Everton 0 Spurs 0: Toffees’ tactical switch and AVB’s subs

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.


Jan Vertonghen passes to Aaron Lennon, Everton 0 Spurs 0.

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.


Aaron Lennon passes, Everton 0 Spurs 0.

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.


Tottenham interceptions, 1st 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.


Gareth Barry passes received, 1st Half.

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.


Tottenham interceptions, 2nd half.

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.


Gareth Barry passes received, 2nd half.

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.

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10 Responses to Everton 0 Spurs 0: Toffees’ tactical switch and AVB’s subs

  1. Boon 4th November 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Surely given Spurs heavily pressing so much at 100% in the first half, another main contributing factor why Everton came back into the game has got to do with Spurs players becoming tired from all that pressing in the first?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th November 2013 at 1:35 pm #

      I agree that it’s a factor and the ET against Hull wouldn’t have helped Walker and Vertonghen who played the full 120 in the Capital One Cup. But Everton’s approach after half time was so dramatically different that it was more about this than tiredness to begin with for me. Lukaku, Pienaar and Mirallas were suddenly up in our defender’s faces, whereas previously they were dropping to the halfway line. Teams do tire due to pressing, but it’s usually later in games than at the 45 minute mark.

      • Boon 4th November 2013 at 4:01 pm #

        I’ve never seen such heavy pressing for Spurs before this. It’s like the heaviest pressing before was 60% of the levels exhibited against Everton. The players were no where near that level in the second half.

        If you watch Dortmund games – a team top class at that – that’s what usually happens. They dominate games in the first 15-20 minutes in each half, then inevitably dropped off. Here Spurs dominated for about 35-40 minutes in the first, which was about right.

        Maybe Martinez knew that and pressed in turn in the second half to gain the advantage.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 6th November 2013 at 9:08 am #

          Could well have been a game plan to try and sap the energy and then strike after the interval.

          • Boon 7th November 2013 at 5:59 pm #

            Oh no, not meant that he planned it in advance, but rather as a reaction at half-time. He was clearly seen troubled at the sidelines in the first half.

  2. lunarsea241 4th November 2013 at 10:46 am #

    Hey Mark, great to see you back – missed reading your articles for the past 4 weeks.

    What do you make of AVB’s tactical decisions this season? Opinion seems to be polarised between those who think it’s just a matter of time before the system clicks and those who think he’s playing the wrong tactics with the players at his disposal (or at least the ones that he keeps selecting).

    I was initially on the former side but I’m starting to wonder if maybe the latter is true instead.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th November 2013 at 2:16 pm #

      Great question, i’m still in the former camp due to a number of reasons.

      Firstly, the injuries to players like Capoue/Chadli and the time needed to settle for someone like Lamela. The comments by AVB recently about how he is having to cope with the language, how his parents and family have moved over here to help him get acclimatised and how much more physical he is finding our football compared to Italy indicate he may well still be a long way off being a regular. That’s three of the players we’ve brought or almost half of the recent investment, enough to keep me in the former camp.

      Secondly, i think AVB has the players to play his tactics – high pressing, through balls for short crosses and cutbacks etc – but he still needs to find out which are his best combinations. For example Holtby seems to work better with Defoe and Eriksen with Soldado. He has at least two top quality players for each forward and midfield position: Sandro/Capoue; Dembele/Paulinho; Holtby/Eriksen; Lamela/Townsend/Lennon; Chadli/Sigurdsson; Soldado/Defoe/Adebayor. Naturally some players will link better than others, but all seem to have been brought for a purpose. They need time to get used to playing with each other, whilst AVB needs time to figure out who plays with whom.

      Thirdly, AVB is a very technical coach who drills his team very methodically to play in his style. Its highly different to the freedom afforded to the team under Harry Redknapp. It took the squad a long time to get used to it last season and with the number of new players we have this, they are probably still learning his ‘playbook.’

      Overall, I honestly don’t think we should be talking of being title challengers and anyone who has us in that bracket this season is deluded. We’re currently in the Champions League places and i don’t think we can judge what’s going on until after Christmas. Integrating this number of players, especially ‘star’ players, is going to take time and naturally not all of them are going to work out or get along. Players that are used to being the focal point are going to have to share the ball and they can’t always be the alpha dog like they may have been on their previous team. Whilst it may look good on paper, you won’t buy 10 perfect eggs despite what the scouting reports say.

      The positive for me is that while we’re misfiring going forward, we do seem to have it sorted at the back which is half of the battle.

      The one thing that is known is known is that we definitely still require full back cover in January.

  3. Evan 4th November 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    For me, I can’t complain. AVB is getting results but yesterdays draw sums up our season so far and for me I was disappointed to have not got the 3 points.

    We bossed the 1st half but lacked the lethalness in front of goal. The amount of times Everton lost the ball in the final third and were often outnumbered at the back because of it meant we could have been out of sight at half time. Man City or dare I say it, Arsenal *cough* would have
    punished them for such lackadaisical passing.

    Part of the problem for me though is AVB’s decision making, for me Dembele hasn’t hit top form yet. Lennon was useless on the left and works better with Walker than Townsend ever does plus IF The Beast was injured I would have liked to have seen AVB replace him with Ericksen with Holtby dropping back into a deeper role so we could try and keep hold of the ball a little more. I’m sure Ericksen would have spotted the early runs from Soldado more often than his team mates did throughout the game.

    One things for sure, Soldado was getting frustrated yesterday and we need to get that connection between him and the midfield sorted out sooner rather than later.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 4th November 2013 at 2:24 pm #

      Good comment. I agree that Lennon is not suited to the left. I know he finds himself out there as AVB wants to play inverted wide players, which is fine with Chadli, Townsend, Lamela and to an extent Sigurdsson, but not with Lennon as he offers very little goal threat and is a pass first player.

      As for Soldado, i think he will come good from open play. He needs to be out there with better passers like Eriksen behind and Sigurdsson playing in from the left, rather than someone like Andros Townsend who shoots from outside way too often.

      • Boon 4th November 2013 at 4:10 pm #

        I think AVB put Lennon there because Chadli was out, Townsend taking his place, and his speed is better suited for pressing and tracking back to defend than Sigurdsson, especially against Everton’s right flank duo of Coleman and Mirallas.