In many ways Everton played better in defeat at White hart Lane than they did in victory on Thursday night in Germany. The possession was a little better (55% vs 44%), but this time it wasn’t used as effectively and crucially the defending were not good enough.
It all started well enough with a strong Everton line up including the return of cavalier fullbacks Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines, and the surprise recovery of Gareth Barry. It was the strongest team the Blues have been able to field for a while. The only downside to that is the ongoing bodge of how to play Ross Barkley and Samuel Eto’o. The England youngster hasn’t looked convincing since his return from injury but need game time in his preferred position; playing out wide isn’t helping. The conundrum comes as Eto’o is surprising people with his football intelligence and his movement across the pitch, which is making him hard to leave out. You can’t help but feel the constant changing of those attacking positions is harming the flow of the team. With Kevin Mirallas making his third start in a week there will be more changes ahead for Hull City on Wednesday.
It was one of Mirallas’ more frustrating games, although to mitigate his ineffectiveness for the last hour he was on the pitch his wonder goal on the quarter hour mark will surely be in the Goal Of The Season. Romelu Lukaku had no such mitigation as he had another ineffective display, though a lack of service contributed somewhat to that. Ultimately a lack of match fitness is what told in this game. Barry, Coleman, Baines, Mirallas, and Barkley have all been missing recently, or in and out of the team, and Muhammed Besic is still settling into the rhythm of the Premier League. That lack of fitness does not help when you're chasing a game and need fresh legs to drive the team on.
Credit must go to Tottenham though as their high pressure game once again brought them benefits, their second goal was as a direct result of Mauricio Pochettino’s team pressurizing high up the pitch with Barry caught in possession. That then led to the second thing that caused Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin problems all game, Spurs direct running. Harry Kane and Aaron Lennon kept the Everton back four on their toes for most of the ninety minutes. Both Spurs goals came as a result of Jagielka and Distin not being able to cope with Kane running at them.
A fabulous game for the neutral, or Spurs fans, it was a missed opportunity for Everton to put another marker down this season and really consolidate their push for the European places. Amends can be made quickly though with the game against Hull a mere two days away.