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Tottenham 2-2 Everton: dangerous diagonals and Sigurdsson in space

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Long diagonal passing opened up a narrow opponent, but Gylfi Sigurdsson in space made the final score Tottenham 2-2 Everton.

A narrow Everton team were opened up by Tottenham’s use of long diagonal passing. However, space left between the lines by a makeshift defensive midfield saw Gylfi Sigurdsson continually influence the match. The result ended up being Tottenham 2-2 Everton as each team deserved a share of the points.

Dangerous diagonals

A curious twist to the team sheets saw Eric Dier named as a centre back alongside Toby Alderweireld. Increasing the eyebrow raising was seeing Dier play the left-sided centre back role. Alderweireld has always operated there in the absence of Jan Vertonghen, but Mauricio Pochettino had a plan. The Tottenham boss used both his centre backs to continually spray long diagonal passes out to the full backs and wide midfielders on the opposite side.

The tactic was effective as Everton lined up extremely narrow in the defensive phase. The Toffees pinched in their wide players to take away the centre of the pitch. Tottenham therefore continually went over this to find the free players out on the flanks.

Kyle Walker-Peters free against a narrow defence.

The tactic took just two minutes to pay off. Eric Dier sent a long searching pass out to Kyle Walker-Peters. The full back took the ball down and won a corner.

The resulting set piece saw Spurs run a familiar Pochettino routine. The corner of the six-yard box was left open, only for three sizeable players to run late towards the vacant space. Eric Dier, Fernando Llorente and Toby Alderweireld all charged in to this zone. Llorente made the initial contact, but Dier was there to hoover up the loose ball and finish.

An excellent start when the team could’ve been forgiven for being hung over from Wednesday’s Champions League exertions.

Sigurdsson in space

Tottenham were alert and alive in the first twenty minutes as Everton were put on the back foot by the tactics.

The only issue for Spurs came in the makeshift defensive midfield. Christian Eriksen was paired with Moussa Sissoko and whilst they were good going forward, there were blown coverages everywhere.

Gylfi Sigurdsson keenly filled the spaces left by Eriksen and Sissoko. The Everton number ten thrives in these conditions and started to have a growing influence on match. Sigurdsson created chances for Theo Walcott, Bernard and Cenk Tosun. Hugo Lloris particularly making a good save low down from Bernard.

Pochettino’s half time change

At half time Mauricio Pochettino made a change to take away the space Sigurdsson had been enjoying.

Victor Wanyama was introduced for Dele Alli. Wanyama was tasked with dropping anchor in front of the back four and dealing with the growing Sigurdsson threat.

Marco Silva changes the match

Pochettino’s change to introduce Wanyama had the desired effect until Marco Silva made substitutions of his own. Silva brought on Ademola Lookman and Andre Gomes.

Lookman supplied instant energy and dribbling off the flank. Gomes moved the ball much quicker through midfield from a number eight role.

The two Everton introductions got them back in the match. Gomes sent a raking ball across the pitch to Lucas Digne who then found Lookman. His burst infield, evading challenges to find Sigurdsson in acres of space once more. Sigurdsson’s neatly weighted pass picked out Theo Walcott to finish and Everton were back on level terms at 1-1.

Sigurdsson drifts in to acres of space away from the defensive midfielders.

Everton then struck to take the lead. Once again it was Gylfi Sigurdsson in space who could pull the strings. Sigurdsson had found room between the lines and picked out Lucas Digne. Victor Wanyama put the full back’s cross behind for a corner.

Tottenham had issues picking up Michael Keane from Sigurdsson’s set pieces all game. Keane had already planted two headers at the Tottenham goal from previous dead balls. His third forced Hugo Lloris to sprawling save that saw Cenk Tosun bundle the loose ball over the line. Lloris has struggled with his rebound control in recent months. Tosun was only too grateful to receive the rebound and put Everton ahead.

Eriksen scores a free kick!

Tottenham had started to tire by this point and could be forgiven for the exertions of Wednesday catching up with us. However, the team showed great energy and mental strength to instantly fight back. Once more the diagonal ball out of defence was key to navigating a narrow Everton team.

Victor Wanyama supplied the first diagonal pass to pick out Ben Davies in room out by the touchline. Davies’ first time flick round the corner to find Erik Lamela’s run was sublime. The quickness of the move put Lamela instantly on the Everton back line and Andre Gomes brought him down from behind with a clumsy challenge.

Much has been made about Christian Eriksen’s poor record of scoring free kicks for Spurs being such an exquisite artist with a football. That was put paid to by a beautifully guided ball that beat Jordan Pickford in both accuracy and flight. Eriksen’s superbly guided shot gave the Everton keeper no chance after he made a slight move to his right. Pickford was then never getting near it.

The scores were tied up once again at Tottenham 2-2 Everton. Nothing less than both teams deserved out of the afternoon. The goal gave Tottenham the point needed to secure Champions League football for another season. Everton continued the impressive end to their campaign.

Tottenham 2-2 Everton overall

A classic end of season game that had both good and bad points. Spurs started extremely well. The tactics of hitting long diagonals really stretched a narrow Everton defensive shape and gave Spurs the upper hand.

The decision to start Eriksen and Sissoko in defensive midfield may have been made by Pochettino with one eye on trialling it for Madrid. However, the spaces afforded around the pairing allowed Gylfi Sigurdsson to be an increasing influence on the match. As a result, Sigurdsson made good use of the time and space he was afforded, before being the constructor of both Everton goals.

A Christian Eriksen free kick flying in is a rare sight for Spurs fans. Breaking his barren streak is a really positive sign ahead of the Champions League final in Madrid.

Final score: Tottenham 2-2 Everton.
MOTM: Gylfi Sigurdsson.


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