We controlled the first half, the Toffees the second, as our rather scrappy Premier League encounter finished Everton 0 Spurs 0 at Goodison Park.
Both teams looked off here, but the match really hinged on a couple of key factors. Everton’s switch in approach and Andre Villas-Boas’ use of his substitutes bench.
Tottenham set up and tactics
AVB lined us up in a 4-3-3 formation with Jan Vertonghen continuing at left back, whilst Aaron Lennon and Andros Townsend got the nod in the wide forward positions. These three were the key protagonists in what was an impressive opening, forcing Everton back.
The Toffees were content to drop off and sit deep in an attempt to deny space in-behind, but Spurs were creating from the wide areas, particularly down our left. Jan Vertonghen was finding room and feeding Aaron Lennon, who was involved in our three brightest moments of the half.
First of all he got in-behind to chip back a short cross to Roberto Soldado who headed wide. Next he cut in-behind Seamus Coleman again to receive another pass, but his pull back was blocked. Finally, our excellent pressing forced a turnover in the Everton half. Paulinho had a 2v1 and drew the defender in before releasing Lennon who had an uncontested shot if he had taken it first-time with his left. However, he hesitated, then tried to cut back on to his stronger right foot, which took him back in to traffic and the chance was gone.
This moment really summed us up the first half. We pressed heavily and often won the ball back quickly, but once in possession, we lacked both decisiveness and incisiveness in the final third, so Tim Howard was rarely tested.
Over on the right, Andros Townsend was plying his usual trade of trying to dribble past opposition players, cut inside on to his left foot and fire shots across the goal.
Rather than shut off the supply line or jam him to stop his dribbling, Everton sought to keep Townsend in front of them and were content to concede his long range efforts. The now capped England international is having a breakout season, but of his five efforts at goal, none troubled Tim Howard and all were from outside the box, making him rather predictable.
Everton switch approach
Spurs controlled the opening 45 and our pressing, combined with Everton’s reluctance to leave space in-behind, saw us often win the ball back around the halfway line or inside their their half.
This was doing several things. First of all it was stopping Leighton Baines from getting in to advanced positions where he can cross. Secondly, Romelu Lukaku was becoming little more than a target man for clearances down field, rather than being the focus of passes that allow him and Kevin Mirallas to run in-behind. But most importantly of all, it was restricting Gareth Barry from getting time and space on the ball in order to initiate attacks.
The on-loan City man has been excellent this season, but in the first period he was forced to drop deeper and deeper to receive the ball as a result of our pressure and Everton’s tactics.
After the interval, Roberto Martinez ordered his troops to play much more of a pressing game themselves to force us back. Suddenly we were not winning the ball in their half, as we were knocked on to the back foot.
As a result of this, Gareth Barry came more and more in to the game. He created chances for both Leon Osman and Ross Barkley, whilst his long defence-splitting ball saw Romelu Lukaku collide with Hugo Lloris.
Barry was also aided by AVB removing Sandro. The Brazilian had been doing an excellent job mopping up in front of our defence and shrugging off the attentions of Romelu Lukaku all afternoon.
Apparently Sandro was injured, but the move was still an aggressive one and there was decent logic behind it. With Everton now moving forward there was more space in-behind their back four, thus introducing an attacking player in Dembele would allow us to exploit it. However, it left our defence exposed at a time when we needed to keep a lid on players like Barry and James McCarthy who were controlling the middle of the park in the second period.
Similar to us though, Everton rarely tested Hugo Lloris during their spell of pressure. After the removal of Sandro they did create more opportunities, but just like us, failed to work the goalkeeper.
AVB makes better use of his bench
If the introduction of Dembele was questionable, the arrivals of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Christian Eriksen were better moves in order to alter our attack.
The Icelander plays the wide forward role on the left much better than Lennon who is a winger and more at home on the right. Sigurdsson’s ability to drift in to central areas creates overloads and problems for his marker and here he had two decent efforts from doing just that. His curler towards the far post which Tim Howard comfortably pushed away highlighted his movement and eye for goal.
Lewis Holtby has earned his chance and provides neat vertical passing, but the introduction of Christian Eriksen offers an improved goal threat and his set-piece delivery is excellent. A whipped in free kick that went right across the Everton box showed the quality that our dead ball situations had been missing all afternoon.
Despite 9 minutes of stoppage time due to the blow sustained by the again impressive Hugo Lloris, neither side ever looked like breaking the deadlock.
Everton 0 Spurs 0 conclusions
The book on playing Spurs this season reads: sit deep, deny any space for the through passes in behind to not allow any creation from cut backs and short crosses, then hit on the counter.
Both Arsenal and Chelsea have taken points off us this season by doing this and Everton started that way here. Had Aaron Lennon taken his chance when slipped in by Paulinho then things may have been much different.
After the interval the hosts came out and played more of their passing football that Roberto Martinez has instilled in them this season and they were able to get more on the ball.
The removal of Sandro aided them, as the beast was controlling the midfield. Moussa Dembele, whist also a physical force, doesn’t have the same defensive presence as the Brazilian. This was required to get a hold back on the game rather than go aggressively after the space that had opened up.
Overall this was another performance that leaves more questions than answers. Given how strong Everton have been at home in recent seasons under both David Moyes and Roberto Martinez, a point is not a bad result at Goodison Park.
In spite of AVB’s substitutions or Everton’s switch in approach, neither side really looked as if they would break the deadlock however long the game went on.
Final score: Everton 0 Spurs 0.