This week Tottenham drew with West Ham. Despite having over three times as much possession than their London rivals, Tottenham struggled to break down the West Ham rearguard. Tottenham started the game with two defensive midfielders. Despite it being obvious at half-time that this was defensive overkill, no change was made until after West Ham took the lead through a Pedro Obiang wonder strike. After that goal, Tottenham made their first changes of the game; two late substitutes coming into the game too late. Mauricio Pochettino being overly cautious wasted two points for Tottenham and squandered their chance to close the gap between them and the top four.
Tottenham Being Harmed by Late Substitutes
Pochettino clearly made an error in the starting team against West Ham. After the first half, it was clear to see that only one side had turned up to try and play football. Moussa Sissoko is a power player who relies on strength and speed. If West Ham players are not going to come out of their eighteen-yard box then there really is no point to having the Frenchman on the pitch as he lacks the technical ability to play defence-splitting passes. In saying that, no two halves of football are the same so if the Tottenham manager wanted to give him another ten minutes then that would be understandable. However, by the 55th minute, West Ham still had no intention of leaving their half. Then was the time to make the changes, however, as per, Tottenham left it too late.
Attack the Best Form of Defence
It was clear at this point that one of Harry Winks or Erik Lamela should’ve replaced Sissoko. However, Pochettino kept Sissoko on the pitch to protect a defence that was under no danger and sacrifice an attacking outlet that could’ve applied further pressure to an already stretched West Ham defence that was close to breaking. The only defence Pochettino’s tactics helped was the West Ham one and to rub further salt into the wound, Obiang’s strike was helped by Sissoko not closing him down in time.
Game Over When the Late Changes are Made
This is a recurring theme for Tottenham so far this season. Pochettino rarely makes changes before the 65th-minute mark regardless of the circumstances. Multiple times this season Tottenham have played with a conservative full-back in Kieran Trippier or Ben Davies against ‘weaker’ sides and despite Aurier and Rose both being better suited to come off the bench and break them down, neither rarely make it on the pitch until it is too late for them to change anything.
So far this season substitutes have contributed one Premier League goal for Tottenham. Many will blame this on the likes of Fernando Llorente struggling since signing and a perceived lack of quality on the Tottenham bench, but if Llorente is coming on after Victor Wanyama in games that Tottenham are losing then maybe that tells you something about Pochettino’s overly cautious approach. The squad obviously needs to add quality in depth but that can’t be used as an excuse in games where Erik Lamela and Winks are sat on the bench. Pochettino must be braver with these calls and not afraid to take risks.