Martinez adapts but poor concentration costs Everton victory – Five talking points from the Spurs game

1. Loss of concentration cost Everton the three points.

Everton were rightly credited with a better defensive performance, although they remained thankful for a little bit of luck, with the post and crossbar intervening when Roberto Martinez’ side were coming under increasing pressure from the Tottenham attack. After a shaky opening, both John Stones and Romiro Funes Mori grew into the game and by the end were playing with great composure at the back. However Everton were still missing Phil Jagielka who would have had his head in his hands shortly before halftime.

Roberto

Jagielka was watching from the bench as he continues his comeback from injury, but it was his defensive colleagues who were at fault for a drop in concentration moments after the board had gone up to signal two minutes of injury time. A long ball forward from the back cut out the entire Everton back four, with Seamus Coleman the only one reacting to the danger, although he was too late to intercept the run from Dele Alli.

The two graphics below highlight the poor defensive play that led to the Tottenham’s equaliser.

goal1 copy

John Stones and Romiro Funes Mori are caught ball watching as a ball over the top is allowed to land on the edge of the Everton box. Dele Alli who starts from a deep position, runs (red arrow above) off Coleman and in behind the Everton centre backs, with neither realising the danger until Alli is controlling the ball on his chest, which he did expertly before volleying past Tim Howard from relatively close range.

goal3 copy

2. Increased tempo changed the match.

Everton were outplayed for much of the first half with the Blues sitting off Spurs and letting them play the ball at their leisure. This was a dangerous game and but for the woodwork Everton would have been 3-1 down and out of site by the time the half time whistle blew.

Everton’s longest serving outfield player on the pitch, Leighton Baines did his best to increase the tempo and it was his closing down of Christian Eriksen that led to Everton taking the lead against the run of play. But despite going a goal ahead, the Blues failed to exert enough pressure on Spurs and the away side continued to boss the game until Martinez had his say at half time.

After the interval Everton were much better. The tempo lifted, which in turn lifted the Goodison crowd and the Toffees played most of the second half on the front foot and should really have won the game, but were unable to take one of the half chances they created in the closing stages.

As we have seen for much of the season Everton are a much better side when they play at a high tempo with players closing down from the front. The Blues have employed this approach for much of the season, but let this drop at the weekend. This may have been an indirect result of Everton trying to be more resolute at the back and holding their positions, therefore the difficulty remains balancing the need for defencive solidity versus playing with a high tempo and pressing the opposition high up the pitch.

3. Substitutions were spot on.

Roberto Martinez has come under tremendous criticism in recent weeks, some of which is justified and some in my opinion is not. Sunday’s starting team selection took many by surprise, with Martinez choosing to retain Arouna Kone despite his recent struggles at the expense of Kevin Mirallas or Gerard Deulofeu (who I am sure was rested with the Manchester City match in mind). However Martinez got his substitutions spot on against Spurs. Everton had already started the second half with a much improved performance, but the substitutions and change of shape ensured Everton dominated much of the second period, even if ultimately they failed to find a winner.

The introduction of Besic (more of him later) and Deulofeu and the change to a 4-3-3 formation were instrumental in Everton taking control of the midfield. Up until that stage Tottenham’s midfield five (with the exception of Eriksen who had a poor game) had too much freedom and were finding space in dangerous areas. Besic, alongside the impressive Barry and Cleverley closed those gaps and were able to push Everton forward and take advantage of Deulofeu’s pace, especially as the game became increasingly stretched. A little more quality in the final third would have been enough to give Everton all three points.

4. Besic deserves his chance to stake a claim for a starting place.

Muhamed Besic provided evidence in his 30 minute cameo that he is fully over this injury problems that have blighted his season so far. Besic was tenacious, controlled in possession and full of energy as he pushed Everton forward in search of a winner. His link up with Gareth Barry and Tom Cleverley provided the Blues with an alternative approach, a midfield three providing greater protection to a struggling defence.

Besic

Besic, like Tom Cleverley is far more than just a defensive midfield player, his energy is infectious and he showed a real determination to get forward and join in with Everton’s attacking play and he was extremely unlucky not to score with a rasping volley that had Hugo Lloris at full stretch. His performance should have been enough to force his way into the line-up for the Manchester City match on Wednesday evening, with Tom Cleverley a possible option to take up the left midfield role if Roberto Martinez sticks with the 4-2-3-1 formation he has adopted for much of the season.

5. Supporters need to support.

We all know the Goodison crowd can be hostile, many ex-players and referees include a trip to Everton as one of the toughest of the season due to the ‘unique’ nature of the Everton support, but unfortunately at times that hostility is directed at our own players. There were several occurrences of this on Sunday, with a dissatisfied crowd, frustrated with recent results, making their feelings openly known.

Tim Howard, was the subject of jeers early on and for the second game running he turned to the Gwladys Street and gestured to them to calm down after he caught a high hanging ball. Arouna Kone struggled for much of the hour he spent on the pitch, but his performance was not helped in any way by the moans, groans and jeers every time he miss-controlled the ball.  John Stones was another to feel the panic of the crowd, Everton’s number five also felt the need to ask the Park End to calm down a little after he bamboozled a Spurs attacker with several turns inside and out.

If we are to get out of this sticky period and push up the table and back into European contention we are going to need the crowd to stick with us, it is certainly not a surprise to me that our better performances in recent weeks have come away from home without the added pressure applied by our own supporters.

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