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Everton vs Tottenham: The Opposition View

We spoke to Cartilage Free Captain’s Sean Cahill prior to Wednesday’s FA Cup fifth round clash

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton - Premier League
Everton won 1-0 at Tottenham in the Premier League in September
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Everton welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Goodison Park on Wednesday with a place in the FA Cup quarter-finals up for grabs.

This is already the furthest Everton have made it in this competition since 2016, when they reached the semi-finals.

They have beaten Rotherham United and Sheffield Wednesday - both at home - to reach the fifth round, while Spurs saw off Merseyside club Marine and Wycombe Wanderers, both away.

Jose Mourinho’s men lost to Everton in their last meeting, a 1-0 home defeat on the opening day of the season, and currently sit eighth in the Premier League.

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

RBM: Firstly, Spurs have gone from top in December to eighth at time of writing. What’s happened?

Sean: We have a theory on this at Carty Free. Remember that 3-3 draw Spurs had against West Ham United a few months ago? Spurs went up 3-0 and we’re playing attacking football. Then they turned into a sieve in the second half and it scared Mourinho.

From that point on, he went into a defensive shell and played counter-attacking football. It worked for a while, but teams have adjusted. Add in the insane schedule of matches and, even with rotation, players got tired.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Tottenham’s form has slumped lately
Photo by Matthew Ashton - AMA/Getty Images

RBM: Are you still behind Jose Mourinho?

Sean: No. Back in November 2019 when Mourinho was first brought in, I wrote an open letter to the Special One. I tried to be positive. Yes, he’s won trophies everywhere but I felt his stint at United was not great, even with them shithousing their way to a Europa League trophy.

Since then, we’ve watched him feud with Tanguy Ndombele and Dele Alli, the latter of which is still going on and only recently had signs that it might be ending... but that’s only after the possible loan to Paris Saint-Germain fell through. While we haven’t seen him go full Mourinho in press conferences and such just yet, I feel like we’re getting to that point. I also know how this movie ends because we’ve seen it a few times in the past.

The football is boring and I’ve never been so unenthusiastic about watching matches since I joined Cartilage Free Captain as a writer several years ago. My hope is that Spurs have a contingency plan in place if the time to fire him is sooner rather than later.

RBM: After three straight league defeats, did you see enough in Spurs’ 2-0 home win over West Brom on Sunday to suggest they’ve turned a corner?

Sean: Nope, because the Baggies are bad. The next few matches will really spell it out for Spurs, though.

With Everton, Manchester City, Wolfsberger and West Ham in the next two weeks, we’re going to know quickly if this run of bad form is truly over or not.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Tottenham beat West Brom 2-0 at home on Sunday
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

RBM: How much have Spurs changed as a team since their opening day defeat to Everton in September?

Sean: It’s been a rollercoaster. The Everton loss sparked something and Spurs suddenly jumped into the transfer market.

We’ve had hits such as Sergio Reguilon and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, but we’ve had misses such as Matt Doherty, Joe Hart and Gareth Bale. Joe Rodon at least looks like a steal as he’s been good-to-solid in his duty since joining from Swansea.

We’ve watched Spurs go from expansive, attacking football to good counter-attacking football to, well, just being bad. I’m ready to get off this ride any day now.

RBM: Gareth Bale’s loan move doesn’t seem to have gone to plan so far. What have you made of it?

Sean: The nostalgia was fun, but he came into the club with an injury and then struggled to get into any kind of fitness. I tweeted out that while Spurs fans loved seeing him come home, I was sceptical of the move. He’s on astronomical wages and looks to be what I thought he was: a 31-year-old winger who’s cooked.

We see the flashes here and there, but that’s exactly what they are: flashes. There’s nothing sustained. He’s made 15 appearances so far with four goals, but in the Premier League he’s been anonymous and it’s not a surprise. There’s no chance Spurs keep him around for another year unless he stumbles into the fountain of youth while roaming around London.

One of the weirdest things about this is that before his start against Brighton, the commentary brought up that Mourinho suggested he play as a striker with Kane out due to injury, but Bale didn’t want to and only wanted to play on the wing. I feel like him moving to striker might be worth a shout, but that got nixed before it even happened.

Tottenham Hotspur v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Bale has been used more sparingly by Mourinho than many may have expected
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

RBM: How important is the FA Cup - and this game - to you as a fan this season?

Sean: I want trophies. The league is going to go City’s way, it looks like, and while getting into the top four isn’t out of the question, our current run of form says that focusing on the cups should be the priority.

Spurs are already in the Carabao Cup final against City, but with that delayed until the end of April it might be a blessing. The Europa League should be top priority since it gets Spurs into the Champions League with a win, but the FA Cup is still an important piece of silverware. I would take any combination of the three this season.

RBM: Mourinho usually takes cup competitions extremely seriously. Can you see him setting up Tottenham with a full-strength side on Wednesday?

Sean: Yep, and that’s one of the things I still like about him. He knows the importance of silverware, so Spurs are going to throw everything and the kitchen sink into this match.

Prediction (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Davies, Dier, Rodon, Aurier; Hojbjerg, Ndombele; Lucas, Bergwijn, Son; Kane.

Marine v Tottenham Hotspur - FA Cup Third Round
Mourinho has won the FA Cup once, in 2007
Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images

RBM: Harry Kane and Son Heung-min aside, who else do you think could cause Everton the most problems?

Sean: My first answer would be Reguilon, but he’s injured and not expected back for at least another week.

Ndombele is the obvious answer as he’s an absolute terror in midfield with his creativity and ability to hold onto the ball. With Giovani Lo Celso still out for a few weeks, Spurs have relied on him and a combination of Steven Bergwijn, Erik Lamela and Lucas to create the opportunities.

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

Sean: I have absolutely no grasp on this team right now other than a blip on the radar from Sunday and the month prior of middling performances. Still, it’s always good to come off a win and maybe it’s enough for Spurs to wake up and move into the quarter-finals.

Spurs win 2-1, but I am in no way confident.

Our thanks to Sean for his time.