottenham Hotspur.
For some players, Pochettino’s system is going to take some getting used to
Tottenham lined up pretty much as expected with Capoue keeping his place at the base of midfield from pre-season, Lamela continuing his resurrection on the right of midfield and Eriksen hoping to carry on last seasons form into the new one as he was deployed in the middle of the three behind Adebayor.
However, from the start it was obvious that some players perhaps did not fully understand their roles. The defensive shape of the team was good as was the signature from a Pochettino side; pressing high up the pitch, but it was rather the attacking movement that seemed to confuse several players. Lamela was cutting inside constantly which coupled with the right footed Lennon on the left, left the team devoid of any width to break through the resilient West Ham back line.
The centre of the pitch in West Ham’s half was jam packed as Lamela and Lennon came inside looking for the ball, taking away the space that Eriksen can be so effective in. It’s no wonder things improved in the second half as Lamela and Lennon switched sides and then improved even more dramatically when Townsend and Holtby (someone who has, from the start, understood Pochettino’s system) replaced their fellow wingers.
The quick passing game also seems to take some getting used to as Eriksen and Lamela attempted to get the ball moving as quick as possible taking away their accuracy and effectiveness shown by a 73% and 72% passing rate respectively; numbers which I’m certain will get far better as the season wears on.
There is no doubt that as the players get trained and versed more and more by Pochettino and his team, the quality of movement and understanding of their positions will increase as will the fluidity of their play as they keep the ball moving constantly. I cannot wait!
Eric Dier was a Hidden Gem
£16 million was the reported price Arsenal paid for Calum Chambers, £26 million for Adam Lallana, £35 million for Andy Carroll and so on.
As is so often said “English players are overpriced” and it is hard to argue, yes Chambers is a good young player but £16 million could well prove to be excessive in a few years. Koscielny cost under £12 million, Vertonghen cost around £11 million and Kompany cost under £8 million.
Perhaps it is a silly comparison to make but the trend of English players costing far more than they should seems to be continuing, I mean £26 million for Lallana? And yet in the 93rd minute up pops Eric Dier, a 20 year old from Cheltenham and a £4 million pound signing for Spurs from Sporting Lisbon, to score a beautiful winner to give his new club their first 3 points of the season.
Dier is almost exactly a year older than Chambers, but showed great maturity throughout the 94 minutes at the Boleyn Ground, first at centre back then at right back following Naughton’s sending off.
Very seldom was he beaten for pace or strength and his discipline to not dive into tackles; Danny Rose take note, is extremely assuring. There was a moment in the game when Aaron Cresswell; who I felt was highly impressive, was running at Dier on the left. Dier kept him in the corner despite Creswell’s twists and turns to get a ball into box, Dier stayed on his feet and eventually forced Cresswell to put it out for a goal kick. It was a moment that perhaps went unnoticed by many but highlights the ability and maturity of Spurs’ new 20 year old that learnt his trade in Portugal.
Then of course, there was his run and finish to score the winner. Following a 60 yard dash up the pitch from right back he decided to stay up front and make a run across the defence. Harry Kane played a superb ball in behind Winston Reid, Dier took the ball in his stride to round the keeper and used his left foot to slot the ball into the back of the net. Cue wild celebrations from the Tottenham faithful.
Having been at the club for less than two weeks, Dier was highly impressive and slotted into the team with ease and at only 20 he represents a great investment for Tottenham and Pochettino.
West Ham have improved but are still a long way off where they would like to be…
Last year, Upton Park was not a happy place. Hearing your own fans boo you off the pitch is bad enough, but hearing it after winning a game is nearly unheard of and yet that’s exactly what happened last season in West Ham’s match against Hull.
Following the fans’ complete despair at the style of play that their beloved team has adopted under Sam Allardyce, the chairman promised change. Many thought that change would be in the shape of a new manager. Instead, the chairmen promised that they have been assured by Allardyce that he will adopt a new pass and move style of football that the fans have been craving for years and based on the evidence against Tottenham, he has tried.
There were long periods of the game where West Ham had Spurs’ backs to the wall most notably was the period that led to Naughton’s sending off. However, it is obvious that if the Hammers truly want to evolve as a team then Allardyce is not the man to lead it. Perhaps limited by his lack of fit striking options that forced him to start with Carlton Cole up front, the movement by West Ham looked slow. The fact that they didn’t have a clear chance against 10 men the whole game bar Downing’s opportunity in the last few minutes that forced a brilliant save out of Lloris, says as much as it needs to.
They were forced to take shots from far out and never really troubled the Spurs goal. So it seems that progress has been made at Upton Park but if they are to truly achieve the style that the Hammers faithful feel the team should play, Allardyce would have to move on sooner or later.
The Hammers have done well in the transfer market
Aaron Cresswell; a 24 year old English left-back who made the championship team of the year, Enner Valencia, a classy and quick striker who made a big splash in the World Cup, Cheikhou Kouyaté, another product of Belgium adds some defensive steel.
These three signings along with Mauro Zárate and Carl Jenkinson represent some good business done by West Ham this summer. All part of Allardyce’s hope to change his teams style of play and its hard to argue that these signings wont go a distance to achieve this. Against Tottenham, Aaron Cresswell looked comfortable, confident and had a good duel with Eric Dier for most of the game, he shows great potential at 24 for a Premiership rookie and will be an asset to West Ham throughout the year, especially when Andy Carroll comes back into the side.
Enner Valencia came on late but showed a willingness to run the lines and not give up on a seemingly lost pass, something the West Ham fans love in a player – think Scott Parker.
On top of the signings there were other positive signs for the Hammers, as Stewart Downing showed why at one point Liverpool paid £20 million for his services. He gave Danny Rose a nightmare all game as he got good deliveries into the box and almost capped off his game with a great goal after a clever one-two with Kevin Nolan only to have the forever reliable Hugo Lloris deny him with a superb save.
If West Ham can keep their signings fit, adapt their style of play to accommodate them and finally get the best out of the likes of Jarvis and Downing there is no doubt that West Ham should relatively easily achieve a mid-table finish.
Is the Premier League the best league in the world?
Yes. I do not see how anyone can argue differently.
Every year the relegation battle, the title race and the race for fourth are some of the most exciting football stories in the world. On Saturday at the Boleyn Ground, we had 2 red cards, controversy, a missed penalty and a winner at the very death and that’s all on the first day at only one ground!
The game at Upton Park was one that both teams were desperate to win. I am not sure thar Tottenham fans could have handled losing that again, and that attitude seeps into the players. The elation from most of the Spurs players when Eric Dier slotted home the winner was great to watch as they sprinted towards the away support revelling in each other’s joy.
We have a long way to go; 37 games to be exact, but if those remaining games give us half the excitement that we had on Saturday, we’re in for a great year.
But then, it’s the Premier League so when are we not?
How do you see Tottenham getting on this season? Can the team adapt to Pochettino’s new system and secure a top four finish? Get involved with the discussion in the comment section below or on Twitter @TBRFootball.com.