Heading into last week's match against Chelsea, many around the league were talking up Tottenham's title chances. After this weekend's debacle against lowly West Ham, it's hard to see Spurs as legitimate contenders for even a Top 4 finish.
Champions League teams score goals. Tottenham has now scored just 6 goals in 7 matches--or as many as recently promoted Hull City, who've built their midfield around Spurs castoffs Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore.
Champions League teams do not get outshot (as they were 4 to 5 in attempts on target today), outcornered (6 to 7), and outmuscled against relegation zone teams. And definitely not on their home pitch.
Champions League teams step up when threatened by weaker teams. They don't collapse.
Tottenham's vulnerability on corners cost them for the first time this season. Winston Reid, who looked to have pushed off Jan Vertonghen, got his head on Stewart Downing's cross to initiate the ricochet sequence that led to West Ham's first goal of the match. It was their first away goal this season.
At that point, Tottenham's lack of action on the wings and West Ham's stifling defense in the middle left Spurs supporters with few signs that their club would respond. When Ricardo Vaz Te scored on a second ricochet play, off his own rebound in front of Hugo Lloris, the day seemed lost for Spurs even with some twenty minutes to play.
A remarkable solo effort from Ravel Morrison netted the third of three goals in thirteen minutes for West Ham, who might well have notched the biggest win they'll grab all season.
Today's home loss highlighted several problems:
• Tottenham continues to suffer from both the injury to, and lack of cover for, left back Danny Rose. Kyle Naughton is not a left back. It's not even been proven he owns a left foot. But Naughton can make a serviceable right back when needed, and he would have been needed to fill that role today when Kyle Walker came out of warmups feeling less than fit. It was immediately clear Walker should not have been on the pitch, but with Naughton forced to play on the left, Walker had to play a full 90. Neither of the backs offered any width on the attack, and both looked vulnerable on the counter.
• Tottenham captain Michael Dawson, who recently signed a three-year extension with the club, has a lack of pace that his considerable heart can't always hide. By the end of the contest, the Tottenham defense line looked like an old tree trunk with a hollow core. Even Vertonghen, who was rested and spared the dreary midweek trip to Dagestan, looked sluggish by match's end.
• It's doubtful Jermaine Defoe will start another league match anytime soon. Defoe, he is a Yi--, er, Tottenham man through and through, and he's been a steady contributor for Spurs in the Europa League and Capital One Cup. But in league play he remains most valuable as an impact sub. JD was given a chance to shine today against an ostensibly weaker opponent, a reward for his Europa form, but he brought little in the first half and missed a golden opportunity on a through ball from Paulinho at the beginning of the second. Although I see West Ham midfielder Mohamed Diame as the MOTM for the trouble his physical presence caused Spurs across the pitch, defender James Tompkins deserves praise for the work he did in neutralizing Defoe today. Back to Roberto Soldado next week, please.
• Spurs need something on the wing. Their lack of any width is painful to watch for a club that's seen the likes of Bale and Lennon (come back soon, Azza!) in recent seasons blaze trails along the touchlines and send crosses into the box. It's a dark day when you look upon Stewart Downing with envy.
• And although it's far too premature to lament the deal for Erik Lamela, Tottenham's record signing needs to show more than he has so far. He came onto the pitch today at the 63rd minute and all but disappeared, after being unimpressive in his start against Anzhi Makhachkala on Thursday. A club like Tottenham needs instant results out of a 30-million pound transfer, but right now Lamela has the looks of a project, more potential than present threat.
What else is there to say? This was Spurs' worst match in a long time, more discouraging than even the home losses to relegation-bound Wigan and fatigue-exploiting Fulham last season.
Points spilled out of the pocket today. Questions have been asked, and answers are needed.