The meeting of Everton and Spurs at Goodison Park promised much but delivered relatively little only coming to life in the later stages of the game. It’s fair to say the game won’t feature on any list of the season’s most entertaining games.
Martinez made one change to the side following the away win against Aston Villa. With Osman making a significant impact from the bench in that game, his reward was a starting position in midfield with Barkley dropping to the bench for the first time this season.
Villa Boas named the same side again with Lennon on the left of attack and Townsend on the right. Soldado continued as the central striker despite scoring few goals thus far.
It’s probably not stretching things too far to suggest the most significant talking point from the game was the serious injury to Hugo Lloris. A ball over the top enabled Lukaku to chase it into the penalty area. As usual, Lloris was extremely quick off his line to gather with both players colliding with the keeper taking a blow to the head.
Spurs enjoyed more possession in the first half but created relatively few chances with Howard only being tested from distance. Vertonghen made a number of good supporting forward runs and helped provide natural width. Lennon will more often than not cut inside onto his favoured right foot. Everton offered little in the opening period with a high shot from Osman being their only decent effort. With Spurs pushing high and pressing their opponents, Everton too often resorted to long balls towards Lukaku.
Everton gradually became more involved in the game as the second half wore on with Barkley and Deulofeu introduced from the bench and providing greater impetus. Aside from a driving run by the on loan Barcelona player which brought out a good save from Lloris, the home side still lacked a goal threat. As did Spurs.
In some respects, the game presented further evidence of the issues that are confronting both teams this season. Both sides are still undergoing a period of adaptation with Everton changing their style of play under new manager Roberto Martinez. Everton now retain possession more, push opponents back and play with a relatively high defensive line. Spurs have began to move toward a similar style of play as Andre Villa Boas makes subtle changes to the structure of the side in his second season in charge. Spurs are very attack minded but have thus far lacked the explosive nature in the attacking phase that they possessed last season and have a more controlled approach to their games. The absence of Gareth Bale is just one factor in this matter.
Changing Statistical Faces
Spurs have enjoyed their best ever start to a Premier League campaign yet already questions are being asked about the team. The side have increased their share of possession and have averaged 58.7% possession per game compared to 53% per game last season. Although not as dramatic, Everton meanwhile are two points better off after 10 games than they were last season. And they have conceded fewer gaols but have scored fewer goals too. The Toffees have also seen their share of possession per game rise to from 52.9% up to 56.3%. These changes may appear quite small but they can have profound effects upon how games develop.
As a team enjoys more possession, there is an increased likelihood that the opponent, as they see less and less of the ball, will fall deeper and deeper into defence with the end result being a possession orientated team will play against opponents who utilise a low block. Both Everton but especially Spurs are finding that out this season.
This was yet another game in which Spurs had difficulty in the final third of the pitch. With just nine league goals from the ten games played to date, there is clearly issues here to be resolved by Villa Boas but the attack is not just the sole responsibility of those three playing in the most advanced positions of the team. Players from the midfield must also share the burden particularly when it comes to chance creation.
Spurs lead the way in the Premier League so far as shots at goal is concerned with an average of 17.5 shots per game which is slightly down on lat season when they averaged 17.9 shots per game. From this, an average of 5.9 shots per game hit the target (compared with 6.3 per game last season and Spurs are third only to Man City and Arsenal in this regard). There is clearly not an issue with the volume of shots that Spurs are taking at goal but there is an issue with the location of the shots. Presently, 57% of Spurs shots in the league have originated from outside the penalty area. Too many shots are speculative rather than patiently trying to engineer a better opportunity.
Andros Townsend has hit 40 shots at goal so far this season yet has just one goal and no assists. With an average of 5.7 dribbles per game (2.5 more than second place Nani) Townsend is a player who likes to break into space running with the ball. His style of play would be ideally suited to a team using counter attacks yet Spurs are now playing a much more possession orientated style of play. Townsend needs to learn to associate more with team mates particularly Soldado (who needs to improve here himself too) otherwise Spurs will continue to look like a loose collection of individuals reliant upon a set piece or the spectacular to break down an opponent.
Spurs need to the creative talents of Eriksen and Lamela to thread passes through opposing defences and they also need to play a little deeper. Villa Boas has spoken of how to unlock a low block previously by tempting the opponent out. Such movement would open up space in behind for Soldado to exploit. Spurs average less than one offside per game. They don’t get in behind opponents. The play takes place in front of an opponent. The midfielders have they role to play here as does Villa Boas. Selecting two defensive minded midfielders in the double pivot role can slow play and lack creativity. Villa Boas perhaps needs to be a little bolder here.
Everton Going Forward
It’s a similar story for Everton. The conversion of possession into clear cut scoring opportunities. Under Martinez, there is a greater degree of control to Everton’s play. Perhaps not as adventurous as Spurs, Everton will recycle possession to find an opening. They are more methodical in their approach. This alteration in style has seen the number of shots per game fall from 16.7 per game last season to 13.8 so far this season. In terms of shots on target, the statistics are also declining with 5.4 shots on target per game last season and just 5 per game this season. The pass completion rate from last season has increased but it’s mainly due to the number of lateral passes taking place in deep, safe areas. Riskier passes will see turnover in possession more often but can also reap rewards but leading to better scoring chances.
The acquisition of Lukaku has provided the side with a better cutting edge in attack and enables the side to be more direct when the situation requires it although there can be a tendency to go too long too often on occasion.
Martinez has good options for attacking wide positions but with Jelavic off form for such a prolonged period of time, Lukaku is heavily relied upon right now for the main striking role. Naismith could play here as a stop gap measure but he will not provide the same goal threat. Although still adapting to the English game, Deulofeu does possess a very direct streak which could prove to be very useful for Everton although he still has a tendency not to see the bigger picture and shoots when a pass would be a better option.
Create More, Take More
Which neatly summarises the solution for both teams. Spurs are creating chances but not all are of sufficient quality. The play in the final third has to improve which surely means the gradual integration of Lamela and Eriksen in the starting line up.
For Everton, the team need to create more with their possession particularly when it is so dominant in some games.
Both sides are adapting and it’s been a positive opening period to the season. The hard work now starts with more testing fixtures for both sides approaching. Both managers will be happy with a point from this game. One suspects that when the sides meet again later in the season and with European places at stake, a more open game will take place with both keen to gain all three points.