Club football returns but Mousa Dembele does not. Neither, seemingly, does half the Everton squad.
Given time I have little doubt Koeman will instil a defensive stability built upon a back three that progresses in to wide counter-attacks. But for now Everton seem to be coming into the start of the season lacking fitness, depth and practice in the new system.
So instead Koeman will likely settle for the 4-2-3-1 formation that he is also keen on. Given the complexity of fitness issues addressing the Everton line-up is a bit sticky but this would be the best the Toffees can realistically hope for.
Here’s a brilliant focus by @LukeBBurgess on how to create opportunities against Everton if they do manage to field three centre-backs.
Although Koeman is already a fairly defensive coach I think that focus will be doubled for this opening game. A clean sheet will give them something to build off and the talent in the squad will mean they will always be a threat on the break.
Still, Baines and Coleman are not defensive full-backs. By using Walker and Rose to pin back the Everton wingers; Spurs can concentrate on isolating Lamela and Alli against the opposition full-backs.
Belgium wasted Lukaku this summer using him almost exclusively as a targetman. Romelu is powerful forward but his game is much more well rounded than that and when he is on poor form his touch can be atrocious. Koeman is surely the superior coach to Wilmots but his football is often reliant on wide crosses into a tall forwards. Although this method of attack can generally be quite fruitless Tottenham are one of the teams most vulnerable to it with Jan Vertonghen especially pone to losing out in the air.
Meanwhile Spurs face the first in four Dembele conundrums. The obvious replacement is new signing Wanyama. Wanyma offers physicality and defensive reliability. Otherwise Pochettino seems to remain confident in Mason in the 8 role while fans do not.
I sent out a tweet the other day addressing the excitement around youngster Harry Winks. Comparing that excitement with the disdain for Mason despite, what I suggested was, a similar playstyle and set of strength and weaknesses.
I was quickly, and rightly, shot down. Winks, despite being younger seems to have become physically superior to Mason over the summer and boasts a better defensive understanding of the game. So I’ve shamelessly gone full circle and would quite like to see Winks get at least a few minutes on Saturday.
More on Winks v Mason by @jake_meador
Winks represents the most creative option to start in Dembele’s place and as Everton are likely to play a low/medium-block defence, starting Wanyama along side Dier may leave us desperately lacking creativity from deep.
On the other hand fielding two defensive mids gives more licence to Walker and Rose to get forward, stretch the opposition and provide more space for Eriksen to playmake from.
While we’re on Wanyama. At the beginning of the window I said that there are always unexpected drop-offs between seasons and Spurs should at least attempt to improve the first team in order to maintain. I’d like to give myself a bit of a get-out for that. Although we’ve not likely bought a player who will enter the first XI we have provided Dier and Kane with rest – which makes them better players. I also specifically labeled Wanyama as a poor target due to being overly limited and I’m starting to think I’m wrong about that too.
I feel there’s a bit of negativity in the predictions going in to this game from Spurs fans, at least in my corners. Maybe it’s been so long since we played that we’ve reset to the Spurs default of pessimism. Maybe we’re still struggling with last season’s finish. But we’re good, honest, if you don’t remember, now’s a good time to re-read my season review.
Finally, a bit of admin. Due to other commitments in both my writing and real life I might not be able to put out an article ahead of every game this season although I will make sure major games are covered and try to get a few videos out again too.