LONDON — Tottenham Hotspur beat West Ham United on Saturday in a thrilling London derby at the London Stadium.
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Spurs thought they had sewn up a routine victory after they went 3-0 up after an hour but Serge Aurier’s red card set up a nervy finish as Javier Hernandez and Cheikhou Kouyate scored headers for the Hammers.
Here’s what we learned from the London Stadium.
In 2017 Harry Kane has scored 25 goals. In Europe’s top five leagues only Lionel Messi has scored more (34).
Earlier this week Kane was the only Englishman to be named among the 55 nominees for the FIFPro World 11 for 2016-17. It’s easy to see why.
His first goal was a diving header, instinctively glanced into the far corner. His second was about being in the right place at the right time to slot home. He hit the post twice in the second half and could have easily had a hat trick.
Aside from his finishing and his hot streak (six goals in his last four games for Spurs and eight in his last six if you include his goals for England earlier this month) his vision and ability to drop deep, bring others into play and link up the game set him apart.
Kane is not a true predator like Sergio Aguero. He is not a forward who always scores spectacular goals like Alexis Sanchez or one who usually does his damage just in the box like Romelu Lukaku. He has it all.
Harry Kane is the complete forward and at the age of 24 it is hard to spot a weakness in his game.
AURIER AN ISSUE
Serge Aurier arrived at Tottenham with plenty of baggage off the pitch but on it he’s proving a real Jekyll and Hyde character.
The Ivory Coast right back made one superb covering tackle in the first half to deny Marko Arnautovic in the box but then also wandered out of position on multiple occasions and didn’t exactly bust a gut to get back into position.
His two silly challenges in the space of six minutes in the second half summed up his play. Aurier bundled into Andy Carroll needlessly and followed that up with a wild lunge on Carroll and got his marching orders.
That sending off rattled Spurs who could’ve easily coughed up a three-goal lead and let two points go.
Mauricio Pochettino knew he had plenty on his plate when he signed Aurier from Paris Saint-Germain on transfer deadline day. This performance showed he is perhaps not worth the risk, at least right now, and either Kieran Trippier or Kyle Walker-Peters deserve a chance at right back.
The 3-2 scoreline doesn’t tell the story of this game.
Sure, West Ham scored twice in the final 25 minutes and rallied to try and grab an improbable point, but that papered over the cracks.
Slaven Bilic‘s future is still not decided and that uncertainty is ripping the team apart.
With players not knowing if Bilic will be in charge beyond the next few months, let alone the end of this season when his current deal runs out, it feels like West Ham are at a real crossroads.
With the owners so far unwilling to give Bilic a new deal, performances like the one his side dished up from minutes 20-65 on Saturday won’t help his cause. The Hammers started well but fell apart when Michail Antonio went off injured and was replaced by Andy Carroll.
Bilic was backed with a new additions of experienced international as Marko Arnautovic, Hernandez, Pablo Zabaleta and Joe Hart arrived in the summer but there doesn’t seem to be a real long-term plan at West Ham. That showed in their performance on Saturday as they battled back from 3-0 down which put a brave face on yet another jumbled display.