Everton v Spurs – A Passing of the Baton?

Thomas Cairns 11/02/2021 17comments  |  Jump to last

It’s easy to forget in the ‘Big 6’ era of the Premier League that Spurs were once like Everton. Perennial ‘best of the rest’ contenders, often punching above their weight but never truly challenging the top teams for European places or silverware. During the 2010s, however, Spurs have kicked up a gear. Spurred on by first Gareth Bale, and more recently Harry Kane, Spurs launched an assault on the teams above them, breaching the then Top 4 and reaching the promised land of the Champions League. Since then, they have finished in the Top 4 multiple times, been genuine contenders in the odd title race, and were involved in the small matter of a Champions League Final against our Merseyside neighbours. To the neutral, watching Spurs’ rise must have felt somewhat heart-warming. To myself as an Everton fan, it has been at best bittersweet and at worst gut-wrenching.

There was a time when Spurs and Everton stood roughly shoulder to shoulder. Both teams with incredible ambition that typically ultimately fell short when it really mattered. However, while Spurs took advantage of the sudden uncertainty plaguing clubs like Manchester Utd and Arsenal to cement their status as a top team, Everton’s fortunes in the 2010s took a markedly different turn. Following Moyes’s departure, Everton underwent a turbulent few years. Bottom half-finishes, questionable managerial appointments and frivolous spending led to the club experiencing something of an identity crisis. Martinez did lead us agonisingly close to the promised land of the Champions League in his first season but followed this up with our lowest finish since 2005-06. Koeman seemed to have the required pedigree but never felt like the right fit and based on THAT recent interview was clearly never convinced that Everton could become a top side. Allardyce steadied the sinking ship but was never a long-term replacement and again clearly saw 8th place as a triumph and the limit of Everton’s potential. Marco Silva had his heart in the right place but eventually seemed out of his depth as Everton experienced further regression under his tutelage. All the while, Spurs were living our dream; consistently appearing in Europe and finishing above their previously dominant arch-rivals.

When I think of games against Spurs in the last 10 years, two in particular stick out in my memory. The first, in the 2012-13 season towards the end of the Moyes era, was a smash-n-grab 2-1 win with Steven Pienaar and Nikica Jelavic netting in injury time. At the time, for me at least, this felt momentous in that we’d come out on top against a team with similar aspirations to ours. Spurs had finished 4th in two of the three previous seasons, and with this win we leapfrogged them into the Top 4. I truly believed that from here, we would kick on and progress as they had done in the years prior. Of course, it wasn’t to be, as we ultimately finished 6th; behind Tottenham who finished 5th behind Arsenal by a single point. The next season, 2013-14, these positions would be reversed as we finished 5th in disappointing fashion when our Champions League destiny was well and truly in our own hands. While I was disappointed that we didn’t push on and usurp Tottenham after that 2-1 win, I was at least encouraged by the fact that we seemed to be keeping pace with them. Surely a Top 4 finish would be inevitable?


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Fast forward to the 2018-19 season, for the second clash against Spurs that comes to my mind. If the last game I discussed inspired hope, this game was a brutal reminder of the gulf in quality between the two teams. Spurs humiliated us 6-2, with any suggestion of the two teams being on the same level absolutely decimated. The chasm between our reality and our Champions League aspirations had never been starker than it was on that day, and it was a brutal reminder of the progress that Spurs had made during this decade. Unlike the first game I discussed, where we went toe-to-toe as equals, Spurs put us to the sword as though we were relegation fodder. This was a truly embarrassing result which laid bare the contrasts in fortunes between the two clubs. Everton laboured to a second consecutive 8th placed finish, rather embarrassingly missing out on Europa League football to Wolves. Tottenham secured yet another Top 4 finish and reached a Champions League final. The realistic ambitions of these two teams had never looked so disparate.

Enter Carlo Ancelotti. A man whose name needs no introduction, particularly to those of us who have seen him work wonders over the past year or so. The 5-4 win over Spurs was yet another indicator of the immense progress made since the Italian’s arrival. Our record against Big Six teams this season so far has been much improved, with two meek capitulations to Man Utd the only blots on our copybook. There is still much work to be done to solidify our European credentials, evidenced by an uncharacteristically shaky defensive performance last night. The recent miserable performance against Newcastle was another concern, and consistency is key if Everton truly wish to emulate Spurs’ success in recent times. It is important to remember that we are, hopefully, still in the early days of the Ancelotti era.

Carlo has brought the best out of the players he has at his disposal, with even much-maligned players such as Tom Davies, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Alex Iwobi drawing praise for their performances this season. Stating the obvious, Calvert-Lewin has been a revelation and signing James Rodriguez on a free must be the best piece of business since Seamus Coleman. He has also ruthlessly trimmed a bloated squad, disposing of perennial benchwarmers like Tosun and Bolasie as well as loaning out players like Walcott and Kenny who, while not terrible, are unlikely to help elevate Everton to the next level. Importantly though, he has instilled a winning mentality that we have not seen since the Moyes era. When a goal is conceded, you can suddenly rely on this Everton team to roar back. Regardless of the starting 11 we have on the pitch; they find a way to keep their heads up even when all hope seems lost.

Much was made of Everton fans ‘celebrating a draw’ after Calvert-Lewin stabbed home at Old Trafford. What rival fans fail to see is that we were not celebrating a draw, rather celebrating a complete shift in mentality which has seen us snatch results where we previously would have faltered. The Spurs game was the latest in a series of games that I feel previous Everton sides would have capitulated at the first sign of adversity. I can't help but dream that this victory was the passing of a baton; that we can now emulate Spurs and mount our own Top 4 challenge.

The end of the season is still a considerable distance away, but there have been enough positive signs this season to indicate that the future is bright. Duncan Ferguson’s jubilation on the touchline in recent games and Carlo nonchalantly blowing his cappuccino/bovril represent two opposing ends of a scale. I’d imagine most Everton fans lie somewhere in between, or understandably fluctuate week-by-week. Hopefully, we’ll all get a chance to channel our inner Duncan Ferguson between now and the end of the season.

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Reader Comments (17)

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Bill Hawker
1 Posted 11/02/2021 at 18:12:52
The comment about "a change in mentality" was spot on. For me, it's ALWAYS been our mentality. There have been times over my 20 years as an Everton supporter that we arguably had a better side in the Derby. Yet our mentality has prevented us from taking points in that match. If Carlo can change and keep that winning mentality at Everton, then the sky is the limit. It's huge ask however but Carlo might be the right man for that job.
Lee Courtliff
2 Posted 11/02/2021 at 19:11:21
Good article, and one that could be very accurate...with a bit of luck.

But, I've got to disagree with one thing. We didn't have a winning mentality during the Moyes Era. Maybe at home we did, occasionally. But mainly our wins came against the sides you'd expect us to beat.

Our away record at the old Big 4 was, and still is, atrocious. Moyes takes the blame (bulk) for that imo.

Anyway, I've been let down too many times to fall for this so I'm not going to get too carried away... I'm just enjoying having something to play for when, usually, our season is just petering out at this stage and we all start talking about "building for next season".

Larry O'Hara
3 Posted 11/02/2021 at 19:32:55
Good piece but of course we need to go one better than Spurs and actually win something. Though a triumph at Mordor over Bill Gall’s team wouldn’t go amiss...
Andy Crooks
4 Posted 11/02/2021 at 19:40:36
Larry, hope Bill enjoys that post as much as I did!
Barry Rathbone
5 Posted 11/02/2021 at 19:55:45
You have to be careful using Spurs as a gauge because as chokers go they are among the biggest in the league.

All the way back to Ardilles and Villa they have spent hugely on world class players and won very little.

Here's just a snippet of players bought at or near their peak during the Prem

Darren Anderton (1992-2004)

David Ginola (1997-2000)

Dimitar Berbatov (2006-08)

Gareth Bale (2007-13)

Jurgen Klinsmann (1994-95 and 1997-98)

Luka Modric (2008-12)

Sol Campbell (1992-2001)

Teddy Sheringham (1992-97 and 2001-03)

Robbie Keane (2002-08 and 2009-11)

Niko Kranjčar  2009-2012 

Mousa Dembélé  2012-2019 

Jan Vertonghen  2012-2020 

Christian Eriksen  2013-2020 

Nice to knock them out but it must be recognised their history is that of being flaky shithouses

Larry O'Hara
7 Posted 12/02/2021 at 01:24:59
Bill, I am sure you’re right: I only made the remark so that you realise how hurtful it was to imply I was a Liverpool supporter. If you dish out casual insults, expect to be paid in the same coin.
Martin Mason
8 Posted 12/02/2021 at 10:07:40
Good article especially the point about celebrating the draw. I believe that, as you say, we were celebrating a new era.
Allen Rodgers
9 Posted 12/02/2021 at 19:36:14
I agree with Lee @2.

I remember one game vs Spurs at Goodison c 2007. We had equalised before half-time and should have pushed on for the win but, late in the game, Moyes brought on Hibbert for Fernandes to a barrage of boos from the crowd. Inevitably Spurs scored and Moyes belatedly brought Vaughan on. Moyes never had a winning mentality.

Paul Birmingham
10 Posted 12/02/2021 at 19:38:07
Hopefully good foundations are being built to keep improving and the mentality of the squad is improving, and let’s hope this continues versus Fulham.
Dale Self
11 Posted 12/02/2021 at 19:48:57
The transfers of Saha and Pienaar tell the story in that time. That they sat on the bench at Spurs was the punchline.
Bill Gienapp
12 Posted 13/02/2021 at 02:59:01
Re: the 6-2 defeat to Spurs... it was a bad result, no question. However, if Calvert-Lewin's goal hadn't been chalked off for a phantom foul and we'd gone up 2-0, I think it might have been a very different match.
Lester Yip
13 Posted 13/02/2021 at 06:04:03
It feels great when we beat the big boys. Now it's time for the team to do the same on lesser teams week in week out.

For Moyes, I can understand his "negative" approach. When you don't have good attacking players at your disposal to genuinely pose a threat, it's better to play safe and wait for a chance to reveal itself. Even if it doesn't, for players' confidence sake, it's better to lose 1-0 to the big 6 than chasing a goal which open up play and lost 3 more. It sounds negative but he has to plan out for a season, not just one game.

Now we have attacking threats in the team. I don't believe Carlo will ever settle with a lost. But there will be times Carlo has to settle with a draw.

David Ellis
15 Posted 14/02/2021 at 04:52:33
Spurs "kicked on" because they had and still have a higher revenue base than us. They have much better sponsorship deals than us and a dream stadium that is the benchmark we are hoping to aspire too (although not really – ours will be smaller).

So no passing of the baton in strategic terms off the pitch which predicts long-term future on the pitch. But yeah we'll probably finish higher than them this season.

Bill Griffiths
16 Posted 14/02/2021 at 06:28:17
Good article, Thomas. However, the starter's gun had only just gone off, let's hope we don't drop the baton.
Derek Thomas
17 Posted 14/02/2021 at 08:18:32
Barry @ 5; Spot on mate. They didn't do much, they were a cup team before Bill Nicholson arrived, then they beat us 10-4, made some good buys, went on a purple patch, became BBC and Southern print media darlings, failed to kick on...and didn't do much after Nicholson...still a cup team.

The main thing they have going for them, which now a days is worth its weight in gold as a foreign players magnet, is a London base.

That and Levy who can usually get 30 Bob's worth of value out of any given quid. Though even he can make mistakes, like selling Elvis, buying what he thought were the Beatles...but turned out to be Freddie & The Dreamers. Then bringing him back again.

Forget Spurs, they'll be after another manager in 6mths. or so

Our own Mentality and Confidence is the key and so far Ancelotti has us winning games we would've drew and drawing games we would've lost...though to be fair we've had some strange team selections from off field and some bottling team performances on field that caused us to lose games we should've won.

Allen Rodgers
18 Posted 14/02/2021 at 09:02:39
On Sky Sports News yesterday, Harry Redknapp, Merson and Hendrie all dismissed our top 6 chances, preferring to focus on Spurs great attacking performance in their 5-4 defeat to Everton!

It's like we don't exist.

Ian Bennett
19 Posted 14/02/2021 at 09:14:14
Jenas, Merson etc they all want to keep it a top 6, so their club doesn't drop out. Repeatedly we are dismissed, but repeatedly poor recruitment, poor management selection and injuries have cost us.

I remember when Merson was asked about Moshiri joining Everton. His face was a picture. He knows the current Arsenal owner isn't going to spend a bean. Get the manager and recruitment right, and we might move forward and close the gap.

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