Pochettino sack incoming as Spurs somehow grab West Ham defeat from the jaws of victory yet again

Matt Stead
Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou
Ange Postecoglou's Spurs have not won a game since October 27

The last time Spurs failed to win five straight Premier League games, Mauricio Pochettino was sacked. A good omen for a certain brand of Chelsea fan, but…


With the dust still settling from their limp midweek defeat to Manchester United, two shreds of good news emerged from unlikely sources for Chelsea on Thursday night.

First: they remain above Everton, which would no longer be the case if those irresistible Toffees hadn’t carelessly had 10 points deducted. The corrupt Premier League, at it again.

Second: the last time Spurs went five consecutive Premier League games without victory, the run culminated in Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking. Todd Boehly, you know what to do.

Defeats to Brighton and Liverpool, interspersed with draws against Watford, Everton and Sheffield United, left an “extremely reluctant” Daniel Levy with no choice but to part with a beloved, engaging cult hero of a manager in November 2019. There will be no repeat of that scenario little over four years later but lord, is this form every bit as “extremely disappointing” as the sequence which cost Pochettino his job.

Perhaps even more so. Spurs failing to win five consecutive Premier League games is one thing; Spurs taking the lead in each of them is another level of maddening ineptitude, of which West Ham were the ultimate beneficiaries.

And the goals were entirely self-inflicted. The first was more a case of misfortune than incompetence, Jarrod Bowen continuing his stunning away form with a sublime finish after Mohammed Kudus’ shot ricocheted off both Cristian Romero and Ben Davies and spun towards the unmarked England international. The second was far more amateurish, with Destiny Udogie’s underhit back-pass resulting in James Ward-Prowse playing a one-two with the post en route to goal.

READ MORESpurs have dropped more points from winning positions than the bottom five have won overall

But they were composite parts of a wider problem: a bizarrely poor second half in which Spurs seemed cowed by their inability to make a dominant first 45 minutes count for more than Cristian Romero’s headed opener.

By the time the centre-half marked his return by converting one of Pedro Porro’s many wonderful deliveries, West Ham had made a total of five accurate passes; it was the 11th minute. Spurs pressed the visitors into oblivion and, save for one delightful passage in which Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg completed the perfect hat-trick of air-kick, a three-yard pass smashed straight at Giovani Lo Celso’s shins and a foul in the space of about 10 seconds, were almost faultless.

Almost. Their finishing was the issue and it always felt that the longer the gap remained at a single goal, the likelier some form of lead-shedding shenanigans became.

Spurs vs West Ham
James Ward-Prowse scores for West Ham.

West Ham were kind enough to provide one warning a minute before the break, when Kudus finally got the better of Ben Davies and crossed to the back post for Lucas Paqueta to skew a diving header wide, but Spurs chose not to heed it because they are Spurs.

That should not downplay how brilliant the Hammers were in the second half, as relentless as Spurs were in closing players down but with an added threat on the counter. Bowen was sensational and the low block, by hook, by crook or by Kurt Zouma clipping his own crossbar when deflecting a low Lo Celso cross (a low Celso cross?), was mightily effective.

Nor should it really distract from how bad West Ham were in the first half, because Spurs should have put the game beyond sight there and then. David Moyes flipped the usual script and sent his players back out with more aggression, energy and organisation than before, even if it did take Spurs shooting themselves in the foot twice to make a tangible difference.

“That front third is still the area where I think we’re just really at the infancy of. I see so much growth for us in that area,” Postecoglou said in the build-up to this game, because even when the joke is on Spurs, there are always even smaller jokes within the bigger joke that you only spot on second viewing. “But it’s an area we can certainly improve,” he added, an undeniable truth only exemplified by the struggles of Heung-min Son, Dejan Kulusevski and Brennan Johnson here.

Then again, Spurs have also conceded 13 goals in these five winless games, so any improvement need not be isolated to one area of the team. This slump might have started with a breathtakingly ridiculous Chelsea defeat which came with easy and obvious caveats, but there are no excuses for this level of consistent carelessness.