Everton v Spurs. The Everton Forum Preview
After the tedium of the international break, the blues are back in action this Saturday when they welcome Tottenham Hotspur to Goodison Park for a Saturday 3pm kick off.
It’s been a long old 13 days since the tame defeat we suffered in our last match at Chelsea. I could write a bit about what happened that day but I think it’s best I just gloss over it. In short, we weren’t very good, Chelsea beat us with ease and I think at the final whistle we all collectively thought ‘We need to strengthen before the transfer deadline passes’.
Needless to say, the 4 days that remained of the transfer window passed and aside from the addition of a promising attacking midfielder, no new additions were made to the squad.
So Everton will face a minimum of 25 matches between now and January with 1 recognised left back and what are currently best described as ‘bits and bobs’ to play up front.
Anyway, it is what it is, let’s talk about Saturday…
Last season’s Premier League runners up arrive at Goodison having had a frustrating start to the season. The routine victory at newly-promoted Newcastle was followed by a narrow defeat against London rivals Chelsea and a surprise home draw against Burnley.
What’s struck me so far about our visitors this campaign is that they’re playing quite well but they’re just missing too many chances and consequently, aren’t turning their dominance into points.
If you look at the 3 matches Spurs have played this season, and in particular the amount of shots they’ve had, I think you get quite a good illustration of this. They’ve won just 4 points, but had 64 attempts on goal in those 3 matches (roughly a shot every 4 and a half minutes).
So what’s going wrong in front of goal?
Well, some will point towards the old ‘Harry Kane doesn’t score in August’ theory. I don’t think that’s the be-all and end-all of it by any means, but it’s true, the back-to-back golden boot winner has never scored a Premier League goal in the month of August and as his luck would have it, he hit the woodwork 3 times last month.
Needless to say, the striker went away on international duty with England in the first week of September and what do you know? He scored twice – even if they were against Malta.
Moving away from Spurs’ frustrations front of goal so far, I think they’re a very good side and in my opinion, the spine of their team is as strong as any in the Premier League.
As ever, under their Argentinian manager Mauricio Pochettino, they’ll pose a real physical test for us on Saturday. They’ll press at high intensity in midfield, they’ll be strong and robust at the back, capable down the flanks and clever around our penalty area.
Although I could pick a number of the Tottenham players to focus on, the one player I feel the blues must stop above all on Saturday is the 25 year old Danish playmaker, Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen has really hit the ground running this season and makes the Spurs attack tick. He’s great at finding space and when he gets on the ball, he has both the vision and the technique to execute the passes or the shots he sees.
Last season Eriksen registered 20 Premier League assists and he’s already created 3 of Spurs 4 goals this campaign. Further, he returns to Premier League action this weekend having just scored and assisted in back-to-back World Cup qualifiers for Denmark.
He takes an excellent set piece and has registered more shots on target from outside the penalty area than anyone else in the Premier League since the start of last season.
I think he’s an exceptional player and if I was in charge of Barcelona, he’d be well ahead of a certain Brazilian on my shopping list.
In terms of Spurs tactical approach on Saturday, I think we’re likely to see Mauricio Pochettino go with his usual 4-2-3-1 formation. The question marks, however, will come around Spurs 3 new major signings and whether any are unleashed on Saturday.
Having heard Pochettino’s comments on Thursday, I got the impression that it’s unlikely we’ll see any of Fernando Llorente, Davinson Sanchez and Serge Aurier start on Saturday.
Of the 3, I had thought the former Paris Saint Germain right back, Aurier could be in line for a start but it seems ‘Poch’ is hesitant to bring him straight in considering his international air miles over the past week.
One first team regular who Spurs will be without for this one is the imposing midfield colossus, Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan picked up an injury in training prior to Spurs last match that keeps him sidelined.
With all this in mind, I’d expect Spurs to line up something like this on Saturday –
As you can see, it’s a strong and well-rounded team with quality players in defence, midfield and attack.
If there’s any criticism of Spurs in the past couple of seasons it’s been the lack of positive impact from the substitutes bench. Pochettino will be hoping signings such as Fernando Llorente can help improve this, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Spaniard come on late in the game to provide that more direct option if Spurs need a goal.
As I already mentioned, despite the lack of a match to fume about for 2 weeks, Everton have still managed to frustrate us since the meek loss at Chelsea.
Everton manager, Ronald Koeman made it abundantly clear in half a dozen press conferences leading up the transfer deadline that he wanted a striker to lead the line and a left sided defender to cover Leighton Baines.
Frustratingly he got neither.
So again, despite some really good early business (which really shouldn’t be forgotten) we go with what we’ve got – and what we’ve got hasn’t been without problems this past fortnight as Ross Barkley, Wayne Rooney and Kevin Mirallas have all caused Koeman some form of headache:
- Barkley seems to have inexcusably cost the club who gave him everything upwards of £20m – rejecting a move to reigning Premier League champions Chelsea, so he can do nothing for Everton but cost them his wage and his treatment costs until January.
- Rooney, on deadline day, took the lack of signings at least two steps too far when he was disgracefully caught drink driving with another woman in his car.
- Mirallas, sulking about lack of game time so far this season decided he wanted to go back to the glory of the Greek league (I know) and threw a sulk when he wasn’t let go.
So I think we can all be pleased to finally have a match to discuss…
This fixture last season was Ronald Koeman’s first competitive match in charge of Everton. That day in August, just over 1 year ago saw the Dutchman field this starting 11 –
With a bench of Robles, Galloway, Oviedo, Davies, Lennon, Cleverley and Kone.
The match ended 1-1 that day with a Ross Barkley goal being cancelled out by a second half Erik Lamela header. Fast forward a year and not only will neither goalscorer will be playing but I’d wager over 50% of the Everton match day squad will be different.
The remnants of Roberto Martinez have been firmly cast to one side and now this squad can be considered Ronald Koeman’s. Yet, whilst many will use the amount of signings to say the Dutchman has no excuses, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as that.
Of course, we all love to see Everton sign new players that we hope can improve our team but the fact is that it takes time to mesh them together.
The main concern for me is that we sold the most prolific striker we’ve ever had in the Premier League era and now have; a 21 year old from a foreign league, a 20 year old who was in league 1 up until a year ago, a proven scorer who now lacks the legs to lead the line and a striker the manager publicly binned last season.
It’s not ideal and without a goalscorer to play through, this team will need to find another way to score its goals. The team will need to evolve and if it doesn’t, this season will quickly become a write off.
At this moment, given the way Sandro Ramirez played at Chelsea, you’d think Dominic Calvert-Lewin has the chance to spearhead the Everton attack until January. Obviously, that’s not what anyone would’ve envisaged or wanted two months ago but what a chance this is for the lad.
Our opposition on Saturday have shown what can happen when you put faith in a young English striker so who knows, if DCL turns out to be anywhere near as good as Harry Kane, we’ll be laughing about this twist of fate for years to come.
Behind Calvert-Lewin, I’d like to see the trio of Sigurdsson, Rooney and Klaassen unleashed on Saturday. The Icelander comes back having scored goals for Iceland, the hard working Dutchman is back in training after an early knock and Rooney, despite his off-field issues has been our best player so far this season.
The midfield area will be key in this match. Spurs are really powerful in there with Dier and especially, Dembele capable of dominating matches. We’ll need the returning Morgan Schneiderlin to be at his very best and the likes of Gana and Klaassen to really get stuck in to prevent Spurs dominating the middle of the park.
On the topic of Idrissa Gana Gueye, I wonder if Koeman might task him with man-marking Christian Eriksen in this match. Our little Senegalese dynamo was pretty good at it against Eden Hazard last year so with Eriksen being by far Spurs biggest creative outlet, I think there could be some merit in him reprising that role on Saturday.
The biggest tactical decision Koeman will have to make going into this match will be in defence and whether he goes for a back 5 or a back 4. Personally, with us being the home team, I’d like to see us revert back to the back 4 here as I think you need an extra man in midfield against a powerful team like Spurs.
I fear a back 5 would see us penned back, inviting pressure on our goal which is likely to end badly for us. I’ve said it a few times but I don’t think we have the wing backs to effectively utilise using 3 centre halves so we just become a back 5 and at home, that feels too negative.
Considering Spurs play with quite narrow attacking players (much like ourselves) I’d give the more offensive full back, Cuco Martina a start over Mason Holgate here. We’ve seen that Martina can be decent coming forwards so I’d look to get him up and down to provide us with some much needed width.
I have to make special mention of the other Eveton full back, our number 3 who on Saturday will make his 300th Premier League appearance for Everton.
The local lad, once heralded as one of the best left backs in Europe, becomes the first Everton outfield player to reach the landmark and only the second Everton player to make 300 Premier League appearances in the shirt (Tim Howard being the other).
I think we all agree that Leighton Baines has been a fantastic player for Everton and definitely well worth the £6m Everton paid for his services since joining in July 2007.
My team for Saturday, which I’m sure will be led out by Bainesy on such an occasion, would be as follows (however this could quite easily be a 4-3-3 with Klaassen coming deeper) –
In reserve we’d still have the likes of Jagielka, Holgate, Davies, Lookman, Vlasic and Sandro (plus also Mirallas and Besic) so there are plenty of options who can give us some impact from the substitutes bench depending on the circumstances.
Overall, a really tough game for us but one we’re definitely capable of winning.
The key things in this match for me are; matching Spurs intensity, winning the midfield battle, keeping Eriksen quiet, staying nice and tight in defence (closely watching Alli, Son and Kane) and putting Spurs goal under pressure when we can.
I think we’ll need to score to get anything from the match so somebody, probably Wayne Rooney, will need to take the responsibility to do the business as he did in his last match at Goodison.
After this match we go to Italy to play Atalanta on Thursday which is followed by Old Trafford on Sunday. With that in mind, considering how poor we were at Chelsea after Hajduk Split away, it looks pretty important we get something from this game.
My prediction for this match is an optimistic 2-1 win with goals from Rooney, Alli and Baines.
The referee for the match is Graham Scott. He’s not a ref I know a lot about (which must be a good thing) and seems to go between the Championship and the Premier League but he has reffed Everton before, most recently in our 3-0 home win over West Brom last season.