Finally the Premier League is back. In our world, all eyes were fixated on Goodison Park, waiting for the clock to hit 3pm. Spurs couldn’t have asked for a much tougher opening fixture, having won there only once (a Harry Kane header on the final day of the 2014/15 season) since 2007.
It couldn’t be emphasised enough that the lads needed a fast start today. Not only to banish the memories of that day on Tyneside, which I’m not sure I can avoid mentioning, but also to ensure points are on the board by the time the big clubs come out of their transition periods.
With a new manager at the helm, it was likely that the blues would also go through a transition period and first day of the season might just be an ideal time to play them. But as the first whistle blew, that seemed far from the case.
The first five minutes flew by with nothing of note happening, before a strong challenge from debutant Victor Wanyama, as Kevin Mirallas burst forward, gave the Merseyside club their first chance of the game. Through Spurs-tinted lenses, the challenge from Wanyama looked initially okay and I nodded in approval of his willingness to let the opponents know he was there. But realistically, it would’ve been harsh had the ref waved play on.
Ross Barkley stepped up, floated a ball towards the back post, where it somehow managed to evade everyone and sneak inside the far post. Lloris seemed to be awaiting movement from one of his defenders to deal with the ball, which ultimately never came and in typical Spurs style, we’d conceded from an early set piece.
The goal spurred us into action and we went down the other end to try and get back on level terms. But Ronald Koeman’s well-drilled, solid back line were equal to everything thrown at them and for most of the first half, the Lilywhites were limited to the odd long range shot.
The home side were playing with three at the back, and were set up to play on the counter attack, not unlike a certain Midlands club last season.
And it was Everton looking more dangerous, nullifying every Spurs attack before breaking quickly and creating chances. Deulofeu with a shot from range, Barkley with a header from inside the box which Lloris managed to tip over the bar, and on the stroke of half time, Danny Rose played an uncharacteristically poor back pass which was collected by Deulofeu, but thankfully hit straight at the keeper.
A poor first half showing from Spurs. Lloris had to be subbed off with a hamstring injury, midway through the half and replaced by Michel Vorm. A rare plus point from the half was the very physical double pivot of Eric Dier and Victor Wanyama, seemingly stopping Everton from running riot at times.
The second half began and nothing much seemed to change, as Everton continued to control the game and prevent the Spurs’ attacking quartet from creating anything of note.
Vincent Janssen came on to make his Premier League debut, in place of Eric Dier, immediately addressing the lingering questions about Pochettino’s tactical flexibility. Suddenly, we had a back-up plan. And a good back-up plan at that.
Kyle Walker broke down the right before putting the ball onto the head of Erik Lamela, who sent a beautiful header past Stekelenburg and finally we were level. The goal sparked Spurs into action and all of a sudden the team that took the title race all the way into May seemed to reappear before our eyes; the belief regained, the passing quick and sharp, as a welcome return of the Spurs that gave us so many memories only a few months ago.
The lads began to dominate, stretching the previously immovable Everton backline and creating space in the penalty area. Approaching the final ten minutes, a big chance fell to Vincent Janssen. A Danny Rose shot from just outside the area deflects to the new number nine who dug it out of his feet just enough to get a shot away, which is blocked by Stekelenberg.
A couple of minutes later, Rose is involved again as his marauding run forward is brought to an abrupt stop, giving us a free kick on the edge of the box. Free kick specialists Christian Eriksen and Erik Lamela were stood over it, but given his outstanding record, there was only one man to step up. Eriksen’s effort came inches from dipping under the bar.
The closing stages were upon us and, if any team looked likely to grab a winner, it was Spurs. The Lilywhites kept coming forward and created numerous openings, but weren’t able to find the goal that would bring that illusive three points.
Between the sticks –
This is in the context that he made a couple of errors before having to go off with a hamstring injury. But his performance was okay, but perhaps a little rusty – which is understandable.
Hugo Lloris – 6/10.
Much improved in the second half after a nightmare first 45 minutes, where they looked a shadow of the best defensive line in the league last season. Kyle Walker had a very good game from start to finish, including his assist for the equaliser, and he kept tearing down the right hand side and putting crosses in. Danny Rose certainly improved following his mindless backpass, and had a good second half. Toby and Jan both had good games, but again, we can’t afford another first half like that if we’re going to get early points on the board.
Kyle Walker – 9/10.
Toby Alderweireld – 8/10.
Jan Vertonghen – 7/10.
Danny Rose – 8/10.
An admirable job from Victor Wanyama on his debut for us. He wasn’t outstanding, but brought the physicality and skill that we’re always missing without Mousa Dembele. But his performance was enough to suggest that the gaffer may just start to experiment with three in the middle – in training at least, as that flexibility would come in handy in the big games. Eric Dier was very good, as ever. I didn’t feel he deserved to come off as early as he did, but it was a change we needed to make in order to get a goal or two.
Victor Wanyama – 7/10.
Eric Dier – 7/10.
A quiet first half for the quartet. Eriksen pulled the strings as best he could, as we spent the entire 45 minutes up against the Merseyside equivalent of the Great Wall of China. Dele had a quiet game by his standards. Lamela was brilliant, maintaining his superb summer form for both his country and club. Took his goal superbly and nearly scored a second. Harry Kane had a very quiet game, but to be fair he didn’t get many chances. The goals and performances will come.
Christian Eriksen – 7/10.
Dele Alli – 6/10.
Erik Lamela – 9/10.
Harry Kane – 6/10.
Michel Vorm – 8/10.
Did an admirable job standing in for Hugo. Made a couple of vital stops to keep us in the game during the first half.
Vincent Janssen – 9/10.
Full of enthusiasm, energy and caused havoc in the Everton area. Stretched the opposition back four and created space for others. Maybe he could’ve put his chance away but he can be forgiven on the grounds that it’s his first match in the Premier League. Much, much more to come from him, and it looks like we finally have a reliable number nine (on the grounds that Kane wears 10), for the first time since Dimitar Berbatov. Potentially good enough to challenge Kane for a starting spot, which can only be a positive. Just look at what extra competition did for Danny Rose and Kyle Walker.
Man of The Match:
Vincent Janssen. Changed the game when he came on, and I’m amazed he wasn’t even among the options from SpursOfficial. Honourable mention for Erik Lamela.
Palace at home in the Premier League. Saturday 20th August 2016. Kick off at 15:00.
If we can replicate the second half performance from today, then I don’t think we’ll have any issues with this game. It’ll be interesting to see if Janssen starts too, given we’ll be at home and Palace don’t really have enough in their forward line to warrant us to use a double pivot. But saying that, I can see Andros Townsend scoring from range. And probably sending one into the stands too. But I think we’ll win.