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West Ham 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur: Antonio strike keeps Spurs from going top of the league

Bad news: We were crap. Good news: So were Arsenal and Manchester City.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

In what was (by some distance) Tottenham's worst match of the season, Spurs went down 1-0 in their final clash with West Ham at Upton Park. The scoreline, if anything, may have flattered a Spurs team that was sloppy and erratic in ways that bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the nightmare side of last season. The team struggled to maintain possession, was frequently overrun in midfield, and was forced to play from behind after giving up a bad opening goal. The one saving grace for the team is that thanks to the smart work of Toby Alderweireld and Kevin Wimmer, the Hammers generally struggled to translate their dominance into high-quality chances with Dimitri Payet's set piece delivery providing most of West Ham's best chances.

The first half was easily the poorest performance we have seen from the side all season long, as the team was wholly incapable of dealing with West Ham's high press and struggled to deal with Payet's set pieces. Irons boss Slaven Bilic deserves credit as well. West Ham attacked Spurs in an unexpected 3-4-2-1 shape that packed the midfield areas and gave playmakers Payet and Manuel Lanzini plenty of freedom behind striker Emmanuel Emenike.

The West Ham goal came off a corner, but the sequence leading to the corner summed up Tottenham's half. Cheikhou Kouyate, the right sided center back in West Ham's back three, played the ball long and Emenike beat Wimmer to the header. Spurs left back Ben Davies then won a second header but didn't clear it. The ball fell to winger Nacer Chadli, who was immediately pressured by Lanzini. The result was a dreadful backpass from Chadli that left Davies battling Lanzini for the ball, with Lanzini ultimately getting the better of him. Davies could only block Lanzini's cross out of play for a corner. The resulting set piece was delivered perfectly by Payet to winger Michail Antonio at the near post. Antonio's bullet header snuck inside the near post past Lloris to give West Ham the lead.

The remainder of the first half got progressively worse, as Spurs became more and more inconsistent in possession. The three members of the XI who are firmly second-choice at Spurs all gave ample proof for why they are second choice as right back Kieran Trippier, midfielder Ryan Mason, and Chadli all struggled. Trippier's half was especially bad as the right back was routinely caught out of position, struggled mightily to deal with Payet, and repeatedly gave the ball away in bad areas. His passing map for the day tells the tale:


After halftime, the team settled down and produced a couple good chances, with the two biggest chances coming on Toby Alderweireld's long range strike and a cross from Christian Eriksen that Kane failed to finish at the far post. That said, even as Tottenham improved in the second half, the team never really did get much going in the way of attack, even after the late introductions of Dele Alli, Heung-Min Son, and Tom Carroll.

That said, here's the good news for Spurs: Leicester, Arsenal, and Manchester City also dropped points this round, with Leicester drawing at home to a bad West Bromwich Albion side while Arsenal lost at home to Swansea and City was thumped 3-0 at Anfield by Liverpool. So Spurs lost only one point on Leicester and didn't lose any ground on Arsenal or Manchester City. In fact, they gained two goals on goal differential compared to the Citizens. If you want to try and dress up the bad result even more, you can do that too: Of the four fixtures, it's not hard to argue that Spurs faced the toughest of the lot. Of the top four teams, Tottenham was always the likeliest to drop points this round. So the fact that they lost but didn't lose any of their lead on Arsenal or City and only lost one point to Leicester is significant.

Of course, the other way of spinning this is to say that on a weekend that saw Leicester, Arsenal, and Manchester City unexpectedly drop points Tottenham failed to take advantage. In either case, we'll now shift our focus to Saturday's date with Arsenal at White Hart Lane. A win could lift Spurs to the top of the table until at least later in the day when Leicester visit Watford. A loss, meanwhile, would only mean that Spurs would stay in second but would be level on points with Arsenal, rather than maintaining their current lead. But a loss in a fixture of that magnitude, particularly coming off such a poor showing at West Ham, could also send the club into a funk that would see the title dream die a painful death. North London Derbies are always significant, but it's hard to resist the feeling that this one may be the most significant clash between the North London rivals in many years.