Anyone who believes that playing without a recognised number 9 leaves you short of attacking options should have been at White Hart Lane on Sunday to see West Ham, having gone into combat sans spearhead, blag three points from a Tottenham side utterly unable to cope with such a departure from orthodoxy: four at the back, a stifling six in midfield and an echoing void in attack for the once-upon-a-time “Academy of Football”.
West Ham manager “Fat” Sam Allardyce was understandably ebullient after this smash and grab raid against one of the Premier League’s more fancied sides. Said the walrus-faced tactician extraordinaire: “I thought, if Jose Mourinho does it against Man U then so can I”.
Whatever Allardyce lacks in the Special One’s charisma and top-rank winning ability he may well, on this evidence, make up for in good old-fashioned luck. Both of the Hammers’ two opening goals came from pinball deflections and rebounds falling in the visitors’ favour. The breaks they got adequately justified the undoubted gamble Fat Sam had taken, and anyway, something fortuitous was always going to be needed to improve on a blank scoring record for the ‘Appy ‘Ammers on the road this season.
Having ridden their luck in the first half, and then capitally gained on two strokes of fortune in the second, London journeymen West Ham finally sealed matters against the cockney aristocrats with an individual goal of real quality. Ravel Morrison did just as he liked on his way through the Spurs defence before his subtly-dinked finish over the despairing efforts of home keeper Lloris put the earlier, flukier goals from Reid and Vaz Te distinctly in the shade.
For Spurs, it was a sobering demonstration that they have proved themselves unable to deal with party tricks such as the Hammers pulled on Sunday, and that they need to wise up fast. As it turned out, they lost valuable ground by failing to adapt to Fat Sam’s shock formation of packed midfield and zilch up front. Spurs couldn’t create anything, having been denied space in the middle of the park and they were undone by the Hammers’ runners from wide – and by their fruitful relationship with Lady Luck. Spurs will rightly see this as an opportunity thrown away and will worry accordingly about what better teams than West Ham – and there are plenty of those – might do to them.
For the Hammers though, it’s party time. 3-0 wins at old enemies Spurs are as rare as a Millwall defeat without a riot, and they have much to celebrate going into an international break. Whether they can pull off such a stunt again must be open to doubt; the rest of the Premier League will have taken note of Spurs naïveté.
But maybe Fat Sam has other dodges up his sleeves. If he does – then West Ham’s mission to secure another Premier League season in what is nosebleed territory for them, may yet succeed. Stranger things have happened.