Spurs 2 Everton 2: tempo and width vs counter attack and long balls

An equaliser with just three minutes on the clock rescued a valuable point, as our Premier League clash finished Spurs 2 Everton 2 at White Hart Lane.

We did a lot of things well, controlling much of the game, but fell victim to Everton’s counter attack and long ball tactics.

Everton tactics

Everton lined up in their usual 4-4-1-1 formation, but in order to get an extra defensive player in to midfield, pushed Leon Osman up to play off Victor Anichebe. This left Johnny Heitinga alongside Darron Gibson in the centre, with Osman drifting between the lines and sometimes deeper than the pair to move the ball forward.

This achieved the effect that David Moyes was looking for. With us lacking natural wide players, they were able to crowd central areas of the pitch. Whilst rarely dominating this zone by having control of the ball, they were effective in slowing down the tempo of our play.

They were prepared to let us have the ball in front of them, while they retreated and looked to hit on the counter attack. When in possession, the ball was moved quickly forward looking for the robust Victor Anichebe to hold it up and bring others in to play.


Spurs 2 Everton 2: Toffees’ tackles and balls up to Victor Anichebe.

The main benefactors from Anichebe’s work were Kevin Mirallas and Leon Osman.

The Belgian was making runs off the Nigerian international all game and got his reward when Scott Parker and Jan Vertonghen froze, allowing him to steal in to add Everton’s second.

We’d looked at the direct dribbling and directness of Mirallas in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Everton and this was highlighted in his goal. Osman, on the other hand, was looking to pick up the knockdowns and mostly move the ball to Leighton Baines on the left or occasionally in to the area down the channels.


Victor Anichebe got the ball to Kevin Mirallas, whilst Leon Osman moved it out to Leighton Baines.

Everton only enjoyed 38% of the ball, but were very efficient in their use of it, with Anichebe giving us a headache all game. His performance was reminiscent of the trouble Romelu Lukaku gave us in Spurs 1 West Brom 1 at the start of the season.

The big Belgian front man bullied our defenders that day with his strength, pace and power. Anichebe did much of the same, blocking off Hugo Lloris for their first goal, whilst also creating the second with his strength to hold it up and lay the ball off to Mirallas. A fine save from Lloris when he powered through one-on-one near the end, fortunately denied him the reward his performance perhaps deserved.

Tottenham tempo

Everton’s tactics to drop deep, stifle the centre of midfield and play on the counter really slowed down the tempo of our game.

David Moyes knows that we like to play a more fluid, vertical style with Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon in the line-up. His tactics here, combined with our lack of width, really made the game more lethargic prior to the introduction of Tom Huddlestone, which I’ll look at in a minute.

As a result, we got plenty of shots, but many of these were from distance as we failed to penetrate the Everton defence. Of our 20 efforts at goal, just 5 were from inside the box and Tim Howard was rarely troubled.

Tottenham width

Without Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon going in to this one, we knew we’d struggle for width and that was the case.

Andre Villas-Boas went for Clint Dempsey and Gylfi Sigurdsson in the wide positions. The Icelander held his position on the left flank, but he would cut back inside on to his right foot – he did attempt to get round the outside and cross with his left later in the game and this stretched Everton much more. He should have tried this earlier though.

On the other side, the American was starting on the right, but then moving in to central locations further up the pitch. This meant the width had to be provided by Kyle Walker overlapping, but we struggled to get in behind as a result.


Spurs 2 Everton 2: Tottenham passes in the final third.

On the odd occasions that we did get round the back in the full back zones, we created our two goals.

Two goals from the full back zones

Everton have conceded chances when teams get in behind their full backs. We looked at this in the Tottenham tactics for Spurs vs Everton and when we were able to do this we scored two goals.

The first arrived after just 34 seconds from Emmanuel Adebayor, but the beauty was in the build up.

The ball was swiftly moved to left back Jan Vertonghen who had got himself in to an advanced position. Seamus Coleman was taken away by the run of Gylfi Sigurdsson down the channel, leaving Moussa Dembele to feed the Dutchman with Kevin Mirallas late in rotating out to him.


Sigurdsson draws Coleman and Dembele gets the ball out to Vertonghen in space.

Vertonghen did well to get his cross in early. By moving it quickly he was able to get the ball in to the centre when the space between goalkeeper Tim Howard and his defence was at its greatest. Emmanuel Adebayor showed a very controlled finish as he extended his right leg to convert.


Jan crosses when the space between keeper and defence is at it’s greatest.

Whilst the first arrived after finding space in the Everton right back area, the second came after getting in to space in the Toffees’ left back zone.

This time the ball was swiftly moved from Michael Dawson to Kyle Walker who skipped past Leighton Baines. Johnny Heitinga was unable to cover, as he was playing narrow as part of Everton’s plans to stifle the centre.


Kyle Walker gets in to the space behind Leighton Baines.

Walker then had time to look up and pick out Emmanuel Adebayor in the centre. His shot hit the post, but Gylfi Sigurdsson did an excellent job following up, as Seamus Coleman had left him unmarked.

The left back was beaten in the build up, the right back in the finish.


Seamus Coleman leaves Gylfi Sigurdsson unmarked.

Tom Huddlestone

Prior to the equaliser going in, we were controlling the game but not really getting in behind to trouble Tim Howard as Everton slowed down our tempo.

The Introduction of Tom Huddlestone really changed that, as he moved the ball quickly on the diagonal and the pace of the game dramatically increased.


Spurs 2 Everton 2: Tom Huddlestone passes played.

Moussa Dembele was executing his dribble-drives with the ball, but with Everton crowding the central areas, he was often running in to two or three defenders. Huddlestone’s introduction brought a passer who pings the ball around in to the game and this allowed us to move the ball more quickly forward.

We were also more open at the back, as Dembele is the better defender, but at 2-1 down, a goal was required.

After Gylfi Sigurdsson levelled things up, Tom Carroll also came in to the game and gave us another intelligent passer in this zone as Andre Villas-Boas chased a winner. His introduction allowed us to press even more and maybe he should have come on 5 minutes earlier, but this would have left us even more exposed going back the other way without both Parker and Dembele in midfield.

Spurs 2 Everton 2 conclusions

We did well without Gareth Bale and Aaron Lennon, but Everton’s tactics were effective in stifling us and slowing the initial tempo of our play.

Going forward, they were efficient at hitting Victor Anichebe and working off his knockdowns and layoffs, capitalising on two of the few chances they had.

Although we looked for width from our full backs, this did a good job of forcing Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman back, minimizing their threat going forward.

The problem for us was that we didn’t get in to the zones behind their full backs often enough. When we did, we created two goals, but this game could have been won if we’d attempted to get in here more often.

Final score: Spurs 2 Everton 2.

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4 Responses to Spurs 2 Everton 2: tempo and width vs counter attack and long balls

  1. Chris 8th April 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    Walker was really hesitant to try to run past Baines (or whoever he was up against on the wing). Pretty much the one time he tried (and succeeded), we got a goal. So I’m wondering, why the reticence? Was he under instructions from AVB? Was it that he know he couldn’t rely on anyone to cover behind him? Lack of confidence? Knowledge that 9 times out of 10 he wouldn’t be able to beat LB?

    Huddlestone on was a breath of fresh air after all the stodgy play we’ve seen in the centre of the park this season. I take the point about Everton having sat back and it being a good environment for him to show off his passing ability, but it really helped induce more panic in the Everton defenders as the play was quickly switched from side to side.

    I had thought we were more able to hold off the big front guy these days, but that game showed not. Anichebe had an excellent game, but surely teams shouldn’t be able to fire the ball forward so freely to a big front man and have him take it down nearly every time? Would Kaboul have handled him better?

    • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 8th April 2013 at 6:17 pm #

      Walker did grow more in to the game, there were a couple of surges forward in the first half, but like you say, i think he was concerned about cover behind him. I think he knew he could Baines in a foot race, hence the way he blasted by him on the equaliser.

      Kaboul may have done a better job, but Dawson and Caulker are both big strong fellas. Anichebe usually had a good starting position from which to use his leverage – whether it was jumping to head or if he was shielding the ball. Usually he doesn’t play consistently that well, but it was probably just one of those ‘good days at the office’ for him and he’ll be back to his usual self when we require a similar performance from him against the Gooners.

      • Chris 9th April 2013 at 10:24 am #

        Too true. We don’t seem to get much luck with these things – keepers and bit part players have blinders against us…

        But I console myself with the thought that actually this happens because we’re just not as good as the teams we’re attempting to compete with. Our goal difference says it all – that we’ve been scraping through all season, and have actually done way better than we should have, given the new manager, changed team, etc. What’s the saying, “the more I practice, the luckier I get” – it’s the same here. The best teams get lucky, a lot.

        I think it’s a bit of a shame we didn’t press a bit more to stop them being able to easily pick out Anichebe for those long balls. Risky game, though.

        • Spurs Fanatic - Mark 9th April 2013 at 10:57 am #

          Agree that we’ve done better than we should have this season given the changes. I think this is a huge week and a bit for us with the Basle match, whilst the Goons play three times before we play our next Premier League match against what looks like a rejuvenated Man City side after last night’s perfromance.