And ultimately, that not-at-all-bold prediction came true. Sure, we got a much more entertaining match than we really had any right to expect, given that Everton had essentially nothing to play for and all Tottenham had to do was manage not to give up five goals.
We saw some goals, got to appreciate Christian Eriksen doing Christian Eriksen things when it didn’t cause any material harm to Everton, and the Toffees got a point away from home against a top six side. Heck, we even got to see Cenk Tosun smile potentially one last time in an Everton kit.
And all of it happened via Everton’s normal approach, more or less.
- Everton pressed relatively high, looking to force turnovers in dangerous areas from Spurs’ defenders and midfielders.
- Silva utilized one creative winger, Bernard, and one goalscoring winger, Theo Walcott, and both did their jobs pretty well. Bernard created two chances — after which he was replaced by Ademola Lookman, whose fancy dribbling set up Walcott to score Everton’s first goal of the match.
- Everton wasn’t too concerned with winning the possession battle — losing it 55-45. But more of the match was played in the Spurs’ defensive third than Everton’s.
- As a result, the Toffees limited the danger Jordan Pickford faced from open play. Per Understat, Everton conceded just 0.29 xG from open play. Most days, that gets you a win — regardless of the opponent or venue.
I’ve said it multiple times in recent months, and I’ll be reiterating it in various season recaps in the coming weeks, but the lasting impact of the final third of the 2018-19 Premier League season will be the definitive establishing of Marco Silva’s preferred style of football — and one that works pretty well against top-half teams.
If I told you on the morning of March 3 — the home Merseyside Derby — that Everton was going to take 11 of its final 15 points against top-six teams, you’d have thought I lost my mind. And yet, that’s what the Toffees did.
I don’t have a whole lot more to analyze, especially given the pretty sloppy nature of the match — which again, I don’t really begrudge either team.
And while the optimism that flows from this match and similar matches is warranted, we cannot lose sight of the fact that Everton picked up only four of its last available 12 points against the bottom half of the table — the point-blank reason that a Europa League berth is out of the question.
But there will be time for those discussions in the coming weeks — and don’t you worry, I absolutely plan to have them. But for now, let’s enjoy the fact that Everton seems to have a specific style of play, a roadmap to get to where it wants to go, and a manager and director of football who seem to be on the same page.
There’s legitimate cause for optimism here, and after the way last season ended, that’s good enough for now.