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article imageSpurs & Everton lean to direct attacks to bypass offensive issues

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jan 3, 2016 in Sports
Everton and Spurs represent two of the Premier League’s young, proactive possession-based sides, yet both outfits relied on direct attacks as their main source of creativity at Goodison Park.
The hosts have played their best football on the counter attack this season and quickly retreated into a 4-5-1 out of possession, whereas Spurs’ collective pressing and defensive shape has been decisive in big games.
Here, the approaches inevitably nullified the star players. Spurs’ pressing prevented the Everton midfield from settling into the game and pushing forward as a unit. Romelu Lukaku was outmatched by his Belgian compatriots Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, and the adventurous Everton full-backs were cautious and unable to push beyond half due to Spurs’ possession dominance.
Likewise, they constantly conceded possession in this respect, thus spending extensive periods without the ball and lacking a legitimate threat on the counter. Mauricio Pochettino’s men, other hand, required ball to the feet — Harry Kane was dropping away from the centre-backs, whereas Eriksen moved away from Gareth Barry to create the best chances.
Essentially, Eriksen and the attacking midfielders moved centrally in the first half to encourage the full-backs beyond Arouna Kone and Aaron Lennon, but attacking options in the box were limited. It’s also key to note that Eric Dier moved to the right in the opening stages to ensure Kone didn’t have space to break into when Walker surged forward.
Apart from Kane, and Ben Davies hitting the post and cross bar, the overall match was deprived of quality chances. With that being said, both sides overcame their main issues — playing through midfield — by scoring through atypical direct moves.
Tom Cleverley’s long diagonal to Romelu Lukaku saw the Belgian nod the ball into Aaron Lennon, who curled a sumptuous shot past former teammate Hugo Lloris. Then, Dele Alli’s equalizer was more impressive — the Spurs starlet ran across Seamus Coleman and John Stones to chest down Toby Alderweireld’s diagonal, and subsequently fired the ball past Tim Howard.
Alli’s move was unique considering his teammates were reluctant to run beyond Kane who constantly drifted into midfield, thus offering an additional method of attack to Spurs’ ineffective spell of possession.
"We dropped two points," Pochettino said.
"The goal [from Alli] was fantastic. But the team was good, they showed maturity and belief in the way we play. It was a very tough game."
When Everton successfully bypassed Spurs’ pressing with quick passes through midfield, both Kone and Coleman broke free on goal but were rightly called offside. Spurs, on the other hand, attempted to replicate Alli’s goal in the second half, thus resulting in the the 19-year-old playing Kane into the box, but both Toffee centre-backs made successful last-ditch tackles to ensure the score-line remained level.
Alli was undoubtedly Spurs’ most influential attacking player, but Roberto Martinez’s men slightly improved following the introduction of Gerard Deulofeu and Muhamed Besic. The latter proved additional grit in midfield alongside Barry — with Cleverley moving to the left to negate Walker’s threat from right-back — whereas Barkley offered an improved threat with his powerful running on the counter.
“I thought throughout the game we had a very, very good performance,” said Martinez.
“We had to defend better at home — it has not been good enough and cost us a lot of points. Today’s performance showed we are ready to be stronger defensively.”
Matches between the top-sides are usually cautious and slow-burning, and while it slightly followed this theme in the opening half, shades of flexibility and audacious shot attempts from distance led to the best chances of the match. Nevertheless, it’s fitting that an entertaining technical match between two sides that pride themselves in monopolizing possession was settled with basic direct attacks.
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