Fortune Favours The Brave And Average

Tottenham did not play well at West Ham by any stretch of the imagination but Sam Allardyce played into their hands by doing what Sam Allardyce naturally does: nothing.

Last Updated: 17/08/14 at 09:51 Post Comment

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The good news for Tottenham fans is that debutant Eric Dier showed admirable derring-do to strike in injury time to earn victory; the bad news for Tottenham fans is that they will not face a manager as ridiculously conservative as Sam Allardyce every week.

By no stretch of the imagination did Spurs play well at Upton Park; they were already on the back foot when Kyle Naughton was harshly shown a red card in the 29th minute. Stewart Downing had been tormenting the woeful Danny Rose, Erik Lamela and Aaron Lennon were struggling to create much of any worth and Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyaté were dominating the centre of midfield against Nabil Bentaleb and Etienne Capoue.

Mauricio Pochettino's reaction to Naughton's red card was unusual. Instead of bringing on Ben Davies or Michael Dawson for one of his attacking triptych, he instead shuffled Dier to right-back, pulled Capoue back into the centre of defence and more or less shouted 'as you were' as Spurs played something akin to a 4-1-3-1. His attacking principles were not to be dimmed by the small matter of a one-man disadvantage.

"This is our philosophy. Believe, always, 90-95 minutes, winning the game. This is our philosophy," said Pochettino after the game.

Thankfully for Pochettino, he was not the only man on the touchline with a philosophy. While the Argentine stuck to his guns, Allardyce stuck to his blanks. He had started the game with Carlton Cole (13 goals in three Premier League seasons) as a lone striker and he was not about to be shifted from that steadfast path, whatever nonsense fans and chairmen spout about demanding more entertaining football.

So Mauro Zarate (13 goals in his last 19 games for Vélez Sarsfield) and Enner Valencia (18 in 23 for Pachuca last season) remained on the bench while Cole toiled alone up front and Ricardo Vaz Te shot wildly from the left. West Ham had a one-man advantage for 34 minutes but managed only two shots on target. This, people, is the new-look West Ham. Same as the old West Ham.

Did Tottenham show enough to convince anyone that they should not be incredibly distant sixth-favourites for the title? No. But did Pochettino's approach suggest that this is going to be a fun old ride? Hell yes. It's difficult to say the same about the Hammers.

Sarah Winterburn

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