Yesterday marked 10 years since Hugo Lloris signed for Tottenham, but the Spurs captain had no time for reflecting on the milestone in the aftermath of last night’s frustrating 1-1 draw with West Ham.
A point extended Spurs’ unbeaten start to five games but continued the pattern of their season: a decent result earned with an underwhelming performance. Not since the opening-day win over Southampton can Spurs claim to have unequivocally been the better side.
Leading through Thilo Kehrer’s first-half own goal, the visitors were pegged back after the interval and Tomas Soucek equalised when Michail Antonio brilliantly flicked on a quick West Ham throw-in.
“It’s difficult for me to think about [my anniversary] after the game,” said Lloris. “Obviously, I’m very happy to reach 10 years, but I’m more focused on the game. There is a mix of feelings.
“If you look on the positive side, we’re still unbeaten. We come here, a difficult place, a place we lost in the last two seasons. And then when you look at today’s game, the way we conceded is frustrating. From the throw-in, we had to switch on quicker.
“The first 10 minutes of the second half, the tempo was a bit strange. And we know that if we want to do better than the last few seasons, it’s all about details. We need to keep the focus very high.”
Lloris was not blameless for the equaliser, conceding the initial throw with a stray kick directly into touch, but his frustration was understandable. Spurs have now taken 11 points more than last season’s corresponding fixtures, demonstrating an impressive resilience, but they have not been easy on the eye.
There is still no stopping their front three on the break, and Kehrer turned into his own net under pressure from Heung-min Son, following a clever exchange between Dejan Kulusevski and Harry Kane.
Antonio Conte’s side were unable to control possession again, however, and they squandered their position of strength with a sluggish start to the second half.
The absences of Cristian Romero, who travelled but was not deemed fit enough for the squad, and Rodrigo Bentancur, missing with concussion, were felt as Spurs struggled to keep the ball and build from the back in the way Conte demands.
“In the first half we controlled the game so well, if we pushed a bit more we could have pushed to get a second goal,” added Lloris. “But it’s part of the game. The season is very long and also we have to learn from the past. When you can’t win, like today in the second half at 1-1, you don’t lose. It’s still one point.
“In the second half, they pressed higher and we could have managed the ball better, especially we could have used the space better in behind their defence.”
It was puzzling that Conte used just one of his five available substitutes, with Richarlison playing the final 15 minutes, despite his side becoming increasingly disjointed and uncomfortable in the face of West Ham’s press.
Right wing-back Emerson Royal offered little at either end of the pitch, while Davinson Sanchez was shaky on the ball and Yves Bissouma a little loose on his full debut, not helped by a first-half booking for petulance. Conte is likely to make changes for Saturday’s visit of Fulham, but his reluctance to use Matt Doherty, Djed Spence or Ryan Sessegnon from the bench does not suggest he has full faith in all his players.
Conte saved his criticism for the VAR, calling for the technology to be scrapped after a first-half penalty was overturned by referee Peter Bankes.
Kane’s header appeared to strike the arm of Aaron Cresswell, with Bankes quickly pointing to the spot, but he reversed his decision after being advised to consult the pitch-side monitor by VAR Stuart Atwell. Conte claimed Bankes had been “embarrassed” by Atwell, and perhaps there was an element of deflection in his comments after another game in which his side picked up points but failed to convince.
Conte’s reluctance to use Matt Doherty, Djed Spence or Ryan Sessegnon from the bench does not suggest he has full faith in all his players
Conte’s Spurs struggled last season when they had less than a week to prepare for games, and last night’s display suggests the same problem could be a factor this term.
Saturday’s visit of Fulham offers Spurs the chance to quickly dampen any concerns over their performances — and Lloris called on his to team-mates to respond.
“There is still room to improve, but if we compare to where we were last season, we stepped up,” said the Frenchman. “But it’s not enough, we have to carry on, continue our work. It’s a long season.
“It’s still a point against West Ham. The best way [to see it] is like the Chelsea [game], to give credit to a point and win the next game. That’s where we’ll put our focus on before the Champions League.”