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Everton vs Tottenham: Opposition Analysis | Battle of Philosophies at Goodison Park

The Blues need to start taking their chances in front of goal

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton FC - Premier League
Calvert-Lewin’s goal is harshly ruled out by VAR intervention the last time the two teams met
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

Everton slipped into the relegation zone on Tuesday, despite picking up a point against Fulham at Craven Cottage, with Luton Town stunningly blitzing Brighton & Hove Albion the same night. The Blues now trail the Hatters by a point, having played a game more than their rivals, though enjoying a slight advantage in goal difference.

Like the Toffees, Luton do have some tough games coming up, including a daunting visit to St. James’s Park to face Newcastle United on Saturday afternoon. A result for Everton in the weekend’s early kickoff could see the team put some extra pressure on their chief rivals in the fight to beat the drop.

Arriving at Goodison Park is Ange Postecoglou’s Tottenham Hotspur.

Form

The Spurs hierarchy spent lavishly last summer in support of their new manager, to the tune of an estimated €155m net. In a similar vein to when the club sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for a then world record transfer fee of around €100m in 2013, the North Londoners partially used the windfall to fund a major rebuild of the squad.

In came playmaker James Maddison, winger Brennan Johnson, defenders Pedro Porro and Micky van de Ven, new goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario and attacker Dejan Kulusevski, amongst others. Along with Kane, their talismanic captain, a host of rather less successful players departed in a general clear-out, the most noteworthy of whom was winger Lucas Moura, whose game time had declined in recent years.

In Postecoglu’s first stab at a major European league, following a two-year spell over the border at Celtic and after spending most of his lengthy managerial career in his Australian homeland, the question was would he be able to step up to a new level entirely? Well, he got off to a great start, with Spurs going unbeaten in the league over the opening ten games, winning eight. The 58-year-old’s exciting brand of attacking, winning football gained him the immediate backing of the fans.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton - Premier League - Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Favoured son Richarlison opens the scoring for Spurs in December
Photo by Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

The team’s first major challenge came during what was a meltdown against Chelsea in early November, as they were eventually crushed 4-1 at home, seeing two players sent off and the influential Maddison injured. The league leaders entered into a slump, losing three of the next four, a creditable 3-3 draw with Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium the lone positive result. The Lilywhites course corrected in the middle of December, winning six from eight in all competitions, losing only to Brighton, and to Man City in the FA Cup.

They are on a three-game unbeaten run in the league, having beaten Brentford 3-2 on home turf last time out. They arrive at Goodison sitting in fourth place in the table.

Style of Play

Postecoglu has stuck resolutely to his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, from which his team attacks with verve, looking to compress the pitch by employing a very high defensive line. Spurs batter away at the opposition relentlessly and have the attacking tools to get the job done, despite the massive loss of Kane - who bagged 30 league goals last term. Playing with width, four offensive players and two roving fullbacks, in Porro and Destiny Udogie, chance creation is not something they find difficult.

The Londoners command a lot of the ball, enjoying a 60.2% share of possession and generate 16.1 shots per game, ranking fourth in both categories. They complete 87.4% of their passes (third ranked), with only 6.1% going long - about one-third as many as Everton. They rank only sixth in xG (Expected Goals) with 39.3, but have scored 47, with only Man City exceeding their xG by a greater amount.

Tottenham’s open style of play leaves them relatively vulnerable defensively, with the team permitting 13.8 attempts on goal per 90 minutes, ranking joint eleventh - with the Blues. They defend aggressively, leading the league in both tackles (20.5) and offsides (2.4) per game. The Londoners have conceded 33 times so far this season, but an underlying xGA (Expected Goals Allowed) metric of 37.1 ranks only 13th, the difference being mostly down to the outstanding Vicario.

Player Assessment

Ex-Blues favourite Richarlison is on a red hot streak of form, having fired home seven goals from his last seven league games. The Brazilian endured a torrid debut season at Tottenham, netting just three in all competitions following a €58m move from Everton, but appears to have settled in at last.

Tottenham Hotspur v Brentford FC - Premier League
The dangerous Maddison will be orchestrating play for Spurs
Photo by Gaspafotos/MB Media/Getty Images

Maddison’s return is ill-timed for the Blues. The ex-Leicester City man slotted into the Spurs team seamlessly at the start of the campaign and actually looked to have taken his game to another level, before getting injured in November. He looked back up to speed already at the weekend, completing 19 passes into the final third against Brentford. The playmaker’s 8.18 SCA (Shot-Creating Actions) per 90 hugely leads any of his teammates.

As mentioned above, Vicario has been a major asset for Spurs since arriving in the summer. The Italian has prevented 5.3 goals due to his individual qualities, above what could have been expected from the shots he’s faced. A true sweeper-keeper, he ranks in the 94th percentile for defensive actions outside his penalty area; vital for a team which plays such a high line.

Solution

This is a tough game for Everton, considering Tottenham’s recent impressive form and the hosts’ underwhelming home record this term, which stands at three wins and two draws from eleven league matches. The visitors have won five and drawn four of eleven on their travels.

The North Londoners have scored an astonishing twenty more goals than Everton from open play, which is a worry considering how much of the ball they are going to see at Goodison today. They will be happy if the Toffees retreat into a defensive shell and are unlikely to run out of attacking ideas or energy if the home side are overly passive. Moreover, they’ll feel fairly secure in their high defensive line, given how the Blues have scored just one counterattacking goal this season.

On the plus side though, Everton have only shipped eleven goals from regular play during the campaign, tied for lowest with Liverpool. More than half the total conceded by the Merseysiders have come from set-pieces, penalties and own goals. This shows that Sean Dyche’s side are structurally sound, but could do with improving their defence of dead ball situations, as well as eliminating costly individual errors.

Partly, this tendency results from the team’s playing style, which sees them without the ball for long stretches and often penned in deep in the last thirty minutes of games, giving up corners and inviting pressure. Spurs have scored nine times from set-pieces this season, so Everton cannot show anything like the same vulnerability that was on display against Luton.

Tottenham Hotspur v Everton FC - Premier League
Gueye hobbled off last time out at Spurs but will be back today
Photo by Tony McArdle/Everton FC via Getty Images

The Blues will probably have Idrissa Gueye available, following his return from AFCON late in the week; vital considering that Dyche was forced to deploy Dwight McNeil in midfield on Tuesday. Arnaut Danjuma appears to be out, so the ex-Burnley man will be back on the left wing. Following a strong showing at right back against Fulham, I expect Ben Godfrey to retain his place and for Nathan Patterson to remain on the bench. Jack Harrison figures to continue behind Dominic Calvert-Lewin, with Ashley Young supporting Godfrey on the right.

Everton rallied from a terrible start at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in December, pulling a goal back from Andre Gomes, seeing a strike from DCL harshly pulled back by VAR for a foul and another strike from Danjuma an inch or two from crossing the line as Spurs hung on. If the team can blunt the visitors’ attack early on and establish a foothold in the contest, then Spurs will give up chances themselves. Everton must take those opportunities and start showing some composure in front of goal. Victory may be hard to achieve, but a result is up for grabs.

Prediction: Everton 1-1 Spurs

Statistics provided courtesy of fbref.com, whoscored.com and transfermarkt.co.uk