The final Premier League game of the festive season sees an Everton side currently on the ropes and looking to avoid a knock out punch from a Spurs team on a great run of form….
Spurs Attacking Threat
Spurs arrive on the back of 3 consecutive victories, an unbeaten record stretching back 11 games in all competitions and playing with a real swagger in their play. Spurs are rightly lauded as one of the most exciting teams to watch in the league. They really open up the pitch and play with great width and ferocious pace in wide areas. In Van Der Vaart and Bale they have a massive creative inspiration from midfield and between them they have scored 15 and created 8 of Spurs 30 goals this campaign. Tottenham’s threat then is clearly from midfield rather than attack. If Crouch plays he will win the majority of long balls as Spurs do like to mix it up, but without a natural strike partner, like say Defoe, to follow up the knock downs in behind our defence the knock downs will not be as potent. Van Der Vaart is more likely to come deep as shown in Chalkboard B from the fixture earlier this season at the Lane.
Bale/Van Der Vaart Chalkboards from Spurs v Everton game this season. Notice how Bale fails to make any successful crosses. The VdV chalkboard displays him dropping deep a lot playing away from the target man rather than in behind our back 4.
If Spurs have a weakness for me it is clearly in defence. Despite having a plethora of centre halves on their books including King, Woodgate, Bassong, Dawson, Kaboul, Gallas & Corluka they have failed to muster one clean sheet on their travels in the EPL this campaign. They also have a tendency to over commit, with their attack minded midfield perhaps a tad lob sides in terms of attacking midfielders. Wilson Palacios deployed in the anchor role holding most of the defensive responsibility. With injuries and suspension to numerous of the above players the likely combination would be Dawson and Gallas with Corluka and Assou Ekotto in the fullback slots. Assou-Ekotto has a more defensive brief to compensate for the attacking threat of Spurs left side. The right sided fullback, usually Hutton but likely to be Corluka on this occasion, will have more of an onus on offensive play. The last 3 goals Spurs have conceded have come down their right side, perhaps due to this tactic and with our strength down the left this could be our best opportunity of penetrating the Spurs rearguard.
Last time out
In the game at White Hart Lane earlier this campaign we got a credible 1-1 draw at the Lane with Van Der Vaart’s tap in from Howard’s blunder cancelling out Leighton Baines superb free kick. This result owed a lot to our defensive qualities with Neville and Coleman shutting out Bale down the Spurs left. The above chalkboard shows this with the usually marauding Bale not putting in a single successful delivery all day. Eventually the wideman was switched to the right side of midfield and don’t be surprised if this happens on Wednesday night. In two of Spurs most recent away victories at Arsenal and Villa, Bale has been nullified on the left and switched to the right side albeit temporarily to score against Arsenal and setup Van Der Vaart’s clincher at Villa Park.
Jonny Heitinga was deployed in a man marking brief against Van Der Vaart at the game back in October and gave one of his better displays this season, restricting Van Der Vaart’s productivity to just one successful pass into our 18 yard box. The left side is Spurs strongest for sure, with Van Der Vaart, Bale and heartbeat of the midfield Modric all natural left sided players. For this reason I would expect Fellaini to start on the right side of our central midfield duo with Arteta on the left.
With our solitary goal threat now departed, we will look to life without Cahill for the first time with Steven Pienaar expected to step up to play off the striker who I would expect to be Louis Saha. Leon Osman will most likely fill Pienaar’s position on the left flank with the rest of the team likely to be unchanged. The other alternative is to go with Fellaini in Cahill’s slot and Rodwell as anchor. Much has been made of our woes up front but we have been leaky at the back also with just 1 clean sheet from our last ten matches so this is also a cause for concern.
Our record against the top sides in the league is impressive with just 1 defeat against the top 8 clubs, in contrast to just 1 win against the bottom 10 sides. We have usually bounced back well from the litany of lows we have suffered this campaign, and I would expect a high tempo start to proceedings under the floodlights on Wednesday night. If we can press Spurs high upfield and cut out the source to their more creative players in midfield we have a strong chance of getting a result.
Both sides like to get the ball down and play and I would expect a decent attacking game on Wednesday night. Spurs will fancy their chances with the way things are going for us but I think we can definitely get something if we apply ourselves. I’m going for a 1-1 draw.