While the quality on display wasn’t worthy of a Premier League encounter, there were quite a few positives to take away from Tottenham’s rugged scoreless draw on Merseyside.
Antonio Conte decided to start the same team he went with for the 3-2 win over Vitesse on Thursday. It was the first time in five years a Tottenham team remained unchanged for successive European and Premier League encounters.
The decision didn’t translate to victory for Conte’s first Premier League match with Spurs, but it provided some tangible positives going into the international break.
3. A full-blooded, committed Tottenham display
As advertised, Conte’s arrival on the scene has had an instant impact on Spurs’ overall commitment level. The work rate of every player was substantially better. Every player in the starting team, aside from Harry Kane, pressed Everton relentlessly when the opportunity availed.
Everton found it challenging to find clear-cut scoring opportunities, thanks in large part to Tottenham’s impressive work rate off the ball. Working at such high intensity levels on such short rest is no easy feat, and Conte will take great solace in seeing his new crew leave everything on the pitch.
Quality was obviously missing from the scrappy affair, but at least the away side showed pride for the badge, putting body and limb on the line for the good of the club. Tottenham supporters will be elated to see their team, as a collective, finally dedicate themselves to the cause.
2. Success of new formation
While there’s still tons of work to do, the new formation is already showing promising signs, at least defensively. The trio of centre backs, Eric Dier, Christian Romero, Ben Davies, all enjoyed stellar outings in a highly hostile environment.
Dier marshalled the back three expertly. He was way more communicative, barking orders to his defensive colleagues almost as much as his new gaffer was from the sidelines. Usually mistake-prone, Dier enjoyed an almost flawless defensive outing.
Ben Davies also proved himself worthy of a starting role. The Welshman was extremely physical and robust in his challenges, and even provided a slight threat going forward. He committed a few fouls but was inspired throughout. His performance was reminiscent of the Davies we saw during Mauricio Pochettino’s golden years at Spurs.
Christian Romero was also sturdy, stout and strong. Some of his long balls missed the mark, but he, along with Davies and Dier, snuffed out the danger presented by Richarlison. Dominic Calvert-Lewin missed out through injury, making things substantially easier for Spurs’ backline. But you can only play against those on the pitch, which Spurs back three did proficiently.
1. First away clean sheet since Aug. 22
Pierre Hojberg and Oliver Skipp deserve heaps of plaudits for their combined performance level in the middle of the park. The pair covered large areas and were resilient and dogged throughout. Both were, for the most part, industrious in possession. Hojberg had a few wayward passes. However, he is attempting much more difficult passes, so a few are bound to miss the mark.
Skipp protected the back four expertly and was arguably the most influential part of Spurs’ clean sheet. Spurs’ last away clean sheet came against Wolves on Aug. 22, though Nuno’s team were extremely luck to escape without conceding.
The polar opposite was true of Spurs’ performance at Everton today. Everton were almost awarded a penalty, but the original call was rightly overturned by VAR. The Toffees’ attacking threat was otherwise completely nullified. The home side mustered only two shots on target all afternoon. Conte will be delighted by Spurs’ defensive showing.