Spurs 0-0 Everton: vertical passing fails to pay off

Vertical passing created the opportunities but failure to finish them off sees our Premier League clash finish Spurs 0-0 Everton at White Hart Lane.

‘Decisive’ and ‘clinical’ are two words that sum up our season so far and they were highly relevant once again. In a tight match we took the upper hand, executing the plan Mauricio Pochettino had laid out, but failing to be clinical in front of goal when the big moments came. As a result as it finished Spurs 0-0 Everton when it could’ve have been so much better.

The plan itself was quite simple. Draw Everton up and hit them with vertical passes through or beyond their defence. This was done to remove Gareth Barry and James McCarthy as a shield in front of their back four in order to expose Phil Jagielka and John Stones to 1v1 match-ups.

Everton counter attack

Roberto Martinez is sending his side out on the front foot at home, but adopting a much more counter attacking approach on the road this season. We saw this to devastating effect when they mauled Southampton 3-0 at St. Mary’s and they were looking to play that way again here.

The key to much of what they were doing was to block off the centre of the pitch. When we got deep in to the Everton half, they would station three men centrally and screen the back four to slow our play down and take away space between the lines.


Everton’s trio shield the central defenders.

When we had the ball at the back, the trio of Barry, McCarthy and Barkley that we looked at in the Spurs vs Everton preview, was again in force butthis time in a more triangular shape.

This was done to naturally create levels in order to make them tougher to play through.


Everton’s central trio when our defence has the ball.

These three closed down the centre of the pitch. They were content to give our back four the ball and then engage us on the first pass in to a midfield player. This would see them look to steal it away and then start forward in order to create fast break situations or crosses in for Romelu Lukaku or Arouna Kone.

Everton were successful in doing this, but as you can see in the picture above, the clue as to how to break them down was given by Harry Kane’s darting run in-behind. This was just after five minutes, but with no pressure on the ball, a sharper thinking Jan Vertonghen would’ve tried to pick out the run.

Spurs vertical passing

Although Vertonghen missed this opportunity, we became much more of a force in the game by exposing this weakness.

We created numerous chances and all were from moving the ball forward with vertical passing either over the top or through the central trio that Everton had adopted. This often left their centre backs 1v1 or having to chase a runner beyond them.

Five minutes after the image above and the first chance of the game arrived. With no pressure on him, Nabil Bentaleb fed a fine chip for Ryan Mason to run on to, but the midfielder playing as a number ten couldn’t finish.


Bentaleb chips the screen to find Ryan Mason.

Next up was the chance of the match. Again with no pressure on the ball, Mason this time turned provider, as he instantly looked for Harry Kane’s run.


Ryan Mason finds Harry Kane’s run.

Our centre forward had been left isolated against Everton’s central defensive duo. Catching them on their heels, Harry Kane sped off and in to the clear. It looked a formality that the ball would end up in the net, but he delayed checking who was around him and ended up with the ball under his feet. In this situation a more confident Harry Kane would’ve then decided to take the ball around the advancing keeper, but low on confidence he shot straight at him.

The chance was gone and one that would’ve blown the game wide open. Everton would’ve been forced in to rethinking their game plan, which should’ve made this a much more open contest. As it was, the chances still infrequently came and when they did, they were from vertical passes that were looking to bypass the Everton midfield to expose a runner off their centre backs.

Eric Dier put Harry Kane in once more with this long ball over the top when again there was no pressure on the passer.


Eric Dier sends a searching ball up for Kane’s run.

Ryan Mason was then fed in by Nacer Chadli, as this time we got down the sides of the Everton defence. The pass left the screening Gareth Barry and James McCarthy standing. John Stones was unable to react in time, but Mason couldn’t put his shot past Tim Howard’s outstretched leg as he raced from his line.


Chadli’s vertical pass picks out Mason’s run.

After the interval and there were more good chances. The introduction of Dele Alli saw Mason moved out to the right, but again he burst in to the box after a chipped pass up to Alli in the penalty area from Kyle Walker.


Walker’s lofted pass over the midfield in to Dele Alli.

The pass from Walker again took out this central midfield trio leaving Alli 1v1 against the centre back. Alli knocked the ball down down and it ended up at the feet of the arriving Mason, unfortunatley his tame left-footed shot was pushed away by Howard.

Next up it was a more-reliable finisher in Nacer Chadli. A long searching pass by Eric Dier found the Belgian in space. There was again no pressure on the passer as once more Everton’s trio of central midfielders was bypassed and Chadli was in.


Dier goes long to find Chadli.

He dribbled past Seamus Coleman, laying the ball off to Harry Kane who was free inside the penalty area for a shot. Kane saw his effort blocked and as the rebound rolled free to Chadli it looked certain that the net would bulge. Unfortunately, in an anxious moment, anticipating that this was the chance, the Belgian snatched at the shot and lifted it up over the crossbar.

Not long after and Danny Rose was sprung free, as Jan Vertonghen was able to move forward with no pressure on him. Everton’s central trio were left watching as Vertonghen’s pinpoint pass found Rose on the run in-behind.


Vertonghen springs Rose.

However, the lack of support up with Rose was lacking and he had to delay before he could look to find a teammate. He got the ball back to Dele Alli, but the youngster went down lightly in the box over an outstretched leg. Nothing was given and the momentum was again lost.

The lack of support up in the box for Rose to try and pick out indicated that we were tiring. With the score Spurs 0-0 Everton both managers made changes. The Toffees to try and introduce some speed and more attack-mindedness in to the number ten position with Steven Naismith. This pushed Arouna Kone up top and it almost paid off as he sent Seamus Coleman’s cross just past the post.

With his game plan of vertical passing to take out the Everton central midfield trio, Mauricio Pochettino could really have done with Clinton N’Jie or Son Heung-Min on the bench. Introducing fresh pace and players that run off the shoulder was what he needed here, but our coach didn’t really have this option.

We did see Alex Pritchard, but he barely had any time to influence proceedings. Mauricio Pochettino shifted Dele Alli out to the right to allow Pritchard to play more centrally. However, this also removed the threat that Alli was causing from his hustling and bustling runs off Harry Kane.

Spurs 0-0 Everton overall

The best-laid plans are just that without being clinical to finish them off. Here we executed the objective well, but again lacked that decisiveness in front of goal to put the opposition away when we had the chance.

It has been the story of our season so far. Until we become much more ruthless and efficient with the opportunities that we create, then the story will remain the same.

Final score: Spurs 0-0 Everton.

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16 Responses to Spurs 0-0 Everton: vertical passing fails to pay off

  1. Mark 1st September 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    I don’t mean this to sound patronising or anything but when you say vertical passes you do just mean long balls don’t you?

    • Reinert 1st September 2015 at 1:56 pm #

      Vertical passing can be both long and short, and they isolate this kind of defence?

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st September 2015 at 2:20 pm #

        Spot on Reinert. Everton have an excellent shield to stop their centre backs being isolated, as the first image shows, so this is a way to try and remove this cover to expose their centre backs.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st September 2015 at 2:17 pm #

      Not at all Mark, as the pass from Chadli to put Mason in showed. But overall, the majority of passes that created chances here were long to take out the Everton midfield duo, but some were across the deck like the Kane breakaway opportunity, whilst others were through the air.

    • Zaph 1st September 2015 at 11:04 pm #

      Hah! the ‘vertital pass’ amuses me too, a vertical pass (without wind or spin) would go straght up and land back whence it came from.

      The modern ‘vertical pass’ is looking down on the pitch and what used to be called a “through ball”

      • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd September 2015 at 12:24 am #

        The old up and under, maybe that’ll come back in to fashion…

  2. Andy B 1st September 2015 at 12:08 pm #

    I still cannot fathom why we haven’t snapped up Charlie Austin. A poacher in the box and a natural goal scorer.

    With Son and N’jie, we will have the added pace that was needed and Austin would make an excellent backup for Kane.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st September 2015 at 2:17 pm #

      He’ll probably be a late doors back-up plan purchase.

  3. Bleedlilywhite 1st September 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    Very well done, Mark. This analysis is another proof that Spurs are not a one pony show. MP adjusts his tactic depending on opponent. That work very well, as we were a dominant team. Dominance is very difficult to achieve against any EPL team. It does not necessarily translate in goals. Tactic allows a horse to get to water. Drinking it is up to horse. But this time it was not misfortune, nor it was lack of skills per se. Howard was MOM and he alone took 2 points from us. That in no way should discourage our lads and their HC.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd September 2015 at 12:21 am #

      Great comment Bleedlilywhite. It shouldn’t discourage our lads, once we become more clinical this will breed confidence which will push the team forwards. I do feel we are on the verge of putting a run of results together once we become more ruthless at taking our chances.

  4. Zaph 2nd September 2015 at 5:40 am #

    Haha! But even the up-and-under (from rugby) had forward momentum.

    BTW – When did the term ‘vertical pass’ replace ‘through ball’ they are the same thing , aren’t they? Did you or Gary Neville make it up?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd September 2015 at 10:49 am #

      Its a phrase in common use by many coaches, but vertical passing is different from through balls. Through balls are a type of vertical pass as is a long ball up to a target man. Vertical passing is moving the ball forward with intention to move it up one or two levels within the formation. for example if you watch Barcelona they try to play a vertical pass then a square or backwards layoff ball, followed by another vertical pass. All the time they are trying to move the ball up a level within in the team and up the pitch with their vertical balls. This may well cumulate in a through ball for a forward to latch on to, but its the continual vertical passing process that creates the through ball opportunity.

  5. Mike J 2nd September 2015 at 8:08 am #


    For several posts now, you’ve essentially praised Poch on his astute tactics (which have varied to suit the opponent) – yet most would agree we have had a poor start to the season. To what do you attribute the poor start? Luck, or one or more players not implementing Poch’s plan properly?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd September 2015 at 11:26 am #

      Hi Mike, i think he has set the team up well to attack each opposition that we’ve faced so far from the start of the game. Yes there have been moments where we’ve lost control eg Stoke after Kane went off and Pochettino wasn’t able to re-influence the game to get control back. This was mainly due to no direct replacement for Kane, a continued worry now the transfer window has closed.

      At the minute i attribute it to a lack of being clinical and decisive in the big moments in front of goal. Kane had a great chance vs Everton, Mason had two 1v1s against Tim Howard. We missed all three chances and only took a point. Pochettino had set the team up in the right way to create chances, but he needs the players to execute and by decisive in their finishing. There is not much he can do when the game is on and we are fluffing good opportunities apart frm sub in someone who is more likely to take them – difficult at the mo – but off the pitch he can work on this in training.

  6. anotherwisemonkey 2nd September 2015 at 11:03 am #

    From a passing perspective this was an excellent performance and the lads should be encouraged, particularly now that we have Clinton and Son ready to come in. All that is lacking is our finishing, but I’m hopeful Kane will bag a couple against San Marino and then hopefully I’m not underestimating Sunderland in thinking we should sink a few league goals there.

    With regard to the transfer window- Spurs, Arsenal and United seem to have only one recognised out and out striker. Charlie Austin, an old-fashioned number 9, has Premier League pedigree and was available relatively cheaply, but no-one was interested. Do you think this is a reflection of the modern game, where players are expected to be able to play across a variety of forward positions?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd September 2015 at 11:39 am #

      Players are expected to play across a few positions these days, but as you say we only have one out and out striker and more importantly only one striker that can play with his back to goal and come towards the ball. We have plenty of players looking to run in-behind, but without another link man then we really are heavily reliant on Kane until January (unless Adebayor is bought back in to the fold).