Why West Ham must become just a little bit more like Spurs

Our arch-rivals have shown it is possible to break into the top four

I hate to admit it, but we need to learn from Spurs. When that final whistle blew, sealing a tense 1-0 win, I turned to my neighbouring season ticket holder and did the only thing I could: embraced him, relieved. We’d beaten Spurs.

Th e team that for some reason, not due to upbringing nor any particular defining event, I have always loathed. Victory over them is always so sweet, if tinged with foreboding, acknowledging that they will come back stronger. But much of that fear about the next derby against Tottenham is down to a genuine admiration for the White Hart Lane set-up, as well as admitting that I dislike the demeanour of their fans rather than the club as an institution.

For as we try to turn ourselves into a Champions League side through quick-fix solutions, out with Big Sam, a ready-made stadium, and throwing money at the transfer market, Tottenham have quietly and patiently made themselves genuine title contenders.

The point about Sam Allardyce is not to bring up old arguments that are no longer worth fi ghting, especially given his current state of aff airs, but it is about an understanding of what exactly Tottenham got and were expecting from Mauricio Pochettino. Th ey wanted him because of his achievements at Southampton and his philosophy, traits that made him a viable long-term solution to their quest for success. For me, Slaven Bilic is not the same in terms of his appointment by the board.

The point about Sam Allardyce is not to bring up old arguments that are no longer worth fi ghting, especially given his current state of aff airs, but it is about an understanding of what exactly Tottenham got and were expecting from Mauricio Pochettino. Th ey wanted him because of his achievements at Southampton and his philosophy, traits that made him a viable long-term solution to their quest for success. For me, Slaven Bilic is not the same in terms of his appointment by the board.

He was the third choice and a man brought in more for the need for “attractive football” than for any long-term goal. Th e board caved to pressure for fl air over substance, for a one-season wonder over a fi ve-year plan.

Pochettino over-succeeded last season but is building on it this year, rather than with Bilic, who over-succeeded last season and seems bemused as to how to continue. Th ere is no long-term plan from either him or the owners. It was a dash and grab for the stadium. Th e sad thing is that West Ham have become victims of the short-term, managerial turnover bandwagon of the Premier League. I’ve made this point numerous times before but until the end of the Harry Redknapp reign, we had such a low turnover of managers, with Ron Greenwood, John Lyall and even Redknapp having time to build up teams, go through struggling seasons but have time to work through them.

Yes, that means Bilic must be given time to build, but is that what the owners had in mind? Bar the Croatia job, Bilic hasn’t been a man to stay and to firm a club up. But is that what the owners want? A seventh place finish last season and a new stadium means that the board seem to think success and stability is an inevitability.

If we look at Tottenham, it has taken them a while to break into the top four, they had to be patient. The admiration for Arsene Wenger is for the consistency he has brought Arsenal: other teams have dropped out of the top four, they have not. Instant success and trophies is not a given, even if an instant stadium does exist. Look at that stadium project Tottenham are now undergoing, an ambitious project to rejuvenate their old home for the 21st century, knowing that despite the cost, they had a team that relies on youth talent to ensure they won’t fall behind.

It is telling that their E20 plans were to demolish the stadium and build anew, adding funds instead to the development of Crystal Palace. Perhaps their board simply knew from the offset that trying to turn an athletics stadium into a football one is not an option. Perhaps they weren’t looking for a quick win, an easy buck? And money doesn’t solve all your problems, even in the Premier League.

A few seasons back, Spurs went through something of a crisis of financial management: overwhelmed by the windfall from selling Gareth Bale, they spent big but with little reward. It has taken Pochettino’s management to rid himself of the excess, nurture the best that he saw, and then rely on the youth system.

That is where West Ham have fallen afoul it appears this season. Whereas Pochettino has built a team and kept it together, with minor tinkering, Bilic has applied a Redknapp-esque “foreign legion” approach, hoovering up players left, right and centre, rather than realising that if last season’s team was strong enough to finish seventh, not much was needed. Yes, a striker, but has he bought well? A major strengthening of the defence, but has that been achieved? Bilic and the board seem so smug with their business acumen regarding Dimitri Payet, combined with their belief in counter-attacking football, that they have simply bought more and more of the same.

We have now become a club with an expensive squad but with little to show for it. The revolution towards a counter-attacking, attractive style has been at the expense of the solid-at-the-back Allardyce approach. Defence was the old style, it seems, rather than a need to ensure it was solid before strengthening the front. Tottenham have done that, we have not.

Which comes to the final issue; What is the Bilic philosophy? As has been pointed out, West Ham have enjoyed more possession in their opening games this season, and Bilic seems unaware of how to respond. He is used to little of the ball and a quick break. Now, with more of the ball, the players seem lost as to how to respond, and in their lack of clinical shooting, have now stopped scoring as well as conceding far too many.

Bilic needs to develop tactics and a philosophy that works, as well as being more disciplined with his players. Pochettino and Jurgen Klopp invest in youth and pressing football, as well as a carrot and stick approach towards their players that gets the best out of them. Bilic needs discipline and a desire in his own managerial plan. West Ham and Tottenham are two teams whose heyday was in the 1960s, so they are two clubs constantly wanting to go back to the glory days as well having to adjust to the reality of today.

Tottenham have done this but by biding their time, learning from their mistakes, investing in both the future and a long-term plan. We as a club need to heed that approach, rather than make rash decisions based on a quick-fix solution to how you get into Europe’s elite. It breaks my heart to think that this stadium move was planned for so long, but the actual building up of the squad and the team has been left behind. We need to become a team, not a business.

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