Spurs begin their 2016/17 Premier League campaign against an Everton side revitalised under new manager Ronald Koeman. Last season, both games against the Toffees ended in draws; 0-0 at White Hart Lane and 1-1 at Goodison – the goal coming from Dele Alli. Whilst Spurs’ preseason wasn’t perfect, it ended in a sublime 6-1 defeat of Inter Milan, whose manager, ex-Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini, left his post after the game.
The focus is now very much on Spurs, however, after Ronald Koeman declared at his press conference that his side are ‘70% ready’. This will only add pressure to Spurs, who are slight favourites going into the game, and take some off the shoulders of Koeman’s squad, whose dangerman must be the Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. Nevertheless, Spurs’ abundance of attacking talent will surely be a main feature of the game, so this is how I expect them to start at Goodison Park:
GK: Hugo Lloris. The Frenchman had an impressive season domestically, before playing a key role in France’s efforts to win the Euros on home soil. Lloris is undoubtedly Spurs’ first choice between the sticks and is within the top three goalkeepers in the league. Spurs fans will be hoping he has a quiet game.
RB: Kyle Walker. His pace and stamina are key to Pochettino’s attacking 4-2-3-1 system, which features inverted wingers in the wider attacking positions – so the width comes predominantly from fullbacks bombing up and down, something that worked well last season. Walker’s defensive prowess more than matches that of Kieran Trippier, the second choice at the club, and he will be expected to start the biggest games of the coming season. Walker’s pace will be exceptionally important in countering the likes of Kevin Mirallas and Leighton Baines in the wide positions.
LB: Danny Rose. After a European tournament in which most of the England side let themselves down, Rose is one of few who can escape with his head held high after some solid performances in France. Whilst the difference between Rose and Ben Davies is marginal, it’s the sheer power of Rose that I expect to see favoured over the Welshman. His attacking runs will look to limit the number of times Seamus Coleman can get forward for the Toffees.
CBs: Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld. A better pairing in the centre of defence is near impossible to find in England at the current time. Whilst Vertonghen is coming back from injury, so too is Kevin Wimmer, who didn’t get enough game-time in preseason to be seriously considered for a starting place. Vertonghen’s pace and power will look to control Lukaku, while Alderweireld’s defensive nous and technical ability will cover Vertonghen and offer Spurs a different attacking threat – his long ball to Dele Alli gave Spurs their equaliser in the same game last season.
CDM: Victor Wanyama. The Kenyan, signed this summer, will look to fill the gap left by Mousa Dembele’s ban, and provide competition in the latter parts of the season for the Belgian who was named as the world’s best box-to-box midfielder. It’s a big gap to fill, but Wanyama’s physicality and experience of Pochettino’s system should mean he is an invaluable asset to the side. His main defensive duties will be to harass Lukaku and to impose himself on Everton’s main playmaker, Ross Barkely.
CDM: Eric Dier. He will fulfil a similar role to Wanyama – the pair will essentially look to stifle the attacking threat that Everton pose, but Dier’s duties will extend to covering for both fullbacks on their attacking ventures – a role he did so well in last season. Dier’s cover should limit the extent to which Coleman and Baines can get forward, as he will slot into the centre of defence, while Vertonghen and Alderweireld play wider when Spurs are in possession. His passing ability should also not be underestimated.
LAM: Christian Eriksen. The Danish creator – who is still underrated by much of the Spurs fanbase – is vital to the way Spurs set up and press. The likes of Erik Lamela and Dele Alli are well known for their tenacious attempts at winning the ball, but they can only do this because Eriksen blocks passing lanes. His influence on the game becomes more indirect as a result, but there’s a clear difference when he’s off the field. Pochettino will also be looking for his number 23 to provide the incisive passing and excellent delivery that the Dane is capable of. He’ll likely be up against Seamus Coleman on the left flank, a defender who lacks outright pace – so runs in behind that will also be an option. Expect Eriksen to retain free kick duty for the coming season, despite Dier’s efforts at the Euros!
CAM: Dele Alli. After a promising preseason performance against Inter, which included a goal, Alli should occupy the central attacking midfield role – which essentially means he plays as a second striker. Alli’s tenacity, physicality and technical ability will all come into play through direct duels with the Everton backline, which may feature Ashley Williams – a man who may be targeted as he looks to try and fit in to his new surroundings.
RAM: Erik Lamela. The Argentine winger, renowned last season for his pressing, will look to add more goals to his game in the coming season, and will also look to take his high confidence into the Premier League season. A matchup against Leighton Baines looks to be ideal – Lamela is younger, quicker, hungrier than the English leftback, and the necessary defensive duties that come with playing against Baines are already part of Lamela’s game. Expect fireworks from the talented Argentine this season.
ST: Harry Kane. Who else? The Englishman has gone from strength to strength in the past two years, and secured last season’s Golden Boot with 25 league goals. The academy graduate will face competition from new boy Vincent Janssen for the starting position up top, although there is speculation that Pochettino will adapt a two-striker formation to fit both players in. Kane’s experience and proven quality as a top-flight forward aged just 23 is unbelievable, and his desire and hunger are perfect for the current squad. He’ll be up against a centre-back pairing that will likely consist of Phil Jagielka and Ashley Willams for the opener, and will be desperate to get off to a better start in the league than last season.