Tottenham's possession problem could resurface against West Ham
By Ben McAleer, Whoscored.com
Last Updated: 21/09/17 5:07pm
Whoscored.com assess Tottenham's problems with breaking down teams who sit back and defend ahead of their clash with West Ham, live on Sky Sports on Saturday.
The "Wembley Curse" looked to have been lifted when Tottenham beat Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in the Champions League last week, but they were brought crashing back to earth as they were held to a 0-0 draw by Swansea City despite having 74.9 per cent possession a few days later.
Paul Clement set his side up to frustrate the hosts and it worked. Of the 26 shots Tottenham attempted, only nine were from inside the area. Relative to possession, Spurs should have had far more opportunities in the Swansea box, but were largely forced into speculative potshots.
Chelsea and Burnley set the blueprint for how to frustrate Spurs, and Swansea merely followed suit. The Swans were deservedly rewarded for their efforts, but it again points to a wider issue of Spurs' struggles at Wembley. Last season, Mauricio Pochettino's side dropped only four points at White Hart Lane. They've already dropped seven points at Wembley against three teams they swept aside at their old home last term.
A lackadaisical showing against Barnsley in the Carabao Cup on Tuesday night will have done little to ease nerves as an under-strength Spurs struggled to navigate their way past their Championship counterparts.
Of course, winning breeds confidence, but the victory in front of 24,000 fans in midweek still did little to suggest Spurs are over their Wembley hoodoo. The fact of the matter is, if teams allow Spurs the ball and remain compact, they know they can shut last season's runners' up out, increasing their chances of a positive result.
Indeed, Tottenham have had a greater share of possession in home matches (64.1 per cent) than any other Premier League team this season. Only Liverpool are having more shots per game at home than Spurs (25.3 per game to 24) but Pochettino's side only have two goals to show for their efforts, one of which was a Michy Batshuayi own goal.
Only a handful of teams have a worse WhoScored.com home rating than Pochettino's team (6.66).
Spurs' best performances of the campaign have come when they've sat back, soaked up pressure and hit opponents on the counter-attack. The visit of Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League seemed an exception to the rule at Wembley, and it could be argued that Spurs are better on their travels this season than they are in the capital.
They enjoyed less of the ball at Goodison Park in their 3-0 win over Everton earlier this month, and while they were dominant at Newcastle on the opening weekend of the campaign, much of the victory came down to Jonjo Shelvey's red card two minutes into the second half.
The disappointing result against Swansea last weekend emphasises the need to pick up a win at West Ham in Saturday's early kick off. The Hammers endured a difficult debut season at the London Stadium and won only seven of 19 home games last season. One of those victories was, however, at Spurs' expense when they derailed their rivals title defence in May.
West Ham would love nothing more than to inflict further misery upon Pochettino's side, but the real question now is how they approach this fixture. In their sole home league fixture this season, the Hammers sat back to soak up pressure before hitting Huddersfield on the break as the Terriers had 56.5 per cent possession to West Ham's 43.5 per cent.
Similarly, they have adopted a similar approach in their last three league meetings with Spurs, winning two and narrowly losing the other at White Hart Lane last November.
Supporters are never happy to see their team sit back on their own turf, but back-to-back 1-0 home wins over Spurs in which West Ham had just 34.9 per cent and then 32.4 per cent possession respectively suggests Slaven Bilic should adopt a similar approach when the two teams meet again on Saturday.
Tottenham's form on the road has been good this season, but as results against Chelsea, Burnley and Swansea highlight, they struggle to break down teams that sit back and soak up pressure, which could prove problematic again on Saturday.
The fact Spurs mustered just nine shots from inside the box across their last two trips to West Ham further emphasises how ineffective they can be against sides that sit deep and remain compact. Away from the troubles of Wembley, Tottenham can take solace from playing at stadiums they generally have better luck performing at, but West Ham makes for another testing encounter.
Chelsea, Burnley and Swansea showed just how efficient they were when playing Spurs and allowing the north London side the share of possession. Should the Hammers copy the trio's performances, they have a stronger chance of celebrating their fourth home win from their last five home league meetings with their rivals on Saturday.
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