Tottenham 1-0 Everton: Tactical Analysis | Crowded midfield stalls both teams

With just 1 point and 1 place separating the 2 teams coming into the game, it was always going to be a close run affair between these two greats of English football. Aside from this as well, the fact that both needed a positive result to stay in touch with Liverpool, who put in a mighty performance this weekend only heightened the sense of importance accorded to the fixture at a slightly nervous White Hart Lane.

Line ups:

Tottenham: Lloris; Walker; Dawson; Vertonghen; Rose; Bentaleb; Paulinho (Capoue, 68); Dembele; Lennon (Defoe, 86); Eriksen (Townsend, 59); Adebayor.

Everton: Howard; Coleman; Distin; Jagielka; Baines; McCarthy; Barry; Mirallas; Osman (McGeady, 73); Pienaar (Barkley, 64); Naismith (Deulofeu, 73).

Made using TacticalPad.

Made using TacticalPad.


Early Chances for Osman

Everton usually use their full backs and bring good width to any game because of the skill of both Coleman and Baines. They started out this game as well attacking from the wide areas with the Baines and Coleman getting forward well. Mirallas also enjoyed a positive start to the game as Spurs had a little bit of trouble. As a result, they dropped a little deep everytime the Toffees got into the wide areas to close the space between the defensive line and keeper (Naismith isn’t much of an aerial threat to Dawson and Vertonghen, therefore it made sense for Spurs to drop deep and block out cut backs). This created space in the region in front of the defence and the player to exploit this space was Leon Osman. The early exchanges saw him get a few chances to shoot at the edge of the box and around that region. He forced an excellent save from Lloris, but didn’t really manage much apart from that.

TotEve (1)

Apologies for the poor image quality.

As you can see in the image above, the Spurs line has dropped a little deep and the rectangular area is open for Osman. Osman then takes a shot on target and forces Lloris into a good save.

Spurs adding a body to midfield

In recent weeks, Sherwood’s 4-4-2 has come in for a little crticism. Besides, Everton are also very strong in the middle of the park with Barry and McCarthy forming a very tough presence there. As a response to this, Sherwood sacrificed one striker, Soldado, to bring Paulinho into midfield alongside Bentaleb and Dembele. This may have taken away from the attack in theory, and to make up for it, he had Dembele and Paulinho getting forward and supporting the attack from deeper areas. The idea was for them to link up with Adebayor and battle in midfield as well.

Apologies for the poor image quality.

Apologies for the poor image quality.

Paulinho (highlighted) in one of his rare forays forward, trying to support Adebayor in the box.

This didn’t work out as planned though, with Paulinho and Dembele often caught up in the midfield batlle and unable to get too far forward to support the Togolese striker. This in turn resulted in Adebayor being a little isolated. Spurs often lacked a bit of a presence up front and Adebayor initiallt had trouble making an impact in the box. Consequently, the striker often drifted into wide areas to try and receive the ball from his team mates. He also dropped deep quite often, slowing down the Spurs attacks.

Crowded midfield

Everton usually play with 3 men in midfield, with Barry and McCarthy sitting at the base, and Barkley or Osman slightly higher up the pitch. Even Mirallas and Pienaar get narrower and we can see quite a few challenges flying about. In response, Spurs also tried to pack the midfield, with 3 there, including Bentaleb, Paulinho and Dembele. Adebayor too kept dropping deep to get the ball, and as a result tended to get involved in the battle. This meant that the middle of the park was quite crowded, and all the space was in the wide areas. With the wide players on show, this wasn’t all bad news for neutrals, and the game was quite entertaining despite having just 1 goal.

In the first half, the amount of play being concentrated in the wide areas wasn’t so high, but in the second half, both managers looked to the flanks for their attacking momentum. The more effective passes and dangerous chances for also coming from wide areas. Approximately 72% of the game was played in the wide areas, and a total of 44 crosses were attempted.

In order to supplement their attack, Sherwood had Dembele and Paulinho getting forward a little more to support the ball from behind. This was a slightly new role for Dembele who is usually a bit deep. Dembele getting forward more was a problem for Everton, as the Belgian is a good dribbler, and has a powerful shot as well, aside from being quite a fantastic passer of the ball. This is why he had either Barry or McCarthy constantly hounding him and trying to get him off the ball. Later on in the game, as his attempts to influence the game high up the pitch were proving a bit futile, he dropped slightly deeper, into more familiar territory, and let Paulinho drive forward.

Naismith, the unconventional target man

Usually, Everton have the big, strong Romelu Lukaku leading the line, but due to his injury, Steven Naismith was played in this position. Naismith is physically obviously not at the same level as Lukaku, and this posed a problem to Everton’s implementation of their usual game plan. However, to his great credit, Naismith adapted well, and served as a good replacement for Luakaku. The Scot played almost the entire game with his back to goal, selflessly setting up his midfielders and full backs. He played as a sort of target man. Normally, one associates brutal physical strikers with that roile, but Naismith executed the basics well, bringing others into play very often.

As you can see from his pass map above, a number of passes were played backwards and square with the purpose of bringing his team mates into the action.


This will be a hard defeat to take for Everton. The team set up well, and played well too. Martinez applied smart tactics and his side attacked Spurs with purpose. He will probably feel that his side deserve to come away with at least a point. Even the goal came from a lapse in their concentration, rather than a tactical oversight or piece of brilliance.

For Spurs, this was represents a very important 3 points. A defeat here would be tough for them but they’ve got the win, and aren’t very far behind Liverpool. They seem to have picked up a little momentum since the sacking, and if they can get on a run, they could threaten Liverpool in fourth.

Did you notice a tactical aspect of the game we missed? Do let us know by leaving a comment below.

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Vishal Patel

Vishal Patel

Massive Chelsea supporter. Follow Mourinho and love Ronaldinho. Enjoy discussing tactics anytime, anywhere. Enjoy watching the Italian National team as well.
Vishal Patel