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The Opposition View: Everton at Tottenham | Toffees look to away run going

We chat with the SBN Spurs blog about what’s going on with the North London side

Everton FC v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
Vitalii Mykolenko of Everton FC beats Pedro Porro of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match
Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

After a tough midweek showing in the Carabao Cup against Marco Silva and Fulham, Everton looks to bounce back against Tottenham Hotspur in a difficult Premier League matchup.

Both Spurs and the Toffees have bounced back from more difficult seasons last year, with Ange Postecoglu and Sean Dyche making massive differences for two proud sides.

Since points were deducted from the Toffees for FFP rules breaches, they have played marvelously and erased the ten point deficit entirely. Without the punishment, the team would be securely in the top-half of the Premier League table - just seven points short of Spurs, in fact.

So who will ultimately win on Saturday? Well, only time will tell to be sure.

Prior to that Saturday’s affair, we spoke to Dustin George-Miller, managing editor of SB Nation’s dedicated Spurs site, Cartilage Free Captain:

RBM: Firstly, with Spurs going through a positive campaign thus far, what are the feelings like around supporters and the non-red portion of north London?

DGM: The vibes are mostly off the scale. After three years of dour play under football terrorists (Jose Mourinho & Antonio Conte) it felt like we hit rock bottom last spring. After Spurs sacked Conte, if you asked most fans, all they’d say they wanted is fun, watchable football under a coach who isn’t a total dickhead.

So, Ange Postecoglou has been an absolute breath of fresh air. The football is exciting and progressive, Big Ange has been saying all the right things, and while Spurs have weathered a pretty significant injury crisis that derailed a hot start, I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

Look, expectations for this first season under Postecoglou varied, but I think most fans would be happy with a “fun but flawed team that finishes seventh”. Anything above that is gravy, and instead, it looks like Spurs have at minimum a real shot for European football next season, if not the Champions League. Hard to feel bad about that.

RBM: What has made Ange Postocoglu’s tactics and strategies so effective with Spurs this season?

DGM: Tottenham’s motto is “Audere est facere,” to dare is to do. The Tottenham Way, such as it is, is free-flowing, attacking football, on the front foot, pushing forward, always trying to score. Postecoglou gives us that in spades. He is uncompromising in his vision to play that style of football under all circumstances. He gives his players license to try things, to make mistakes, and to keep going. Everywhere he’s gone, this has worked and it’s already showing signs of working in the Premier League.

Yes, the high line and press means that Spurs are sometimes hilariously open at the back. Yes, we’ll lose some matches, especially against the good teams. And yes, it’ll take more than one summer transfer window to get all the pieces in place on Postecoglou’s game board. But GOD has it been fun to watch.

Nottingham Forest v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Jon Hobley | MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

RBM: Talk to us about Harry Kane and how Postocoglu’s mindset enabled the team to overcome such an absence.

DGM: I mean, Harry Kane is one of the best players in world football, so of course, this Spurs team would be significantly better with him in the side. But it had been apparent that Kane was agitating to leave for a couple of years before he actually did, and by the time Ange joined it was basically a done deal.

The key to replacing Harry Kane is… you don’t. You can’t. He’s too good a player to replicate. So instead, you restructure the team so that Kane’s scoring burden is picked up by other players in the squad. Having a team-based tactical system like Ange’s in place does help in that regard because your tactics are no longer “get the ball to Harry and let him do stuff.”

RBM: What does this side have to work on with their hot start tempered by a difficult stretch thereafter?

DGM: They have to get healthy and flesh out the squad with quality reserves. The first ten matches of the season proved that, under Ange, Tottenham have an excellent starting XI, but that quality drops off significantly on the bench. Spurs are wafer-thin in some areas, especially in defense; the injury to Micky van de Ven and recent suspension of Cristian Romero meant that for a couple of games Tottenham had to play matches with a back line entirely comprised of fullbacks.

Spurs also struggled for a while to deal with the lack of creativity brought to the side by James Maddison when he went down injured. So the challenge, for now, is to weather the storm and, over the next few windows to work to strengthen the bench so that when the injuries inevitably come, Spurs have a team that can just slot the next man in without a significant dropoff. That will take some time.

RBM: Will Spurs be looking to innovate their squad this January? Any names or positions being eyed by the Australian?

DGM: All reports suggest Tottenham are focusing the bulk of their energies on purchasing another central defender, which as mentioned before, is the thinnest part of the team. There are links to numerous players, but the most murmurs are about Jean-Clair Todibo from Nice.

Apart from that, Spurs will be pretty thin at central midfielder during the upcoming African Cup of Nations so they might look to bring in someone there, or for a dribbly wide attacker. And Spurs are always looking to bolster the U21s by snaffling up young and hungry talent.

Nottingham Forest v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

RBM: What are the ambitions for this side for the rest of this year?

DGM: I mentioned before that going into the season the ambitions were fun football that isn’t low block and counter, and signs of improvement. I hold to that, but the way Spurs have played in the first half of the season makes me think they can achieve more. I think European football – any European football – would be a successful season, but I also don’t think Champions League qualification is out of the question, especially if Spurs can get their best players healthy and firing in the stretch run this spring. A top-four/five finish (alongside a Not-Arsenal champion) would be amazing.

RBM: How do you expect Spurs to set up on Saturday? Which Spurs player do you think might cause Everton the most issues?

DGM: Spurs will set up in their usual formation under Ange – a back four, fullbacks tuck inside in possession and push forward into attacking positions, always want the ball, high press, attack expansively. They’ll play out from the back, quickly move the ball forward whenever possible, and work the ball into the box. Everton will need to be wary not only of Son Heung-Min, but also Dejan Kulusevski who has been playing centrally in Maddison’s absence lately and has been exceptional there.

Everton are fortunate in that Destiny Udogie is suspended for yellow card accumulations, but Pedro Porro is dangerous going forward and can put expansive balls forward for Tottenham’s quick attackers (Son, Brennan Johnson) to run onto. Richarlison is back at the nine after recovering from surgery and is looking like a new player – he’s tall and good at headers and also can play others in which makes him dangerous.

The key to this match is likely going to be in the midfield. With Yves Bissouma suspended and other players injured, it’s possible Spurs will be starting a midfield duo of Pape Sarr and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg/Oliver Skipp. Neither of them are especially press-resistant, and Everton could get some success by playing through the middle. If they can disrupt the midfield, it’ll make it tough to provide service to Spurs’ attackers, limiting their effectiveness.

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

DGM: I think this will be a tougher game than anyone gives it credit for. Points deduction aside, Everton are a much improved team under Sean Dyche and have won five of their last six matches. I don’t think anyone expects this to be an easy match for Spurs. I’m also a Spurs fan and an optimist, so I’m going to go with a 2-1 Tottenham win, but I would not at all be surprised by a draw.

Our thanks to Dustin for his time.