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article imageTactical Preview: Everton — Spurs

By Tyrrell Meertins     Jan 1, 2016 in Sports
Tottenham and Everton have exchanged roles in finishing outside the top four in recent years, but a win at Goodison Park presents a great chance for either side to mount a legitimate challenge given the current downfall at Chelsea and Manchester United.
Coincidentally, the two clubs have finished in the top four over three times in the past decade. Spurs made a run to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2010-2011, whereas the remaining two years resulted in a Europa League berth due to Liverpool and Chelsea miraculously winning the Europe’s elite tournament.
Everton are seeking their first league victory over Spurs under Roberto Martinez, and though they have enough fire power upfront to achieve that goal, they’re currently a shambles from a defensive aspect. Spurs, on the other hand, have developed into a well-rounded, cohesive unit under Mauricio Pochettino based around collective pressing.
Spurs will be without Moussa Dembele who departed in the first half against Watford with a groin injury, but welcome back Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb to the squad.
"Everton have a very good team and maybe after the defeat against Stoke City they want revenge," Pochettino said.
"Teams are over-motivated to play against us, because they know they need to run, and be overaggressive, because we are strong.
The former is likely to feature off the bench, meaning Tom Carroll is expected to retain his position alongside Eric Dier in midfield behind Dele Alli. However, Carroll could be dropped to the bench with Alli dropping deeper, to include both goal-scorers at Watford, Heung-Son Min and Erik Lamela, alongside Christian Eriksen to form.
Tom Cleverley and James McCarthy suffered injuries in Everton’s 4-3 loss to Stoke City and will be unavailable, depriving the Toffees of dynamism in midfield. Considering Spurs’ creativity and cunning movement in the final third, Muhamed Besic will slot into midfield alongside Gareth Barry to provide additional protection for the back four, but there’s a fear Everton will lack mobility in deeper areas.
Eric Dier has been one of the big improvements to Pochettino’s side this year, serving as a competent defensive presence at the base of midfield. Dier will be handed the task of tracking Ross Barkley’s movement to ensure he doesn’t supply Romelu Lukaku in the final third.
Likewise, both sides possess two of the league’s star performers — Harry Kane has continued his stellar form from last year to cap off a truly remarkable 2015, while Lukaku is the league’s joint-leader with Jamie Vardy, recording 15 goals in 19 games. Kane is more of a selfless all-rounded striker that will pose an interesting battle with compatriot John Stones, but Lukaku will aim to break beyond the defence and seek service in the channels.
Still, considering both sides should remain compact out of possession, there’s a chance the two strikers will spend extensive spells isolated. Ultimately, excluding swift counter-attacks in transition, the full-backs serve as likely sources of creativity for the Kane and Lukaku. Coincidentally, this is where the key battles will take place.
Courtesy of Flickr/Allan Shank
With Dier and Barry expected to split the centre-backs, both sets of full-backs will be handed license to surge forward.
Arouna Kone and Gerard Deulofeu have showcased the discipline to cope with Walker and Danny Rose or Ben Davies, before breaking forward on the counter — Everton are arguably at their best when they play on the counter. On the other hand, Lamela and Eriksen’s — assuming the Dane features from the left — defensive duties consist of tracking the adventurous Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman.
Therefore, Coleman may receive ample space due to Eriksen’s preference drift centrally, thus forcing Pochettino to carefully consider his selection in wide areas. Deulofeu poses a similar threat on the same flank with his trickery, and in that respect Pochettino may prefer the more defensive-minded Davies opposed to Rose’s offensive contributions.
“I’ve been a big admirer of this Spurs side,” said Martinez ahead of Sunday’s monumental clash.
“But, at the same time, we’re looking forward to that game because we feel that we’ve been a bit unfortunate with our results and a good performance against a team as good as Spurs, at Goodison, could get us in a fantastic position at the start of the new year.”
Despite the inclusion of an additional defensive presence in midfield, there’s still not enough evidence that Everton’s productivity out of possession and defensive shape will suffice if they intend on dictating the tempo of the game. Still, both sides are much better suited to play on the counter, and the likelihood of another cautious, goal-less draw wouldn’t be surprising.
But, poor home form, combined with the inability to maintain a clean sheet suggests Spurs should prevail if they can limit service to Lukaku and negate Deulofeu’s threat from the right.
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