When Tottenham took to the field against Everton last Wednesday in the long awaited fixture, there were a number of elements that intrigued me. The returns of Michael Dawson and Aaron Lennon, how Gareth Bale would perform against Phil Neville who played so well against him last season, and maybe most intriguing of all was how Jake Livermore would perform in central midfield. With Scott Parker not quite fit enough to return, and Sandro out of action, Livermore had a lot of responsibility to sit and protect the back four and compete against an Everton side who were always going to be well organised. I was a little concerned how he would perform but he put in a brilliant performance. He displayed a great deal of composure and put in a very mature performance, showing a lot of intelligence – although it has to be said he was largely untested.
His stats demonstrate how well he was able to keep possession and add a layer of protection to the defence.
Looking at his defensive statistics Livermore made 3 tackles and won each of these. The average tackle success rate of the team was 55%. His total ground dual (TGD) win percentage was 71%, winning 5 of the 7 duals that he contested on the ground. Again, this was above the team average of 59%. Livermore only had one aerial dual (TAD) but he successfully won this too.
Where I was most impressed with his performance was how well he was able to keep possession. Again he showed the maturity to be able to keep it simple and ensure that Tottenham were able to retain the ball. The stats below show that of the 77 passes that Livermore attempted, 75 of them made their target giving him a passing accuracy of 97%. His passing accuracy was above that of pass masters Van der Vaart and Modric, although they both attempted more passes than Livermore. It is also evident that Livermore was positive in possession, with 48% of his passes being played forward to instigate attacking play.
The final table looks at where passes where on the pitch the passes were made and how accurate the passes were.
Livermore made one more pass in his own half (TPO) than he did in Everton’s half (TPA) and in each he had a very impressive 97% accuracy. If we compare this to the passing accuracy of the other midfielders within the opposition half, Modric and Van der Vaart had the 2nd most impressive ratios with 83% pass completion, although they both made significantly more passes in the opposition half. Livermore also completed 14 of his 15 passes in the final 3rd, demonstrating his ability to get forward and keep possession within the oppositions half.
The stats that we have just seen for Livermore show that he can be a very effective box to box player. With a man of the match performance against Everton under his belt, I thought that he may start against Wolves. With Scott Parker available that wasn’t the case. Wolves are another team that are well organised and pack the midfield. It was always going to be a case of Tottenham having to break them down to claim the 3 points – much like the recent home games against Sunderland and West Brom. Wolves are a team that press possession and with Karl Henry and Frimpong in midfield it was always going to be a battle.
The stats below look at the midfield performance of Spurs and how the tenacity of Wolves hampered Tottenham’s natural passing game.
With Wolves pressing and denying Tottenham any time on the ball, our passing game suffered. The pass completion was below what we have seen recently – especially in home games. Modric had a pass accuracy of 84%, lower than the 89% than he achieved against Everton where he had more time and space on the ball. If we look at Scott Parker’s passing percentage compared to that of Livermore we can see the impact of Wolves play on the passing accuracy. Scott Parker managed 87% vs. the 97% of Livermore versus Everton.
Looking at the defensive stats we are able to see how effective Wolves midfield were at winning back possession and intercepting the Spurs attacks.
Kightly, Frimpong and Henry won possession 3 times each in the defensive 3rd (PWD) and Wolves won possession 22 times in total in the defensive 3rd. In midfield (PWM) they won possession 20 times with Jarvis winning the ball 7 times. There were also a number of interceptions made with Frimpong the most impressive – intercepting the ball 5 times.
If we contrast this to Everton, their midfield was less effective at winning back possession and their lack of pressing gave Tottenham more space to play and get on the ball. This also meant that Tottenham were less sloppy in possession meaning there was less opportunity for Everton’s midfield to intercept the play.
A number of teams have been to Tottenham and put players behind the ball. With Wolves displaying the midfield tenacity to disrupt Spurs’ free flowing football, more are likely to come with that plan in the future. If the referee had got key decisions correct, Spurs would have managed to come away with all 3 points – however, a point for Wolves was probably deserved.