Following their dramatic comeback against Ajax, Tottenham Hotspur’s top four position was secured, barring a loss and an eight goal swing in goal difference, in Arsenal’s favour. Everton also did not have much to play for, as Wolverhampton Wanderers had already secured seventh place.
In this tactical analysis, we’ll go through some of the key tactical aspects of this match.
Mauricio Pochettino could afford to make five changes following their away trip to Amsterdam, with the most notable being youngster Kyle Walker-Peters who replaced Kieran Trippier at right back. Harry Kane was still unavailable due to his ankle injury, sustained against Manchester City. The home side lined up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko on either end of a midfield diamond, flanked by Christian Eriksen and Dele Alli. Fernando Llorente started up top alongside hat-trick hero Lucas Moura.
Lining up in a 4-2-3-1, Everton made three changes from their previous win over Burnley. Yerry Mina, Theo Walcott, and Bernard came in for Séamus Coleman, Richarlison, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin. Chelsea loanee Kurt Zouma played as right back alongside Michael Keane, Mina, and Lucas Digne in defence. Idrissa Gueye partnered Morgan Schneiderlin in a midfield double pivot. Bernard and Walcott flanked attacking midfielder Gylfi Sigurðsson as Tosun led the attack.
Tottenham’s defenders’ offensive movement
The biggest tactical talking point of this match from a Tottenham perspective was the utilization of right back Walker-Peters in an extremely offensive role. The young defender was a focal point for the home side’s offensive game plan, with 47% of their attacks coming down the right flank, which is remarkable for how narrow their formation was. When attacking, Walker-Peters would push up, while Davies would drop as the other defenders shifted across, creating a back three. A possible reason for the inclusion of Eric Dier could be his experience in this system, playing in it many times domestically, and internationally, for Gareth Southgate’s England.
Tottenham’s extremely attacking midfield diamond poses problems for Everton’s defence
In possession, all of Tottenham’s midfielders except defensive midfielder Sissoko would push up. This movement created problems for Everton’s defence, as Llorente’s sheer physicality, coupled with Lucas Moura’s unpredictable movement, allowed one of Lamela, Eriksen, or Alli to act as another striker while the others took up a more supportive role. Sissoko would act as cover for the defence as his midfield partners pushed up the pitch. All of this movement created central overloads in the heart of Everton’s defence, forcing the double pivot of Gueye and Schneiderlin to drop even deeper, affording the other Tottenham players space in the midfield.
Everton’s pressing pattern
Everton pressed in a pass-lane oriented manner in a narrow 4-4-2 shape, with Sigurðsson and Tosun as the front two. Their approach was interesting because of the extreme lengths the away side went to stay true to this system – they did not keep tight to the potential ball receiver, and always looked to cut the passing lane. However, if Tottenham circulated the ball to the full backs, they would press more aggressively, with a man or two closing down the ball carrier. They would not press the wide man until all of his passing options were denied, forcing him to go long or to concede possession.
Everton in possession
When Everton were on the ball, Digne and Zouma would look to double up alongside wingers Bernard and Walcott, who kept their wide positions. This created wide overloads against Tottenham’s narrow shape. Sigurðsson would push up alongside Tosun, acting as an auxiliary striker, while Gueye and Schneiderlin screened the defence, often drifting wide to cover the gaps left by the wingers and fullbacks. Sigurðsson would often drop deep, linking with the double pivot. Tosun would drop off towards Sigurðsson drawing defenders with him or disturbing their positioning by moving horizontally across the Tottenham defensive line. When the ball was on one wing, the opposite winger would begin to drift centrally, looking to exploit central gaps created by Tosun’s movement, or performing the same role as the Turkish striker, creating space for the full back to overlap. Walcott also would drop deep to collect the ball from Zouma, and in possession would then move high and wide, looking to cross.
Richarlison replacement Bernard did not perform the same role as his compatriot. He looked to stay wide, possibly looking to catch out Tottenham’s narrow defence. While building up, one of the defensive midfielders would come deep to collect and advance the ball. This approach was an attempt to draw their opponent in. Sigurðsson would linger in between Tottenham’s defensive and midfield lines. Sissoko would usually attempt to track the Iceland international, but Sigurðsson’s excellent off-the-ball movement posed a real problem for him. Everton looked to create passing options by constant circulation of the ball rather than direct, incisive passes.
Set pieces are the downfall of Marco Silva’s defence once again
Both of Tottenham’s goals came as a direct result of a set piece. This is a recurring theme of Marco Silva’s sides. The three worst teams in Premier League history at defending set pieces are Hull City, Watford, and Everton. The common denominator of these teams is Marco Silva. Admittedly, Christian Eriksen’s free-kick was not a direct result of bad defending, as it was an excellent goal. However, the same cannot be said for Eric Dier’s early opener. A third-minute corner was poorly defended by Everton and Dier had an easy tap-in. Another worrying statistic is that, in the 2017/18 season, Everton were third best when it came to defending set pieces. A team this bad at defending set pieces were not helped by the average height statistic. Everton players were almost four centimetres shorter than Tottenham’s players. (Tottenham’s average height for their starting XI was 184 centimetres, compared to Everton’s 180.5) This set piece record could be a result of poor execution of Silva’s preferred zonal marking for set pieces. However, it’s near impossible for this record to be so poor at three different clubs. This points to a yet unsolved underlying issue.
Tottenham signed off their Premier League season with a much-welcomed point, securing their top four status. Mauricio Pochettino will be pleased that none of his players sustained any injuries ahead of the Champions League final. As for Everton, their next competitive match will be their first of the 2019/20 Premier League season. Marco Silva and his men will look forward to the summer transfer window to prepare for next season, and look to challenge Wolverhampton Wanderers for seventh position.
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