3 things we learned: Tottenham v. Everton

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Tottenham-Everton was a tight, tense clash on the opening weekend of the 2020-21 Premier League season and there was so much to dissect as both team rolled out plenty of new players.

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s header was enough to give Everton the win, as Jose Mourinho will be left with plenty more questions than answers after Tottenham-Everton. As for Carlo Ancelotti, he will be cautiously optimistic that his Everton rebuild is on track.

What did both managers learn? What did we learn from Tottenham-Everton in north London?

Here’s a look at three things we learned.


James Rodriguez stands out amid debutants

Everton handed debuts to James Rodriguez, Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, while Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Matt Doherty making their Spurs debut. There’s no doubt that James was the standout debutant. The Colombian playmaker used his wand of a left foot to spray quality passes around, plus found plenty of space in midfield and kept cutting in off the right flank to give Spurs all kind of problems. It is easy to forget the quality that James, 29, has and this move to Everton from Real Madrid makes him their bonafide superstar.

Plus, he is working with Carlo Ancelotti again, just like he did at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, and should gain so much confidence from being trusted completely by a manager. Everton kept giving him the ball and he kept delivering moments of quality as he went close to scoring in the first half and seems to have a very good understanding with Richarlison as he looked to tee him up on multiple occasions. The early signs are extremely promising that James is going to be a big hit at Everton.


Tottenham’s central midfield disjointed

Tottenham’s new signing Hojbjerg lined up alongside Harry Winks in a combative central midfield combo for Spurs, while Dele Alli sat in front of them in the attacking midfield role. It didn’t work. At all. At half time Alli was sacrificed with Moussa Sissoko replacing him, as Mourinho tried to wrestle control of the engine room. It didn’t work. Hojbjerg and Winks were dominated by new Everton signings Allan and Doucoure, who look to be the solid foundation Ancelotti was hoping for.

As for Mourinho, his midfield was selected to be solid but they weren’t and they didn’t provide any real service for a frustrated Harry Kane and Heung-min Son. Mourinho brought on Sissoko and Steven Bergwijn to try and get things going but they couldn’t. Hojbjerg and Sissoko aren’t the best on the ball but they didn’t even show their battling abilities off the ball as Tottenham were too passive and they totally lost the battle in midfield. Maybe, just maybe, this is a sign that Tanguy Ndombele will finally get a run in the team because his poise and attacking instincts in central midfield are badly missed and Spurs, almost two years on, still haven’t replaced Mousa Dembele. There remains a gigantic hole in Tottenham’s midfield.


New-look Everton midfield has style, substance

This was a very good performance by Everton. James led the way with is creativity and smoothness on the ball, with Andre Gomes and Richarlison also adding quality and a cutting edge in attack. So too did Dominic Calvert-Lewin, as his header proved, but the midfield duo of Allan and Doucoure was almost as impressive as James. They totally shut down Tottenham’s attacking unit and center backs Michael Keane and Yerry Mina hardly broke sweat.

Ancelotti wanted his team to become more solid and the two central midfielders provided that foundation for their talented attackers to do what they do best. There was a lovely balance about this Everton side and Ancelotti will be pleased with the start to the season the Toffees have made. A European push is their aim and if they can stay solid defensively, and especially in midfield, they have a really good chance of having a good season.