5 talking points from Tottenham’s dramatic 3-2 victory over West Ham
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Harry Kane struck two late goals as Tottenham came from behind in the dying moments to snatch a 3-2 home win over West Ham in today’s London derby, ending the Lilywhites’ seven-match winless run. Here are five talking points.
1. Pochettino’s diamond proves not to be profitable
Spurs’ manager, who seemed so attached to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation for so long, has suddenly become utterly unpredictable.
While the change to the 4-1-4-1 set-up was relatively subtle, the Argentinian shook things up more comprehensively in the north London derby at Arsenal before the international break, opting for a 3-4-3 system with wing-backs.
There was yet another surprise when the line-up was announced today and it emerged that Pochettino was playing with three central midfielders and two strikers, with Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen both getting the nod.
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Fans, reporters and pundits were all scratching their heads and comparing notes. Was it 4-2-3-1? 4-2-2-2? Twitter rapidly began to look like a Sudoku puzzle.
It turned out that Spurs were playing a diamond midfield formation with Victor Wanyama at the base, Christian Eriksen at the tip and Mousa Dembele and Harry Winks on either side - and two out-and-out strikers.
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However, Pochettino’s decision to play with an extra man up front meant his side lost something in their build-up play. The centre-backs immediately seemed to be struggling to find options in front of them and West Ham enjoyed plenty of possession before taking the lead midway through the first half as Michail Antonio headed home at close range.
Pochettino responded by ditching his new system before the break, dropping Dembele into a deeper role and going back to a 4-2-3-1 system, which improved his side’s performance.
Dembele was able to take the ball from the centre-backs and pass or carry it forward, and Spurs began to dominate before levelling the scores six minutes after the interval.
2. Winks makes his first Premier League start – and scores!
Pochettino is a big fan of the 20-year-old midfielder and, having started both of the League Cup ties against Gillingham and Liverpool this season, it was only a matter of time before he was included in the line-up for a top-flight fixture.
Winks was in contention to play from the beginning in the north London derby and, in the end, he only had to wait one more game for his latest milestone.
He looked right at home against West Ham, feeding the ball quickly between the lines to create an opening for Kane and then, a few minutes later, shaping to shoot before playing a neat through ball to the striker.
The move to 4-2-3-1 left Winks on the right flank, which did not really seem to suit him, but he was the one who scored the equaliser.
He has pace, vision, quick feet, deceptive strength and apparently an eye for a goal too. He looks quite a prospect and his jubilant celebration in front of the bench showed how much his goal meant to him.
3. A mixed game for Janssen in both penalty boxes
The Dutchman got the chance to play up front alongside Kane but, in the first half, he struggled to justify his inclusion. He was unable to get into the game and, when Danny Rose delivered an enticing low cross, he was nowhere to be seen.
Pochettino could have withdrawn the summer signing at the interval and allowed Kane to lead the line while introducing another midfielder, but he stuck with Janssen and was rewarded – the 22-year-old’s parried shot gifted Winks the leveller.
Yet 17 minutes later, with Spurs firmly on top and looking by far the more likely winners, Janssen gave away a clumsy penalty, grappling with Winston Reid in the box and being penalised by Mike Dean.
Ironically, Janssen had been moments away from being substituted – Dele Alli was waiting on the touchline when the foul was committed.
4. Son and Kane transform Tottenham’s fortunes
In the 88th minute Tottenham were staring defeat in the face and looked set for yet another setback, with their hopes of a fresh start after the international break in tatters.
But substitute Heung-Min Son, who had entered the fray in the 72nd minute, then delivered a low cross for Kane, who equalised.
At that point Spurs were still heading for their eighth winless game in a row - but more late drama was to follow moments later.
Son was taken out by Havard Nordveit, whose sliding tackle was stupid in the extreme, and Dean pointed to the spot again, giving Kane the opportunity to fire home – which he did with aplomb – and send White Hart Lane into rapture.
Those few minutes have quickly transformed the mood at the club and the Lilywhites will now travel to Monaco for a huge Champions League clash on Tuesday with renewed confidence and momentum.
Meanwhile, the Lilywhites are now just one point outside the top four and three points off the top. The league table could have looked very different tonight.
5. A delicious slice of history
Assuming the construction of Tottenham’s new stadium remains on schedule and the clubs do not draw each other in the FA Cup in the new year, this was West Ham’s last trip to the Lane.
It was a derby and a climax fit for the occasion, and Spurs fans will always be able to remind their foes of what happened.
The rivalry will continue but this result has been enshrined in the record books, and the memories will be cherished forever.
Follow me on Twitter @BenPearceSpurs