Slaven Bilic challenges his inconsistent West Ham squad to repeat their Tottenham heroics week after week

West Ham raised their level to stun Tottenham with a hard-fought win at the London Stadium

Click to follow
The Independent Football

After watching his maddeningly inconsistent West Ham side extinguish Tottenham Hotspur’s title hopes with a deserved 1-0 win, Slaven Bilic reminded his players that they should be delivering that level of performance “week after week”.

With Tottenham heading to the London Stadium on a nine-match winning run and desperate to close the gap on league leaders Chelsea to just a solitary point, few gave West Ham a chance of beating their bitter rivals at the London Stadium.

But Bilic’s team were superb. Lined up in a defensive 3-4-2-1 formation, West Ham denied Tottenham any space between the lines and completely marginalised Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen, despite being limited to just 32% possession.

And after their famous win, Bilic was keen to impress on his players that this disciplined performance was how they should be playing every week.

“This comes with some of our best performances of the season,” the West Ham manager commented after the match. “But you need to be able to do that every week. You even need to be able to do it on a daily basis — that is what modern football is all about. Especially in the Premier League, you have to be able to do it every game.

“There have been times when we have really needed it this season — against Crystal Palace home and away, against Hull in December, Swansea at home, Everton at home and Stoke away — and now, we have done it. And with so many obstacles in our way this season. The guys deserve a lot of praise for that.”

And obstacles do not come much bigger than the 57,000-capacity London Stadium. West Ham have struggled at their new home this season, winning just 6 of their 17 league matches at the ground prior to Friday night. But Bilic hopes this win can be something of a turning point.

Describing the ground as “the best decision the club has ever made”, Bilic also spoke of the team’s excitement at playing under the lights on a Friday night and commented on the raucous atmosphere after the final whistle.

Finally, it seems, the former Olympic Stadium is becoming something of a home. 

There was a raucous atmosphere at the London Stadium (Getty)

“It is a great stadium and we had never said that it isn’t,” Bilic commented. “Long-term, it is the best move the club has ever made. But you need time to adjust to anything new, and we needed time and perhaps still need some more time.

“I said ages ago: this stadium is the best thing that ever happened to us and we felt that tonight. We also felt it against Everton and earlier in the season against Chelsea in the EFL Cup.

“Ultimately it was a fantastic performance especially considering what an important game it was for us and them. On Friday night, under the lights, you cannot beat that performance and the players deserve so much praise.”

Spurs could not penetrate West Ham's disciplined defence (Getty)

Key to West Ham’s success in the fixture was the deployment of three centre-backs, a formation adopted at the start of the season by Chelsea which both Arsenal and Tottenham have also made use of in recent matches.

But Bilic’s twist on the formation saw West Ham playing with something resembling a flat-back five for most of the match, as Tottenham were denied any space to play into despite dominating possession.

“The system worked very well against Tottenham,” Bilic added.

“You do not want to give them anything so we played with the back five and protected the ball in between the lines. And the full-backs played in that system brilliantly well so it is a great, great night for us.”