Everton overcame their dismal record against top-six sides by beating Spurs 0 – 1. The fact that the victory was away in London may be evidence of an improvement in Everton’s ability to compete for European places this season. It is early days but you have to go back a long way to recall such an encouraging and emphatic away win on the first day of the season. Everton fans eagerly awaited the announcement of the teamsheet an hour before the game and were thrilled to see that all three new signings James Rodriguez, Allan and Doucouré would play.
Manager Ancelotti paired up Allan and Doucouré as a deep-lying duo with Doucouré given a more expansive role to progress up the pitch if the opportunity arose. Andre Gomes was assigned a freer role with James Rodriguez to his right and Richarlison to his left, Dominic Calvert-Lewin holding the line up front.
The defence lined up with Pickford in goal with Digne, Mina, Keane and Coleman across the back four. Over the closed season there has been much speculation about Jordon Pickford and his attitude and whether or not he deserves to keep his England place. This opening game would be a chance for Pickford to try to silence his critics.
From the kick-off it was clear that Spurs had pinpointed Seamus Coleman has a possible weak point in the Everton defence. Son Heung-min set out to test Coleman and for the first twenty minutes gave Coleman a torrid time. Coleman grew into the task on the back of a growing awareness that Everton’s newly formed midfield was starting to get a grip of the situation. Allan made an outstanding first appearance in the premier league, showing all the qualities Ancelotti brought him to the team to exhibit. Basically Allan bossed the area of the pitch in front of the back four with a dominance not seen since Idrissa Gana Gueye left for PSG.
Beside Allan, Abdoulaye Doucouré showed all the class, athleticism and energy that Ancelotti had highlighted was missing in the Everton midfield at the end of last season. It is only one game, but Everton fans could be forgiven for hoping on this showing, that this may blossom into a formidable midfield pairing in the mould of Reid and Bracewell from the Everton glory days. Allan was everywhere and given the lack of pre-season training it was not surprising that the players tired at the end of the first half. Doucouré showed just how good an engine he has with an amazing recovery tackle on Lucas Moura.
This Everton performance exuded class and that was personified in the play of James Rodriguez who just seemed to have so much time on the ball and pinged passes around the pitch like he owned the place. James was unfortunate to not have a couple of assists by the end of the game, with Richarlison squandering some good chances. But on this evidence, there is no doubt that goals and assists will come in the coming games.
The Everton goal that won the game came from a free kick beautifully delivered by Lucas Digne from midway in Spurs half near the touchline. Digne swung in a wonderful cross that was met by a powerful header by Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who towered above the Spurs defence and bury the ball in net.
Spurs 0 – 1 Everton after 55 minutes
A goal that had the mark of Duncan Ferguson all over it, Ferguson being Calvert-Lewin’s greatest advocate and mentor at the club.
Assessing the game the new midfield showed so much promise for the coming season if they can stay fit and focused. This is a midfield that can compete with the best teams in the league and each of the incoming newcomers had an outstanding debut. Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin must be rubbing their hands at the prospects feeding off the industry of this newly fashioned midfield formation. It would appear that Ancelotti hopes to use the formation to allow Gomes or Sigurdsson a more untethered creative role just ahead of Allan and Doucouré.
The defence played solidly and greatly benefitted from the class and industry in front of them. So interesting to see that battle between Son and Coleman won by Coleman given boost of all around him. That was indicative of a shift of attitude with the team as the game wore on.
Ancelotti’s formations are always interesting and morph greatly in possession and out of possession, this seemed a variation of 4-3-3 given the role Gomes and Sigurdsson were given it seemed more of a 4-2-1-2-1 variant.
My closing note in this assessment of cracking win for Everton on the opening day of the 20/21 season is the influence of Jordan Pickford on the game. It would be so easy to overlook his contribution to the game given the performance in front of him on the pitch. However, the two crucial saves made by Pickford in the game and the way he commanded his box , especially in the second half, won this game for Everton. It is true that Pickford’s distribution was wayward at times but overall his contribution cannot be overlooked as Everton could have easily been two goals behind if not for his excellent saves.
Result: Spurs 0 – 1 Everton
So, on this performance Everton fans will be eagerly awaiting the next game at home to West Bromwich Albion…