The two teams with the most hectic Christmas schedules begin the festive period by squaring off when Everton host Tottenham Hotspur in the English soccer Premier League at Goodison Park on Sunday (11am ET).
All of the Premier League’s teams will take part in four matches over the course of the next week and a half or so. Only Everton and Spurs will receive only six rest days during that period, with just two days between each of their respective fixtures. Liverpool will have 10.
The necessity of rotation makes getting results over this period more important than the underlying performances. It is a key juncture of the campaign, one at which Spurs have performed well in recent years, picking up 26 points from a possible 30 over the last three seasons. Everton, in contrast, have picked up just 13 points over that same stretch.
That does, of course, partly reflect the difference the quality between the two teams in recent years. While Spurs have finished in the top three in each of the last three seasons and in the top six in each of the last nine, Everton have finished seventh or lower in the last three, and only twice ended the season inside the top six over the course of the last nine.
It is also reflected in this season’s league table. As we approach the halfway stage of the campaign, 15 points separate Tottenham in third from Everton in eighth. That is comfortably a bigger gap between those positions than in any of Europe’s other “Big Five” leagues. England’s largest clubs seem to be moving further and further away from their competition, but Everton should be one of the primary candidates to halt that phenomena.
The Toffees have certainly spent like a top-six club in recent years, investing a league third-highest £178 million net on new signings over the course of the last three seasons (a period in which Spurs have laid out a net £49m). Despite a largely promising start under new coach Marco Silva, they are still some way from consistently crashing the party, even if Manchester United’s struggles so far this season mean a top-six finish is certainly possible.
Everton have got better at both ends of the pitch since Silva replaced Sam Allardyce in the off-season. The summer recruitment work of new sporting director Marcel Brands has so far looked to be an improvement on that of the previous regime. The signs are positive, but there is still a large gap to close before challenging for sixth can become a challenge for fifth, fourth and beyond.
Tottenham have been able to bridge that divide, and do so on a relative budget. In the first 17 seasons of the Premier League era, their average finishing position was around 10th. In the nine seasons since, they have secured an average finish of about fourth. Theirs is the path that Everton, a similarly historic force in the English game, would love to follow.
Spurs are unlikely to offer a season-long challenge to the current pace setters Liverpool and Manchester City. However 13 wins from their first 17 matches of the campaign see Mauricio Pochettino’s side well-placed to secure a top-four finish. They could hold off Chelsea to extend their run of consecutive top-three finishes into a fourth season.
Tottenham’s campaign looks even more impressive when it is considered that they have played 10 times away versus just seven times at home. Away form was once their downfall, but this season, only Liverpool have accumulated more points per match on their travels than the 2.4 points per match Spurs have taken from eight wins and two defeats.
Pochettino’s team secured their progress to the final four of the Carabao Cup with a 2-0 win away to local rivals Arsenal in Wednesday’s quarter-final and will be looking to continue their strong road form with victory at Goodison Park on Sunday. Everton have been competitive yet nevertheless defeated in four of their five matches against top-six sides so far this season, and that run is likely to continue his weekend.