Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur: 6 Things We Learned
Tottenham came out like a team possessed in the early stages, putting the home side under sizable pressure but struggling to create clear cut chances.
Things evened up shortly before and after the halfway point, at which time Everton began to turn the tables on Spurs.
The visitors defended resolutely in keeping the Toffees out as they were increasingly pushed on the backfoot. Inadvertently, Spurs benefited from their goalkeeper Hugo Lloris taking a blow to the head from Romelu Lukaku—the resulting stoppage helping to halt Everton's momentum.
Andre Villas-Boas' side move back into fourth thanks to the draw. Roberto Martinez's team sit in seventh, one point behind them on 19 points.
Read on for a few things learned from Sunday's game.
Jan Vertonghen Might Have to Consider Playing Left-Back
"Ultimately, I just came to play at centre back," he said, adding, "I see myself still as a centre-back. I'm not agile enough to play against players like Nani and (Raheem) Sterling."
The comments came at a time when Vertonghen had been filling in at full-back for the absent Benoit Assou-Ekotto, a role he is again performing now with Danny Rose out injured.
Like last year, the Belgian's selection there is essentially a necessity for want of a better option. Unlike in 2012, there is more quality in central defense to cover for him.
With Vlad Chiriches and Michael Dawson performing so well, could there be a situation where Vertonghen is kept at left-back as a result?
Unless he comes out and say so, it is difficult to know if that is something Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas would contemplate. You would suspect not, given that Vertonghen is still a rather good centre-back.
Nonetheless, his performance against Everton was one to keep Rose on his toes down the line.
Vertonghen was typically comprehensive defensively, while his attacking contributions were marked by a denied penalty appeal after he looked like he was brought down by Seamus Coleman (though some would argue one could have been given when the situation was reversed after half-time).
If nothing else, in the meantime Spurs again have a capable deputy while Rose gets fit.
Michael Dawson Has Stepped Up His Game in the Face of Competition
Since Tottenham's 3-0 capitulation at home to West Ham United, they have kept three clean sheets in three Premier League matches.
Michael Dawson was one of several to look well off their game that day. That his other below-par performance had come in Spurs' other major test up to that point—the 1-0 loss to Arsenal—certainly gave pause for thought.
With the arrival of Chiriches, plus Younes Kaboul's return to contention, the competition for places in central defense meant Dawson was going to have to step up his game.
With the threat of Romelu Lukaku to contend with, the Spurs defense opted not to get drawn into a direct battle with him where it could be avoided. When the ball was played long to the Belgian, they allowed defensive midfielder Sandro to contest initially, dropping off just far enough they were in a position to respond appropriately.
Dawson was one of the first on hand here and fared well against Lukaku.
He was at his most decisive against the Toffees in general, reading several of their moves to either clear or bring the fall forward to an advanced position—as Squawka.com tallied it, he made four interceptions and cleared it 12 times. About the only time he was seriously caught out—by Ross Barkley—he recovered to intercept his subsequent pass.
Spurs defended solidly overall, with Chiriches overcoming a few early stumbles to assert himself impressively. Kyle Walker was as alert and quick to the draw as he has been all season, while as already noted, Vertonghen played well too.
Villas-Boas knows Dawson's value and showed it by awarding him a new contract last month. For all his attributes as a leader, their importance diminishes if they aren't backed up by him doing his main job of defending well.
In this form, he is striking the right balance.
Spurs' Absent Killer Instinct Remains Their Most Glaring Weakness
Tottenham's defense deserve plenty of plaudits for their collective against Everton. Less likely to receive any will be the North London club's attack.
It was not a bad performance. In the first half especially, a goal looked an inevitability at times.
Aaron Lennon picked out Roberto Soldado for a header he glanced wide. Sandro and Andros Townsend tested Tim Howard, while Vertonghen caused Everton a number of problems as he surged forward down the left.
Spurs collectively worked hard to close down the home side's back four and did well in stopping Roberto Martinez's side from passing their way out as designed.
As has often been the case this season, the pressure was not converted into the clear-cut chances it deserved, and the tide of the game turned. Right now, the exact solution to change this is not forthcoming.
Lewis Holtby's eagerness in attacking midfield is welcome. But with the threat of a killer pass only menacing opposition defenses occasionally, it is not enough to necessarily warrant him continuing in the role regularly. Christian Eriksen is capable of being so deadly, but since his first few games, he has rarely been in position to set up the lethal blows.
Lennon does not yet look back to peak condition, but he worked himself enough openings around Coleman to cross that a return to the right wing deserves investigation. Switching Townsend to the left might open aspects of his game that have been a little too hidden behind his preference for cutting inside and shooting.
At the heart of all of this is a lack of service for Soldado—to a certain extent at least.
Besides the aforementioned header, the striker did have a couple of other shooting opportunities he failed to get on target. You have to make the most of them at the highest level, but the fact remains that the penalty-box chances where he excels have been a rarity.
All Villas-Boas can do is keep on trying things. Jermain Defoe, Harry Kane, Erik Lamela and Emmanuel Adebayor would certainly argue their case for more (or in the latter's case, any) involvement.
The quality is there that it should all click at some stage. In the meantime, Spurs' struggle to score remains their most glaring weakness.
Spurs' Impressive Away Form Holds Great Promise
Disappointed as he will be at his team not winning, Villas-Boas will be proud at their continued solidity outside of White Hart Lane.
The only blemish on their away record this season was in the North London derby, and even then they only conceded once.
In eight other away games—in the Premier League and in cup competition—Spurs have yet to concede.
While that record does not extend to 2013 as a whole, besides the Arsenal defeat they have only lost two other games on their travels this year—3-2 to Liverpool and 4-1 to Internazionale (which was enough to see them progress to the next round of the Europa League having won the first league), both in March.
If Tottenham can get it together in terms of scoring goals and winning more games in general, they have the away form to back up what could be a considerable surge forward into the season.
Ross Barkley's Spark Will Be Hard to Resist for Roberto Martinez
Roberto Martinez made good on his promise—told here in a Daily Express article by John Dillon earlier this week—to rest midfielder Ross Barkley.
"Football will make that decision," the Toffees boss had said. "I am not going to be someone who will do something unless I see clear signs that a player needs to be rested or given a breather."
Clearly those signs were evident. As energetic as the 19-year-old clearly is, a rest from time to time will be needed as he adapts to regular Premier League football.
With that said, his presence was missed against Tottenham, and his introduction—albeit briefly—helped to give Everton a greater attacking edge.
Barkley's willingness to run at teams, and the accompanying ability to lay off a pass or get off a shot in the positive positions that follow his forward forays, are as good as it comes in Martinez's squad. Certainly in crowded central areas.
His replacement Leon Osman's feel for Premier League football, topped off by his knack for a goal or two, makes him a hard player to drop. He has been there, done that, and continues to be a useful footballer for a side who likes to be pretty or pragmatic.
The spark provided by Barkley is going to be increasingly hard to resist, however. More and more teams are going to find out how dangerous it can be.
Martinez Can Ill-Afford to Lose Standout Leighton Baines
Leighton Baines continues to be linked with a move to Manchester United. One report in The Sun—carried here on ESPN.co.uk—suggested the Red Devils would tempt the Toffees with Wilfried Zaha and £7 million.
On Friday, the left-back's manager Martinez was quoted by The Guardian's Andy Hunter as saying he would not be sold in January.
That is a stance he would be wise to adhere to. As Baines showed against Tottenham, he is one of the best in his position in the Premier League.
Compared to some of the trouble his full-back counterpart Coleman had with Lennon, Baines handled the in-form Townsend well.
The winger made life difficult for his new England teammate but rarely got the better of him. More than at any time in recent weeks, Townsend was forced inside with little going for him on the out wide.
Statistically it was a solid showing. As recorded by Squawka.com, Baines made a couple of tackles and interceptions apiece and a further four clearances.
Things were tougher going forward, with the effort not matched by the production against a Tottenham defense that proved tough to crack.
Nonetheless, against one of the stronger opponents Everton have faced this season, Baines stood up and played his part in earning them a decent point.
There are some good players at Goodison Park. In the case of Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu and Lukaku, a few who could be really good.
Of those of a certain age though, the 28-year-old Baines remains one of the standouts. It may have been the case a year ago and in the summer too, but he is a player Everton can ill afford to lose.
And, as the Spurs fans remarked in reference to his mod-style, nor is he a s**t Bradley Wiggins.