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Tottenham Hotspur vs. Everton Preview: I just don’t think you understand

Tottenham welcome Dele back in another trap game.

Everton v Leeds United - Premier League Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

Club goes up, club goes down. Tottenham Hotspur have been the very definition of inconsistent over the past two months. When Spurs are fully healthy, they can beat anyone in the league — just ask Manchester City. When they’re dinged up and/or tired, they can lose to anyone — just ask Middlesbrough.

It makes you want to tear your hair out, but are you not entertained?

Tottenham now face the the reality of another year without a trophy (14 years and counting), but since getting dumped by Boro in the FA Cup, the only mid-week matches they’ll have to think about are the two games in hand they still have from the January COVID outbreak. That’s not too bad — Antonio Conte is known for his all-week training blitzes that get his teams ready for individual performances. Maybe, with a little time and some injury luck, a good run can start on Monday at home to Everton?

Tottenham Hotspur (7th, 42pts) vs. Everton (17th, 22pts)

Date: Monday, March 7, 2022
Time: 3 pm ET, 8 pm UK
Location: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, North London, England
TV: USA Network (USA), Sky Sports (UK)
Stream: NBCSports.com (USA)

Monday’s match vs. Everton features a bittersweet homecoming — Dele returns, for the first time since he was sold for a handshake and an IOU in January. It’ll be the first time Tottenham’s home fans will be able to give him a proper send-off, and I expect he’ll get a warm welcome from the Spurs faithful.

Everton, meanwhile, have been woeful this season, picking up just seven points from their last 30. A lot of that has been down to injuries — there’s a chance they could have Dominic Calvert-Lewin back for Monday’s match, but they’re still without Yerry Mina, Fabian Delph, Ben Godfrey, and Tom Davies. Even so, Everton are a dismal 14th in both xG and xGA, and are one point out of the relegation zone albeit with two games in hand.

Three themes

  1. Dele’s had a bit of a rough time of it under Frank Lampard — Lamps has mostly employed either a 3-4-3 or a keep-it-simple-dummies 4-4-2 during his early tenure. That means Dele has had the same problem that he had at Spurs: there really isn’t a good position for him that fits his strengths. Dele has played in four league matches, but none as a starter and only for 121 minutes of action. Three shots, no goals, no assists. But you do suspect that if he gets on the pitch against his old team he’ll be sufficiently motivated. #narrative, anyone?
  2. The return of Rodrigo Bentancur is HUGE for Spurs, as they’ve greatly missed his defensive presence in the center of the pitch during his injury. Without piling on him too much, there’s a pretty stark difference between what Lolo brings to the table what Harry Winks does, even acknowledging a pretty good match against Leeds. Bentancur and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg should match up pretty well with Everton’s midfield of Abdoulaye Doucoure and Allan, both of whom have struggled this season. Lucas also adds a veneer of depth, and he could be useful running against tired legs as an impact sub late in the game. Get Harry Kane an early goal, and for god’s sake defend set pieces, and Spurs should be okay.
  3. Spurs’ top four hopes aren’t dead, but they’re definitely on life support. They’re three points behind Arsenal and West Ham (Arsenal have a match in hand vs. Spurs) and at this point they’ll need to assuredly win in the North London Derby to have any chance of finishing ahead of them. Spurs won’t win every match — who does? But they’re going to have to start winning the games they should win, like Monday’s.