Everton And Spurs Share Spoils: Things We Learned

Everton delivered one of their most complete home performances of the season in a game against Tottenham Hotspur billed as crucial in the European chase.

Gylfi Sigurdsson scored either side of half-time for the hosts but the irrepressible Harry Kane responded in kind to deny Everton all three points.

Carlo Ancelotti's team remain in top-six contention, nonetheless, after inching closer to the teams in front of them.

Here, evertonfc.com identifies some of the things we learned during an absorbing Goodison Park encounter.

James' Exclusive Plane

“A player of another level,” was how Carlo Ancelotti described James Rodriguez after watching another creative masterclass from his brilliant Colombian.

Everton discovered to their cost how one exceptional player can elevate a team, the predatory Harry Kane shouldering enormous responsibility for Tottenham and pinching a point for the visitors.

On the flip side, in James, Everton have a footballer capable of dumbfounding opponents with one flourish of an immaculate left foot.

James receiving possession was the cue for Spurs’ three centre-halves to retreat, unwilling to risk engaging with the forward and trying to deny space behind for the decisive pass.

The 29-year-old’s talent survives any attempts at suffocation – “He always has solutions,” commented Ancelotti – thriving in restricted areas.

Toby Alderweireld was the first Spurs defender in a fix over how to manage James.

The Belgian kept his distance but was distracted by Gylfi Sigurdsson’s run on his right.

That was all the encouragement James needed, slipping a pass on the Belgian’s inside to free Richarlison, whose shot was repelled by Hugo Lloris.

The similarly intelligent Sigurdsson anticipated James’ run after the South American’s skilful 38th-minute flick, ushering the forward in on goal.

James couldn’t conceal his frustration after striking too close to Lloris.

Former Real Madrid colleague Sergio Reguilon was spooked by the sight of James shaping to shoot in the box and rashly jumped in to concede the penalty for Everton’s first-half equaliser.

There was a pass through a narrow corridor for Joshua King to go one-on-one with Lloris five minutes from the end, too.

These are individual examples of James’ contribution but the influence is constant.

James had a match-high 86 touches and an unrivalled passing accuracy of 88.1 per cent.

Of 51 successful passes, 19 were in the attacking third. He supplied seven crosses, four more than any other player.

Everton defenders Mason Holgate and Yerry Mina have both talked recently of expecting something special when James collects the ball.

Neither man would have been disappointed at Goodison Park on Friday.

Ancelotti's Super Subs

It is in the breathless sport of basketball where they talk about the value of bench players.

There is no slight in missing out on the starting five in a game of unlimited substitutions. Watching and analysing, then entering to exploit weaknesses detected, is viewed as a precious skill.

Rugby union treasures the individuals who can arrive late to decide the outcome of a game.

England coach Eddie Jones refers to those not in his first XV as finishers, refusing the traditional term of replacements.

And with every passing season, the role of the substitute in football is growing in importance.

In the Champions League five changes are permitted and for a small window post-lockdown that was what we saw in the Premier League.

The reduced number of three provides a sterner examination of a manager, a pressure to make them count.

In a season when the next game is always around corner and bodies need preserving, the careful employment of a full squad has gained extra importance.

Carlo Ancelotti waited 61 minutes for his first change on Friday, sending on Seamus Coleman for renewed energy and thrust on Everton’s right side.

It’s probably not a compliment he’ll enjoy but Coleman is a brilliant substitute.

“He is always ready,” said Ancelotti after Coleman came on to telling effect against the same opponents in Everton’s FA Cup win two months ago.

“Even for one minute,” continued Ancelotti, “he plays with the same spirit and attitude”.

There is no getting his bearings with Coleman, immediately up to speed and imposing himself on the game.

Sixty seconds was all it took for Coleman to hurtle down Everton’s right, swapping passes with Richarlison to eliminate Eric Dier, then accurately centring for Gylfi Sigurdsson to score.

But for Hugo Lloris, Ancelotti would have completed a unique double.

On went Joshua King in minute 84.

Minute 85 found the Norwegian timing his run to control James Rodriguez’s pass into the box and taking aim with a low effort that hit Tottenham goalkeeper Lloris’ legs.

The substitutions weren’t easy calls for Ancelotti. His team were on top, generating the majority of opportunities and untroubled for large parts.

Switching personnel was a viable means of trying to capitalise on that superiority – but risked upsetting the balance that was disturbing Spurs.

Ancelotti got both changes right, demonstrating the importance of those ‘bench players’, and was the width of Lloris’ shin from claiming two extra points as a result.

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02:38 Sat 17 Apr 2021


Everton manager praises "best Goodison display of the season" as he insists European hopes still alive.

Gylfi's Captain's Performance

When Everton needed pulling up by their bootstraps it was captain Gylfi Sigurdsson tugging hardest.

The Icelander clearly savours these encounters against his old employers.

During the barmy FA Cup tie two months ago – won 5-4 by Everton – Sigurdsson scored once and was responsible for the creation of another three goals.

To illustrate the rarity of that feat, the previous Everton player to claim a hat-trick of assists was Steven Pienaar nine years earlier, in 2012.

Sigurdsson has stood up when his team needed him on multiple occasions this term.

There was a cool-as-ice penalty to defeat Chelsea and late strike to beat Sheffield United, those efforts bookending a four-match winning Premier League run in December.

What about the nonchalant finish from the spot to sink Liverpool at Anfield?

And, here again, Sigurdsson took charge when his team’s hopes – on the night and for the season – hung in the balance.

There had been nothing in the game for Spurs when Harry Kane opened the scoring with the visitors’ first shot on target.

And, momentarily, even with no fans in the stadium, you could feel the oxygen escaping the place.

Sigurdsson, however, breathed fresh air into Goodison with a charge down the left and accurate ball across the fringe of the area, locating James Rodrigruez, who was upended by Sergio Reguilon.

The penalty was nervelessly placed in the bottom-right corner for Sigurdsson’s seventh goal of the season.

Number eight was a cracker, Sigurdsson’s execution of the highest technical order to redirect Seamus Coleman’s cross beyond the helpless Lloris.

The 31-year-old has been directly involved in 17 goals from 37 appearances – 25 starts – this season.

Sigurdsson aimed four shots on Friday, scoring with both directed on target, and delivered 15 accurate passes in Spurs’ defensive third.

He created four chances and recovered possession on seven occasions.

This was a captain’s performance from Sigurdsson, ensuring his side didn’t finish the night empty handed.

Allan Shows Value

There is something reassuring about the sight of Allan, shorts pulled deliberately high around his waist, patrolling the ground in front of Everton’s defence.

The selfless Brazilian, with his smart positioning, quick and unfussy distribution and eager tackling, brings out the best from those around him.

Tom Davies operates with greater freedom in front of the stocky safety net and it was no coincidence that Gylfi Sigurdsson – and, later on, Seamus Coleman – ran amok down opposite flanks with Allan back in the team.

Plenty of Allan’s best work goes unnoticed but is keenly appreciated by teammates and coaching staff.

A roar of approval greeted Allan sprinting to prevent Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg turning in midfield, the Spurs player panicked into passing out of play.

Strongest evidence of the Brazilian’s understated influence was, perhaps, advanced by an appearance off the bench at West Bromwich Albion last month.

Rested three days after returning from injury in a win over Southampton, Allan was sent on at the Hawthorns with the game goalless and Everton needing a spark.

Allan immediately provided balance, knitting together defence and attack, enabling Everton to establish control and claim victory.

The 30-year-old is a pleasingly old-fashioned footballer, a warrior of a midfielder who never knows when he’s beaten.

Four weeks on the sidelines have temporarily stripped Allan of an element of physical endurance.

From the 60-minute mark on Friday, he would use any break in play to place his hands on his knees and catch his breath.

The sound of the referee’s whistle to restart the game prompted a Pavlovian response, Allan taking off, like a greyhound released from its starting gate, to hound an opponent.

He made six tackles against Spurs, two more than Sergio Reguilon, who recorded the second highest total of the 22 starters.

There were two clearances and two successful dribbles to show the different strands to Allan’s game.

Time and again he was a magnet for loose balls, Allan instinctively occupying areas to claim possession.

He chalked up seven recoveries, in all.

Standing still to receive a poor ball out of defence from left-back Reguilon, Allan’s subsequent pass to James Rodriguez was crisp and accurate, loaded with sufficient weight for his fellow South American to lay-off first time.

It was a ball typical of Allan, who hurries his passes in a forward direction, along the floor.

Allan’s sharp feet enable manipulation of the ball in tight areas – a product of a futsal upbringing – and he can generate the impression of a bull fighter teasing his foe.

A pass flipped over the top for Richarlison provided another window into what the former Udinese player adds to this Everton team.

This was only a 16th Premier League start for Allan following his summer transfer from Napoli.

And for all his determination to avoid getting caught up in talk of injuries, how Ancelotti must hope his forceful midfielder, with a surprisingly delicate touch, is set for a long and uninterrupted clean bill of health.

Everton's Point Gain

Everton’s European ambitions weren’t quite at the do-or-die stage – but close enough for Carlo Ancelotti to talk about this game as “vital”.

One point, conceded Ancelotti post-match, didn’t do a whole lot to advance his side’s chances of contesting games on the continent next term.

The manager saw enough, however, to declare himself “convinced” Everton remain firmly in the fight.

The concept of the six-pointer is a tough one to explain to the uninitiated.

Everton and Spurs claimed one each.

What about the other four? A perfectly logical question.

Well, four points would have been the gulf between these teams had Tottenham won the match.

As it is, Everton are breathing down Spurs’ neck, only one point behind, and two further back from sixth.

That distance to the top six explains why Everton shoulders slumped at the final whistle, Ancelotti’s players knew their performance merited the victory which would have hauled them on terms with Liverpool.

Everton had 18 shots to Tottenham’s 12. They aimed seven on target against the visitors’ three.

The reason for Ancelotti’s satisfaction over his side’s display ran deeper than the favourable numbers, which also showed Everton enjoying the greater possession share.

Everton played with a conviction missing from some of the disappointing home efforts that have hamstrung attempts for consistency.

There was energy and intent, Tottenham never allowed to find any rhythm, while the passing qualified as progressive and imaginative.

Jordan Pickford came back in goal and maintained his concentration to save from Son Heung-min when the jack-in-a-box Korean skipped into the area shortly after half-time,

Ancelotti didn’t hide from the fact Everton had a hand in Harry Kane’s double.

In that there is an element of frustration – but the understanding, too, that Everton did enough to fairly say they deserved to win.

Four points from Tottenham, in addition to the FA Cup victory, counts as progress after 15 matches without beating the capital club until Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header settled the reverse fixture seven months ago.

Everton remain poised for a European charge.

Next up, Arsenal and an attempt for a 10th away win of this odd season.

Repeat the majority of their display against the other team from north London and Everton will give themselves a very good chance indeed of a first win at the Gunners’ plush Emirates Stadium home.