28th February 2010
Magical Luka Modric wanders free to unlock Everton’s defence | David Pleat
The Tottenham playmaker disrupted Everton’s rigid defensive system
With the influential Tim Cahill, the powerful Marouane Fellaini and the in-form Louis Saha all missing, David Moyes decided to line up his Everton team in a cautious 4-5-1 formation. The challenge would be to muster a goal threat against a Tottenham side that came into this match with a superb home defensive record. Yakubu Ayegbeni had the difficult task of leading the line on his own and one wondered if he would be capable of keeping the ball and providing time for Leon Osman and Mikel Arteta to support him from midfield. Out wide, Victor Anichebe had the job of helping contain Gareth Bale’s surges down the left, while Moyes hoped that on the other side, Steven Pienaar would be able to cause problems for Vedran Corluka.
Tactics and teamwork
Moyes stationed Jack Rodwell in front of Wilson Palacios to stifle the Honduran midfielder but the tactic was quickly undone as Luka Modric wandered in-field and dictated Spurs’ attacks. The visitors were being continually undone by the home side’s interplay, particularly down their right where Bale regularly overpowered Anichebe and put in exemplary deliveries. Pienaar had to come inside to help the overworked Everton midfield and up front Yakubu was left to despair at the lack of service. Everton were second-best to Spurs’ brisk passing and sharper movement and Moyes needed to make a dramatic intervention to stem the tide.
Did he succeed?
With nothing to lose at 2-0 down, Moyes shrewdly brought Phil Jagielka on at half-time and pushed Johnny Heitinga further forward. Osman was the man withdrawn and immediately the introduction of a ball winner into Everton’s midfield helped break up Spurs’ interplay. More importantly, Rodwell was able to get further forward and support Yakubu. The anaemic Anichebe was also withdrawn and replaced by Landon Donovan, who gave Everton more thrust down the right and should have levelled the game late on. As a whole, Everton did a better job in the second half of blocking off Bale’s forward breaks and as Arteta developed a greater command of the ball, the game developed into a classic ebb-and-flow contest, far more open and competitive than it had been in the first half. Sadly for Everton, however, their adventure came too late and, overall, they were never able to get to grips with the magical Modric.
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