Andre Villas-Boas is faced with the difficult problem of replacing the injured Gareth Bale for the Premier League match against Everton. Visiting Goodison Park with a full strength squad is a tricky enough situation but going there without your best and most threatening player is another matter. Everton are undefeated at home this season and are currently three points behind Spurs in 7th position. A home win would lift them ahead of Spurs on goal difference and back into the top four. Tottenham have lost on their last two visits to Goodison and drew the previous three. Their last win was in February, 2007 when a late goal from Jermaine Jenas secured the three points.
Trips to Goodison Park have been very productive for Tottenham in the Premier League era as the 2007 win was their seventh victory with only two defeats in fifteen matches. Since that 2007 success, the only occasion when Spurs had the opportunity to take all three points was three seasons ago when the match finished 2 – 2 but Jermain Defoe saw a last minute penalty saved by Tim Howard.
Dec. 2009 PL Draw 2 – 2 Defoe, Dawson
Jermain Defoe saw his injury time penalty saved, so denying Spurs of all three points. Spurs had taken the lead two minutes after the interval through Defoe. Michael Dawson added a second after an hour and the points looked secure. A late rally from Everton brought them level after scoring twice in eight minutes – Louis Saha scoring the first on 78 minutes.
Spurs’ full record at Goodison Park is:
P 20 W 7 D 9 L 4 For 20 Ag 17
Last season Spurs lost by the only goal of a game played in March as Spurs’ form slumped and their Champions League aspirations took another blow.
Everton are a hard working team who are very difficult to beat and they opened the season with a win over Manchester United. They have also defeated Southampton and Sunderland while matches with Newcastle United, Liverpool, Norwich and Arsenal have ended in a draw. They have scored 12 goals at home while only conceding 8 goals. Steven Pienaar who returned to Everton in the summer will again have the extra incentive to show Tottenham what he does best, something he failed to get the opportunity to do during his short time with Spurs.
How to Replace a Player like Bale?
Looking at those statistics suggest a close match is in prospect but for Tottenham the problem is how to replace Bale. On Thursday evening against Panathinaikos in the Europa League win, Emmanuael Adebayor returned to the team and is available again having served his three match suspension. Defoe and Adebayor both scored against the Greek team and their short spell together in the away game at Arsenal worked well but Everton will present a much more organised defensive unit than Arsenal did in the first seventeen minutes of the north London derby. If Adebayor plays, he would probably take the deeper lying role behind Defoe with Clint Dempsey moving out wider on the left to replace Bale but in a different style of game. Dempsey who has taken time to settle into the Spurs team since signing from Fulham in August has shown improvement with a number of assists for goals in recent matches.
If Villas-Boas regards playing the two strikers together as too risky a strategy against Everton, he may opt for Gylfi Sigurdsson in place of Bale. He came on against Fulham when Bale was substituted and had a hand in Defoe’s first goal at Craven Cottage. He has had limited opportunities with Spurs but has looked more positive in his last few appearances. If Sigurdsson plays, he would provide the work ethic on the left that will be required against a fully committed Everton team.
Hugo Lloris will return in goal, having claimed the number one position from Brad Friedel but Villas-Boas must make a decision at left back. Kyle Naughton had problems there in Thursday’s Europa League game where he is playing out of position, preferring right back where he was very comfortable against Fulham. Jan Vertonghen has filled in very well but struggled at both Manchester City and Arsenal when both teams focused their attacking intentions on the right wing with pace. The experienced Belgian would have greater cover in front of him if Sigurdsson were to be in the team. If Dawson’s injury keeps him out, William Gallas and Steven Caulker will make up the central defensive partnership.
If Tottenham are to retain fourth position after today’s match, they must avoid defeat while a win would keep them level on points with Chelsea and open up a gap on West Bromwich Albion, Arsenal and Everton. To achieve either result, Spurs will need to be fully committed in order to firstly match Everton’s effort and work rate and then hope that the goal scoring instincts of Defoe can again shine through.