Tactical Deconstruction: Spurs 0-0 Everton

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Preamble

It’d be a fair assumption to say that RM’s pants have been pulled down in his last 3 tussles with opposite number Pochettino. In each contest the Toffees have lost, but it’s been the manner of defeat which has been more emphatic than the 1-5 aggregate scoreline to Spurs would suggest. Shots wise, we were out-gunned 45-28 over the 3 games, and on the ball Spurs had more effective possession, creating a stack more chances in open play (36 v 22). It’s been a similar tale of woe off the ball, with Spurs intercepting play 64 times to our 24.

In short, we needed to up our game here to have any chance of getting a result.

Teams and Tactics

There was just the solitary change for us, with Bryan Oviedo returning in place of the injured Galloway at left back. Spurs started with Mason playing off Kane, with rather narrow looking support coming from Chadli on the left and Dembele on the right. Both sides were pretty much 4-2-3-1.

First Half

The first ten minutes was all about Everton, with Kone the focal point of attacks as we collectively squeezed Spurs deep into their own half. The main out ball for this pressure was a direct one, from Howard to Kone, and the Ivorian was our star turn in this half, winning his keeper’s long kick outs to the right flank, holding up play and then linking with on rushing midfielders.

Despite our early dominance, Spurs grew into the game and had the best chance of the half after Oviedo was outmuscled on the edge of the Spurs box. The impressive Mason was first to the loose ball, and pinged a cracking ball over the top of our backline for an offside looking Harry Kane to run onto. Luckily for us,  the forward’s finishing has given off a more potent gust than his Lynx Africa sprayed boxies this campaign, and he again fluffed his lines badly, making a shocking first touch which enabled Howard to close the angle and make a smart save.

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Our only effort on target in the first half came from Cleverley after an error from Walker allowed him a 1v1 opportunity at Lloris that the keeper repelled fairly easily. Cleverley went off soon after with what appears a bad ligament injury, and was replaced by Kevin Mirallas.

The first half was following a similar pattern to previous RM v MP games, with Spurs creating 9-2 chances in open play and off the ball regaining possession double the amount we did 28-14.

In general one of the main reasons we’ve struggled against Pochettino is that his midfield has youth and legs aplenty; they can get in position well and all defend and control the space – at least defensively – really well. This means that invariably passing angles through midfield are blocked off meaning it was difficult for Barry and co to thread balls into Barkley.

As the half ended we were again controlling the ball, albeit failing to get in behind a deep Spurs backline.

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Second Half

Shortly after the interval Spurs were forced into a change when Dembele suffered another bad-looking knock. Pochettino moved Mason  out to the right, and Alli central. The two injuries either side of half time probably benefited Spurs more than us, as without Cleverley we lost some control in the middle of the park with Mirallas – set pieces aside – hardly touching the ball. In contrast Alli gave Spurs a bit more penetration and zip to their attacking play.

On the hour mark Spurs really started to turn up the gas with their share of possession shooting up to 70%, thus triggering a flurry of chances for the home side.

The much maligned Barry, already on his customary yellow, was really creaking at this moment, with he and McCarthy struggling in the face of a high energy, free fowling, midfield pressure triangle from Spurs. The home side were making gains down our right side, and in particular through Chadli, who created the most chance in the game.

Firstly, after a gaffe from Barry, Mason forced Howard into a point-blank  stop. Then, Before you could say STITCH THAT MOWEEINIO YA SEAT SNIFFING QUEG, Spurs had another chance, with Alli  firing a wayward effort after Jagielka and Barry had failed to clear their lines.

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Whilst he struggled at times, Barry still recorded the most distance covered of any player on the pitch, maintaining his 100% record this season.

Credit to Martinez here, as he made a change which took the sting completely out of Spurs.

Lukaku had for the most part toiled and spent most of the second period berating the service being played into him down the right, so it wasn’t  a big surprise when the more industrious Nasimith replaced him.

The ex-Rangers man was only on the field for a short period of time, but his niggling, snide factor enabled us to win 3 free kicks (Lukaku had won 0 before going off) in the Spurs half and stemmed the tide which had been building before he entered the field.

The Toffees could have even have nicked it late on, when Kone diverted Oviedo’s cross inches wide of Lloris’ goal.

In Conclusion

Few would argue that Spurs created the better chances, and the game in general followed the usual Martinez/Pochettino flow, but fortunately not the usual end result.

It’s a really useful point for us at a ground we have struggled to get anything from in recent years, although our lack of attacking thrust, now shorn of the impressive Cleverley, will give Martinez a few headaches ahead of the looming transfer deadline.

EB

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