Three Points: West Ham vs. Tottenham
LONDON -- Three quick thoughts from Tottenham's 1-0 win over West Ham on Saturday.
It was far from the perfect performance from Tottenham Hotspur, but it was a fine finish, and the perfect start to the new season and Mauricio Pochettino's regime.
With this London derby at Upton Park looking set to peter out, substitute Harry Kane expertly flicked the ball through for Eric Dier to round Adrian and roll in the game's only goal. It was quite a debut for the England under-21 international, returning to his home country as a professional after moving to Portugal at the age of 10.
At the same time, it meant all of West Ham United's old problems and debates will return. Sam Allardyce will be particularly aggrieved with that because his side were, for long periods, the better team, and got the better of play. Stewart Downing could even have snatched the game before Dier did.
Although Tottenham may be justifiably aggrieved with Kyle Naughton's red card for a handball on a Kevin Nolan shot, the fact is that it came after a spell of concerted West Ham pressure. They couldn't make it tell, and Mark Noble couldn't finish the penalty. His effort was sent wide with such a lack of conviction.
Thereafter, West Ham receded, Tottenham responded well, and the game was even levelled in terms of red cards with James Collins given a second yellow. He could have few complaints, but Allardyce could have a fair few for his own team.
Spurs celebrated like they knew they were at the start of something that could be special, of the kind that sometimes needs an early statement like this.
Upton Park collectively groaned in a manner that has become all too familiar.
Spurs not in Pochettino's mold yet
The fact Tottenham had to wait so long for a productive moment, let alone the key goal, should be pointed out. While the White Hart Lane club have recently seemed one in a real rush to catch up with the rest of the elite, this is one time when they may really have to show a bit of patience.
Pochettino is one of the brightest coaches in Europe, but there wasn't too much from Spurs to light up this game until that key final moment.
That should not be too much cause for concern, as the eventual winner proved. It was a first fixture, with only one new signing on the pitch, and one in which the team was rather quickly reduced to 10 men after Naughton's 28th-minute red card.
Anything more than mere evidence of the basics of the Pochettino approach would have been a bonus.
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And sure, there were flashes of that. Erik Lamela had the odd touch in the first half, Christian Eriksen initially looked very lively.
It did dissipate, though, and before the red card.
Rather than any of Pochettino's highly regarded pressing, we saw Tottenham regularly forced back, especially in the spell leading up to the red card. Even if the squad will end up enhanced by new signings before the window closes, it seems obvious that the manager still has much work to do to drill them into a true Pochettino team.
He has at least instilled some durability. Dier more than illustrated that.
Style vs. substance
As Mark Noble's penalty rolled meekly wide, Sam Allardyce's head dropped into his hands. It stayed there for what seemed a long few seconds.
For that brief period, it was a big reminder of just how much pressure the West Ham United manager has been under over the summer. One of the long-running complaints has been about the pressure that Allardyce's side put other teams under, as he persists with a notionally reductive style that deviates from Upton Park tradition.
From all of that, the manager came out with one of the most eyebrow-raising lines of the summer, as he attempted to explain away one friendly defeat.
"We're just working on our new style as we've got to get a bit more open and expensive, as it seems to be what's demanded in the game now."
For his part, Allardyce somewhat initially rose to those demands. That penalty came from a concerted spell of West Ham attacking. Throughout this game at least, the only pressure evident was on Spurs, as they were repeatedly pegged back.
It has always been something of a myth about Allardyce. While there is no denying the base of all his football is a structured paint-by-numbers durability that can occasionally drag games down, he usually at least attempts to instil some variety to attack. It isn't all one-dimensional long-ball. Here, they tested Tottenham from a number of angles.
The ball flashed across Hugo Lloris' box repeatedly, and West Ham might have been well clear with a striker more reliable than Carlton Cole. Too often, his touch was all too typically loose, immediately ending so many moves.
Yet, with Andy Carroll again injured and Enner Valencia having not had a proper preseason, West Ham had to persist until 80 minutes. It was only then that Allardyce felt Valencia might get a run of value without over-stretching himself.
West Ham couldn't ultimately stretch Spurs enough. Instead, they found themselves stung.
Miguel Delaney is London correspondent for ESPN and also writes for the Irish Examiner, the Independent, Blizzard and assorted others. He is the author of an award-nominated book on the Irish national team called 'Stuttgart to Saipan' (Mentor) and was nominated for Irish sports journalist of the year in 2011.