Spurs 2 Everton 1: precision pressing and counter attacking

A great performance full of energy and purposeful passing sees us take all three Premier League points with it finishing Spurs 2 Everton 1 at the Lane.

“Our mentality and spirit were fantastic,” purred a proud Mauricio Pochettino after what was one of our best performances of the season.

Overcoming a shaky start, the determination and spirit to stick to our pressing and rapid counter attacking game plan paid off.

Everton opening

With both teams naming a second striker, this game always had the look of one that would be very open. Everton went with Samuel Eto’o playing in a three behind Romelu Lukaku. We had Harry Kane playing off Roberto Soldado.

Both teams passed the ball well in the opening 15 minutes, but it was the Toffees who were threatening more due to getting their full backs forward.

We’d looked in the Tottenham tactics about how they get Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman in to advanced positions to provide width and crossing. Here the pair were able to get forward, as our full backs were occupied with Kevin Mirallas and Samuel Eto’o in the early stages.

After both Baines and Coleman had attempted crosses in to the box, their opener arrived from once more getting the ball wide. This time it came from Kevin Mirallas, who was fouled by Vlad Chiriches as he tried to cut inside our right back.

The resulting free kick from Baines was cleared, but the ball dropped back to Mirallas. He evaded a challenge from Soldado and then curled a peach in to the top corner.

The goal briefly knocked what was a good start from us, but we came back in to the game through our strategy of a bridge press and breaking quickly on the counter attack.

Spurs’ bridge press

We’ve rarely seen the pressing game that Mauricio Pochettino is renowned for, but here he went with a new philosophy for us in a bridge press.

Naming both Harry Kane and Roberto Soldado, in the defensive phase, both forward thinking players were latching themselves on to Everton’s wide splitting centre backs. They were then joined by either Ryan Mason or Christian Eriksen who were looking to get to Gareth Barry dropping in to move the ball out.

The rest of the Spurs team would then drop to create a gap. The remaining midfield would then condense the space between them and the defence to give nothing away between the lines at the back.


Spurs’ bridge press.

This bridge press is something we’ve not seen from Mauricio Pochettino, but created two zones of ball recovery. One by the front three pressing players. The other by the remaining midfielders and back four on the other side of the bridge.


Spurs press creates 2 zones of ball recovery.

What this allowed us to do, through the hard work of the front three pressers was create turnovers whereby we could counter attack with great speed. The pace of Aaron Lennon was a good inclusion in the line-up for this, as was the marauding forwards runs of Harry Kane. Combined with the youngster’s dogged defensive work, Everton were punished twice from turning the ball over in their half.

Precision counter attacks

After going a goal down, we got back in the game through this pressing and counter strategy.

Harry Kane’s excellent chasing down of Sylvain Distin caused the Frenchman to clear downfield and the ball to be turned over.


Kane forces Distin to go long.

Jan Vertonghen stepped in to recover and it was quickly worked to Harry Kane who had got himself between the lines.


Kane gets free between the lines.

Kane received the pass and immediately drove up-field towards goal. His direct forward bursts with the ball were causing the Toffees problems, as he was receiving it frequently behind their midfield with just the centre backs to stop him.


Harry Kane take-ons, Spurs 2 Everton 1.

Roberto Soldado’s run took both Everton centre backs away, allowing Kane to get a shot in that Tim Howard only half palmed away. Christian Eriksen, who was breaking forward from his starting role on the left, raced in to hoover up the rebound and level the scores.

Eriksen’s role in the team was a really interesting one. He was starting from the left when we had the ball and then drifting in to the centre. However, in the defensive phase he was racing to recover his position out on the flank in order to challenge Seamus Coleman.


Eriksen works in from the left, then gets back to defend the flank.

Both he and Harry Kane had the most positionally mobile jobs in the formation. Eriksen was drifting in to the centre and then racing back out to the left. Kane was tasked with getting up and supporting Roberto Soldado and pressing from the front. But if Everton navigated that pressure, then he had to run hard to get back in to support Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb in midfield.

It was Kane working back that saw us add a second. His persistent hounding of Everton’s centre backs and midfield was constant and his tackle to strip Gareth Barry of the ball was executed with pinpoint accuracy and timing.


Kane takes the ball from Barry.

With us regaining possession, the ball was once more worked quickly forward as Aaron Lennon galloped up field and laid it off in to the path of Roberto Soldado.

With Everton trying to get their full backs forward, the Spaniard drifted in to the zone Leighton Baines had vacated and coolly finished across Tim Howard. The relief, joy and excitement for the Spaniard was clear for all to see and the timing of the goal right on half time was perfect.

2nd half switches

Everton were controlling the possession, but couldn’t find too many ways around our pressing and counter attacks. Often their passing was backwards due to not being able to find way through, but Roberto Martinez tried to change that with his substitutions.

Early in the second half Leon Osman and Aiden McGeady replaced Kevin Mirallas and Samuel Eto’o. Osman added another body in central midfield that could be used to combat our trio in there. McGeady added width to the right whereas previously Eto’o and Ross Barkley were switching positions here, but both were moving inside.

The switches allowed Everton to gain a tighter grip on the possession and to get their full backs in to the game more, but rarely did they create clear-cut chances. A through ball to Seamus Coleman, who had got up from his right back position, was their best opportunity. He was clean through on goal, but was denied by Hugo Lloris, who was straight out on him with his cat-like reactions.

The moves by Martinez prompted Mauricio Pochettino to change our set up. Aaron Lennon, who was having a good game, came off to bring on Erik Lamela.

With us sinking increasingly deeper, the switch was designed to get a player on that was better at holding the ball up, but could also run and score on the break. Lennon is good defensively, but he is too undersized to hold the ball up and neither is he a real threat to take it himself, beat a man and finish on the counter.

Lamela did have a couple of opportunities in order to open his legs and run at Everton’s over-committed back line. Unfortunately, after beating the first man he often over hit the ball and was disposed. After receiving a yellow, he was lucky to not receive a second booking, as he swiped at Leighton Baines after losing the ball from what was a good situation to race clear.

Mauricio Pochettino’s second change was a straight swap with Eric Dier for Vlad Chiriches. The Romanian had a decent game where he looked very good coming forward, but did make a couple of errors in defence. Some good crosses going forward came with equal measures of an under hit back pass and the foul on Mirallas prior to Everton’s first goal.

With Everton still pushing us back, our head coach’s third change was to introduce Paulinho for Roberto Soldado. This move got a better player who can hold the ball up and win free kicks in Harry Kane up top. The England under-21 international was unlucky not to win a penalty, but also won free kicks in the Everton half and late on by the corner flag. Paulinho made an extra body in midfield to counteract Leon Osman, but also tried to get forward and support Kane in holding the play up.

Both teams had penalty shouts in the last moments, but Michael Oliver rightly turned both down.

Spurs 2 Everton 1 overall

This was arguably our best performance of the season. Mauricio Pochettino had a game plan and the players executed it perfectly.

The two waves of pressure caused turnovers both in the Everton half and from hurried clearances out from the back. The swift, precise passing and counter attacks were excellent in overrunning Everton’s midfield and catching their full backs forward or away from their centre backs.

Just two points off the top four and things are looking up. A tough midweek trip to Chelsea will be a stern test of just where we are and how Mauricio Pochettino will play it will be interesting. Will he adopt the same tactics as here, play as open as we did at the Etihad, or try a deep lying counter attacking game like we saw at the Emirates?

What it will be is a stern test of our new found “mentality and spirit.”

Final score: Spurs 2 Everton 1.

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17 Responses to Spurs 2 Everton 1: precision pressing and counter attacking

  1. John Carter 1st December 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    Two pen appeals? More like arm above head to block header which was stonewall whilst Spurs was more the attacker deliberately trying to wrap his leg around defender to force decision! The Blues weren’t great but two tough away days in few days..will see at Goodison

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2014 at 9:01 pm #

      Looking forward to the return game, always a good one.

  2. Brian Himself 1st December 2014 at 7:59 pm #

    I’m a little perplexed at the apparent over valuing of the contribution from youngsters Bentaleb and Mason. Good and developing young players – on their way to becoming solid journeymen but really lacking experience. Don’t seem to contribute much to the “pressing” game.
    Both had some good defensive plays but seem to be hesitant on the offense. I must be
    missing something. Poch is playing them both extensively ahead of more experienced and IMO more skilful players.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      I thought they both did well here, but yes i would share your concerns if they were paired together at Chelsea on Wednesday night. Bentaleb was shielding the back four and did an excellent job intercepting passes. Mason didn’t have his greatest game and i am sometimes concerned he is too lightweight, but was often forward pressing behind Soldado and Kane. I think Poch has been briefed to bring the kids through, but Stamford Bridge so soon after playing Sunday should see him go for more experience.

      • Bobbles 2nd December 2014 at 10:55 am #

        But Mason is far more positive that Paulinho,or Dembele. He drives at the defense when he gets the ball and this helps us maintain a good tempo – the other 2 are ponderous and sideways/backwards merchants.

        Capoue has gone right off the boil, but I think I’d prefer Stambouli to Bentaleb agains Chelsea.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 2nd December 2014 at 12:14 pm #

          They are different players in terms of their positivity. Mason is a positive passer of the ball. Paulinho is positive in terms of his movement, he gets much more often in the box. Dembele is the best recoverer of the ball and is positive in his dribbling of it. Who gets selected really depends on what you want out of the player at that position.

  3. YouShubes 1st December 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Excellent work Mark. I thought Lennon came off to rest him with an eye for the Chelsea game. Clearly Lamela is talented but for me does not show strength and determination at the right times.

    Can we play a bridge press such a high line, given, Fabregas’s ability to catapult deadly accurate passes on to runners such as Hazard, Willian, Schurrle, or Ocsar

    Vlad showed some really good vision with his passing, one ball almost caught Jagielka, if Soldado was that wee bit quicker. But clear he lacks the low centre of gravity to tackel at fullback, and his passbacks…… the less said I feel

    Distin is 36. Kane will not be able to work Terry and Cahill the same way I feel. Plus Chelsea do not push their fullbacks as high. Poyet has shown that Chelsea can be thawarted. You can bet the Poch has been watching that game non stop

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2014 at 9:13 pm #

      Thanks for reading Shubes. He may well have benn brought off for the Chelsea game, but we as fans sat in the seats don’t know that for sure. It did look as if he brough both Lamela and Paulinho on as options to try and hold the ball up beter as it was increasingly coming back quickly. Lamela also was trying to get out on eth break, just a shame tha his dribbling at speed was off.

      Any kind of press needs pressure on the ball if you are playing a high line. We did have seven sat deep though, so plenty of numbers to defend if we do deploy three to press high up. It’s a tactic Mourinho used often last season, press with his front four whilst the rest drop off to defend deeper. We’ll see what happens on Wednesday!

      Chelsea do get their full backs up but it’s usually Ivanovic whilst Azpilicueta sits deeper. They don’t often go at the same time.

      • YouShubes 1st December 2014 at 9:32 pm #

        I would have brought on Chadli for Soldado but he may not have been fully fit.

        Like what you wrote about Mason. So do you think Stambouli will be given his first PL start against Chelsea. Dembele was very poor against Partizan, but Benji looked as is he was running through treacle at times?

        Bentaleb and Mason, against Cesc, or Oscar if he Jose decided to have them interchange… it does make me shudder

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2014 at 10:38 pm #

          I’d like to see Stambouli given some games, but i’m not sure this is the right match to give him his first start in the Premier League. Poch does seem to trust Capoue and i’m not sure if he’s able to play, but we may see him return.

  4. Scorpio 1st December 2014 at 9:44 pm #

    The problem about using more experienced midfield players is which one has shown the appetite and commitment to play the high pressing game executed so brilliantly by the team on Sunday? Dembele is out of form, plays at a slow tempo and currently barely makes a positive contribution. Paulinho too slow and hardly gets a tackle in. Chadlli scored goals but not really great at pressing. Lamella does show more energy but lacks quality with his end product, Lennon offers much better defensive cover

    I hope Stamboule is given a start vs Chelsea, perhaps instead of Mason who may a bit too light weight vs Chelsea, Matic in particular is a strong. Stamboule also looked better bursting forward than protecting the back 4. I thought Bentaleb had his best game for Spurs. He kept his head up and played some good forward passes.

    Given we got beaten 4-1 vs Man City playing an open game and nearly beat the Gunners playing on the counter its seem to me a no brainer which tactic we should use.

    Hopefully, Poch keeps the same team to start the match expect for Naughton at RB and possibly Stamboule for Mason. Lennon will play an important role helping Naughton counter the massive threat from Hazard on the left.

    So happy to see Spurs use tactics which better suits the type of service Soldado thrives on. Always amazed me how recent Spurs managers have failed to use tactics which suits his game.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2014 at 10:43 pm #

      Great post Scorpio. It never ceases to amaze me that most of Soldado’s goals from open play have come from quick transition situations were we’ve broken rapidly on the opposition to play him in or from a first time shot from a cross. I do wonder whether Poch will trust his hold-up play against Chelsea, as he was quickly hooked once we started struggling to get out against Everton.

  5. Andy 1st December 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Excellent article Mark. I think by common consent that was our best performance of the season by some distance. For the first time in a long time I saw players working for each other. Everton are a good side but didn’t really create too much in the second half – that was down to the work ethic and energy of the team.
    I would question the wisdom of changing a winning team for Wednesday. I thought everyone gave at least a 7/10 performance – some gave substantially more! I think it would have a negative effect if the team puts in a performance like that then players are dropped for the next match. Stick with the same line-up for Chelsea and make changes at h/t or second half if required!

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 1st December 2014 at 10:45 pm #

      Thanks Andy. I like the consistency of a winning team and it’ll be hard to drop anyone off the back of that performance. It just depends on the fitness of players like Vlad and if they can summon the same levels of energy off 2 days rest.

  6. Matthew 2nd December 2014 at 8:11 pm #

    Among the talk of playing Mason and Bentaleb together, I wanted to mention how helpful this was for Christian Eriksen. By playing with a central 2 who started a bit deeper than the 2 wide players and a front 2 who pushed high and pulled wide, it left a big pocket of space between the lines for Eriksen to drift into from the left.

    The past several games before Everton, we have been really congesting that central space in front of goal. I thought this system suited Eriksen really well despite the fact that I still like him in the middle. He seems to thrive in space and lose influence in Arsenal-like tight spaces.

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 3rd December 2014 at 11:27 am #

      Very good point Matthew, Eriksen was difficult for Everton to pick up. What impressed me was that for the first time i’ve seen him working extremely hard to regain his position once we lost the ball. He was keen, as always, to get in to the middle when we had the ball, but he often doesn’t put the effort in when we loose it. His energy to get back out to help Ben Davies was excellent here.

  7. Vitaliy 10th December 2014 at 8:00 pm #

    Difficult and necessary win!