A new season but the ‘same old Spurs’ is what’s being levelled at Tottenham Hotspur after an opening day defeat to Everton saw them lose 1-0 and create very little to get themselves back into a winnable game.
Jose Mourinho’s first pre-season with his team looks to have not gone too well despite having addressed the areas of the team he felt needed attention. Spurs lacked any creativity throughout the ninety-minutes, a lack of possession, service into Harry Kane and an inability to test Everton keeper Jordan Pickford more than twice throughout the game.
Those two chances both arrived in the first half from Dele Alli and debutant Matt Doherty, the visiting custodian equal to both efforts and that was as good as it was for the hosts as they slumped to an opening day defeat for the first time in five years.
That’s to take nothing away from Everton, whose boss Carlo Ancelotti has spent wisely in the transfer window to change the way his side will play and on the evidence of Sunday’s performance there won’t be a season of struggle for the Goodison Park outfit.
A midfield controlled by three new signings in Allan, James Rodriguez and Abdoulaye Doucouré paved the way for the win making sure they pressed Spurs for every ball and the creativity from Rodriguez gave the Toffees belief.
On the other side of the ball, Spurs’ lack of pressing put themselves under pressure more times than not and the inclusion of both Harry Winks and another debutant in Pierre-Emile Højbjerg as effectively holding midfielders slowed the play down so much that Everton were easily able to re-group and then win the ball back.
The only joy for Spurs in the first half was a succession of diagonal balls out to Heung-Min Son one on one against Seamus Coleman and despite the South Korean beating his man with pace on every occasion, delivery into the box was either slow or not forthcoming.
Mourinho tried to go man for man in the second half with the introduction of Moussa Sissoko for Alli, but that only unbalanced the performance further, nullifying Doherty’s forward runs and sending Lucas into an even more anonymous position behind Kane.
The England man was starved of service all game and Mourinho has to find a way to get the ball into his star striker’s feet and to give the supporters an understanding of what Lucas can bring to this team.
Against Everton he neither backed up Doherty nor sent Lucas Digne backwards towards his own goal, a poor first touch similar to Alli put his team under pressure throughout the course of the game. With only four goals in his last 36 Premier League outings he needs to be contributing more per game if not finding the net regularly.
Neither Steven Berwjign nor Tanguy Ndombele made an impact from the bench, the latter being introduced too late into the game to have any effect and with a then lop-sided formation as we saw all too often last season, Spurs never looked likely to trouble the scoreline making it a comfortable victory for Ancelotti’s new look side.
As mentioned Everton looked more compact across midfield with Allan fully deserving his man of the match award and although they should face much harder tests than this one in the games to come the Toffees would expect to be a much sterner test this coming season.
With a huge amount of games coming up for Spurs in both the league and cup competitions in the next 14 days, Mourinho has to now decide whether his set-up is too defensive to win games or to tweak the formation to get the best out of his forward players. There were only fleeting, very brief glimpses of what some of his players can do and much more is required to even compete in games let alone win them.
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