If ‘Shock Saturday’ saw Manchester City and Chelsea both floundering at home, then ‘Spurs Sunday’ certainly propelled Tottenham into touching distance of them. Their trip to Goodison Park to face Everton brought about an inspiring performance from Mauricio Pochettino’s men. This type of form – both devastating and entertaining – will only lift Tottenham into the Premier League title race discussion.
There are some games that are all about goals and this was one. Considering there were eight that featured here, it’s somewhat surprising that there was time for much else. Given that there were even more chances – some clear and others less so – for both sides, the last Premier League match prior to Christmas was a remarkable spectacle.
In the end, this reporter’s notebook page was filled with numbers – the minutes in which the goals were scored, it was difficult to keep up – it was more Countdown than football analysis. Everton scored the first but six of the other seven came from Tottenham. It was as if the festive sherries had been flowing in the changing rooms beforehand, such was the wild nature of the match; both in terms of defence and attack.
Like-for-like approach favours Spurs
What shone through the goals was Tottenham’s ability to not only come from behind but also clinically work their way through their opponents. The pieces of combination play were tight, accurate and incisive and, ultimately, rewarding. This was the attacking football that Pochettino and also his opposite number, Marco Silva, advocate.
However, on Everton’s part, there was definitely a sense of naivety; Silva lined his team up with little protection in front of the back four. Andre Gomes and Tom Davies, for all their qualities, are not defensively astute to withstand the pressure that Tottenham are capable of creating on their own. In truth, Everton played without any midfield at all; there was just a defence and an attack, nothing in between. It made Tottenham’s work a lot easier.
This was the approach, though, that many Everton supporters demanded last season when time again they harboured little ambition of taking the game to their higher profile opponents. On this occasion, the decision appeared slightly miscalculated. This was Everton’s fifth consecutive game without a victory, and although the hosts took the lead, once Spurs got into their stride, it seemed that the blues’ run would continue.
Five Spurs goals in 25 minute spell
It was the 20 minutes either side of half-time in which Tottenham did their damage, scoring five goals and stretching Everton from left to right. Both teams attempted to play the same way, but the visitors had the better personnel for it and soon found their goalscoring rhythm. Son Heung-min produced a man of the match performance as he continuously stretched the inside left channel between Kurt Zouma and Lucas Digne. The South Korean’s movement was integral to Spurs’ play.
Son’s dynamism was accompanied superbly by Harry Kane’s power and quality along with Dele Alli’s ability to wreak havoc wherever he popped up. All three were on the scoresheet with Kane and Son both scoring braces. Despite conceding early, it’s games like this when Pochettino’s work must be admired; irrespective of whether he has won a trophy or not, the consistent performances he gets from his players – which is what a manager should always be ultimately judged by – tell their own story.
There have been times during Pochettino’s time at Tottenham when his side have been very close to perfection and challenging a lot higher than what would be expected given resources. And yet during the first part of this season, Spurs have been somewhat under the radar. Given Saturday’s action in the Premier League, Sunday’s game offered yet more reason for Tottenham to be included in title talk.
Effective attacking combination play too much for Everton
Each of their six goals were well-crafted, dismissing Everton to mere whipping boys. Now just two points behind City and six behind leaders Liverpool, this performance will frighten any team that are due to come up against them. Although it wouldn’t be true to say that the visitors created everything for themselves, Jordan Pickford was at fault for two of their goals and also should have been sent off for an ugly lunge on Alli, they did deserve the emphatic result.
Everton were creative themselves early on with particular mentions to Theo Walcott and Gylfi Sigurdsson who both relished the open affair, until it began to turn ugly from an Everton perspective. However, amidst the chaos emerged a calm Spurs: efficient and ruthless. Christian Erikson’s strike, Tottenham’s fourth goal, was driven and precise whilst Kane readjusted himself well to steer home the visitors’ third.
The goals came in all shapes and sizes some were covered in Christmas wrapping paper and hand delivered by Pickford. But Tottenham showed once again that at their best, they can dismantle any team, especially ones that offer themselves so openly. The scoreline will get the headlines, but it was the strength of the unified force that kept advancing towards Everton’s goal that was so striking about this Christmas cracker.