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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.