Just past the halfway point of the Premier League season, Spurs and Everton meet in what would have been their opening match. An away start at Man United followed by a home game against a rampant Man City had Spurs with no points and -7 goal difference. Things may have been different if not for the postponement of the official opening fixture. Ever since, Spurs have gradually climbed to their current third place while retaining a game in hand against their top six rivals. Spurs have taken more points from Everton than any other team in Premier League history. They have enjoyed an excellent record against Everton at White Hart Lane, losing only twice in London since the formation of the league. Recent history is more in Everton’s favour though. Spurs have won just one of the past ten meetings in all competitions.
Everton’s Season So Far
Everton have been inconsistent and have enjoyed a less than vintage season so far. In seven Premier League matches since the start of December, no Everton match has been decided by more than a single goal. They have won twice; against Swansea and West Brom, drawn twice; against Norwich and Sunderland and lost three times; to Bolton, Arsenal and Stoke. They were unbeaten for four matches before their disheartening defeat at home to Bolton last Wednesday. Everton’s home record is now worse than their away record. The defeat was particularly costly as it saw Phil Jagielka injured. He will be absent against Spurs. Apart from the recent loss to Bolton and the season opener with QPR, Everton have lost only to each of the current top eight, except for Spurs, who they are yet to play. In those matches they have conceded 12 times and scored only two.
Only Wigan, QPR and West Brom have scored fewer goals than Everton’s 20. Only four teams, including Spurs have conceded less than the 22 that have passed Tim Howard so far. They have won more games than any other team outside the top seven. A victory for Everton would take them ninth. A Spurs win would move them level with Manchester United in second place, only three points behind the leaders. It would also leave Spurs nine points clear of fifth placed Arsenal. Spurs are currently nine points better off than they were after nineteen games last season, with 42. It took Spurs 25 games last season to reach 42 points and 24 games the season before. They had 34 points after 19 in 2009 and 33 after 19 in 2010. Last season, Spurs were only in the top four for three weeks. They have been there for nine consecutive weeks and currently hold a six point advantage over fifth place.
It has become a cliché to say that David Moyes’ Everton never give up; they fight until the final whistle. It is symptomatic of that Everton tenacity that they have scored nine times in the last 15 minutes of matches, including winners against Fulham, West Brom, Wolves, Wigan and Blackburn.
Everton managed only 279 completed passes against Bolton (67% of total attempts). Spurs had 589 against West Brom (85% of their attempts). Spurs made ten successful dribbles, twice the number Everton managed. Spurs made four times as many chances as Everton (16), creating a goal scoring chance every five minutes. This is particularly impressive, given that West Brom sat very deep and frustrated much of Spurs’ attacking play.
Spurs make 100 more pass attempts per game, completing an average of 120 more. It is interesting to note that Everton actually make a larger proportion of passes toward the opposition goal. Spurs create more chances (279 to 202) and take more shots (255 to 200) and have a better chance conversion rate (14% to 10%). Clearly, Spurs are a far more damaging attacking team. Tim Howard needs only three more goals to equal Leighton Baines as Everton’s top scorer. A tongue in cheek point, but it demonstrates Everton’s clear weakness. None of Everton’s forwards can be relied on to put the ball in the net. Louis Saha, usually their most clinical striker, has only one goal this season. He has played over 1,000 minutes in the Premier League. In comparison, Jermain Defoe has made five less starts but has seven goals.
Royston Drenthe, after joining on deadline day from Real Madrid, has become Everton’s key player. He has five assists in just five starts. Everton have only had 13 assisted goals in total. His pace and physical presence will be a handful for Kyle Walker. He also won the decisive penalty against Tamworth on Saturday. Redknapp may choose to play Aaron Lennon in an attempt to pin Drenthe back. The return of Landon Donovan on loan has also increased Everton’s options in attack. The American has made an immediate impact, creating the opening goal in their FA Cup tie with Tamworth as he found Heitinga from an early corner.
Spurs’ much vaunted depth will be tested by an Everton side also depleted by injury. Everton will cede possession and field position to deprive Spurs’ pacy attack of the space required to be effective. Modric and Van der Vaart will need to be patient to unpick Everton’s defence. The impact of injury will probably result in a more open game. Spurs will be missing Parker and Sandro who have formed a strong midfield partnership this season. Their absence means Spurs are lighter in the midfield; they lose eight successful tackles, two 90% passers and two chances per game. With further injuries at centreback, it’s likely Spurs will continue Dawson’s return and partner him with Younes Kaboul.
Everton also have dangerous players like Baines (46 chances created this season), Drenthe and Donovan who can counter at speed. If Barkley, Rodwell and Coleman can overcome their injuries, they too will prove a massive headache for Spurs. Spurs have their sights set on the top of the Premier League, this is the first game of three leading up to the massive match at Eastlands next weekend, victory is vital but Everton will not make it easy, they never do.
We’ll leave you with some stats from the corresponding fixture from last season. The following screenshot has been taken from the EPLIndex Quick Stats area (All Opta Stats), available to subscribers only (Subscribe Now!)