Tactical analysis Everton Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Premier League

Everton – Tottenham Hotspur: Both Sides Fail To Break Out Of Their Slumps (1-1)

In a game between two of the most struggling Premier League sides, it was perhaps unsurprising that neither team was particularly impressive in any aspect of the game. Spurs’ possession structure was able to disrupt Everton’s defensive organisation somewhat in the first half, albeit without being clinical in the final third. Eventually Dele Alli was able to put Spurs 1-0 up with a goal on the counterattack. Cenk Tosun headed in the Everton equalizer in added time, by which point the game had already been largely overshadowed by a serious injury to André Gomes. 

Tactical analysis and match report by Josh Manley.

This game saw a meeting between two teams performing below expectations so far this season. Everton came into the match barely above the relegation zone, with five defeats in their previous six league games. Pressure is on Marco Silva to start producing results, especially given the players Everton have added to the squad over the last few transfer windows.  

Spurs extended their winless run in the league to three games with last week’s defeat away at Liverpool. Only three wins so far in the season left Mauricio Pochettino’s side in mid-table with nearly a third of the season gone.

For this game, Pochettino reverted to a 4-2-3-1 system with Moussa Sissoko and Tanguy Ndombele as the central midfield partnership. In front of them, Son Heung-min started from the right, Christian Eriksen took up the number ten role, and Dele Alli played from the left. Lucas Moura was the lone striker as Harry Kane was ruled out due to illness. 

Everton started with a 4-3-3 formation. Fabian Delph was the deepest midfielder, with Tom Davies and André Gomes ahead of him. Ex-Arsenal men Theo Walcott and Alex Iwobi played from the right and left wings respectively, supporting Richarlison in the number nine role. 

Spurs in possession.

Spurs in possession.

Spurs control possession but lack end product

Spurs’s possession structure was able to manipulate Everton’s defense to some extent, particularly on the left side, where they were able to open up space for the advancing left back Ben Davies. They were never able to get the final passes right after bypassing Everton’s midfield though. As such, they ended the first half without a single shot on target despite having a large share of possession.

From their starting 4-2-3-1 formation, Spurs could often end up forming a three-at-the-back in possession due to the asymmetry between the fullbacks. When they had the ball, Davies would usually advance quite high up on the left, while Alli vacated the left wing to drift inside into the left halfspace If you divide the field in five vertical lanes, the halfspaces are the lanes that are not on the wing and not in the center. Because there is no touchline like on the wing, players have the freedom to go everywhere. But this zone often is not as well-defended as the very center. This makes it a very valuable offensive zone to play in and a lot of chances are created by passes or dribbles from the halfspace. or center to join Eriksen between the lines.

Aurier, meanwhile, would usually start from deeper positions. He still had license to go forward but in many buildup scenes he would remain in line with the center-backs while Son held the width on the right. 

Everton defended against this in a 4-1-4-1 shape, usually maintaining a medium block A medium block refers to a team that retreats in their own half out of possession, generally only disrupting their opponents some way into their own half. with one of the central midfielders sometimes jumping up to Spurs’ buildup alongside Richarlison where appropriate. More often though, the central midfielders focused on blocking the passing lanes into Alli and Eriksen who presented a threat in either halfspace behind them.

The main area where Spurs’ structure affected Everton’s defensive scheme was in Everton’s right back area. Since Alli was drifting inside from the left, Everton right back Djibril Sidibé often found himself following the Englishman into more central areas. 

This opened space on the wing for the overlapping Davies, who was often not properly tracked by his direct opponent Walcott. This meant that Spurs could often aim for Davies, either with through balls or switches of play, A pass from one side to the other. as he had time and space to receive in.

Nevertheless, Spurs were never able to find the final pass to capitalize on bypassing the Everton midfield, despite the good positions they were sometimes able to progress the ball into.

Everton’s possession.

Everton’s possession.

Everton with wing-focus

Spurs generally tried to start their pressing higher up the pitch than Everton did, and were relatively successful in stopping Everton from outplaying them centrally. Everton were, however, able to play around Spurs’ compact formation using their fullbacks as outlets.

Son and Alli as the wide players in Spurs’ 4-2-3-1 formation would start in relatively narrow positions, and in higher pressing they would sometimes try to support the pressing by pushing up onto the Everton center-backs from outside.

In any case, Everton could resolve pressure by reaching their fullbacks who had a fair amount of space. Spurs’ own fullbacks struggled to step up and pressure them immediately because they were usually pinned by the Everton wingers. 

Everton would try to initiate combinations on the wings with the fullbacks overlapping When a wide player, most of the times a wing-back, runs outside to fill in the space left by a winger going inside with or without the ball, this is called overlapping. or underlapping Underlap means that the full-back joins the offensive play by playing on the inside of the winger he supports. This is the reverse of an overlap, where the full-back plays on the outside and the winger moves inside. to support, as well as forward runs from Davies and Gomes in midfield. Iwobi would usually drift inside from the left wing, which left space for Lucas Digne’s forward surges.

On the right side Walcott was a threat with his speed running in behind the Spurs left back Davies, and there were a couple of promising moments which resulted from this. But as with Spurs, the quality in the final third The one-third of the pitch that is closest to the opposition’s goal. was rarely present, so Everton struggled to create for most of the game.

Late equalizer for Everton in unpleasant circumstances

Pochettino made a slight tactical tweak as Son was seen moving into a more central role at the start of the second half and Lucas Moura moved out to the right side. The second half was different in that it saw a higher possession share for Everton,  Spurs were more often playing on the counterattack. Overall, though, the game still generally lacked quality for much of the time. 

It was indeed through a counterattack that Spurs were able to go ahead, as Iwobi’s misplaced pass in midfield allowed Spurs to break. The ball found its way to Son, who found Alli in support. Alli went on to provide probably the best quality action in the whole match as he drove at the Everton defense before finishing low into the corner of Jordan Pickford’s net.

Silva reacted soon afterwards by bringing on Cenk Tosun in place of Walcott. This meant Richarlison would move out to the right side of attack, while Tosun played as the number nine. Pochettino subsequently made a change of his own, bringing on Giovani Lo Celso in place of Ndombele. Lo Celso would occupy the number ten role, with Eriksen moving wide and Alli playing deeper.

Everton continued to build pressure and were dominating possession against Spurs coming into the final ten to fifteen minutes. Then came the incident for which the game will likely be remembered, as Gomes suffered a serious injury. Play eventually resumed after a long stoppage and the dismissal of Son for his challenge that injured Gomes.

Everton switched to a 4-4-2 formation to push for the equalizer going into a length period of injury time. Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Gylfi Sigurðsson came on, with the former joining Tosun up front, and the latter slotting in at central midfield. 

Everton looked to load up the penalty box with numbers as they searched for a goal, while Spurs were now defending in a 4-4-1 shape trying to hold on. They were unable to do that though, as the substitute Tosun arrived in the box to head Digne’s cross home, leaving the final score at 1-1.


Everton probably deserved to rescue a draw after a slightly improved second half performance. The way Spurs were easily able to create space on Everton’s right side on the first half should be concerning for Silva, and they could have been further punished for this if Spurs’ final third play had been more efficient.

Spurs were overall disappointing, with the main problem being the lack of chances created. Illustrative of this is the fact that they ended the match with four shots in total. Furthermore, after going ahead just past the sixty-minute mark, they did not have a single shot for the rest of the game.   

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Josh Manley (21) is a student and aspiring coach. Heavily interested in tactics and strategy in football. Watching teams from all top European leagues, but especially Manchester United and Barcelona. [ View all posts ]


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