Tottenham are looking for a fourth consecutive win in the Premier League when Mauricio Pochettino takes his side to Goodison Park to face Everton. Toffee’s fan Mark Godfrey from www.footballpink.net (@TheFootballPink) answered my questions about Everton, Lukaku, Pochettino and tomorrow’s game.
1) Everton seem to have enjoyed a much improved season compared to a turbulent 2014/15, what’s been the reason behind this?
The ‘improvement’ is all relative. We are only five points and one place better off than this time last year, although as you rightly point out, last season was pretty awful for large parts. Many people will point to the lack of Europa League this campaign and the effects that extra travel and games have on a smallish squad. While I agree that this has some bearing on the evidence of more vibrant displays this year, I don’t think it’s the sole reason. The players had the benefit of a summer rest this year without a major tournament in their legs while one or two players have certainly improved on a personal level.
2) Roberto Martinez has received plaudits for the way you’re playing overall this season, what’s changed from his point of view that’s made you a better side?
This is a bit of a divisive issue amongst Evertonians. There are lots of us – myself included – who think that he’s not making the most of this group of players; potentially our best squad in 30 years. There are others who are enjoying the attacking potency we have shown and aren’t that worried that our defence is so shambolic or that we can’t deal with set pieces at all. I suppose this is a split along the lines of the ‘instant success’ camp and the ‘it will come’ brigade. If I had to pick one thing that’s paying off for him is the form and utilisation of Romelu Lukaku. There has been a significant turnaround in his play since last season, so I suppose some of the credit for that must go to the manager.
3) You’ve not been in the best of form in recent weeks however, it’s one win in six games – what’s gone wrong compared to earlier in the season?
It’s pretty simple – the inability to put teams to the sword when we are totally dominant. We battered Norwich and Bournemouth away, and should have beaten Crystal Palace at home and somehow conspired to manage three draws out of those games. We then showed incredible naivety against Leicester and Stoke at home either side of Christmas and lost both games having scored five goals. In amongst that we defeated Newcastle with an injury time winner in a game we should have won 4-0 but could easily have lost 2-0. Some of the incisive football we play is superb to watch and we create a hell of a lot of chances – an improvement on the stale possession obsession we had last season – but we are often wasteful in front of goal. But having said that, one goal is usually enough if your back four and goalkeeper are reliable and organised – which Everton’s certainly aren’t!
4) Onto Spurs now, what have you made of our start to the season, Mauricio Pochettino and the young squad he’s working with at White Hart Lane?
I’ve been very impressed. Tottenham have made flattering to deceive an art form for decades, but they seem to have a solidity and consistency we would kill for at Goodison. Harry Kane is obviously the star turn but I can’t help but admire Dele Alli’s impact with his late runs into the box and general all round energetic contributions. Away from the development of younger players like Eric Dier (someone we had on loan at Everton earlier in his career and David Moyes didn’t fancy him), the signing of Toby Alderweireld has been massive. He’s a player I wish we had pursued harder when he was at Ajax as he has all the attributes of the modern day defender. The partnership with Vertonghen (and Lloris in goal) is one of the best in the league. Pochettino seems to be the right man for Spurs (I’m sure you’ve heard that plenty of times about others in the past) and in this mad season where some of the traditional top four challengers are struggling to slip free of the pack, you might rarely get a better chance to cement a Champions League spot or even a real, credible title challenge. I hope your chairman gives him the time and resources to continue the progress even if it doesn’t work out this year.
5) How do you think Everton will set up on Sunday afternoon; playing expansively, sitting back or a bit of both? Will it be to counter Spurs’ ability or to take charge of the game?
Everton will play the same as they always do – expansively. Martinez has no plan B, whether we are winning or losing. That could be perceived as a weakness or a strength depending on your point of view. There’s nothing wrong with having one style of play as long as your players can perform to the required level, and currently, our defence and keeper are way off the standard needed to be a top side.
6) In terms of dangermen, are Lukaku, Barkley and Deulofeu the only men in the team that Pochettino will have to prepare to come up against?
Pretty much. Mirallas might start and from memory he usually does quite well against Spurs. Lukaku was shocking last year, sometimes as bad as I’ve seen of any Everton player, and I’ve seen some dross in 35 years of watching the Blues, but this year he has been brilliant. Your Belgian centre backs will know his game inside out, obviously, but whether they can keep him quiet is another matter. Deulofeu can be world class or Sunday League – often in the same move. He has the potential to go right to the very top if he can be more consistent. It wouldn’t be so ridiculous to say he reminds me of Cristiano Ronaldo when he first came to England, although I doubt he will be quite that good! Barkley, for all his undoubted ability, neat flicks and driving runs, doesn’t take games by the scruff of the neck in the way that someone with his prodigious talent should. His style reminds me so much of Paul Gascoigne, he just lacks the football brain or the drive that Gazza had.
7) It’s reported McCarthy may be out too, which would be a big miss in midfield. Who would replace him?
Usually it would be Tom Cleverley but I think he might also be absent. Therefore, the most likely starter is Mo Besic. He’s a grafter and a tackler whose Everton career has been a bit stop/start to date due to injury and the manager’s insistence to play Gareth Barry, come what may.
8) Finally, can we get a prediction for the game – goal and goalscorers – from you?
Our record against Spurs has been terrible for years and on current form I don’t see that changing. Everton 1 (Lukaku) Spurs 2 (Kane, Alderweireld).
A huge thanks to Mark for his preview. I think Everton’s defences frailties will show against the likes of Kane, Alli, Lamela and also Spurs’ set piece ability so I’ll go for a 3-1 away win. Follow me on Twitter @Nikhil_Saglani and Mark on @TheFootballPink. COYS!