Tottenham Hotspur finally played their game in hand against an Everton side that Spurs typically struggle against. This night, however, there was no such struggle. Spurs dominated play pretty much from the beginning. How dominant were we? That's a good question. I have taken it upon myself to answer that question with a little bit of tactical and statistical analysis.
Before we go any further I want to take a second to thank Graham MacAree from We Ain't Got No History. Graham has been doing this type of analysis for quite a while, so I basically stole this from him. He also helped me out a lot with the process of creating all these cool graphics you're going to see after the jump. Thanks Graham!
On To The Analysis
Tottenham ran out their typical 4-4-1-1 formation. On the pitch it tends to look a bit more like a 4-1-3-1-1, but that seems a bit overly complicated. Gareth Bale, who normally plays wide left, has been given a much more central role of late. As you can see he has slid more toward the center of the park with the width coming from a much more advanced Benoit Assou-Ekotto. Bale's move towards the center has another effect: it pulls Luka Modric more towards the left. Several times during the match we saw Luka Modric running with the ball down the left flank. Luka probably needs to stay a bit more central to be at his most effective.
Everton ran out a 4-4-2 formation with Louis Saha partnering Victor Anichebe up top. The partnership didn't work terribly well as both players would probably prefer to play deeper roles. Instead Saha was forced up the pitch a bit more than he'd like while Anichebe played the role of deep-lying forward. Everton were without quite a few players and even though Tim Cahill passes a late fitness test the center of midfield was still a bit shambolic for the Toffees. First, Cahill was not at his best. Certainly it didn't help that Everton rarely had the ball, but even when they did the Australian midfielder wasn't seeing much of it. Things were complicated in the middle by Diniyar Bilyaletdinov's tendency to drift into the center from his left wing position. This might have been fine had Leighton Baines been able to provide some width, but he was, for the most part, pinned back by the presence of Aaron Lennon and Kyle Walker.
In the past Everton had done a good job of marking Gareth Bale out of matches. This time around they didn't really have the personnel to do so. Phil Neville did a decent job at the back, but without Seamus Coleman playing right midfield, something Moyes tends to do against Tottenham, Neville was basically on his own. Landon Donavon was pretty poor going forward in this match and didn't contribute much defensively either. Bale's drifting into the middle often left him open because Mourane Fellaini was concerned with Rafael van der Vaart and Modric. Fortunately for Everton, Bale wasn't at his sharpest or this match could have been much worse.
A couple key things happened for Tottenham in this match. First, the central defensive pairing was very good. Younes Kaboul and Michael Dawson combined to complete 95% of their passes, with Dawson completing 98% on his own. Additionally, Kaboul won nine tackles, which really help snuff out any sort of Everton attack. Secondly, Jake Livermore played very well. The youngster saw a lot of the ball and almost never gave it away. He completed all but one of his passes while also make several key tackles and interceptions.
Perhaps the big surprise, to me, was how much Rafael van der Vaart acutally contributed. When I watched the match the first time I thought he was rather anonymous and didn't do too much. After watching again and looking at the stats, it turns out that Rafa did quite a bit. He attempted more passes than any Tottenham player, completing quite a few. His movement was good and he lasted a full 90 minutes. I can only assume that this means he will be rested for the Wolverhampton Wanderers match this weekend, but who knows.
I've spent a little bit of time discussing the passing, now let's take a more detailed look at it.
Figure 2: Pass Completion and Frequency (5-min weighted averages), Tottenham Hotspur v. Everton, 1/11/12. Powered by Tableau.
Figure 3: Individual passing for Tottenham Hotspur v. Everton, 1/11/12. Powered by Tableau.
This pretty much tells the whole story right here. Tottenham dominated the ball throughout the match. Everton had a couple of good five minute spells, but were never able to keep any sort of prolonged pressure on Tottenham. Seven Tottenham players made more passes than anyone on Everton. Only Aaron Lennon had a disappointing game in terms of passing the ball, but he scored a goal, so who are we to complain.
I think this game, like many over the last few weeks, came down to an inferior team trying to sit behind the ball and invite Tottenham to attack. Spurs were more than willing to do that and have, of late, shown an ability to break these teams down that they didn't have. Everton started the game brightly, but just didn't see enough of the ball to mount any sort of challenge. What few counterattacks the team had were quickly halted by Tottenham's defense. The fact that Everton's strikers did basiically nothing didn't help either. Anichebe's passing was horrendous and Saha couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with his finishing. Everton manager David Moyes is in need of some serious help.
So, there you have it boys and girls. A little tactical and statistical analysis of Tottenham Hotspur. What do you think? Should we keep this feature around for good?