Tottenham are a better team, up and down the squad, than Everton. But on Sunday at White Hart Lane, the difference between the two teams wasn’t talent, but rather a collection of stupid mistakes and some timid management. The match ended up 3-2 in favor of Spurs after a late barrage of goals.
In order for the Blues to get anything out of this game, they knew they had to play solid, perhaps outstanding, defense. They didn’t even come close to approaching that. Ramiro Funes Mori had a gaffe or two. Ashley Williams couldn’t get out of his own way. And Joel Robles had, mentally, his worst performance of the season.
Physically, Robles made a number of good saves and kept Everton in the match in many ways. But at the same time, he was slightly at fault for Spurs first two goals. The first, he was on an odd angle from the goalscorer, Harry Kane, and he was also in the middle of a hop when Kane shot the ball, not allowing him to react properly. On the second goal, he inexplicable rolled a pass out to Morgan Schneiderlin, putting him under immediate pressure. Schneiderlin was unable to handle it and gave the ball away before Kane buried his second of the day.
It was a disappointment because, for most of the season, Robles has been rock solid between the sticks. But goalkeeping is a position where you need to be pretty much perfect to keep your spot. One or two errors can make the number one shirt up for grabs. Everton will be on the hunt for a goalkeeper in the summer, regardless, but Robles needs to bounce back from this if he is to be the assumed starter heading into next season.
The third Spurs score came off of a set piece where the entire Everton team fell asleep and allowed Deli Alli go on an easy run, pick up the pass off the free kick and flick it into the goal. It was just too simple and really inexcusable.
However, Robles and the defense were far from being Everton’s only problem. Going forward, the team looked awful. Romelu Lukaku could barely even sniff the ball because, as we have seen time and time again, there was a serious lack of service play. These are the days where Gerard Deulofeu and his affinity for lovely crosses is deeply missed.
Gareth Barry wasn’t doing much of anything in the midfield. Tom Davies never had that one perfect long ball or marauding run he is becoming known for. And both Idrissa Gueye and Ross Barkley showed a great work rate, but couldn’t quite create anything of substance. It just was not good overall.
Everton did manage two late goals. The first was from Lukaku. He had a little help when the Spurs defender fell down and all he had to do was slot it home. But the goal ignited the Everton attack. All of the sudden, they had life and looked exciting on the ball. That is the problem, though. Lukaku shouldn’t have to score in order for the boys to believe they can get some points out of game. He can’t do everything by himself.
Despite conceding that Alli goal late, the Blues stayed on the front foot and Enner Valencia ended up getting them a second. Everton have the option of buying him at season’s end. He certainly wouldn’t be a starter, but has proven to be useful and energetic off the bench.
This was the first game where I, personally, have questioned Ronald Koeman’s decision’s in a close match. Everton were clearly struggling in the first half. They couldn’t create many chances and weren’t exactly stout on defense. Why stick with the say side for 15 more minutes in the second half? Change it up in the dressing room and get some attacking threats on there. Instead, he went conservative and dug the team a bigger hole that they couldn’t climb out of.
As many have noted, this was a “barometer game”. Spurs are really good and will be playing in Europe (again) next season. They are a side built at their base with good, young English talent and accented by quality players from around the globe. This is where Everton want to be, but they aren’t there yet. If they are going to get there, they need to become more clinical, get a deeper squad and hold onto the good things they have now.
Next up for Everton, two home games against West Bromwich Albion and then Hull City on the next two Saturdays.