After a short summer of anticipation, Tottenham Hotspur lay an egg as Carlo Ancelotti and Everton thoroughly outplay Jose Mourinho and Spurs.
You do not want to overreact from just a single match, but how Tottenham Hotspur lost to Everton on Sunday has to be disturbing to Jose Mourinho. We have been talking about and hearing about the upcoming fixture congestion for weeks now for Spurs.
Well on Sunday, Tottenham looked like a team that had already played nine games in 27 days as they jogged around the pitch watching Everton pass the ball from teammate to teammate. So, what happened for Tottenham in the opening 0-1 loss to Everton?
One of the best signs for Tottenham fans in preseason was the early attack Spurs displayed, scoring in the first 10 minutes in multiple friendlies. However, on Sunday, Spurs failed to get off on the front foot and played the entire match in second gear. Part of the issue from the start was players with seemingly different approaches to the match.
I was curious if Tottenham were going to be playing a high line and pressing going into the match, and after 90 minutes I am equally curious as to what approach Spurs are planning to take.
Everton could play out from the back from the kickoff until the last touch of the match with not nearly enough pressure against them. At times Dele Alli was pressing, but then Harry Kane was not, or Heung-min Son was pressing, and Kane was not, or Lucas Moura was pressing, and Kane was not. Essentially, three of the four attackers were pressing, and one was not.
If the tip of your spear is not cutting the angles and pressuring the ball, it really does not matter what the three behind him are doing as the passes are just too easy to complete. With easy passes to complete, Everton could easily pass out of the ‘pressure’ and move the ball where they wanted on the pitch.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg tried to step up and include pressure, but then if he was bypassed, the space between he and Harry Winks was too great, and Everton could attack.
With a big gap in the middle of the park, Everton could collect the ball and keep both Eric Dier and Toby Alderweireld off balance the entire match. Both players were beaten on Everton’s goal for the winner. Dominic Calvert-Lewin beat Dier to the spot and Alderweireld did not even jump. Frankly, Spurs were lucky James Rodriguez is not in form or he would have scored at least one, and Richarlison cannot finish or Tottenham would have lost by three or even four goals.
While some late effort by Spurs somehow led to Tottenham ‘winning’ the possession battle (51/49), it is who is possessing the ball that demonstrates just how clearly the Toffees outplayed the Lilywhites. The six players with the most touches in the game were three defenders, a midfielder and two attackers. Defenders Ben Davies, Alderweireld, and Lucas Digne along with midfielder Hojbjerg all had more than 80 touches of the ball.
The next two players on the list were Richarlison and Rodriguez with 79 and 74 touches respectively. For a point of comparison, Lucas Moura was the Spurs attacker with the most touches at only 57.
So outplayed were Tottenham that Jordan Pickford had more touches that Son, and Hugo Lloris had more touches than Kane. When the players touching the ball the most on your team are defenders and the players on the other are attackers, that is a formula for losing and that is exactly what happened to Spurs.
Again, hate to be damning after just one match, but the desire and intensity just was not good enough. The good news for Spurs is if they play like they did Sunday on Thursday, their Europa League journey will be over before it began and the fixture congestion we have been worrying so much about will just fade away.