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Everton at Tottenham Hotspur: The Opposition View

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We spoke to Cartilage Free Captain’s Sean Cahill prior to Sunday’s clash in North London

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton FC - Premier League
Everton lost 1-0 at Tottenham in July
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton kick off their 2020-21 campaign by visiting Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday afternoon.

Blues fans could be treated to their first glimpse of a new-look midfield, following the signings of Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré in the last week.

But if Carlo Ancelotti is to start his first full season at Goodison Park with a victory, he will have to achieve a feat no Everton boss has managed since December 2012 - beat Tottenham. Worse, the last time Everton won away at Spurs was in 2008.

José Mourinho’s Spurs finished sixth last term, qualifying for the Europa League. Over the summer, they have signed former Everton target, midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, as well as right-back Matt Doherty and goalkeeper Joe Hart, while losing Kyle Walker-Peters and Jan Vertonghen.

Ahead of Sunday’s match, we spoke to Sean Cahill, deputy manager of SB Nation’s dedicated Spurs site, Cartilage Free Captain:

RBM: Firstly, Amazon have released the first six episodes of their documentary on Spurs’ 2019-20 season. As a Tottenham fan, what have you made of it?

Sean: I almost hate to admit that I’m enjoying it, even though it is centred primarily around Mourinho. It’s great to see an in-depth look at the club, especially when it comes to how training sessions go, medicals, transfers, etc.

There are some things I don’t like, of course. Tanguy Ndombele is basically MIA so far, even though he’s our record signing. They don’t go as deep as I’d like them to in certain parts of the documentary, such as being with a new transfer like Steven Bergwijn and covering it in more depth.

There’s still a few more episodes and we’re about to hit the pandemic, which should be a wild look at how a Premier League club handled the news.

RBM: In the documentary, the first three months of the season under Mauricio Pochettino are quickly rushed through, before Mourinho takes centre stage for much of the rest of it. Has your opinion of Mourinho changed from what you’ve watched it?

Sean: I’d say it’s shifted to a more positive look on him, but not that much. The Mourinho we see in press conferences and interviews is like a professional wrestling character cutting a promo. At least with this look, we’re seeing the more human side of Mourinho and how he handles the team.

I also hate that we have almost no Pochettino in this series. The man transformed the club, and he was in it for half an episode. I know that the first three months of the season were a tire fire, but the man deserves more than that.

RBM: From the outside, Spurs fans still seem split on Mourinho. What does he have to do to win around his doubters?

Sean: Win something. Anything. I don’t care if it’s the League Cup, FA Cup, Europa League, whatever. Just win a trophy and the supporters will praise him.

Spurs haven’t won silverware since the League Cup in 2008. I’m not going to sit here and say I expect him to win the Premier League title this season, given Manchester City and Chelsea are currently having a race to see who can spend enough cash to fund a small island nation.

Spurs need to look at the cup competitions as their priority this season, while competing for top four.

Tottenham Hotspur v Birmingham City - Pre-Season Friendly
Mourinho still has some sections of Spurs fans to win over
Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images

RBM: How would you rate Tottenham’s summer transfer business so far?

Sean: Not necessarily sexy, but the necessary purchases. I’m not a huge fan of Matt Doherty, but I admit that bringing in a guy who is essentially a two-year stop-gap that has proven Premier League experience is a good pick-up.

Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, on the other hand, I talked myself into loving in the few weeks leading up to his transfer. The guy is all over the place in the midfield. He does a little bit of everything. He’s the workhorse, and it’s what Spurs needed.

It was a great bit of business sending Walker-Peters in the other direction and I think everyone came out of the deal quite happy. Southampton got a little extra cash and a player they like. Spurs get a midfielder they desperately needed and Hojbjerg gets a nice boost in wages.

RBM: What would constitute a successful 2020-21 for Tottenham?

Sean: Win a trophy. I’m done with the moral victories of nicking fourth or third place to secure Champions League football. Yes, that’s great and the club gets financial stability by being in the lucrative competition, but it’s time to actually win something you can put into the trophy case.

Spurs have had four opportunities now in the last six years to win something and they’ve come up short every time. Get over the hump and win one.

Soccer - Carling Cup - Final - Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Wembley Stadium
Tottenham’s last trophy was the League Cup in 2008
Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

RBM: How do you expect Tottenham to set up on Sunday?

Sean: Giovani Lo Celso is dealing with an injury he picked up at the end of the restart that is healing slowly, so he’s out. Japhet Tanganga is also rumoured to be out of action. Ndombele got 45 minutes of action on Saturday as he works up to fitness after missing much of pre-season, so he might be involved, but I doubt he starts.

(4-2-3-1): Lloris (c); Davies, Dier, Sanchez, Doherty; Hojbjerg, Sissoko; Son, Dele, Lucas; Kane.

RBM: Which areas of the pitch should Everton look to exploit on Sunday?

Sean: In Mourinho’s system, the best bet is to get behind the full-backs on the flank. Doherty will play well up the pitch as a wing-back at times, while the centre-backs rotate over. Ben Davies will basically create a back three with them, but we know he isn’t the most fleet of foot. If you get behind them on the flanks, things can open up.

Tottenham Hotspur Unveil New Signing Matt Doherty
Doherty is in line for his Tottenham debut on Sunday
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

RBM: Harry Kane aside, who do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Sean: Dele Alli has looked pretty great this pre-season, as have Lucas Moura and Son Heung-min at times.

The entire attack can cause major problems if they get rolling. Clog them up and prevent them from breaking on the counter. Do that, and you’ve taken them out of the game.

RBM: Finally, what’s your prediction for Sunday’s game?

Sean: I have no idea what to expect from Everton given your new signings. I’d say Spurs have the slight advantage simply because it’s a unit that doesn’t need to gel while Everton will have the weird transition period where James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré have to get used to the squad.

I’ll say 2-1 Spurs, but I’m not going to bet the farm on it.

Our thanks to Sean for his time.