Five areas of interest in Everton 1-0 Tottenham

March 12, 2012

The starting line-ups

This was another interesting clash between David Moyes and Harry Redknapp. Their tactical battle at White Hart Lane last season was fascinating, and this game followed a similar pattern of Moyes responding to Redknapp’s decisions.

I’ve written about the difference between the two over at the Guardian, using the battle between Gareth Bale and Seamus Coleman to sum up the two managers’ styles.

1. Bale v Coleman

That battle was the first area of interest. Coleman teamed up with Phil Neville to double-mark Bale out of the game at White Hart Lane last year, and had expected to do the same here.

But Bale, as part of a continued experiment to put him in different positions to vary his game, started on the right. That meant that Coleman moved across to the other flank too, with Royston Drenthe moving from the left to the the right accordingly. Bale had a disappointing game, and Coleman found it easier to close down the space. Bale was always looking to come inside, so Coleman could stay relatively central and show him down the line, where the Welshman found it difficult to cross with his right foot, or with the outside of his left.

Bale needed more support from Kyle Walker – on one of the few occasions he did overlap, Coleman got dragged to the flank and Bale could come in and shoot, albeit poorly.

Eventually Bale moved to the left in the second half, and Coleman was happy to follow back to his natural side.

2. Tottenham use 4-4-2 again

It didn’t work against Manchester United, nor against Arsenal, but Redknapp again went with two strikers. It looked particularly bad here – neither Jermain Defoe nor Emmanuel Adebayor dropped off onto Everton’s holding player to prevent Spurs getting overrun in the middle, and there was also a big gap between the lines of midfield and attack.

That was due to the unusual nature of the midfield – Luka Modric on the left, coming inside into the centre. Bale was stranded out on the right with two men on him, and the strikers got little support.

Tottenham have generally made their 4-4-2 work when playing quickly and directly down the flanks, but here that wasn’t much of an option.

3. Parker – Sandro

The use of this duo is probably intended to give Spurs more protection, but it seems to do the opposite. When Redknapp introduced Sandro as an extra holding player against Arsenal, it backfired spectacularly and turned a 2-2 into a 5-2. Here, Spurs were remarkably open in the space between the lines that they were presumably trying to protect.

It’s not clear which of Parker and Sandro is meant to be sitting deeper, and which playing higher up. They’re entitled to take it in turns, of course, but that relies on a good understanding which is plainly not there – not yet, at least.

4. Leon Osman

To describe Osman as underrated would be unfair – few regular Premier League watchers don’t rate him. His use of the ball and appreciation of space is excellent, and he popped up in a good position to create the goal for Nikica Jelavic.

His running from deep was extremely impressive, because it was he, rather than the more naturally placed Tim Cahill, who exploited the gap between the Tottenham lines. Cahill generally motored forward high up against the Tottenham defence, meaning neither could come out to any further midfield runners, and Osman sneaked into space behind Parker to great effect.

5. Everton move to a back five

Late on, Tottenham were piling on the pressure, and Moyes introduced an extra defender – Phil Jagielka for Coleman. Initially it seemed that Neville would sit ahead of Jagielka on the right, but by the end of the game Jagielka was simply an extra centre-back, with Neville continuing at right-back in a 5-4-1.

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