It’s a little weird just how close Tottenham Hotspur and Everton are in the hierarchy of Premier League clubs over the past couple of decades. As an nascent American English football fan, my path to Premier League fandom skirted awfully close to Merseyside before settling on the north London club with the funny name. It’s a story I’ve heard numerous other times from fellow American Spurs fans.
The story of being an Everton supporter in recent seasons has been one of the slow, inexorable transition from hope and anticipation to flatlining disappointment. It feels like every season, Everton makes significant moves in the offseason — new managers! signings that will really kick the club on! — only for the Toffees to falter and end the season in their usual table range of 7th-12th. That’s what happened last season — Marco Silva was the “chosen one,” the young, dynamic manager that was going to kick open the door to the top four. Everton spent big last summer, bringing in Alex Iwobi, Moise Kean, Andre Gomes, Fabian Delph, and Jean-Philippe Gbamin in a £100m+ outlay. Defensive midfielder Gbamin has yet to take the pitch for the Toffees after a horrific string of injuries that will yet keep him out until this coming November. Gomes has shown a spark but had a horrific injury of his own (thanks to Son Heung-Min). Kean had a grand total of two goals in 29 appearances, while Iwobi had one goal in 1600 minutes.
But surely it’s different this time? Silva is long gone and replaced with Carlo Ancelotti, a fantastic manager with a European title on his resume. Everton have again made some splashy signings this summer, signing experienced Brazilian central midfielder Allan from Napoli (where he played under Ancelotti) for £22m, Abdoulaye Doucoure from relegated Watford for £20m, and the biggest prize — former Real Madrid star James Rodriguez for an undisclosed fee. Spending money has never been Everton’s problem the past few years.
In James, Everton now boasts a legitimate world-class playmaker, albeit one that has disappointed at the highest level of club football. That doesn’t mean he can’t do excellent things for Everton, and players like Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin must be positively champing at the bit thinking about the progressive balls that James can, in theory, provide. The defense is still a little concerning — Everton were 13th in GA last season and Seamus Coleman certainly isn’t getting any younger — and all of Everton’s signings have been geared towards the midfield or attack.
The idea is a few more key reinforcements, combined with Ancelotti’s tactics, continued good play from their goal scorers, and a little less bad injury luck might be what really pushes Everton into contention this season. 12th place just isn’t going to cut it. This is the season, this year for sure, they really mean it this time!
How will Tottenham line up against Everton?
There are a lot of matches to come for Tottenham Hotspur over the next few weeks. Between the Premier League, Europa League qualifiers in Eastern Europe, and the Carabao Cup, there will be plenty of minutes for everyone and it’s likely that lineups will be as much about keeping players fresh as it is about setting up to win. That said, after a “full” preseason, it’s hard to imagine that Jose Mourinho would put anything out on the pitch against Everton except his strongest possible lineup. Considering injuries and missing players, the lineup in the graphic above is my best guess.
Let’s start at the back. With Ben Davies healthy, I think we’ll most likely see him at left back, tucking into central defense when needed, and giving new signing Matt Doherty license to push forward with the ball. You can make a case for Davinson Sanchez over Eric Dier in central defense, but Mourinho sure seems to have liked Eric in the back line since the restart.
I don’t see a situation barring injury where Pierre Hojbjerg doesn’t start in central midfield, but the question is his partner. Harry Winks had been missing from preseason for a couple of weeks with no explanation, but was pictured in the most recent batch of club training photos. Even so, I think Moussa Sissoko is likely to get the nod, if for no other reasons than fitness; Tuesday’s match in Plovdiv seems like a good opportunity for Winksy to get back up to speed, and 45 minutes against Watford probably isn’t enough for Ndombele to shove his way into the lineup (but perhaps as a sub). Davies dropping into the back line also means that Sissoko won’t have to cover the space behind Doherty in the way that he often did behind Serge Aurier.
We haven’t seen Giovani Lo Celso all preseason and while there has been nothing from the club by way of news, it’s likely he has some sort of injury or (ahem) other situation going on health-wise. Considering Dele’s pretty exceptional preseason, Watford match aside, he seems the most likely to start in the forward attacking band, along with Son Heung-Min and Lucas Moura. Harry Kane is a lock.
It’s a pretty strong lineup, hopefully solid at the back and effective on the counter. If Spurs can figure out and counter the threat from Everton’s new signings, it could be a fun match.
That’s my predicted lineup for Tottenham’s opening weekend match against Everton. What’s yours?