This Sunday Spurs welcome Everton to White Hart Lane. As rivals for the Champions League places, this game has particular significance and both will be keen to maintain the pressure on fourth placed Liverpool.
Everton have had a good season so far despite losing long serving manager David Moyes in the summer. They lie fifth, just one place and one point above Tottenham. Both Everton and Martinez have reputations for being slow starters, which makes their points return this season particularly impressive.
Roberto Martinez has taken the style he cultivated at Swansea and Wigan and married that to the more prosaic attributes Moyes’ had instilled in the team. This change in style can be seen in the statistics. Everton have gone from 9th in the Premier League possession table last season (52.9%) to 5th this term (56.4%). Passing success has also increased (79.4% to 83.5%) as has their total number of passes. They usually line up in a 4-2-3-1 and most commonly attack down the left flank; in fact more than any other team in the league, presumably because of their star left back Leighton Baines.
Below are attacking side percentages and an average position map from Everton’s last game against Aston Villa (from the excellent WhoScored.com). Baines is circled in red. As you can see he got very far forward and most of the attacks came down his side. Sherwood must come up with a plan to stifle him.
When not in possession Martinez is a fan of using a pressing game. I was at the home match against his Wigan side last year where they pressed Tottenham energetically high up the field. This was very successful, every move seemed to end with a defender having to pass the ball back to the keeper, whereupon he’d kick it long and we’d lose possession. The key to beating this is movement off the ball, particularly in midfield.
In recent years Everton have not spent much in the transfer market and notably two important new additions, Lukaku and Barry, both joined on loan – a fact that should worry their fans. Lukaku misses this match through injury and with the recent sale of Jelavic, Everton will struggle to replace him. This could be key.
Mousa Dembele should return for Spurs after missing last weeks game at Hull. Andros Townsend is also in contention after two months out. It will be interesting to see if Sherwood drops Nabil Bentaleb to the bench. Sherwood appears worryingly stubborn when it comes to the young midfielder. Some suggest this is because of his time developing Bentaleb in the youth team but maybe it is more symbolic than that. Bentaleb has become Sherwood’s signature that this is his team.
Personally, I would stick with 4-5-1 but drop Bentaleb in favour of Dembele. Perhaps Dembele and Paulinho can pull off Sherwood’s plan of playing two all-round central midfielders who take turns going forward; both are suitably athletic and dynamic. I would throw Townsend straight back in on the left wing, if only because of the failure of previous candidates to make the position their own.
So my team would be:
What do you think?
Betfair has Spurs as favourites at 2.18, the draw is 3.5 and an away victory is 3.75.