Everton 0 Tottenham 0
An enthralling fast tempo 0-0 at Goodison Park fuelled by Tottenham's impressive away resolve and the incessant moaning at everything and anything that moved by the Everton fans. There was also plenty of calamitous cameos from referee Kevin Friend and his shabby decision making. Not that it ruined the flow of the game which was made up of the quintessential two halves; The first dominated by Spurs, the second with Everton in the ascendency.
Not an easy place to visit at any time given time (28 points from last 30 available) and Roberto Martinez has turned their home patch into a fortress and what with our past indiscretions, we all know they love a late late show.
Our first eleven strong, our bench equally so with key areas in mind. One criticism of Andre Villas-Boas is that
perhaps he never lines up with our best possible side. There's a point
to be made that we could look for more creativity rather than
concentrate on physicality. But then what do I know? This was Everton, it was never going to be easy. Perhaps that physicality was the reason we
had so much of the ball early on. The inventiveness was
lacking with Holtby the single player attempting to craft something and not having much luck. Possibly the evidence that he's better suited deeper and not as the main conduit for control.
off well. Very well. Pressing them, bossing them. All Spurs. Everton made to chase shadows. When they did claim back the ball they were far too deep to build on their possession. Game fully in our command and yet we all knew watching that without a goal things would change in the second half. Which is exactly what happened.
Soldado remains isolated up front. Be it because he doesn't fit the system or the system doesn't fit him. That cohesion and connection is still MIA. At this rate we're going to need to hire Indiana Jones to find it. You'd think it's sat next to the The Ark of the Covenant in a pit full of snakes, such is our difficulty in scoring goals from open play. Immense squad depth for Spurs. We're just missing the immense football.
Or just the simplistic football for starters.
At times you wonder how tricky it would be for us to deliver crosses, drilled or floated into the box from wing positions with a striker foxing it in and around the box waiting to pounce. Even a ball for him to run onto would be an event. Soldado might be accused of not doing much but this is a footballer that knows how to finish. The ball has to find its way to his feet or the immediate space ahead of him for that to happen. Too much cutting in from our wingers means he's bypassed. The balance is not right.
Clean sheets? No problem there. I really don't fret too much about the defence these days (when you sit back and contemplate this it might blow your mind more than a DMT trip). There's just no breakthrough up top which means we're still jogging when we should be sprinting. There needs to be a very fluid understanding between our main protagonists. Soldado's single goal from open play in the league an example of the required simplicity.
I was really impressed with Chiriches, Vertonghen and the beastly Sandro along with Holtby and his energy. Vlad especially, so comfortable and composed on the ball.
I've side-tracked. Back to the game.
Half-time arrived and Everton woke up, reversing the games dynamic.
Friend balanced things up by not giving Everton a penalty after not
giving Spurs a penalty. Coleman and Vertonghen repaying each other but
neither winning a spot kick for their team. Friend bottled the Everton penalty claim (aided by Coleman who refused to go down) possibly as a consequence of bottling the Spurs one. Surprising as I expect the whinging from the home crowd to influence him, it didn't, which was a nice bonus. Jan, penalty controversy aside, completely owning Coleman with a sit down and shut up in my back pocket display.
The Soldado rib smack incident on Phil Jagielka was naughty and completely missed by the ref. FA disciplinary panel on alert? Steady now.
was subbed. Cue 'AVB doesn't know what he's doing' meltdowns only for
it to be revealed later that Sandro asked to come off (injury). Dembele
unable to retain the same intensity the Brazilian gave us. Our other boy from Brazil, Paulinho, tiring in the second half, which compounded our descent into having to chase them until late on when we created a few more half-chances but no heart in mouth choke moments.
One player that refused to leave the field of play was Hugo Lloris. Had his head knocked into the middle of next week by Lukaku. Doctor and coach unable to replace him with Friedel. Lloris proving he was more than fine with head and feet with some sweeper keeper dramatics late on, rushing off his line to attack the ball.
Apparently he couldn't remember anything after the clash that saw Brad Friedel prep himself for an appearance. Ridiculous situation where someone that's almost had their head decapitated (I'm exaggerating) is perceived as being in a fit state of mind to make the decision to remain on. Sure, might not have been serious but how does anyone truly know and is it worth the risk? Then again, he didn't want to go off, the nutter. That decision alone might have won us a point.
Lennon gave us little swagger in attack. Didn't pull the trigger, with shot or pass but defensively very important. That tends to go unnoticed mostly thanks to our obsessions with wanting one of those thingies, you know, that stuff that happens when the round thing goes over the white chalk below the sticks.
Aaron not effective and influential enough going forward on the left hand
side. Townsend, repeating the more frustrating element to his game,
cutting in and shooting wide. As inverted wingers they don't quote invert naturally as neither is built for the task in hand.
Nine minutes of injury time. No
last gasp glory. AVB has to seek to ignite the missing creative spark.
In addition, we're going to need a game changer too, a player to Bale us
out (pun alert) when required. Both will come, much like Gareth became that player for us, someone will step into his boots.
Eriksen and Lamela?
Best place for both is on the pitch getting game time. Eriksen goes missing in latter stages of games, still adapting to the pace of the Prem but has been benched recently so it's difficult to know if he's struggling or not. He's hardly played. Best way to get acclimatised is to stick on the shirt and kick the ball about. Also, in terms of what we require, he is undoubtedly capable of those clever disguised balls and the accompanying vision that is needed and has proven he can connect (thanks to his footballing intelligence) with others. Think of him as the glue to gel us together.
Lamela is struggling with English life but seems very positive about the challenge he faces off the pitch. You'd hope that being on the pitch would allow him some comfort but the language barrier is still evident (as seen in the cup game against Hull when there was communication failure every so often with team mates).
There are still continuing conundrums with our width as noted above. Inverted or otherwise, it's not working in terms of supporting our lone striker who doesn't drop deep to link the midfield to attack because the midfield are too busy attacking the space ahead of them, bypassing the striker.
That final, killer ball is missing but it's in the build up play where such guile is birthed. There remains a disjointed stutter with how we push forward. The formation, the style that is attempted is perfect but only if the right players are slotted into their appropriate positions. I refer you back to the aforementioned desire to see Eriksen and Lamela start.
Yet we still looked good for that first forty five. Possibly the best half of football we've enjoyed this season against decent opposition. The urgency, the movement...well, almost all the movement. Just no cutting edge.
We've got the tool box. We've got the tools. But if you want to hammer a nail you don't use a screwdriver.
Still, top four with 20 points. 12 clean sheets for Lloris. You might want to suggest we're in a perpetual state of never improving and resolving the issues we have with our shape. Still, there appears to be no evidence we're going to lose our strength and ability to grind out results. Onwards we march.
Good point away. Still disappointed, but it's a good point.
Defence currently saving the face of attack.