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Everton FC: Europe Remains Within Reach Despite Crucial Dropped Points at Spurs

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 07:  Jan Vertonghen of Tottenham Hotspur and Victor Anichebe of Everton battle for the ball during the Barclays Premier League match between Tottenham Hotspur and  Everton at White Hart Lane on April 7, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Clive Rose/Getty Images
Matt CheethamCorrespondent IDecember 13, 2016

Gylfi Sigurdsson's late strike in Sunday's 2-2 draw at Tottenham provided a sizeable blow to Everton's feint European ambitions, yet not quite a terminal one.

True, the Toffees left behind two potentially vital points at White Hart Lane, having led the Premier League's fourth-placed side right up until the 87th minute. However, there were clear positives to take from the performance as David Moyes continues to plot the improbable.

To reach the Champions League, or even the Europa League by finishing fifth, the sixth-placed Toffees must win at least one of their away trips to Arsenal or Chelsea, while achieving perfection at home and possibly also beating Liverpool at Anfield.

One of Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs must be overhauled, and if that task wasn't daunting enough on paper, the statistics hardly brighten things. In 11 trips to Chelsea, Moyes has secured six points. He has five from Liverpool and just two from Arsenal.

In total, from 32 away trips to that trio of opposition, his overall Premier League record stands at: P 32, W 0, D 13, L 19. That's 13 points from a possible 96 and a rather damning zero wins in over 11 years.

However, while this most recent draw will have most Evertonians despondent, if aspects of the display against Spurs can be replicated, developed and improved, there's no reason why at least one of these major scalps cannot be claimed. That would then leave the Toffees right in the mix.

With an in-form Victor Anichebe and Kevin Mirallas, Everton had two fast, physical and direct players in advanced positions at Tottenham, making the Toffees a genuine threat on the break.

This is something that's been a rarity for most of Moyes' tenure at the club and perhaps coincides with his dismal away form against the very top sides. 

Everton were different against Spurs, despite fielding a depleted starting lineup. After conceding early they had enough fight to take the game to Tottenham and find an equaliser, before setting up to frustrate their opponents and hit them on the counter.

This is how Mirallas scored and, despite some intense pressure from Spurs, the Toffees spurned further opportunities to extend their lead and put the game to bed.

With Steven Pienaar and Marouane Fellaini back in the equation, there's no reason why Everton cannot effectively enforce these methods against Arsenal and Chelsea to record a much-coveted away win. By setting up as a compact, organised unit in defence,  the Toffees can look to hurt their opponents with pace on the break, with the likes of Mirallas and Anichebe the key components.

Of course, there will be some necessary tweaks and adjustments needed. It would make sense to deploy Fellaini in a deeper role during these matches, utilising his defensive attributes and leaving the main attacking to those with more dynamism and pace.

The Toffees can also better plan their initial transitions once possession is won.

With the opposition committed in forward areas, Moyes' side will aim to pounce after a turnover. They would be even more effective if these situations were meticulously planned for, and individuals knew the exact routes the likes of Mirallas and Anichebe would run.

As much as Sunday's defeat will remain painful for Evertonians to stomach, the game at least showed the Toffees to be better equipped for taking points in these most testing of fixtures.

Sitting on 52 points, if Everton can be ruthless at home against QPR, Fulham and West Ham, they will pass 60 points. If they can then target their four away trips (which also includes a visit to Sunderland), and take points off their rivals, there's still much to play for this season and nothing yet to suggest Europe is an unrealistic aim.

 

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