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