Tottenham Hotspur have been nothing if not a rollercoaster of performances over the last few weeks. Against Everton however we saw one of the best performances from Conte’s Tottenham. From the wingback play to the creation of counterattacks while in possession of the ball, Conte’s fingerprints are all over the architecture of this victory.
Tottenham have shown that they can struggle to create goal-scoring opportunities, so I thought it would be valuable to analyze Spurs’ build up against Everton. Unsurprisingly, the ideas weren’t anything new, but the execution was at a much better level than what we saw against Southampton and Middlesborough.
Patient in Short Build Up
Conte’s known for counter-attacking football - and arguably some of Tottenham’s best performances this season have fallen into that category - but it seems like Spurs are becoming more comfortable when they have the majority of possession. Against Everton we saw Tottenham’s constant prodding of the opposition midfield, trying to get them to shift out of position as much as possible. Against a side that is undergoing an identity and relegation crisis, this was not overly difficult.
In the possession phase, the ball near midfielder constantly made himself available for the short pass while the ball far midfielder slotted into the backline. With the weak press from Everton, Tottenham were able to find space easily down their left hand side, with Davies and Sessegnon both having the liberty to be as high up the pitch as possible without taking each other’s space.
Two major problems for Everton become immediately obvious. First, Lampard got his team’s positioning and instructions all wrong. There was no coherent pressing structure throughout the match leading to too much space for Tottenham players between Everton’s defensive and midfield lines. Second, the lack of energy that Everton players displayed in shifting or tracking back is a huge concern, something I will touch at the end of this article.
Dragging opposition players out of position isn’t exactly rocket science, but Spurs did it well in this match. A key part of this buildup was Bentancur, who has not only the desire but the technique to progress the ball reliably throughout the match. With the performances that we’re seeing from him it’s hard to see Winks getting back into the starting XI any time soon.
This was not the only way Spurs found success in moving the ball upfield - sometimes they played a more direct route, both with short and long passes.
Finding Forwards in the Half Spaces
With Everton struggling to pressure Tottenham while they were in possession Son, Kane, and Kulusevski operated just in front of Everton’s defensive line - exploiting the space left behind by Everton’s midfielders. Allan was tasked with being the ball winning midfielder, but clearly needed more support as he was constantly outnumbered in the middle of the pitch. Van de Beek and Doucure were both given license to press and as such Allan was left alone to stymie the tide of Tottenham’s three forwards.
Tottenham’s second goal exposes this weakness in the midfield more obviously. Kane is found between the lines and immediately bypasses Allan, forcing Everton’s defenders to step up and create more space between them for Son and Kulusevski to run into.
One holding midfielder is simply not enough to hold back the attacking talent that Tottenham have. Playing away from home, it might have done Everton some good to set up with two holding midfielders (Doucure has played this role in the past) to at least try to maintain numerical parity just in front of their defenders.
The midfield’s lack of desire to track back to try to prevent a second goal in the 16th minute is damning. There’s an insinuation that Everton’s players are not bought into Lampard’s system. Taking the performance as a whole, this definitely seems to be the case as the Toffees simply rolled over for Tottenham.
There’s been detours - massive ones, even - but Conte’s system seems to be slowly becoming more and more apparent. We’ve seen false summits in the past, however, and we should be wary of taking too much away from this win. Tottenham played well but Everton were dreadful, indeed lifeless and they surely have an uphill battle to stay in the Premier League. With Manchester United coming up in the weekend, I’d be hesitant to say that this would be a good litmus test either. United are a team undergoing their own challenges, and we can see either a team galvanized by the home crowd or a limp XI floating on the memories of what was.
If the former, then a victory might signify the end of Tottenham’s consistency issues. If it’s the latter and Spurs win it will prove nothing except that Conte can kick teams that are already down.