The Inside Track: Spurs
Reporter Ben Pearce offers a guide on Tottenham's season so far.
Everton visit the capital on Sunday to take on fellow top-four contenders Tottenham Hotspur.
After their 2-1 defeat at Goodison Park back in December, Spurs went on a 12-match unbeaten run in the league which propelled them up the table into the Champions League places.
They currently sit third, six points ahead of Everton and are in the quarter-finals of the Europa League.
evertonfc.com enlisted Spurs reporter Ben Pearce, who covers the side for Hampstead and Highgate Express , Hackney Gazette and the Tottenham Journal website to help preview Sunday afternoon’s match.
How would you summarise Tottenham’s season so far?
Spurs lost the spine of their team - Ledley King, Luka Modrić and Rafael van der Vaart – in the summer and when you lose players of that quality, it’s always going to take time to re-establish relationships, particularly in a creative sense.
I thought at the start of the season that they might struggle to finish in the top four and that it would be a transitional year, but they are currently sitting third. Tottenham endured a bad week just before the international break but Saturday’s win at Swansea lifted spirits and answered a lot of questions.
Sunday’s match against Everton will be a better indicator of where Spurs are at, whether they can successfully keep fighting on two fronts in the Premier League and in Europe, and if they have what it takes to finish in the top four.
Gareth Bale has been highly influential and a major part of Spurs’ success this season, but are there any other players who you feel could rival him for ‘Player of the Season’ at the club?
Moussa Dembele excelled earlier in the season. If he got injured the team would certainly miss him a great deal as they don’t really have another player in the squad who can do what he does, but he has tired recently.
In my opinion Jan Vertonghen is the closest to Bale at the moment and he has been pretty consistent throughout the season. He is very good at the back - he times his tackles very well and he’s scored four goals in his last five games for Spurs, which is not bad for a centre-back.
Between January 2011 and January 2012, Steven Pienaar spent a year at White Hart Lane and didn’t really settle, yet has been influential for Everton and is a real fans' favourite at Goodison Park. What do you put that down to?
It seemed his heart was always at Everton. He was battling against Bale and Lennon out wide and Modric and Van der Vaart in the middle so it was tough for him to get a good run of games.
The Steven Pienaar who plays for Everton would probably still strengthen Spurs now, but it’s best for the league that he is back at Goodison Park so he can produce his best football. No-one wants to see that kind of talent going to waste.
How do you think Andre Villas-Boas will set up in Sunday’s match?
AVB describes it as a 4-4-2 formation but it is probably more like 4-4-1-1, with Bale playing behind a lone striker.
Spurs are playing in Europe so it is difficult to know if there will be any rotation or injuries, but the Premier League is obviously very important to Tottenham. I’m sure he will play his strongest possible team against Everton.
Finally, a prediction?
It largely depends on the Europa League tie. The first leg of the quarter-final is in north London, which will obviously help.
If Tottenham can build on the Swansea result, earning a win on Thursday and producing anywhere near their best form then that will add further confidence and momentum, and I think that will help to take all three points against Everton. I’ll say 2-1 to Spurs.