A dramatic end to Saturday evening’s game at White Hart Lane was as hurtful as it could get for West Ham. Moments away from a significant victory, sloppy defending late on allowed Tottenham to snatch the most unlikely of 3-2 victories to leave the Hammers a solitary point above the relegation zone.
Slaven Bilic’s side produced a performance that offered so much, as they limited Spurs to almost no meaningful first half attacks. The robust 3-4-3 that has been so effective of late congested the midfield, making Harry Kane and Vincent Janssen almost completely irrelevant during the first passages of the game. All looked rosy for a potential season-shaping victory, with the defence well organised throughout. Winston Reid put in one of his best performances in recent months, but his foolish late red card perfectly summed up West Ham’s demise.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Hammers’ poor start to the season means they are due a run of easier fixtures. That, unfortunately for Bilic, is so very far from the truth. Consecutive fixtures with Manchester United are coming up – one of which is in the EFL Cup – followed by the visit of Arsenal and a trip to in-form Liverpool. Upsetting the odds is now a necessity for Bilic’s side, who could find themselves in the discomfort of the bottom three.
Defeat to Tottenham was greater than a heartbreaking derby loss, it was a failure to turn a corner in a dismal season. Two late goals will have sapped all momentum in the squad ahead of one of the most torturous runs of domestic fixtures anyone could imagine. Bilic’s job security, despite the success of last season, is now in doubt. Those two goals could be definitive in the path of Bilic’s career, it may be the moment that he looks back on as costing him his job. Of course, they could serve as the motivation needed to push the side on the far greater things over the next few weeks, too.
A couple of fatal pieces of judgement in the West Ham defence could prove to be just that. The ambitions for West Ham this season, unsurprisingly so, were far greater than simply avoiding relegation. A start like this one, coupled with the hideous fixture list over the next month or so, makes that the target from this point onwards. Defensively there have been improvements since a change in shape, but the failure to secure a reliable centre forward continues to haunt the club. Simone Zaza’s cameo on Saturday evening saw some decent link-up play, but his fluffing of a vital opportunity was pivotal.
There have been other chances to turn draws into victories that West Ham have failed in, too. This is, perhaps, the running theme of this season to date. An expensive summer of spending is yet to yield much in the final third and that does not bode well for the coming weeks.